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It's on the tip of someone's tongue

Please help my husband and me find words or phrases (any language!) that describe the sensation of knowing how far you are from home. Not really alienation or nostalgia or being homesick-- just the understanding/realization of the distance. [more inside]
posted by jetlagaddict on May 25, 2014 - 14 answers

What very obscure English words are actually very useful?

I'm not looking for obscure words that are just baroque synonyms for common English words, or highly specialised David Foster Wallacesque curiosities, but rather words that are actually quite functional for day-to-day use but for whatever reason are not widely known.
posted by dontjumplarry on May 16, 2014 - 99 answers

Metafilter: The Great Indoors

What is the origin of the phrase, "the great outdoors?"
posted by michaelh on May 8, 2014 - 14 answers

I am looking for pictures of words, where can I find them?

I thought it would be easier to find this! I am looking for pictures of words. I want to avoid pictures of words created with "fonts" and want to find things that people found in the wild - signs, graffiti, that sort of thing. [more inside]
posted by jmkeuning on May 6, 2014 - 6 answers

Please help me find a term for this strength/endurance concept.

I am looking for a clever descriptive term for the idea of training with a "hardship" that when omitted later, makes you feel super-strong. Like when baseball players put that donut thing on their bats while taking practice swings. (Donuting?) Or when you ride a really heavy bike, then switch to a lighter one. Or practice at high altitudes, and compete at low altitudes. Is there already a term that describes this? If not, I am open to any ideas.
posted by oxisos on Apr 13, 2014 - 11 answers

What's a word that describes synonyms and antonyms together?

Asking for a friend. Said friend is: A) Tired of writing "synonyms and antonyms" over and over B) Trying to shorten the paper she's writing that contains this phrase. [more inside]
posted by Mister Moofoo on Mar 31, 2014 - 4 answers

"I love you" 1) What does it mean? 2) When do you say it? 3) To whom?

I'm curious. What's the normal meaning? What's your meaning? Do you have expectations associated with saying it/what expectations? My details inside. [more inside]
posted by chrysanthemum on Mar 14, 2014 - 24 answers

What is "turtle-billing"?

In the course of a dramatic reading of "Fanny Hill" last night I ran across the phrase "turtle-billing," but I cannot find a precise definition of the act. Can you? [more inside]
posted by BlackLeotardFront on Feb 16, 2014 - 4 answers

What's up with this odd usage of the word "steal"?

In the early 1990s, the boys in my middle school used to threaten to "steal" each other, meaning hit/punch/sock/pop/smack. It was most commonly heard as, "I'mma steal you in your eye!" or "I'm gonna steal him upside the head!" I found it strange even then, and I haven't heard or seen reference to it since. Have you heard "steal" used like this before? Where could it have come from? Relevant details: This was in Nash County, North Carolina. I recall hearing it exclusively from white boys. The couple times I asked someone who was self-aware enough to discuss it, they were adamant that it was "steal" and not "steel."
posted by rhiannonstone on Feb 6, 2014 - 17 answers

Looking for a word that conveys a particular nuanced concept.

Here is the concept I am trying to put a single word to: a sense of ultimate "completion" achieved through the joining of many disparate parts. The word I'm searching for must capture the sense of these disparate parts integrating to fulfill a higher destiny, of being not only greater together but, through this harmonious integration, achieving ultimate purpose or the greatest possible manifestation of each parts' potential. I.e., "Coming together to form the greatest possible, or most complete, reality." [more inside]
posted by Angel de Lune on Feb 1, 2014 - 28 answers

Synonyms for "silo"?

I'm having trouble with pithy ways to describe (in popular style) the concept of "silo-ing". In other words: a certain kind of data is siloed into disparate program and department offices, and because of the lack of collaboration the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing. Suggestions?
posted by powerbumpkin on Jan 29, 2014 - 18 answers

Who first "made it sing"?

What is the origin of "making it sing," as in to cause something to be at its best, be it an instrument, weapon, machine, or anything else? [more inside]
posted by BlackLeotardFront on Jan 27, 2014 - 14 answers

Making Convoluted Text Simple Visually

Sometimes, some documents I read are so convoluted that I don't understand what they are telling me. I've found this to be true in for legal documents including terms of agreements and constitutions among others. Is there any kind of program that looks at the syntax of sections of text and converts them into block diagrams showing the relationships between subjects and objects with the verb, adverbs, adjectives, etc. showing how they are connected? For instance, if it was highlighting the sentence, "See Spot run", there would be two boxes, one labeled Spot and one labeled You with an arrow connecting the latter to the former. I'm thinking of something similar to sentence diagramming but graphically represented and not nearly as complicated. It seems to me that if something could lay out all of the relationships within a document, that would make it much easier for someone to understand what it means. Or is that magical thinking on my part?
posted by CollectiveMind on Jan 26, 2014 - 8 answers

MIxed up word pairs.

Does anyone else experience or have an explanation or name for this issue? There are certain words that I always seem to really need concentrate to recall. Example: "symmetrical" -- I will almost always need to scan through my vocabulary very carefully to come up with this word when I want it. Also, I will often produce "ambidextrous" as a potential response. Clearly there is a relationship between symmetry and ambidextrous, I see that it's not an outlandish mistake, but I still often have to work my way through the process, even though I KNOW this is a word pair I often have confused in the past. Similarly, "manipulative" and "exploitive". I almost have a sense of anxiety as I search the brain for one of these words because I know I will often come up with the wrong one. Again here, manipulation and exploitation have a similar quality in that they are both ways of treating others as objects, but they are clearly not synonymous. Maybe there are 3 or 4 other pairs that frustrate me as well. Anyone?
posted by mmf on Jan 26, 2014 - 12 answers

What bullshit is my mom talking?

I was talking to my mom last night and at one point in the conversation, she wanted to call something bullshit, but she is extremely opposed to swearing, so she used a euphemism instead. It was so funny that my partner and I both burst out laughing when she said it, but neither of us can remember it now. Help me identify it! [more inside]
posted by Neely O'Hara on Jan 21, 2014 - 26 answers

Is there a word for someone who is more than a layman but not an expert?

What words or short phrases describe someone who is a fair bit more knowledgeable about some field than the general public, but is well short of being an expert or full professional? Ideally I'm looking for words that fit the idea that such people are often better communicators, teachers and helpers to laypeople in common situations than many true experts would be.
posted by philipy on Jan 13, 2014 - 41 answers

Short. Sweet. Macabre.

An artist friend makes charming decorative lettered signs with uplifting, inspiring words on them. 'Growth.' 'Love.' 'Inspire.' 'Dream.' I asked her if she had 'Vengeance' - regrettably, it was not in stock. [more inside]
posted by Lou Stuells on Nov 30, 2013 - 58 answers

It Wasn't a Tuffet

Is there a single, non-compound English word for this kind of university lecture hall desk (those bolted-down seats with the arm-rests masquerading as desktops)? [more inside]
posted by paperback version on Nov 25, 2013 - 8 answers

Batman: Linguistic Origins

What are some examples of really easy/obvious etymological descents that most people aren't really aware of? I'm trying to prove to somebody that there are a lot of these in the english language but I've forgotten most of the interesting ones I used to know. [more inside]
posted by tehloki on Nov 22, 2013 - 27 answers

inerment? innermet? enermunt?

What is the word (if any, apparently) for the misuse of a nonprofit's funds for personal uses? [more inside]
posted by cmoj on Nov 1, 2013 - 11 answers

What do I do with all of these words?

As I read, I take note of words that I like/don't know/otherwise want to remember on my iPhone. I would like to do something more interesting with these words than keep them in a text file. Any recommendations? [more inside]
posted by danb on Sep 3, 2013 - 6 answers

I tried to look this up myself, but I couldn't find the answer, so...

What is the origin of ending a sentence with a trailing "so..." ? Who is on record first using it? How did it spread? I am talking about the annoying unfinished sentence word: "We would have gone cycling, but I couldn't find my bike, so..." I am not talking about the legitimate adverb: "I love biking so!"
posted by michaelh on Aug 29, 2013 - 15 answers

It's a big, good, really big, good vocabulary.

I can't remember a word. It denotes the emotion of recognizing that another person shares the same form of subjective experience as you. When I read it, it implied, to me, a poetic opposite of solipsism. I believe it was single, simple word, English-sounding, and not merely a string of Latin or Greek roots. Seems like I read the definition on Mefi. Can you help me recall this word?
posted by rlk on Aug 17, 2013 - 13 answers

A Gentle Man, Not a Girly Man

I'm a bisexual man looking to date bisexual and gay men. In the "what I'm looking for" section of my dating profile, I'm trying to describe the sort of man I'm attracted to, and I need some help. [more inside]
posted by user c on Aug 15, 2013 - 23 answers

Do you know the perfect quote for my sister's graduation?

My younger sister is graduating from University (UK), with a degree in Press Photography. I'm looking for a quote to frame and give to my sister as a graduation gift. I have found many examples of typical 'graduation' quotes, but I'm looking for something a bit more specific, which will ideally fit a number of the criteria below. [more inside]
posted by schmoo on Aug 9, 2013 - 9 answers

"historacle" just feels silly to me

Is there a term for a seer/diviner/oracle that is only able to see into the past? I'm willing to grab one from a non-English language if there is a word that means specifically "a seer who can only see the past", but English is prefered. Antiquated terms are OK. Bonus points for interesting etymological details (or links to interesting etymological details). [more inside]
posted by NoraReed on Jul 16, 2013 - 12 answers

Freelance editing—how to break in?

Freelance editing—does it exist? How can I break in? What are my prospects? [more inside]
posted by toomuchkatherine on Jun 2, 2013 - 9 answers

List of simple word roots

I am looking for a text file of a list of words (roughly the 5000-10000 most common English words) and their root word and root word language. My Google Fu only turns up single words or pages that I can type in a word to get to another page to get the etymology. Wikipedia has some stuff, but it is sorted by language root, which is not what I am looking for. I would like to have a long list of words in a text file so that I can manipulate it programatically. Comma separated or whatever, any format would be great. Here is one use case: Yoke - [list of words that have yoke in the etymological history] (Many, many many English words come from the root work for Yoke.) All answers appreciated!
posted by Monkey0nCrack on May 16, 2013 - 6 answers

How many words do we really use?

What is the average working vocabulary (and outliers) of various languages? Is the working vocabulary of English English different from American English or Australian English? and how does this compare with other languages?
posted by adamvasco on Apr 4, 2013 - 11 answers

I sew and I translate. What do I call my business(es)?

So I finally want to get a name / logo / site for my little side business(es). I do (German-English) translation, localisation and copywriting on the one hand, and I sew colourful accessories on the other. Unfortunately I can't even get past the "what do I call this thing?" hurdle. Can I even have just one name? [more inside]
posted by ClarissaWAM on Apr 2, 2013 - 13 answers

Is kintsukuroi an authentic Japanese concept? What are other cool words?

From Wikipedia, "Kintsukuroi is a Japanese technique of repairing broken ceramics with metal lacquer, usually gold or silver. The word in Japanese means to “to repair with gold”.The concept also includes the understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken." However, I've not been able to find much more on the word beyond Pinterest and blogs. What other words (from any language) are similar, in that they are not just a specific term but can also have a philosophical meaning applied to them?
posted by ghost dance beat on Mar 18, 2013 - 8 answers

A thousand words for your pictures

Help me find excellent writing about visual arts. [more inside]
posted by man down under on Mar 11, 2013 - 10 answers

I need new cuss words

I need new swear words. The old ones aren't doing it for me any more. The more offensive, violent, bizarre, and onomatopoetical, the better. [more inside]
posted by goethean on Feb 11, 2013 - 88 answers

Does any language lack a word for beak?

Which languages, if any, have the same word for "beak" and "mouth"? Or: which languages lack a specific word for referring only to a "beak" (aka the hard, pointy, front end of a bird)?
posted by Greg Nog on Dec 27, 2012 - 9 answers

insert various Charades gestures here

PlaguingMeForYearsBecause IUsedToKnowItButForgotFilter: What's the word (I think it's Greek in origin) for the atavistic phenomenon like the motor of a car being in the front of the vehicle simply because the horse was in the front of the cart...?
posted by TigerMoth on Dec 14, 2012 - 10 answers

Ich weiße nicht!

What is this greeting?/ Was dieser Gruß? [more inside]
posted by droplet on Dec 13, 2012 - 5 answers

Invented language vs. familiar words in fiction?

As a reader, how do you feel about invented language versus familiar words in imaginary worlds? [more inside]
posted by batmonkey on Nov 21, 2012 - 67 answers

please help my create a spreadsheet from a list of links.

I want to create a spreadsheet from the hyperlinks and words in a word list on Wiktionary. Please take me through the steps. Thanks! [more inside]
posted by iamkimiam on Nov 20, 2012 - 8 answers

Ableist words

Words like "crazy", "mad", "nutty", "idiot", "stupid", "dumb" and "weak" are often regarded as ableist slurs in Internet social justice circles. Is this view widespread or gaining currency in the offline world? [more inside]
posted by dontjumplarry on Nov 18, 2012 - 41 answers

Philately is to Stamps as ____ is to Rocks.

Stamp collecting is philately. Coin collecting falls under numismatics (perhaps as a subdivision). Rock collecting is not really geology in the same way as the above terms are used. Is there a similar term for rock collecting?
posted by Jahaza on Nov 3, 2012 - 7 answers

Confused by the singular "they"...

GrammarFilter: "Would [my friend] rather have their significant other think they find them ugly, or think they find them stupid?" Is this ambiguously worded? Help me settle a dispute. [more inside]
posted by Yma on Oct 18, 2012 - 25 answers

Need examples of textual graphics

Please suggest book covers (or others) I can look at that are extremely text-heavy images. [more inside]
posted by bq on Oct 10, 2012 - 22 answers

I don't want people to only be able to spell "asphyxy"

How many jello shot letters of each kind do I need for maximum drunk-yum spelling? [more inside]
posted by atomicstone on Oct 6, 2012 - 4 answers

hopefully there will be some good answers!

What are some non-religious words or phrases for expressing good wishes/thoughts for the future, besides "hopefully?" [more inside]
posted by raztaj on Sep 13, 2012 - 24 answers

Is there a linguistic term for this?

Is there a term for, or linguistic function fulfilled by, the phrases "no yeah" and/or "yeah no" when used for the purpose of agreeing?
posted by CitrusFreak12 on Jul 18, 2012 - 12 answers

Please help me remember this word

Word filter [more inside]
posted by DTHEASH1 on Jun 30, 2012 - 2 answers

Useful idioms

Business idioms that are actually useful? [more inside]
posted by AceRock on Jun 29, 2012 - 31 answers

Not Just About Forks!

Seeking English-language words that mean both a kitchen implement (knife, spoon, colander, pot…) and also a geomorphic or landscape feature (lake, river, mountain, bluff…) Sinks and cauldrons all qualify, but here my early ay-em ingenuity runs out!
posted by tabubilgirl on Apr 22, 2012 - 25 answers

Has Anyone Preferred The Words To The Music?

Settle A Couple's Fight: Has there ever seen a case , in a situation where the composer of the music and the writer of the words are separate people, the librettist is more famous and his contribution is popularly viewed as superior to the composer?
posted by The Whelk on Apr 20, 2012 - 36 answers

Is the word "prick" considered offensive?

Is the word "prick" considered offensive? [more inside]
posted by Jon44 on Apr 14, 2012 - 49 answers

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