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Number of comments posted: 142

Number of votes received: 606

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Recent Comments

Re: Accepted spellings, punctuation, and capitalization of email  •  October 17, 2010, 12:00pm  •  6 votes

I have long written "email" un-hyphenated, but the website Future Perfect makes a strong argument for the hyphenated form: "Remember, if your organisation has ‘chosen’ to use a certain spelling, wi

Re: “On accident” and “study on . . .”  •  October 4, 2010, 8:27pm  •  0 vote

What a lot of fuss over perfectly proper prepositional usage. And kudos to Peter J for "cringeworthy." Both phrases are acceptable uses of "on." That there is idiomatic variety in English does not

Re: Usage of past, present, and future tense in ownership  •  September 22, 2010, 11:56pm  •  5 votes

In your sentence "is" would be proper. "Was" implies "no longer is," and Mr Smith remains the previous owner always, or more accurately a previous owner, as there may have been others.

Re: Can every letter be used as a silent letter?  •  September 22, 2010, 9:38am  •  1 vote

Chris B is right on acquire—etymology bears him out. But "mnemonic" looks good for "M," as does "phoenix" for "O." Who's keeping score?

Re: Can every letter be used as a silent letter?  •  September 21, 2010, 1:14pm  •  2 votes

Sorry: "Where does it end?"

Re: Can every letter be used as a silent letter?  •  September 21, 2010, 1:12pm  •  3 votes

But BQ, "acquisition" is itself a Latin borrowing, via French. And if you deny "Sioux" you must deny also "platypus" and "octopus" along with "original" and "poster," the last two both from Latin. Whe

Re: Can every letter be used as a silent letter?  •  September 21, 2010, 12:53pm  •  5 votes

I like rendezvous for Z, but without the space. (For you Anglishers: the word has been in Our Language for five hundred years: it's English.) Counts for "S" too. I agree with PEA on bourgeois, but

Re: Can every letter be used as a silent letter?  •  September 21, 2010, 9:01am  •  2 votes

Goofy is correct–scratch "Y." If proper names apply, then Sioux may represent "X." And one might argue "acquaint" and "acquire" for "Q"—is the "C" or the "Q" the voiced consonant?

Re: Can every letter be used as a silent letter?  •  September 20, 2010, 6:24pm  •  8 votes

A quick (if incomplete) list: A aisle B numb, thumb, debt, crumb, subtle C muscle, scent D ridge, bridge, Wednesday E giraffe, carafe, vogue, mumble, epistle (and lots more) F G light, haugh

Re: as best he can  •  September 16, 2010, 10:39pm  •  1 vote

I think Goofy got it right back in April, 2009. His citation of Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage demonstrates that the idiom "as best" is well established. Dave's complaint that "there w

Re: Use of obscure words like “ebulliate”  •  September 15, 2010, 2:11am  •  0 vote

On the subject of sesquipedality—the use of big words—Bryan Garner has this to say: "Build your vocabulary to make yourself a better reader; choose simple words whenever possible to make yourself a

Re: anything vs. everything  •  August 6, 2010, 12:26pm  •  0 vote

Porsche, You make a good point. By "singularity" I meant as a grammatical construction, as in "anything goes." But when the waiter asks "may I get you anything?" the question does not limit you to ju

Re: anything vs. everything  •  August 6, 2010, 1:03am  •  1 vote

It's interesting: we use "anything" and "everything" often, understanding—we think—the difference. But dictionary definitions are less than clear: Anything any thing whatever : any such thing

Re: “Anglish”  •  August 1, 2010, 11:39pm  •  5 votes

I agree with Jm on one point, at least: if you want to learn more about Anglish, go to, also known as "The Anglish Moot." I mentioned this site in an earlier posting. Study this s

Re: “Anglish”  •  July 29, 2010, 10:33pm  •  7 votes

Jm: You wrote: ". . . I pointed to most OE words being unrecognizable by modern englsish speakers. You then said this was because of inflection being lost (this is simply not true, inflectin and

Re: “Anglish”  •  July 29, 2010, 4:55am  •  7 votes

"Let’s cut the crap" Wonderful. I have been insulted in Old French by an advocate for Anglish. Let me think: what would be the Anglish word for "irony?" “oh, grammar changed, to hell with it the

Re: “Anglish”  •  July 28, 2010, 8:52pm  •  4 votes

Shaun C: West Saxon was dominant from the eighth to the eleventh century, but it was not the progenitor of Modern English. Sorry. London, the seat of government, and Cambridge and Oxford, homes of

Re: “Anglish”  •  July 28, 2010, 5:52pm  •  8 votes

The 80% figure you cite (from Wikipedia?) is at the high end of what linguists estimate were lost from Old English. Yes, some have been supplanted by words of French or Latin origin. But others were s

Re: “Anglish”  •  July 28, 2010, 3:46pm  •  8 votes

In response to Goofy's assertion that "an attempt to change English by decree will never work anyway," Jm writes: "I don’t know about that–I would say that decree had something to do with OE becomi

Re: “Anglish”  •  July 27, 2010, 7:46pm  •  9 votes

Jm: I hope you're not counting me among the "haters." I should clarify my comment about xenophobia. That should not have been directed against Anglish in general. Rather, I sense on the "Anglish Mo

Re: “Anglish”  •  July 26, 2010, 10:57pm  •  17 votes

"The Anglish Moot," a website devoted to Anglish, defines it as "a kind of English, but without those words which have been borrowed from other languages." The site describes the purpose of Anglish:

Re: Might could  •  July 25, 2010, 10:48pm  •  4 votes

I think Avrom had a handle on this issue. "Might could" is an example of modal stacking. (A modal is an adverb used to express the one's view of the truth of a statement.) Still, "might could" equi

Re: Really happy or real happy  •  July 21, 2010, 2:46pm  •  7 votes

The objection to the adverb "real" is that it is informal, and better suited to speech than to writing. Some have gone so far as to object to "real" as an adverb entirely. This is one of those ninetee

Re: Plural of Yes  •  July 21, 2010, 1:32pm  •  6 votes

The correct plural is yeses. Nouns ending in -s (focus or excess, for example) generally are made plural simply by adding -es.

Re: Pronunciation: aunt  •  July 19, 2010, 1:43am  •  0 vote

Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Fifth Edition (1947 printing) lists both \?änt\ and \?ant\ as standard pronunciations. (I have updated the phonetic symbols to reflect their current standards.) Webste

Re: “I’m just saying”  •  July 17, 2010, 8:35am  •  1 vote

Same to you, Jan.

Re: “I’m just saying”  •  July 16, 2010, 9:12am  •  0 vote

As one who is "not here to argue," Jan, you argue quite a lot. Your "viable definition" to “just saying” is simply a crib from a mob-based website, where "best and most correct" is defined by random o

Re: “I’m just saying”  •  July 14, 2010, 8:18pm  •  0 vote

The Urban Dictionary website says: "All the definitions on Urban Dictionary were written by people just like you." Which is to say: not by "definition experts."

Re: “she” vs “her”  •  July 9, 2010, 5:54am  •  1 vote

Purely a stylistic choice, Nigel, and a subjective one. But you raise a valid point: some consider it rude to refer to someone in the third person in their presence, as if they weren't there. Howe

Re: “she” vs “her”  •  July 4, 2010, 11:22am  •  2 votes

Nigel writes: “In most contexts, “she and I” is awkward (which is not to say “wrong”).” How is the phrase “she and I” awkward? As a subject it is both grammatical and commonplace. The placement

Re: A piece of irony  •  June 29, 2010, 9:04pm  •  1 vote

They might believe that. Or they might think you a noodge. Seriously, there are few situations, other than parent-child or student-teacher or editor-writer, where correcting another persons gramma

Re: A piece of irony  •  June 29, 2010, 6:56am  •  0 vote

Merriam-Webster Online defines 'ignorant' as: "lacking knowledge or comprehension of the thing specified." Which sounds pretty close to the usage of the word in your soccer example. The word may be be

Re: The following is... vs. Following is...  •  June 23, 2010, 9:47pm  •  3 votes

Conciseness should not trump clarity. The construct "following is" risks what Bryan Garner calls a "miscue:" "A miscue is an inadvertent misdirection that causes the reader to proceed momentarily w

Re: There was/were a pen and three pencils...  •  June 19, 2010, 5:17pm  •  3 votes

Jim M is correct. "[A] pen and three pencils" is the compound subject, and takes a plural verb.

Re: why does english have capital letters?  •  May 31, 2010, 1:37pm  •  3 votes

Nobody has addressed Sunil Kumar's second question: "Similarly I find the use of "the" very problematic. Why it can't be reduced to a minimum?" That the questioner's native language is one witho

Re: Everybody vs. Everyone  •  May 19, 2010, 3:29pm  •  5 votes

The distinction in meaning between "everybody" and "everyone" does not exist. Lucas' answer would be correct for "everyone" versus "every one." But AO was correct: "everyone" and "everybody" are synon

Re: On Tomorrow  •  May 13, 2010, 2:06pm  •  2 votes

Amy, What I said was "And as such, it is not a 'southern thing,' as you point out." In other words, I acknowledged that you pointed out that "aks" is not a southernism. Perhaps I could have been cl

Re: On Tomorrow  •  May 11, 2010, 3:35am  •  3 votes

Amy, Actually, I didn't quote Chaucer. The reference was in the cited passage from Random House, which is signed "Heather." I don't claim a "vast knowledge of the English language’s history," but I

Re: On Tomorrow  •  May 7, 2010, 2:09pm  •  5 votes

Ryan, The pronunciation of "ask" as "aks" is not an ordinary mispronunciation. It is indeed a Metathesis, but a very old one. It is non-standard, yes, but widespread. I agree that cultural backgrou

Re: On Tomorrow  •  May 1, 2010, 4:19am  •  7 votes

I have addressed the ask/axe issue elsewhere, but it seems to bear repeating. The pronunciation of "ask" as "aks" is sometimes seen as a sign of ignorance or poor education, but it is not. Nor is i

Re: On Tomorrow  •  April 24, 2010, 9:17pm  •  12 votes

What bothers me—really bothers me—is intolerance. On this site we discuss the English language. One marvelous aspect of English is its variability, its malleability. English is spoken in all parts of

Re: Actress instead of Actor  •  April 12, 2010, 4:07am  •  4 votes

According to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage, the use of the suffix "ess" to indicate feminine gender for occupations, particularly those traditionally thought masculine, has been debate

Re: Plural form of sense of humour  •  April 8, 2010, 4:01pm  •  1 vote

Also similar to "court martial" which becomes "courts martial" when plural. She had a wonderful sense of humor. They had wonderful senses of humor. Now about that "u" in humour....

Re: why does english have capital letters?  •  April 7, 2010, 12:48pm  •  4 votes

Goofy makes a good point. I should have said that the best justification for keeping capital letters is legibility, for easier visual readability and because of the additional information capital lett

Re: Pronunciation: aunt  •  April 3, 2010, 6:23pm  •  0 vote

The link in my last post doesn't work because of the parentheses. Here it is again:

Re: Pronunciation: aunt  •  April 3, 2010, 6:13pm  •  3 votes

The pronunciation of "ask" as "aks" is sometimes seen as a sign of ignorance, but it should not be. I found the following explanation online: "While the pronunciation /aks/ for ask is not consider

Re: why does english have capital letters?  •  March 31, 2010, 10:51am  •  23 votes

The question is interesting, but I would reverse it: Why does English have lower-case letters? Most of the letters used in English derive from the Roman alphabet, which was entirely upper case. (The t

Re: Please be advised....  •  March 25, 2010, 1:55am  •  1 vote

In the phrase "please be advised" the adverb "please" is "used as a function word to express politeness or emphasis in a request" (M-W Online). In the sentence “Please be advised that patrons must wai

Re: hanged vs. hung  •  March 23, 2010, 12:22am  •  4 votes

I think John was essentially correct in his initial response. "Grammar Girl" gives this explanation of hanged and hung: "It seemed a little curious to me that there would be two past-tense forms of

Re: As wet as ?  •  March 16, 2010, 9:20am  •  2 votes

I won't help you in a cliché hunt, or a simile search. Why do you want to write that way? Unless you are a songwriter in need of a rhyme (cold as ice—sacrifice, e.g.) you should be striving to avoid t

Re: Hyphen, N-dash, M-dash  •  March 13, 2010, 12:29pm  •  0 vote

Mantha, You are right! I was misinformed of what the proper keystrokes are. I appreciate the correction—thanks!

Re: Hyphen, N-dash, M-dash  •  March 10, 2010, 11:52pm  •  1 vote

I'm with Deb and Justinito on this one. The em-dash–and really, let us at least agree on a spelling for it–is useful, if sometimes overused, punctuation. It was particularly popular with nineteenth an

Re: Texted  •  March 10, 2010, 12:15am  •  0 vote

Correction: Franklin wrote to Webster in 1789.

Re: Texted  •  March 9, 2010, 11:29pm  •  35 votes

The verbification of nouns is not inherently incorrect, or even unusual. Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage is emphatic on the issue: "It occasionally comes as a surprise to the linguist

Re: Word in question: Conversate  •  March 1, 2010, 7:03pm  •  3 votes

A little history of "orientate." "Orient" was borrowed from French around 1740. As a verb, originally it meant " to cause to face or point toward the east; specifically: to build (a church or tem

Re: “and yet”  •  March 1, 2010, 4:48pm  •  13 votes

Nigel is correct: "and yet" is a perfectly acceptable idiom. Where would Lerner and Loewe have been without it? "I was serenely independent and content before we met Surely I could always be that

Re: Sarcasm mark?  •  February 23, 2010, 5:18am  •  5 votes

Really? Sarcasm is not conveyed through words? I think Mark Twain might disagree: "I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it." As might Oscar Wilde: "Some

Re: Use of multiple periods  •  February 12, 2010, 2:55pm  •  3 votes

Laura, The em-dash would be better than an ellipsis for the first example you give. An ellipsis indicates an omission of words in quoted text, while an em-dash indicates an interruption. Typically

Re: Plural last name ending in “z”  •  February 2, 2010, 10:11pm  •  0 vote

Google has a translation tool. You will find it in the "more" menu at the top of the Google home page. Here is an example: Google hat ein Übersetzungs-Tool. Sie werden es in der "Mehr"-Menü am o

Re: Word in question: Conversate  •  January 25, 2010, 3:59am  •  4 votes

Adrian is even more a descriptivist than me. Which I applaud. Perhaps one day I will catch up. Meantime, here is an interesting take on the state of the dictionary:

Re: “This is she” vs. “This is her”  •  January 21, 2010, 12:07am  •  1 vote

John has pegged the issue pretty well, and Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage agrees. Their conclusion, which they quote from another source, is this: "Many people use "lay" for "lie," b

Re: “This is she” vs. “This is her”  •  January 19, 2010, 5:21am  •  0 vote

Really Marilyn? That old canard? I'm loath to cock a snook at even so learned a maven as you, but "lay versus lie" is not so much a grammatical issue as a social one. I presume you are alluding to

Re: Word in question: Conversate  •  January 17, 2010, 11:09pm  •  40 votes

It is unsurprising that "conversate" is found in online dictionaries. In my experience, most online dictionaries, Merriam-Webster's included, are descriptive rather than prescriptive. (In fact, most m

Re: Sarcasm mark?  •  January 15, 2010, 6:36pm  •  4 votes

Sarcasm? Yeah, there's an app for that.

Re: “I’m just saying”  •  January 15, 2010, 4:11pm  •  1 vote

"Good night, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are" was Jimmy Durante's radio sign-off.

Re: “This is she” vs. “This is her”  •  January 15, 2010, 5:23am  •  0 vote

This has been mad fun. John and Marilyn have engaged in the kind of meandering yet purposeful debate that makes this site worth reading, even if – or perhaps because – they have strayed so far from th

Re: Got  •  January 12, 2010, 11:02pm  •  0 vote

"Get" has a bad reputation. Yet it's got solid provenance: by Middle English out of Old Norse. "Get" has been around for so long that it's acquired multitudinous meanings. It's a strong word, sharp an

Re: “went missing/gone missing”?  •  January 11, 2010, 11:21am  •  1 vote

I did a little poking about on the internet. It turns out that Grammar Girl listed "went missing" as her pet peeve for 2008: "...if any reporters are listening, here's the deal: "Went [sic] missing

Re: “went missing/gone missing”?  •  January 10, 2010, 9:43pm  •  2 votes

The phrase is a Britishism, if I may extend the appellation to an entire nation. It rings oddly in American ears, at first. Whether it is grammatical is irrelevant: it is an established idiom. It is a

Re: “identical to” and “identical with”  •  January 10, 2010, 9:07pm  •  15 votes

The short answer is that both "identical to" and "identical with" are accepted usages. My research reveals that the latter construction is older, but the former is not particularly new. The OED traces

Re: me vs. myself  •  January 6, 2010, 1:23am  •  1 vote

Porsche: I don't disagree with you entirely. By the strict rules of English grammar "myself" may not be used in the sentence proffered by Helen Hi. (And Helen, if you are reading this, my first answer

Re: me vs. myself  •  January 4, 2010, 9:21pm  •  4 votes

Theophilus Davenport says, "I would argue that the use of either the reflexive or the objective pronoun would influence the tone of the sentence, and its connotative meaning." It is an interesting

Re: semi-colon and colon in one sentence  •  January 4, 2010, 12:01am  •  1 vote

You may indeed use a semicolon and a colon in one sentence. The example you give does not require both, though it does need improvement. You might recast it thus: “I am indebted to my family, a

Re: me vs. myself  •  December 30, 2009, 2:55pm  •  1 vote

Porsche is correct: in the example sentence, "like" is used as a preposition. In my comment I referred to an "adjectival phrase," which is inaccurate; "like my wife and me" is a prepositional phrase.

Re: me vs. myself  •  December 29, 2009, 10:59pm  •  3 votes

In the example sentence given by Helen Hi, the phrase "like my wife and me" is adjectival, and thus not appositive to the subject, which is "gardeners." As for "I" versus "me," a simple way to look

Re: Moments & Seconds  •  December 28, 2009, 9:30pm  •  2 votes

Jan makes an interesting point: a moment is an indefinite period of time, the length of which is not defined by the word itself. It may be synonymous with a point in time, of no duration, or it may cl

Re: me vs. myself  •  December 28, 2009, 1:56pm  •  8 votes

The speaker hasn't actually referred to himself with the word "gardener," rather to gardeners in general, so the reflexive pronoun "myself" would be incorrect. Use the object pronoun "me."

Re: OK vs Okay  •  December 27, 2009, 11:16pm  •  1 vote

Quite a nice, and long, discussion. Bryan A. Garner, in "A Dictionary of Modern American Usage," has this to say about OK/O.K./okay: "Each of these is OK – but nowadays the first is the most OK

Re: “It is what it is”  •  December 22, 2009, 8:47pm  •  7 votes

I don't claim to know the origin of the phrase "it is what it is." I think it is of relatively recent coinage, as I have only of late heard it, and it, being essentially slang, is soon to die away – a

Re: Adding a question mark to ensure a response  •  December 22, 2009, 8:24pm  •  4 votes

Placing a question mark after that sentence may lead your reader to think that the order of first two words has been accidentally reversed, which will not help your persuasiveness. It is sometimes

Re: “It is what it is”  •  December 22, 2009, 6:51am  •  33 votes

The phrase "it is what it is" does not, as you put it, "descend from 'what it is'." I'd need evidence to believe otherwise. You say you dislike the "vagueness of it," but isn't that the point? It'

Re: “Verbiage” used instead of wordiness or excessively long writing  •  December 21, 2009, 7:33pm  •  3 votes

Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary lists two definitions for "verbiage," which it dates to 1721: 1: a profusion of words usually of little or obscure content?2: manner of expressing oneself in wor

Re: Use of “Massive”  •  December 17, 2009, 1:40pm  •  5 votes

It's true that some words are over-used, and massive is – massively so. Naturally, people get sick of hearing it. Merriam-Webster's "Dictionary of English Usage" has a good entry on the over-use o

Re: decapitalize vs. uncapitalize  •  December 16, 2009, 10:24am  •  7 votes

Un-capitalize a word (with hyphen). De-capitalize a bank (à la John Dillinger).

Re: Space After Period  •  December 15, 2009, 9:06pm  •  0 vote

Doug, Your post doesn’t really deserve a response. However, on the off-chance that you have, in fact, opened a book, let me point out that most use justified text – you know, all smooth at both mar

Re: Twenty-ten vs Two thousand-ten  •  December 14, 2009, 1:13am  •  4 votes

I like your anti-prescriptivism, Porsche. Most refreshing. But rib raises an interesting issue, if not quite a burning one. What shall we call these modern times? Two precedents present themselves.

Re: A perfectly acceptable construction  •  December 10, 2009, 10:36am  •  3 votes

I don't think "a (adjective) construction" is an idiom just yet. The noun "construction" means the process, act, or manner of constructing – making – something. It can also be the thing constructed. T

Re: Plural last name ending in “z”  •  November 29, 2009, 2:45pm  •  5 votes

To answer Ann's question, the plural of Marschuetz is Marschuetzes. The ornament should read: "Love, the Marschuetzes." (Don't capitalize the article "the," it isn't an honorific.) As for the origi

Re: Exact same  •  November 29, 2009, 5:27am  •  0 vote

More heat than light has been generated in this discussion of the phrase "exact same." Let's look at the sense of it. If I say "the exact amount" or "the same amount" there is no confusion, but th

Re: Try and  •  November 17, 2009, 1:29am  •  0 vote

John was correct in his first posting. He cited Fowler. Merriam-Webster's "Dictionary of English Usage" also finds support for the idiom from Evans ("A dictionary of American Usage") and Follett ("Mod

Re: Capitalizing After the Colon  •  November 7, 2009, 8:33am  •  0 vote

Lena, Thanks, that's nice of you to say. I was re-reading Strunk and White's "The Elemsnts of Style" and found the following entry for 'while' in the chapter "Misused Words and Expressions": "

Re: Causative or Causal?  •  October 28, 2009, 6:34pm  •  4 votes

'Causal' means of or relating to cause or arising from a cause. 'Causative' means operating as a cause or expressing a cause. In describing an etiological agent, 'causative' is the accurate word. 'Cau

Re: Social vs Societal  •  October 26, 2009, 5:51pm  •  9 votes

Merriam-Webster lists 'emplace' as a back-formation of 'emplacement', and dates it to 1865 – perhaps a Civil War coinage. 'Emplacement' has a military connotation: a prepared position for weapons or m

Re: double negatives  •  October 21, 2009, 2:56am  •  0 vote

I realize this is an old question, but what neither the questioner nor any of the three previous answerers notice is that what is being discussed here is not the use of a double negative. A double neg

Re: Past tense of “text”  •  October 9, 2009, 1:45am  •  0 vote

Sorry, I didn't mean "on purpose," I meant "appropriate."

Re: Past tense of “text”  •  October 9, 2009, 1:33am  •  2 votes

Mark, I wasn't patronizing you when I suggested that I had been unclear. You said yourself that I confounded you. I guess I missed your meaning. As for my earlier statement, which you quote, I sta

Re: Past tense of “text”  •  October 6, 2009, 7:34am  •  10 votes

Clearly I have been unclear. Let me reiterate my four points: First, the past tense of the verb 'text' is properly written 'texted'. In this it follows the general rules of Standard English. Sec

Re: Past tense of “text”  •  October 5, 2009, 8:59pm  •  2 votes

Porsche, Your analysis is excellent, and I will leave it at that. My point is simply that usage will ultimately determine which form of a word becomes standard. I agree that it will be best if exi

Re: Past tense of “text”  •  October 5, 2009, 8:45pm  •  5 votes

Mark, Since you insist, I will comment on your insistence that 'text' as a past tense verb must have a precedent. You will agree, then, that 'texted' needs precedent too. You ask for "a verb ending

Re: Past tense of “text”  •  October 4, 2009, 11:50pm  •  5 votes

Mark: Let me try to clarify my comment. I am not proposing "new spelling rules." As I stated, the written form of the past tense of the verb 'text' should, according the rules of Standard English, be

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