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so to speak

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Phrased like this, in a manner of speaking, as in He was, so to speak, the head of the family, although he was only related by marriage to most of the family members. This term originally meant “in the vernacular” or “lower-class language” and was used as an aristocrat's apology for stooping to such use. [Early 1800s] Also see as it were.

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

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