Your Pain Is Our Pleasure

Pain in the English offers proofreading services for short-form writing such as press releases, job applications, or marketing copy. 24 hour turnaround. Learn More


Joined: February 3, 2004  (email not validated)
Comments posted: 477
Votes received: 790

No user description provided.

Questions Submitted

Recent Comments

My experience with the M-W is that they tend to try to describe the way the language is spoken, rather than to try to prescribe how the language should be spoken. So they straightforwardly accept a lot of things that other dictionaries, as well as many careful speakers, would consider substandard.

speedwell January 19, 2005, 10:43am

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

Bill(n), the answer to your question can be found in this thread:

speedwell January 19, 2005, 10:38am

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

That's true, goossun. I didn't elaborate (it seemed a bit off-topic), but "Poet Rainer Maria Rilke" uses "poet" as an adjective, sort of like a title. So would "the poet Rilke," in a way. If you deleted the name of the poet from the sentence in either case, the sentence would not make any sense (i.e. "Poet wrote the Duino Elegies.").

"The poet, Rainer Maria Rilke,..." introduces the name of the poet as a parenthetical expression. The sentence would be complete even if I had not added the poet's name ("The poet wrote the Duino Elegies in German.").

speedwell January 18, 2005, 5:31pm

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

Brad, if you were really as smart as you hope we think you are, you'd know who Robert Cawdrey was.

speedwell January 18, 2005, 3:21pm

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

LOL. I think Steph just meant, "There were no standard spelling rules in English before the time during which Webster wrote his famous dictionary."

Strictly speaking, there are still no "rules" for correct spelling. There are only customary, best-accepted spellings that are agreed upon by a majority of users of English (especially writers and teachers and compilers of dictionaries). The only penalty you pay for violating the conventions is looking gauche--and, in rare cases, appearing to say something you did not intend.

speedwell January 18, 2005, 3:14pm

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

Copy Dog:

I honestly had not even noticed the phenomenon until this very minute, when I read your post. I tried saying some similar phrases to myself, but I don't have any preference for one way or the other. They sound equally correct to me.

I think it should be noted that you need to be a bit careful with nouns used as adjectives. The following examples are all correct:

"The poet wrote elegies."
"Poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote the Duino Elegies."
"The poet Rainer Maria Rilke and the composer Frederic Chopin both wrote beautiful elegies."
"In this essay about Romantic elegies, I am going to use as examples the works of a famous poet and a familiar composer. The poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, wrote the Duino Elegies in German. The composer, Frederic Chopin, took as his inspiration a Polish folk song form called the 'dumka' (elegy)."

speedwell January 18, 2005, 3:04pm

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

No, Chiara, "useful" and "unit," like "university" and "Europe" and all similar words, begin with a consonant sound, so they take "a" rather than "an."

speedwell January 15, 2005, 4:34pm

1 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

Hello, Frank. One of two things is happening here:

1) The writer does not pronounce the H in those words.

2) The writer is being "hypercorrect." What I mean is that the writer actually thinks that there is a rule that you should use "an" before words that are spelled with an H. There is no such rule.

The rule is simply that YOU use "an" before words that YOU pronounce with a beginning vowel sound, and "a" for words that YOU pronounce with a beginning consonant sound, regardless of the actual spelling of the word.

It may actually be the only hard-and-fast rule in the language. :)

speedwell January 14, 2005, 9:09am

1 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

Ladylucy, the comment in question was intended as general helpful advice to the readership, not as a personal offense tactic directed at you.

speedwell January 11, 2005, 5:47pm

2 votes    Permalink    Report Abuse

Which doesn't at all change the fact that Olga's quoted sentence is as stupid and mechanical as a bag of loose car parts.

speedwell January 11, 2005, 9:48am

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

Noah, you're correct... "sic" means "thus" or "so" in Latin.

I know why I thought it meant "such." It does... if you're speaking the Doric (Aberdonian Scots). Let this be a lesson to me to not try to speak two languages at one time. Heh. :)

speedwell January 11, 2005, 8:15am

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

Sol, the word for what is going on when a brand name becomes a standard English term seems to be "genericide," oddly enough.

The most commonly used phrase for such a term appears to be "generic word."

There is some consensus on these new words, but no hard-and-fast rule. Language is like that.

And why is your pharmacist upset? He's making a profit. Maybe there are some other issues there. (just kidding) :)

speedwell January 11, 2005, 8:10am

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

All of the 10+ dictionaries I consulted clearly specify that the T should be pronounced. The Merriam-Webster 10th Online, however, seems to indicate that the T is sometimes optional (not, I gather, that it should be optional).

Dictionaries are good for this sort of thing. Google is good for other things. It's good to know the difference.

speedwell January 11, 2005, 8:03am

2 votes    Permalink    Report Abuse

Although I may be wrong about the recent coinage; see this Language Log entry:

speedwell January 10, 2005, 8:20am

2 votes    Permalink    Report Abuse

Wendy, "tsunami" is the technical term for it. Why on earth must you be so oversensitive?

Dyske, I was informed (can't find the link anymore) that the word was coined by seismologists (earthquake scientists) quite recently. They needed a specific word to describe what happened in the special case of a tidal wave caused by an earthquake at sea. Although the word is derived from Japanese root elements, I was under the impression that it was not a "natural" Japanese word. Does this confirm what you know?

speedwell January 10, 2005, 8:16am

3 votes    Permalink    Report Abuse

lol degustibus. For the rest of us... if you did not understand deg's response, google "ghoti." You'll find some interesting thoughts on spelling in English also.

Manilavanilla, no existing word is completely a violation of spelling rules. It;s just that the rules are a bit more complex than you think. In the particular case of "colonel," the spelling is correct but the pronunciation is "incorrect." Mindbending, I know.

speedwell January 8, 2005, 6:41am

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

Yes, it is only used in a direct quotation. You can also use "[sic]" to avoid confusion. Suppose you had a quotation in which someone wrote an ellipsis (like this quote from a friend's e-mail):

"Well... maybe if you want to... we can go eat at that new Thai place tonight."

Normally the ellipsis (the three dots) are used within a quotation to show omitted material. But my friend used them to show a pause in thought. So to avoid confusion when quoting the material, I could write this:

"Well... [sic] maybe if you want to... [sic] we can go eat at that new Thai place tonight."

I think but I'm not absolutely sure (and I'm too lazy to look it up since Christ it's early) that it's Latin for "such."

speedwell January 8, 2005, 6:38am

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

That's "produced." Dyske, can we have a preview mode? Please? :)

speedwell January 7, 2005, 8:06am

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

hey Goossun... Happy New Year :) I'll give the common terms as they are used by retail clerks and shoppers. If you want more technical terms, my dad once consulted for a company that producted the machines, and I can ask him for you.

- The machine is called a POS machine. (POS stands for "point of sale.") Many people don't know this term, though, and they just refer to the "credit card reader" or "that credit card thing."
- You "swipe" the card through the slot.
- The receipt is printed out by the receipt printer. I'm not aware of a more specific name.
- When you hand the card to the cashier, there's no special term. You're just paying with a credit card.
- When you use the machine and enter a PIN, you're using a "debit card" that acts like an electronic check, rather than a credit card (though the credit card companies usually issue them). The money comes out of your checking account instead of a line of credit.
- The little, fussy, low-tech apparatus that makes an impression of the actual card is called an "imprinter."

Additional words? Hmm.

- When someone sends you an e-mail or calls you, pretending to be your bank or a merchant and asking for your credit card information, but their true purpose is to steal from you by using your credit card number to buy things, it's called "phishing." This is a hacker spelling of "fishing."
- The carbon copies made by an imprinter on a multiple-part form are referred to as "carbons." The form itself is often referred to as a "slip."
- When someone calls their bank to say their card is missing, it's "reported stolen" whether it's really been stolen or not. If the bank then refuses to honor the card, the card is "rejected."
- The credit card issuer is a "creditor," and the credit card holder is a "debtor." The United States law that regulates the creditor-debtor relationship is called the FCRA, "Fair Credit Reporting Act."

I personally don't use credit cards, because I can't understand why anyone would want to continually spend money before they have it, as opposed to taking a loan out for a specific purpose.

speedwell January 6, 2005, 8:47am

1 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

I'll merely point out that I agree with Craig's comment. That is all I wanted to say.


speedwell January 2, 2005, 3:26pm

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse