February 9, 2011  •  dbfreak

cannot vs. can not

The first spelling/grammatical mistake I always see, even in journals is the spelling for cannot. Cannot must be one word, just like today and tomorrow! But, I see so many can nots!! You can still grammatically use can not in some contexts, like Can you not shake your leg when I’m in the room? You can just not shake, ok? -> You can not shake it. As in, you can choose to not shake it rather than you being unable, incapable of shaking! But that’s not the context they use in those darn journals!

February 9, 2011  •  cancuckft

Use of “Referenced”

Am I the only person in the world who finds the ubiquitous misuse of the verb “reference” to be incredibly annoying? Where did the use of “reference” rather than “refer to” start? I realise that the definition can skirt close to this usage, but I maintain that it is a misuse.

February 8, 2011  •  Hairy Scot


The word signage seems to keep popping up more and more and it would seem that in the majority of cases it is being used as the plural of sign and increasingly is perceived as a “clever” alternative to that plural. The OED states: Chiefly N. Amer. Signs collectively, esp. public signs on facia boards, signposts, etc.; the design and arrangement of these.

February 1, 2011  •  sigurd

Is there a gustative equivalent to the olfactory “malodour”?

Is there a gustative equivalent to the olfactory word “malodour”? Is there a lexical, not imaginary, word that means anything that tastes bad just like “malodour” means anything that smells bad?

January 31, 2011  •  mart


Can the term ‘self-confessed’ be correct? I read it last week and it’s been bugging me ever since. Surely the only way to confess is to do it personally? Can someone else confess to my crime or secret? The ‘self’ part is redundent. Then I thought it might come from a police background. If someone is about to be questioned and they confess without any probing I can see how ‘self-confessed’ could make sense, as they were not forced to confess by interrogation. But it still feels like saying ‘cold ice’ to me!

January 30, 2011  •  Hairy Scot

Correct preposition following different?

I am sure most of us will agree that “from” is the only preposition which should follow the word “different”. However it would be interesting to hear logical argument from those who favour others such as “to” and “than”.

December 24, 2010  •  sam2

Difference between “lying” and “misleading”

If you lie to someone, have you necessarily misled them?

November 15, 2010  •  Dyske

Does “Who knows” need a question mark?

On the Web, the majority seems to think we need a question mark in the following context: Q: “What is the meaning of life?” A: “Who knows?” I disagree. I consider “who knows” as a phrase or an expression, not a question; not even a rhetorical question. Adding a question mark sort of ruins the response especially in writing because it sets up an expectation (or subtle tension) of further response. A period, I feel, is the right choice because it’s a complete answer. In speech, we would not pronunce “Who knows” as if we are really asking a question; that is, our tone is missing the question mark. What do you think?

October 18, 2010  •  spencer

Stymie and stifle

How popular is the word stymie? Is it possible that it derives from the word stifle?

October 14, 2010  •  justinforce

Accepted spellings, punctuation, and capitalization of email

We’re arguing in the office. Help us get this straight once and for all. You could boil the question down to this: how would you write this title? “email Is Destroying Our Children” email or e-mail? Do you capitalize the E if it’s at the beginning of a sentence or part of a title? Do you capitalize the M if it’s at the beginning of a sentence or part of a title? If so, do you only do this when it’s hyphenated?

October 14, 2010  •  sigurd

Whom are you?

Shouldn’t “who are you?” be “whom are you?” and “who is this?” be “whom is this?”

October 8, 2010  •  therambler

Rules for “do” or “make” followed by a noun

Any regular rule applicable for those words “make” and “do” while using with some nouns? make war do the homework make a new plan doing my own business Any rule ladies and gentlemen, or just memorize every case one by one?

October 7, 2010  •  ian2

Why are some single objects plural?

Why is it that we name some single objects as if they were plural? I’m thinking of for example a pair of jeans - you can’t buy one jean can you? But a sweater, which has the same construction - one body and two extensions for limbs - is not a pair of sweaters. A pair of scissors makes a little more sense, and I believe that tailors call them ‘a scissor’ anyway. The example of bicycle forks is also interesting - in the U.S. a bicycle has a fork to hold the front wheel, whereas in the U.K. we hold on to our front wheels via ‘forks’ or a pair of forks.

October 3, 2010  •  lys

thus, therefore and hence are different

A simple way of distinguishing and using these words accurately: 1. ‘Thus’ means ‘in this/that way’ - it relates to ‘HOW’ - the manner in which - this or that happens or comes about. It has a practical flavour. eg.Traditionally, you arrange things thus = Traditionally, this is how you arrange things 2 .’Therefore’ means ‘for this reason’, or ‘because of this or that’ - it relates to deductive reasoning, it tells WHY this or that is so, or happened. eg. He was late and therefore missed the bus = he was late and for this reason missed the bus 3. ‘Hence’ means ‘from this/that’ - it relates to WHERE - position, or point in time; it tells from where or what, or to where or what, something comes, derives, or goes eg. -i. Get thee hence! = Get yourself away from here! -ii. Henceforth all entrances will be guarded = From now on all entrances will be guarded -iii. She got the job - hence her good spirits = She got the job and her good spirits derive from that fact. (Note the different slant to ‘therefore’, which would also fit, but would say ” her good spirits are due to (’because of’; ‘for that reason’) that”.

September 22, 2010  •  helen

Usage of past, present, and future tense in ownership

My co workers and I are in disagreement over how a phrase should be worded using proper English in the legal documents we type into our computer system. If one were to say (using proper English) that John Smith used to own a piece of property would one say: “The current tenant states that John Smith IS the previous owner of 2400 Green Cir.” OR would one say: “The current tenant states that John Smith WAS the previous owner of 2400 Green Cir.” Which way is correct? And WHY (please explain why the correct way is correct--what rules apply, etc.).

September 17, 2010  •  james3

Can every letter be used as a silent letter?

Can every letter in the English language be used in a silent way? Like the b in numb? But at least one example for all 26 letters. Kind of a nerdy question but has anyone succeeded? I have tried and failed... Don’t ask why!

September 2, 2010  •  meghan

Use of obscure words like “ebulliate”

What do you think about using obscure and out-of-use words, such as “ebulliate”? You won’t find it on dictionary.com or even if you google it, but it is in the OED and appears to be a verb-form of “ebullient,” which, of course, is a commonly used word today. My vote was to use it because, hey, it is a word, why confine myself to commonly used words, if we don’t keep up or revive the more obscure words then we’ll lose them forever, and worse, we’ll be overrun by new words being invented not in a smart Joycean fashion but rather inspired by the world of texting and internet chatting fashion. This thought works for phrases like “might could,” too, which I used even though some of your commenters had negative things to say about it. But my question really is whether it is ok to use obscure words when it’s likely no one knows it/them and unless the reader has access to the OED, which most people don’t, and won’t be able to define it/them, but can probably figure out the meaning from the context of the sentence.

August 30, 2010  •  fred2

Comparisons and Superlatives of Colours

In English, there are comparisons and superlatives for some colours. Take for example: black, blacker, blackest; blue, bluer, bluest. How about other colours like silver and gold/golden?

August 12, 2010  •  egon

Interrogative use of perhaps/maybe

Is it technically incorrect to use “maybe” in an interrogative sentence? Or to make an indefinite statement (with “maybe” or “perhaps” in it) interrogative? ‘Maybe we just need to add some more salt?’ -- Is it incorrect to use a question mark here? Technically, I guess, it’s a statement, so it shouldn’t take a question mark, but in natural speech it can come across as a question (you’re *asking* if we should use more salt) and a question mark at the end can reflect this. But maybe that’s just plain wrong? (← Like this.) Actually, that’s not a great example... What I really want to know is whether or not it is always incorrect to use “maybe/perhaps” interrogatively in formal written English. Any thoughts?

August 9, 2010  •  shaunc

Canadian pronunciation of “out and about”

Americans typically make fun of Canadians, claiming that “out and about” is pronounced as “oot and aboot” (personally I can’t hear it). So if that is the case, what do Americans hear when Canadians actually say “oot and aboot”? What does Canadian “boot” sound like to an American?

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