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Discussion Forum

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. You can browse through the latest questions and comments below. If you have a question of your own, please submit it here.

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Is anyone annoyed by “double words,” such as:  Were you happy happy?  Was it fixed fixed?  Do you know how to type type?  Now, here’s a doozy:  “He’s in his office office.”  What in the heck does that mean?  I’d appreciate your feedback.

 

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Just how screwed has our language become?

Why do we hear phrases like:

“If he gets in contact with you”

when there are simpler and more meaningful phrases like:

“If he gets in touch with you”

or

“If he contacts you”.

Why do people have this predilection with “get” or “got”?

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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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I came upon this on their website: “The Senior Management Team at Fettes College have day to day responsibilities for the running of The College. They meet regularly throughout the year and feedback to staff and Governors as appropriate.”

Leaving aside the rather Germanic employment of capital letters on some, but strangely then not all, of the nouns in this statement, and the wholly gratuitous ‘as appropriate’ tacked on to fill up some space, I find most irksome the use here of ‘feedback’ as a verb. I would use two words: ‘feed back’ (a compound verb), or I would insert a verb and say ‘provide feedback’ (noun + verb). In fact I would much prefer to avoid this ugly expression altogether and use a term such as ‘report back to’ or ‘report to’. Am I alone in finding this whole thing rather disappointing for a major British school?

It’s like the sign at Gatwick airport which directs passengers to do something along the lines of ‘check-in here’ where what is meant is ‘check in here’ because ‘check in’, being what you do, is a compound verb, and ‘check-in’, being the name of the place where you do it, is a noun. 

It is very elementary grammar, as taught to me at about the age of eight, noun! verb! and I find it almost incredible that a renowned Scottish public school can be so sloppy, and that a major airport in England, an English-speaking country, does not proof-read what is to be painted in huge letters on its walls. 

On the other hand, one’s reaction to seeing in Phnom Penh, in Cambodia, the “PRINCESSS HOTEL” in huge pink neon lights ranged in a column above the door, has to be mirth, and wondering what the extra S cost the management. It is not as though they could not afford an apostrophe, as in the foyer are life-size photographs of a number of these estimable ladies, so the ‘princesss’ are plural. So it was an ‘e’ which proved beyond budget, then, or a proof-reader. But that of course is forgivable, as it is not in an anglophone country.

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I’m not usually a peever, but I do make an exception for business buzzwords. A recent survey in Britain found that many office workers felt ‘management-speak’  to be ‘a pointless irritation’. Up to now my least favourite has been ‘going forward’, an expression Lucy Kellaway at the Financial Times campaigned against when it first appeared, but to no avail: everyone uses it now, from Obama to Beckham. But the one that I’m increasingly noticing is ‘reach out’. 

Apart from its physical meanings, my dictionary gives this meaning for ‘reach out’:

reach out to somebody - to show somebody that you are interested in them and/or want to help them - “The church needs to find new ways of reaching out to young people.”

Which is fine. But increasingly it seems to be being used simply to mean ‘contact’, especially on tech sites, for no good reason that I can see other than trendiness. Some examples:

‘If you would like any other suggestions or need help with transitioning your current Google Reader RSS feeds, please reach out to a Library’

‘Wired has also reached out to Google for additional comment.’

‘If you want to follow up, feel free to reach out to me by phone.’

I know I’m just an old fuddy-duddy, and these expressions are harmless, but they do niggle a bit. Any comments? Or anyone for Buzzword Bingo?

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It’s one I had not encountered before moving to NZ. Now I hear it and read it almost daily. Yet a Google seach shows 843,000 hits for NZ out of a total of 267,000,000 so it is obviously not restricted to the antipodes.

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My beef is with titled vs entitled. It seems that it is now acceptable to use entitled in the place of titled. For example: Jane won the contest so she was entitled to the winnings. This is correct. Jane wrote a book and it was entitled ‘How to win at the lottery’ In my opinion, the book was not entitled to anything. The misuse of the word is very widespread and supposedly the meaning has now been officially changed.

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Biggest pet peeve: anything that “changed history.” You cannot change what has already happened. It is over and done with. Even if you go back in time and make changes, you have not changed history, because now it never happened the original way. The original events never happened, became “the past,” and were therefore never history! The only history at that point is the one that did take place as a result of changes being made. There is only one history, regardless of sci-fi movies’ time travel themes, etc., and that is why every form of the phrase “to change history” drives me crazy!

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Pet peeve 3

Saying “get in contact’ or “keep in contact”

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As a follow up to Hairy Scot’s pet peeves. One of mine is the American pronunciation of Gala - gey-luh instead of the traditional English gal-uh.

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Latest Comments

Computer mouses or computer mice?

  • robin1
  • April 20, 2018, 1:43am

Microsoft Style Guide is your friend.

mouse devices
OR
mice

How many thats?

  • WR
  • April 19, 2018, 6:58pm

Teacher critiquing an essay: “I think that that “that that” that that student wrote should’ve been a “which that.”

Littler

No you cannot use littler at all. The correct grammar is smaller. As for the comment in regards to your brother, the correct grammar would be my younger brother instead of smaller if you choose. Hope that helps.

If the word OUT in Canada is pronounced OAT (as in Quaker Oats) and the word ABOUT is pronounced A BOAT (the thing that floats) I assume other OU words and OW words have the same sound: clout, doubt, gout, lout, shout, tout and also bound, downed, found, hound, mound, pound, round, sound, wound, count, mount and I am not sure what else. The way Canadians pronounce the words HOUSE and MOUSE rhyme with DOSE. I have this question: does the word BOW (as in bowing one's head) sound the same in Canada as the BOW that shoots arrows or tying a ribbon in a BOW?

What Rhymes?

My son is in the entertainment field/ hip hop being most of it / editing & stuff. But Did u know ~ that Eminem read the dictionary Every Single Day before he made it ~ so tha he could not only find words that rhymed ~ But☝????Words that Rhymed and made total sense in the Rap? And he uses some lOng Ass words!!! I just found that interesting and wanted to share ~ ????????

What Rhymes?

☝????I beg to differ with you @poetess ~ Silver rhymes w/ Bewilder ????

Double Words

How do I locate the "comments" that come back to me? Pain in the English told me that I had three comments, but when I go to your site, there are none. Thanks.

Double Words

I hear people both in person and on television using the alleged word "I's." Is there such a word. For example, people might say, "John, Joe's, and I's baseball ticket got lost in the subway." To me, that is just wrong and there is not such word as I's. Am I right?

Double Words

Thanks so much for your response. However, I was very serious about double words. I find the use of them to be lazy and an avoidance to one's vocabulary-building. The people that I hear using double words are not saying them jokingly or for humor. In other words, instead of asking "Were you elated?", they say, "Were you happy, or were you happy-happy?" I dislike such lazy speech and hope that it does not become acceptable. Besides, it is often quite confusing, such as, "Was he at the gym, or at the gym-gym?" Someone said that to me and I don't know what he or she meant, nor did I feel that I should have to check for clarification. Thanks for your input.

Double Words

  • Vickie
  • April 10, 2018, 11:32pm

I would imagine these are all mainly humorous.

Were you happy-happy, or were you just "happy" because you're expected to say so out of politeness?

Was it fixed-fixed, or was it just hardcoded or duct-taped to work for that one use case/scenario?

He’s in his office-office -- this could easily apply to my boss, who is a workaholic. Everywhere is his office, and then we have our real corporate office.

I can't say I see any need for saying "Do you know how to type type", unless most people they have encountered only know how to type with one finger and you're looking for someone who knows how to use all 10.