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Richard A. Spears, American Idioms Dictionary

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stack the cards (against someone or something)

stack them up? T Please stack up these boxes.

stack the cards (against someone or something) Go to stack the deck (against someone or something).

stack the deck (against someone or something) AND stack the cards (against someone or something) to arrange things against someone or something. (Slang. Originally from card playing.) I can’t get ahead at my office. Someone has stacked the cards against me. Do you really think that someone has stacked the deck? Isn’t it just fate?

stake a claim (to something) to lay or make a claim for something. (Informal.) I want to stake a claim to that last piece of pie. You don’t need to stake a claim. Just ask politely.

stall someone or something off to put off or delay someone or something. The sheriff is at the door. I’ll stall him off while you get out the back door. T You can stall off the sheriff, but you can’t stall off justice.

stamp someone or something out 1. [with someone] to get rid of or kill someone. (Slang.) You just can’t stamp somebody out on your own! T The victim wanted to stamp out the robbers without a trial. 2.

[with something] to extinguish something. Quick, stamp that fire out before it spreads. T Tom stamped out the sparks before they started a fire. 3. [with something] to eliminate something. The doctors hope they can stamp cancer out. T Many people think that they can stamp out evil.

stand a chance to have a chance. Do you think I stand a chance of winning first place? Everyone stands a chance of catching the disease.

stand and deliver to give up something to someone who demands it. (Originally used by highway robbers asking for passengers’ valuables. Now used figuratively.) And when the tax agent says “Stand and deliver” you have to be prepared to pay what is demanded. The robber stopped the coach and demanded of Lady Ellen, “Stand and deliver!”

stand behind someone or something AND stand (in) back of someone or something to endorse or guarantee something or the actions of a person. (Also literal.) Our company stands behind this product 100 percent. I stand behind Bill and everything he does.

stand by to wait and remain ready. (Generally heard in communication, such as broadcasting, telephones, etc.) Your transatlantic telephone call is almost ready. Please stand by. Is everyone ready for the telecast? Only ten seconds—stand by.

stand by someone to support someone; to continue supporting someone even when things are bad. (Also literal. Compare this with stick by someone or something.)

Don’t worry. I’ll stand by you no matter what. I feel as though I have to stand by my brother even if he goes to jail.

stand corrected to admit that one has been wrong. I realize that I accused him wrongly. I stand corrected. We appreciate now that our conclusions were wrong. We stand corrected.

stand for something 1. to endure something.

The teacher won’t stand for any whispering in class. We just can’t stand for that kind of behavior. 2. to signify something. In a traffic signal, the red light stands for “stop.” The abbreviation Dr. stands for “doctor.” 3. to endorse or support an ideal. The mayor claims to stand for honesty in government and jobs for everyone. Every candidate for public office stands for all the good things in life.

stand in awe (of someone or something) to be overwhelmed with respect for someone or something. Many people stand in awe of the president. Bob says he stands in awe of a big juicy steak. I think he’s exaggerating. When it comes to food, you can say that it’s delicious, but one hardly stands in awe.

stand (in) back of someone or something Go to stand behind someone or something.

stand in (for someone) to substitute for someone; to serve in someone’s place.

The famous opera singer was ill, and an in-


stark raving mad

experienced singer had to stand in for her.The new singer was grateful for the opportunity to stand in.

stand in someone’s way to be a barrier to someone’s desires or intentions. (Also literal.) I know you want a divorce so you can marry Ann. Well, I won’t stand in your way. You can have the divorce. I know you want to leave home, and I don’t want to stand in your way. You’re free to go.

stand on ceremony to hold rigidly to protocol or formal manners. (Often in the negative.) Please help yourself to more. Don’t stand on ceremony. We are very informal around here. Hardly anyone stands on ceremony.

stand one’s ground AND hold one’s ground to stand up for one’s rights; to resist an attack. The lawyer tried to confuse me when I was giving testimony, but I managed to stand my ground. Some people were trying to crowd us off the beach, but we held our ground.

stand on one’s own two feet to be independent and self-sufficient. (Informal. Compare this with get back on one’s feet.) I’ll be glad when I have a good job and can stand on my own two feet. When Jane gets out of debt, she’ll be able to stand on her own two feet again.

stand out to be uniquely visible or conspicuous. This computer stands out as one of the best available. Because John is so tall, he really stands out in a crowd.

stand over someone to monitor or watch over someone, possibly while actually standing near the person. You don’t have to stand over me. I can do it by myself. I know from previous experience that if I don’t stand over you, you’ll never finish.

stand pat to remain as is; to preserve the status quo. (Informal.) We can’t just stand pat! We have to keep making progress! This company isn’t increasing sales. It’s just standing pat.

stand someone in good stead to be useful or beneficial to someone. This is a fine overcoat. I’m sure it’ll stand you in good stead for many years. I did the mayor a

favor that I’m sure will stand me in good stead.

stand someone to a treat to pay for food or drink for someone as a special favor.

We went to the zoo, and my father stood us all to a treat. We had ice cream and soft drinks. We went to a nice restaurant and had a fine meal. It was even better when Mr. Williams told us he’d stand us to a treat, and he picked up the bill.

stand someone up to fail to meet someone for a date or an appointment. John and Jane were supposed to go out last night, but she stood him up. T If you stand up people very often, you’ll find that you have no friends at all.

stand still for something AND hold still for something to tolerate or endure something. (Often in the negative.) I won’t stand still for that kind of behavior! She won’t hold still for that kind of talk.

stand to reason to seem reasonable. It stands to reason that it’ll be colder in January than it is in November. It stands to reason that Bill left in a hurry, although no one saw him go.

stand up and be counted to state one’s support (for someone or something); to come out for someone or something. If you believe in more government help for farmers, write your representative—stand up and be counted. I’m generally in favor of what you propose, but not enough to stand up and be counted.

a standing joke a subject that regularly and over a period of time causes amusement whenever it is mentioned. Uncle Jim’s driving was a standing joke. He used to drive incredibly slowly. Their mother’s inability to make a decision was a standing joke in the Smith family all their lives.

stare someone in the face Go to look someone in the face.

stark raving mad totally insane; completely crazy; out of control. (Often an exaggeration.) When she heard about what happened at the office, she went stark raving mad. You must be stark raving


start from scratch

mad if you think I would trust you with my car!

start from scratch to start from the beginning; to start from nothing. (Informal. Compare this with make something from scratch.) Whenever I bake a cake, I start from scratch. I never use a cake mix in a box. I built every bit of my own house. I started from scratch and did everything with my own hands.

start off on the wrong foot to begin [something] by doing something wrong. (Also literal. See also be off on the wrong foot; get off on the wrong foot.) I don’t want to start off on the wrong foot by saying something stupid. What should I say?Poor Donna started off on the wrong foot when she arrived forty minutes late.

start (off) with a clean slate AND start (over) with a clean slate to start out again afresh; to ignore the past and start over again. (Refers to making marks on a [clean] slate with chalk.) I plowed under all last year’s flowers so I could start with a clean slate next spring. If I start off with a clean slate, then I’ll know exactly what each plant is. When Bob got out of jail, he started over with a clean slate.

start (over) with a clean slate Go to start (off) with a clean slate.

start someone in (as something) AND start someone out (as something) to start someone on a job as a certain kind of worker.

I got a job in a restaurant today. They started me in as a dishwasher. I now work for the telephone company. They started me out as a local operator.

start someone out (as something) Go to start someone in (as something).

start something to start a fight or an argument. (Also literal. Something is anything or nothing in the negative.) Hey, you! Better be careful unless you want to start something. I don’t want to start anything. I’m just leaving.

start something up to start something, such as a car or some procedure. (Also without up.) T It was cold, but I managed to start up the car without any difficulty.

We can’t start the project up until we have more money.

start the ball rolling Go to get the ball rolling.

stay after someone Go to keep after someone.

stay in touch (with someone) Go to keep in touch (with someone).

stay put not to move; to stay where one is. (Informal.) We’ve decided to stay put and not to move to Florida. If the children just stay put, their parents will come for them soon.

steady as a rock Go to (as) steady as a rock.

steal a base to sneak from one base to another in baseball. The runner stole second base, but he nearly got put out on the way. Tom runs so slowly that he never tries to steal a base.

steal a march (on someone) to get some sort of an advantage over someone without being noticed. I got the contract because I was able to steal a march on my competitor. You have to be clever and fast—not dishonest—to steal a march.

steal someone’s thunder to lessen someone’s force or authority. What do you mean by coming in here and stealing my thunder? I’m in charge here! Someone stole my thunder by leaking my announcement to the press.

steal the show Go to steal the spotlight.

steal the spotlight AND steal the show to give the best performance in a show, play, or some other event; to get attention for oneself. The lead in the play was very good, but the butler stole the show. Ann always tries to steal the spotlight when she and I make a presentation.

steamed up angry. (Informal.) What Bob said really got me steamed up. Why do you get so steamed up about nothing?

steaming (mad) very angry; very mad; very upset. The steaming coach yelled at the clumsy players. The principal was steaming mad when he found that his office had been vandalized.


stick out like a sore thumb

steer clear (of someone or something) to avoid someone or something. John is mad at me, so I’ve been steering clear of him. Steer clear of that book. It has many errors in it. Good advice. I’ll steer clear.

step-by-step little by little, one step at a time. (Refers both to walking and following instructions.) Just follow the instructions step-by-step, and everything will be fine. The old man slowly moved across the lawn step-by-step.

step down (from something) to resign a job or a responsibility. (Also literal.) The mayor stepped down from office last week.It’s unusual for a mayor to step down.

step into someone’s shoes to take over a job or some role from someone. I was prepared to step into the boss’s shoes, so there was no disruption when he left for another job. There was no one who could step into Alice’s shoes when she left, so everything came to a stop.

step in(to the breach) to move into a space or vacancy; to assume the job of someone who has left it. When Ann resigned as president, I stepped into the breach. A number of people asked me to step in and take her place.

step on it Go to step on the gas.

step on someone’s toes to interfere with or offend someone. (Also literal.) When you’re in public office, you have to avoid stepping on anyone’s toes. Ann stepped on someone’s toes during the last campaign and lost the election.

step on the gas AND step on it hurry up. (Informal.) I’m in a hurry, driver. Step on it! I can’t step on the gas, mister. There’s too much traffic.

step out of line to misbehave; to do something offensive. (Also literal.) I’m terribly sorry. I hope I didn’t step out of line.John is a lot of fun to go out with, but he has a tendency to step out of line.

step (right) up to move forward, toward someone. Step up and get your mail when I call your name. Come on, everybody. Step right up and help yourself to supper.

step something up to cause something to go faster. T The factory was not making enough cars, so they stepped up production. The music was not fast enough, so the conductor told everyone to step it up.

stew in one’s own juice to be left alone to suffer one’s anger or disappointment. (Informal.) John has such a terrible temper. When he got mad at us, we just let him go away and stew in his own juice. After John stewed in his own juice for a while, he decided to come back and apologize to us.

stick around [for a person] to remain in a place. (Informal.) The kids stuck around for a time after the party was over.Oh, Ann. Please stick around for a while. I want to talk to you later.

stick by someone or something AND stick with someone or something to support someone or something; to continue supporting someone or something when things are bad. (Informal. Compare this with stand by someone.) Don’t worry. I’ll stick by you no matter what. I feel as if I have to stick by my brother even if he goes to jail. I’ll stick by my ideas whether you like them or not.

Stick ’em up! Go to Hands up!

stick-in-the-mud someone who is stubbornly old-fashioned. Come on to the party with us and have some fun. Don’t be an old stick-in-the-mud! Tom is no stick-in-the-mud. He’s really up-to-date.

stick one’s foot in one’s mouth Go to put one’s foot in one’s mouth.

stick one’s neck out (for someone or something) to take a risk. (Informal.) Why should I stick my neck out to do something for her? What’s she ever done for me? He made a risky investment. He stuck his neck out for the deal because he thought he could make some money.

stick one’s nose in(to something) Go to poke one’s nose in(to something).

stick out like a sore thumb to be very prominent or unsightly; to be obvious and visible. (Informal.) Bob is so tall that he sticks out like a sore thumb in a


stick someone or something up

crowd. The house next door needs painting. It sticks out like a sore thumb.

stick someone or something up 1. [with something] to affix or attach something onto a wall, post, etc. This notice ought to be on the bulletin board. Please stick it up. T I’m going to stick up this poster near the entrance. 2. to rob someone or something. One robber stuck the cashier up first, but someone sounded the alarm before any money was taken. T The robbers came in and tried to stick up the bank, but they got caught first.

stick someone with someone or something to burden someone with someone or something. (Informal.) The dishonest merchant stuck me with a faulty television set.John stuck me with his talkative uncle and went off with his friends.

stick something out to endure something. (Also literal.) The play was terribly boring, but I managed to stick it out. College was very difficult for Bill, but he decided to stick it out.

stick together to remain together as a group. (Also literal. Informal.) Come on, you guys. Let’s stick together. Otherwise somebody will get lost. Our group of friends has managed to stick together for almost twenty years.

stick to one’s guns to remain firm in one’s convictions; to stand up for one’s rights. (Informal. Compare this with stand one’s ground.) I’ll stick to my guns on this matter. I’m sure I’m right. Bob can be persuaded to do it our way. He probably won’t stick to his guns on this point.

stick to one’s ribs [for food] to last long and fortify one well; [for food] to sustain one even in the coldest weather. (Refers to the inside of one’s ribs.) This oatmeal ought to stick to your ribs. You need something hearty on a cold day like this. I don’t want soup! I want something that will stick to my ribs.

stick up for someone or something to support someone or something; to speak in favor of someone or something. Everyone was making unpleasant remarks about

John, but I stuck up for him. Our team was losing, but I stuck up for it anyway.

stick with someone or something Go to stick by someone or something.

sticks and stones elements of harm [directed at someone]. (Part of a rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”) I have had enough of your sticks and stones. I have enough trouble without your adding to it. After the opposing candidate had used sticks and stones for a month, suddenly there were kind words heard.

stiff as a poker Go to (as) stiff as a poker.

still as death Go to (as) still as death.

stink to high heaven AND smell to high heaven to smell very bad. What happened? This place stinks to high heaven. This meat smells to high heaven. Throw it away!

stir someone or something up 1. [with someone] to make someone angry or excited; to make someone get active. (Also literal.) I need a cup of hot coffee to stir me up in the morning. T Reading the newspaper always stirs up my father. 2.

[with something] to cause trouble; to foment disagreement and difficulty. T

They stirred up quite a commotion. T Who stirred up this matter?

stir up a hornet’s nest to create trouble or difficulties. (Also literal. Informal.)

What a mess you have made of things. You’ve really stirred up a hornet’s nest. Bill stirred up a hornet’s nest when he discovered the theft.

stock up (on something) to build up a supply of something. Before the first snow, we always stock up on firewood. John drinks a lot of milk, so we stock up when we know he’s coming.

a stone’s throw (away) (from something)

Go to within a stone’s throw (of something).

stoop to doing something to degrade oneself or condescend to doing something; to do something that is beneath one. Whoever thought that the manager of the de-


straighten someone or something up

partment would stoop to typing? I never dreamed that Bill would stoop to stealing.

stop-and-go halting repeatedly; stopping and continuing repeatedly. This project has been stop-and-go since we began. Problems keep appearing. The traffic was stop-and-go for miles. I thought I would never get here!

stop at nothing to do everything possible (to accomplish something); to be unscrupulous. Bill would stop at nothing to get his way. Bob is completely determined to get promoted. He’ll stop at nothing.

stop by (somewhere) AND stop in (somewhere) to visit a place, usually briefly.

I was coming home, but I decided to stop by my aunt’s on the way. She was very glad that I stopped in.

stop in (somewhere) Go to stop by (somewhere).

stop, look, and listen to exercise caution at street corners and railroad crossings, by stopping, looking to the left and to the right, and listening for approaching vehicles or a train. Sally’s mother trained her to stop, look, and listen at every street corner. It is a good practice to stop, look, and listen at a railroad crossing.

stop off (somewhere) to stop somewhere on the way to some other place. I stopped off at the store to buy milk on the way home. We stopped off for a few minutes and chatted with my uncle.

stop over (somewhere) to break one’s journey somewhere, usually overnight or even longer. (Compare this with lay over (somewhere).) On our way to New York, we stopped over in Philadelphia for the night. That’s a good place to stop over. There are some nice hotels in Philadelphia.

stop short of doing something not to go as far as doing something; not to go as far as something. Fortunately Bob stopped short of hitting Tom. The boss criticized Jane’s work, but stopped short of reprimanding her. Jack was furious but stopped short of hitting Tom. Jane wouldn’t stop short of telling lies in order to get a job.

A storm is brewing. 1. There is going to be a storm. Look at the clouds. A storm is brewing. A storm is brewing in the west. 2. There is going to be trouble or emotional upset. He looks angry. A storm is brewing.

the straight and narrow a straight and law-abiding route through life. (Informal. From straight and narrow pathway.)

You should have no trouble with the police if you stick to the straight and narrow.

Roger was the kind who followed the straight and narrow every day of his life.

straight as an arrow Go to (as) straight as an arrow.

(straight) from the horse’s mouth from an authoritative or dependable source.

I know it’s true! I heard it straight from the horse’s mouth! This comes from the horse’s mouth, so it has to be believed.

straight from the shoulder sincerely; frankly; holding nothing back. Sally always speaks straight from the shoulder. You never have to guess what she really means.Bill gave a good presentation—straight from the shoulder and brief.

straighten someone or something out 1. [with someone] to make someone understand something. (Also literal.) Jane was confused about the date, so I straightened her out. T I took a few minutes and straightened out everyone. 2. [with someone] to reform someone. Most people think that jail never straightens anybody out. T The judge felt that a few years at hard labor would straighten out the thief. 3. [with something] to make a situation less confused. John made a mess of the contract, so I helped him straighten it out. T Please straighten out your checking account. It’s all messed up.

straighten someone or something up 1. to put someone or something into an upright position. The fence is tilted. Please straighten up that post when you get a chance. Bill, you’re slouching again. Straighten yourself up. 2. to tidy up someone or something. John straightened himself up a little before going on stage.


straighten up

T This room is a mess. Let’s straighten up this place, right now!

straighten up 1. to sit or stand more straight. Billy’s mother told him to straighten up or he’d fall out of his chair.

John straightened up so he’d look taller.

2. to behave better. Bill was acting badly for a while; then he straightened up.

Sally, straighten up, or I will punish you!

stranger to something or somewhere someone who is new to an area or place. Although John was no stranger to big cities, he did not enjoy visiting New York. You are a stranger to our town, and I hope you feel welcome.

strapped (for something) very much in need of money. (Informal.) I’m strapped for a few bucks. Can you loan me five dollars?Sorry, I’m strapped, too.

stretch a point AND stretch the point to interpret a point flexibly and with great latitude. Would it be stretching a point to suggest that everyone is invited to your picnic? To say that everyone is invited is stretching the point.

stretch one’s legs to walk around after sitting down or lying down for a time.

We wanted to stretch our legs during the theater intermission. After sitting in the car all day, the travelers decided to stretch their legs.

stretch the point Go to stretch a point.

stretch the truth to exaggerate; to misrepresent the truth just a little bit. She was stretching the truth when she said everything was ready for the party. I don’t want to stretch the truth. Our town is probably the wealthiest around here.

(strictly) on the level honest; dependably open and fair. How can I be sure you’re on the level? You can trust Sally. She’s strictly on the level.

(strictly) on the up-and-up honest; fair and straight. (Slang. Compare this with on the level.) Do you think that the mayor is on the up-and-up? Yes, the mayor is strictly on the up-and-up.

strike a balance (between two or more things) to find a satisfactory compromise

between two extremes. The political party must strike a balance between the right wing and the left wing. Jane is overdressed for the party and Sally is underdressed. What a pity they didn’t strike a balance.

strike a bargain to reach an agreement on a price (for something). They argued for a while and finally struck a bargain.They were unable to strike a bargain, so they left.

strike a chord (with someone) to cause someone to remember something; to remind someone or something; to be familiar. The woman in the portrait struck a chord and I realized that it was my grandmother. His name strikes a chord with me, but I don’t know why.

strike a happy medium AND hit a happy medium; find a happy medium. to find a compromise position; to arrive at a position halfway between two unacceptable extremes. Ann likes very spicy food, but Bob doesn’t care for spicy food at all. We are trying to find a restaurant that strikes a happy medium. Tom is either very happy or very sad. He can’t seem to hit a happy medium.

strike a match to light a match. Mary struck a match and lit a candle. When Sally struck a match to light a cigarette, Jane said quickly, “No smoking, please.”

strike a pose to position oneself in a certain posture. Bob struck a pose in front of the mirror to see how much he had grown. Lisa walked into the room and struck a pose, hoping she would be noticed.

strike a sour note AND hit a sour note to signify something unpleasant. (Informal.) Jane’s sad announcement struck a sour note at the annual banquet. News of the crime hit a sour note in our holiday celebration.

strike home Go to hit home.

strike it rich to acquire wealth suddenly. (Informal.) If I could strike it rich, I wouldn’t have to work anymore. Sally ordered a dozen oysters and found a huge pearl in one of them. She struck it rich!


strung out

strike out 1. [for a baseball batter] to be declared “out” after three strikes. (See also strike someone out.) Bill almost never strikes out. John struck out at least once in every game this season. 2. to fail. (Slang.) Ann did her best, but she struck out anyway. Give it another try. Just because you struck out once doesn’t mean you can’t do better now.

strike out at someone or something to (figuratively or literally) hit at or attack someone or something. She was so angry she struck out at the person she was arguing with. I was frantic. I wanted to strike out at everything and everybody.

strike someone as something [for a thought or behavior] to affect someone a certain way. John’s rude behavior struck me as odd. Mary’s attitude struck me as childish.

strike someone funny to seem funny to someone. Sally has a great sense of humor. Everything she says strikes me funny.Why are you laughing? Did something I said strike you funny?

strike someone out [for a baseball pitcher] to get a batter declared “out” after three strikes. I never thought he’d strike Tom out. T Bill struck out all our best players.

strike someone’s fancy to appeal to someone. (See also tickle someone’s fancy.) I’ll have some ice cream, please. Chocolate strikes my fancy right now. Why don’t you go to the store and buy a record album that strikes your fancy?

strike the right note to achieve the desired effect; to do something suitable or pleasing. (A musical reference.) Meg struck the right note when she wore a dark suit to the interview. The politician’s speech failed to strike the right note with the crowd.

strike up a conversation to start a conversation (with someone). I struck up an interesting conversation with someone on the bus yesterday. It’s easy to strike up a conversation with someone when you’re traveling.

strike up a friendship to become friends (with someone). I struck up a friend-

ship with John while we were on a business trip together. If you’re lonely, you should go out and try to strike up a friendship with someone you like.

strike while the iron is hot to do something at the best possible time; to do something when the time is ripe. He was in a good mood, so I asked for a loan of $200. I thought I’d better strike while the iron was hot. Please go to the bank and settle this matter now! They are willing to be reasonable. You’ve got to strike while the iron is hot.

string along (with someone) to accompany someone; to run around with someone.

Sally seemed to know where she was going, so I decided to string along with her. She said it was okay if I strung along.

string something out to draw something out (in time); to make something last a long time. (Also literal.) The meeting was long enough. There was no need to string it out further with all those speeches. T They tried to string out the meeting to make things seem more important.

a stroke of luck a bit of luck; a lucky happening. I had a stroke of luck and found Tom at home when I called. He’s not usually there. Unless I have a stroke of luck, I’m not going to finish this report by tomorrow.

strong as a horse Go to (as) strong as a horse.

strong as a lion Go to (as) strong as a lion.

strong as an ox Go to (as) strong as an ox.

a struggle to the death a bitter struggle either to success or failure. (Also literal.)

It was a struggle to the death, but I finally finished my report on time. I had a terrible time getting my car started. It was a struggle to the death, but it finally started.

strung out 1. extended in time; overly long. Why was that lecture so strung out? She talked and talked. It was strung out because there was very little to be said.

2. doped or drugged. (Slang.) Bob acted very strangely—as if he were strung


stubborn as a mule

out or something. I’ve never seen Bob or any of his friends strung out.

stubborn as a mule Go to (as) stubborn as a mule.

(stuck) in a rut kept in an established way of living that never changes. David felt like he was stuck in a rut, so he went back to school. Anne was tired of being in a rut, so she moved to Los Angeles.

stuck in traffic to be caught in a traffic jam. I am sorry I am late. I was stuck in traffic. Our taxi was stuck in traffic, and I thought I would never get to the airport on time.

stuck on someone or something 1. [with someone] to be fond of or in love with someone. John was stuck on Sally, but she didn’t know it. He always is stuck on the wrong person. 2. [with something] to be locked into an idea, cause, or purpose.

Mary is really stuck on the idea of going to France this spring. You’ve proposed a good plan, Jane, but you’re stuck on it. We may have to make some changes.

stuck with someone or something burdened with someone or something; left having to care for someone or something. (Informal.) Please don’t leave me stuck with your aunt. She talks too much. My roommate quit school and left me stuck with the telephone bill.

stuff and nonsense nonsense. (Informal.)

Come on! Don’t give me all that stuff and nonsense! I don’t understand this book. It’s all stuff and nonsense as far as I am concerned.

stuff the ballot box to put fraudulent ballots into a ballot box; to cheat in counting the votes in an election. The election judge was caught stuffing the ballot box in the election yesterday. Election officials are supposed to guard against stuffing the ballot box.

stumble across someone or something AND stumble into someone or something; stumble (up)on someone or something to find someone or something, usually by accident. I stumbled across an interesting book yesterday when I was shopping. Guess who I stumbled into at the library

yesterday? I stumbled on a real bargain at the bookstore last week.

stumble into someone or something 1. to bump into someone or something accidentally. I stumbled into John, and I apologized. It was my fault. I stumbled into a post and hurt my arm. 2. Go to stumble across someone or something. 3.

[with something] to enter something or a place by stumbling. I tripped on the curb and stumbled into the car. I stumbled into the house, exhausted and in need of a cool drink.

stumble (up)on someone or something 1. Go to stumble across someone or something. 2. to trip over someone or something.

There were three of us sleeping in the small tent. Each of us would stumble on the others whenever we went out or came in. I stumbled on the curb and twisted my ankle.

stumbling block something that prevents or obstructs progress. We’d like to buy that house, but the high price is the stumbling block. Jim’s age is a stumbling block to getting another job. He’s over 60.

subject to something 1. likely to have something, such as a physical disorder. The sick man was subject to dizzy spells. I am subject to frequent headaches. 2. tentative, depending on something; vulnerable to something. I have made all the necessary plans, subject to your approval, of course. My remarks are, of course, subject to your criticisms.

subscribe to something to have a standing order for a magazine or something similar. I usually buy my monthly magazines at the newsstand. I don’t subscribe to them. I subscribe to all the magazines I read because it’s nice to have them delivered by mail.

such and such someone or something whose name has been forgotten or should not be said. (Informal.) Mary said that such and such was coming to her party, but I forgot their names. If you walk into a store and ask for such and such and they don’t have it, you go to a different store.


the survival of the fittest

such as 1. of a particular kind; of the sort that is; like. Where can I get a haircut such as yours? I’d like to buy a vase such as the one in your display case. 2. for example. Bill enjoys many kinds of fruit, such as apples, pears, and plums. Mary has many hobbies, such as swimming, bowling, and running.

such as it is in the imperfect state that one sees it; in the less-than-perfect condition in which one finds it. This is where I live. This is my glorious home—such as it is. I’ve worked for days on this report, and I’ve done the best that I can do. It’s my supreme effort—such as it is.

Such is life! That is the way things happen, even it isn’t the way I want it to be! Oh, well. Everything can’t be perfect. Such is life! So I failed my test. Such is life! I can take it again some time.

suck someone in AND take someone in to deceive someone. (The expression with suck is slang.) I try to shop carefully so that no one can take me in. T I think that someone sucked in both of them. I don’t know why they bought this car.

suggestive of something reminiscent of something; seeming to suggest something. Bill’s homemade soup is suggestive of his mother’s. The new movie was suggestive of an old one I had seen on TV.

suit oneself to do something one’s own way; to do something to please oneself.

If he doesn’t want to do it my way, he can suit himself. Take either of the books that you like. Suit yourself. I’ll read the other one.

suit someone to a T AND fit someone to a T to be very appropriate for someone.

This kind of job suits me to a T. This is Sally’s kind of house. It fits her to a T.

sum and substance a summary; the gist. (See also form and substance.) Can you quickly tell me the sum and substance of your proposal? In trying to explain the sum and substance of the essay, Thomas failed to mention the middle name of the hero.

sum something up to summarize something. (Literally, to figure out the total.) T At

the end of the lecture, Dr. Williams summed up the important points. He said when he finished, “Well, that about sums it up.”

Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes one’s best clothes. (Folksy. See also in one’s Sunday best.) John was all dressed up in his Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes. I hate to be wearing my Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes when everyone else is casually dressed.

supply and demand the availability of things or people as compared to the need to utilize the things or people; the availability of goods compared to the number of willing customers for the goods.

Sometimes you can find what you want by shopping around and other times almost no store carries the items you are looking for. It depends entirely on supply and demand. Sometimes customers ask for things we do not carry in stock and other times we have things in abundance that no one wants to buy. Whether or not we can make money off of a product depends entirely on supply and demand.

supposed to do something expected or intended to do something; obliged or allowed to do something. You’re supposed to say “excuse me” when you burp.Mom says you’re supposed to come inside for dinner now.

sure as death Go to (as) sure as death.

surf and turf fish and beef; lobster and beef. (A type of meal incorporating both expensive seafood and an expensive cut of beef. Refers to the sea and to the pasture.) Walter ordered the surf and turf, but Alice ordered only a tiny salad. No surf and turf for me. I want fish and fish alone.

the survival of the fittest the idea that the most able or fit will survive (while the less able and less fit will perish). (This is used literally as a part of the theory of evolution.) In college, it’s the survival of the fittest. You have to keep working in order to survive and graduate. I don’t give my houseplants very good care, but the


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