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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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Salutations in letters

In email to someone familiar, I open with "Hi" and sign off with "Cheers" or "Slàinte mhath". Otherwise I use "Good day" and "Regards".
In letters it's normally "Dear ......" and "Yours sincerely".
I agree that "Yours truly" and "Yours faithfully" now seem to be considered passé.

How about, "The rent has doubled.", or "The rent is now twice what it was."
Both "two times higher" and "two times as high" sound like phrases used by primary school kids.

Trust me, when you get to my age, mid 60s, you will start complaining when you hear words spoken which you have grown up with all your life, being given totally different meanings and you are supposed to calmly accept these new meanings without having a clue why they have been changed. If someone comes up to me and says hey as a greeting, then for me I am waiting for them to finish. Even when I just hear it in plays or films, it makes me feel very uncomfortable. I'm not writing here to say it's right or wrong just to make folk understand that it can be very unsettling for some of us.

The team has access to multiple sources

On Tomorrow

  • JBS
  • January 16, 2017, 2:22pm

This is an old world English term sometimes trapped in areas of Appalachia, like many other old German, Scottish, Irish and English phrases (or variations thereof). It's commonly used among religious African American folks in Georgia and Alabama from my experience. The reason so many comments have referenced NE Georgia, Kentucky, and North Carolina etc.. is the Appalachian connection.

An extension of solecism?

Actress instead of Actor

I have long found referring to both male and female thespians as "actors" extremely distasteful, as in PC gone amok. When I waited tables, I had no problem with the term "waitress." Then again, I have no problem with the term "comedienne" for a female comedian. The stewardess/steward thing which is now deemed offensive seems patently absurd to me, but well, "flight attendant" it is! However, reading all the comments with historic connotations does help me make a bit more sense of it all. Personally, I have no problem with the masculine and feminine forms of words/professions, and in fact I do buck against changing all of that, but appreciate the perspectives offered. I totally get that a female MD is not called a doctoress in English, but she would be called "la doctora" in Spanish, and a male "el doctor."

Usually a brand name or a play on words, used in advertising. Like the old pop brand, "Hi Klas" rather than "Hi Class" I want to say what that is called. Would an advertising agency know, I wonder? Or a college course in advertising maybe?

Pronunciation: aunt

I'm Mexican native American from Los Angeles California and I use Ant not aunt but I have heard my cousins say aunt before. Personally I prefer ant.

In general, the noun/verb distinction is accurate, but not completely so.

If I were a lobbyist, I might say "I advocate lower taxes."

But if the Republican Party retained me (with or without pay) as an advocate for lower taxes, I could say "I am an advocate (noun) for the Republican Party" or "I advocate (verb) for the Republican Party."