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

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.

Do You Have a Question?

Submit your question

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.)

Read Comments

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?

Read Comments

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

Read Comments

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?

Read Comments

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

Read Comments

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

Read Comments

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?

Read Comments

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?

Read Comments

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

Read Comments

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

Read Comments

Latest Comments

Social vs Societal

  • Mango
  • July 16, 2019, 10:29am

I am writing my MA dissertation, which uses social science methods for applied linguistics. I have been writing 'societal change' instead of 'social change' because of the latter's association in my mind with political activism. After reading the above discussion (or most of it - it's nearly lunchtime) I am considering changing it to 'changes in society', thus avoiding any unintended connotations or pomposity.

I have a sentence: "The list below describes important activities that a learning team can work together". Could you help me to rewrite this one starting with "Below"? Thank you =)))

I determined Table Of Contents was appropriate if my work had a CD, otherwise Table Of Content seemed so obvious.

Emotionality

How about this: emotionality is the mental/psychological faculty that enables us to be more or less emotional and to express our emotions. It is that which is one the same level with rationality and its opposite. It is a rather abstract entity whereas our emotions are the raw material of which our emotional self is built - hatred, fury, rage vs. love, compassion, fear etc. Emotionality is the code/software/system, emotion(s) the content. Is this making sense to anyone but me? I was reluctant using "emotionality" just minutes ago but I now think it has its justification.

Americans tend to use 'different than' on its own, but correctly, the 'than' is the other half of 'more', thus: more different than (something else).

How do I put Depaz on a gift? Should it be love, The Depazes?

Yes, it is very wrong.

The issue here is because the days of weeks are in blocks of weeks, there seems to be a confusion because of a Wednesday being placed into a future week, If we had a line of poles across 2 paddocks say 7 in each and you are standing at the first pole, the next pole is the second pole, not the second pole in the next paddock, same as if you are on Monday the next Wednesday is 2 days hence not Wednesday of next week. Similar to the earlier reference of next train, no other units of measurement places next as anything but the very next item, the options to clarify what seems to be an incorrect evolution of the term here is, next is next, a day in next week is a day of next week or as was known previously E.G. Wednesday week, meaning Wednesday of next week. or give the specific calendar date to avoid confusion.

The issue here is because the days of weeks are in blocks of weeks, there seems to be a confusion because of a Wednesday being placed into a future week, If we had a line of poles across 2 paddocks say 7 in each and you are standing at the first pole, the next pole is the second pole, not the second pole in the next paddock, same as if you are on Monday the next Wednesday is 2 days hence not Wednesday of next week. Similar to the earlier reference of next train, no other units of measurement places next as anything but the very next item, the options to clarify what seems to be an incorrect evolution of the term here is, next is next, a day in next week is a day of next week or as was known previously E.G. Wednesday week, meaning Wednesday of next week. or give the specific calendar date to avoid confusion.

Inch vs. Inches

  • Ringo
  • June 26, 2019, 7:00pm

1/8 inch, 3/8 inches. Singular vs plural is not a matter of measure but rather the number of units being referenced. In the matter of fractions, while both are less than one (1) inch, 1/8 is one of eight parts, therefore, a singular "inch" should be used, whereas anything more than one of eight (i.e. two, three, four... of eight) is plural and thus "inches" is appropriate. 2/8 inches = 1/4 inch. In similar manner for decimals, 0.1 inch, 0.2 inches, 0.11 inches.