May 25, 2013  •  Warsaw Will

“reach out”

I’m not usually a peever, but I do make an exception for business buzzwords. A recent survey in Britain found that many office workers felt ‘management-speak’  to be ‘a pointless irritation’. Up to now my least favourite has been ‘going forward’, an expression Lucy Kellaway at the Financial Times campaigned against when it first appeared, but to no avail: everyone uses it now, from Obama to Beckham. But the one that I’m increasingly noticing is ‘reach out’.  Apart from its physical meanings, my dictionary gives this meaning for ‘reach out’: reach out to somebody - to show somebody that you are interested in them and/or want to help them - “The church needs to find new ways of reaching out to young people.” Which is fine. But increasingly it seems to be being used simply to mean ‘contact’, especially on tech sites, for no good reason that I can see other than trendiness. Some examples: ‘If you would like any other suggestions or need help with transitioning your current Google Reader RSS feeds, please reach out to a Library’ ‘Wired has also reached out to Google for additional comment.’ ‘If you want to follow up, feel free to reach out to me by phone.’ I know I’m just an old fuddy-duddy, and these expressions are harmless, but they do niggle a bit. Any comments? Or anyone for Buzzword Bingo?

May 24, 2013  •  J. Alexandre

Same difference

This phrase has aggravated me since the first time I heard it. Those who use it justify it as being akin to, “...same thing!” which has never sat right me. In my opinion, something is either the same or it is different. By this token, “Same difference!” sounds like a junk phrase that sounds correct but is, in fact, meaningless. It grates for me as much as “irregardless”.  Am I incorrect? Is there any validity to this phrase, outside of modern colloquialism?

May 22, 2013  •  Warsaw Will

Fit as a butcher’s dog

Has anybody come across the idiom “Fit as a butcher’s dog”, and if so, is it mainly confined to the North of England? Eric Partridge suggests it originates from Lancashire, but it seems to be used in Yorkshire as well. Also, is it usually used only with the meaning of physically fit, or is its use extending to the other (British) meaning of fit - sexually attractive?

May 9, 2013  •  Linda Nagy

A quote within a quote within a quote

How do you handle a quote within a quote within a quote in an MLA citation?

May 4, 2013  •  fbf

When did we start pluralizing prepositions?

How can backwards be a word if backward is as well? Forwards and forward? Beside and besides? I can’t turn a light switch ons, can I? Go outs the door? Nouns can be plural, and verbs have tense, but prepositions?  When did we start pluralizing those?

April 14, 2013  •  Erin

When “that” is necessary

“She said she...” or “She said that she...” All my life I have received great feedback about my grammar, but these past few years I find myself over thinking it—all the time. It actually causes me to create mistakes where there previously weren’t any. Bizarre?  One such thing that I have thought too much about is the necessity of “that” in phrases like the above. When would you say it’s necessary? Always? Never? Sometimes? Explain! Thanks!

April 1, 2013  •  Hairy Scot

“Harsh but true” vs “harsh but fair”

Discussion on appropriate use of these two phrases came up on another forum. I believe it depends on context. Would be interested in hearing other views.

March 31, 2013  •  Ion-Sturm

Adverbs better avoided?

Are adverbs something to be avoided like the plague or an inevitable mutation of the English language that we just have to deal with? I’ve heard it said that they’re the mark of a writer who lacks the vocabulary to use powerful words (for example, “He walked slowly” does not carry the weight of “He plodded” or “He trudged”) and the skill to vary their sentence structure. I’ve seen them used in published in professional work, from George R. R. Martin to J.K. Rowling, so it’s not something authors shy away from and, for the most part, the public accepts it without question.

March 31, 2013  •  Ion-Sturm

Anyways

Do excuse the purposeful misspelling in my name. It comes from a time where I thought doing such was what the “cool” kids did. Anyways, I have a question, which just so happens to concern the word I used to start this sentence. I find myself using “anyways” instead of “anyway”, despite it not being “correct”. It’s more a matter of it feeling like it rolls off of the tongue better than any hard reason. If someone can offer their thoughts on its use (or misuse) I would be most appreciative.

March 29, 2013  •  Brus

“further” vs. “farther”

Is there a difference between “further” and “farther”? David Attenborough (age 86, I think) says “farther”. I have never, ever, used that word. What’s the difference, if there is one? My dictionary does not say they are synonyms, but their definitions are identical. “Nothing could be farther from my mind” sounds to me a bit over the top, like saying ‘looking glass’ when you mean ‘mirror’. Views?

March 25, 2013  •  Madeline Miele

“ton” in the Victorian era

I love to read Victorian era mysteries and novels. Can you tell me the meaning of “ton” as used in that era? By context it appears to refer to members of high society. Is this accurate? What is the origin of the term? Thanks for your help.

March 23, 2013  •  Steven Porters

Difference between “bad” and “poor”

Is there any difference between “bad” and “poor.” I always thought that bad implied a moral tone whereas poor simply implied low quality. Has this ever been true? I now look both words up in the dictionary (AHD and Merriam-Webster) and they are synonyms of one another and carry very similar meanings. Have these two words always been essentially the same in their meaning? Or has popular usage of “bad” made them converge toward one another?

March 20, 2013  •  abbeautiful

“If I had studied, I would have a good grade.”

In the third conditional, the structure uses the past perfect with the if clause (e.g. “If I had studied...” and the conditional modal + present perfect in the second clause (...I would have gotten a good grade.”) When and why is it also acceptable to say “If I had studied, I would have a good grade,” where “have” is used as a possessive auxiliary instead of a conditional modal?

February 27, 2013  •  Hairy Scot

“deal to”

Another oddity from my favourite source, The New Zealand Herald: “Perhaps it’s time to deal to the ads that are just plain downers?” It may be an undetected error or a misprint, but knowing the Herald, I’m sure the author, the proof readers, and the editors, all thought that “deal to” made perfect sense in the given context.

February 26, 2013  •  bradmontreal

“no end” and “to no end”

Is “no end” as acceptable as “to no end”, as in “This amuses me no end.”?

February 22, 2013  •  Cathie

“gift of” vs. “gift from”

What is a correct... “A gift of John Doe” or “A gift from John Doe” when referring to a large charitable donation? I like the sound of “of” but not sure which one is right.

February 6, 2013  •  Shay

Is there any defense of capitalizing after a semicolon?

Is there any defense of capitalizing after a semicolon? This reads well to me: We do not sell tricycles; We sell velocipedes.  Learn the difference. Not capitalizing the first word of the second clause diminishes the perceived parallelism: We do not sell tricycles; we sell velocipedes. The store around the corner sells bicycles. With a period between them, the first two clauses read like the premises of a syllogism: We do not sell tricycles. We sell velocipedes. Do we sell unicycles? I will continue, of course, to pen as I please, but, in this instance, wonder if I can confidently publish as I please.

January 20, 2013  •  Mr. Blues

misnomer

My evening of horror transpired as follows: While sharing a bottle of wine with my girlfriend I was stupid enough to posit why it was that I had taken such a huge interest in blues music.  “Why, because it’s accessible to your mediocre guitar skills,” she said, “and when your skills improve you switch to real music, like classical guitar”. “Well then, I hope, once your skills improve in belly dance you’ll switch to real dance,”  I responded, “besides it is a misnomer that blues is ‘simple music’!” Now,  my meaning here was that blues music has been historically labeled and designated as “simple music” in order to mislead people into thinking that African-Americans, from whom the music generated, are not capable of anything complex and so somebody will say, “I love blacks because they play ‘simple music’!” My girlfriend claims English superiority because she went to college and has been told she has a greater grasp on the language than it’s inventors, so she informed me that I had incorrectly used the word “misnomer”. According to her, what I should have said was that ‘simple music’ was a ‘misconception’ and not a ‘misnomer’. I can see the angle she is coming from and, in all honesty, I barely graduated high school, but I am sure that in this instance I am correct. My point was that blues was “misnamed” or “mislabeled” in order to mislead and not if it is actually simple music (I obviously believe that it is not and I am improving at guitar, so hopefully one day I will be able to tell). In any case, I am currently sleeping on the couch. Is she correct or is it my “belly dance isn’t real dance” that has me on the couch? Please help me. Mr. On the Couch Blues I beg you not to yell at me about any grammar mistake I may have just made. I finished the bottle of wine by myself and I really just want to be right about this one thing.

January 4, 2013  •  Sbee

“my” vs. “mine” in multiple owner possessive

Is this correct? “I so appreciate you taking mine and Gregg’s child to school today.” Is it correct to use “mine” or should I say “my”?

January 1, 2013  •  Jasper

Misplaced clauses?

Can clauses be misplaced because I always thought that they were superordinate of that. While searching for math accuplacer questions, I was given a set of problems, which I did not want, and, in boredom, did the first one and was wrong. The question was this: Select the best substitute for the parenthesized parts of the following ten sentences. The first answer [choice A] is identical to the original sentence. If you think the original sentence is best, then choose A as your answer. Question 1: Although she was only sixteen years old, (the university accepted her application because of her outstanding grades).   A. the university accepted her application because of her outstanding grades.   B. her application was accepted by the university because of her outstanding grades.   C. her outstanding grades resulted in her application being accepted by the university.   D. she was accepted to study at the university after applying because of her outstanding grades. I chose A, but it said D was the correct answer on these grounds: The clause Although she was only sixteen years old describes the characteristics of the female student. Remember that clauses always need to be followed by the name of the person or thing they are describing. Therefore, “she” needs to come after this clause. So, to reiterate, is there such a thing as misplaced clauses?

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