June 11, 2015  •  Skeeter Lewis

The 1900s

A change that has happened in my lifetime is the use of ‘1800s’, ‘1900s’ and so on. When I was young they referred to the first decade of the century. They would be followed by the ‘1910s’, ‘1920s’ et al. Now they’re used to mean the whole century. I’m not whinging - just noting the changes that happen with the years.

May 28, 2015  •  Anne Daarbech

“In the long term”

A colleague of mine claimed that you can say “In the long term” instead of “In the long run”. Is that correct?

April 28, 2015  •  Pamela

Could I use both a colon and semicolon in a sentence?

Could I use both a colon and semicolon in a sentence? A college will provide help for students who are struggling in homework; the resources are: study skills that help students to be on top of coursework, counselors will give advices dealing with the workload, and the option to drop a class early.

April 13, 2015  •  Dudefulla

Keep from catching it

Does this “The flu is going around. In order to keep from catching it, you should gargle and wash your hands regularly” Make sense? I’ve never heard. “In order to keep from catching it.” used in a sentence before.

April 4, 2015  •  Manetfan

Is “painstaking” pronounced the same in Britain as here, as “pain-staking”?

I was in empty space in an elevator one day when it occurred to me that it’s actually “pains-taking”, the taking of pains to do something thoroughly. I’d never thought about it before. But it’s too hard to pronounce “painz-taking”, because the “z” sound must be voiced; whereas the unvoiced “s” combines easily with the “t” to make “-staking”, so that’s what we say. That’s my theory, but BrE might be different. Is it?

March 29, 2015  •  Jennifer Sidwell

How important is it to use a comma before a coordinating conjunction in writing these days?

For example, “Every morning, I wake up at 6:00 am and then I make a cup of coffee.” As a writing teacher for international students, I see this kind of sentence all the time. I know it is technically correct to use a comma before a coordinating conjunction, but I have found that so many Americans omit this comma that it has become extremely commonplace even among native English speakers. Is it socially acceptable in writing to omit the comma? How serious is it to mandate that my international include this comma?

March 11, 2015  •  Anton Ivanov

being used

Could you please explain the difference in the following sentences? 1. The instruments used are very reliable. 2. The instruments being used are very reliable. Are participle 2 “used” and passive participle 1 “being used” interchangeable in this context?

March 7, 2015  •  Warsaw Will

Opposition to “pretty”

I seem to be pretty fond of the adverb ‘pretty’ used as a modifier, so was rather surprised when one of my young Polish students told me that his teacher at school had said that this use was ‘OK with his mates’ (his words), but inappropriate in the classroom. Looking around I see that this is not an isolated objection, although people didn’t seem to complain about it much before 1900. Why has this word, much used by eighteenth and nineteenth century writers, writers of prescriptive grammar included, attracted this opposition in more recent times?

February 23, 2015  •  dwishiren

Why do sports teams take a definite article?

The New York Yankees The Utah Jazz The Orlando Magic

January 29, 2015  •  DaveBoltman

Is “leverage” a verb?

I’m new here, and am wondering what all you experts think about the use of the word “leverage” as a verb. It seems it’s being used more often recently. Personally I feel that “leverage” is a noun, as defined by Merriam-Webster’s as “the action of a lever or the mechanical advantage gained by it”. However it seems that mainly financial and managerial types seem to like using is as a verb - “Hey, let’s leverage the unfortunate circumstances of these people that can’t pay their bonds, and get their homes for free”. What does it mean? Although MW does give it as a verb as well, it’s interesting that investopedia.com gives it as “1 The use of various financial instruments or borrowed capital, such as margin, to increase the potential return of an investment.”, i.e. it lists the verb first. Other sources give different meanings, suggesting that the meaning of “leverage” as a verb is not very clear. I wonder what these people do when their roof leakages, or the engines of their cars failure? Just for interest, over the years I’ve bookmarked the following in my web browser (under info / language / English): Are You Stupid Enough to Use Leverage As a Verb? Leverage is NOT a Verb! (please excuse the language there where not appropriate :) Oh yes, and a quote from Seth Godin’s blog (although I’m not sure who he is quoting): “leveraging” , - comment: i asked everyone on my team not to use those words. the frequency of use of words like “leverage” is inversely proportionate to the amount of original thought. the more you say “leverage”, the less you’ve probably thought about what you’re saying. (Seth is an American marketer, motivational speaker and author)

January 20, 2015  •  Hairy Scot

“nervous to perform” or “nervous of performing”?

Recently saw this headline in Time:-  “Katy Perry Admits She’s Nervous to Perform at the Super Bowl”.  To me “nervous to perform” sounds a bit strange.  My feeling is that “nervous of performing” sounds better.

January 7, 2015  •  Hairy Scot

“Thanks for that”

I had always believed that saying “thanks for that” without a following noun or phrase was intended as something of a put down. I’m not referring to its use in the form “Thanks for that information” or “Thanks for that wine you sent”, but to the situation(s) where someone had said something inane or pointless, or had told an uninteresting story or a somewhat obscure joke. One would then say “Thanks for that” followed by the person’s name. eg:   Tim: “This one time, I broke a pen and then fixed it again.” Me: “Thanks for that, Tim.” But now the phrase seems to be in general use with no irony attached. Instead of just saying “Thank you” some people are now saying “Thanks for that” with no further qualification.

January 2, 2015  •  Hairy Scot

“Rack” or “Wrack”?

I read recently that there are those who feel that the word “rack” in the phrases “rack one’s brain” and “rack and ruin” should perhaps be spelled “wrack”, while others maintain that either spelling is acceptable.

January 2, 2015  •  Percy

“Thank you for reverting to us”

I replied to a letter from a solicitor and in return got a letter beginning “Thank you for reverting to us so promptly”. I have never seen “revert” used in this way. Is it a legal usage (in any sense)?

December 12, 2014  •  Dave Nichols

issue as problem

When did “issue” come to mean “problem” ?

December 8, 2014  •  Hairy Scot

3 Laning?

Not content with using “roading” as a noun meaning “the provision and building of roads” the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) has now introduced another example of why suits should not be allowed to write signs. A stretch of motorway on the north side of Auckland is being widened and there is a forest of signs proclaiming “3 laning project in progress”! GRRRR GNASH GNASH!!                              :)

December 3, 2014  •  HungryByteman

deliberately mispelled (sp!)

In this question, I deliberately misspelled “mispelling.”  Is (sp!) an appropriate abbreviation to stand for “deliberately misspelled?” Many people use (sp?) for (I don’t know how to spell that word) Julie Andrews sang Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (sp?) with great gusto. (sic) or [sic] is not appropriate here. I understand that [sic] is used to indicate that the word was spelled that way in document that is being quoted or cited. The new commander consumed [sic] control of the military base. (illustration modified from an actual case of using the wrong word) So, it seems to me that we can use (sp!) for (I am deliberately mispelling (sp!) this word QUESTION: Is there a better abbreviation, or a well-known abbreviation for this usage?

December 1, 2014  •  Nik H.

“hand”

I am a cab driver and pick up people from all over the country/world and take them where they want to go. Boring disclaimer aside; I hope to understand a word used by a southern man that unsurprisingly follows a strong Christian background through his adult life. As mysterious as the story may be if time were allotted to tell it, or was applicable in this forum, he constantly referred to me as “hand.” Not sure if this coincides with his Christian background, i.e. “The hand of God”, or it is a long lost southern slang with a more ambiguous meaning.

November 23, 2014  •  Hairy Scot

“Watching on”?

One hears this phrase more and more from sports commentators. A typical example would be a commentator at a sports event referring to an injured player or perhaps some celebrity as “watching on from the grandstand”. Makes one wonder if, and why, “looking on” has suddenly become passé; or is it just an affectation started by someone trying to be different for the sake of being different and which has then been adopted by those who are inclined to participate in fads? Shall on-lookers now be known as on-watchers? Somehow it just doesn’t sound right.

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”?

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