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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 a 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

Past perfect with until

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Actress instead of Actor

I would have thought feminists would have wanted to have taken the word "actress" rather than "actor" which has been recognised as the male form and is actually not neutral in the general scheme of things. It is absolutely ridiculous and is obviously part of the "woke" agenda.

“I’ve got” vs. “I have”

  • MrMike
  • August 14, 2022, 5:51am

I’m learning another language that does not allow the have/possess verb to be used in present simple. Present perfect is necessary. I won’t go into the reasons here, but it got me thinking about English.

Is there a relationship between the auxiliary “have” for the present perfect and the verb “have” used for possession? Or another way, did one lead to the other? Which came into use first, “I have a chicken” or “I have got a chicken”?

I agree a double negative is a positive. Acceptable exception being when being said clearly as slang or for emphasis.

You make a point I've never considered. Strictly speaking, you're correct: to "badly miscalculate" is to do so "poorly", and therefore, "not to miscalculate at all", or "not to miscalculate so severely". However, the word "badly" is used so often from a young age, I think, no one would ever criticize you for using it in place of "severely", which, as you say, is one of degree.

I agree the colon precedes a list, but a list composed of at least three items. In your example, the colon would seem to be too strong. However, I don't have a citation or formal support for my position.

In legal documents, to be extra clear, I often use a colon, and plus, I would add numbering, like this: "I have two (2) sons: (i) Bill; and (ii) Ben."

I am unaware of the "different from/to/than" debate.

In your three examples, the second is by far the one I've most commonly heard.

"Separate to" I can see, but "deal to"?

And I can see "think to" followed by a verb, whereas "think of" is often followed by a noun. Still, I more commonly use "think of".

What about regional differences - "quarter of" vs. "quarter to" (15 minutes before the hour)? I'm used to using "to" in this instance.

Bas Aarts, in his "Oxford Modern English Grammar" advocates an approach that is adaptive and that evolves, rather than a stricter or prescriptive approach. I suppose the key is to understand and to be understood.

I remember being taught some grammar by the nuns in Catholic school, but the bulk of my grammar knowledge came from my father, not from school. And the kids in my class(es) were never any good in grammar anyway, so that's a sad way to say that we didn't have far down to fall.

I agree with you and you make a good point at the end, as in the British way, you cannot distinguish whether the plural usage indicates one school board composed of multiple members or multiple boards.

I would argue for a hybrid: “She didn’t realize … until she smoked 10 cigarettes a day.” The smoking of 10 cigarettes a day is a milestone or a marker in this smoker’s process/evolution. The realization happens suddenly. Once the smoker hit this milestone/marker of smoking 10 cigarettes a day, the realization hit her. The word “until” already signals the sequence of the events, and therefore, it is not necessary to use “had”.

In addition, to me "had" serves two functions: 1. as the past perfect, and/or 2. implying the act (verb) is a lengthy(ier) process.