March 1, 2012  •  Artis Roenspies

of a

My question is on “of a”, as in, “How long of a process would this be?” or “How long of a wait is it?” I was taught there is no “of”, rather “How long a wait is it?” or “How long a process?” I see and hear “of a” so often now, I’m wondering if the rules have changed. Thank you.

February 27, 2012  •  Dyske

Collins Dictionaries

The new website for Collins Dictionaries is pretty slick. I think the user interface design is well done. Dictionary is something people use frequently, so the interface design and performance matter a lot. Most of the time, I use the dictionary app that came with my Mac because it’s the surest and the fastest way to look up a word. On my iPhone, I use Merriam-Webster App for the same reason (as opposed to going to a mobile-friendly dictionary site on the browser). In both cases, as long as the Internet connection is decent, the Web versions are just as fast as using the native apps, but there are times when the response is slow on the Web (or lose connection entirely). So, my logic is: Since the native apps would always be fast (or consistent), why bother using the Web-based apps? This is particularly true because the content of dictionaries do not change frequently. It’s not like looking up news stories. So, I’m wondering if there is a way to cache the majority of the words locally so that the performance would be consistent regardless of the Internet connection speed. One thing I don’t like about the new design on Collins: When I look up a word in a dictionary, I’m either reading or writing something, which means I have either a browser or a text editor open. I would want to be able to look at both the dictionary window and the browser/editor side by side. To be able to do this, the window size of the dictionary needs to be small (especially now that laptop computers are more common than desktop computers). This is another reason why I end up using Mac’s dictionary app. Its window is small. It can always be floating somewhere on my screen. The design of Collins dictionary does not allow you to make its window small. I think it would be easy enough to write a Javascript that would bring the search input area under Word of the day when the window is resized to be smaller than its default width, or simply swap the position between the two areas so that the Word of the day area would be cropped (not the search input) when you make the window smaller. I’m curious to hear what dictionaries other people use.

February 22, 2012  •  ppp

Nother

I hear people, including journalists and other professional speakers, say “...but that’s a whole nother story.” I’m afraid that “nother” will show up in the dictionary someday as our language continually devolves.

February 16, 2012  •  Sophie Pronovost

Sift

My question is about the verb “to sift”. I know that I can sift flour, cocoa powder and all sorts of solid cooking ingredients. My question is: Can I sift liquids? Let’s say I make some homemade orange juice and want to take the pulp out of it. Do I sift my juice? If I don’t, what do I do to it? Help me! : )

February 8, 2012  •  Brus

He was sat

Is the dialect expression “He was sat ...” in place of “He was sitting ...”, which is quite common in the UK, also found in US English? When I first arrived in England I was astonished to hear a teacher tell his class to “stay sat” when they had done whatever it was they were doing. Now it is like an epidemic, heard on the radio and television too, used by people speaking otherwise standard English. US dialect is very rich and diverting, but I wonder if this one features?

February 8, 2012  •  Aadam

“Literally” in spoken conversation

I am hoping you can help me settle a debate at work. One colleague suggests that using the term ‘literally’ in spoken conversation is incorrect, and that you should use something more appropriate, such as ‘actually’. I would argue that if I were to mention that I had just bumped into John at the lift, this would typically mean that I had met him at the lift. However, if I were to say that I had literally just bumped into John at the lift, it would imply that I had in actual fact bumped into him. I would also argue that when speaking with someone if I wanted to explicitly state a fact, for example, ‘literally, all the houses on my road have a red door’, I would use the term ‘literally’ to mean that every door, without exception, was red. Please could you help settle this debate?

February 6, 2012  •  KM

Floorings?

Is it proper to use the word ‘Floorings’? (Plan to use it as a website name since ‘flooring’ is a noun)

February 3, 2012  •  llellc

“advocate for” or just “advocate”?

Is “advocate for” redundant? For example, does one advocate human rights, or advocate for them?

January 30, 2012  •  Hairy Scot

Unusual use of “trespassed”

Yet another antipodean oddity? Found these examples of an unusual use of “trespassed” in a New Zealand newspaper:- “It is up to the landowner to have them trespassed,” “The next day she received a letter from her bosses telling her she had been trespassed and not to return.” “....had been banned from rugby in the Bay of Plenty for five years and had been trespassed by the rugby club. ” “The notice asked the dozens of residents to cease camping in the area by 8pm tonight, or be trespassed from the area in the “wider interest of the community”. “Homeless Hamiltonians are expecting to be trespassed when the Rugby World Cup starts - but the evicted men say they will still give a warm welcome to tourists. ”

January 28, 2012  •  Hairy Scot

The Best Euphemism for Shithouse?

What is the best euphemism for shithouse and/or urinal? I always feel that words like lavatory, toilet, privy, or rest room, don’t quite hack it. Perhaps “the head” or heads may be about the best. No prizes for the winner.

January 24, 2012  •  Banjo

that vs. if and whether

From my experience, about 95% of english speaking people (even educated people) employ this grammar (which I believe is incorrect, based on my school training in English, many moons ago, and which I hence detest and just cannot and will not adjust to !): e.g.: “I wonder THAT this is correct”, rather than: “I wonder IF this is correct”, or: “I wonder WHETHER this is correct”. “I wonder THAT that is a fact”, rather than: “I wonder IF this is a fact” or: “I wonder WHETHER OR NOT this is a fact”. “I don’t know THAT it was cleaned much…” (from a radio personality this very evening) IF or WHETHER must be used when there is uncertainty or doubt. THAT should be used when there is certainty. E.g.: “I know that this is true.”

January 23, 2012  •  Carolyn Burt

“Fine” as a complete sentence

Can “Fine.” be considered a complete sentence?

January 19, 2012  •  Lori

Pronunciation of “Nova Scotia”

I recently saw the trailer of “Anne of Green Gables”, and the Marilla character can clearly be heard saying that she is expecting an orphan boy from “Nova Scotia”, but she pronounces that “ti” inn a very strange way. It sounded like “Scothia” or “Scozia”, I couldn’t tell. Is this an alternative pronunciation for the usual “SCO-SHA”?

January 11, 2012  •  dougincanada

Negative connotation of “notoriety”

Has the word ‘notoriety’ lost its negative connotation? Nowadays, it seems to be synonymous with ‘fame’ but without the negative meaning to it. He got his notoriety as a WWF wrestler in the 90′s. (even though he played a ‘good guy’) He gained notoriety as a sharpshooter in his rookie year. (skilled hockey player)

January 8, 2012  •  Steven Porters

Does a lie have to have intent to deceive?

Can a lie simply be not telling the truth or must you intend of deceiving someone? Is deception or motive necessary in it? All of OED’s make reference to deception as a requirement. My Webster’s New World Dictionary also makes repeated references to deceit with one possible exception: “a false statement or action, esp. one made with intent to deceive.” I’m not sure if the especially used there is meant to negate the necessity of motive in the definition or not, considering all of the other definitions requiring it.

January 7, 2012  •  Giorgi

Use of article (a/the) when there are multiple modifiers

One grammar guide teaches that if two modifiers of similar kind refers to the same noun (thing or person) only the first is preceded by an article, while the noun is in the singular (The black and white dress she had on was very becoming); but if they refer to different things the noun is in the plural, with an article preceding each modifier (The black and the white dresses were very becoming). This, as I have understood it, means that, for example, the phrase a/the political, economic, and social sphere implies that the sphere is at once economic, political, and social. But how should I understand (if the above rule really governs the structure) an example where the noun is in the plural but only the first modifier is preceded by an article as it is in a sentence you can read in the CollinsCobuild dictionary--We are doing this work in the context of reforms in the economic, social and cultural spheres. The use of the plural noun means that the three spheres are considered different things by the writer, and thus, the article the would have to stand before each adjective like here-- the economic, the social, and the cultural spheres. Via the Internet, you can find a lot of examples being much like the former structure one but almost nothing resembling the latter one. Does this mean that the rule is wrong or incomplete, or I have misunderstood something?

December 23, 2011  •  sigurd

ye, yer, yers

Since ye is you’s plural, are yer, ye’re and yers respectively your, you’re and yours pluralized, and/or do they have other plural counterparts?

December 6, 2011  •  abbeautiful

make it work

For the phrase (idiom?) “to make [something] work,” what part of speech is “work” functioning as? My initial instinct is to say verb, since the something is actively working now. As a follow-up, why don’t we conjugate “work” or keep it in the infinitive? For instance, why are the following sentences wrong? Jane’s boss makes the schedule works for everyone. Jane’s boss makes the schedule to work for everyone.

November 29, 2011  •  Hairy Scot

Perpendicular

When did perpendicular lose its verticality? I have always understood perpendicular as being “at right angles to the plane of the horizon” ie: at right angles and vertical. OED:- 1. perpendicular, adj. and n. ...Situated or directed at right angles to the plane of the horizon; vertical.... The wall is at perpendicular to the floor but the floor is at right angles to the wall. But more and more I hear it being used as meaning at right angles regardless of the plane. I have even seen such a reference in print. Once again our good friend Jeffrey Deaver:- “I took a chair perpendicular to his.” Another example of evolution?

November 27, 2011  •  Warsaw Will

When “one of” many things is itself plural

There are all sorts of things I believed in then which I don’t believe in now, and language rules set in stone is/are (?) one of them. My feeling is that ‘is’ is OK here, since ‘language rules set in stone’ is one of a list of things I once believed in, and ‘are’ would grate with ‘one’. What do you think? NB This is purely a grammar question, not one about my beliefs, which I know some of you will strongly disagree with. There will no doubt be plenty of other occasions to cross swords over them.

  4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12  

Recently Discussed

“and yet”  —October 25, 2014, 6:20pm

Joke  —October 25, 2014, 3:53pm

“It is what it is”  —October 24, 2014, 7:32am

Steak - correct pronunciation  —October 21, 2014, 4:39pm

thus, therefore and hence are different  —October 8, 2014, 9:40am

Selfie  —October 8, 2014, 6:46am

that vs. if and whether  —October 5, 2014, 2:17pm

Assist in or assist with  —October 3, 2014, 5:54pm