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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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I was in empty space in an elevator one day when it occurred to me that it’s actually “pains-taking”, the taking of pains to do something thoroughly. I’d never thought about it before.

But it’s too hard to pronounce “painz-taking”, because the “z” sound must be voiced; whereas the unvoiced “s” combines easily with the “t” to make “-staking”, so that’s what we say. That’s my theory, but BrE might be different. Is it?

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For example, “Every morning, I wake up at 6:00 am and then I make a cup of coffee.”

As a writing teacher for international students, I see this kind of sentence all the time. I know it is technically correct to use a comma before a coordinating conjunction, but I have found that so many Americans omit this comma that it has become extremely commonplace even among native English speakers. Is it socially acceptable in writing to omit the comma? How serious is it to mandate that my international include this comma?

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Could you please explain the difference in the following sentences?

1. The instruments used are very reliable.

2. The instruments being used are very reliable.

Are participle 2 “used” and passive participle 1 “being used” interchangeable in this context?

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I seem to be pretty fond of the adverb ‘pretty’ used as a modifier, so was rather surprised when one of my young Polish students told me that his teacher at school had said that this use was ‘OK with his mates’ (his words), but inappropriate in the classroom. Looking around I see that this is not an isolated objection, although people didn’t seem to complain about it much before 1900.

Why has this word, much used by eighteenth and nineteenth century writers, writers of prescriptive grammar included, attracted this opposition in more recent times?

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The New York Yankees

The Utah Jazz

The Orlando Magic

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I’m new here, and am wondering what all you experts think about the use of the word “leverage” as a verb. It seems it’s being used more often recently. Personally I feel that “leverage” is a noun, as defined by Merriam-Webster’s as “the action of a lever or the mechanical advantage gained by it”. However it seems that mainly financial and managerial types seem to like using is as a verb - “Hey, let’s leverage the unfortunate circumstances of these people that can’t pay their bonds, and get their homes for free”.

What does it mean? Although MW does give it as a verb as well, it’s interesting that investopedia.com gives it as “1 The use of various financial instruments or borrowed capital, such as margin, to increase the potential return of an investment.”, i.e. it lists the verb first. Other sources give different meanings, suggesting that the meaning of “leverage” as a verb is not very clear. I wonder what these people do when their roof leakages, or the engines of their cars failure?

Just for interest, over the years I’ve bookmarked the following in my web browser (under info / language / English):

(please excuse the language there where not appropriate :)

Oh yes, and a quote from Seth Godin’s blog (although I’m not sure who he is quoting):

“leveraging” , - comment: i asked everyone on my team not to use those words. the frequency of use of words like “leverage” is inversely proportionate to the amount of original thought. the more you say “leverage”, the less you’ve probably thought about what you’re saying.

(Seth is an American marketer, motivational speaker and author)

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Recently saw this headline in Time:- 

“Katy Perry Admits She’s Nervous to Perform at the Super Bowl”. 

To me “nervous to perform” sounds a bit strange. 

My feeling is that “nervous of performing” sounds better.

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I had always believed that saying “thanks for that” without a following noun or phrase was intended as something of a put down.

I’m not referring to its use in the form “Thanks for that information” or “Thanks for that wine you sent”, but to the situation(s) where someone had said something inane or pointless, or had told an uninteresting story or a somewhat obscure joke.

One would then say “Thanks for that” followed by the person’s name.

eg:  

Tim: “This one time, I broke a pen and then fixed it again.”

Me: “Thanks for that, Tim.”

But now the phrase seems to be in general use with no irony attached.

Instead of just saying “Thank you” some people are now saying “Thanks for that” with no further qualification.

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I read recently that there are those who feel that the word “rack” in the phrases “rack one’s brain” and “rack and ruin” should perhaps be spelled “wrack”, while others maintain that either spelling is acceptable.

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I replied to a letter from a solicitor and in return got a letter beginning “Thank you for reverting to us so promptly”. I have never seen “revert” used in this way. Is it a legal usage (in any sense)?

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Latest Comments

Pled versus pleaded

  • Mary G
  • December 8, 2017, 4:11pm

So, should we expect "he bled to death" to become "he bleeded to death"?

Thanks! I didn't think to look there.

Possessive with acronyms ending in S

  • jayles
  • December 4, 2017, 12:52am

@riley
"requires" and "is" are more common than "require" and "are" in published books.

http://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=GA...

“Anglish”

This looks very much like Cowley's work who wrote 'How we'd talk if the English won in 1066' . I think he's an excellent linguist with cutting edge ideas on the make and mode of English as it stands and would have been. I do, however, believe that 'ednew' became the modern 'anew' thus, it should be Anew/ Anewed English.

Computer mouses or computer mice?

  • colin1
  • December 2, 2017, 12:50pm

Fowler's Modern English Usage 3rd Ed (2004) doesn't recognise "mouse" as an acronym but as a term within a new layer of words with new meanings, called "computerese". Fowler's adopts a wait and see approach.

Computer mouses or computer mice?

  • colin1
  • December 2, 2017, 12:29pm

The Economist Style Guide says, with regard to plurals in general, "No rules here. The spelling ... may be decided by either practice or derivation."

Computer mouses or computer mice?

  • colin1
  • December 2, 2017, 12:08pm

The Oxford Dictionary of English 3rd Ed (2010) entry for mouse reads as follows: "2 (pl. mice or mouses) a small handheld device which is moved across a mat or flat surface to move the cursor on a computer screen". The world's most trusted dictionary of English accepts both mice and mouses as correct.

“Anglish”

Hello,

Does anyone know anything about this site:

http://ednewenglish.tripod.com/index.htm

The first sentence describing it says:

"Ednew English is dedicated to an awareness and restoration primarly of native English words."

There are lists of prefixes, suffixes, verbs, and so on; but there is no information about who the author is.

There are lots of interesting words there, but I wonder if they are actually words. For example, is "Ednew" actually a word?

Thanks,

I heard today for the first time ever that it is supposed to be said "you've got another *think* coming." I always understood it as meaning, If you think this way, a negative consequence "some thing" is on its way to straighten you out. Not the thinking itself which will be redone, but the consequences of that way of thinking. I still prefer "thing", since this is what I mean when I say it. In fact, after that consequence comes I/they might rethink my/their initial position. Or it might be that the consequence is the end of it and they never change their opinion, just get that lovely bad thing as a result. Besides, "another think coming" implies that a think is a thing, when think is a verb. In no other ways do I use think as a noun. A think is coming. Incorrect. A thought is coming. Correct. To fight over this "grammar rule" when it is breaking grammar rules to even say it is silly. If anything, it would need to be..."If you think...you've got another thought coming." Just my two cents.

What about an acronym such as GAAP? it stands for Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. If I am writing a sentence, do I treat the acronym as a plural or as a singular since the term itself is plural - i.e. principles? For instance, would I write "GAAP require" or "GAAP requires"? Thanks