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In fine fettle

In fine fettle is an idiom that contains a fossil word. A fossil word is an obsolete word that is no longer in common use, yet is preserved in certain phrases or idioms. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. … [Read more...]

The customer is always right

The customer is always right is an aphorism, that is a short, common saying that can serve as a shorthand for conveying an idea. The customer is always right can not be considered a proverb, as it is not a universally acknowledged truth. Speakers of English as a second language are sometimes confused by these expressions as translations from English to other languages do not carry the impact that the English phrases carry.  We will examine the meaning of the phrase the customer is always right, … [Read more...]

Give someone the third degree

The expression to give someone the third degree is an American idiom. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even … [Read more...]

Broke the mold

Broke the mold is an idiom that may be older than you think. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the … [Read more...]

Animal collective nouns

English has an interesting tradition of assigning fanciful collective nouns to groups of animals by species. We are all familiar with the terms a pride of lions, a pack of wolves, a gaggle of geese, an army of ants and a pod of whales, but there are many lesser known terms, such as a grist of bees, which is used to describe a swarm of bees, or a clattering of jackdaws, used to describe a flock of this species of bird. The use of fanciful words to describe groups of animals of certain species … [Read more...]

Spitz vs spits

Spitz and spits are two commonly confused words that are pronounced in the same way when spoken aloud but are spelled differently and have different meanings, which makes them homophones. Homophones exist because of our ever-changing English language, and are a challenge for those who wish to learn to speak English. The way the spelling and definitions differ can be confusing when attempting to learn vocabulary correctly. Proper pronunciation of spoken English may help the listener distinguish … [Read more...]

Raise one’s hackles and get one’s hackles up

Raise one's hackles and get one's hackles up are two versions of an idiom. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, … [Read more...]

Phone it in

Phone it in is a verbal phrase and an idiom. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or … [Read more...]

Sugarcoat

Sugarcoat is a compound word. Compounds or compound words are words that are derived from two separate words joined together. Sugarcoat is a closed compound word, which is a word that is made up of two words joined together without hyphens or spaces. This type of compound is also called a solid compound word. Sugarcoat is also seen in its hyphenated form, sugar-coat. This is the preferred spelling in the Oxford English Dictionary. A hyphenated compound word is a compound that is composed of two … [Read more...]

Use vs utilize

The words use and utilize are increasingly used interchangeably, but in truth, these two words do not mean exactly the same thing. Many people employ the word utilize instead of use because they think it sounds more important or more formal than the word use. However, using a word incorrectly is never a good idea. Choosing the correct words to use in the correct situation is a building block of grammar. Grammar is the way in which language is structured, the rules that are the foundation of that … [Read more...]

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