February 15, 2007  •  stal359

In actuality, actually

I hate the expression “In actuality, ... ” Is it correct or should one use “Actually,...”

February 8, 2007  •  Dyske

Ass

Why is the word “ass” considered a curse word inappropriate for children? “Fuck” for instance is understandable because it refers to an act inappropriate for children to engage in. (I personally don’t care, but I understand why other parents would care.) For similar reasons, I understand why any words that refer to our sexual organs would be considered inappropriate for children. “Bitch” is also understandable because it degrades women by associating them to dogs. When I look up the etymology of the word “ass”, all I see are references to buttocks and rear end. So, who decides or decided that “ass” should not be used by children? It appears to me that some people at some point in history started using “ass” to mean a sexual object, and the usage gained in popularity. Suppose some famous comedian or writer starts using the word “buttocks” to mean the same, and it gains in popularity. Are we then to classify it as a curse word and prevent children from using it? Does it make sense to give into that kind of arbitrary forces?

February 7, 2007  •  jarbalix

How did “trans-” become “x-”?

I can understand the need to shorten commonly used terms in technical language, but how did they get x from trans? e.g. transmit --> xmit transfer --> xfer “Trans” in this sense indicates a relocation from one thing to another. My only guess is that x is a graphical interpretation of a path crossing from one side to another. Any suggestions?

February 1, 2007  •  jme

Double-Negative Prefix

Why is it that double-negatives are looked negatively upon, yet we commonly use a double-negative prefix? I’m reffering to my gripe with the word “undisclosed.” Understandabley if, let’s say, documents, were “disclosed” we are using a negative prefix of “dis” on “closed”, here meaning not “open” to the public. So by “disclosing” the documents, we have in essence opened them. So, when we have not opened them, should they not remain “closed” instead of becoming “undisclosed?”

January 26, 2007  •  steven2

Ernest

I wonder whether anyone can clear something up for me. I have encountered a couple of times (once in a review of the play) the claim that the Victorian audiences for Oscar Wilde’s play “The Importance of Being Ernest” would have recognised in the word “ernest” a pun that relied on Victorian slang: one meaning of “earnest” was “homosexual,” roughly equivalent to the modern “gay.” Can anyone confirm or deny?

January 25, 2007  •  Dyske

Materialism

The word “materialism” as used by the general public (as in Madonna’s “Material Girl”) is quite different from the one used by philosophers like Marx. I’m always surprised by how even highly educated people confuse the two. Communism is based on Marx’s materialist philosophy, yet the US is often described as a materialistic nation. This is confusing to many people. Did the popular usage of “materialism” come out of the misuse/misunderstanding of the philosophical term? Or, does the popular usage have its own etymology/origin independent of the philosophical one? Or, was the philosophical one based on the popular usage?

January 22, 2007  •  susie

Everybody vs. Everyone

My mother and I were discussing the use of “everybody” and “everyone” at dinner this evening. Are these two words interchangeable? Is one more informal than the other? I have a B.A. in English, but oddly have never seen this topic, nor have I been asked about this. Any insight would be greatly appreciated!

January 19, 2007  •  adamcollett

An unforecasted dilemma

So someone I work with is giving me hell about the word “unforecasted.” Microsoft’s built-in dictionary doesn’t recognize it, and I’ve checked a couple of on-line dictionaries to no avail. However, a Google search shows relatively common usage in business, defense, and academic writings. I stand by it - it sounds correct to my ears and it seems to alleviate a void in nuance that is not filled by unanticipated, unpredicted and the like. Can anyone validate or refute my stance?

December 31, 2006  •  renegadex2

A “homely” home - would you want to live in it?

I was watching one of those property-buying shows on television the other day, and the show’s host (/real estate agent) was having difficulties finding a house that met his client’s taste. Eventually, the client was introduced to a comfy older property. “Oh, now this homely”, cooed the client - smiling with surprised approval and relief. I laughed and said out loud, “Ha - they meant ‘homey’, not ‘homely’!!” I always understood “homely” to mean “simple, plain, unattractive”, and “homey” to mean “cozy, comfortable, home-like”. However, a family member disputed my criticism saying that the word was used correctly. I know it’s not the be-all and end-all of dictionaries, but my first online search was with Google’s dictionary, and it produced definitions which both included the description “homelike” (with a comfortable & cozy connotation). homely homey This is an contradiction and presents a problem. Is a homely home cozy, comfortable and welcoming, or plain, ugly even - and uninviting? I’m not so sure that I’d like to live in a homely home.. I’d much prefer a homey home.

December 31, 2006  •  renegadex

How to ask a question?

I just came across this website for the first time, and immediately thought of one of my grammatical pet peeves: the improper usage of the phrase “how to” in the context of a question, as frequently seen in topic titles on web messageboards everywhere. ex: “How to get from the airport to downtown?” ex: “How to remove blood stains from clothing?” A “How to” phrase indicates that the text that follows the statement will be an informative, if not authoritative description of how to do or accomplish whatever it is being discussed. When used as an informal topic title or heading, think of “how to” as “THIS IS” or “HERE IS how to (do whatever)”. ex: “Here is how to get from the airport to downtown” ex: “This is how to remove blood stains from clothing” If a question is being asked, “How do I.. ?”, “How might I.. ?”, “How would I.. ?”, “How could/can I.. ?”, “How should I.. ?” - or any of those using “one” or another pronoun in place of “I” - are acceptable. Regardless, as a question, it should always end with a question mark. So those same 2 examples again: “How can I get from the airport to downtown?” “How would I remove blood stains from clothing?” Perhaps an easier, and equally acceptable way of re-phrasing an informal question such as the above is to drop the “How...” altogether and add ‘ing’ to the verb. ex: “Getting from the airport to downtown?” ex: “Removing blood stains from clothing?” Without any ‘helper’ words such as “how can” or “How would”, etc, the reader must now rely entirely on the punctuation (the question mark) at the end of the phrase in order to understand the phrase’s meaning.

December 18, 2006  •  gwillimlaw

Exact same

Is “She was wearing the exact same outfit” grammatical? And if so, what part of speech is “exact”? People use that phrase all the time, and seem to think it’s correct, so from a descriptive viewpoint it is correct. “Same” is clearly an adjective, and “exact” modifies “same”, so you would expect it to be an adverb. So what’s the problem? Well, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th edition) doesn’t list “exact” as an adverb. It can only be an adjective (or a verb, with a different meaning). The adverb form is “exactly”. So if you take Webster as an authority, you should say “She was wearing exactly the same outfit” instead. What’s the verdict? Do you think the first version of the sentence is grammatical or not?

December 18, 2006  •  soup

Pet names and capitalization.

Are common pet-names capitalized as per proper names i.e. when writing to a loved one, which of the two is the better option? -Hello darling- or -Hello Darling-

November 30, 2006  •  hope

Impact as a noun

My history professor would not accept the word “impact” as a noun, as in “The first explorers left a substantial impact on the Mayan empire”. He wrote on my paper and pointed out my error in a lecture, that “impact” could only be used as a verb, as in “the car impacted the tree”. Is there any truth to this, or did some college mistakenly give this crazy man a phd?!

November 24, 2006  •  haynesgoddard

Why do we call it “Predicate nominative”

While this is normally a grammar question, I cannot find why we use the language “predicate nominative” to name parts of a sentence. On the surface it connotes nothing. A search of my grammar books, the unabridged dictionary, the OED and an on-line search reveal nothing about the origin of this usage. Also, do we know what grammarian first applied this taxomony? “Nominative” in Latin means “naming”. Do we mean that the part of the sentence with this name is based on, “predicated on”, the subject of the sentence? That is, is the noun “predicate” in this usage related to the verb “predicate”? I have always thought this an unfortunate taxomy, as it makes language learning doubly difficult -- first the language, and then these arcane names to talk about it. This after having studied three European languages plus my own.

November 22, 2006  •  j

What is the term used...

... to describe a phrase where all words begin with the same letter? Sally sells seashells at the sea shore..

November 19, 2006  •  mikew

Social vs Societal

Last year in my college English 1201 class, my professor always crossed out the word “societal” on a paper I did. He would write above it “...you should use ‘social’ instead...” Does that have something to do with context. Is there a situation where one of the words is wrong and one is appropriate? and why if they are synonyms and the same part of speech would there be a seperate rule?

November 17, 2006  •  ryan

Only then can we know

Why is it, when using the construction ‘only then’, do we reverse the verb order that follows? i.e. We must acquire funding. Only then can we achieve our goals. A friend suggested it was for emphasis, but I thought I’d put it to the masses, too. I had a student put this question to me and could not come up with a grammatical reason. Is it just ‘English is that way’? Does anyone know of any other situations where this occurs without a question? Is there a name for this?

November 7, 2006  •  heather

injecting swear words

Does anybody know if there’s a term for inserting a word in to another word, particularly swear words? For example: Fam-damn-ily, or Ri-goddamn-diculous? My roommate and I have scoured all of our grammar books and literary dictionaries, but to no avail. Any thoughts?

November 5, 2006  •  cate

Capitalizing Directions

When do you capitalize directions? ie) Uncle Henry flew south for the winter.

October 28, 2006  •  nancyfriedman

“I’m just saying”

I’m interested in the origins of “I’m just saying” used postpositively. (Also its variant: “I’m not saying, I’m just saying.”) An example: “Have you ever noticed how many people end statements with qualifiers? I’m just saying.” It seems to be an update of “With all due respect,” or perhaps something I’m not thinking of. Is it an East Coast expression? I’m from California and have never heard it in speech, but have noticed it frequently in blog titles and posts.

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