December 1, 2009  •  redfern

Moments & Seconds

Are you writers aware of time? More and more often I read about a character staring at another character for several moments. If you mean several brief time periods, try using seconds. It’s much more powerful and precise. For example, “the angry client stared at the well-dressed bank manager for several seconds”. That’s believable and many of us have experience glaring at someone for several seconds. But if you use several “moments” in that phrase it just sounds endless and wrong and inaccurate. Who holds eye contact for several “moments”? Unless it’s a prelude to a kiss, someone is sure to walk away before several moments are up.

November 26, 2009  •  whoopycat

“...not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

I’m curious as to the origin of the phrase “...not that there’s anything wrong with that.” I have a vague recollection of hearing it for the first time -- possibly in a comedian’s act? -- many years ago, clearly in the context that it now seems to ubiquitously have: a reference to homosexuality. For the life of me, I cannot recall who it was I first heard say this. I do seem to recall that it was long before Seinfeld made it popular. Does anyone else have a similar memory?

July 26, 2009  •  mikesheehan

“on the day”

Normally, I would say “Williams had 4 singles for the day,” but many sportscasters use “ON the day” instead. Does anyone know the origin of this use? The editor of an online baseball encyclopedia had no idea, so I’m not sure where to go for an answer.

July 19, 2009  •  tracy

on “condition”

I’m a new editor and am confused about the use of “condition”. If it is used to describe a strict experimental condition, is only “on condition that” can be used, but not “under the conditions of”? A senior editor tells me that the latter can not be used to describe experimental conditions, and if one really wants to use it, he/she should change the prep. into “on”. However, there is no such saying as “on the conditions that” in a dictionary(Longman). Looking forward to correct explanation.

May 15, 2009  •  Dyske

Peter thins them out

This Japanese program claims that Peter Pan regularly killed children when they grew too old. Here is the paragraph from the original book by James Matthew Barrie: All wanted blood except the boys, who liked it as a rule, but to-night were out to greet their captain. The boys on the island vary, of course, in numbers, according as they get killed and so on; and when they seem to be growing up, which is against the rules, Peter thins them out; but at this time there were six of them, counting the twins as two. The controversial phrase here is “thins them out”. How would you interpret it?

April 11, 2009  •  ally

Cut on/off

Since I’ve moved to North Carolina I have heard many people say “Cut on/off” the power or lights or any electronic device, and I’m very curious as to why.

January 27, 2009  •  euniceng

Green eyes

Could you please tell me what it means if someone calls you “green eyes”, but you don’t actually have green eyes. We’re trying to figure out if it means envy/jealousy, being temperamental, or something else?

December 1, 2008  •  gidgegary

Please be advised....

My local Public transport company has started delivering recorded messages on the train platform “Please be advised that patrons must wait till the train has come to a complete stop before crossing the yellow line”. I find this message completely grates on me, and I suffer it each time I wait on the train platform for my train. “Please” is a polite request for me to take some form of action. I have a choice. I can comply with the request or I can refuse the request. If an instruction is given to me with the precursor “Please be advised” then I am presented with a fait accompli and have no opportunity to decide whether I will comply with the request or not. It is not, in fact, a request in any form and does not provide the recipient with any capacity to dismiss or refuse the request. For this reason, I consider it to be manglish. Can you confirm that “Please be advised” is manglish?

April 20, 2008  •  rfw

Let’s you and me/I

Is it correct to say “Let’s you and I” or “Let’s you and me”?

April 1, 2008  •  nickbrock

Big, red bull vs red, big bull

Why is it more appropriate to say the big, red bull was running fast, rather than the red, big bull was running fast?

January 1, 2008  •  dredsina

Try and

I’m wondering about the phrase, “try and.” (Used like this: “I’m going to try and stop him.”) I know that it’s technically grammatically correct, but is it okay to say it? Would it be better to say, “I’m going to try TO stop him” instead?

December 19, 2007  •  niskys

As it were

I’ve heard people say “as it were” quite often. It doesn’t even sound wrong to me anymore. But shouldn’t it really be “as it WAS” instead, for proper subject verb agreement?

December 18, 2007  •  janine

Sings like a canary

Where does that phrase come from and what does it mean?

November 19, 2007  •  offwiththeirheads

Origin of the saying “off with their heads”

I know the saying was popularized from the movie Alice in Wonderland. Did the expression “off with their heads” have it’s origin in England or France?

October 19, 2007  •  goossun

Head shot

As nasty as it sounds, for a translation I just need to know what the word is for the shooting into head of an executed person after being shot by the fire squad. Is it a head shot? Or there is a military jargon for it?

October 18, 2007  •  justine


When I lived in Canada (I’m Australian) I noticed a common phrase used by interviewers and reporters was “could you speak to that” used in the sense of “Prime minister I believe you have discussed changes to the immigration policy... could you speak to that?” I found it a little uncomfortable and wondered if it was a new journalistic lingo phrase or a perfectly correct Canadian expression. Could any Canadians speak to that? : )

October 12, 2007  •  goossun


What does “tooing and frowing” mean? And why these words cannot be found in any dictionary (at least in those I looked at?) Is it a corruption of “to and fro?” Is “frowing” a word and could it be used separately and if so would it mean differently than that of the phrase?

October 2, 2007  •  Dyske

First Husband or First Gentleman?

If Hillary Clinton is elected as the president of the US, what should Bill Clinton be called? I’ve seen both “first husband” and “first gentleman.” Wikipedia seems to think that it should be the latter.

July 30, 2007  •  xylo

nowadays business?

Is this correct? As in “in response to some of the most problematic issues of nowadays business”? To me it sounds strange, although it seems to have a couple hundred entries in Google. I’d opt for “today’s business”.

July 6, 2007  •  Dyske

Don’t mind if I do

When we say, “Don’t mind if I do,” what is the subject we are omitting? Is it: I don’t mind if I do. or You don’t mind if I do.

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