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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

Fora vs Forums

@Lenur Poetry and lyrics sometimes use a less usual word order to suit their purpose; nothing wrong in that, as long as it is readily understandable. In fact "I can see how tiny are we" is a word order which is often, albeit mistakenly, used by some non-native speakers of English.

Social vs Societal

I hope you're still not running a proofreading service, as just glancing at this post I've spotted two errors. That doesn't fill me with confidence! You've missed a question mark at the end of one sentence, and the word 'separate' has an 'a' in the middle, not an 'e'.

Fora vs Forums

  • Lenur
  • March 28, 2017, 3:23am

Hi everyone!
Again, I need your help
I know that correct construction of the sentence:
"I can see how tiny we are"
But is it possible to say?

"i can see how tiny are we"
Like a statement....
Because in my situation it's better for singing, riming and flow in the song. Or it just sounds stupid?

The fact of the matter is is that

  • Thad B
  • March 27, 2017, 11:28pm

This is similar to the "that that" problem, which I have myself found utilizing. Perhaps, if not in such a rush with emails, I would find the time to reconstruct my sentence to avoid "that that", though I don't find it difficult to understand when I read it myself. Perhaps others do.

English, at least American English, is an evolving language. I am abhorred by radio, television and my own just-adult children who have seemed to have forgotten what an adverb is. The sentence "He ran really quick" irks me constantly but seems to be common usage these days. While I dislike the new usage, I am also not an advocate of using Old English, ergo - I am accepting of the evolving language.

Salutations in letters

  • Thad B
  • March 27, 2017, 10:06pm

I use "Hello Jim"
and sign,

"Regards,
John"

I work for a high tech American firm in New York.

Someone else’s

The grammar patterns of Courts Martial, Judge Advocates General, etc. would seem to agree. In example, those who pass flatulence would be "gas passers" or passers of gas, just as passers by, which is short for an entire phrase "passers by the side of [implied or mentioned object]" is different. However, "someone else" appears to hearken back to a more Germanic form of grammar, rather than the French Norman with its Latin influence. If this is the origin of the phrase, then using the entire phrase as a single noun or idea would be appropriate. In this case, where both words originate from the Germanic, it would be "someone else's". The Germans frequently abbreviate such phrases where they become excessively long, but in their original were written as one word using their cursive. In school I studied French, Classical Latin, and German enough to become aware that our aggregatenous language has so many exceptions because of those origins. (I have dabbled with Gaelic which is as far as I can tell the source of split infinitives.)

Someone else’s

The easiest way to avoid the use of "someone else's" (which is grammatically incorrect), is to put the NOUN, with which you are linking the possessive, FIRST in the sentence.
For example: "It was someone else's fault." (incorrect)
"It was the fault of someone else." (correct)
This works every time when you write, but for conversational speech, "someone else's" is the common usage. However, if you are quoting what was spoken by someone else, then you would want to quote it exactly.

@Lisa: biennial

What happens if you skip a year?