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39 votes
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Explain the 28 Feb 2022 Dilbert cartoon use of the phrase "sticking the landing"

'Stick the landing' is from gymnastics, when people pull off a tricky move and land neatly on both feet, properly balanced and with a flourish of the arms that communicates 'I did exactly what I ...
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33 votes

What is a Daniel?

The "Daniel" mentioned by the townsman in The Scarlet Letter refers to the Hebrew prophet Daniel. In Chapter 2 of the Biblical Book of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, says he has ...
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30 votes
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Meaning of 'Yawl write, hear?'

You've got it right. As you've recognized, this is dialect. Yawl - this is a less common way of spelling the dialectical y'all, which is used as the second person plural. Hear - this is a shortened ...
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26 votes
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What is "the line children draw to represent a bird in flight"?

It means this simple double curved line, which can be seen as the shape of an upper lip, or wings in flight.
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24 votes

What does "more than I gave" mean in "I therefore named a price which was £500 more than I gave"?

It helps to have a bit more of the context leading up to this: There have been some very strange happenings. I have been in this house more than a year now, and as I wished to lead a retired life I ...
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21 votes

What do the letters G and D mean in "The Trout" by Sean O'Faolain?

G--- is an anonymised place name. It was quite common practice in a certain period of English literature to obscure place names in this way, so that a place could be described in a general way without ...
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19 votes

"Sly frantic wretch, that holp'st to make me great" what is the meaning of "holp'st"?

“Holp” is the archaic past tense of “help”, which was formerly a strong verb (a verb that inflects by changing its vowel) like freeze/froze or ride/rode. The old form was obsolete in ordinary language ...
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18 votes
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What is meant by "without resorting to the sexton's spade that buried Jacob Marley" in A Christmas Carol?

I think that by this point in the story, Scrooge can sense himself starting to reform. In this scene he is saying that had he devoted more time to paying attention to little, pleasant things like Fran'...
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16 votes

What does "FACIT" mean in D. J. Enright's "The Typewriter Revolution"?

Facit was a brand of typewriters made by the company of the same name in Åtvidaberg, Sweden. The poem says so in the second stanza: Mine is a Swetish Maid Called FACIT Others are OLIMPYA or ...
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16 votes

What is "taughtly aristocratic"?

It’s a rare spelling variation. The OED says: taut, adj. Forms: … β. 1600s– taught (now nonstandard) and gives citations showing that this form remains current: 1834   F. Marryat Peter Simple II. ...
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15 votes

Meaning of 'white mask on my otherwise tan face'

Going on to the next sentence makes clear the context: the narrator is so nearsighted that he usually needs to use glasses or contact lenses to see properly. When he's at the beach, however, he doesn'...
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15 votes

Origin of the war-cry "Eulalia" in Brian Jacques's Redwall series?

According to Brian Jacques, as related in a live-action segment for the TV series: That was one of the Norse war cries, the Vikings, the sea-wolves, the Norsemen, and the Celts used to use it when ...
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15 votes
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How to read "truths in Nietzsche’s sense of the word"

The phrase "truths in Nietzsche’s sense of the word" seems to be an allusion to the following passage from Nietzsche's "Über Wahrheit und Lüge im aussermoralischen Sinne / On Truth and ...
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14 votes
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What does "Some people do the same by their religion" mean?

The phrase "do the same" refers to what Mrs. Joe is doing with her cleanliness: making it more uncomfortable, although it should be theoretically better, than dirt. This is the same as how &...
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13 votes
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What does "epesthai to logo" mean in this letter from Charles Kingsley to Charles Darwin?

In “Let us know what is”, the verb “is” is being used in the sense “exists, occurs, happens” (OED). In the previous paragraph, Kingsley wrote, “if you be right, I must give up much that I have ...
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13 votes

What is meant by "without resorting to the sexton's spade that buried Jacob Marley" in A Christmas Carol?

I think the play on words is a bit simpler than that. "Cultivate" is a word primarily used for gardening or farming, requiring a spade to turn the soil. Thus, Dickens is making a play on ...
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12 votes

What does the term "one heat down" in Dickens's "Little Dorrit" mean?

Per World Wide Words, heat once had a meaning of a single burst of intense physical activity of any sort, often in the phrase at a heat, at one go, in one continuous operation (World Wide Words ...
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12 votes
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What is meant by "I'm going to push my stuff in" in Dorothy Sayers's "Strong Poison"?

Waffles Newton is a journalist covering the trial of Harriet Vane for the murder of Philip Boyes, and he is talking to Salcombe Hardy, another journalist. This situation at the start of chapter 3 is ...
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11 votes
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What does, "‘Much of that!’ said he, glancing about him over the cold wet flat. ‘I wish I was a frog. Or a eel!'" mean?

The word “flat” is used here in the sense flat n. C.5.b. A tract of low-lying marshy land; a swamp. Oxford English Dictionary. If you weren’t familiar with this sense of the word, you might guess it ...
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11 votes

How to understand “a dumb or a talking brute” in The Ransom of Red Chief?

Yes, essentially this is a minor wordplay and double meaning. A "dumb brute" is a phrase that was commonly used to denote an animal, not necessarily even a savagely violent animal. I say &...
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11 votes
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What does "One fancied things sometimes—fancied a fellow was looking at you queerly" mean from And Then There Were None?

‘Fancied’ here has the meaning ‘was inclined to believe’ or ‘thought it a possibility’. ‘One’ is effectively being used as a pronoun, meaning ‘I’. General MacArthur is talking to, and about, himself ...
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11 votes
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Explain the grammar of "That not one fleecy lamb ..." in Keats' "Endymion"

The main verb here is "pass'd", and what you're missing is the now rather archaic (and in this case divided by an intervening phrase) usage of the phrase "not one but". I can't ...
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10 votes

Romeo and Juliet: Why is honey loathsome in its deliciousness?

It is the deliciousness of the honey that leads you to gorge on it until you can't face it anymore. Deliciousness leads to eating too much of it, therefore the deliciousness is the problem. You wouldn'...
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10 votes
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What does "remote in scale" mean here?

I think this means that the different fish which have electric organs are very remote from each other in the size (scale) of their bodies. It doesn't mean scales as in the plates that cover a fish's ...
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10 votes

What is a Daniel?

Allusion to Daniel Adding just a few more comments to the astute answers already given . . . “Of a truth, friend, that matter remaineth a riddle; and the Daniel who shall expound it is yet a-wanting” (...
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9 votes

What is a Daniel?

Daniel can rarely be used as a common noun, to mean a wise person, in reference to the biblical Daniel. This usage is mentioned in Wiktionary and Collins Dictionary, and perhaps its most famous usage ...
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9 votes
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Does "football" mean "rugby" in Winter Holiday by Arthur Ransome?

It could be less about the period and more about the specific social/cultural context. According to this BBC interview with sports historian Tony Collins (who has written multiple books on the history ...
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9 votes

Who are these crescent saints?

Although there is a real Saint Crescentius, and a real church of San Cresci in Valcava near Florence, Boccaccio is making a sexual pun. A crescent is so called because it is growing (crescere in both ...
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  • 91
9 votes

Confusing paragraph from the story 'Evans tries an O-level' by Colin Dexter

Thrice he'd excaped from prison, and but for the recent wave of unrest in the maximum security establishments up north, he wouldn't now be gracing the governor's premises in Oxford This means that ...
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9 votes

Confusing paragraph from the story 'Evans tries an O-level' by Colin Dexter

"but for the recent wave of unrest" = fancy phrase for if it hadn't been OR except for the recent wave of unrest. "governor's premises in Oxford" = humorous reference to the Oxford ...
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