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You may be referring to an "idiom," or perhaps to "slang." Many sentences in English have a literal meaning; they mean exactly what they say. "I am writing an essay." "She and her cousin are waiting for the bus." But every language has certain expressions that do not make sense if you translate them word for word. English has many idioms, and many slang expressions, and often, they make no sense until you learn their meaning. For example, "Everyone was hoping for a decision, but instead, Congress just kicked the can down the road." The expression "to kick the can down the road" has nothing to do with cans (or with kicking them); it's an idiomatic way of saying congress failed to make a decision when it was needed, and instead, pushed the decision off to some future time.

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Q: What do you call an expression that doesnt mean what the words say?
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