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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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I recently saw the trailer of “Anne of Green Gables”, and the Marilla character can clearly be heard saying that she is expecting an orphan boy from “Nova Scotia”, but she pronounces that “ti” inn a very strange way. It sounded like “Scothia” or “Scozia”, I couldn’t tell. Is this an alternative pronunciation for the usual “SCO-SHA”?

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Since ye is you’s plural, are yer, ye’re and yers respectively your, you’re and yours pluralized, and/or do they have other plural counterparts?

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Is there an English word that means ‘to fall asleep’? Since there’s a word, ‘awaken’, that denotes ‘to wake up’, I’m wondering if ‘awaken’’s antonym exists.

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Can every letter in the English language be used in a silent way? Like the b in numb? But at least one example for all 26 letters. Kind of a nerdy question but has anyone succeeded? I have tried and failed... Don’t ask why!

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Americans typically make fun of Canadians, claiming that “out and about” is pronounced as “oot and aboot” (personally I can’t hear it). So if that is the case, what do Americans hear when Canadians actually say “oot and aboot”? What does Canadian “boot” sound like to an American?

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Is conversate a word? Many people use it and some people claim it’s not a word but I found it on online dictionaries.

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I want to write as follows, but it is confusing.:

This modern society, which is increasingly being globalized and opening to the world, demands the attitude of understanding different countries and respecting different culture on the basis of broad knowledge of various places of the world of students of this era.

The above ‘s structure is as follows:

The modern society demands something of somebody.

Here, something is [the attitude of understanding different countries and respecting different culture on the basis of broad knowledge of various places of the world], and somebody is [students of this era]

The setence structure can be simplified as follows:

This modern society, which is increasingly being globalized and opening to the world, demands [the attitude of understanding different countries and respecting different culture on the basis of broad knowledge of various places of the world] of [students of this era].

I am not sure in such a case, how I should write it. One solutin may be this?

This modern society, which is increasingly being globalized and opening to the world, demands, of [students of this era], [the attitude of understanding different countries and respecting different culture on the basis of broad knowledge of various places of the world].

Please help me, thank you very much.

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Heard this in park: Whose car is it? It is one of his girlfriends.

If it were just: It is one of his girlfriend’s, or: It is one of his girlfriends’, it might be easier to interpret this sentence.

As it was said, there are several degrees of uncertainty involved. Can you guess how many?

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I’m trying to apply a consistent style to a teacher training website and am battling the Capital Letter Police on a few issues.

I’ve culled capital letters for nouns such as “teacher” and “headteacher” unless we refer it as part of a job title.

Now I am left with names of meetings and forms that have traditionally been capitalised, but I’m not sure they need to be. Should such things be capitalised if they are being discussed generally? Eg:

“You should undertake three observed teaching sessions each year and keep a record of the feedback received on a teaching feedback form.”


“You should undertake three Observed Teaching Sessions each year and keep a record of the feedback received on a Teaching Feedback Form.”

And: “Download a teaching feedback form (link to PDF).” or “Download a Teaching Feedback Form (link to PDF).”

Any advice?

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How is the past tense of text PRONOUNCED? “Texted” It is said as “text-ed” in a bank’s TV commercial and sounds so inappropriate to me. Why wouldn’t it be pronounced “texted”? Does anyone know the rule on this one? Why would one say “they just text-ed me back...” sounds like ill use of the verb to me!

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She and her father look alike
Her and her father look alike

age vs. aged

Which is correct? aged 45 years or over OR aged 45 years or more


Your apology is noted.


Although the addition of "got" may not follow the strictest syntax rules I believe it's use can be justified here because it serves as an intensifier that emphasizes the need to act is greater than the use of "have" alone connotes.
Also, when the contraction "I've" is used then the addition of "got" improves the word structure sonically by preserving the normal rhythm of a sentence because the contraction works as a single word that serves as the noun, or rather, pronoun of the sentence and leaves a need for another verb.

@WW Sorry, I assumed 'cacography' was just a made-up word - it's all Greek to me ;}

@jayles - OK, let's deal with cacography first. Yes, literally, in Greek, it means what you say, and that seems to be the standard dictionary definition, but it also seems to have taken on a new meaning, at least in linguistics:

"Cacography is deliberate comic misspelling, a type of humour similar to malapropism ... A common usage of cacography is to caricature illiterate speakers." Wikipedia.

Languages are creative like that, giving new meanings to adopted words, and so HS was perfectly correct.

You ask HS why he is resorting to Greek. But I could also ask why these (for me, at least) weird Anglish-inspired words have been noticeably creeping back into your own comments recently ("spider-dread" - come on, get real!). For me they have even less to do with natural English than Greek loan words, and I very much doubt that "normal people" have much time for them either.

English is a glorious mix - and I relish it. I have no objection to keeping things simple, but personally I hate this idea of language purism as much as I hate pedantry. Leave the language alone, it's just fine as it is!

I wouldn't have mentioned this if you hadn't brought the subject up :). And as for Stephen Fry, he has made one of the best commentaries on English I've ever seen:

mixing semicolon and em dash

Not an answer, but a comment on the use of dashes in British English. As far as I know BrE doesn't talk much about em-dashes, for example you won't often see -- (substituting for an em-dash) from British contributors to forums etc. We simply use a dash, in writing the same length as a en-dash, (but on a computer just using a single hyphen), and we put spaces either side - like that, for example. And they don't seem to be used nearly as much as in American English.

From one website on British grammar:

'The double dash encloses supplementary information in the same way as round brackets –
"Alaska – purchased from Russia in 1867 and granted statehood in 1959 – comprises some 586,000 square miles and 624,000 people."
But brackets are preferred in formal scripts.'

This is from the Chicago Manual of Style Online:

"note that it is also the common British practice to use an en dash with a word space on either side where American publishers would use an em dash closed up to the surrounding words"

But I've noticed that the Economist has recently started using M-dashes without gaps. In the online version they are obviously M-dashes, and there's no real problem, but in the print edition they don't seem to be as wide. This is really confusing my students (and me, to be honest), who think they are hyphens, reading the two separate words as one hyphenated word. It turns out that Polish, like British English always uses gaps. I'm beginning to wonder about other European languages. WW will have to investigate!

The exact origin of the continuous aspect in English is debatable. The theory that I find most useful is that it corresponds to the dialect German eg: "Sie war am Buegeln" = She was an-ironing. This exists in English in phrases like:
"A-hunting we wil go"; "The cocks were a-crowing"; and so on.
The "a-" prefix was, as I understand it, originally a preposition as in "asleep", "awake", "abed", and so forth. In time the prefix fell by the wayside to form the continuous aspect, but the meaning of being in the process/activity remained.
The reason I favor this explanation is that it makes sense of the so-called "present perfect continuous" - "What have you been doing? I've been hunting. (cf I've been a-hunting.) The root idea behind the continuous is still to this day about being engaged in an activity or process.
Thus if one could say:
"How's the burger, Rastus?" "I'm a-loving it"
then it would all make sense. That it does not quite - as "loving" is not really an activity unless it involves bodily movement - demonstrates the underlying meaning of the continuous.

The whole thrust of the original question is misguided. Why do we need "a word" for "intentionally incorrect spellling". Surely the "word" is "intentionally incorrect spelling" if that is what one means. Why bury the meaning in some obscure word that few know or understand? Where does this mentality come from? We seem to do it all the time; for example "arachnophobia"? Who are we kidding? It's just very Stephen Fry and snobby. What's so wrong with "fear of spiders" - or even "spider-dread" or something that a normal person would understand. After all, isn't language for communicating with normal people? Why make it so esoteric?

@HS Why are you resorting to Greek? Why do you think that we must find and borrow a Greek/Latin word in order to make up a "proper" word for something? Why not just use an English expression like "willful misspelling" or something?
BTW "cacography" would just mean "bad writing" IIRC - 'kakos' means 'bad' and 'graphein' is to write cf 'cacophony' = bad sound