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Questions tagged [idioms]

Use the idiom tag for questions which a dictionary cannot answer about set phrases with unusual meanings that can't be properly understood just from the separate words in them.

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78 votes
13 answers
14k views

What's up with the "pun (not) intended" thing?

Whenever I read a carefully composed English text with a pun in it, the stated "pun" is always followed by an explanation whether or not it was intended. Why is that? Where I come from (the Czech ...
Pavel's user avatar
  • 983
52 votes
7 answers
13k views

Why are nice picture/gif/video about foo called "foo-porn"?

I was browsing Reddit and I discovered many subreddits named after foo-porn, to name just a few: /r/EarthPorn /r/FoodPorn /r/Map_Porn /r/ruralporn /r/shockwaveporn /r/SkyPorn /r/unixporn It seems ...
nalzok's user avatar
  • 1,219
52 votes
9 answers
65k views

What's the meaning of "break your legs"?

One of my friend told me to break my legs before entering the examination hall...I was confused with her words! How am I supposed to sit for the exam if i broke my legs? Or maybe is it kind of idioms/...
Wendy lly's user avatar
  • 701
49 votes
9 answers
71k views

What does "call BS" mean in the sentence "We call BS"?

What does BS mean in the sentence "We call BS"? I saw an article about protests in the US that said the following (see here the video): Florida student Emma Gonzalez to lawmakers and gun advocates:...
Virtuous Legend's user avatar
49 votes
10 answers
14k views

"Ice cold" vs. "___ hot" in a professional context?

Suppose I just had Iced Coffee with hot chocolate cake and I want to describe it to others. I can use "I had an ice cold coffee" but then I'm stuck with the second part. None of the things I can ...
Shadow Wizard Love Zelda's user avatar
48 votes
6 answers
27k views

Meaning of "Sue me"

I came across a dialog between two people struggling on a cutting the line situation. Here is the dialogue: A: Hey man, the end of the line is over there. B: Yeah... A: No seriously, I was here ...
Ali Sherafat's user avatar
42 votes
10 answers
18k views

Plural of "that's my boy"

Is there a plural of this phrase that preserves the sprachgefühl? The obvious "those are my boys" somehow doesn't feel right.
355durch113's user avatar
39 votes
8 answers
9k views

Can I say "Call it a project" similar to "Call it a day"

I know we can say, "Call it a day" at the end of a day. Can I say, "Call it a project" meaning successful completed project?
OOzy Pal's user avatar
  • 593
38 votes
5 answers
13k views

Is "says you" grammatically correct?

So I heard it from a character in a movie, and looked it up. If it's correct, why add '-s' to say when the subject is "you"?
Qian's user avatar
  • 997
36 votes
4 answers
36k views

“When did you born?”

When did you born? What does the above question mean? Does it mean "When did you give birth" or "When were you given birth to"? The situation is that I'm trying to ask my friend his birthdate. ...
ЯegDwight's user avatar
  • 5,406
34 votes
4 answers
14k views

"Not funny 'ha-ha'", what does Siri mean?

When I say to Siri, the virtual assistant from Apple, "Ok, Google," or "Hey Cortana," Siri replies: Very funny. I mean, not funny "ha-ha", but funny. I don't know how I should interpret this ...
Yosh's user avatar
  • 781
33 votes
6 answers
42k views

You can contact me on/over/by Skype

Which preposition(s) is / are correct in the following example? We contacted the college authority over / on / by Skype.
Abu Naim Muhammed Kalil's user avatar
33 votes
2 answers
27k views

Explanation for a joke about a three-legged dog that walks into a bar

I came across this joke on the internet: A three-legged dog walks into a bar and says to the bartender, 'I'm looking for the man who shot my paw' It is meant to be a "dad joke" but I don't ...
TK-421's user avatar
  • 1,281
30 votes
16 answers
16k views

Sarcastic Idioms for being slow to notice something

The scenario: The power was out but it came back up. However, a friend or family member noticed that late and said: Oh, the power is back up! You noticed that long before they did (sometimes because ...
learner's user avatar
  • 5,918
30 votes
5 answers
5k views

Assigned to a job I know nothing about it - is there an idiom for that idea?

I'd like to know an idiom that let me express the idea of being assigned to a job/task you have no clue at all. My first language is Spanish, and we have a cool idiom for this situation (rough ...
dmoya's user avatar
  • 411
30 votes
6 answers
5k views

Why do we pluralize "congratulations" when we say it?

I just thought about this today. Normally when something good happened to some friend we would say "congratulations" to them but we make it plural, instead of "congratulation". I ...
Joji's user avatar
  • 950
29 votes
3 answers
8k views

What is the Kool-aid reference?

I’ve heard the expression “someone’s been drinking/drank the cool aid” multiple times. I know coolaid is a drink or something but it doesn’t really make sense in the context. I feel like there’s some ...
Nathan 's user avatar
  • 433
29 votes
6 answers
8k views

What's the meaning of "be broker than the Ten Commandments"?

The meaning of "the Ten Commandments" is clear (see Wikipedia for example). Also, Oxford Dictionaries show "broke" means "Having completely run out of money". But I don't understand the meaning of ...
Peace's user avatar
  • 5,164
28 votes
4 answers
7k views

What does mean to "get to the nuts and balls of something"? [closed]

just an expression I heard from a guy on a tutorial on derivatives in calculus. Edit: guys thanks all of you for replying, yeah the thing is that is misheard the phrase, somebody already corrected me,...
user228424's user avatar
28 votes
4 answers
11k views

Is "Raining Cats and dogs" still used nowadays?

Is it old-fashioned to say "It's raining cats and dogs"? If yes, what is the substitution idiom for expressing heavy rain?
Maryam's user avatar
  • 2,375
27 votes
4 answers
8k views

What is the meaning of "Dog ate my car"?

I was watching a movie called The book of Henry. One day Henry's mother goes to work late. Her manager told her, "Late again!", and she replied, "Dog ate my car." So, I heard about ...
Hozan Ali's user avatar
  • 397
26 votes
4 answers
15k views

The meaning of "half woman, half girl"

"It was the same mirror I'd gazed into as a child, then as a girl, then as a youth, half woman, half girl." Educated by Tara Westover What does "half woman" mean? (For example: A ...
Peace's user avatar
  • 5,164
26 votes
6 answers
86k views

If something seems too good to be true, it probably is (not?)

I've bumped into the following expression a few times already: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. To me, the correct way to say it would be: If something seems too good to ...
Pedro A's user avatar
  • 546
26 votes
7 answers
45k views

"I did my best" vs "I did the best I could"

In one post, a commenter maintained that the phrases "I did my best" and "I did the best I could" don't mean quite the same thing. If it is true, what is the fine difference between the two?
Victor B.'s user avatar
  • 9,545
26 votes
4 answers
12k views

What does "Rabbit hole" mean?

I've found this phrase appears more than twice. Ted-ed at 1:15 So, to use matrices, we need to learn how they work. It turns out, you can treat matrices just like regular numbers. You can add them, ...
Rain's user avatar
  • 1,027
26 votes
2 answers
25k views

"Add-in salt to injury"?

I've never seen "Add-in salt to injury" but I know "Add insult to injury" exists. I had a grammar exercise that asked for the most suitable idiom or proverb for expressing: To make something bad ...
Mohd Zulkanien Sarbini's user avatar
26 votes
6 answers
21k views

"Thanks, but no thanks" OR "No, thanks". Isn't 'thanks' in the former redundant?

Would you like to have a cup of tea? Sure. Thanks! Would you like to have a peg? No, thanks! When someone offers me a peg, I first deny the proposal and then say thanks. Why? Because he ...
Maulik V's user avatar
  • 66.1k
25 votes
9 answers
22k views

Phrases that express "afraid of wife" in English

Are there any English idioms that are used to describe a man being afraid of wife? In Chinese there are lots of ways to express it, formal ways, condescending, or colorful. Please describe the ...
xpt's user avatar
  • 2,288
24 votes
3 answers
42k views

What does it mean "to talk over someone"?

I saw this video where two policemen, in three different times tell citizens "Don't talk over me" (0:12) or "you are talking over me" (3:37 also 3:44). It seems that all of these mentions in the video ...
Virtuous Legend's user avatar
24 votes
3 answers
20k views

"I don't give a rip!" What's a "rip"?

The title is pretty self-explanatory, but let me give some detail. I'm a native English speaker from the USA. I know exactly what that statement means and how to use it. I heard my Pastor use it ...
mbm29414's user avatar
  • 355
23 votes
8 answers
4k views

Idiom for "not doing something that makes oneself look more awkward" in an already awkward situation?

Is there an idiom meaning "not to do something that makes oneself look more awkward" in an already awkward situation? For example: "We'd better say nothing [or keep silent] so that we ...
BeatsMe's user avatar
  • 433
22 votes
9 answers
6k views

What's the English saying for "That the ancestors are successful is inferior to that the descendants are successful"?

There goes a Chinese maxim "前人 强 不如 后人 强". 前人= former generation, ancestor; 后人= later generation, descendant; 强= strong, powerful; 不如= not as good/well as, inferior to, less desirable than. ...
Zhang Jian's user avatar
  • 1,063
22 votes
1 answer
14k views

Why say "Wait your turn" but "Wait FOR..." everything else?

Why in English is the word "for" not used in the phrase "wait your turn?" Wouldn't it make more sense to say "Wait for your turn" as for other things on which one waits? Wait for the stop light not ...
Flimzy's user avatar
  • 3,148
21 votes
5 answers
8k views

What is the meaning of "taking in each other's washing"

Of course your existence matters to other people—your parents and others who care about you—but taken as a whole, their lives have no point either, so it ultimately doesn't matter that you matter ...
XVI's user avatar
  • 859
20 votes
3 answers
4k views

Why "having something UP one's sleeve," not "having something IN one's sleeve"?

I learned a new idiom: "having something up one's sleeve," which means to have secret plans or ideas. This idiom is from the practice of magicians hiding tricks or gimmicks IN the sleeve, ...
rei727's user avatar
  • 313
20 votes
5 answers
68k views

"On one hand" vs "on the one hand."

I'm confused because I've seen both mentioned in dictionaries. Example sentence (context: writing a story): On (the) one hand, I want to wrap up everything perfectly. On the other hand, I want to ...
wyc's user avatar
  • 7,165
20 votes
2 answers
3k views

"The victory, within four days, was just reward" - why not "was just a reward"?

Source The victory, within four days, was just reward for skipper Kohli's insistence on playing five bowlers. Kohli led the way with a superb 200. We did not use was just a reward because was just ...
Anubhav's user avatar
  • 3,481
20 votes
4 answers
142k views

What does "things went south" mean?

What does things all went south mean in the following paragraph? The app has been available in the Google Play store since November 12, apparently with Google's blessing, and Cyanogen says "...
Ruban Savvy's user avatar
19 votes
13 answers
13k views

How do native speakers say 'I have completed all the missions/levels in the game'?

I read on one forum you can say "finish" but that was it, there were no examples. So what I am looking for is how to ask someone if he or she has "gone through" all the missions, played every single ...
Arman's user avatar
  • 756
19 votes
2 answers
16k views

Is it sleeting?

I know "It's raining" and "It's snowing" are commonly accepted English phrases. Now does the same form apply to other forms of precipitation? It's sleeting, It's graupeling, It's hailing. Are these ...
SF.'s user avatar
  • 10.2k
18 votes
3 answers
8k views

Actual meaning of 'After all'

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, after all means: despite earlier problems or doubts: The rain has stopped, so the game will go ahead after all. What's the problem here, raining? Am ...
yubraj's user avatar
  • 2,828
18 votes
4 answers
30k views

'learning the ropes' should be followed by which prepositions?

I am trying to use the idiom "learn the ropes" in a sentence as below: I am learning the ropes of my new job. Somehow, this doesn't "feel" right, and I think it should be: I am learning the ...
Masked Man's user avatar
  • 3,802
17 votes
4 answers
5k views

How to interpret 'a friend in need is a friend indeed'?

In both the Free Dictionary and the Collins Dictionary, 'in need' means 'lacking something'. So, the proverb 'a friend in need is a friend indeed' should mean 'a friend lacking something is a true ...
Michael's user avatar
  • 3,438
17 votes
6 answers
20k views

When you don't understand a joke right away

In my native language we have lots of ways (some of them very funny) of saying that you, or someone else didn't understand a joke right away. That is, he/she needed some time to figure it out. I ...
Androiderson's user avatar
17 votes
5 answers
4k views

Is "don't mind if I do" old-fashioned?

I do not listen (but do read) much to English lately, but honestly, I heard it once or twice. Would you consider it old-fashioned? "I don't mind if I do" said to politely accept an offer of food or ...
learner's user avatar
  • 5,918
17 votes
3 answers
11k views

What does the expression "Happy is as happy does" mean?

I just read an article in The Economist's China section (2019/02/16) with the subtitle "Happy is as happy is told to". Feeling confused, I googled about this expression, only to find a quite similar ...
Mengzhen SUN's user avatar
16 votes
4 answers
10k views

What is the meaning of "Put a bullet in something"?

I have seen this sentence in a chat between people and I guess when they said "put a bullet" they have used it idiomatically. I am not sure about the meaning though. A : The process is over timing B:...
Maryam's user avatar
  • 2,375
16 votes
4 answers
3k views

Are idioms not recommended in a formal situation?

This is what my English book[1] says (I've condensed the paragraphs so they're a bit shorter and straight to the point.): Fixed expressions, also known as idioms, are often rather informal. Never use ...
user516076's user avatar
  • 5,012
16 votes
4 answers
10k views

What does "join the dots" mean?

To get even this far, readers have to make great efforts to join the dots. I encountered this sentence in The Economist. I have looked up the dictionary but still cannot understand the meaning of "...
IvyChou's user avatar
  • 425
16 votes
1 answer
4k views

Going up in smoke vs. going up in flames

The idioms "to go up in smoke" and "to go up in flames" are very similar. They both mean burning and getting destroyed by fire. But if we use them to talk about failure, aren't there any nuances to ...
Enguroo's user avatar
  • 5,492

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