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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67
votes
13answers
11k 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 ...
51
votes
9answers
54k 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/...
49
votes
7answers
12k 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 ...
46
votes
6answers
20k 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 ...
46
votes
10answers
13k 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 ...
44
votes
10answers
48k 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:...
40
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10answers
14k 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.
37
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8answers
8k 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?
36
votes
5answers
9k 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"?
34
votes
2answers
10k 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 ...
34
votes
3answers
14k 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. ...
31
votes
4answers
12k 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 ...
30
votes
6answers
25k 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.
29
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6answers
6k 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 ...
28
votes
16answers
12k 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 ...
27
votes
4answers
5k 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,...
27
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4answers
7k 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?
26
votes
6answers
17k 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 ...
25
votes
5answers
4k 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 ...
25
votes
2answers
14k 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 ...
24
votes
7answers
27k 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?
24
votes
4answers
10k 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, ...
24
votes
3answers
13k 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 ...
23
votes
4answers
12k 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 ...
22
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9answers
17k 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 ...
22
votes
6answers
25k 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 ...
22
votes
3answers
20k 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 ...
20
votes
13answers
9k 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 ...
20
votes
5answers
4k 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 ...
20
votes
2answers
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 ...
19
votes
2answers
12k 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 ...
19
votes
4answers
23k 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 ...
19
votes
1answer
9k 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 ...
17
votes
5answers
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 ...
17
votes
3answers
4k 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 ...
17
votes
3answers
5k 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 ...
16
votes
4answers
7k views

What does “don't have a baby” imply or mean in this sentence?

This is really, really confusing as the literal meaning of "don't have a baby" — being pregnant or give birth to a child — does not fit the context at all. My guesses are: Don't act like a baby, be ...
16
votes
6answers
13k 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 ...
16
votes
4answers
6k 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:...
16
votes
1answer
2k 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 ...
15
votes
6answers
24k views

What's the meaning of “there you go”?

I'm not a native English speaker and always get confused with this expression. For instance: Me: What's the current state of [some subject] discussion? Bob: There is none. It was brought up in ...
15
votes
4answers
8k 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 "...
15
votes
3answers
7k views

What does the nutshell in “in a nutshell” stand for?

I know the meaning of “in a nutshell” but do not know what “nutshell” or “nut” itself stands for in this idiom. Since it is a metaphor, I would like to know what it recalls to the speakers/listeners’ ...
15
votes
2answers
940 views

How to express that instructions (i.e. a recipe) should be followed precisely?

Suppose I'm giving a recipe (let's say, for a special cake) to a friend. I'd like to make sure he follows the recipe precisely down to the last minute detail. Is there an idiom that I could use to ...
15
votes
4answers
17k views

Is it 'thumb is up' in 'thumbs up'?

It was a thumbs up on the new filtration plant at Thursday's village board meeting This is so common but then I never thought too deep unless I became a fan of English language after joining this ...
14
votes
14answers
3k views

How to idiomatically suggest someone should live the day and forget about tomorrow?

In Arabic, we literally say: Give me life today, and kill me tomorrow. We use it to say we should only care about the present time and forget about the future. For example, when my mother advises ...
14
votes
3answers
5k views

Past form of “make do”

Looking for a synonym of 'to get by on", I came across "to make do with" and immediately started wondering what the past form of the latter could be. "Make did", "made do", made did" - they all sound ...
14
votes
4answers
7k views

Is “This brought me an idea” correct English?

Coming from German I wonder what the correct idiom is here. This brought me an idea. or This made me an idea. or This got me an idea. or This gave me an idea. Well, I guess I could say ...
14
votes
2answers
2k views

“keep one's name” meaning

I heard this idiom in a movie and looked it up in the web in vain. Here's the phrase: She's a lawyer, she's keeping her name. Throwing a light on this would be greatly appreciated.
14
votes
2answers
5k views

What does “eating your hat” mean?

What does it mean to eat your hat? Does it mean to really eat the hat or does it mean you have disagreement to someone? This expression appeared in the comments of Shawn Mooney's answer to Can we add ...