turn a phrase
- (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.