This is a forum to discuss the gray areas of the English language for which you would not find answers easily in dictionaries or other reference books. You can browse through the latest questions and comments below. If you have a question of your own, please submit it here.
Search Pain in the English
I have often noticed that in Scotland quite a few people tend to confuse words like:
- amount / number: e.g. Amount of people
- much / many: e.g. Too much eggs
- less / fewer: e.g. Less eggs
There are possibly others in this category.
Has anyone noticed this in other areas?
The definitions of “go figure” that I found in various dictionaries do not match what I thought it meant. Is it just me?
Here are what I found:
“said to express the speaker’s belief that something is amazing or incredible.”
“used when you tell someone a fact and you then want to say that the fact is surprising, strange or stupid”
“Expresses perplexity, puzzlement, or surprise (as if telling somebody to try to make sense of the situation).”
I thought “go figure” meant the same as “duh!” or “just my luck”. That is, it’s obvious after the fact. It implies “I should have known.”
Let’s take some of the examples that appear in these dictionaries:
“The car wouldn’t start yesterday no matter what I did, but today it works just fine. Go figure.”
My interpretation of this is that, given how unlucky he is in general, in retrospect, it’s obvious that this happened to him again. It’s just part of being unlucky in general.
“She says she wants to have a conversation, but when I try, she does all the talking. Go figure.”
My interpretation for this is that she is already known to the speaker as a talkative person, but since she claims to want a conversation, the speaker gave her another chance, but again, all she does is talk not listen. Duh! The speaker should have known. It should not be a surprise to the speaker.
“The paint was really good, so they stopped making it - go figure, right?”
Again, what is implied here is not something surprising or unexpected; it’s the exact opposite. The speaker is being sarcastic. Because consumers have no appreciation for good products, they all fail, and bad products like Microsoft Windows thrive. “Duh! I should have known that they would stop making it.”
When people are genuinely surprised and puzzled about something, and they want someone to go figure it out. I generally hear people say, “figure that one out.” I find this very different from “go figure”. The latter has a sense of irony or sarcasm that the former does not have. It almost means the opposite. That is, “forget it, don’t even bother trying to figure it out because it’s just my luck,” or “don’t bother figuring it out because people are just stupid.”
Should a rhetorical question end with a question mark?
I have a question about “;” and “—” as used in sentence structure. I prefer using — i.e. “He did not expect to meet anyone—the house had been empty for years—and was surprised to hear whistling from the upper floor.”
Now, as I wrote a line in my story, as sentence ran away from me and I ended up using a ; at the end, as well as the — and I got the feeling that maybe it had to be one or the other all the way through and not a mix. Anyway, the sentence (racial slur warning)
Rod had not let her buy the beer herself at first—not until father had gone down there and cleared up some misconceptions from that sneaky pool-digger—and hadn’t that been a fun day to be alive; now he just gave her sympathetic looks whenever she came to get beer for her father.
So, in such a sentence, is it right to use both the “—” and the “;”? I can always rebuild it, but it felt right to me somehow, even though I got uncertain about if it would sting in the eyes of others.
Problem with capitalizing and pluralizing official titles. For example:
He is a State Governor (or a state governor; a State governor; a state Governor: a governor of a state; Governor of a State?) in Nigeria.
She is a deputy registrar (or is it a Deputy Registrar?) in my university. Many Deputy Registrars (or is it deputy registrars?) attended the conference.
Some university Registrars (or is it university registrars) have criticized the policy.
Many Presidents (or is it presidents) came in person. Others were represented by their Vice Presidents (vice presidents?)
Has someone decided that some prepositions and conjunctions are no longer required, and that dates shall no longer be denoted by using words like first second and third?
Is this just another step toward abbreviating speech and writing to the level of English used on mobile phone text messages?
Is there something wrong in saying, or writing, the following:-
‘December the third (or 3rd.)’ as opposed to ‘December three (3).’
‘The third (3rd) of December.’ » ‘Three (3) December’
‘I’ll see you on Wednesday’ » ‘ I’ll see you Wednesday’
‘In a conference on Monday..’ » ‘In a conference Monday...’
‘One hundred and twenty’ » ‘One hundred twenty’
Dear Sirs, I read your post on “I was/ I were”. I found it very helpful, resuscitating memories of English classes. I’m still not sure if I should use “was” or “were” in this sentence, below.
“And if anyone else were to peek, they would see the bear cubs looking fast asleep, dreaming of all the things they loved.”
The “anyone else” might be peeking and might not be peeking. We don’t know. “were” sounds better to my ear, but my MS Word has it underlined in green. Who is correct? Me or the machine?