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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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There’s an expression from the Southern United States that has always bugged me and it is “might could” which means may be willing and/or able to do something in the future. It is used like this:

“Are you going to do it?” “I’m not sure but I might could.”

Despite being bad grammar and redundant, my question is what is the correct response? Both the phrases, “I’m not sure but I might.” or “I’m not sure but I could.” just sound strange to me. Is the only way to use a longer phrase like, “I’m not sure but I might be willing to do it later.”

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What does it mean when someone states that they were “read the riot act” or that THEY read someone else “the riot act”? Is there such a thing as a Riot Act. I haven’t been able to locate information on this.

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“For all it’s worth” or “for all its worth”?

e.g. He rolled the R for all it’s worth.

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I have seen both OK and Okay used regularly. If OK is correct what do the O and the K stand for? If Okay what is the origin? Thank you.

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Is it correct to describe something as “most unique”? It seems to me that “most” is redunant though it does add emphasis akin to expressions such as “very pregnant” and “very dead”.

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In primary school we learned that prisoners were hanged by the neck until dead, and not hung by the neck until dead. Paintings, coats, and Christmas stockings are “hung”, not people. They are “hanged”. Is this correct? I hear news reporters say “hung” all the time. Never “hanged”.

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Is it regional to use “all of a sudden” versus “all the sudden?” The former sounds more correct to me.

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Could anybody tell me what these words above might mean or refer to? I’d be very, very grateful...

teletubbified, beefcakeosity, blubsome, hamburger junction, horseburger (do we really produce that kind of stuff??), jelly-bagging, rocktabulous, froogle, trammel-netter, woo-woo book, telangiectasia, truncus arteriosus. :-)))

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IYO, is “sailed through” a prepositional verb or a phrasal verb in the sentence below?

She sailed through her exams.

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It happened to me that I touched by accident the exhaust pipe of my motorbike when it was damn hot and got burnt.

Now, what would you say to questions like ‘What happened’? I always seem to carry over the pattern from Czech and look for a preposition such as ‘on’ or ‘by’ but it all sounds awful:

I got burnt ON/BY the exhaust pipe.

So I always end up resorting to either a long narrative or ‘It was the bike’...

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Latest Comments

First annual vs. second annual

  • Burt
  • January 19, 2017, 11:51pm

If I am correct and an annual event requires 2 years prior to an event for it to be considered an annual event. Then isn't the term "second annual" incorrect as well? Actually it should be referred to as consecutive meaning second? Looking forward to feedback!

I disagree with Dyske's answer.
In the first example, you are saying something that you know is not true.
In the second example, that is a subjective opinion. They can truly believe they have the best pizza, just like you hear people say they have the greatest wife or kids. It's a subjective opinion that they may truly believe in.
In the third example, that would be a lie because once again you are saying something that is not true even though it's hyperbole.
The way I under the definition of "lie" is that it wouldn't be a lie if I say something I BELIEVE to be true, but is factually wrong. If the police ask me to describe a suspect from memory I could truly believe I'm giving the correct description from memory and be factually wrong, but wasn't my INTENT to deceive the police.

Salutations in letters

In email to someone familiar, I open with "Hi" and sign off with "Cheers" or "Slàinte mhath". Otherwise I use "Good day" and "Regards".
In letters it's normally "Dear ......" and "Yours sincerely".
I agree that "Yours truly" and "Yours faithfully" now seem to be considered passé.

How about, "The rent has doubled.", or "The rent is now twice what it was."
Both "two times higher" and "two times as high" sound like phrases used by primary school kids.

Trust me, when you get to my age, mid 60s, you will start complaining when you hear words spoken which you have grown up with all your life, being given totally different meanings and you are supposed to calmly accept these new meanings without having a clue why they have been changed. If someone comes up to me and says hey as a greeting, then for me I am waiting for them to finish. Even when I just hear it in plays or films, it makes me feel very uncomfortable. I'm not writing here to say it's right or wrong just to make folk understand that it can be very unsettling for some of us.

The team has access to multiple sources

On Tomorrow

  • JBS
  • January 16, 2017, 2:22pm

This is an old world English term sometimes trapped in areas of Appalachia, like many other old German, Scottish, Irish and English phrases (or variations thereof). It's commonly used among religious African American folks in Georgia and Alabama from my experience. The reason so many comments have referenced NE Georgia, Kentucky, and North Carolina etc.. is the Appalachian connection.

An extension of solecism?

Actress instead of Actor

I have long found referring to both male and female thespians as "actors" extremely distasteful, as in PC gone amok. When I waited tables, I had no problem with the term "waitress." Then again, I have no problem with the term "comedienne" for a female comedian. The stewardess/steward thing which is now deemed offensive seems patently absurd to me, but well, "flight attendant" it is! However, reading all the comments with historic connotations does help me make a bit more sense of it all. Personally, I have no problem with the masculine and feminine forms of words/professions, and in fact I do buck against changing all of that, but appreciate the perspectives offered. I totally get that a female MD is not called a doctoress in English, but she would be called "la doctora" in Spanish, and a male "el doctor."

Usually a brand name or a play on words, used in advertising. Like the old pop brand, "Hi Klas" rather than "Hi Class" I want to say what that is called. Would an advertising agency know, I wonder? Or a college course in advertising maybe?