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Proofreading Service - Pain in the English
Proofreading Service - Pain in the English

Your Pain Is Our Pleasure

24-Hour Proofreading Service—We proofread your Google Docs or Microsoft Word files. We hate grammatical errors with passion. Learn More

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This is a forum to discuss the gray areas of the English language for which you would not find answers easily in dictionaries or other reference books.

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Latest Posts : Coinage

I’ve been listening to Van Morrison’s “Friday’s Child” for quite some time now because I love this song so much. I tried to look up the meaning of ” Friday’s Child” but onbly found a reference to an old rhyme. Can anybody tell me the meaning of the saying “Friday’s Child” and when and why it is used? Many thanks.

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Am I alone in despairing when I hear phrases like:

  • “We played brilliant.”
  • “He did it wrong.” (or more commonly “He done it wrong.”)
  • “He behaved stupid.”

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Some people think that there is a difference in meaning between “in that regard” and “in that respect”, some believe that a lot of phrases using “regard” or “regards” are in fact making inappropriate use of the word, and of course some think there is nothing wrong with such usage.

Does anyone else think that the phrase “In that regard” is overused and misused?

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Is there any defense of capitalizing after a semicolon? This reads well to me:

We do not sell tricycles; We sell velocipedes. 

Learn the difference.

Not capitalizing the first word of the second clause diminishes the perceived parallelism:

We do not sell tricycles; we sell velocipedes.

The store around the corner sells bicycles.

With a period between them, the first two clauses read like the premises of a syllogism:

We do not sell tricycles. We sell velocipedes.

Do we sell unicycles?

I will continue, of course, to pen as I please, but, in this instance, wonder if I can confidently publish as I please.

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Is separating two coordinating-conjunction-linked sentences, the former having a comma(s), with a semicolon instead of a comma logically justified?

In GrammarBook.com’s Semicolons category, Rule 5. reads:

Use the semicolon between two sentences joined by a coordinating conjunction when one or more commas appear in the first sentence.

Examples: When I finish here, I will be glad to help you; and that is a promise I will keep.

If she can, she will attempt that feat; and if her husband is able, he will be there to see her.

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The AP Stylebook today announced that electronic mail is now spelled without a hyphen: email. Finally. I personally haven’t used “e-mail” in about a decade. We have a thread here on this topic of how to properly spell email.

http://painintheenglish.com/case/4463

At the time, I commented that it may take another 10 years for this to settle, but it took less than a year!

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How does one know exactly when a word is supposed to end with -“ise” vs -“ize” in Oxford spelling?

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Onamography is a writing technique that involves creatively incorporating proper nouns (company names, celebrities, etc.) in regular English sentences.

A few examples to clarify the concept:

Onnicle 1: The man at the bar acknowledged that he found the job amateurish. Onnicle 2: The SMS said..Bob ill. The rag ate sick shellfish!

The first sentence has ‘Barack Obama’ embedded in it and the second one has Bill Gates. The concept can be extended to include multiple names in a paragraph.

I’ve been trying to find out if there is already a technical name in English to describe it. Onamography is a coined word (Greek origin: onuma --> name, graphe --> writing) as I couldn’t find anything else that comes close to describing the concept.

Any inputs?

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Have you noticed that, at trendy cafes, more than half of the laptop computers you see are the new MacBooks? (Well, at least in New York City.) I don’t mean any MacBook; I’m talking about the latest MacBook (”the brick”). In fact, I believe seeing the older versions of MacBooks is rarer than seeing PC laptops.

If these people are deciding to work at cafes for practical reasons, then the laptop demographic should be much more diverse, with a lot more PCs and older versions of MacBook, but this is not what I see. The demographic is heavily skewed towards the latest models of MacBook. So, I would have to conclude that the reason why these MacBook owners come out to cafes is because they want to show off their brand new MacBooks.

It would makes sense, therefore, to coin a term for showing off your MacBook at a cafe. I’ve struggled with this for a while, and this morning, I decided that it should be “Mac off”.

“Hey, honey. I’m gonna go Mac off at the Starbucks for a few hours, OK?”

“At a cafe in Williamsburg, I saw about a dozen people sitting in a row Mac’ing off.”

“I bought the new MacBook Pro last week, but I haven’t Mac’ed off yet.”

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If you have a kid and a stroller, I’m sure you’ve experienced this many times. You hang a lot of stuff from the handle of the stroller, and when the kid jumps out of it, the whole thing topples over.

One of my friends wants a word for this (a verb). I tried to think of one, but I couldn’t come up with a good one. (”Stropple”, for instance, isn’t so good because the sound of it lacks the impact of the actual event.) Can anyone think of one?

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Latest Comments

Fetch Referring to People?

I have come to realize, through whoopycat's words, that I find the intonation that people use to affect how I perceive the word fetch. Too often, people use it through what I would call a "tired, high-and-mighty, proper British" tone which would annoy me, but when they use an American southern drawl, I find it refreshing and non-demeaning.

The phenomenon of the "shtr" is caused by the inability to hold the lower teeth behind the upperteeth, as in a severe overbite.

Stood down

An example from "Sharpe's Eagle", set during the Napoleonic Wars. After a disastrous skirmish with the French, the South Essex regiment chief, Colonel Sir Simmerson, tries to lay blame on a major who was killed and otherwise thoroughly discredit him. General Wellesley sees right through it and after tearing him a new one, announces "The South Essex is stood down in name. If I wipe the name, I may wipe the shame. I am making you a battalion of detachments; you will fetch and carry. The Light Company put up a fight, so I will let it stand under the command of a new captain."

This leads me to believe that when you are stood down, that is someone stands you down instead of standing down yourself, you are effectively being suspended from your current active role, and it carries a punitive connotation compared to asking someone to stand down, which is more neutral and is effectively a synonym for "calm down" or "stop what you're doing".

“study of” vs. “study on”

  • Lena
  • September 9, 2021, 3:36pm

All the examples from New Oxford American Dictionary, use "study" as a noun. The question was should we use "study on" when "study" is used as a verb.
The verb "study" does not take any preposition to link to the topic being studied.
There is a difference between:
I studied on this topic (wrong)
vs
A study on this topic was presented... (good)

How do I write out .25% ?

  • Rer
  • September 6, 2021, 5:54am

like

Pronunciation: aunt

  • Baba
  • September 2, 2021, 12:09pm

This thread started with a question on 'ask' vs. 'ax'. Let's look at it from a linguist's perspective, shall we? In Old English, while there is still some debate, it appears we 'asked' for things. But all language evolves, and at some time during the evolution from Old English to Middle English, the 's' and 'k' became transposed, producing 'aksed'/'axed', or any one of the other spelling variants. I won't get any further into the weeds on the entomology. Beowulf uses that pronunciation. Chaucer, using his native Later Middle English, wrote it as 'ax'. The 1585 version of the King James Bible wrote it that way. It was pronounced that way during that time period.

While in England the evolution of English eventually resulted in it being pronounced 'ask' again, you had people migrating to the new world in the 17th Century, when 'ax' was still in use. This was the case even though amongst the educated elite, 'ask' had become the norm by Shakespeare's time. It must be kept in mind that most people who came to the New World were not the educated elite. So, the majority of English spoken in the colonies would have used 'ax'.

Interesting factoid: when a language is exported elsewhere, it tends to remain static in the place it lands, until outside forces cause it to change. Where English was concerned, the language evolved far more quickly in England than in the colonies. There are linguists that maintain certain forms of American English still more closely resemble Later Middle English than any English produced in England today.

Eventually, American English was influenced by newer forms of British pronunciations through exposure to the influx of British immigrants over many years. But certain populations largely escaped the levels of exposure necessary for 'ask' to become ingrained. One example of that is the Gullah-speaking people of the OuterBanks, which until
recently has been quite isolated. Still other examples are certain dialects within the Appalachias, where use of 'ax' continues to this day (albeit primarily amongst older residents.) In addition, until very recently, large segments of the Black population in general used 'ax'. Why Blacks? Segregation, of course. But that has been rapidly changing. With the advent of integration has come exposure to 'ask', and with exposure has come change. It's still early days in that process, but in the 'ax' pronunciation is quickly becoming the exception rather than the rule.

It's important to note that whatever your personal views on the 'correctness' of this word's pronunciation might be, linguists do not view 'ax' as an aberration or a bad thing; merely a dialectical difference, easily explained by history. I suggest y'all take up the same mantle.

Decision is a noun meaning choice or judgement. Replace "decision" with "choice" or "judgement" and you would never precede it with "take", you would always use "make".

Fetch Referring to People?

I don't hear this word referring to people anymore, but my grandma used it in that manner. "Go fetch your grandad", etc. Kinda weird to think about it being used in that manner these days. Btw, my grandma was born in 1910 in a very small town in northern
Nebraska. I've never been there, but in my mind I picture all towns in Nebraska as small. Are they? I need to go fetch google.

“Let his/him come in.”

If it's an exam and there's no space for comments, I would definitely put "him."
Having said that, there are some cases when it could be "his" such as in the following dialogue:
"There are three cats in the waiting room. Two are with a woman who has been waiting since 10 o'clock. The other is with a man who just rushed in and has to catch a plane in one hour."
"Let his come in."
Here we are distinguishing between her cats and his cat and it is very clear what is being said.