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“How Are You?” is Sometimes More Than a Question

A native Dutch speaker who spent many years in Japan says he had to learn the hard way that when Americans greeted him with How are you?, they didn’t really want to know how he was. Such casual greetings that don’t require a factual or...

Many Happy Returns? Return to What?

Rick in San Diego, California, wants to know why his older relatives always inscribed birthday cards with the phrase many happy returns of the day. This phrase, and the shorter version, many happy returns, indicates that the speaker is sending...

Too Much Sand for My Truck

Robert in Oak Park, Illinois, seeks a Portuguese phrase he once heard that a man might say when the object of his affection is out of their league or otherwise forever unattainable. This wistful phrase is Ela é muita areia pro meu caminhãozinho or...

Too Clever by Half

Bhavika in San Diego, California, was intrigued to hear an English speaker use the phrase too clever by half meaning “a little too smart for one’s own good” or “more clever than prudent.” There’s a similar phrase...

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