Submitted by steve3  •  December 16, 2009

Use of “Massive”

I am getting tired of hearing MASSIVE every five minutes of my life. Usually it is used to mean extra heavy, sometimes just big, e.g. a massive storm hit the Carolinas, or a massive thought. It is overdone.

In addition, I am used to it meaning really TINY. For example, the electron is a massive object; the photon is a massless object. This comes from the idea (that I was taught) that massive means having mass, which means >0 mass. So the proton and the electron are each massive, both having >0 mass. Yet each is smaller than a microscope can see.

Can anyone shed light on how this word—used so often—has come to mean really big?

Submitted by simon  •  October 28, 2009

Causative or Causal?

What is the correct usage of causative and causal? If, for example, you want to describe the etiological agent of a disease, would you call it a “causative agent” or a “causal agent”?

Submitted by aaron  •  September 16, 2009

Loose = Lose?

I have noticed dozens of examples of people, mainly on the Internet, typing the word “loose” when what they really mean is “lose.” For instance, “I didn’t want to loose the car keys.” Do you know when or how this annoying mistake came to be? It seems like it has only been going on for the past year or so, but it could be longer.

Submitted by jeremiah  •  September 10, 2009

Fetch Referring to People?

A friend has issue with the use of “fetch” used to mean “go get someone.” She referred to its association with having a dog “fetch” something as being offensive: “it is not okay to use a word commonly known for a dog retrieving a bone to refer to a human being - period.” And also hinted its use as being inappropriate in a professional/office setting.

The definition i have says: “go for and then bring back (someone or something)” and says nothing at all about it being a dog trick. Also interesting that someone is listed before something.

What do you say?

Submitted by zipetaa  •  August 12, 2009

Difference between a release and a waiver

I translated some legal agreement several day ago. It is about an accident in a hospital resulting in the death of AAA. In this agreement, it is provided that AAA’s parents would waive (the term I used) all claims they may have against the Hospital and something like that, but my boss told me yesterday that “release” should be used in this case. I referred to certain dictionaries, but found nothing that can explain their difference.

Can the term “waive” be used in this case? Is there any difference between a waiver and a release?

Many thanks

Submitted by jayd  •  August 5, 2009

obstinacy vs. obstinancy

I’ve seen both of these words used to describe a person’s stubbornness. Obstinacy seeming to come from obstinate, and obstinancy seeming to derive from obstinant. Which is the correct form of the word, and is there some sort of subtle difference between the two?

Submitted by stan  •  July 24, 2009

Pled versus pleaded

Anyone notice the banishment of “pled” about 5 years or so ago? The newspapers used to say “The defendant pled not guilty.” Suddenly, everything became “pleaded.” I contend that this is an improper imposition of some kind of twisted “grammar correctness,” except it is incorrect. “Pled” is a less emotional word than “pleaded”. I plead when I am begging for something. Unless the defendant is on his knees weeping, he is not pleading, he is entering a plea. In the past tense, he pled, not pleaded. What do you think?

Submitted by monkey  •  June 9, 2009

As of

I am wondering how to use the phrase ‘as of’ correctly. I learnt from my daily email communications with native English speakers that the phrase could mean “from”, “on/at” or “by the end of”. However, the last sense was not found in Oxford English Dictionary or Merriam Webster’s online edition.

That made me quite puzzled. Examples may speak louder than theories.

“As of yesterday, we had finished three tasks.”

Is this usage correct and does it mean the same thing as “by the end of yesterday, we had finished three tasks”?

Thanks.

Submitted by sunghee  •  May 6, 2009

Friendly - adjective and adverb?

I thought ‘friendly’ was an adjective, but some dictionary published in Korea says it can be used as an adverb, and another dictionary says it was used as an adverb before the 16th century. Is ‘friendly’ still used as an adverb or is it used only as an adjective?

Submitted by tom2  •  May 5, 2009

“study of” vs. “study on”

I am working in China helping professors and graduate students improve their journal articles. It appears ingrained in Chinese journal writing to use “study on” a subject rather than “study of.” Some individuals insist on “on” because it is widely used and accepted by some english language publications. Any comments on usage history here or other clarification? My usage history is for “of”.

Submitted by amberb  •  April 9, 2009

Most-Populous vs. Most-Populated

For some reason most-populous just doesn’t sound right when used in a sentence. Most-populated makes more sense to me. Here is the sentence that it’s used in for context.

“BLANK is the public health care system for the nation’s third most-populous county.”

Any help on the usage of these 2 phrases would be much appreciated. Thank you in advance!

Submitted by sara2  •  April 7, 2009

Wet vs. Whet

I know the difference between ‘wet’ and ‘whet’, but my question is about the idiom “to wet/whet one’s appetite.”

I’ve seen it both ways, but ‘whet’, to me, seems to be the most appropriate word. Which one is it?

Submitted by tom  •  March 26, 2009

Speaking with negations

What is the reason that I often hear educated people (and so much of the old research material I’m using) speak using negations. Many people also advise this style of speech/writing.

I’m referring to things like “Not dissimilar from...” or “Not unfriendly...”

Why?

I can understand in some situations where a thing is not binary; if it is not A that does not mean it is B. However, I have heard it used for some things that just seem utterly stupid. I mean on the level of “The TV is not off...,” it can only be one other thing can’t it? Am I missing something?

Submitted by biz  •  March 10, 2009

On Tomorrow

After moving from Chicago down to northeastern Georgia, I have noticed an extremely vexing trend among many of the native Southerners. The phrase “on tomorrow,” i.e. “We will have a staff meeting on tomorrow.” The first time I heard this spoken out loud I assumed it was a mistake; when I continued to hear the words spoken from several different, well-educated, people I assumed it must be dialectal. “On yesterday” has also found itself crept into everyday conversation...

Has anyone ever heard (or spoken) such a phrase? Is this a Southern thing? It just sounds unnatural to me and I do not understand why it is deemed necessary to put the preposition in front of tomorrow (and sometimes yesterday). “We will have a staff meeting tomorrow” sounds just fine to me.

Submitted by catherinecanadian  •  February 18, 2009

quality-control or quality control

Wondering a) if “quality-control” is a verb b) if it is, should the hyphen be used or not - two instances are found on the “About” page of this website - one with, one without:

“As long as we quality-control questions, we should not have to quality control comments.”

Submitted by legal  •  February 3, 2009

What’s the difference between “commission” and “committee”

I was challenged by a colleague of mine with the subject question to me the other day.

I turned to several resources but failed to find a satisfactory and convincing answer and PainIntheEnglish is my last hope.

Can anybody help me?

Thanks a lot!

Submitted by anonymous21  •  November 28, 2008

Street Address vs. Mailing Address

When completing forms that ask for my personal information, I find that many forms ask for “Street Address.” I dutifully fill in my home street address. When I do this I find that, a couple of weeks later, I get a phone call asking me if I’ve moved because a mailing addressed to me was returned marked “unable to deliver.” I explain that I don’t receive mail at my home address, and that I have a Post Office Box for that purpose. The frustrated caller then corrects the information that I provided on the form. I calmly explain that I provided the correct information that was asked for. But this wins me no points with the caller.

On other occasions, I have been able to ask someone, “Do you really want my “street address,” or would you rather have my “mailing address?” On many of these occasions I have been told, “No. We have to have your physical street address.”

So it appears that when a form says “street address,” sometimes they really want a “mailing address,” and at other times they really do want a “street address.”

Is there a general rule of thumb to decipher what people really want?

Submitted by elainekoh  •  October 21, 2008

reported speech

John said, “My birthday fell on last Friday.”

If the above is reported, which verb should I use?

John said that his birthday fell/had fallen on the previous Friday.

Submitted by sushant  •  September 30, 2008

Evident/Evidenced

“The liquidity is high, as evident/evidenced from the Reserve Bank of India’s reverse repo auctions.”

Which one of these two words would be more appropriate here? How do we decide that ?

Submitted by jakemontero  •  September 1, 2008

con cum with

I’ve seen some writeups around the internet where they use the word “con-cum” or “con cum with”. I know “cum” means with in Latin like “suma cum laude” or transformation like “bus cum green house (bus converted to green house). Can anyone tell me how to use “cum” correctly, or should I avoid it as much as possible?

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