Warsaw Will

Joined: December 3, 2010

Number of comments posted: 1361

Number of votes received: 776

I'm a TEFL teacher working in Poland. I have a blog - Random Idea English - where I do some grammar stuff for advanced students and have the occasional rant against pedantry.

Questions Submitted

fewer / less

Natural as an adverb

tonne vs ton

Tell About

“reach out”

Recent Comments

Re: Social vs Societal  •  February 28, 2014, 2:13pm  •  1 vote

@Rashad - I'm going to play devil's advocate here. My dictionary defines societal as a technical term, and as I imagine that getting on for 99% of people aren't professional or academic social scienti

Re: Pronouncing “str” like “shtr” as in “shtrong” “shtrange”  •  February 27, 2014, 3:52pm  •  2 votes

@Jasper - A bit off topic, but I couldn't help noticing that the commenter at your first link refers to 'the effete pronunciation of "literally" as "litrally".' -which makes me effete, apparently. At

Re: take it on/off and put it on/off  •  February 27, 2014, 3:39pm  •  0 vote

@jayles - it's my theory that both Polish and German have phrasal verbs, and that German is a half-way house between Polish and English. Polish has sixteen prefixes based on prepositions which are

Re: Semicolon between sentences joined by a coordinating conjunction  •  February 27, 2014, 3:22pm  •  0 vote

@jayles - On Ngram, for 'for_CONJ' I'm getting 'no valid Ngrams to plot', although it's working for 'for_ADP' OK. From what I can see poking round in dictionaries, it tends to be found more in lite

Re: “If I was” vs. “If I were”  •  February 27, 2014, 3:02pm  •  0 vote

@sundy - of course you're right, which is why, in EFL, we refer to this as the Unreal past. We only have to compare it with any other verb - 'If he acted like that at my party, I'd throw him out' - th

Re: “This is she” vs. “This is her”  •  February 27, 2014, 2:53pm  •  0 vote

@Jasper - I don't think it's likely to spill over into Poland unless things get very nasty. The Polish people were very strong supporters of the Orange revolution, however, and have a strong affinity

Re: Pronouncing “str” like “shtr” as in “shtrong” “shtrange”  •  February 26, 2014, 2:37pm  •  9 votes

Perhaps they're Sean Connery fans.

Re: A New Correlative Conjunction?  •  February 26, 2014, 2:34pm  •  1 vote

I don't think there's anything new here. This is Oxford Online: used before the second or further of two or more alternatives (the first being introduced by a negative such as ‘neither’ or ‘not’) -

Re: take it on/off and put it on/off  •  February 26, 2014, 2:20pm  •  0 vote

Ah! Phrasal verbs! The foreign learner's delight. But you're talking about two types here - literal and metaphorical. The idea of putting on and taking off clothes is pretty literal - you put them on

Re: Semicolon between sentences joined by a coordinating conjunction  •  February 26, 2014, 7:31am  •  0 vote

@jayles: I don't think deprecated, necessarily, just seen as a bit old-fashioned. Oxford Online calls it 'literary' and OALD and Cambridge (learners' dictionaries) call it old-fashioned or litera

Re: Pronunciation of “often”  •  February 26, 2014, 7:21am  •  0 vote

@Peter Reynolds - unless they're going to publish different versions they have to adopt a standard of some sort, but I imagine nowadays it's a fairly soft version of RP. And not all differences follow

Re: Pronunciation of “often”  •  February 25, 2014, 4:45pm  •  0 vote

@Peter Reynolds - I would suggest that no accents or dialects are any more slovenly than any other (it's a typical mistake to call users of certain dialects lazy because they use non-standard verb for

Re: What is the word for intentionally incorrect spelling?  •  February 25, 2014, 4:19pm  •  0 vote

@Peter Reynolds - interesting - Google Books won't let me see that page - they say 'You have either reached a page that is unavailable or reached your viewing limit for this book'. I use Google Books

Re: “This is she” vs. “This is her”  •  February 25, 2014, 4:12pm  •  0 vote

@Jasper - I'll certainly echo Brus's last paragraph and Peter's last comment. We all have our sillier moments (especially me when I get goaded into defending the indefensible), and your comments are u

Re: “This is she” vs. “This is her”  •  February 24, 2014, 11:29am  •  0 vote

@Jasper - I really think you're making an interpretation I just don't see. Peter's 'offending' sentence was: 'The first time I heard "this is she" I thought the customer was being ironic because sh

Re: “This is she” vs. “This is her”  •  February 23, 2014, 3:32pm  •  1 vote

@Jasper - Well, I for one found Peter Reynold's 'anecdote', which was just a simple observation, quite interesting, especially as it was more or less repeating something I'd said - that this expressio

Re: troops vs soldiers  •  February 22, 2014, 11:48am  •  0 vote

Ah, the seventies and eighties! That's when the rot set in. I think they've probably been saying that every century since Dr Lowth started laying down the law. Whether I'm one of 'the educated', or si

Re: all _____ sudden  •  February 22, 2014, 11:21am  •  0 vote

Sudden started to be used as a noun in the sixteenth century. At the time various expressions were used, with both 'a' and 'the', but without 'all' (there are none with 'all' in Shakespeare, for examp

Re: troops vs soldiers  •  February 22, 2014, 5:13am  •  0 vote

On the subject of troops: its use as a synonym for soldiers or armed forces in general, and not simply meaning a cavalry unit of a particular size, is the first meaning given at Oxford Online, and goe

Re: troops vs soldiers  •  February 22, 2014, 4:54am  •  0 vote

@Skeeter Lewis - 'the social sciences have a lot to answer for linguistically' - Oh, dear! Mind you they've brought the word cohort out of the military scholarship closet: judging by Ngram, the use of

Re: troops vs soldiers  •  February 21, 2014, 5:46pm  •  0 vote

@Skeeter Lewis - "some descriptivist dictionaries" - Could you perhaps name a dictionary that isn't descriptivist.The OED, for example, never set out to be anything else. Even the American Heritage Di

Re: What is the word for intentionally incorrect spelling?  •  February 21, 2014, 9:17am  •  0 vote

@dlockner - I'm afraid wrong on both counts. A malapropism is neither intentional nor to do with spelling, but rather the unintentional use of a similar-sounding word instead of the one you meant, 'of

Re: troops vs soldiers  •  February 21, 2014, 9:11am  •  0 vote

re: cohort. This is from Oxford Dictionaries Online: They give three meanings: the first is the one given by Skeeter Lewis. cohort - 2.[treated as singular or plural] a group of people with a sh

Re: all _____ sudden  •  February 19, 2014, 8:54am  •  0 vote

@jayles- they probably got it from the OED (1558) - I've got 'upon the sudden' from 1585. I think you're much better looking at Google Books than Google as you can narrow down the dates and miss out a

Re: all _____ sudden  •  February 18, 2014, 4:31pm  •  0 vote

Shakespeare - sudden used as a noun: on the sudden, upon the sudden - 8 instances on a sudden, upon a sudden - 4 instances of a sudden - 2 instances none with all It looks as though the 'the' v

Re: all _____ sudden  •  February 18, 2014, 2:19pm  •  0 vote

@jayles - and from your other link (phrasefinder) - " 'All of a sudden' sounds like the kind of poetic version of 'suddenly' that would do justice to Shakespeare. In fact, that's what Shakespeare thou

Re: all _____ sudden  •  February 18, 2014, 2:09pm  •  0 vote

@jayles - had a far healthier life, no doubt. From your Grammarphobia link -' “All of a sudden” first appeared in 1681' - now there's a challenge for us Googlers: "therefore all of a sudden they ca

Re: cannot vs. can not  •  February 17, 2014, 5:30pm  •  0 vote

@Emera - cannot, can not, can't are all use for both "not allowed to" and "not able to" You cannot / can not / can't smoke in here She cannot / can not / can't come tomorrow Oxford Advanced Lea

Re: all _____ sudden  •  February 17, 2014, 5:25am  •  0 vote

@jayles - I should have put a smiley after 'nice try'. I didn't mean it in a negative way.

Re: Does “Who knows” need a question mark?  •  February 15, 2014, 5:13am  •  0 vote

@Matt K - rhetorical questions are still questions: What have the Romans ever done for us? - Life of Brian Is the Pope a Catholic? Smoking can lead to lung cancer. Who knew?! All taken from Wi

Re: Two Weeks Notice  •  February 15, 2014, 4:59am  •  0 vote

@jayles - if you look for these expressions in Google Books, none that I could find have apostrophes before the nineteenth century. The apostrophe was the last punctuation mark to be adopted into Engl

Re: all _____ sudden  •  February 15, 2014, 4:27am  •  0 vote

Correction - Burnet's book was published in 1724

Re: all _____ sudden  •  February 15, 2014, 4:25am  •  0 vote

@jayles: nice try London Magazine 1738 - unfortunately Google Books has combined phrases from two adjacent columns - L "are liable to so many Changes and to such sudden and unlooked for Alterat

Re: Two Weeks Notice  •  February 14, 2014, 6:41pm  •  0 vote

@jayles - even the people at Warner Bros who decided on the movie title?

Re: Two Weeks Notice  •  February 14, 2014, 3:56pm  •  0 vote

And Happy Valentine's Day to you too Paula. But to the business in hand, if it was one week, we'd need an apostrophe to be grammatical - 'one week's notice', 'in a minute's time', 'a mile's walk f

Re: “You have two choices”  •  February 14, 2014, 2:35am  •  0 vote

@Moonwaves - Of course "to have Hobson's choice" does have the meaning of no choice.

Re: “You have two choices”  •  February 14, 2014, 2:26am  •  0 vote

@Moonwaves - I suggest that you have a look at the quotes from various books above. I can't see any idea there that there is any implication of having no choice. Let's take the joke about hope as r

Re: who vs. whom  •  February 13, 2014, 12:51pm  •  0 vote

@Jasper - the survey just counted the number of instances, not correct usage. But I think most people who do use whom use it correctly. There's so-called hypercorrection of course - 'Whom shall I say

Re: who vs. whom  •  February 12, 2014, 9:13am  •  0 vote

All of us whom-disdainers have apparently been getting it wrong all along. According to a survey at Wired Magazine, men using 'whom' in their profiles on certain dating sites get 31% more responses fr

Re: Horizontal Stripes?  •  February 12, 2014, 6:07am  •  1 vote

I think this was only ever a convention in certain areas, such as football and possibly rugby kit and jockeys' outfits (especially hoops). The stripes in striped ties are usually diagonal, occasionall

Re: Computer mouses or computer mice?  •  February 11, 2014, 8:21am  •  1 vote

@jayles - as long as it means 'full of' - here's a list of 332: http://www.morewords.com/ends-with/ful/

Re: Computer mouses or computer mice?  •  February 10, 2014, 3:35pm  •  2 votes

@Brus -Yes, I think it is indeed. What's more, you have introduced me to a word that is new to me. A word that definitely exists, but is hard to get much information about (only one British dictionary

Re: One of the most...  •  February 9, 2014, 12:39pm  •  0 vote

Incidentally, there's been one structure that has been bothering at least one linguistics blogger lately: "It was one of his better films, if not one of his best" ''if not"here can mean "maybe e

Re: tonne vs ton  •  February 9, 2014, 5:05am  •  0 vote

@Chris B - My impression is that official (green) government footpath signs have been shown in km at least since the seventies. But a quick look at Google Images suggests it's rather a mixed bag. A

Re: “This is she” vs. “This is her”  •  February 9, 2014, 4:51am  •  1 vote

P.S. - EFL teaching also recognises that English has different registers. What is appropriate in 'normal spoken English' is not always appropriate in very formal English. Unfortunately some people

Re: “This is she” vs. “This is her”  •  February 9, 2014, 4:36am  •  2 votes

@Nana - OK, I'd like to respond to this by commenting on Chris Haller's comment form way back on this thread. Chris sees two schools of thought on grammar - those who put the rules first, and those wh

Re: “This is she” vs. “This is her”  •  February 8, 2014, 6:45pm  •  1 vote

@TEAS grammar tutor - so I'm all the happier that I teach EFL and that exams like IELTS, FCE, CAE, CPE and TOEIC reflect normal spoken English, and certainly wouldn't penalise you for saying, for exam

Re: “by the time”  •  February 8, 2014, 1:44pm  •  2 votes

It's perhaps also worth noting what happens when we use 'by the time' with future reference, where (like with other time expressions), 'by the time' is usually followed by present simple or present pe

Re: One of the most...  •  February 8, 2014, 1:28pm  •  0 vote

It's not that hard: A film director makes ten films. His first four films were duds or simply average. Of the later six, three were exceptionally good. Any of those last three could be called "one of

Re: Shall have done?  •  February 8, 2014, 3:32am  •  0 vote

@jayles - OALD marks shall as (especially British English). I still occasionally use it as an alternative to will in the first person, which I don't think is done much in North America. But I agree it

Re: On Tomorrow  •  February 7, 2014, 12:17pm  •  0 vote

@momofthree1999 - Maybe not in your part of the South, but comments on the web and here would certainly suggest it's centred on Georgia and Louisiana. Book evidence would add Maryland and South Caroli

Re: “The plants were withered” Adjective or passive?  •  February 7, 2014, 6:35am  •  0 vote

'Cooked' was perhaps a bad example - 'a cooked omelette' and 'badly cooked omelette' would have been better.

Re: “The plants were withered” Adjective or passive?  •  February 7, 2014, 6:31am  •  0 vote

@jayles - Not so strange really, because 'a made mistake' adds nothing to 'mistake' - make is what you do with mistakes. On the other hand 'an easily-made mistake' adds information. Compare 'a told

Re: Littler  •  February 7, 2014, 6:15am  •  0 vote

I'm not sure why it should be thought ungrammatical, just unusual. Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary simply says: "The forms littler and littlest are rare. It is more common to use smaller and smal

Re: Shall have done?  •  February 7, 2014, 4:58am  •  0 vote

@jayles - I think there are two separate things here: 1. standard contractions, which are used both in speaking and writing - where I would suggest 'll is never a contraction for shall - "We'll jus

Re: Pled versus pleaded  •  February 6, 2014, 6:39pm  •  1 vote

@Jasper - I started off by intending to give thou, thee etc as an example, when I realised that was a disappearance rather than a change in a word form, which is why I chose ye, the old subject form o

Re: Pled versus pleaded  •  February 6, 2014, 2:34pm  •  1 vote

@Mraff - at the moment, snuck is considered 'informal' and 'chiefly North American' (Oxford), but it looks as though its use is increasing. It's even 'snuck' into British English. If enough people use

Re: tonne vs ton  •  February 6, 2014, 2:19pm  •  0 vote

@Chris B - I imagine the Netherlands has been metric for about two hundred years, but in the street markets some things are still shown in pounds (weight) (at least I think it's in the Netherlands) -

Re: “The plants were withered” Adjective or passive?  •  February 6, 2014, 2:10pm  •  0 vote

@Jasper - it happens to us all from time to time.

Re: “I’m just saying”  •  February 5, 2014, 3:01pm  •  0 vote

@Pee Wee - well you obviously despise me then, as I used it yesterday, but not to absolve myself of guilt, rather to soften a criticism of something the person I was writing to had said. As for think

Re: “The plants were withered” Adjective or passive?  •  February 5, 2014, 2:52pm  •  0 vote

@Jasper - of course bored is normally an adjective, but it could also be the passive of bore - but I think you're missing the point of David L's joke - that you use a drill to bore a hole. He's playin

Re: Pronunciation of “often”  •  February 1, 2014, 4:49pm  •  0 vote

Of course RP has always been a minority dialect, but to see RP pronunciation as being inferior to other forms is no better than an RP speaker thinking their pronunciation is superior. RP only real

Re: Pronunciation of “often”  •  January 31, 2014, 7:27pm  •  0 vote

@John Gibson - one or two, just like most other consonants often, soften hasten, moisten glisten, listen castle, hustle, bustle, apostle, jostle nestle, wrestle, trestle thistle, whistle, g

Re: Might could  •  January 30, 2014, 2:50pm  •  0 vote

@Meade - to be pedantic - Scottish-Irish please. We Scots are very pernickety on this one - Scotch is only for products or things, some would say only three things - Scotch Whisky, Scotch broth and Sc

Re: tonne vs ton  •  January 30, 2014, 2:40pm  •  0 vote

@Jasper - hoist with my own petard, you mean. Of course I agree about natural change, but my first reaction was that someone at the BBC was foisting it on us; it looks a bit 'clever' to me. But a chec

Re: Pronunciation of “gill”  •  January 28, 2014, 2:03pm  •  0 vote

@Hairy Scot - is there perhaps a word missing after 'erstwhile', or do you know something that we don't know? Anyhoo, the learned Mr Fry is obviously wrong on this one (the humble Wikipedia could have

Re: “The plants were withered” Adjective or passive?  •  January 28, 2014, 1:42pm  •  0 vote

@Jasper - in jayles's example maybe, but not in David L's. The important word here is 'happen'. The question wasn't 'How did you feel when you were drilling?', but 'What happened when you dropped the

Re: Pronunciation of “often”  •  January 28, 2014, 1:29pm  •  0 vote

@AnWulf - I think many people say it both ways without realising. As for our idiosyncratic spelling, at least it gives us gems like these three poems, the first one quite well-known to EFL teachers an

Re: Pronunciation of “often”  •  January 25, 2014, 7:28pm  •  0 vote

Hi Skeeter - one reason I'm not so sure about the spelling angle is the rise in the pronunciation of aitch with a preceding H. I'm pretty sure this used to be limited to Cockney and possibly a few oth

Re: Charade you are!!  •  January 25, 2014, 7:40am  •  0 vote

As for the meaning, it's pretty obvious, as porsche and others have said - You are a charade - a fake, a phoney etc, and there's really no need to look for any obscure meaning, especially given the co

Re: Pronunciation of “often”  •  January 25, 2014, 7:18am  •  0 vote

@Skeeter Lewis - Fowler disliked a lot of things which are now common, and liked a lot of things which have fallen by the wayside. He's a very strange mixture of prescriptivist and anti-pedant, seemin

Re: Plural of name ending in Y  •  January 24, 2014, 2:47am  •  0 vote

@Therese - for example?

Re: Proper use of st, nd, rd, and th — ordinal indicators  •  January 23, 2014, 5:10pm  •  0 vote

@judith and Brittany - The current Sundance Film Festival in Utah advertises itself as running Jan 16-26 2014

Re: Correct preposition following different? Redux  •  January 23, 2014, 6:53am  •  0 vote

I've now put together a post with examples of 'different to' from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, with links to Google Books. And also some early comments on its use: http://random-idea-english.

Re: “hone in” vs. “home in”  •  January 23, 2014, 4:37am  •  0 vote

@Jasper - He says - 'This is because “first” is one of the relatively few adjectives which do not change their form when they become adverbs, unlike "second" and "third". The first bit is OK: "first"

Re: “hone in” vs. “home in”  •  January 22, 2014, 1:05pm  •  0 vote

@HS - I realise that, and was trying to be a bit tongue in cheek, even provocative in return. Sorry if you took offence, but if you will make rude remarks (however tongue in cheek) about my favourite

Re: “hone in” vs. “home in”  •  January 21, 2014, 4:02pm  •  0 vote

Three and a bit years too late, but I've just noticed this from HS - "In common with the majority of the English speaking world I do not consider Merriam-Webster a definitive, nor even proper, source

Re: Pronunciation of “often”  •  January 21, 2014, 2:58pm  •  1 vote

In the US, both Merriam-Webster and American Heritage dictionaries accept both pronunciations, as do both Oxford and Cambridge dictionaries in the UK (but not Macmillans), although not everybody accep

Re: Correct preposition following different? Redux  •  January 19, 2014, 5:08pm  •  0 vote

@HS - this might interest you, from the Oxford Dictionaries blog - although I don't quite understand their figures. It looks as though it's currently stronger than I thought. http://blog.oxforddict

Re: Correct preposition following different? Redux  •  January 19, 2014, 4:21pm  •  0 vote

No, Google doesn't have the originals; they are all in university libraries where they are photographed and digitised by Google from the originals. There are actually two versions at Google Books, th

Re: Correct preposition following different? Redux  •  January 19, 2014, 12:05pm  •  0 vote

Yes, at least they come from contemporary documents; everything is checkable at Google Books. Earliest I've found is from 1603, by Robert Parsons, a fellow and tutor at Balliol, Oxford (bio at Wikiped

Re: On Tomorrow  •  January 19, 2014, 8:33am  •  0 vote


Re: Correct preposition following different? Redux  •  January 19, 2014, 6:18am  •  1 vote

"Numerous commentators have condemned different than in spite of its use since the 17th century by many of the best-known names in English literature. It is nevertheless standard and is even recommend

Re: Modal Remoteness & Tense  •  January 17, 2014, 6:36am  •  0 vote

OK, the conditional's probably OK as it refers to a possible future event, but I still think you have a problem with 'although' and 'but' in the same clause. Trivial little cultural language differ

Re: On Tomorrow  •  January 16, 2014, 4:35pm  •  0 vote

I was a bit sceptical about jayles Ngram idea, after all there are perfectly standard incidences of 'on tomorrow', eg: 'it depends on tomorrow', 'reckoning on tomorrow', for example, and I assumed all

Re: Fora vs Forums  •  January 15, 2014, 3:47pm  •  0 vote

@jayles - Of course we do, but we don't make a rule of it. And there are good reasons for both your examples - 'al fresco' is an expression, not a word, and 'literati' is virtually only ever used in

Re: Fora vs Forums  •  January 14, 2014, 1:11pm  •  0 vote

Damn! Sonate.

Re: Fora vs Forums  •  January 14, 2014, 12:18pm  •  1 vote

@My Two Cents - so presumably: Beethoven wrote five piano concerti and several piano sonati The BBC has two symphony orchestre The TV show should have been called 'The Soprani' Shall I order two

Re: “Bring” vs. “Take” differences in UK and American English  •  January 12, 2014, 5:18am  •  0 vote

OK, so here's my take on it (for learners) http://random-idea-english.blogspot.com/2012/01/confusing-verbs-come-go-bring-and-take.html

Re: You’ve got another think/thing coming  •  January 9, 2014, 4:17pm  •  0 vote

I just love this one, where think is absolutely crucial: "Skidmore Tyres had another think coming when the brakeman signalled him to back-tip. but he didn't wait for it: that think that wasn't thou

Re: cannot vs. can not  •  January 8, 2014, 4:12pm  •  0 vote

Well nigh impossible, but not completely: "Can't it wait until tomorrow?" Jake yawned "You can not go if you don't want to." Finn shrugged and left the house From a piece of fan fiction (with s

Re: cannot vs. can not  •  January 8, 2014, 3:40pm  •  0 vote

@Thredder -There is a theoretically possible difference yes, as in 'I can not go, you know. I don't have to.' But trying to find examples in real life is nigh on impossible. The vast majority of tim

Re: You’ve got another think/thing coming  •  January 8, 2014, 3:24pm  •  0 vote

@Traduttore - Sure, leave out all the spaces, plus signs etc. Look forward to hearing from you: will + dot + randomidea + at sign + gmail + dot + com

Re: Pled versus pleaded  •  January 7, 2014, 1:05pm  •  1 vote

@Jeff J - "In short, here in the UK the past tense of plead is always written/spoken as pleaded." - Scotland is, at least for the moment, still part of the UK, and as has already been mentioned, 'pled

Re: You’ve got another think/thing coming  •  January 6, 2014, 3:29pm  •  0 vote

@Traduttore - Yes please, go on, I'm collecting them.

Re: You’ve got another think/thing coming  •  January 6, 2014, 3:28pm  •  0 vote

It was certainly playing in New York in February 1909, but unfortunately I can find no texts. He seems to have had a pretty long career, this Arthur Lewis Tubbs; it's strange there's no Wikipedia arti

Re: You’ve got another think/thing coming  •  January 6, 2014, 2:29pm  •  0 vote

@Traduttore - OK, I've found this from A Deal In Ducks by Guy L Clements from 1921. That still beats the OED. 'Jackson thinks he has me in a pinch and that I will have to sell. Well he has another

Re: You’ve got another think/thing coming  •  January 6, 2014, 2:18pm  •  0 vote

@Traduttore - a lawn with no flowers would probably just be called a lawn, maybe a garden, but definitely not a yard. Some time ago I was trying to find a picture of a backyard (our version) and got r

Re: You’ve got another think/thing coming  •  January 6, 2014, 1:53pm  •  0 vote

@Traduttore - thanks for the 'guess' thing; I've updated my blog post (link above), which includes Ngram graphs and lots of links to Google Books, as well as a hat-tip to yourself - at the moment, wit

Re: You’ve got another think/thing coming  •  January 6, 2014, 12:40pm  •  0 vote

@Traduttore - that's a lot to take in quickly, so I'll have a read of it at my leisure, but your thinking seems fairly akin to mine. That was a good idea to use a wildcard, I hadn't thought of that. I

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