Submitted by niskys  •  December 19, 2007

As it were

I’ve heard people say “as it were” quite often. It doesn’t even sound wrong to me anymore. But shouldn’t it really be “as it WAS” instead, for proper subject verb agreement?

Submitted by janine  •  December 18, 2007

Sings like a canary

Where does that phrase come from and what does it mean?

Submitted by legaltranslator  •  November 27, 2007

obliged or obligated?

I am puzzled by the usage of ‘obliged’ and ‘obligated’. What’s the difference between the two words, which seem to share the same noun form “obligation”?

I could think of two sentences as below:

(1) John Doe is not obligated to do this.

(2) Experts felt obliged to investigate.

What if obligated and obliged are exchanged in the examples? any difference meaning?

Thanks

Submitted by offwiththeirheads  •  November 19, 2007

Origin of the saying “off with their heads”

I know the saying was popularized from the movie Alice in Wonderland. Did the expression “off with their heads” have it’s origin in England or France?

Submitted by silver  •  November 16, 2007

Skilled or skilful?

What is the difference between ‘skilled’ and ‘skilful’? Is it just a matter of collocation - the skilled craftsmen, the skilful footballer - or is there something more profound to it?

Submitted by tessa  •  November 1, 2007

Percents or Percentages

Help! I have an annual report ready to go to print....Can someone please tell me which footnote is grammatically correct?

Percents do not add to 100 because members may indicate more than one business activity.

OR

Percentages do not add to 100 because members may indicate....

Submitted by james  •  October 25, 2007

Dictionaries

I’m helping to rewrite my organisation’s style guide. I prefer (and we have always used) Collins but some other colleagues prefer the OED.

Does anyone have any strong views on their respective merits?

thanks, James

Submitted by goossun  •  October 19, 2007

Head shot

As nasty as it sounds, for a translation I just need to know what the word is for the shooting into head of an executed person after being shot by the fire squad. Is it a head shot? Or there is a military jargon for it?

Submitted by justine  •  October 18, 2007

Canadian-speak

When I lived in Canada (I’m Australian) I noticed a common phrase used by interviewers and reporters was “could you speak to that” used in the sense of “Prime minister I believe you have discussed changes to the immigration policy... could you speak to that?” I found it a little uncomfortable and wondered if it was a new journalistic lingo phrase or a perfectly correct Canadian expression. Could any Canadians speak to that? : )

Submitted by tessajoughin  •  October 13, 2007

Nauseous or nauseated

I have always said “I feel nauseous”. My daughter found out that we are supposed to say “nauseated” because nauseous means that we are making others nauseous! I have never heard anyone say they feel nauseated so has the rule changed through common usage?

Submitted by goossun  •  October 12, 2007

Frowing

What does “tooing and frowing” mean? And why these words cannot be found in any dictionary (at least in those I looked at?) Is it a corruption of “to and fro?” Is “frowing” a word and could it be used separately and if so would it mean differently than that of the phrase?

Submitted by Dyske  •  October 2, 2007

First Husband or First Gentleman?

If Hillary Clinton is elected as the president of the US, what should Bill Clinton be called? I’ve seen both “first husband” and “first gentleman.” Wikipedia seems to think that it should be the latter.

Submitted by Dyske  •  September 30, 2007

Do’s and Don’t's

“Do’s and Don’t's” is a popular phrase, but the punctuation of it seem to vary for “don’t's”. What should it be?

Dont’s

or

Don’t's

Submitted by ben  •  September 18, 2007

Orally Aural. Oh Really?

I suppose these questions are frequently preceded by an argument between one regarded as a pedant and another who is one secretly. I’m the pedant. Are these words pronounced so similarly as to be only identifiable by their context? For instance ‘a dentist works orally’ or ‘I am to give an oral presentation.’ This can lead to ambiguity (if they are pronounced the same): ‘I can only learn a language aurally/orally.’

Submitted by Dyske  •  September 1, 2007

What is this triangular symbol?

While waiting for the subway to arrive, I noticed this mysterious symbol between “PRINCE” and “ST.” This is not a mistake of any kind. All of the signs at the station had this little triangle, and whoever created these signs put a significant amount of effort in inserting it. (Just look at how it is tiled.) Obviously this was something important for the artist who created this mosaic sign. What could it mean? It could not be a dash. Firstly, a dash would be inappropriate for this context. Secondly, if it were meant as a dash, it would have been much easier to draw a straight line out of these square tiles (instead of a triangle).

(FYI: This is New York City.)

Submitted by amandacox  •  August 13, 2007

Apostrophes

I constantly see apostrophes used in ways I believe are incorrect. I am wondering anyone can confirm for me, though. For example, I often see “Temperatures will reach the high 90′s today...”

Aren’t apostrophes only used to show possession or in contractions? For example, “This sweet ride isn’t (cont.) mine; it’s (cont) Jessica’s (poss).”

Also, how would I word something to the effect that everyone is coming to the house that my husband, Mike, and I own?

“Everyone is coming to Mike’s and my house.”?

Submitted by tim2  •  August 10, 2007

therefore, thus as conjunctions

What is the consensus on using words like “therefore” and “thus” as conjunctions (i.e. to connect two sentences), such as:

“I ate a burger, therefore/thus I am full.”

Or, can they not be used as conjunctions, and does a “real” conjunction or a semicolon need to be inserted?

“I ate a burger, and therefore/thus I am full.” “I ate a burger; therefore/thus I am full.”

Any thoughts?

Submitted by xylo  •  July 30, 2007

nowadays business?

Is this correct? As in “in response to some of the most problematic issues of nowadays business”? To me it sounds strange, although it seems to have a couple hundred entries in Google. I’d opt for “today’s business”.

Submitted by xiphos  •  July 26, 2007

Plurals in titles

I’m crossing my fingers in hopes that this question will be answered without any attacks on a person’s personal beliefs. Can it happen?

When carrying more than one book entitled, “Book of Mormon,” do you say you have three “Books of Mormon?” This has been a bit of a joke among people of the LDS faith, as some people are very insistent that “books” must be used. The book is made up of many sections called “books” (similar to how the Bible is set up), and Mormon is said to be the editor who compiled and abrigded the book (hence the title). Based on that, I could see how someone could think of it as a collection of books edited by Mormon, and decide that “books” makes the most sense. Personally, I see “Book of Mormon” as a title that is handled like a complete unit, and so the plural would be Book of Mormons - which still sounds funny.

So, is there any set way to pluralize a title with the word book in it? Like “Books of the Dead” compared to “Book of the Deads?”

Submitted by goossun  •  July 26, 2007

Dick & Bob

Can anyone explain why the short forms or the nicknames for Robert and Richard are Bob and Dick?

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