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.
Search Pain in the English
Aside from being accurate in quoting from Highlander I had never really given much thought to the construction of this phrase, but I recently overheard a discussion in which one of the protagonists was adamant that there is a subtle difference in meaning between the two versions.
His reasoning was beyond me and I will not repeat it here for fear of tainting your views, however it did pique my curiosity.
This word has been driving me crazy. Figuratively speaking, I have been having an argument with my Word program about whether the adjective can act attributively or not. The sentence I had was something like this:
“The chary receptionist refused to permit the man into the offices upstairs.”
To begin, my Word program underlines chary with the green squiggle and states adjective [mis]use. I ran it through another grammar checker and it came back as commonly confused words. After a little research, I found that that word was wary. I consulted several dictionaries:
My Concise Oxford English Dictionary: chary- cautiously or suspiciously reluctant.
The dictionary program on my computer: chary- cautiously or suspiciously reluctant to do something.
Wiktionary: chary- Cautious; wary; shy
The first two dictionaries, specifically my computer’s, noted the phrase “chary of”. I then proceeded to see if there was an entry in my Webster’s Usage Dictionary. Luckily it was there, but all that it revealed to me was chary being molded into “chary+preposition”. Receiving no help, I tracked down another site that stated that the difference between wary and chary is “very slight”. However, I returned and checked wiktionary’s quotes and found two of Shakespeare using it in the way that I did but with the word’s superlative form:
“The chariest maid is prodigal enough
If she unmasks her beauty to the moon.”
My first more germane question is are chary and wary interchangeable? Or does chary simple live in the restricted phrase “chary + preposition”. This leads to my second question. Do certain adjectives only live within certain, restricted phrases?
I’d like to ask your opinion on the following sentence:
“I have gone to X High School since I was fifteen years old.”
A student recently asked me whether or not this sentence was grammatically correct. I said that it sounded correct to me, but I couldn’t answer with confidence.
I understand that, if we are talking about our experiences and completed trips, we use (the past participle) ‘been’ instead of ‘gone’. (For example, ‘I have been to California.’)
But what about ‘go’ in the sense of ‘to attend’? For example:
A: What school do you go to?
B: I go to X High School. I have gone to X High School since I was fifteen years old.
I understand we could phrase it a different way, for example:
“I have been at X High School since I was fifteen.”
“I have been going to X High School since I was fifteen.”
But I am specifically interested in the use of ‘have gone’ here. (Not least because there are situations when ‘been at’ might be inappropriate. For example, the below sentence sounds wrong to me:
“I have been at cookery classes since I was a child.”
I think here I would prefer to say:
“I have gone to cookery classes since I was a child.”)
I’ve been thinking about this type of sentence for far too long today, and now I have no idea at all whether it’s correct or not. I tried searching the internet for the answer, but couldn’t find any posts discussing this usage of ‘to go’. I’d very much appreciate your opinions on this matter.
Thank-you in advance!
“I’ve (You’ve) to go swimming” vs. “I’ve (You’ve) got to go swimming”
“I’ve (You’ve”) the Frisbee” vs. “I’ve (You’ve) got the Frisbee” vs. “I have the Frisbee”
They could all be correct or not, but the ones I believe are wrong, at least the ones that sound wrong, are when there is a contraction used without “Got”. Anyone know a definite answer to which is correct grammatically, and if it is grammatically correct, whether it is correct common usage.
I’m not usually a peever, but I do make an exception for business buzzwords. A recent survey in Britain found that many office workers felt ‘management-speak’ to be ‘a pointless irritation’. Up to now my least favourite has been ‘going forward’, an expression Lucy Kellaway at the Financial Times campaigned against when it first appeared, but to no avail: everyone uses it now, from Obama to Beckham. But the one that I’m increasingly noticing is ‘reach out’.
Apart from its physical meanings, my dictionary gives this meaning for ‘reach out’:
reach out to somebody - to show somebody that you are interested in them and/or want to help them - “The church needs to find new ways of reaching out to young people.”
Which is fine. But increasingly it seems to be being used simply to mean ‘contact’, especially on tech sites, for no good reason that I can see other than trendiness. Some examples:
‘If you would like any other suggestions or need help with transitioning your current Google Reader RSS feeds, please reach out to a Library’
‘Wired has also reached out to Google for additional comment.’
‘If you want to follow up, feel free to reach out to me by phone.’
I know I’m just an old fuddy-duddy, and these expressions are harmless, but they do niggle a bit. Any comments? Or anyone for Buzzword Bingo?
This phrase has aggravated me since the first time I heard it. Those who use it justify it as being akin to, “...same thing!” which has never sat right me. In my opinion, something is either the same or it is different. By this token, “Same difference!” sounds like a junk phrase that sounds correct but is, in fact, meaningless. It grates for me as much as “irregardless”.
Am I incorrect? Is there any validity to this phrase, outside of modern colloquialism?
Has anybody come across the idiom “Fit as a butcher’s dog”, and if so, is it mainly confined to the North of England? Eric Partridge suggests it originates from Lancashire, but it seems to be used in Yorkshire as well. Also, is it usually used only with the meaning of physically fit, or is its use extending to the other (British) meaning of fit - sexually attractive?