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!

October 16, 2012  •  Hairy Scot

“it caught on fire”

In NZ I have often seen in print and heard people say “it caught on fire” instead of “it caught fire”. Is this a regional thing or does it occur elsewhere?

October 14, 2012  •  cst

“He gave it to Michelle and I”

I have heard the president hypercorrect personal pronouns as in “he gave it to Michelle and I.” Is this common now even in the highly educated? Would this have been heard by a highly educated person 30 years ago?

October 12, 2012  •  Hairy Scot

“nearby to where he lives”

Another interesting phrase from The Independent: “nearby to where he lives” This journalist must be paid by the word. Wonder what was wrong with “near where he lives”? Link to the article »

October 12, 2012  •  Hairy Scot

“Liquid water”?

The phrase “liquid water” seems to have become very much in vogue with science correspondents in the media. Does the fact that most of us probably view water as being liquid not render this particular neologism redundant, and reveal it as another example of members of the fourth estate, or perhaps the people they interview, trying to be ultra clever? Shall we all now be required to start referring to ice a “solid water” and steam as “gaseous water”?

October 6, 2012  •  Hairy Scot

“Bring” vs. “Take” differences in UK and American English

English (other than American English) has a clear differentiation between the two words. Both are about moving something. In “bring” the something of somebody is moved to where the speaker is currently situated. “Take” is used to indicate moving something or somebody to a place that the speaker is not currently at. I have heard and read examples of these two verbs being confused in a number of American movies and TV shows, and in a number of books by American authors. Jeffrey Deaver is one author guilty of this along with other flaws like misuse of perpendicular, another is George R R Martin in his Song of Ice and Fire series. For example, in the UK a boy will say to a girl, “May I take you home”. Meaning “may I escort you to your home”, not “would you like to come back to my place”. Whereas in the US “May I bring you home” would be be more common. Similarly, a UK girl might say “Would you take me home please” as opposed to “Would you bring me home please”. Why does this confusion exist and persist?

September 30, 2012  •  lakshay anand

from among

What’s the difference between “among” and “from among”? Do you select a winner “from” the list of participants or “from among” the list of participants?

September 29, 2012  •  Warsaw Will

You’ve got another think/thing coming

If you’re over a certain age, you will probably be familiar with the expression - ‘If that’s what you think, you’ve got another think coming’. But if you’re a bit younger than me, you might well have heard it as - ‘You’ve got another thing coming’, especially if you’re a heavy metal fan. While I can understand that the saying could have changed through mishearing (an eggcorn?), I am puzzled as to how people who use the newer version understand it’s meaning. The original has a perfect logic to it (if not perfect grammar) which seems to me to be completely lost in the newer version.

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