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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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One of our regular contributors, porsche, informed me that submitting a comment redirects you to Microsoft’s website. Sorry about that. I keep track of the IP addresses of Spammers, and I send all the spammers to Microsoft’s website. I recently moved the site to a different server, and the new server was returning the same IP address for everyone, and I ended up listing that IP address as a Spammer’s. And, so the site considered everyone who commented as a Spammer. That’s what happened.

But that’s a long, boring, technical story, and what matters is that it’s working fine now.

Thank you, porsche, for informing me of this problem. If anyone ever experience any problems like this on this site, please let me know.

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I’m editing a technical manual. The engineers I’m working with have regularly typed amounts which are under one as “.05 inches” or “.67 inches.”

I’ve been of the opinion that this is to be typed “.05 inch” and “.67 inch,” as the amounts are less than one, but I can’t find anything to support either opinion.

Please advise.

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I suppose these questions are frequently preceded by an argument between one regarded as a pedant and another who is one secretly. I’m the pedant. Are these words pronounced so similarly as to be only identifiable by their context? For instance ‘a dentist works orally’ or ‘I am to give an oral presentation.’ This can lead to ambiguity (if they are pronounced the same): ‘I can only learn a language aurally/orally.’

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The closest word I can think of is “semi-daily,” but that is too specific. I’d prefer to describe, using a single word, the frequency of a particular event that happens more than once per day, although the number times is not significant and is not always the same.

If this is a rare opportunity for someone to make up a word, I welcome a suitable word from someone who is more qualified than I to create such a word.

Any ideas?

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... to describe a phrase where all words begin with the same letter?

Sally sells seashells at the sea shore..

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Does anybody know if there’s a term for inserting a word in to another word, particularly swear words? For example: Fam-damn-ily, or Ri-goddamn-diculous?

My roommate and I have scoured all of our grammar books and literary dictionaries, but to no avail. Any thoughts?

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There are many words in the English language which allegedly have no rhyme. I was wondering if there is a term to denote rhyme-less words (i.e. orange, silver...)?

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Is there a word or phrase that describes a vital process that is necessary to maintain a system or operation but is seldom thought about or considered.

For instance, the heart pumps blood but a healthy person doesn’t necessarily think about it as he/she goes about doing things.

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I have run into a slight dispute at work regarding the following statement and the context is travel insurance.

“The company will not reimburse for any additional cover beyond that already extended”

There then follows a short list of 3 or 4 items such as health insurance, life cover, baggage.

1. I interpreted the statement as follows: The company would not reimburse for cover that was additional in the specific categories already noted. For example increasing the amount of life cover would be such a case where no reimbursement would be paid. However I interpreted the statement as meaning that if the requested reimbursement was for insurance that was not in one of these noted areas i.e. had not already been ‘extended’ then a claim would be valid. In hindsight I feel that I have used the ability to possibly twist the interpretation into a situation where a modest claim for personal liability insurance cover of £70 (which was not a listed item) will be rejected.

2. 2 colleagues thought that the meaning was simple - no reimbursement for ANY additional cover. I can see this point but if that was what was intended why did the statement not just read ‘ The company will not reimburse any additional cover’?

Any ideas or somewhere where I can gather some opinions? BTW I am more interested in the principal and ensuring the correct wording for others in future than the actual claim.

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Responding to an old post (see below) I was under the impression that there were several kinds of Persian: Farsi, Dari, etc. If we use the word Persian, how does someone know to which one we are referrring? I have seen it written as Persian (Farsi) to make that clear. Is there a cultural reason why Persian is preferable?

Khodadad Rezakhani Mar-19-03 3:28AM Something I want to ask you to bring into attention. English has its own names for other languages: Eliniki is called Greek, Deutsch is German, and so on. About the name of the language of Iran: the English name is Persian, a correct name based on the rules of English. However, there has been a wide use of the word Farsi in main stream media (and even the computer world). Farsi is the local name for the language, and as we don’t say “I speak Espanol” when conversing in English, we shan’t say Farsi either. Please point out this matter in your weblog.

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Latest Comments

@jtu
Are you saying that Jane Austen could not have been wrong?

You know, it really surprises me that people who are apparently reasonably well educated seek to gainsay what has been taught for decades in schools in the UK and elsewhere.
It's a bit like the old lady watching troops marching past and exclaiming, "They're all out of step bar our Willie".

@HS You have not actually explained Jane Austen's use of 'family' - a "collective" noun - with a plural verb, which seems contrary to your opening post: 'Despite arguments to the contrary, "family" is a collective noun, and I don't care how many family members there might be, it therefore gets a singular verb.'

@jtu
In answer to your two previous posts.
1.
Education
2.
Family is and always will be a collective noun.

I would also like your analysis of whether "family" is a collective or plural noun in the following extract taken from Pride & Prejudice, Chapter VI of Volume II (Chap. 29):
"...and it was but the other day that I recommended another young person, who was merely accidentally mentioned to me, and the family are quite delighted with her."

@HS So how can we tell that "cattle" is plural but "herd" is a "collective" noun?

@jayles the unwoven

There are nouns which are recognised as having only a plural form and as such are not relevant to a discussion on collective nouns.
These include police, cattle, oats, tweezers, pants, remains.

@HS Could you please complete the following:
a) Quick! The police ___ coming!
b) The cattle ___ lowing, the baby awakes.

Please also explain how, in your world, we can tell which nouns are "collective" and which are not.

“It is I” vs. “It is me”

"It is I," and "It am I," are both stiff for the same reason; they are illiterate, for both attempt to mix first and third person pronouns and "to be" verbs.

Another way to answer the question, only this time with the word "me," would be with an appropriate preposition in front of it. For example, one could say, "This is the voice of me." Or if someone asked whose picture this is, one could answer, "It is an image of me."

One could drop the use of pronouns altogether and say, "It was my knocking you heard. May I come in?" Clearly, all the person on the other side of the door just needs to hear is the knocker's voice to know who it is.

My apologies for the typo in my previous post.
I should of course have used plurality instead of pluralism.

Resume, resumé, or résumé?

Just what I was looking for. I think it could also be useful for everyone to know how and where to merge documents online. BTW, if anyone needs to merge PDF/PNG files online, I found a service here <a href="http://www.altomerge.com/" >altomerge</a>.