January 31, 2008  •  mightyredpen

perpetrating or perpetuating?

The Boston Globe today ran an op-ed with the headline “Perpetrating the Autism Myth.” But on the homepage, they referred to the op-ed with a link that said “TV shows perpetuate the autism myth.” What is the difference between perpetrate and perpetuate as they are used here?

January 15, 2008  •  monkey

Shall have done?

Do we use “shall have done” followed by second and third persons? I understand that if ‘shall’ comes after second and third persons, it is employed to indicate an obligation or a warning, etc. How about ‘shall have done’? for example: Company A shall have contributed 50 million dollars to the joint venture. Is such usage correct? I feel somewhat strange. I understand that if we want to use future perfect tense, we will use “will have done” and in case of first persons “shall” could be adopted instead of “will”. If we want to use subjunctive mood, we will use “should have done”. “[third persons] shall have done” looks neither future perfect nor an indication of obligations. I think it is wrong. Am I right?

January 7, 2008  •  george

When to use verbs with an s or without

My teacher says the sentence “It is urgent Molly prepare a revised copy of the file.” is correct. I think it should be “It is urgent Molly prepares a revised copy of the file.” Molly is singular so it needs a verb ending with a s. Can someone help me?

January 1, 2008  •  dredsina

Try and

I’m wondering about the phrase, “try and.” (Used like this: “I’m going to try and stop him.”) I know that it’s technically grammatically correct, but is it okay to say it? Would it be better to say, “I’m going to try TO stop him” instead?

December 22, 2007  •  cheripetraitis

Younger vs. youngest

My husband and I disagree on the use of these two words. I say, since we have three children, two girls and a boy, that I can say that “Rebecca is the younger daughter, and the youngest child”. He says that since she is the youngest of all three children, that he can say she is his youngest daughter. I feel that it should be she is the younger daughter since there are only two daughters and of course, she is the youngest child. HELP!

December 19, 2007  •  niskys

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?

December 18, 2007  •  janine

Sings like a canary

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

November 27, 2007  •  legaltranslator

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

November 19, 2007  •  offwiththeirheads

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?

November 16, 2007  •  silver

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?

November 1, 2007  •  tessa

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....

October 25, 2007  •  james


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

October 19, 2007  •  goossun

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?

October 18, 2007  •  justine


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? : )

October 13, 2007  •  tessajoughin

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?

October 12, 2007  •  goossun


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?

October 2, 2007  •  Dyske

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.

September 30, 2007  •  Dyske

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

September 18, 2007  •  ben

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.’

September 1, 2007  •  Dyske

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.)

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