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

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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

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.

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Latest Posts : Etymology / History

I had never thought I would ever wonder what “width” is until my 12-year old daughter came home one day and told me that her math teachers (not just one but two) told her that “width” in geometry is the vertical side of a rectangle. That to me was like saying up is down and down is up. How could this be?

It turns out that her teachers are not alone. Take a look at this page I came across while Googling on the topic. It says:

In the case of a square or a rectangle, the expression length (1) is commonly used instead of base and width (w) instead of height. In the case of a circle the expression diametre (d) is used.

“Width instead of height” is very much like saying up is down. Where did this come from?

And, what is even more disconcerting is that the teachers are not aware of this ambiguous nature of “width.” Two other teachers told me that width is always the horizontal side, and another told me that she has heard others call the vertical side “width.” So, apparently, each is teaching their students in an authoritative manner their own definition of “width.” If a 12-year old is told by her math teacher that “width” in geometry refers to the vertical side, why should she doubt it? Unless, of course, she was also told that “width” can be vertical or horizontal (i.e. direction neutral, like “length”). But that is apparently not what is happening at school in New York City.

If we teach our kids that a triangle has three sides, we don’t want them thinking that the definition of “triangle” could be flexible as if it could have four or five sides. If the definition of “width” is not universal, they need to know that. Here is a case in point. The following question was in 2016 Common Core Math Test for Grade 6.

“A carpenter built three bookcases, A, B, and C, to stand next to each other along a wall. The total length of the wall is 456 centimeters. The carpenter will build two more bookcases, D and E, along the same wall. These two bookcases will have equal widths. The widths of bookcases A, B, and C are shown in the table blow.”

Now, if you were taught that in geometry, “width” means the vertical side and “length” means the horizontal side, you would have to be confused reading this question. The correct response would be, “But why should the ‘widths’ of the bookcases have anything to do with the ‘length’ of the wall in fitting the bookcases?”

My daughter tried to figure this out by drawing a bunch of bookshelves with different heights, and eventually gave up because the question made no sense to her.

In Merriam-Webster, the word “width” has no ambiguity: “the horizontal measurement taken at right angles to the length.” After all, the word “height” has no ambiguity, so why should we think “width” would?

But looking at the Oxford dictionary gives us a slightly different answer: “The measurement or extent of something from side to side; the lesser of two or the least of three dimensions of a body.”

In other words, in a rectangle, “the lesser of the two” sides would be called “width” regardless of the orientation. So, it appears that this is an American-versus-British issue, or is it? (Note the spelling of “diametre” on the page from fao.org quoted above.)

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I have searched the forum and not found any reference to this matter. More and more, I’m hearing this kind of construction: “The fact of the matter is is that we need to...” or “The biggest problem is is that we don’t have...” I’ve even heard President Obama use it. At first blush, it bothers me. There’s no need for the second “is,” and no grammatical precedent. That is to say, I don’t know what it might spill over from. Furthermore, it seems like a fairly recent arrival. What do you think? Is this something we should eschew or embrace? Has anyone else heard and taken note of this?

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What is the origin of the phrase “I’m just saying”?

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Can anyone tell me when and how the adding of “ish” to the end of words got started? Do we lack such confidence in ourselves that we need to add “ish” like a disclaimer to our own words? When has the word become not word enough?

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When did “issue” come to mean “problem” ?

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When an why did “exactly the same” become “the exact same” and more recently “the same exact”?

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There exists a claim that the word “man” originally only referred to people of unimplied sex. To restate, “man” always refereed to both male and female people.

The claims I found were made by sources known by some to be categorically highly unreliable, so I turn to you.

There are claims that “wer” or “were” was used at least for adult males.

The most reliable sources I’ve found to support that are

http://www.etymonline.com/...

http://www.collinsdictionary.com/...

What evidence can you provide of the use of “were” or “wer” in english and the use of “man” and whether “man” changed over time with respect to gender or whether there was always ambiguity?

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I just have the impression that the old proverbs that I heard as a child aren’t heard as much today. People just don’t seem to use them much anymore. 

Of course this is hard to prove: maybe I am not mixing in the right circles; maybe there are newer proverbs that have replaced the older (proverbs change with each generation); maybe the media and/or gurus have picked up some and ignored others; maybe few make into print outside the tabloids and popular magazines. 

As far as the printed word goes, of those I have looked at some seem to peak around the 1930′s and then trail off, only to recover somewhat over the last decade or two. “Actions speak louder than words” was the commonest one I found, 3:1 against “Beggars can not be choosers”.

What is your impression? Is proverb use declining or just new ones becoming popular?

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More and more lately I’ve been hearing and seeing a change in the prepositions used in common phrases.

I’ve already commented on PITE about the use of “deal to” instead of “deal with” in NZ, and of course we have the age old debate about “different from/to”.

Recently I noticed some others creeping in:-

“what do you make to....” instead of “what do you make make of .....”

“I have no intention on.......” instead of “I have no intention of......”.

I’m sure there are others.

While there may be nothing grammatically wrong in this, it does sound a little strange and raises the question of why and how such usage arises.

Does it stem from a desire to be different just for the sake of being different?

Is it down to some kind of narcissism?  

. when saying “what reading

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Will words like fæces, archæologist, fœtus disappear from our language or should they be preserved?

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Latest Comments

Jun-Dai is a pretentious asshat, or at least he was in 2004. Also yes "all but" is still a garbage phrase 15 years later.

He was sat

I quite undestand ' i was sat' instead of 'i was sitting' ! To sit is the action of adopting a position in which one's weight is supported by one's buttocks and this action doesn't take long except maybe for an eldery person ! So if i say the phrase 'someone is sitting on the bench', it should express the fact that they are precisely putting their buttocks on the bench' and once they're done, they are sat !

He was sat

I quite undestand ' i was sat' instead of 'i was sitting' ! To sit is the action of adopting a position in which one's weight is supported by one's buttocks and this action doesn't take long except maybe for an eldery person ! So if i say the phrase 'someone is sitting on the bench', it should express the fact that they are precisely putting their buttocks on the bench' and once they're done, they are sat !

It's funny. Even in 2019 the dictionary still hasn't decided and instead has listed both mouses and mice. LOL! Look at #4.
mouse (mous)
n. pl. mice (mīs)
1.
a. Any of numerous small rodents of the families Muridae and Cricetidae, such as the house mouse, characteristically having a pointed snout, small rounded ears, and a long naked or almost hairless tail.
b. Any of various similar or related animals, such as the jumping mouse, the vole, or the jerboa.
2. A cowardly or timid person.
3. Informal A discolored swelling under the eye caused by a blow; a black eye.
4. pl. mice or mous·es (mous′ĭz) Computers A handheld, button-activated input device that when rolled along a flat surface directs an indicator to move correspondingly about a computer screen, allowing the operator to move the indicator freely, as to select operations or manipulate text or graphics.

mines

The cartoon show "O" frequently uses words like this, with a style of speach the is very much like baby talk. My 8yo son had said mines and it took awhile to keep correcting him. We don't live anywhere that that type of speach is used. The TV travels far and wide. Monitor what they watch. Utube is one of the worst.

It's NOT okay. Brian Clark reads the news on ABC radio news with this defect. NO professional news reader should be on air doing this.
Shtructure, shtrike, shtrict...I want to punch him.

I pronounced history not as hishtry hut histry with the accent on the H and deemed it correct. Where as historian is pronounced as spelt. It is not an unusual thing in English for a word to take its own character. One good example might be: in writing " particular ", but in speech is pronounced peticular. I don't know, that is what I am lead to believe.

Would I presume is past tense of will. She would want you... here there is no doubt of what she would have wanted. Where as " She would have wanted you...", is merely a wish.

“dis” vs “un”

It is only a couple of weeks from 'Eliza Doolittle Day' (20 May)—which is dedicated to speaking and writing with proper English—and I stumbled upon this site. While some of the commenters on the site are not only well informed, but easy to understand. Others however, are a different story. For years I have said that English is dead. People completely disregard: spelling, proper word choice, grammar, and punctuation. Some even invent their own words, or new definitions for existing words when there is an already perfectly good word in existence that means exactly what they mean.

When it comes to dis- & un- as prefixes, 'Chesh' and 'Porsche' explained the differences best. The prefix dis- is the antithesis of the root word, while un- is the absence of the root word.

Example 1: The judge was a disinterested party in that he had no stake in the outcome of the trial. However, juror number six was uninterested in the entire proceeding, preferring to be at work.

Example 2: When Mary dropped her purse, its contents scattered across the floor in a disorganized mess. When the new base commander arrived, he immediately saw the unorganized mess that was his command and took immediate steps to correct the matter.

Example 3: George had a dislike for peanuts due to the allergic reaction they caused whenever he ate them. Marsha felt unliked by her parents because they never showed outward signs of affection such as, being hugged or told "I love you."

Example 4: The company had a disused facility that was awaiting sale or demolition. After the production run, there were some unused parts left over.

We have different words that have similar meanings, so that we can express different 'flavors' within the general meaning. If they truly meant the exact same thing, we would not have different words. As with anything in English, there are always a few exceptions. Always check a GOOD dictionary [OED, Collins, Webster's, etc.] for proper meanings and usages when in doubt. In fact, why not visit a physical dictionary regularly, flip through the pages and learn new words, or proper usages of words you thought you already knew. It is amazing the words you can learn.

I'm a former broadcast journalist, and I noticed this problem creeping into our national language. It's an ANNOYING trend, and nowadays it's prevalent among MANY to MOST Black or latino journalists. I think it's mostly a cultural thing. Kind of like saying "axe" instead of "ask".