Your Pain Is Our Pleasure

Pain in the English offers proofreading services for short-form writing such as press releases, job applications, or marketing copy. 24 hour turnaround. Learn More

Discussion Forum

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.

Search Pain in the English

Latest Posts

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 This is why certain words have been deemed politically incorrect and have been replaced by new words, like “black” to “African American”.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?

Read Comments

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.

Read Comments

Has anybody else noticed a trend in the over-use of periods? I’ve seen it a lot in advertizing and the like. I’m not talking about an elipsys (...), I’m referring to when periods are over used, so as to fragment a sentence, or used where perhaps bulleted words/sentances should be used. Periods are also over-used in the likes of phone numbers now where hyphens were once used, thus making it look something like a computer network IP address. (Dot Com revolution maybe? ...Don’t know.) Anyway, it just looks like pop cuture gimmicks--it just looks rediculous.

Read Comments

The first spelling/grammatical mistake I always see, even in journals is the spelling for cannot. Cannot must be one word, just like today and tomorrow!

But, I see so many can nots!! You can still grammatically use can not in some contexts, like Can you not shake your leg when I’m in the room? You can just not shake, ok? -> You can not shake it.

As in, you can choose to not shake it rather than you being unable, incapable of shaking! But that’s not the context they use in those darn journals!

Read Comments

If you lie to someone, have you necessarily misled them?

Read Comments

Why is it that we name some single objects as if they were plural? I’m thinking of for example a pair of jeans - you can’t buy one jean can you? But a sweater, which has the same construction - one body and two extensions for limbs - is not a pair of sweaters. A pair of scissors makes a little more sense, and I believe that tailors call them ‘a scissor’ anyway. The example of bicycle forks is also interesting - in the U.S. a bicycle has a fork to hold the front wheel, whereas in the U.K. we hold on to our front wheels via ‘forks’ or a pair of forks.

Read Comments

I came across this on my local Fox TV station’s website. What do you all think?

I’m not even sure this thing is needed. It seems to me that if sarcasm is done right, there should be no reason to point out what it is. And I’m certainly not going to pay two dollars for a punctuation mark that I’ve not needed in 40 years.

Read Comments

If you ever listen to Charles Osgood, you know he has been saying “twenty-oh-one” rather than “two thousand-one” for, well, about nine years. The usage is parallel to calling the year 1901 “nineteen-oh-one” rather than “nineteen hundred-one”, yet it never caught on with the general public. Now, however, the stakes are higher with “twenty-ten” saving a whole syllable vs. “two-thousand-ten”, aside from being easier to pronounce. Yet I still mostly hear the latter. Am I going to have to grate my teeth every time I hear “two-thousand-x” for the rest of my life, or is there hope that the English-speaking world will come to it’s senses?

Read Comments

I ask each of you to consider the fact that a certain word seems to have disappeared from all of our media! What you say, that is impossible! Well just read the news or listen to the news, etc. and you will find out that a very simple word has been replaced by a more complicated word, and every one is doing it in the Media! And, I mean everyone!

The word is “Pled” / “Plead, which can be a short version of “Pleaded”!

You have been unable to see the shortened version of “pleaded” in either print media or hear it in TV, or Radio media for about ten or so years now, maybe even longer.

Instead of a news account saying “John Doe pled / plead guilty yesterday”, all media will say “John Doe (or “they”) pleaded guilty yesterday!”

My question is, WHY? And why wasn’t I told about it? And why did everone else know it was no longer to be used before I noticed it was totally missing in my world of today?

Why, Why was I not involved in the numerous discussions which must have taken place amongst the learned persons of this society? Why was not there a Public Opinion Poll taken, which whould have made it a majority descision? Why?

I now asume that most Media will still state that, “John Doe bled to death”, or will they change this to, “John Doe bleeded to death?” And what might happen to “led”, will it be “leded” or even “leaded” away?

What will we all do about the use of this phrase “John Doe was shot “to death” yesterday!” Is now possible for someone to be “Shot to life?”

How about the never let a chance go unused use of the terms; “immeasurable”, and “countless”, and “un-countable”, and, and ?, when most every thing that the Media considers as “countless” or “imeasurable”, etc., is in fact either “measurable” or “countable!”

When will it stop? And if it does, will anyone let me know?

Ron

Read Comments

For some unknown reason, I’ve always aspired to coining a word to be used by millions. That dream came true when the term “muffin-top” was picked up by Daily News, and consequently by William Safire in New York Times where he even mentioned my name. Since then, several people came out and claimed that they invented that term, but none of them have the proof that I have, which is my entry to pseudodictionary.com dated May 2003.

The Internet has changed the way language spreads and evolves. It also changed the way we keep track of that evolution. A new book by Grant Barret entitled, “The Official Dictionary of Unofficial English” is a great example of that. By using the technologies available on the Internet, he devised a way to record new words and word usages. It is a printed version of his site doubletongued.org. By reading the chronological citations for each word, you get a sense of how it spread and evolved. As amusing as some of these words are, studying of this process of evolution goes far beyond mere entertainment. I think it’s a great contribution to the modern lexicology.

Read Comments

Latest Comments

X and S

How do I make the name Fox in possessive plural form?
Ex. Ms. Fox' instructional practices... or Ms. Fox's instructional practices...

He was sat

  • Marusja
  • February 17, 2017, 7:04am

I can see that there is a long and diverse discussion on here, but my response is to you Brus, hailing from the British Isles. The epidemic as you rightly describe it, seems to be spreading contagion like from the BBC and into written material. "I was sat" and "we were stood" are examples of colloquial terms from the North of England. Dialects are unique to an area and rich in expression when used in an authentic way and don't appear out of place.

The reason we may be startled by the sudden introduction of such vernacular is due to it simply being out of place when spoken by someone who has been educated in the Queen's English. It rankles because it is wrong in our ears. Unfortunately, this is a legacy of inverted class snobbery whereby some people think that they should downgrade the language in order not to sound 'posh'. It backfires spectacularly though upon them when they try so hard to fit in with the crowd, rather than represent the side of 'well spoken'. I cringe whenever I hear these dialects out of place, not just because of the infringement but also because it doesn't sound beautiful or harmonious, but clumsy.

My mother couldn't speak English when she arrived in the country shortly after WW2. By listening to the radio and armed with a dictionary and the daily newspaper, she taught herself through these mediums. Later she read to us as children and took us to the library, where I inherited a love of the language, reading several books a week by the time I was 7 years old.

Although we lived in the Midlands, I didn't have a regional accent since my exposure early on had been to programmes such as 'Women's Hour' and radio presenters in those days all and without fail spoke to a standard considered appropriate. After all, they were communicating to all and needed to be understood widely.

On passing the eleven plus exam and entering Grammar school, we had a Headmaster and a Head Mistress. Miss Simister had a passion for the English language and heaven forbid any pupil who might drop an H or flatten a vowel. I felt right at home there.

It wasn't about being elite, it was about learning and knowledge. It was about aiming for excellence and drawing out the best in oneself.

Miss Simister would turn in her grave were she to hear the downfall of the language. As someone born and raised in the UK, I can assure you that the standards have slipped considerably. It isn't possible for someone learning the language to be sure that they are being taught English correctly if studying here.

I am not speaking out against dialects as they remain an integral part of our culture. To introduce a convoluted invasion however into received pronunciation is noticeably discordant, drawing attention in the wrong way. It becomes an interruption and tunes out whatever the speaker might be conveying.

There is hope though. Apparently when asked, people do prefer the sublime eloquence of the spoken word as voiced by Joanna Lumley and Diana Rigg, recognizing these dulcet tones to be vehicles of quality, easy on the ear and without question completely trustworthy ambassadors of English in all its glory.

No Woman No Cry

It means, if the woman is gone, there will be no tears. It is a reference to the queen and her rule of Jamaica at the time. It's a political song.

Hey, I'll let you in on a little secret. We don't all love our jobs every day. And doing something you have a passion for doesn't make the work part of it any easier...It just makes you less likely to quit. What Everybody Ought To Know About #NorwichJobs - Discover something new TODAY at: http://www.justnorfolkjobs.co.uk/jobs-in-norwich/

fill in the blanks!

  • Sheri
  • February 15, 2017, 4:23pm

I have a release of all claims and above the notary & witness signatures, there is this statement:
WITNESS___________ hand and seal this ______ day of _________, 2017; what is put in after WITNESS?

Idea Vs. Ideal

  • FrankR
  • February 14, 2017, 9:18pm

I think that using ideal when idea should be the correct word is a silly way to speak. I hear ideal used incorrectly all the time, it really gets on my nerves. Oh well...

How many “ands” in a row

  • Josh S.
  • February 13, 2017, 3:18pm

Wouldn't it have been clearer if quotation marks had been placed before Peg, and between Peg and and, and and and And, and And and and, and and and And, and And and and, and and and Whistle, as well as after whistle?" This sentence is much easier to read because the writer placed commas between and and and and and and And, and and and and And and and And and and, and and And and and and and and and And, and and and and And and and And and and, and and And and and and and and and.

Twice what it was (= 2x).

He was sat

  • marie
  • February 13, 2017, 1:14pm

Sorry, but your argument doesn't make sense to me. If you were teaching science you would give your students the correct formula. I think the tragedy is that in the UK grammar hasn't been taught for so long, a lot of people who try to teach English don't understand enough to do this effectively. I certainly wouldn't have any respect for a teacher who didn't teach me correctly.

This website was really useless and was no help to me. All I wanted to know was the tension/stress of totalitarianism and it did not give me anything. This website is useless ad it should be taken down. It will be know help to anyone.

Thank You