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Joined: October 20, 2005
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PS - while I would certainly accept that some have used African-American to mean 'descended from "black" slaves in the United States', it would be counterfactual to suggest that this is the sole or even the more common (or even a remotely common) definition. By far, common usage and every formal definition I have checked, is simply "American of African descent" with an occasional addendum of "especially of black African descent". Further, I have often seen the idea that African-American might refer to "descended from black slaves..." portrayed as itself a form of naive and provincial bigotry stemming from a stereotypical and false notion that all "blacks" in the US are descended from slaves, ignoring the rich and varied cultures and origins of African-Americans here (in all fairness, I must point out that the majority of African-Americans are descended from slaves, but that's still irrelevant).

porsche December 21, 2011, 9:12pm

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Sigurd, re:

"... ‘African-American’ (hyphenated), which may also be written ‘Afro-American’... it’s better to just use the all-encompassing term ‘black’ instead of trying to be ‘politically correct’..."

Actually, it's my recollection that while African-American may mean the same thing as Afro-American, the term African-American was created specifically to replace Afro-American, the latter of which is considered politcially incorrect, and perhaps mildly offensive by some. Similarly and earlier, Afro-American was created to replace "black" which is also considered by some to be politically incorrect and possibly offensive (although I do frequently hear "black" from both African-Americans and non-African-Americans alike). You can certainly refer to anyone you like any way you like, but do realize that you may be perceived by some as insensitive or even bigoted. On the other hand, others may praise you for not giving into pressure to embrace politically correct flavors of the day. At the very least, it might be wise to know your audience before you speak. As the saying goes, "you pays your money and your takes your choice".

porsche December 21, 2011, 8:45pm

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Loud, soft, quick, slow, fast (I guess there isn't a "fastly"), I'm sure there are more. All of these are frequently used adverbially (sometimes in combination with real, too!)

porsche December 16, 2011, 5:29pm

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Will, surely, it was clear that I was offering off-hand speculation as to an alternate way of parsing, yes?

porsche December 15, 2011, 6:16pm

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porsche December 4, 2011, 12:57pm

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This reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where Elaine labors over whether her new boyfriend is "spongeworthy".

Also, Sigurd, I'm with you on this one; if English were resetricted only to words that have been previously spoken or written, then there would be no language at all!

porsche December 4, 2011, 12:56pm

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You know, I used to think of "hone in on" as some kind of metaphor, comparing the convergence of several possible paths on a single locus, with the sharpening of a blade, the thicker metal tapering to a fine edge. After reading this and researching further, I now think that such a comparison is utter nonsense. Clearly it's "home".

porsche November 19, 2011, 1:51pm

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Personally, I have to weigh in with the text-ed (two syllables) set. I can't imagine why anyone would suggest otherwise. That being said, let me make a suggestion. I don't see anything wrong with someone pronouncing it "texed" (one syllable). It's not uncommon to hear someone pronounce the possessive "the Jones' "as "the Jones" (one syllable) rather than "the Jones-ES" (two syllables), especially if followed by further sibilance. I would suggest that it's no different than saying "wudja do?" when you mean "what did you do?" Clearly, there's nothing wrong with "wudja". It's said all the time by pretty much every English speaker. Even so, absolutely no one would ever claim that "what did you" is wrong and that "wudja" is the "correct" way to say it.

porsche November 16, 2011, 1:59pm

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Ah, the ole' "empty set is a subset of every set" routine. Very clever, Mastermind. I like it.

porsche November 16, 2011, 1:48pm

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Ok, this really shouldn't be all that hard to understand. While both words have more than one meaning, let's compare "to have" meaning "to possess", with "to get", meaning "to receive". "Got" is the simple past tense and as mentioned above, "have got" is the present perfect.

The present perfect is used to describe past events that happened at an unspecified time. E.g., "I have eaten breakfast already." is ok, but not "I have eaten breakfast at 9AM." It should be "I ate breakfast at 9AM."

When you say "I have got" something, it means that some time in the past, you received it. At one time you didn't have it, then at some later time, you did. There's nothing wrong, grammatically or semantically, with such an assertion.

When you say "I have" something, it means that you are in possession of it, nothing more and nothing less. There's nothing wrong with this either.

Now follow me on this: anything that you currently have, you must have got at some time or another. Even if you were born with a particular trait, you still received it at the moment of your creation (reincarnation notwithstanding). Conversely, everything you have got, you still have, unless of course, you've disposed of it somehow (in which case, you'd probably say "had got").

So, "I have" and "I have got" do not actually mean the same thing, but anything you can say one about, you can just as readily say the other about. They can be used interchangeably. Both are correct, but still different. Do people often say one when they really mean the other? Probably, but it really doesn't matter if they are logically equivalent.

porsche November 16, 2011, 1:34pm

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"...I side with those linguists who think that the measure of what is correct is what is 'well-formed': what is acceptable to the majority of educated speakers..."

If many of the posts on this site are any indication, then all linguists think that the measure of what is correct is what is acceptable to any identifiable group of speakers, no matter how small.

No, let me change that. All linguists think that there is no such thing as "correct".

porsche November 12, 2011, 12:40pm

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I agree, Will. The UK notion of group nouns is completely different from the general notion of uncountable / mass nouns.

porsche November 12, 2011, 12:29pm

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I'n not saying it's wrong, but I have never seen eg without the dots and I would never write it that way. As for U.S., I think that in many cases you do not see the dots any more.

porsche November 11, 2011, 4:03pm

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@JJMB, "Tense" is often used to represent any combination of tense, aspect, and mood. Furthermore, there is a past, present, and future subjunctive. Still, I'll be happy to cede the point, athough this really isn't relevant to the discussion.

Let me restate as follows:

...Nearly every verb in Engish has a subjunctive construction. The verb "to be" just happens to be perhaps the only one whose subjunctive form is irregular...

To tell you the truth, I'm not sure whether you may agree with my points or not. Regarding:

"...And while most English verbs have at least one distinctly subjunctive verb form (the uninflected base form of the verb in the third person singular..."

That is consistent with my very point. "distinctly subjunctive" and "subjunctive" are not the same thing. Most correct uses of the subjunctive are not distinctly different from the corresponding non-subjunctive form. That doesn't mean that the subjunctive doesn't exist. It is the mood that determines its, er, "subjunctivity".

I agree, defective modals complicate things even further, but I'm not sure whether their defectiveness necessarily breaks from the normal subjunctive paradigm. Even if it does in some cases, so what?

Regarding the complexity of the Wikipedia link, here we do disagree. I think the link provides a very simple, yet relatively complete description of the subjunctive. It's also consistent with every English grammar book that I have ever seen.

Let me make yet another suggestion. Maybe "if I was you..." doesn't really represent the death of the subjunctive. It merely represents the death of a particular construction of the subjunctive. If it has become acceptable (and I'm not saying it hast or hasn't), then "was" simply replaces "were" as the subjunctive form. It wouldn't be the first time in history that a distinct subjunctive form became obsolete.

For what it's worth, I still use it, my young children do, and if it goes away, I'll be sad to see it go.

porsche November 11, 2011, 3:56pm

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Interesting to note, the verb, to enamor, means to inspire or inflame with love. All the sources I've examined say that it's usually used in the passive form, as mentioned above.

Now, think about just what that means. If Jack is enamored of/with/by Jill, that means that Jill is the one doing the enamoring. Jill enamors Jack. Jill is inspiring Jack's love. If Jill is enamoring Jack, then doesn't it make sense that Jack is being enamored BY Jill?

I think a case can be made for any of the three, of, with, or by, with varying degrees of popularity.

porsche November 11, 2011, 2:33pm

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Without getting into a debate as to whether or not "why" is a complete sentence, I would say that "Why the question?", etc., works as a shortened form, specifically because just plain "Why?" stands on its own.

As for "Have you any idea...", this isn't a shortened form at all. It isn't a shortened form of "Do you have any idea..." in English, you may often form a question by adding a preceding "Do", but in many cases, you may simply swap the subject and the verb. "You are..." becomes "Are you...?" "He will..." becomes "Will he...?" "I have..." becomes "Have I...?" This is the normal way we construct sentences, not some informal shortening.

porsche November 11, 2011, 10:55am

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Even if your prose is in the past tense, not everything the narrator says must be cast that way. For example, in:

"God only knows what John was thinking when he decided to rob the bank."

clearly, God's omniscient understanding of John's incomprehensible motives is ongoing in the present of the narrative, even if John's actions are in the past. Actually, even in non-fiction and common speech, "God only knows" is frequently used to describe past events: "What where you thinking??? God only knows!!!"

This doesn't necessarily apply to every common expression or even other examples of this expression. I would look at each on a case-by-case basis.

porsche November 11, 2011, 10:25am

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I must say, Goofy, Warsaw Will makes an interesting point.

The problem with replacing:

"My writing books proves I am an entrepreneur."


*My composition books proves I am an entrepreneur."

is not that you can't replace the gerund with a noun. The problem is that "writing books" is a gerund phrase; i.e., the entire phrase "writing books" is acting as a noun. You would properly replace the "gerund" with a noun by changing the sentence to:

*My composition proves I am an entrepreneur."

which is clearly just fine.

Of course, don't forget that if you truly can't replace a gerund with a noun, it may very well be that it is a participle and not a gerund at all. Simply ending in -ing doesn't make something a gerund.

porsche November 11, 2011, 9:49am

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@Mediator, while JJMBallentine already touched on this, regarding:

"The verb 'to be' is, I think, the only verb in English that retains a subjunctive, and that subjunctive is 'were' not 'was'."

This is absolutely not true. Every verb in Engish has a subjunctive tense. The verb "to be" just happens to be the only one whose subjunctive form is irregular.

@Willy Wonka and Goofy, regarding:

"If I lived in Paris, I would visit the Eiffel Tower."

Of course this is correct. This isn't a prescriptive vs. descriptive issue. Willy, what you fail to recognize is that the subjunctive IS being used here. The prescriptively correct past subjunctive of "lived" is "lived".

What I think we have here is a general misunderstanding of the full breadth of application of the subjunctive. for all verbs, there are present, past, future, negative, etc. forms of the subjunctive, each with their own rules of construction and application. The subjunctive is not only limited to counterfactual assertions, either. For a quick review, check out the English section of this Wikipedia entry:

porsche November 9, 2011, 3:20pm

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There seems to be a bit of a misconception here. Simply being a place doesn't make something a proper noun. It must be a specific, preferably unique place to be considered a proper noun. The city, a playground, the bathroom are all places. None are proper nouns. New Jersey, Disneyworld, etc. are specific places and are proper nouns. As for heaven and hell, I would suggest that it depends on the context.

"Will this evening ever end? I must be in hell." - an abstract state - not a proper noun.

"Lucifer reigns in Hell." - a particular place - proper noun

porsche November 7, 2011, 12:05pm

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