July 29, 2015  •  jayles the unwoven

Why do we have “formal” English?

Is this not just perpetuating the English caste system?  Why are words like “a lot of”, ” a bit of”, “get” considered lower-class words and “a great deal/number of” and similar cumbersome periphrases considered “better” ?

July 29, 2015  •  jayles the unwoven

When is the “-wise” suffix okay?

For instance: “We need to do everything we can prevention-wise.” Other similar words: taxwise, money-wise, property-wise, food-wise I realise there has been resistance to indiscriminate usage; the question is really about what constitutes “indiscriminate”? Secondly, why the prejudice against what is a productive and concise suffix, when the alternative phrases are cumbersome and pretentious.

July 22, 2015  •  steve3

have a knowledge of

How do we justify “a” with a non-count noun such as “...to have a knowledge of Latin...” ?

July 21, 2015  •  Leonid Kutuzov

English can do perfectly well without “Tenses”

In my opinion,  the greatest pain in the English language is the so-called Tenses. Generation after generation, grammarians and linguists have been trying to use the term for describing how English Verb System works writing more and more wise books on the subject, without any visible results. Millions of ESL/EFL learners find Tenses to be hopelessly tangled, confusing and totally incomprehensible. So do a great number of ESL/EFL teachers. And it is no wonder, because describing English grammar as having only past and present is like trying to describe a car as having three wheels.  I think  that English can do perfectly well without “Tenses” because it is a meaningless and therefore useless term.

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.

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?

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?

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?

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 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.

April 7, 2014  •  Hairy Scot

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.

March 17, 2014  •  Hairy Scot

Pronunciation Etiquette—Hypothetical Question

Two scenarios: 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. 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?

January 25, 2014  •  Warsaw Will

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!)

April 1, 2013  •  Hairy Scot

“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.

February 27, 2013  •  Hairy Scot

“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.

November 23, 2012  •  Thomas Smith

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.

October 14, 2012  •  cst

“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?

October 12, 2012  •  Hairy Scot

“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 »

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