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 a 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

Texted

The term "Texted" is an incorrect past tense representation of the verb, or of the referenced noun text. The verb text has always been past: text, Present: (text later with cell phones texting, showing present form), and Future: text.

Incorrect language: we had texted.
Any competent English teacher can tell you what is wrong with that statement.
You do not use the past perfect in a later action. Please ask a credible Professor.

The term texted is a term made up in the later 1990's to early 2000's. It was a slang used by some whom did not understand tense in the English language. Putting in Wikipedia and others, till they repeat/accept it, does not make it correct language.

Yes, I understand, the English language isn't easy. We All make mistakes! It would seem as a natural progression to just add "ed" to the end of text thus creating texted. However, that addition is in contradiction to the basic rules of English. If teachers of English would have been more educated in the texted orgin, they would have fixed this before it started.

Thanks for listening, all education can be difficult, and the English language is one made more so, because it is the melting pot of most languages on the planet.

Victorian Era English

Started by Hutu nationalists in the capital of Kigali, the genocide spread throughout the country with shocking speed and brutality, as ordinary citizens were incited by local officials and the Hutu power government to take up arms against their neighbours

s/he

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s/he

The main problem with "s/he" is this: how the hell is it pronounced?

This is silly. Ignorance with an air of superiority. The rules of modern standard British English don't necessarily apply to all other variants. One example, is this, 'bring' and 'take'.

In Irish English, and from Irish, tóg, meaning take, traditionally was used primarily to 'take' possession of something (from someone). Take a sweet! So you can take something given to you or you could steal it. Something is 'changing hands'. But there was 'no movement of travel', so traditionally it would be, (take the kids 'from me') and bring them to school. Will you bring the kids to school? In Irish English, you bring the kids TO school and then you bring them home FROM school (One verb is enough, no need to reference 'taking possession') You bring food (with you) to the party. No one ate any of it. You (take it and) bring it home with you at the end of the night.

Of course, you can TAKE an umbrella, BUT WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH IT....""BRING"" it with you, therefore 'BRING AN UMBRELLA in case it rains!'

In Br-En you use TAKE (for bringing something/someone) from HERE to THERE.
I am taking the kids TO SCHOOL. Take that to them.
and you only BRING from THERE to HERE.
I am bringing the kids home FROM SCHOOL. Bring that to me!

Weird snobbery across these posts. Likely due to the British 'take/bring' directionality rule becoming commonplace. Still silly though.

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A pure second conditional would have both an unreal present (or future) condition and result: "If I studied hard, I would get a good grade"

"Lego" is the plural of "Lego."
I would no more look at a bunch of branded, plastic pieces and call them "Legos" than I would look at slices of bread and call them "breads."
It's the same. It's a slice of bread, a loaf of bread; it's a piece of Lego, a Lego brick a Lego set, a pile of Lego. It's not "a bread" and it's not "a Lego," either.
And just because a bunch of people say it that way doesn't make it any more acceptable. Unless, of course, they all started saying "breads," too.

Past tense of “text”

Past tense of "text" is text' as in "he text' her his reply"
The implied "ed" is not spoken, much as in the same way that the "s" is not added or pronounced when we attribute ownership to a name ending in "s" e.g. "the robe belongs to Jesus" or "that is Jesus' robe" not "Jesus's"

Wholeheartedly agree