There are currently 3 questions in tag. Typically, they are formulated like this:

Someone said, "up to you". Does it mean that I'm located higher (up) than the speaker?

And typical answer is:

Here, the entire phrase is an idiomatic expression whose meaning can't be composed by summing the meanings of its parts.

Should such questions be on-topic?

My take is no, simply because:

  1. It indicates no own research effort: googling the phrase will give the corresponding article on Wiktionary or Wikiquote as the first result;
  2. The entire site can be flooded with lots of similar questions that are essentially duplicates;

There may be exceptions when it's hard to google, likewise when two idiomatic expressions are adjacent in the same sentence, and it's hard to distinguish what's where.


Much like puns, idiomatic expressions can be tricky for a non-native to understand. I have no problem with welcoming questions about idioms.

However, you've touched upon a key point in your question. There are two ways to ask just about any question. The first is impetuously – you wonder about something, and then ask about it off the cuff, without even bothering to look for an answer first. The other is conscientiously – you make a good-faith effort to answer your own question, and when that fails, you ask the question here, carefully including what you found when you did your own research.

In short, I don't think that the problem you allude to is unique to idiomatic expressions. The same can be said for questions like:

  • What's the difference between X and Y?
  • Are X and Y interchangeable?

Just like idiomatic expressions, X and Y can be researched – be they words, phrases, or expressions.

Generally speaking, questions that show insufficient research can get tiresome, particularly when they are flooding the site. Few people like to invest their time parroting something that is readily available and easily found. Questions that ask about something at a deeper level, though, are often a joy to analyze, and will make the site more valuable and interesting.

  • 2
    Well said. I like your "key point" (I may "reuse" it elsewhere grin). It's not that idioms should be deemed universally on or off topic. It's more about the context of the question and how/why it was asked. – Robert Cartaino Jan 25 '13 at 15:54

I don't think it is a matter of being off-topic. The general question about idioms are certainly very on topic.

It's just that maybe the question needs to be specified better, that's all.

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