Knock up

This is one of those words that has very different meanings inside and outside the United States. Inside the United States, a man can knock up a woman by making her pregnant. A woman can be knocked up. Outside the United States, anyone can knock up someone else by doing something to wake him or her up. It can also mean to excite someone who is tired, to make or create something, or ask someone to come to a certain place. Caution should be used with this term and a synonym is suggested … [Read more...]

As crook as Rookwood

As crook as Rookwood is an Australian idiom for being very sick and almost ready to die. Crook is Australian slang for being chronically sick. Sometimes the phrase is used for deep corruption, but not in the sense that the corruption is led by crooks, people who are dishonest. The term crook is meant in the sense that the corrupt organization has been sick for a long time. Rookwood is capitalized as it is the name of the biggest cemetery in Australia. This phrase is informal, and when used … [Read more...]

Aw or awe

Aw is an interjection used when someone thinks what they see is adorable, or when he or she is disappointed. Some dictionaries list a variant spelling if aww, but this is vastly less popular than the one w spelling. Awe is a noun for the feeling of wonderment after seeing something spectacular. One can also be in awe if he or she is afraid of someone or respects someone greatly. As a verb it means to cause someone else to be in awe. The adjective awe-inspiring uses the latter of the two … [Read more...]

Work in progress vs work in process

A work in progress is a project that is not yet finished or polished. One might say this about a work assignment, a home renovation, or about one's relationship with another person. No hyphens are necessary. The plural form is works in progress. Be careful when distinguishing between a group's work in progress and their works in progress, the former is one project belonging to multiple people and the latter speaks of multiple projects. Sometimes this is used as an adjective and then should be … [Read more...]

Underlie or underline

To underline something can be to literally mark a line under it, or it can be used figuratively as a way to stress or emphasize a point. To underlie something is to literally be under it, or the term can be used figuratively as the cause of something or the source of it. This is most commonly found in the present participle form of underlying, as in the underlying cause. Side note: The past tense of underlie is underlay and the past participle is underlain. Examples "If you underlined … [Read more...]

Put on heirs or airs

An heir is someone who receives property, money, or a title from another when the latter person dies. This is not the correct spelling for the phrase putting on airs; however, someone could put on airs about being an heir. Airs, listed under air in most dictionaries, is a fake way of acting. When plural, one can put on airs or behave in a way that isn't true. It is used when people act as if they are from a higher class in society, either by making others believe they have more money or are … [Read more...]

Laundry list

Laundry list is an idiom that today rarely means an actual list of the things one needs to wash. Instead, it refers to a list that is lengthy, extensive, or inclusive of all possibilities. The items in the set are connected or related somehow, and there is a tediousness associated with the term. It is usually seen in the construction laundry list of, followed by the types of things on the list. The plural for the term is laundry lists. The original usage was in the 1960s in actual … [Read more...]

Helter skelter or helter-skelter

As a noun, adjective, and adverb, this term is spelled the same way: helter-skelter. It means to be disorderly, confused, hurried, or haphazard. Outside of the United States, the noun form can be used as a name for a certain kind of amusement park ride that twists and turns around a tower. Helter skelter, without a hyphen, is often used for the title of songs, books, or movies. The exact origin of the term is unknown but it dates from the late sixteenth century. Examples The backdrop … [Read more...]

Would just as soon or assume

The phrase would just as soon means the user would prefer one option to another. It is a comparative phrase that sometimes leaves off the second half of the comparison. The confusion comes when the phrase is heard instead of read. If the speaker's annunciation isn't clear, as soon can be interpreted assume. In some cases, assume can make sense in the sentence (e.g., I'd just assume it was done.), but the actual phrase is as soon. Examples I’d just as soon been forced to go see the musical … [Read more...]

Apocryphal vs canonical

Apocryphal is an adjective used to describe something, usually a text or tale, as being widely known and most likely untrue. The origins of such works are usually in doubt or completely unknown. The adverb form is apocryphally. The noun form is apocrypha. The term is not capitalized unless it is discussing specific works that have been excluded from the Bible. Those works are part of the Apocrypha and are Apocryphal. Other texts can be Apocryphal if they resemble these specific … [Read more...]

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