March 16, 2010  •  gretchen

mines

I hear people make the word “mine” plural as in, “The book is mines.” This drives me crazy! Has anyone else had this experience and where did this word come from? I have been teaching for over 20 years and it seems to have surfaced in the last 6-8 years or so. Is it just people being lazy?

April 14, 2009  •  Dyske

Why Don’t We Abolish Irregular Verbs and Nouns?

My 4-year old daughter haven’t learned about irregular verbs and nouns yet, so she often uses the regular versions like “hided”, “breaked”, “mouses”, “fishes”, etc.. Obviously kids learn the rules and try to consistently apply them instead of learning the usage of every word case by case. So, they face the same exact frustration that ESL students do, which was a bit of a surprise to me. I thought kids learn in a more empirical, case-by-case manner, rather than relying on logical patterns. This lead me to look up the history of irregular verbs and nouns. If native speakers of English have a hard time learning it at first, how did irregular verbs and nouns come into existence in the first place? It’s as if some sadistic English teacher invented them so that he would have more things to test his students on. I found this entry on Wikipedia about Indo-European ablaut which explains the history of it. Not being a linguist, I didn’t quite get some of the things explained there, but I understood that the irregular verbs and nouns came from different linguistic systems within which they were perfectly regular. In other words, the English language has incorporated different systems of inflection, and now we are stuck with them. But I feel that this is something that we could all agree to change, just as the whole world (except for the Americans) decided at one point to adopt the metric system. We just have to deal with the grammar Nazis cringe and squirm uncontrollably for several years until they get over it. We would have one less thing we have to study at school, and the same time and effort can be used to learn something more meaningful and useful.

May 11, 2008  •  howardthornhill

“pi the type”

I have now found the phrase “pi the type” in two different books and have an idea of the meaning from the context. I would hope to learn more about the meaning and how it might have originated.

July 26, 2007  •  goossun

Dick & Bob

Can anyone explain why the short forms or the nicknames for Robert and Richard are Bob and Dick?

February 8, 2007  •  Dyske

Ass

Why is the word “ass” considered a curse word inappropriate for children? “Fuck” for instance is understandable because it refers to an act inappropriate for children to engage in. (I personally don’t care, but I understand why other parents would care.) For similar reasons, I understand why any words that refer to our sexual organs would be considered inappropriate for children. “Bitch” is also understandable because it degrades women by associating them to dogs. When I look up the etymology of the word “ass”, all I see are references to buttocks and rear end. So, who decides or decided that “ass” should not be used by children? It appears to me that some people at some point in history started using “ass” to mean a sexual object, and the usage gained in popularity. Suppose some famous comedian or writer starts using the word “buttocks” to mean the same, and it gains in popularity. Are we then to classify it as a curse word and prevent children from using it? Does it make sense to give into that kind of arbitrary forces?

February 7, 2007  •  jarbalix

How did “trans-” become “x-”?

I can understand the need to shorten commonly used terms in technical language, but how did they get x from trans? e.g. transmit --> xmit transfer --> xfer “Trans” in this sense indicates a relocation from one thing to another. My only guess is that x is a graphical interpretation of a path crossing from one side to another. Any suggestions?

January 25, 2007  •  Dyske

Materialism

The word “materialism” as used by the general public (as in Madonna’s “Material Girl”) is quite different from the one used by philosophers like Marx. I’m always surprised by how even highly educated people confuse the two. Communism is based on Marx’s materialist philosophy, yet the US is often described as a materialistic nation. This is confusing to many people. Did the popular usage of “materialism” come out of the misuse/misunderstanding of the philosophical term? Or, does the popular usage have its own etymology/origin independent of the philosophical one? Or, was the philosophical one based on the popular usage?

November 24, 2006  •  haynesgoddard

Why do we call it “Predicate nominative”

While this is normally a grammar question, I cannot find why we use the language “predicate nominative” to name parts of a sentence. On the surface it connotes nothing. A search of my grammar books, the unabridged dictionary, the OED and an on-line search reveal nothing about the origin of this usage. Also, do we know what grammarian first applied this taxomony? “Nominative” in Latin means “naming”. Do we mean that the part of the sentence with this name is based on, “predicated on”, the subject of the sentence? That is, is the noun “predicate” in this usage related to the verb “predicate”? I have always thought this an unfortunate taxomy, as it makes language learning doubly difficult -- first the language, and then these arcane names to talk about it. This after having studied three European languages plus my own.

June 28, 2006  •  colleen

Why “behead” and not “dehead” or “unhead”?

Why is “behead” the term for removing a person’s head rather than “dehead” or “unhead”? Other words that begin with the “be-” prefix seem to be opposite in meaning to the idea of something being removed or coming off (e.g., become, begin, besmirch, befuddle, bestow, belittle).

April 23, 2006  •  xmrcx

Second and a half generation?

Irrespective of whether 1st generations are the ones who are born first in the new country vs. the ones who immigrated, [See the previous post] what would your child be if say you are 1st generation and your spouse is 2nd generation - Is your child “second and a half”? Curious to know what people under such circumstance (or similar) call themselves?

April 23, 2006  •  elizabethmcauley

Contractions

I have read that at one time in the American South, it was not common to use an apostrophe to form a contraction of words. Some examples used in the article were you’re spelled as youre, don’t as dont. The implication was that the change was part of Reconstruction and a way of forcing conformity on the southern states. I cannot remember where I read this nor what sources were cited as reference. Where can I find information to prove or disprove that such was the case?

March 12, 2006  •  isabella

Genius and Ingenious

Genius has no ‘o’ in it and yet ingenious does. Why the difference in spelling?

February 24, 2006  •  christina

Fora vs Forums

According to the Oxford English Dictionary... forum n. (pl. forums) 1) a meeting or medium for an exchange of views. 2) (pl. fora) (in an ancient Roman city) a public square or marketplace used for judicial and other business. Origin ME: from Latin, lit. what is out of doors. But everywhere else I’ve looked, it seems that forums and fora are interchangable. I personally prefer to use the word forums, when referring to a group of workshops and meetings. I want to argue for this at my work because the term fora is being used and I want to know if there’s more evidence that I’m actually correct, besides what the Oxford English Dictionary tells me.

January 28, 2006  •  andrew3

The use of “hey” in place of “hello”.

I never paid this much attention until my dad mentioned today that it’s never sounded right to him when people say “hey” instead of “hi” or “hello”. I’ve been using it this way for at least 20 years, but I looked it up in various dictionaries and haven’t yet found a definition consistent with this usage. Most references just define it as “an interjection used to call attention” or something similar and leave it at that. Any thoughts or references that might shed some light?

December 19, 2005  •  m56

Using “would”

Below, is the speaker B sure of who the person is? If so, why not say “That is Julia Roberts”? A: Who’s that woman over there? B: That would be Julia Roberts.

November 27, 2005  •  m56

Are these questions in idiomatic English?

Hi All On another forum, two native English speakers insisted that the questions shown below were incorrect English. Please tell me why, if the affirmative forms (answers ) shown are allowed, the question form is not allowed. What does psychology study? What does solid state physics study? What does quantum mechanics study? ................ -Psychology studies the relationship between environments and human behaviour. -Psychology studies the human psyche, behavior, and mental processes. This diverse field has roots in biology, medicine, philosophy, religion, and history. ... -Solid state physics studies the processes taking place on surfaces and semi-conductors. - -Theoretical physics above all examines the theory of quantum fields, gravitation and quantum information. -Quantum mechanics studies the behavior of atoms and the particles that make them up. Thanks

November 20, 2005  •  gabrielle

pronunciation of th

I am trying to figure out if there is a definite pattern in when ‘th’ is voiced (as in ‘the’) or unvoiced (as in ‘thin’). Someone has commented that sounds are to a large degree determined by the sound that comes after them. This doesn’t explain to me why the ‘th’ in ‘with’ and ‘myth’ are pronounced differently as they have the same ‘sound’ preceding them and nothing after. Can anyone shed any light on this for me? Thanks

September 28, 2005  •  steve

O’clock

What does the “o’” in “o’clock” stand for? I’ve heard it means “of the”, but that sounds odd. “I’ll meet you at two of the clock”. Perhaps it means “on the” which makes more sense to me. “I’ll meet you at two on the clock”

September 28, 2005  •  steve

Akin

Does the word “akin” share roots with other words starting an “a”? For example, “Morton’s gone acourtin’ Daisy Sue”. And if so, are these hillbilly expressions? Hillbillies on TV never seem to use the word “akin” they say “kin” a lot as in “...we’re kin folk”.

September 28, 2005  •  steve

Nope

Where does the word “nope” come from? Is it just slang for “no” or does it have more distinguished roots?

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