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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

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?

I'd say that when using the % sign it would be "between 40% and 50%" but when spelling it out "between 40 and 50 percent" would be adequate.