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Questions tagged [phrase-meaning]

Use this tag for questions about the meaning and usage of a particular phrase, for which a dictionary cannot answer.

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“harden ignorance in contempt” and “distinguish desert”

In his Preface to the Dictionary, Samuel Johnson wrote the following. I'd like to know what "harden ignorance in contempt" and "distinguish desert" mean. ... a few wild blunders, and risible ...
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1answer
31 views

What does “there's must be” mean?

I've seen it written this way a couple of times, e.g. in oxford entry for dame: 'There's must be a wealthy society dame (preferably played by Margaret Dumont) who is entirely smitten with Groucho, ...
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1answer
24 views

What does “penalty to/for …” mean?

Let's say Team A and Team B have a soccer match. Now the referee says: it's a penalty to Team A. Does it mean Team B Kicks the Penalty kick or Team A kicks it? And I also saw the phrase "penalty for ...
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1answer
20 views

Old language meanings

I was reading the Hound of the Baskervilles, and tripped upon this phrase. 'Capital article this on Free Trade.' I suppose it's the title of the Times article from which Sherlock speculates that ...
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3answers
689 views

What does “tell with” mean in this context?

"Did sir just call me Dobby?" squeaked the elf curiously from between its fingers. Its voice was higher even than Dobby's had been, a teeny, quivering squeak of a voice, and Harry suspected -- though ...
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64 views

What does “Pull up a bit of grass” mean in this context?

... ... "Pull up a bit of grass, Barry," said Ludo brightly, patting the ground beside him. "No thank you, Ludo," said (Barry)Crouch, and there was a bite of impatience in his voice. "I've ...
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1answer
31 views

What's “an exchange trip”?

Bill had a penfriend at a school in Brazil ... this was years and years ago ... and he wanted to go on an exchange trip but Mum and Dad couldn't afford it. His penfriend got all offended when he said ...
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2answers
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What does “to build upon a previous example” mean?

Ex. 1: To build upon a previous example, the novel question “are you feeling okay?” might evoke the same “yes” response due to the similarity of the questions. [Source] Ex. 2: To build ...
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1answer
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“That's if they're coming at all” meaning?

"Maybe they think they'll get invited to dinner if they're late." (said Aunt Petunia) "Well, they most certainly won't be," said Uncle Vernon, and Harry heard him stand up and start pacing the ...
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5answers
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What does “were identical to the last freckle” mean in this context?

Aunt Petunia shrieked and fell backward over the coffee table; Uncle Vernon caught her before she hit the floor, and gaped, speechless, at the Weasleys, all of whom had bright red hair, including Fred ...
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1answer
23 views

What's “prime tickets”? [closed]

...and my husband, Arthur, has just managed to get prime tickets through his connections at the Department of Magical Games and Sports. As title, what's "prime tickets"? I haven't managed to find a ...
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3answers
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What does “give their right hands to” mean exactly?

I will allow you to perform an essential task for me, one that many of my followers would give their right hands to perform.... The closest phrase I can find is "give a hand" meaning "help someone". ...
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3answers
853 views

What does “while all along” mean? (comparing to “while”)

Catch Me If You Can is about someone who convinces everyone that he can really fly a plane while all along he's just a teenager. My question is: What is the difference between "while he's just a ...
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1answer
31 views

What does the phrase “there is every chance that” mean?

And the answer is, "You can always conjure them up! IF they are significant triggers of relaxation in a person then there is a very good chance indeed that you can activate the appropriate system by ...
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1answer
46 views

What does “delete” mean in this context (learning languages)?

I encountered the following phrase at the beginning of Chapter 5 in Kato Lomb's book "Polyglot - How I learn languages": Chapter 5: How to Study Languages "HOW CAN I learn English, Russian, ...
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1answer
157 views

What is a spanking machine? [closed]

This is a conversation from the movie The Game (1997) (starting from about 11:00) starring Michael Douglas. Urban Dictionary suggests a spanking machine is when it is a child's birthday, that child ...
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1answer
25 views

How to understand “in the end bed”?

It was empty except for Ron, who was still lying motionless in the end bed. The phrase "in the end bed" looks strange to me. I've never seen 'end' is used like that. Usually, I see "at the end of" ...
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2answers
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What does “had no business” mean?

The U.S. had no business dropping points, much less losing. And yet it did. What's the meaning of had no business here? Is it like did not need at all? Or were not interested in? Or by all means ...
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1answer
54 views

Is “Cannot be taken to be true” common in American English?

In a final paragraph of my essay in Toefl exam, I want to say an statement which means "the conclusion in first paragraph (which is a reasoning of an author) is false". Can I say instead that "the ...
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1answer
35 views

What does “Ron's face was set” mean?

Black conjured heavy manacles from thin air; soon Pettigrew was upright again, left arm chained to Lupin's right, right arm to Ron's left. Ron's face was set. He seemed to have taken Scabbers's true ...
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2answers
41 views

“the little money he had” versus “what little money he had”

Is there a nuanced difference between the following noun phrases? Does what do something other than the does? ... the little money he had ... what little money he had
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1answer
40 views

How to understand “not even” in this sentence?

"I've told the headmaster again and again that you're helping your old friend Black into the castle, Lupin, and here's the proof. Not even I dreamed you would have the nerve to use this old place as ...
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1answer
38 views

What does “get out nails done ” mean? [closed]

I have a letter from a native English speaker. A sentence of that is as follows: "We were only going to get out nails done today and go to a couple of stores and home." I have searched google for "...
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1answer
730 views

What does “out of nerves” mean in this context?

... Hermione had been right; Professor Flitwick did indeed test them on Cheering Charms. Harry slightly overdid his out of nerves and Ron, who was partnering him, ended up in fits of hysterical ...
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3answers
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Why say “buy shares in a company” but not “buy shares from / of a company”?

In the dictionary: share /ʃeəʃer/ noun 1[countable] one of the parts into which ownership of a company is divided Friendly companies and banks hold (=own) 56% of all shares in Germany’s ...
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2answers
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What does “droppin' me notes” mean in this context?

He(Hagrid) seemed numb with shock at the verdict. "S'all my fault. Got all tongue-tied. They was all sittin' there in black robes an' I kep' droppin' me notes and forgettin' all them dates yeh ...
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1answer
31 views

What does “background” mean in a job interview?

What does "your own background" mean when an employer asks: Please send us a PowerPoint presentation about your own background, your education and a detailed technical discussion of your thesis.
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1answer
37 views

What does “You just better had” mean in this context?

"Harry, you'd better beat him in the Quidditch final!" Hermione said shrilly. "You just better had, because I can't stand it if Slytherin wins!" I don't quite understand "You just better had" in this ...
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1answer
148 views

What's the difference between “in itself”, “by itself” and “in and of itself”?

A. This in itself requires investigation. B. Energy by itself is useless. C. That in and of itself is interesting. What is their meaning and how to use them correctly? Subquestion: Let's ...
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1answer
59 views

Am I using “back up” and “back over” correctly?

Can I use “back up” and “back over” in those ways? Does get “back over the line” mean “get back in line”? Could “back over here” mean “come over here”? Can “backup” mean “standup”? ...
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2answers
47 views

What does “develop a drag” mean in this context?

“Look at the balance on it! If the Nimbus series has a fault, it's a slight list to the tail end — you often find they develop a drag after a few years. They've updated the handle too, a bit slimmer ...
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1answer
69 views

Why we do we use “have” with singulars? [closed]

Why do we use "have" with singulars, I mean we have read the formula that we use "has" with singulars and "have" with plurals, but in some sentences I read "have" with singulars. For example, Does ...
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2answers
1k views

Meaning of 'a cow's caboose'

I came across this phrase in the first Chapter of The Long Goodbye (written by Raymond Chandler). Is it an idiom? Or something indecent? Here is the context: "Sure," he said cynically. "Why waste ...
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1answer
202 views

“Keep up the good work”.. could this hurt?

When I feel grateful about someone, I sometimes use the phrase keep up the good work after I have thanked them. I only use this when my feeling is that he or she: is doing good things and/or has ...
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1answer
22 views

when to use “get down to business” and “swing into action”? [closed]

In what situations we can use the two phrasal verbs "swing into action" and "get down to business".If they are quite different in their meanings then what are the suitable examples to explain ...
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3answers
112 views

Help to understand the use of “such as” in “A hatred such as he had never known before…”

A hatred such as he had never known before was coursing through Harry like poison. As I know, the phrase "such as" can mean "for example" or 'like' and is followed by a list or a noun, pronoun and ...
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1answer
36 views

What is a “cut it up poster”?

I heard this line in a film's audio description: There are numerous photos of Tris on his bedroom wall, including a cut-it-up 1940s poster featuring both Nick and Tris with the slogan "homies ...
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1answer
29 views

Can “any number of things” mean “many things”?

In House of Cards, Donald has finalized a congress bill and is showing it to Frank Underwood, who thinks the bill is so bad and needs to be modified: Frank: Tax increases, ban on vouchers, federal ...
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1answer
27 views

What does “pacing his study” mean in this context?

It was a map showing every detail of the Hogwarts castle and grounds. But the truly remarkable thing was the tiny ink dots moving around it, each labelled with a name in minuscule writing. Astounded, ...
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1answer
34 views

“We do me old” What does it mean? [closed]

I don't understand the meaning of the interjection we do me old in this article. I can't find it on Google. Is it simply a typo for "we do mean old"? Florida International University professor and ...
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1answer
32 views

What does “end to end with” mean?

This is the description of a wine corks jigsaw puzzle on Amazon: Pop the cork on your favorite wine as you sit down to work on this challenging 1000-piece puzzle. The corks end to end with their ...
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2answers
47 views

The synonym of let in

In the Longman Exams Coach software, about "let somebody in on something" the following definition was given: to tell something that is secret or only known by a few people Also, some example ...
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1answer
39 views

What does “scratched himself in the mirror” mean?

One day Freddie Mercury met Sid Vicious and then Freddie was telling about the meeting: He had all these marks on him, so I asked if he had scratched himself in the mirror, and he hated the fact ...
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1answer
30 views

What does “plunged recklessly on” mean?

'Professor Snape's very interested in the Dark Arts,' he blurted out. 'Really?' said Lupin, looking only mildly interested as he took another gulp of potion. 'Some people reckon —' Harry ...
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1answer
11 views

engage children … for their empowerment

Renowned Chinese singer and actor Wang Yuan was appointed UNICEF newest ambassador for children today, just days ahead of World Children's Day. In his new role, the young ambassador, who just ...
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1answer
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“bear replacement with”

In general, unless you’re going for a formal tone, to wit bears replacement with one of the many alternatives, such as namely, specifically, in other words, more precisely, or to clarify. (source) I ...
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1answer
27 views

Put an announcement out for someone

Let's say your nephew has gone missing inside a mall while being with you, because you are picking out an item in a jewellery shop. Then, you went to an announcement desk asking for some help, and the ...
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2answers
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Does “as long as” here mean the common known meaning of “as long as”?

source I want to stand here in this darkened hallway and have conversations with her about absolutely nothing important for as long as it takes for me to get enough balls to make a statement. ...
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1answer
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What does “as due to one's actions” mean?

While trying to get the meaning of the phrase "come off worse" from Free dictionary, I bumped into this interpretation: To be viewed even more unfavorably in a negative situation, as due to one's ...
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1answer
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The meaning of “standard deviation”

What is the primary meaning of "standard deviation"? Context: There was an episode from "Everybody Loves Raymond", which was named "Standard Deviation". In short, Raymond's brother Robert was ...