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?

January 1, 2013  •  Hairy Scot

Preferred forms

What would be the preferred form of each of these:-  a) “in hopes of” or “in the hope of”  b) “a change in plans” or “a change of plan” c) “apprise” or “inform”  d) “envision” or “envisage” I favour the second of each of the above, but no doubt there will be different opinions.

December 29, 2012  •  Hairy Scot

intend on doing?

“I intend on doing something about that” Just came across this in the latest Baldacci novel. First time I’ve seen this particular form so I’m not sure if it was a slip by author, editor, proof-reader, typesetter, or all of the above; or is it common in some parts of the English speaking world? I’d think that “I intend to do ...........” or “I am intent on doing .........” would be the normal form.

December 23, 2012  •  Denkof Zwemmen

Correct preposition following different? Redux

I’d like to go back to an old question which was discussed here in 2011. What is the correct preposition to use with “different?”  Every time I hear the BBC’s “different to” it grates on me. I distinctly remember my 6th Grade teacher, Mrs. Murphy, explaining to us that “different” takes “from” because in arithmetic, when you subtract one number from another you obtain a difference. Her analogy was faulty, of course; but her grammar was correct. The abuse she was trying to correct was “different than.”  I never heard “different to” until relatively recently, on the BBC World Service. The consensus of the 2011 discussion seemed to be that “different to” is British usage and “different from” is American.  Well – yes and no. I’ve gone through some quotation websites looking for 19th and early 20th century British examples and could find not one “different to.” They all use “different from.” I did also find this, however, from the 1908 edition of Fowler’s “The King’s English.” “. . .’different to’ is regarded by many newspaper editors and others in authority as a solecism, and is therefore better avoided by those to whom the approval of such authorities is important. It is undoubtedly gaining ground, and will probably displace ‘different from’ in no long time; perhaps, however, the conservatism that still prefers from is not yet to be named pedantry. Well, that was prescient – if you concede that 100 years counts as “no long time” when it comes to the English language.  (In response to some of those 2011 posts which mentioned “more different than” as an acceptable use of “different than”: in that case “than” refers to “more” not “different.”) 

December 20, 2012  •  Denkof Zwemmen

concerning

Since when did “concerning” become an adjective meaning “causing concern?” I first noticed it in the New York Times sometime earlier this year. Now it’s being used both in the media and in everyday conversation as if it had been around forever. Yet the usage is not mentioned in either my 1971 abridged edition of the OED or my trusty 1980 New World Dictionary. Should we just accept this new word as an example of the English language moving on? Or is it concerning?

December 10, 2012  •  R

Hey

Why, in English, do we say ‘hey’ as a conversation starter? Why not hello? According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, hey is “used especially to call attention or to express interrogation, surprise, or exultation”. It does not mention any connection to the word hello. Why then, do we so often hear hey substituted for hello? Whether talking on the phone, texting, or just trying to make small talk in person, everyone always seems to begin with hey, even when you are already talking to the person and you don’t need their attention. My best guess is that is probably another development in our ever-changing language that came about over time, but does anyone know how this connotation came to be?

December 2, 2012  •  José

who vs. whom

I watched some movies over the weekend, and by doing so some questions arose regarding the use of who and whom. In the movie “Prometheus” one of the main characters is describing the reason of traveling to a planet so far away from earth, and a suporting character says: “We are here because of a map you two kids found in a cave?” - “Not a map, an invitation” - “From who?” Now, I think the guy is asking for the object. Is he not? Also, I understand that whom must be used after a preposition. Then shouldn’t it be “from whom”? In the movie “X-Men: First Class” two CIA agents are conversing and the following dialogue takes place: “A war is about to begin.” - “I know. But a war with who?” Same as the other one: Shouldn’t “whom” be used here? “with” is also a preposition, and he is also asking for the object.

November 27, 2012  •  Speak England very delicious

Pronunciation of indefinite article “a”

Does anyone know if there are rules governing the pronunciation of “a”? It’s either “AYE” or “UH”, depending on the word following. My preference is dictated by how it sounds and how it flows off the tongue, but I have never been able to establish if actual rules exist. Americans and Australians tend to use “AYE” all the time and sometime it just sounds ridiculous, like...”Aye man driving aye car stopped at aye traffic light”

November 23, 2012  •  Thomas Smith

Where used you to live?

I’m an English teacher in France. In this question I am seeking confirmation that the following use of “used to” is no longer in use. I’m willing to be enlightened. “Where used you to live before you came here?” The form that I would employ is: “Where did you use to live before you came here?” My source is “Pratique de l’anglais de A à Z” by Michael Swan and Françoise Houdart. In this book they say that you can use either with or without the auxiliary ‘did’. I would not have been shocked by “Where were you living before you came here?” The book is really very useful and well organized, but occasionally I come across sentences that seem (to me) to be archaic. The version I have was published in 1983. And before any of you say it, no this is not my only source for my English lessons. So I would be glad of your opinions.

November 22, 2012  •  Dean Hogan

Punctuations for a series of sentences

I saw this sentence in a text: “I came, I saw, I conquered.” Should the comma be replaced with a semicolon because all three elements are independent clauses.   Should the sentence be written, “I came. I saw. I conquered.” or “I came; I saw; I conquered.”? Is the comma acceptable, because the elements are in a simple series?

November 14, 2012  •  Charles Anderson

replaced by or replaced with

A colleague just asked me which of the statements below was correct: “System A will be replaced by System B” or “System A will be replaced with System B”  Note that in this context System A and System B are competing software packages that are removed / installed by third parties. System B does not install or remove System A.  I thought that either was correct - is this right? I could not tell her which was better or why or in what contexts I would choose ‘by’ over ‘with’ or vice versa. Can anyone propose guidelines for usage?

November 4, 2012  •  Kamran Saif Qureshi

Verb-tense agreement for a quote that is still true

Sequence of tenses requires us to use, for example, past tense if the verb in the introductory clause is in the past tense. For example: All the members of the survey team said: “You have a beautiful library!” All the members of the survey team happily acknowledged that we had a beautiful library. NOW, This holds true if the quote is a universal truth, quite obviously. But, what if the physical situation talked about in the quotation still holds true? For Example: Ring Ring. Sarah: Hello! Sarah: Yes this is she. Sarah: Oh really! Sarah: Well, your ring awoke us. Sarah: No, I have no laundry outside. Sarah: Thanks, Bye! Jeff: Who was it? Sarah: it was Betty. Jeff: What did she say? Sarah: She said that it was raining / it is raining. (Now, here the logical sequence does not follow the grammatical sequence,) Another: The survey team said about Plymouth High School, “They have a beautiful library.” (in March 2012) Subsequently talking to the principal of Plymouth school, Saba told her that the committee commented that (you had a beautiful library / you have a beautiful library). (May 2012, and the situation still holds true).

October 31, 2012  •  Hairy Scot

“make a decision” or “take a decision”

Does one make a decision or take a decision? I favour the former but the latter seems to be gaining popularity, especially with politicians.

October 31, 2012  •  Magician Bob

“who she was” vs. “what she was”

I have a question to ask of you. A professor of English Usage said the next expression is incorrect: (a) She is not what she was ten years ago. He insisted that this sentence should be corrected like: (b) She is not who she was ten years ago. In my opinion, both sentences are correct but there is some difference between them: (a) implies that she changed her habit or attitude, or lost her physical strength etc., but (b) implies that she became ill and lost her physical ability etc. Do you agree with my opinion? I examined the following examples: who he was (1) ‘I believe he was a massive influence on the pitch when we played against them. He was United’s football brain, he was highly motivated and he was a quality player. At 34 he is not what he was in central midfield aged 28. But he is still a top Premier League player and a loss for United.’ — The Independent (London, England), November 19, 2005 (2) Mr Wolff added: “Murdoch is an 80-year-old man. He obviously is not what he was five years ago. He is in the midst of an enormous legal situation and lawyers have taken over. He is under an emotional strain as great as any in his life. This is incredibly painful for him.” — The Evening Standard (London, England), February 17, 2012 what he was (1) All this is understandable. Arenas is returning from an interminable rehabilitation process. He is not who he was. And getting back to who he was will not be easy on him or his teammates, not when he has the ball in his hands so much of the time. — The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 23, 2009  (2) Parkinson’s disease has kidnapped my wife. It is in the process of killing her. I hug and kiss what is left of her, hang photographs of the old, strong Milly throughout the house, and talk to her. We hold hands. We make love. But she is not who she was. She cannot walk, and now she can barely speak. She is being carried into an abyss, and I am helpless to rescue her. — Morton Kondracke, Saving Milly: Love, Politics, and Parkinson’s Disease (2001) p. xix I am looking forward to your comment on this!!!

October 27, 2012  •  Skeeter Lewis

Medicine or Medication?

When I first heard the lyrics, “Wake up to reality, use your mentality” I thought that Cole Porter was joking. You don’t use your mentality. You use your mind. Here’s a list: Medicine » Medication Document » Documentation Reason » Rationality Mind » Mentality Transport » Transportation The list is seemingly endless when one starts looking. My point is that ‘document’, for example, is an official piece of paper. ‘Documentation’ is the furnishing or provision of that piece of paper. ‘Medication’ is the application of medicine.There are those who think it is classy to say “I took the medication” Oh dear me, no. Words have meanings. Americans tend to believe that the British dislike of ‘transportation’ to mean ‘a bus’ is based on our guilty consciences about shipping convicts to Australia. Actually no, that was a pretty good policy. Where better to send them? ‘Transportation’ was the policy, not the ships. No doubt there are, legitimately, grey areas but...no, I take it back. I’m not weakening. So there we are, fellow-pedants. The battle-lines are drawn. May I finally say how pleasant it is to find this forum, the only place I know of where one can sound of on such subjects without being told to take an aspirin and lie down in a darkened room.

October 24, 2012  •  abbeautiful

wish it would...

When speaking about wish statements, why is it okay to give the short answer form for an action verb (e.g. snow), but not for be + adjective (e.g. to be sunny). For example, we say “It won’t rain tomorrow, but I wish it would.” But, “It won’t be sunny tomorrow, but I wish it would be.” What is the distinction we make here, or is it just an arbitrary rule that we use be?

October 17, 2012  •  Hairy Scot

“in regards to”

It’s one I had not encountered before moving to NZ. Now I hear it and read it almost daily. Yet a Google seach shows 843,000 hits for NZ out of a total of 267,000,000 so it is obviously not restricted to the antipodes.

October 17, 2012  •  Amber

Diacritic for “Yana”

What diacritic would I use over the word YANA to accent the first a as an “ah” (short o) sound. It is pronounced Yahna. Thanks!

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