This is a forum to discuss the gray areas of the English language for which you would not find answers easily in dictionaries or other reference books. You can browse through the latest questions and comments below. If you have a question of your own, please submit it here.
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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?
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.
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?
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.
- 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?
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!)
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.