December 3, 2004  •  Dyske

Murphy’s Law

I thought I’ve always used the expression “Murphy’s Law” correctly, but now a native English speaker cast doubt on my usage. This happens a lot with me. I thought I had been using certain terms correctly for years, and one day, someone tells me that it’s wrong. I correct it, then years later, someone else corrects me again. The context I used “Murphy’s Law” was this: In buying more storage space for a computer server, I said the Murphy’s Law is this: Whatever the amount of space you provide, that’s how much people end up using it, because most people are too lazy to properly back up files and delete them off the server. So, the bigger is not always the better. If you provide too much space, you’ll end up with unmanageable amount of data to back up properly. There are certain phenomena in life where things naturally incline towards the worst case scenario. File storage is one such case. If no one puts pressures on people to back up and delete, the servers usually get full no matter how big it is. Is this a wrong use of “Murphy’s Law”?

December 1, 2004  •  eduardo


I sometimes hear about American travelers having trouble ordering water abroad. Some visiting Europe complain that they’ll get sparkling water or mineral water (!) for their order of... water. These people would then try ordering water “no gas” BUT would get a bottle of non-carbonated water (!?). I am kind of at loss as to what words I should use when ordering water in the US. I take it that “sparkling” is the word of choice when ordering carbonated water. Are the words “club soda” and “soda water” just as popular? I have been told that “bottled water” is the expression used to order non-carbonated water. But I am not sure. Do you use “still water” for non-carbonated? Also I don’t get why the people mentioned above 1. referred to carbonated water as mineral (!) and 2. complained that they got “non-carbonated water” for their order of “water ‘no gas’ “. I’ve tried looking it up only to make matters worse. I know there are a dozen questions all bunched into one message, but could anyone help me set the record straight on this one? I appreciate it.

November 19, 2004  •  cole

Usage of “come”

I read this in an article, “Tape all your screws to your air conditioner, so you’ll have them ready come next season.” How do you suppose that usage of the word “come” came about? I’ve heard it, but I don’t hear it often.

November 11, 2004  •  stuart

The Term “Foreigner”

Is the term ‘foreigner’ still acceptable, if not (as I belive) do we have another word or phrase we can use to refer to people that don’t hail from the speakers home country?

November 8, 2004  •  charlene

Different than

This sounds highly ungrammatical to English ears, yet seems to be an increasingly common US usage (cf Br Eng “different from”, “different to”). If it is indeed considered correct, surely this makes the use of the word “than” in this context uniquely non-comparative - in all other cases that I can think of it has a comparative function - eg “faster than an eagle” or even “Icelanders are even more different from average Europeans than the Danish”. American speakers, any comments?

October 23, 2004  •  itasan

begin from page 10

Which is correct? 1. Let’s begin from page 10. 2. Let’s begin at page 10. (UK?) 3. Let’s begin on page 10. (US?) Thank you.

October 23, 2004  •  itasan

@ mark

Which is correct? 1. ‘at’ mark 2. ‘at’ symbol 3. ‘at’ sign 4. any other? Thank you.

October 15, 2004  •  elizabethmourer

Use of Firstly, Secondly, Thirdly, etc.

I have been wondering about the use of these terms, especially when they came up repeatedly in the Presidential Debates. I am taking a Linguistics Class and my Professor asked me to do some research. I don’t even know where to start, what are these terms referred to as, and what are the constraints on their use? They always sound awkward to me when I hear them, but I am starting to realize that that doesn’t mean anything. Thanks in advance, Elizabeth

September 23, 2004  •  speedwell2

Taking the Name, in vain or in earnest

Thought of one. I’m aware that there is an area of controversy surrounding the capitalization of words in English pertaining to the Divine (What- or Whoever you may think Him, Her or It might be). Most Christians write “God” and “the Supreme Being.” (Quakers write “the Divine Light.”) Entities worshipped by other religions are referred to as “gods” by Christians. Scientists also refer to the “gods” of various cultures and civilizations. Modern Pagans write, for example, “the Mother Goddess” and “the Horned God,” or “the Green Man.” Islamic writers write “Allah (blessed be He),” Hindu writers sometimes write “the God” when they are referring to a member of the class of Entities that they worship. Atheists mostly insist on writing “god/goddess/gods,” although I am an exception; I think that usage is nothing more than defiant. Any time I am asked, I say that it is customary in English to capitalize the name of God and all pronouns referring to Him, no matter what religion the writer happens to profess or not profess. It is no longer a question of respect, but of proper English capitalization. Commenters, what is your view?

September 19, 2004  •  jeudi2


Hi Everybody! “The chances for my ever being interrogated were nil, but I nevertheless felt better that way.” Sounds English? PS: Ben! Now, I am really confused about future in the past and tense coordination!

September 10, 2004  •  vindibul3

Adjective in place of Adverb

Today I found myself in the position of wanting to use “volatile” in the sentence “The bombs rested volatile on the edge of the shelf.” I immediately realized the sentence seemed choppy. I also realized, however, that “volatilely” is not a word. I was thinking of “precariously” but wanted to express a more explosive mood instead of the somewhat timid-sounding “precariously.” Are there situations where an adjective can be used in place of an adverb? For instance, tonight I heard a teleivision show use the phrase “You’ve done nothing but wax idiotic.” Any examples, rules, or guidelines relating to the use of this kind of adjective/adverb structure would be a boon to my understanding. Thank you.

August 30, 2004  •  jeudi2

As If vs. As Though

“As if” and “as though”, does it mean the same thing? Is one more colloquial and the other more formal? How do you use them?

August 26, 2004  •  clivebellmore

“Can I get” vs. “May I have”

I am told by my business partner that using “Can I get a...” from a waiter is verging on the rude and that you should use “please may I have...”. Would you agree?

July 23, 2004  •  goossun


Can anyone give an example of verbal “charade” plesae?

May 30, 2004  •  daischi


I want to say there is a conflict/difference between things, in this case, materials reported to be in a bottle. Would I say there is a discrepancy IN materials, a discrepancy OF materials, or a discrepancy BETWEEN materials?

March 25, 2004  •  goossun


What’s the defference between hyphens and dash?

March 3, 2004  •  goossun


I just wonder how can we name the decades of the 2nd millennium. i.e. we say “during 80′s”. How we say “during (20)10′s”? or “2020′s” etc.?

February 18, 2004  •  goossun


Was reading an interview with Peter Greenaway last night and he was asked: “What’s the excitment of essentially halving the amount of information on the screen by mirroring it?” I just thought to myself I would certainly hear or understand the word, HALVING as if it was HAVING! How could one really differ these two when talking? They are pronounced just the same. And in this case both correct.

February 17, 2004  •  goossun

Any reference?

Does anybody know any reference to look up for the exact “English” pronunciation of the Greek names such as Aeschylus, Euripides etc? These are of course common names and traceable in some talking dictionaries. I mean the weirder names.

February 16, 2004  •  goossun

Pronounciation of TH+S

I’ve been always wondering how I must pronounce: months, mouths etc. How the S after TH sounds? Z or S or what?

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