November 2, 2004  •  perenna

Realize or realise?

I have this impression that American orthography started to differ slightly from the British spelling because the emigrants sort of started from a clean table in their writing, and spelling grew closer to pronunciation. Americans write ‘realize’, ‘organize’, ‘Elizabeth’, while Brits write ‘realise’, ‘organise’, ‘Elisabeth’: when said aloud, the words have a voiced sibilant, hence the ’z’ instead of ’s’. Also vice versa. The clearly sounding ’r’ in American pronunciation in words like ’word’, ’bird’, ’are’, should, according to my knowledge, derive from the same liaison between speaking and writing: because it is written, it can also be heard. The audible ’r’ is a kind of relic that has worn off from the British pronunciation. Is this so?

November 1, 2004  •  goossun

V-cards

Does anyone knows what “V-cards” mean? I was at a Hotel reception in Spain and there were a bunch of American teenagers around. One of them just said to the other “Go race some V-cards” by which he surely meant “shut up” and it was supposed to be offensive. I asked two of my American friends the next day and they said they had no idea what that could have been. I’m almost sure I heard it correctly because there was a Spanish girl among those teenagers who asked “what’s V-cards” and one of the American girls explained to her in a low voice that I could not hear. Though the word “race” might’ve been “raise” or something like that!

October 15, 2004  •  martin

“all but” - I hate that expression!

Can’t help it but I really despise the expression “all but”. How did a phrase that suggests the opposite of what it says ever come into currency? “Such actions were all but unheard of then” “Later, they were all but wiped out in a British attack” “They were all but exterminated by the Jedi” PS: For some discoveries in word coignage read Neal Stephenson’s trilogy The Baroque Cycle. A mere 3000 pages.

October 1, 2004  •  goossun

Fuff

What does “fuff” mean Dave? Is a corruption of puff?

September 10, 2004  •  ghoti

Big fish, small pond

I have recently heard the English expression “Big fish in a small pond”. Does anybody know what this means? Can anybody think of an example of one?

September 5, 2004  •  anna

Irregardless?

I have heard highly educated people use this word. Where did it come from and why do people use it? It seems almost as if they are uncomfortable using just plain old regardless and feel that the word should sound more complex or something, and so they say irregardless. I have never been able to figure out how this word was created. Any ideas?

August 26, 2004  •  goossun

ab

Hi all. I’m back after a long time. I just finish a short movie and you don’t know what a pain I had, writing the dialogues in English. Anyway, is there any other word than “abnormal” which is negated with prefix AB? Of course there are obscure words like “abnegate”, but I mean the words that one really uses.

August 10, 2004  •  marta

Flying (with) Colours?

Why are the colours flying in the idiom “to do something with flying colours”?

August 3, 2004  •  marta

Five O’clock Shadow

I’ve always been baffled by the idiom ‘’five o’clock shadow’. It’s one of my favourites. Can you tell me what it comes from and who coined it?

July 21, 2004  •  marta

Swinging a Cat

Does anyone know the etymology of the phrase: ‘’not enough room to swing the cat'’?

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