Submitted by Dyske  •  October 7, 2003

Shame on You!

This is not exactly a language thing but when you say “Shame on you!”, you brush your index finger against the other. What does that mean? Where did it come from? What does that symbolize?

Submitted by Dyske  •  October 2, 2003

Either Is or Am

Which one is correct?

Either he or I am a fool.

Either he or I is a fool

Submitted by cynthia  •  September 21, 2003

Doofus vs. idiot

Although my husband, who is French, has spent more than twenty years in the U.S., he still sometimes asks for clarification of obscure linguistic issues. One that I have found to be especially elusive is “doofus.” What is the exact difference, my husband wondered, between a doofus and an idiot? It seems to me that “idiot” can be used to describe any old bonehead, but that a doofus is always male, white, fat, AND stupid. I would be interested in others’ points of view on this topic.

Submitted by Dyske  •  September 21, 2003

A Jew and Jews

While we are at this racial slur thing: I was told that “He is a Jew” sounds offensive, but “He is Jewish” does not, because the former sounds like a Nazi trying to identify Jews from the rest, which is odd because he would not be speaking English in the first place. To make the matter more confusing, I was told that “They are Jews” is not offensive. Singular is offensive but plural isn’t? You would probably say, “He is American” instead of “He is an American”, but either way it does not sound offensive.

Submitted by Dyske  •  September 17, 2003

Chink

Webster defines “chink” as “narrow opening”.

However in California people seem to only think about its derogatory (bigotry) meaning, and only after you press them they recall that “Oh yeah, we actually say ‘chink in the fence’ so that probably makes sense”.

Just curious, how widespread is its original meaning - is it only in the Golden State people react like that?

Submitted by Dyske  •  May 22, 2003

Couldn’t Care Less

A pet peeve of mine is people incorrectly using the expression “I could care less”. I’m no grammar nazi as you can tell from this email, but it doesn’t make sense to say. Here is an example.

Rooomate 1: “You suck at this video game. I always kick your butt in it.” Roomate 2: “I could care less.” Roomate 1: “Haha.”

If you say you COULD care less then that means you care to some degree. However, if you COULDN’T care less (the proper way of saying the expression) then it means you absolutely don’t care at all, therefore properly expressing your apathy.

From Brad Davis

Submitted by Dyske  •  May 8, 2003

Sister Company

Why sister? Why not “brother company”?

Submitted by Dyske  •  April 29, 2003

Ranks has or have

In the following sentence, which is correct: has or have.

The ranks of the liberal weblog community (has or have) increased by one.

Submitted by Dyske  •  April 25, 2003

Trouble with Trouble

When is “trouble” a countable noun? In what context, would you say “a trouble” or “troubles”?

“He is trouble.” “He gave me a lot of trouble.”

In both cases above, I’m tempted to say:

“He is a trouble.” “He gave me a lot of troubles.”

Submitted by Dyske  •  April 20, 2003

War in/on/with Iraq

Every media organization had its pick. The implication for each is quite interesting.

1. War in Iraq: This implies that it is a war that is happening in Iraq, almost as though it just happens to be happening IN Iraq. It manages to stay neutral on the political and ideological stance of the war.

2. War on Iraq: This sounds strong. It is almost equivalent to saying “war against Iraq.” It implies either that the enemy is Iraq as a nation or Iraq as the regime. The latter being the preferred implication of the Bush administration.

3. War with Iraq: Now, what does this imply? “With” is a funny preposition to use, because it makes it sounds friendly, like, “We are doing this together.”

Submitted by savgpncl  •  March 20, 2003

New phrase with the onset of the Iraqi War

Journalists are now either “embedded with...” or “embedded”. Shouldn’t it be “embedded in a troop?” Not quite sure how this phrase should be used -- it is indeed a terrible replacement for simply saying: “so-and-so is with the 3rd Cavalry division.”

Submitted by Dyske  •  March 18, 2003

20 Something

I was under the impression that “20 something” meant someone in his/her early 20s. Would a 29 year old be still considered “20 something”? When did this expression start?

Submitted by Dyske  •  February 18, 2003

Value

What is the difference between:

“It has a value.” and “It has value.”

Submitted by Dyske  •  February 11, 2003

ON the Lower East Side

The newspaper headlines read:

“Dell Dude Arrested with Pot ON the Lower East Side”

“The Lower East Side” is a name of the neighborhood. You would not say he was arrested ON Chelsea. Why would you use “ON”?

Submitted by Dyske  •  February 5, 2003

Matching the tense

“I argued that McDonald’s is good for you.”

Should it be:

“I argued that McDonald’s was good for you.”

Do I need to match the tense between “argued” and “Is” or “was”?

Submitted by Dyske  •  February 5, 2003

Taking sides

It seems odd that you say, “take sides”. Wouldn’t it make more sense to say “take a side”? Why plural?

Submitted by Dyske  •  January 23, 2003

Decades

60′s, 70′s, 80′s, 90′s, and now what? 00′s? What do you call the current decade?

Submitted by Dyske  •  January 3, 2003

Perturb vs. Disturb

What is the difference? How would you use them differently?

Submitted by Dyske  •  December 17, 2002

Down to the Wire

Where did the “wire” come from?

Submitted by Dyske  •  December 12, 2002

In and of itself

What does “and of” add to this phrase? That is, what is the difference between:

“I agree. Islam isn’t evil in and of itself.” and “I agree. Islam isn’t evil in itself.”

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