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turn a phrase

  1. (idiomatic) To create a particular linguistic expression which is strikingly clear, appropriate, and memorable.
    • 1861, Charles Reade, chapter 61, in The Cloister and the Hearth:
      Gerard coloured all over at the compliment; but not knowing how to turn a phrase equal to the occasion, asked her if he should resume her picture.
    • 1887, Francis Marion Crawford, chapter 8, in Paul Patoff:
      "Ah, how gracefully these wild northern men can turn a phrase!" whispered Chrysophrasia.
    • 1906, Edith Nesbit, chapter 3, in The Incomplete Amorist:
      Everyone who was anyone at Long Barton spoke in careful and correct English, but no one ever troubled to turn a phrase.
    • 2004, Elisabeth Egan, "A world of talking cats and lost, lonely boys" (review of Moe's Villa and Other Stories by James Purdy), San Francisco Chronicle, 5 Dec. (retrieved 4 June 2008):
      Nobody, however, can take issue with Purdy's ability to turn a phrase. He has that rare Joycean knack for illuminating an entire universe with one simple detail.

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