Phrase

Non compos mentis

Non compos mentis is a borrowed phrase or loan phrase. Borrowed phrases or loan phrases are terms that have been taken from other languages and used as English phrases. Borrowed phrases or loan phrases enter the English language when English speakers come into contact with other languages and cultures. When borrowed phrases or loan phrases first enter the English language, they are used by bilingual speakers and usually maintain the original pronunciation from the source language. As other English speakers …

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Nuclear family and extended family

Nuclear family and extended family are terms that came into use in the mid-twentieth century and have different definitions. We will examine the meanings of the phrases nuclear family and extended family, where these expressions came from, and some examples of their use in sentences. A nuclear family is a social unit that consists of parents and children. The nuclear family is also known as the immediate family, the elementary family, and the conjugal family. The nuclear family as a …

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Court disaster

To court disaster is an interesting expression that many find confusing, and it may not be as old as you think. Many English expressions have a different definition than one might assume at first glance. We will examine the meaning of the verbal phrase court disaster, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences. To court disaster means to take unnecessary risks, to follow a course of action that may bring ruin, to walk a proverbial …

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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 …

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The lesser of two evils

The term the lesser of two evils has been in use since the 1400s and may be traced to a specific writer, though the concept is probably much older. We will examine the meaning of the phrase the lesser of two evils, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences. The expression the lesser of two evils is used when one is confronted with two choices or alternatives, both of them bad. The lesser of two …

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Shake one’s head vs nod one’s head

The terms shake one’s head and nod one’s head have been in use for hundreds of years, and the exact etymology is unknown. These expressions mean two different things, though their definitions are becoming blurred. We will examine the definitions of the phrases shake one’s head and nod one’s head, their probably origin and some examples of their use in sentences. To shake one’s head means to move it from side to side with a subtle twist of the neck. …

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Bucket list

Bucket list is a one of those rare terms in English with a definite etymology. We will examine the definition of the expression bucket list, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences. A bucket list is a list of things a person wants to do, learn or experience before he dies. Items on a bucket list may be considered life goals. These items vary from person to person, and bucket list ideas may include something …

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Deck the halls

Deck the halls is a phrase that one may hear during the holiday season. We will examine the definition of the term deck the halls, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences. To deck the halls means to decorate for Christmas, especially if one will be entertaining guests. These decorations. may include centerpieces, swags or a garland made of branches or boughs of fir, pine, cedar, balsam or greenery from other types of evergreen limbs. …

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Rise Like A Phoenix From The Ashes

The phrase rise like a phoenix from the ashes is based on a story that goes back thousands of years. The expression is a simile, which  is a phrase used in a sentence that is a comparison of one thing with something else using the word like or the word as. A simile may compare two things with qualities that do not seem related, though there must be some similarity that is either literal or figurative. Writers use similes in …

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Split the difference

Split the difference is a phrase that may have been around for longer than you think. We will examine the meaning of the phrase split the difference, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences. To split the difference, in its literal sense, means to agree on a price that is midway between the amount being asked for an item, and the amount being offered for that item. To split the difference is a common way …

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