Submitted by Hairy Scot  •  April 7, 2014

Mentee?

I should probably count myself fortunate that I almost reached my allotted three score and ten without having come across this dreadful word.

But alas my belief that a mentor has a protégé has now been cruelly shattered.

Submitted by Hairy Scot  •  March 17, 2014

Pronunciation Etiquette—Hypothetical Question

Two scenarios:

  1. You are an antipodean cricket commentator and during a broadcast you realise that your Indian co-commentator is pronouncing some words/names differently from you.
  2. You are at a social gathering and notice that everyone else pronounces words/names differently from you.

The words/names in question could be for or example:

  • Tendulkar with a soft ‘oo’ sound as opposed to your hard ‘u’ (as in dull).
  • Nepal with “paul” as opposed to your ‘pal’.
  • Debut as ‘dehbyew’ as opposed to your ‘dayboo’.

In each situation how do you react?

Submitted by Warsaw Will  •  January 25, 2014

tonne vs ton

I’m all for the metric system, and I’m sure a lot of British schoolchildren would be well pissed off if UKIP’s idea of restoring the imperial system ever came to fruition. But I do find sentences like this, in a item on the BBC website, rather strange and unnatural:

Mr Teller says the first question is not “How can we make a tonne of money?”

I know that tonne is our unit of measurement now, but does it have to take over our idioms as well, especially as this is probably more of an American idiom anyway (I think we Brits would be more likely to say ‘ton(ne)s of money’)?

The following idioms are all listed in British dictionaries with ‘ton’ or ‘tons’:

They came down on him like a ton of bricks.

That bag of yours weighs a ton!

I’ve got tons of work to do.

We’ve got tons of food left over from the party.

I don’t know why the BBC insist on using tonne in idioms. Perhaps they think young people won’t know what a ton is. I say keep the idiomatic ton, and leave tonne for weights. After all people don’t say they’re off to spend a new penny, do they? (Actually I’m not sure anyone says that anymore anyway!)

Submitted by Hairy Scot  •  April 1, 2013

“Harsh but true” vs “harsh but fair”

Discussion on appropriate use of these two phrases came up on another forum. I believe it depends on context. Would be interested in hearing other views.

Submitted by Hairy Scot  •  February 27, 2013

“deal to”

Another oddity from my favourite source, The New Zealand Herald:

“Perhaps it’s time to deal to the ads that are just plain downers?”

It may be an undetected error or a misprint, but knowing the Herald, I’m sure the author, the proof readers, and the editors, all thought that “deal to” made perfect sense in the given context.

Submitted by Thomas Smith  •  November 23, 2012

Where used you to live?

I’m an English teacher in France. In this question I am seeking confirmation that the following use of “used to” is no longer in use. I’m willing to be enlightened.

“Where used you to live before you came here?”

The form that I would employ is:

“Where did you use to live before you came here?”

My source is “Pratique de l’anglais de A à Z” by Michael Swan and Françoise Houdart. In this book they say that you can use either with or without the auxiliary ‘did’. I would not have been shocked by “Where were you living before you came here?”

The book is really very useful and well organized, but occasionally I come across sentences that seem (to me) to be archaic. The version I have was published in 1983. And before any of you say it, no this is not my only source for my English lessons.

So I would be glad of your opinions.

Submitted by cst  •  October 14, 2012

“He gave it to Michelle and I”

I have heard the president hypercorrect personal pronouns as in “he gave it to Michelle and I.” Is this common now even in the highly educated? Would this have been heard by a highly educated person 30 years ago?

Submitted by Hairy Scot  •  October 12, 2012

“nearby to where he lives”

Another interesting phrase from The Independent:

“nearby to where he lives”

This journalist must be paid by the word. Wonder what was wrong with “near where he lives”?

Link to the article »

Submitted by Hairy Scot  •  October 12, 2012

“Liquid water”?

The phrase “liquid water” seems to have become very much in vogue with science correspondents in the media. Does the fact that most of us probably view water as being liquid not render this particular neologism redundant, and reveal it as another example of members of the fourth estate, or perhaps the people they interview, trying to be ultra clever? Shall we all now be required to start referring to ice a “solid water” and steam as “gaseous water”?

Submitted by Hairy Scot  •  October 6, 2012

“Bring” vs. “Take” differences in UK and American English

English (other than American English) has a clear differentiation between the two words. Both are about moving something. In “bring” the something of somebody is moved to where the speaker is currently situated. “Take” is used to indicate moving something or somebody to a place that the speaker is not currently at. I have heard and read examples of these two verbs being confused in a number of American movies and TV shows, and in a number of books by American authors. Jeffrey Deaver is one author guilty of this along with other flaws like misuse of perpendicular, another is George R R Martin in his Song of Ice and Fire series.

For example, in the UK a boy will say to a girl, “May I take you home”. Meaning “may I escort you to your home”, not “would you like to come back to my place”. Whereas in the US “May I bring you home” would be be more common. Similarly, a UK girl might say “Would you take me home please” as opposed to “Would you bring me home please”. Why does this confusion exist and persist?

Submitted by lycen  •  May 21, 2012

Adverbial scope of ‘tomorrow’

For the following sentence; I suppose the adverbial scope of ‘tomorrow’ only covers the verb ‘work’

ie. I have to (work tomorrow).

Where ‘have to’ refers to present obligation.

What about this:

Tomorrow I have to work.

Here it ‘tomorrow’ is emphatic and ‘have to work’ seems to be within its adverbial scope. Thus ‘have to’ here appears to mean a future obligation - of tomorrow. I think there’s a difference between both sentences. Any opinions?

Submitted by Hairy Scot  •  May 10, 2012

Difference between acronyms and initials?

I have always believed that an acronym had to be a pronouncable word, like RADAR or LASER, not just a set of initials like IBM or CIA, but I see more and more references that suggest that this is not a generally held belief.

Even the OED seems confused:-

1. A group of initial letters used as an abbreviation for a name or expression, each letter or part being pronounced separately; an initialism (such as ATM, TLS).

2. A word formed from the initial letters of other words or (occas.) from the initial parts of syllables taken from other words, the whole being pronounced as a single word (such as NATO, RADA).

Although Chambers states: acronym (noun) a word made from the first letters or syllables of other words, and usually pronounced as a word in its own right, eg NATO.

Compare abbreviation, contraction, initialism.

Let the games begin! :-)

Submitted by Hairy Scot  •  March 11, 2012

-age words

New Age Words? Just how far will the practice of adding “age” to existing words be taken. To date we have:- signage being used instead of signs, sewerage being used instead of sewage, reportage being used instead of reporting. I am sure there are many other examples of this particular fad. The media, of course, have adopted the fad with enthusiasm.

Submitted by Jay Fernandez  •  March 6, 2012

tailorable

Is “tailorable” a proper word? The context of the word is intended to convey that a document is able to be customized, or tailorable.

Tailorable sounds like a reasonable use of “tailor”, especially in the (DoD) Infortmation Technology (IT) industry.

Submitted by Dyske  •  February 27, 2012

Collins Dictionaries

The new website for Collins Dictionaries is pretty slick. I think the user interface design is well done. Dictionary is something people use frequently, so the interface design and performance matter a lot. Most of the time, I use the dictionary app that came with my Mac because it’s the surest and the fastest way to look up a word. On my iPhone, I use Merriam-Webster App for the same reason (as opposed to going to a mobile-friendly dictionary site on the browser).

In both cases, as long as the Internet connection is decent, the Web versions are just as fast as using the native apps, but there are times when the response is slow on the Web (or lose connection entirely). So, my logic is: Since the native apps would always be fast (or consistent), why bother using the Web-based apps? This is particularly true because the content of dictionaries do not change frequently. It’s not like looking up news stories. So, I’m wondering if there is a way to cache the majority of the words locally so that the performance would be consistent regardless of the Internet connection speed.

One thing I don’t like about the new design on Collins: When I look up a word in a dictionary, I’m either reading or writing something, which means I have either a browser or a text editor open. I would want to be able to look at both the dictionary window and the browser/editor side by side. To be able to do this, the window size of the dictionary needs to be small (especially now that laptop computers are more common than desktop computers). This is another reason why I end up using Mac’s dictionary app. Its window is small. It can always be floating somewhere on my screen. The design of Collins dictionary does not allow you to make its window small. I think it would be easy enough to write a Javascript that would bring the search input area under Word of the day when the window is resized to be smaller than its default width, or simply swap the position between the two areas so that the Word of the day area would be cropped (not the search input) when you make the window smaller.

I’m curious to hear what dictionaries other people use.

Submitted by ppp  •  February 22, 2012

Nother

I hear people, including journalists and other professional speakers, say “...but that’s a whole nother story.” I’m afraid that “nother” will show up in the dictionary someday as our language continually devolves.

Submitted by Hairy Scot  •  January 28, 2012

The Best Euphemism for Shithouse?

What is the best euphemism for shithouse and/or urinal? I always feel that words like lavatory, toilet, privy, or rest room, don’t quite hack it. Perhaps “the head” or heads may be about the best. No prizes for the winner.

Submitted by Hairy Scot  •  November 5, 2011

“would of” instead of “would have” or “would’ve”

The phrase “would of” seems to be coming more and more common. I have heard it used in a number of films and have also seen it used in print when the author is depicting direct speech. However, I was amazed to see it used outside of the direct speech context in a novel I am currently reading. I appreciate that “would’ve” could be heard as “would of” but the increasing use of this phrase is damning testimony to the malaise that afflicts our language.

Submitted by Dyske  •  July 16, 2011

Isn’t the word “feminism” itself gender-biased?

Google’s new application called Ngram Viewer lets you see how frequently any terms or phrases appeared in books over time. The data is based on the millions of books Google digitized. As you can see below, the occurrence of the word “feminism” peaked in 1996 and has been in decline since. But, in the same period of time (from 1980 to 2008), the occurrence of the phrase “gender equality” has steadily grown.

feminism

This makes intuitive sense to me. Now that the economy assumes each household to have two people earning income, in order to sustain a decent lifestyle, men need and want their wives to work. It is no longer a matter of choice. In other words, “gender equality” is just as important for men as it is for women. However, men are much less likely to identify themselves as “feminists” because the word itself implies gender bias; i.e., someone who advocates for the interests of women. The men who are interested in gender equality would not want to advocate for women or for men. The point is to eliminate gender bias as much as possible. In that sense, the word “feminism” or “feminist” does not make sense; it feels awkward and inappropriate. I believe the first graph above reflects that.

Language has subtle yet powerful ways of influencing our values and behavior. This is why certain words have been deemed politically incorrect and have been replaced by new words, like “black” to “African American”. I feel that it’s time for us to retire the word “feminism” as it does not make sense for the ideal of gender equality itself to have gender bias. What do you think?

Submitted by Windy Road  •  May 11, 2011

Usage rules for adverbs

An article I was writing recently came back to me with this suggested edit: “commitment to proactively address the issues” was changed to “address proactively the issues.” This grates on my ear, and I’m interested in this forum’s insights. My quick research suggests that adverbs usually follow “be” verbs, but there are complicated usage rules for other than “be” verbs, and in many cases, adverbs correctly come before the verb.

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