Pain in the English http://painintheenglish.com Forum for the gray areas of the English language Fri, 19 Dec 2014 01:32:08 +0000 daily 1 3 Laning? http://painintheenglish.com/case/5352 http://painintheenglish.com/case/5352/#comments Mon, 8 Dec 2014 23:13:39 +0000 Hairy Scot http://painintheenglish.com/case/5352 Not content with using “roading” as a noun meaning “the provision and building of roads” the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) has now introduced another example of why suits should not be allowed to write signs.

A stretch of motorway on the north side of Auckland is being widened and there is a forest of signs proclaiming “3 laning project in progress”!

GRRRR GNASH GNASH!!                              :)

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deliberately mispelled (sp!) http://painintheenglish.com/case/5347 http://painintheenglish.com/case/5347/#comments Wed, 3 Dec 2014 21:30:25 +0000 HungryByteman http://painintheenglish.com/case/5347 In this question, I deliberately misspelled “mispelling.” 

Is (sp!) an appropriate abbreviation to stand for “deliberately misspelled?”

Many people use

(sp?) for (I don’t know how to spell that word)

Julie Andrews sang Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (sp?) with great gusto.

(sic) or [sic] is not appropriate here. I understand that [sic] is used to indicate that the word was spelled that way in document that is being quoted or cited.

The new commander consumed [sic] control of the military base.

(illustration modified from an actual case of using the wrong word)

So, it seems to me that we can use

(sp!) for (I am deliberately mispelling (sp!) this word

QUESTION: Is there a better abbreviation, or a well-known abbreviation for this usage?

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“hand” http://painintheenglish.com/case/5345 http://painintheenglish.com/case/5345/#comments Mon, 1 Dec 2014 09:57:30 +0000 Nik H. http://painintheenglish.com/case/5345 I am a cab driver and pick up people from all over the country/world and take them where they want to go. Boring disclaimer aside; I hope to understand a word used by a southern man that unsurprisingly follows a strong Christian background through his adult life. As mysterious as the story may be if time were allotted to tell it, or was applicable in this forum, he constantly referred to me as “hand.” Not sure if this coincides with his Christian background, i.e. “The hand of God”, or it is a long lost southern slang with a more ambiguous meaning.

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“Watching on”? http://painintheenglish.com/case/5344 http://painintheenglish.com/case/5344/#comments Sun, 23 Nov 2014 17:26:16 +0000 Hairy Scot http://painintheenglish.com/case/5344 One hears this phrase more and more from sports commentators. A typical example would be a commentator at a sports event referring to an injured player or perhaps some celebrity as “watching on from the grandstand”.

Makes one wonder if, and why, “looking on” has suddenly become passé; or is it just an affectation started by someone trying to be different for the sake of being different and which has then been adopted by those who are inclined to participate in fads? Shall on-lookers now be known as on-watchers? Somehow it just doesn’t sound right.

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Evolution of Exactly the Same http://painintheenglish.com/case/5333 http://painintheenglish.com/case/5333/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 07:27:04 +0000 Sidney Jarvis http://painintheenglish.com/case/5333 When an why did “exactly the same” become “the exact same” and more recently “the same exact”?

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What words were used to refer specifically to males before “man” did? http://painintheenglish.com/case/5326 http://painintheenglish.com/case/5326/#comments Sat, 18 Oct 2014 13:21:02 +0000 Thedwack http://painintheenglish.com/case/5326 There exists a claim that the word “man” originally only referred to people of unimplied sex. To restate, “man” always refereed to both male and female people.

The claims I found were made by sources known by some to be categorically highly unreliable, so I turn to you.

There are claims that “wer” or “were” was used at least for adult males.

The most reliable sources I’ve found to support that are

http://www.etymonline.com/...

http://www.collinsdictionary.com/...

What evidence can you provide of the use of “were” or “wer” in english and the use of “man” and whether “man” changed over time with respect to gender or whether there was always ambiguity?

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Why so many different spellings for some Arabic terms? http://painintheenglish.com/case/5324 http://painintheenglish.com/case/5324/#comments Mon, 13 Oct 2014 18:23:48 +0000 Hairy Scot http://painintheenglish.com/case/5324 Why does the Western media have so many different spellings for some Arabic terms?

eg:

1. hezbollah hesbollah hizbullah hizbollah hisbollah

2. ayatollah ayatullah

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While vs Whilst vs Whereas http://painintheenglish.com/case/5304 http://painintheenglish.com/case/5304/#comments Fri, 8 Aug 2014 00:29:09 +0000 jayles the unwoven http://painintheenglish.com/case/5304 Which of the following are okay to you?

a) While roses are red, violets are blue.

b) Whilst roses are red, violets are blue.

c) While some roses are red, many are not.

d) Whilst some roses are red, some are not.

e) Roses are red, whereas violets are blue.

f) Roses are red, while violets are blue.

g) Roses are red, whilst violets are blue.

h) Some roses are red, whilst some are not.

i) Whereas most roses are indeed red, some are not.

j) While I loved my first wife very much, she did in fact become fat.

k) While my first wife did in fact become fat, I still loved her very much.

l) Whilst I loved my first wife very much, she did in fact become fat.

And thus what, to your good mind, is the rule?

And what a pain English is!

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What’s happening to the Passive? http://painintheenglish.com/case/5302 http://painintheenglish.com/case/5302/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 15:29:31 +0000 Skeeter Lewis http://painintheenglish.com/case/5302 Nowadays one routinely reads such sentences as...

 “The situation transformed into something quite different.”

“That translates as ‘Beware Greeks bearing gifts.’”

It’s a curious phenomenon that the passive is so often ditched. What’s going on?

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When did contacting someone become reaching out? http://painintheenglish.com/case/5299 http://painintheenglish.com/case/5299/#comments Fri, 18 Jul 2014 01:04:33 +0000 Hairy Scot http://painintheenglish.com/case/5299 I have recently received a number of emails where the phrase “Thank you for reaching out to ___” is used instead of what I would expect to be the normal expression “Thank you for contacting ___”.

These emails are from companies in the USA.

Is “reaching out” now the in vogue expression for the simple act of contacting someone?

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Who/whom, copular verbs, and the infinitive http://painintheenglish.com/case/5296 http://painintheenglish.com/case/5296/#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 13:10:52 +0000 Jasper http://painintheenglish.com/case/5296 Now, I’ve been rolling this question over for few weeks now. I personally believe whom in the cases, but on we go. After writing most of this, I think [1] should be who now.

The infinitive phrase/clause normally takes the objective case as its “subject”.

“I wanted to meet him.”

Thus, the corresponding interrogative:

“Whom did he want to meet?”

But what happens if you take this construction and use it with a copular verb?

[1] “Who/whom am I to judge.” (?)

[2] “I am who/whom to be.” (?)

Which may correspond to the declarative sentences (U=unacceptable; A=acceptable):

[1a] “I am he to judge.”

[1b] “I am him to judge”

[2a] “I am he to be.”

[2b] “I am him to be.”

[2c] “I am to be he.” (U)

[2d] “I am to be him.”(A)

It is possible to expand them into relative clauses:

[1a'] “I am the person who can judge them.”(A)

[1b'] “I am the person whom can judge.” (U)

[2a'] “I am the person (who) you should be.” (U)

[2b'] “I am the person (whom) you should be.” (A)

The construction has two verb constructions (one copular and the other infinitive) vying for dominance. So thoughts? These conundrums are fascinating and, due to my obsessive-compulsiveness, frustrating. </p>

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Are proverbs dying? http://painintheenglish.com/case/5294 http://painintheenglish.com/case/5294/#comments Mon, 30 Jun 2014 23:31:09 +0000 jayles the unwoven http://painintheenglish.com/case/5294 I just have the impression that the old proverbs that I heard as a child aren’t heard as much today. People just don’t seem to use them much anymore. 

Of course this is hard to prove: maybe I am not mixing in the right circles; maybe there are newer proverbs that have replaced the older (proverbs change with each generation); maybe the media and/or gurus have picked up some and ignored others; maybe few make into print outside the tabloids and popular magazines. 

As far as the printed word goes, of those I have looked at some seem to peak around the 1930′s and then trail off, only to recover somewhat over the last decade or two. “Actions speak louder than words” was the commonest one I found, 3:1 against “Beggars can not be choosers”.

What is your impression? Is proverb use declining or just new ones becoming popular?

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Putative (-ly) vs. Supposed (-ly) vs. Ostensible (-y) http://painintheenglish.com/case/5290 http://painintheenglish.com/case/5290/#comments Wed, 25 Jun 2014 20:20:12 +0000 Jasper http://painintheenglish.com/case/5290 I’m trying hard to figure out the differences and proper usages of these three particular words (primarily putative vs. supposed). Can putative (-ly) be used in the same spots supposed (-ly) can? What’s the nuance between them?

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Plaque for family home http://painintheenglish.com/case/5288 http://painintheenglish.com/case/5288/#comments Tue, 24 Jun 2014 21:03:04 +0000 Krista http://painintheenglish.com/case/5288 I’m having a custom item made to indicate when our home was established.  The year will be the year my husband and I were married and started our family.  My issue is I’m not sure how our name should appear.  Here is the text.

The (LAST NAME)

Est. 2008

Our last name is Myers.  Please help!  I’m not sure if it should be possessive (ownership of the home/family) or plural (for the people).

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subwait http://painintheenglish.com/case/5287 http://painintheenglish.com/case/5287/#comments Tue, 24 Jun 2014 19:39:31 +0000 jayles the unwoven http://painintheenglish.com/case/5287 At the clinic I was directed to the “subwait area” and left to ponder my fate. I did wonder whether this should be sub-wait and how fully portable “sub” has become as a preposition and/or prefix, when attached to a Germanic-rooted word. What other words are there where “sub” is used as an English word, apart from phrases like “sub judice” and “sub” as a short form of “substitute” eg in sport “he was subbed off”?

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Use my brain or brains? http://painintheenglish.com/case/5285 http://painintheenglish.com/case/5285/#comments Sat, 14 Jun 2014 18:35:46 +0000 Dyske http://painintheenglish.com/case/5285 Googling for “use my brain” (singular) returns 16 million results whereas “use my brains” (plural) returns 11 million. “Rack my brain” returns 792,000 results, and “rack my brains”, 312,000.

Why do we even consider using “brains” (plural)? What are we trying to say by adding the “s”? Is there any difference in connotations?

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When is “of course” impolite? http://painintheenglish.com/case/5281 http://painintheenglish.com/case/5281/#comments Wed, 4 Jun 2014 19:48:14 +0000 jayles the unwoven http://painintheenglish.com/case/5281 a) “Could I borrow your pen please?”  “Of course.”

b) Teacher: “Did you do your homework?”  Student: “Of course.” 

c)  Interviewee: “May I sit down?”   Interviewer (thinking: what a twit!): “Of course.”

d) Police: “Do you have ID, and license?” Driver: “Of course, officer. Good of you to ask”. 

e) Called from the shower: “Is it raining out?” Spouse: “Of course.” 

f) In hallway to home-comer: “Is it raining out?” Dripping home-comer: “Of course.”

g) At party: “Could I borrow your wife for a quickie?” “Of course.”

h) After party: “Are you coming?” Only sober car-owner/driver: “Of course.” 

i) Boss: “Can you have that report on my desk by 2300?” “Of course.”

Of course it may depend on how it is said, but where would it be dangerously ambiguous?

What alternatives are there which are safer?

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Meaningless Use of “key” http://painintheenglish.com/case/5276 http://painintheenglish.com/case/5276/#comments Thu, 29 May 2014 19:44:53 +0000 Brus http://painintheenglish.com/case/5276 “William and Kate had earlier attended a civic reception hosted by Perth and Kinross provost Liz Grant, where they were gifted an ancient map of Strathearn.” 

So we are told by the internet news service in Britain today. What is wrong with ‘they were given as a gift’ ... or ‘they were presented with the gift of ...’? “They were gifted [something]...” sounds to me about as attractive an expression as the noise of fingernails scraped down an old-fashioned blackboard. Am I too sensitive? Should I wear earmuffs and eye pads?

Then we are told that ‘they also visited Glasgow’s Emirates Arena, a key venue in this summer’s Commonwealth Games.’ 

Now, can someone tell me what the difference is between a venue and a key venue? How on earth did this bizarre word ‘key’ come to be bandied about, a meaningless cliche word everywhere? Who thought it up? What is the history of its etymology? What does its inclusion into a sentence add to its meaning? I had a boss once who talked at meetings of his ‘staff’ for weeks in advance about he would give a ‘key speech’ somewhere, and his audience would fall into a state of despond and despair upon hearing of this, for we thought we might have to listen to this ‘key’ speech, or pretend to, when the time came, and we never could understand what was to be ‘key’ about it; neither before nor after its rather hysterical delivery. Can anyone tell me, what does ‘key’ in this context mean? To me it just sounded like a puffed up, self-important and pompous description by a poop of his imaginary high status in the order of things, and I cannot reconcile this notion of what ‘key’ means with its use as a description of a venue in the forthcoming games. Does it mean ‘important’ or ‘main’, for if so, why not say so in the first place?

The English language as it is being published in the press is crumbling around us, and this short glance at the news tonight, one item only, is enough to prompt this contribution to your pages.

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“up on top” vs. “up top” http://painintheenglish.com/case/5274 http://painintheenglish.com/case/5274/#comments Tue, 27 May 2014 00:30:07 +0000 Amos Anon http://painintheenglish.com/case/5274 My wife (from northern Virginia) uses “up top” where I would use “up on top”. For example, where I (from Wyoming) would say that “the box is up on top of the refrigerator”, my wife leaves out the word “on”, and she would say that it is “up top of the refrigerator”. She (and her family) are the only people I know who do this, and this leads me to believe that it is a regionalism. Is it?

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“Between you and I...” http://painintheenglish.com/case/5272 http://painintheenglish.com/case/5272/#comments Mon, 26 May 2014 01:25:37 +0000 Canadaneil http://painintheenglish.com/case/5272 Why do some people, especially pseudo eloquent corporate types, insist on substituting “I” for “me” under the misplaced guise of speaking formal English: “Between you and I, the meeting was substandard”, “Thanks for taking Julie and I for dinner”. I know there’s not much to discuss here. It’s simply wrong but it represents a deeper misunderstanding of the use of nouns/pronouns. Personally I tolerate the incorrect use of “me” as the subject to a much greater extent (”me and Geoff went to the beach “) because although grammatically incorrect, it is acceptable to many in colloquial English. The use of “I” as the object is neither grammatically correct nor colloquial or formal. It is in a sense a clumsy grammatical over compensation. Besides people who make this error usually (but not always) over rate their own eloquence.

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