February 26, 2010  •  suze

Myriad / myriad of

So i’m a PA & I’ve been having an argument with my boss over the word myriad. I was under the impression that it stands alone: “there were myriad apples on the fruit-seller’s stall” but he argues that it is correct to say “there was a myriad of apples on the fruit seller’s stall” What d’you make of that?

February 19, 2010  •  paul

“and yet”

I most often hear this “conjunction set” used in spoken form; it seems redundant. I’m quite sure that “yet” suffices. If indeed “yet” is setting off an independent clause, think a semicolon right before “yet” would be the proper form. Any opinions?

February 3, 2010  •  justinforce

Like a red herring, but unintentional.

I’m looking for a phrase or idiom that conveys the same sense of wild goose chase or false lead as a red herring, but that is not placed intentionally. A red herring is necessarily an attempt to mislead. I’m looking for a phrase that can apply if the distraction is unintentional.

January 16, 2010  •  dwaynect

Word in question: Conversate

Is conversate a word? Many people use it and some people claim it’s not a word but I found it on online dictionaries.

January 13, 2010  •  egkg

Sarcasm mark?

I came across this on my local Fox TV station’s website. What do you all think? I’m not even sure this thing is needed. It seems to me that if sarcasm is done right, there should be no reason to point out what it is. And I’m certainly not going to pay two dollars for a punctuation mark that I’ve not needed in 40 years.

January 10, 2010  •  swardie

“went missing/gone missing”?

The first time I heard the phrase “went missing” was a few years while watching a national news broadcast. The new reporter interviewed a midwestern sheriff about the case of a missing girl. He said she “went missing eight days ago”. I assumed it was a colloquialism (and very poor grammar). Now I hear it and read it quite frequently. Where did this strange expression come from? How can someone “go” missing? Shouldn’t it be “disappeared”? Or perhaps, “has been missing”?

December 28, 2009  •  helenhi

me vs. myself

In the following sentence, would “me” or “myself” be correct and why? Serious gardeners like my wife and me/myself always use organic fertilizer. Since the person talking is also a gardener and has referred to himself once already in the sentence as being in the group serious gardeners (”we gardeners”), it seems as if he should use “myself” in the reflexive. Yet this sounds wrong. Please help! The horrid trend of using “myself” in place of “me” is starting to wear me down and confuse me.

December 21, 2009  •  fred

Adding a question mark to ensure a response

I am in media relations and sent a story pitch to an editor telling him I could send him more information if he was interested and added a question mark to ensure some kind of response, e.g., I can send you more information if you are interested? Is this grammatically incorrect? I just like doing this because it’s not as forceful as Are you interested?

December 20, 2009  •  rogermourne

“Verbiage” used instead of wordiness or excessively long writing

This misuse of “verbiage” bothered me a lot from when I first heard it. I worked for a computer company then in the mid-1980s and one day several engineers (programmers) at a meeting called various papers “verbiage”. The papers were marketing reports, technical proposals and the like, all prose. It had long been clear that these engineers disliked reading anything more than a short paragraph long, and now their contempt for written language was evident, too. They assumed “verbiage” meant “written language” and because they used it indiscriminately for long documents as well as short ones, it was also apparently they didn’t know “verbiage” only meant excessive or poorly written documents, or sometimes long, tedious documents without interest. “I looked at the verbiage”, they’d say, “and the verbiage from IBM is a little better.” Or, “I think our verbiage should reflect we avoid spaghetti programming.” Their tone, facial expressions and irritated manner left no question of their feelings. Soon it seemed thousands of people misused the word “verbiage” as they did, and later probably millions. I hear it less because I no longer work in a corporation. Your opinions, please?

December 20, 2009  •  rogermourne

“It is what it is”

It sounds to me as if this term is descended from “What it is”, a Black-American expression that goes back to the 1960s. Then it meant, “It’s part of The System”, or “It’s just part of how African-Americans have to live in the USA”, implying restriction, being the object of racism and prejudice, and adopting a philosophical and pragmatic way of living under pressure. “What it is” seemed to come from late 1960s black culture, including the Black Panthers, so-called “soul music” and more. It might come from a song. I only heard black people say it, never anyone else, and it was an expression of positive resignation, as if it also meant, “We can’t change that but we will move forward anyway.” Now, 45 years later, “It is what it is”, sounds like a more vague descendent. I think it’s weaker and less compelling because it sounds artificial, as if a movie screenwriter created it. Again, I dislike the vagueness of it, especially because wen people say it, they seem to imply it explains something, which it does not. It seems to be a weak vulgar shrug uttered by those who don’t know what else to say, and are baffled or confused themselves. I’d accept it from African-Americans, who might catch a subtlety or a meaning I don’t. But now I’ve heard it from 2 highly educated white friends, and it sounds phony coming from them. WHAT DOES IT MEAN AND IS IT EVER VALID OR WORTHWHILE?

December 20, 2009  •  rogermourne

Current use of word “edgy” (December 2009)

I hear this word more and more, usually to describe music, singing and writing. From the 1950s to about 2000, “edgy” meant “compelling”, “provocative”, often “defiant” or “questioning”, “obviously important” and sometimes dangerous, or nearly so, as it is to walk on a ledge, or near the edge of a rooftop. For example, Bob Dylan’s songs have always been called “edgy”, same as Kurt Cobain’s or Lou Reed’s. Part of edginess is nonformist, and challenging the status quo. Jon Cage would be considered edgy, while Leonard Bernstein would not. “Edgy” usually seems to mean “original”, too. You could call Chris Rock cool and provocative, sometimes, but not usually edgy, as Dave Chappelle is edgy. ---- All right. Is that still what most of you mean by “edgy”? Lately there seems to be a growing connotation of “originality”, too. For example, it’s hard to be “edgy” with even slightly older styles, subjects or forms of singing, composing music or writing short stories or novels. What do you think?

December 16, 2009  •  steve3

Use of “Massive”

I am getting tired of hearing MASSIVE every five minutes of my life. Usually it is used to mean extra heavy, sometimes just big, e.g. a massive storm hit the Carolinas, or a massive thought. It is overdone. In addition, I am used to it meaning really TINY. For example, the electron is a massive object; the photon is a massless object. This comes from the idea (that I was taught) that massive means having mass, which means >0 mass. So the proton and the electron are each massive, both having >0 mass. Yet each is smaller than a microscope can see. Can anyone shed light on how this word—used so often—has come to mean really big?

December 15, 2009  •  damienveatch

decapitalize vs. uncapitalize

I’m stuck on the correct use of “un-” (as in “reverse action”) and “de-”. Specifically, I want to write that a student should change an incorrectly capitalized word to the lower case. Should he “uncapitalize” it or “decapitalize” it? It’s true that the word should be uncapitalized, but since he incorrectly capitalized it in the first place, must he now decapitalize it?

December 11, 2009  •  rib

Twenty-ten vs Two thousand-ten

If you ever listen to Charles Osgood, you know he has been saying “twenty-oh-one” rather than “two thousand-one” for, well, about nine years. The usage is parallel to calling the year 1901 “nineteen-oh-one” rather than “nineteen hundred-one”, yet it never caught on with the general public. Now, however, the stakes are higher with “twenty-ten” saving a whole syllable vs. “two-thousand-ten”, aside from being easier to pronounce. Yet I still mostly hear the latter. Am I going to have to grate my teeth every time I hear “two-thousand-x” for the rest of my life, or is there hope that the English-speaking world will come to it’s senses?

December 3, 2009  •  josh2

A perfectly acceptable construction

“It has a great construction” sets my teeth on edge every time a writer I work with uses the phrase in written English. Is this correct/standard usage? It sounds so wrong to me, but I can’t point to the rule it violates. Am I simply biased against... A perfectly acceptable construction? These sound/seem so wrong:. My t-shirt has a durable cotton construction. That house has a great construction. With a construction of 100% cotton, her dress... I think you omit the indefinite article.

December 3, 2009  •  lainiewhitney

Prohibits...to be or from being?

When using the word prohibits... which is correct? ...which prohibits fences 4 ft in height from being erected ... or ...which prohibits fences 4 ft in height to be erected ...which prohibits any fence from being constructed... or ...which prohibits any fence to be constructed

December 1, 2009  •  redfern

Moments & Seconds

Are you writers aware of time? More and more often I read about a character staring at another character for several moments. If you mean several brief time periods, try using seconds. It’s much more powerful and precise. For example, “the angry client stared at the well-dressed bank manager for several seconds”. That’s believable and many of us have experience glaring at someone for several seconds. But if you use several “moments” in that phrase it just sounds endless and wrong and inaccurate. Who holds eye contact for several “moments”? Unless it’s a prelude to a kiss, someone is sure to walk away before several moments are up.

November 26, 2009  •  whoopycat

“...not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

I’m curious as to the origin of the phrase “...not that there’s anything wrong with that.” I have a vague recollection of hearing it for the first time -- possibly in a comedian’s act? -- many years ago, clearly in the context that it now seems to ubiquitously have: a reference to homosexuality. For the life of me, I cannot recall who it was I first heard say this. I do seem to recall that it was long before Seinfeld made it popular. Does anyone else have a similar memory?

October 30, 2009  •  yd

Table of Content vs Table of Contents

Apart from the fact that convention is clearly “Table of Contents”, is there a grammatical reasoning for “Table of Content” vs “Table of Contents”? I guess it comes down to whether the noun “content” is one that can be counted, i.e. several contents, or not. My instinct is that in fact, content is not an enumerable noun, i.e. it should be Table of Content. But does that mean that MS Word, LaTeX and all other Desktop Publishers out there are just wrong? YD

October 28, 2009  •  simon

Causative or Causal?

What is the correct usage of causative and causal? If, for example, you want to describe the etiological agent of a disease, would you call it a “causative agent” or a “causal agent”?

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