October 30, 2014  •  Sidney Jarvis

Evolution of Exactly the Same

When an why did “exactly the same” become “the exact same” and more recently “the same exact”?

October 18, 2014  •  Thedwack

What words were used to refer specifically to males before “man” did?

There exists a claim that the word “man” originally only referred to people of unimplied sex. To restate, “man” always refereed to both male and female people. The claims I found were made by sources known by some to be categorically highly unreliable, so I turn to you. There are claims that “wer” or “were” was used at least for adult males. The most reliable sources I’ve found to support that are http://www.etymonline.com/... http://www.collinsdictionary.com/... What evidence can you provide of the use of “were” or “wer” in english and the use of “man” and whether “man” changed over time with respect to gender or whether there was always ambiguity?

October 13, 2014  •  Hairy Scot

Why so many different spellings for some Arabic terms?

Why does the Western media have so many different spellings for some Arabic terms? eg: 1. hezbollah hesbollah hizbullah hizbollah hisbollah 2. ayatollah ayatullah

August 8, 2014  •  jayles the unwoven

While vs Whilst vs Whereas

Which of the following are okay to you? a) While roses are red, violets are blue. b) Whilst roses are red, violets are blue. c) While some roses are red, many are not. d) Whilst some roses are red, some are not. e) Roses are red, whereas violets are blue. f) Roses are red, while violets are blue. g) Roses are red, whilst violets are blue. h) Some roses are red, whilst some are not. i) Whereas most roses are indeed red, some are not. j) While I loved my first wife very much, she did in fact become fat. k) While my first wife did in fact become fat, I still loved her very much. l) Whilst I loved my first wife very much, she did in fact become fat. And thus what, to your good mind, is the rule? And what a pain English is!

July 30, 2014  •  Skeeter Lewis

What’s happening to the Passive?

Nowadays one routinely reads such sentences as...  “The situation transformed into something quite different.” “That translates as ‘Beware Greeks bearing gifts.’” It’s a curious phenomenon that the passive is so often ditched. What’s going on?

July 18, 2014  •  Hairy Scot

When did contacting someone become reaching out?

I have recently received a number of emails where the phrase “Thank you for reaching out to ___” is used instead of what I would expect to be the normal expression “Thank you for contacting ___”. These emails are from companies in the USA. Is “reaching out” now the in vogue expression for the simple act of contacting someone?

July 16, 2014  •  Jasper

Who/whom, copular verbs, and the infinitive

Now, I’ve been rolling this question over for few weeks now. I personally believe whom in the cases, but on we go. After writing most of this, I think [1] should be who now. The infinitive phrase/clause normally takes the objective case as its “subject”. “I wanted to meet him.” Thus, the corresponding interrogative: “Whom did he want to meet?” But what happens if you take this construction and use it with a copular verb? [1] “Who/whom am I to judge.” (?) [2] “I am who/whom to be.” (?) Which may correspond to the declarative sentences (U=unacceptable; A=acceptable): [1a] “I am he to judge.” [1b] “I am him to judge” [2a] “I am he to be.” [2b] “I am him to be.” [2c] “I am to be he.” (U) [2d] “I am to be him.”(A) It is possible to expand them into relative clauses: [1a'] “I am the person who can judge them.”(A) [1b'] “I am the person whom can judge.” (U) [2a'] “I am the person (who) you should be.” (U) [2b'] “I am the person (whom) you should be.” (A) The construction has two verb constructions (one copular and the other infinitive) vying for dominance. So thoughts? These conundrums are fascinating and, due to my obsessive-compulsiveness, frustrating. </p>

June 30, 2014  •  jayles the unwoven

Are proverbs dying?

I just have the impression that the old proverbs that I heard as a child aren’t heard as much today. People just don’t seem to use them much anymore.  Of course this is hard to prove: maybe I am not mixing in the right circles; maybe there are newer proverbs that have replaced the older (proverbs change with each generation); maybe the media and/or gurus have picked up some and ignored others; maybe few make into print outside the tabloids and popular magazines.  As far as the printed word goes, of those I have looked at some seem to peak around the 1930′s and then trail off, only to recover somewhat over the last decade or two. “Actions speak louder than words” was the commonest one I found, 3:1 against “Beggars can not be choosers”. What is your impression? Is proverb use declining or just new ones becoming popular?

June 25, 2014  •  Jasper

Putative (-ly) vs. Supposed (-ly) vs. Ostensible (-y)

I’m trying hard to figure out the differences and proper usages of these three particular words (primarily putative vs. supposed). Can putative (-ly) be used in the same spots supposed (-ly) can? What’s the nuance between them?

June 24, 2014  •  Krista

Plaque for family home

I’m having a custom item made to indicate when our home was established.  The year will be the year my husband and I were married and started our family.  My issue is I’m not sure how our name should appear.  Here is the text. The (LAST NAME) Est. 2008 Our last name is Myers.  Please help!  I’m not sure if it should be possessive (ownership of the home/family) or plural (for the people).

June 24, 2014  •  jayles the unwoven

subwait

At the clinic I was directed to the “subwait area” and left to ponder my fate. I did wonder whether this should be sub-wait and how fully portable “sub” has become as a preposition and/or prefix, when attached to a Germanic-rooted word. What other words are there where “sub” is used as an English word, apart from phrases like “sub judice” and “sub” as a short form of “substitute” eg in sport “he was subbed off”?

June 14, 2014  •  Dyske

Use my brain or brains?

Googling for “use my brain” (singular) returns 16 million results whereas “use my brains” (plural) returns 11 million. “Rack my brain” returns 792,000 results, and “rack my brains”, 312,000. Why do we even consider using “brains” (plural)? What are we trying to say by adding the “s”? Is there any difference in connotations?

June 4, 2014  •  jayles the unwoven

When is “of course” impolite?

a) “Could I borrow your pen please?”  “Of course.” b) Teacher: “Did you do your homework?”  Student: “Of course.”  c)  Interviewee: “May I sit down?”   Interviewer (thinking: what a twit!): “Of course.” d) Police: “Do you have ID, and license?” Driver: “Of course, officer. Good of you to ask”.  e) Called from the shower: “Is it raining out?” Spouse: “Of course.”  f) In hallway to home-comer: “Is it raining out?” Dripping home-comer: “Of course.” g) At party: “Could I borrow your wife for a quickie?” “Of course.” h) After party: “Are you coming?” Only sober car-owner/driver: “Of course.”  i) Boss: “Can you have that report on my desk by 2300?” “Of course.” Of course it may depend on how it is said, but where would it be dangerously ambiguous? What alternatives are there which are safer?

May 29, 2014  •  Brus

Meaningless Use of “key”

“William and Kate had earlier attended a civic reception hosted by Perth and Kinross provost Liz Grant, where they were gifted an ancient map of Strathearn.”  So we are told by the internet news service in Britain today. What is wrong with ‘they were given as a gift’ ... or ‘they were presented with the gift of ...’? “They were gifted [something]...” sounds to me about as attractive an expression as the noise of fingernails scraped down an old-fashioned blackboard. Am I too sensitive? Should I wear earmuffs and eye pads? Then we are told that ‘they also visited Glasgow’s Emirates Arena, a key venue in this summer’s Commonwealth Games.’  Now, can someone tell me what the difference is between a venue and a key venue? How on earth did this bizarre word ‘key’ come to be bandied about, a meaningless cliche word everywhere? Who thought it up? What is the history of its etymology? What does its inclusion into a sentence add to its meaning? I had a boss once who talked at meetings of his ‘staff’ for weeks in advance about he would give a ‘key speech’ somewhere, and his audience would fall into a state of despond and despair upon hearing of this, for we thought we might have to listen to this ‘key’ speech, or pretend to, when the time came, and we never could understand what was to be ‘key’ about it; neither before nor after its rather hysterical delivery. Can anyone tell me, what does ‘key’ in this context mean? To me it just sounded like a puffed up, self-important and pompous description by a poop of his imaginary high status in the order of things, and I cannot reconcile this notion of what ‘key’ means with its use as a description of a venue in the forthcoming games. Does it mean ‘important’ or ‘main’, for if so, why not say so in the first place? The English language as it is being published in the press is crumbling around us, and this short glance at the news tonight, one item only, is enough to prompt this contribution to your pages.

May 27, 2014  •  Amos Anon

“up on top” vs. “up top”

My wife (from northern Virginia) uses “up top” where I would use “up on top”. For example, where I (from Wyoming) would say that “the box is up on top of the refrigerator”, my wife leaves out the word “on”, and she would say that it is “up top of the refrigerator”. She (and her family) are the only people I know who do this, and this leads me to believe that it is a regionalism. Is it?

May 26, 2014  •  Canadaneil

“Between you and I...”

Why do some people, especially pseudo eloquent corporate types, insist on substituting “I” for “me” under the misplaced guise of speaking formal English: “Between you and I, the meeting was substandard”, “Thanks for taking Julie and I for dinner”. I know there’s not much to discuss here. It’s simply wrong but it represents a deeper misunderstanding of the use of nouns/pronouns. Personally I tolerate the incorrect use of “me” as the subject to a much greater extent (”me and Geoff went to the beach “) because although grammatically incorrect, it is acceptable to many in colloquial English. The use of “I” as the object is neither grammatically correct nor colloquial or formal. It is in a sense a clumsy grammatical over compensation. Besides people who make this error usually (but not always) over rate their own eloquence.

May 15, 2014  •  Chy Anne Osborn

co- = subordinate vs. co = equals

Many years ago using the prefix co- and co meant two different things. Now they are used interchangeably, but is this correct? I was taught if you used co- you were a subordinate and if you used co you were equals. An example. A co-pilot is subordinate to a pilot, however coauthors means both writers were equal in the endeavor. Once upon a time, a co-chairwas subordinate to the chair. Now co-chair and cochair are used flagrantly to mean the same thing, they are equally sharing the duties of chairperson. What are your thoughts on this?

May 14, 2014  •  Hairy Scot

Are sports commentators and sports show anchors out to change the language?

All of a sudden spectators are not “looking on” but “watching on”. Does that make them onwatchers? They no longer say “welcome to” but “welcome along to”. “Early on” has become “early doors”. Players now “contest for” the ball. They now “update you” with the latest scores. To me all of that is rather more idiotic than idiomatic.       :-)) I’m sure there are many more examples that I have (thankfully) missed.

May 8, 2014  •  Hairy Scot

Using country name as an adjective?

The media in English speaking countries seems to be developing a tendency toward using a country’s name as an adjective. eg:- Syria crisis instead of Syrian crisis France fullback instead of French fullback Another is the anglicising of some country names and nationalities:- Argentina becomes Argentine and Argentinians becomes Argentines. Thoughts?

May 3, 2014  •  Warsaw Will

fewer / less

In Britain the the winners of the Bad Grammar Awards have just been announced, and the prize has gone to Tesco, partly for a label on its toilet paper which said ‘More luxury, less lorries’, so I thought this might be a good time to reflect on the ‘fewer / less’ question. According to the OED, people have been using less for countable nouns since the dawn of English, and it only seems to have become a golden rule after certain grammarians latched onto the observation of one Robert Baker, who in 1770 remarked that ‘No fewer than a hundred seems to me not only more elegant than No less than a hundred, but more strictly proper.’, while admitting that less ‘is most commonly used when speaking of a number’. And it was used like this in at least two influential nineteenth century grammars - ‘less hopes’, ‘less parts or portions’ -  Lindley Murray’s English Grammar, Adapted to the Different Classes of Learners, and ‘No less than five verbs’ - William Cobbett’s A Grammar of the English Language. It obviously annoys a lot of people. One woman wrote on Tesco’s Facebook page that she ‘was unable to purchase’. But I can’t help wondering why. There is absolutely no danger of ambiguity, and many of us use ‘less’ with countables informally. (And for many of us ‘Ten items or less’ sounds much more idiomatic than ‘Ten items or fewer’). Does this rule really have any functional basis, (we don’t need any distinctions for ‘more’ - more luxury, more lorries) or is it simply a rule for the sake of having a rule and just another excuse for finding fault with others?

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