August 7, 2015  •  Hairy Scot

How does one debate a person?

I noticed in reports of the recent GOP debate a number of instances where the phrase “Person A debated Person B.” was used rather than “Person A debated with Person B.” Is this common in USA?

July 31, 2015  •  Robert Hermann

“escaped prison” or “escaped from prison”?

Is it escaped prison or escaped from prison?

July 15, 2015  •  Hairy Scot

Unusual use of “infringed”?

From my local medical centre’s web page:- “The carpark at xxxxxx Health & Wellness Centre is now limited to 180 minutes. Cars parked longer than this and not displaying an exemption permit will be infringed with a $65 parking fine. This is intended to keep the carpark free for patients and customers of the building only. Unauthorised parkers leaving their vehicles in our carpark all day will be infringed.”

July 3, 2015  •  jayles the unwoven

“I’ve lived many years in Kentucky.”

“I’ve lived many years in Kentucky.” How comfortable are you with this grammar in writing? Would you prefer “I’ve lived in Kentucky for many years” ? Is this just an Americanism? How widespread is this pattern?

May 28, 2015  •  Anne Daarbech

“In the long term”

A colleague of mine claimed that you can say “In the long term” instead of “In the long run”. Is that correct?

March 11, 2015  •  Anton Ivanov

being used

Could you please explain the difference in the following sentences? 1. The instruments used are very reliable. 2. The instruments being used are very reliable. Are participle 2 “used” and passive participle 1 “being used” interchangeable in this context?

January 29, 2015  •  DaveBoltman

Is “leverage” a verb?

I’m new here, and am wondering what all you experts think about the use of the word “leverage” as a verb. It seems it’s being used more often recently. Personally I feel that “leverage” is a noun, as defined by Merriam-Webster’s as “the action of a lever or the mechanical advantage gained by it”. However it seems that mainly financial and managerial types seem to like using is as a verb - “Hey, let’s leverage the unfortunate circumstances of these people that can’t pay their bonds, and get their homes for free”. What does it mean? Although MW does give it as a verb as well, it’s interesting that investopedia.com gives it as “1 The use of various financial instruments or borrowed capital, such as margin, to increase the potential return of an investment.”, i.e. it lists the verb first. Other sources give different meanings, suggesting that the meaning of “leverage” as a verb is not very clear. I wonder what these people do when their roof leakages, or the engines of their cars failure? Just for interest, over the years I’ve bookmarked the following in my web browser (under info / language / English): Are You Stupid Enough to Use Leverage As a Verb? Leverage is NOT a Verb! (please excuse the language there where not appropriate :) Oh yes, and a quote from Seth Godin’s blog (although I’m not sure who he is quoting): “leveraging” , - comment: i asked everyone on my team not to use those words. the frequency of use of words like “leverage” is inversely proportionate to the amount of original thought. the more you say “leverage”, the less you’ve probably thought about what you’re saying. (Seth is an American marketer, motivational speaker and author)

January 20, 2015  •  Hairy Scot

“nervous to perform” or “nervous of performing”?

Recently saw this headline in Time:-  “Katy Perry Admits She’s Nervous to Perform at the Super Bowl”.  To me “nervous to perform” sounds a bit strange.  My feeling is that “nervous of performing” sounds better.

January 7, 2015  •  Hairy Scot

“Thanks for that”

I had always believed that saying “thanks for that” without a following noun or phrase was intended as something of a put down. I’m not referring to its use in the form “Thanks for that information” or “Thanks for that wine you sent”, but to the situation(s) where someone had said something inane or pointless, or had told an uninteresting story or a somewhat obscure joke. One would then say “Thanks for that” followed by the person’s name. eg:   Tim: “This one time, I broke a pen and then fixed it again.” Me: “Thanks for that, Tim.” But now the phrase seems to be in general use with no irony attached. Instead of just saying “Thank you” some people are now saying “Thanks for that” with no further qualification.

January 2, 2015  •  Hairy Scot

“Rack” or “Wrack”?

I read recently that there are those who feel that the word “rack” in the phrases “rack one’s brain” and “rack and ruin” should perhaps be spelled “wrack”, while others maintain that either spelling is acceptable.

January 2, 2015  •  Percy

“Thank you for reverting to us”

I replied to a letter from a solicitor and in return got a letter beginning “Thank you for reverting to us so promptly”. I have never seen “revert” used in this way. Is it a legal usage (in any sense)?

December 1, 2014  •  Nik H.

“hand”

I am a cab driver and pick up people from all over the country/world and take them where they want to go. Boring disclaimer aside; I hope to understand a word used by a southern man that unsurprisingly follows a strong Christian background through his adult life. As mysterious as the story may be if time were allotted to tell it, or was applicable in this forum, he constantly referred to me as “hand.” Not sure if this coincides with his Christian background, i.e. “The hand of God”, or it is a long lost southern slang with a more ambiguous meaning.

August 8, 2014  •  jayles the unwoven

While vs Whilst vs Whereas

Which of the following are okay to you? a) While roses are red, violets are blue. b) Whilst roses are red, violets are blue. c) While some roses are red, many are not. d) Whilst some roses are red, some are not. e) Roses are red, whereas violets are blue. f) Roses are red, while violets are blue. g) Roses are red, whilst violets are blue. h) Some roses are red, whilst some are not. i) Whereas most roses are indeed red, some are not. j) While I loved my first wife very much, she did in fact become fat. k) While my first wife did in fact become fat, I still loved her very much. l) Whilst I loved my first wife very much, she did in fact become fat. And thus what, to your good mind, is the rule? And what a pain English is!

June 25, 2014  •  Jasper

Putative (-ly) vs. Supposed (-ly) vs. Ostensible (-y)

I’m trying hard to figure out the differences and proper usages of these three particular words (primarily putative vs. supposed). Can putative (-ly) be used in the same spots supposed (-ly) can? What’s the nuance between them?

May 29, 2014  •  Brus

Meaningless Use of “key”

“William and Kate had earlier attended a civic reception hosted by Perth and Kinross provost Liz Grant, where they were gifted an ancient map of Strathearn.”  So we are told by the internet news service in Britain today. What is wrong with ‘they were given as a gift’ ... or ‘they were presented with the gift of ...’? “They were gifted [something]...” sounds to me about as attractive an expression as the noise of fingernails scraped down an old-fashioned blackboard. Am I too sensitive? Should I wear earmuffs and eye pads? Then we are told that ‘they also visited Glasgow’s Emirates Arena, a key venue in this summer’s Commonwealth Games.’  Now, can someone tell me what the difference is between a venue and a key venue? How on earth did this bizarre word ‘key’ come to be bandied about, a meaningless cliche word everywhere? Who thought it up? What is the history of its etymology? What does its inclusion into a sentence add to its meaning? I had a boss once who talked at meetings of his ‘staff’ for weeks in advance about he would give a ‘key speech’ somewhere, and his audience would fall into a state of despond and despair upon hearing of this, for we thought we might have to listen to this ‘key’ speech, or pretend to, when the time came, and we never could understand what was to be ‘key’ about it; neither before nor after its rather hysterical delivery. Can anyone tell me, what does ‘key’ in this context mean? To me it just sounded like a puffed up, self-important and pompous description by a poop of his imaginary high status in the order of things, and I cannot reconcile this notion of what ‘key’ means with its use as a description of a venue in the forthcoming games. Does it mean ‘important’ or ‘main’, for if so, why not say so in the first place? The English language as it is being published in the press is crumbling around us, and this short glance at the news tonight, one item only, is enough to prompt this contribution to your pages.

May 8, 2014  •  Hairy Scot

Using country name as an adjective?

The media in English speaking countries seems to be developing a tendency toward using a country’s name as an adjective. eg:- Syria crisis instead of Syrian crisis France fullback instead of French fullback Another is the anglicising of some country names and nationalities:- Argentina becomes Argentine and Argentinians becomes Argentines. Thoughts?

April 13, 2014  •  Warsaw Will

Natural as an adverb

In his entry on ‘try and do’, Fowler calls it “an idiom that should not be discountenanced, but used when it comes natural”. What interested me was his use of ‘natural’ as an adverb. Oxford Online gives the example ‘keep walking—just act natural’, which sounds OK to me, if idiomatic. There are examples from Dickens and Walter Scott of ‘comes natural’  in dialogues, where ‘natural’ is being used as an adverb, but Fowler’s use here sounds strange to me. Any thoughts?

February 5, 2014  •  Jasper

A New Correlative Conjunction?

I suppose this more of speculation and bit of a question. I have noticed some quotations of ‘nor’ paired with ‘not’ (typically a comma follows not and whatever it is negating), for example: “Battery D did not stop at the first, nor the second, but halt was made at what was ...” “These bonds did not give their owners the privilege of using them as a basis for bank-note circulation, nor was there any other privilege...” “... meaning of its message so clearly, so simply, and yet so earnestly, and with such a passionate longing that from York Hill there should indeed radiate “Peace and good will towards all men,” that not the stupidest nor the most frivolous girl but was touched to a sense of higher ideals and...” All quotes are provided by dictionary.net in the quotations for ‘nor’. Is it possible that this could become a correlative conjunction paired with ‘not’ or possibly a substitution for ‘neither’ in the “neither-nor” pair? Or maybe, has ‘not’ been a viable substitute for ‘neither’ for years without notice? This idea tenuously excites me.

October 18, 2013  •  Warsaw Will

Tell About

On ESL websites I sometimes see instructions to students of the type ‘Tell about an experience you had this week’. To me, and I think other speakers of British English, this sounds a bit strange: we normally tell somebody about something or talk about something. I’ve checked six standard British dictionaries and can find no examples of ‘tell about’. My (British) teacher colleagues also find it odd. At first I tended to put it down to the fact that these instructions were usually written by teachers who are not native speakers. Then I found some examples in American crime writing, and wondered if it could be a dialect thing. But I’m now finding examples in academic texts, and am beginning to assume that this is absolutely standard North American English. This one’s from a Canadian non-fiction book - Be Good, Sweet Maid: The Trials of Dorothy Joudrie - by Audrey Andrews: “O’Brien asked Dorothy to tell about incidents that were not physical. He prompted her by suggesting she begin by telling about an incident that occurred in Glacier National Park … . She told about how Earl had frightened her to the point of hysteria …”  This one’s from a book on social psychology -  Knowing People: The Personal Use of Social Psychology -  by Michael J Lovaglia: “Would people rate the man as less mentally healthy if he kept personal information to himself  than they would if he told about it. They did not. In contrast to the way people rated a woman who told personal information about herself, people rated the man less mentally healthy when he told about his personal problems than when the man kept silent about his personal problems.” And finally advice for job interviewees at About.com: “So, when asked to tell about yourself, don’t spend too much time on the predictable answers.” So I’d just like speakers of North American English to confirm that this use of “tell about something” without a personal object is absolutely standard for you, and speakers of British English (and similar) to confirm that I’m not alone in finding this construction strange, and that you would “tell somebody about something” or “talk about something”.  Just another example of being “separated by a common language” perhaps.

October 1, 2013  •  SpeakEnglandverydelicious

Misuse of “lay”

How widespread is the misuse of the word “lay”? I’m quite sure one “lies down” and does not “lay down” (except when laying down a carpet, the law or a challenge) This is prevalent in Australia, and I’ve recently found it to be very common in the USA. It irritates me no end...is it in danger of becoming ‘accepted usage’?

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