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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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Anyone know the origin of the term ‘dew claw’ in referring to the extra claw on a dog’s leg?

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I have always thought that “2 write” like this did not exist “B4″ the Internet and online chatting. But strange enough I saw in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations that he has used this kind of spelling to picture his illiterate character that is Pip when he is still living with his sister and Joe: “MI DEER JO I OPE U R KRWITE WELL I OP I SHAL SON B HABELL 4 2 TEEDGE U JO AN THEN WE SHORL B SO GLODD AN WEN I M PRENGTD 2 U JO WOT LARX AN BLEVE ME INF AN PIP.” Does anyone know of any earlier instance of such thing?

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HELP! I understand that coke, kleenex and xerox are examples of synecdoches, but I believe that there is a word for the specific kind of synecdoche where a brand name has come to mean the generic name for a product. This search has been driving me moderately insane. Any help you can give will be truly appreciated by myself, my family, and my pharmacist.

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Why do English speakers use the Japanese word “Tsunami”, when there is a perfectly usable word “tidal wave”? Not just English speakers, even Germans, Italians, and French use “Tsunami”. Does Tsunami happen most commonly in Japan? Personally, I don’t remember any Tsunami incidents when I was living in Japan.

Also, why do some people pronounce it “Sunami” when it starts with a “T”?

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What is the little machine called that one slides one’s credit card through it when one wants to pay. And which verb do you use when you do this act? Is it called a “printer” the part that prints out the receipt? Or has it a specific name in this case. What is it called when one hands ones credit card to the shop keeper for instance and then have to sign the receipt and what is it called when one just uses the machine and enter one’s PIN code? What is the old machine called that used to be used (it rarely still is) that makes a carbon copy of the credit card surface by placing it inside and sliding a part over it. I would appreciate if you could provide a wider glossary of credit card usage please.

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all

Dictionaries say that the word, all -among other functions- is an adjective. I seem not to understand this. I was taught that to make sure whether a word is adjective one can make a sentence with [the specific] noun + to be + [the specific] adjective. i.e. “blue sky”, “sky is blue.” This formula seems to function in all the adjectives except “all.” Can anyone explain why the English dictionaries call “all” an adjective? I have looked up many examples, but it didn’t help.

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What does the title, Clockwork Orange mean? I have found this. Is it correct? Does anyone from London know this slang? I also wonder what exactly th etitle, Family Plot means if you have seen the film, I mean Hitchcock’s.

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I’m wondering what the meaning of “Conceptual Art” is. Could anyone help me? Thanks a lot.

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BCC

I was curious what the BCC feature of e-mail stands for and just found out that it stands for “Blind Carbon Copy.” Now I have a new problem: does this term - blind carbon copy - exist in terms of paper letter? If yes, what is it?

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Is there an English noun that means a woman who is old enough that doesn’t get menstruation anymore and therefore cannot be pregnant? I’m especially looking for an ordinary word, rather than any scientific’s. I can’t find such word, a noun, in any language (not even in my mother tongue) but in Arabic, that is, “Ya’ese.” Any help?

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Latest Comments

X and S

How do I make the name Fox in possessive plural form?
Ex. Ms. Fox' instructional practices... or Ms. Fox's instructional practices...

He was sat

  • Marusja
  • February 17, 2017, 7:04am

I can see that there is a long and diverse discussion on here, but my response is to you Brus, hailing from the British Isles. The epidemic as you rightly describe it, seems to be spreading contagion like from the BBC and into written material. "I was sat" and "we were stood" are examples of colloquial terms from the North of England. Dialects are unique to an area and rich in expression when used in an authentic way and don't appear out of place.

The reason we may be startled by the sudden introduction of such vernacular is due to it simply being out of place when spoken by someone who has been educated in the Queen's English. It rankles because it is wrong in our ears. Unfortunately, this is a legacy of inverted class snobbery whereby some people think that they should downgrade the language in order not to sound 'posh'. It backfires spectacularly though upon them when they try so hard to fit in with the crowd, rather than represent the side of 'well spoken'. I cringe whenever I hear these dialects out of place, not just because of the infringement but also because it doesn't sound beautiful or harmonious, but clumsy.

My mother couldn't speak English when she arrived in the country shortly after WW2. By listening to the radio and armed with a dictionary and the daily newspaper, she taught herself through these mediums. Later she read to us as children and took us to the library, where I inherited a love of the language, reading several books a week by the time I was 7 years old.

Although we lived in the Midlands, I didn't have a regional accent since my exposure early on had been to programmes such as 'Women's Hour' and radio presenters in those days all and without fail spoke to a standard considered appropriate. After all, they were communicating to all and needed to be understood widely.

On passing the eleven plus exam and entering Grammar school, we had a Headmaster and a Head Mistress. Miss Simister had a passion for the English language and heaven forbid any pupil who might drop an H or flatten a vowel. I felt right at home there.

It wasn't about being elite, it was about learning and knowledge. It was about aiming for excellence and drawing out the best in oneself.

Miss Simister would turn in her grave were she to hear the downfall of the language. As someone born and raised in the UK, I can assure you that the standards have slipped considerably. It isn't possible for someone learning the language to be sure that they are being taught English correctly if studying here.

I am not speaking out against dialects as they remain an integral part of our culture. To introduce a convoluted invasion however into received pronunciation is noticeably discordant, drawing attention in the wrong way. It becomes an interruption and tunes out whatever the speaker might be conveying.

There is hope though. Apparently when asked, people do prefer the sublime eloquence of the spoken word as voiced by Joanna Lumley and Diana Rigg, recognizing these dulcet tones to be vehicles of quality, easy on the ear and without question completely trustworthy ambassadors of English in all its glory.

No Woman No Cry

It means, if the woman is gone, there will be no tears. It is a reference to the queen and her rule of Jamaica at the time. It's a political song.

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fill in the blanks!

  • Sheri
  • February 15, 2017, 4:23pm

I have a release of all claims and above the notary & witness signatures, there is this statement:
WITNESS___________ hand and seal this ______ day of _________, 2017; what is put in after WITNESS?

Idea Vs. Ideal

  • FrankR
  • February 14, 2017, 9:18pm

I think that using ideal when idea should be the correct word is a silly way to speak. I hear ideal used incorrectly all the time, it really gets on my nerves. Oh well...

How many “ands” in a row

  • Josh S.
  • February 13, 2017, 3:18pm

Wouldn't it have been clearer if quotation marks had been placed before Peg, and between Peg and and, and and and And, and And and and, and and and And, and And and and, and and and Whistle, as well as after whistle?" This sentence is much easier to read because the writer placed commas between and and and and and and And, and and and and And and and And and and, and and And and and and and and and And, and and and and And and and And and and, and and And and and and and and and.

Twice what it was (= 2x).

He was sat

  • marie
  • February 13, 2017, 1:14pm

Sorry, but your argument doesn't make sense to me. If you were teaching science you would give your students the correct formula. I think the tragedy is that in the UK grammar hasn't been taught for so long, a lot of people who try to teach English don't understand enough to do this effectively. I certainly wouldn't have any respect for a teacher who didn't teach me correctly.

This website was really useless and was no help to me. All I wanted to know was the tension/stress of totalitarianism and it did not give me anything. This website is useless ad it should be taken down. It will be know help to anyone.

Thank You