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Joined: October 20, 2005
Comments posted: 670
Votes received: 2003

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Recent Comments

Astartes, how about "Toys are things with which one is meant to play"? (Of course, it is precisely this type of stilted recasting that is to be avoided.)

porsche November 2, 2011, 1:20pm

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All three could be correct depending on what you're trying to convey. In some cases more than one would fit the same situation, but with slightly different meaning.

"J.K .Rowling always wanted to be an author."

means that, at some time in the past, and all times before that particular time, she wanted to be an author. Her present wishes are irrelevant.

"J.K. Rowling has always wanted to be an author."

means the same, except that she still wants to be an author today, or at the time the statement is written or spoken, or is used to describe an ongoing state. It really doesn't matter that she already is an author. She can both want to be an author, and be one at the same time, can't she? Considering her success, I would think she does still want to be one.

"J.K. Rowling had always wanted to be an author."

could mean that she wanted to be an author at some time in the past, but no longer wants to be one.

It could also mean that she wanted to be an author at a particular time in the past, realtive to some other time in the past, something like, "J.K. Rowling started writing in 1990. She had always wanted to be an author." Again, what her wishes were after 1990 aren't relevant.

Note, "always wanted" and "have always wanted" even though they differ somewhat in meaning, can usually be used interchangeably. The only time one is true but not the other is when someone definitely no longer wants something.

By the way, this isn't meant to cover every possible shade of meaning for every possible case.

porsche November 2, 2011, 10:27am

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I won't speak for everyone, but usually, those from South America would not call themselves Americans, but would refer to their country of origin. They would be Peruvians, Brazilians, Bolivians, Argentinians, etc. Also, those to the north are Canadians. When USA citizens call themselves Americans, they mean the USA, not "the Americas, North and/or South" in general. They're talking about their country, not their continent.

porsche October 31, 2011, 12:01pm

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AnWulf, I think you missed Niceone's point. Clearly, he was criticizing shotgun's comment, not Sara.dee72's.

porsche October 19, 2011, 11:03am

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Perfect Pedant, "doubt" as a noun can be either uncountable or countable. If one can have much doubt or some doubt, or little doubt, then one can have doubt. "I have doubt" is fine.

porsche October 9, 2011, 3:52am

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Remek, Perfect Pedant, you two have made me smile today. Did either of you actually read the M-W link? It's ironic that Remek's posting of it actually supports the notion that "hone in" is considered incorrect. A further irony, in Perfect Pedant's rejection of all things M-W, he is rejecting something that supports his own argument.

porsche October 7, 2011, 4:59am

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First, let me say that I have never in my life, seen or heard "..think to...". I am American, but I'm not convinced this is common Brittish speech either. I was about to cast another vote for "of", but then I started thinking. What about "towards"? I came up with a few related constructions that I think many will find less objectionable:

"What are your feelings towards Mary?"
"What/how do you feel towards Mary?"
"What are your thoughts towards Mary?"
"What do you think towards Mary?"

Now, I'll admit the last one may sound a little awkward, but I think that by comparison, the use of "towards" in this type of construction may be a little more common. Using "to" isn't that far a stretch from "towards". I would use "think of" or "think about", but perhaps I've presented a kind of path towards understanding the use of "to" in this case.

porsche September 28, 2011, 10:27am

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I was going to suggest to GWU that "respectively" is not superfluous in this case, but the earlier "corresponding" does make "respectively" a bit redundant. I would delete one or the other. It reminds me of sentences like "Also, I like pizza, as well"

porsche September 18, 2011, 2:46am

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AnWulf, while I could still debate this, I tell you what, I'll cede that in certain cases, "oblige" can mean "force", but surely you would accept that this isn't always the case, yes? Most of the time when someone says they're obliged to do something, they mean that they have some moral, social, or even legal obligation, but that they are free to ignore it if they are willing to accept the consequences.

Regardless, my point is that using "oblige" in the quote in question isn't incorrect because of bad grammar or even semantics. It's incorrect because the statement is NOT TRUE! The truth is, we all ARE obliged to work (at least most of us are), even in a job we might hate. We need to pay our bills, feed our families, provide for our children. It may be hard to find another job because of the economy, or we are older, or have specialized skills after years of education. Maybe we can't afford to retrain, or don't have any savings or can't afford a pay cut. Maybe we feel a sense of loyalty to our coworkers.

All of these things oblige us to stay at a particular job, but none of them force us. There are always other options. Can't find another job? Consider relocating. Can't afford to change careers? Go to night school while you work. Cut your expenses and save more. Hate it that much? You can always scale back your lifestyle and choose a lower-paying, less stressful job. Maybe you just need to get off your butt and start looking. Heck, you can even quit your job, get a divorce, abandon your kids, and become homeless!

Also, while I agree that the sentence should be judged as it is, it is not without context. “No one can force you to stay in a job that you hate” is an old, familiar adage, all on its own. “No one can oblige you to stay in a job that you hate” is a paraphrasing or rather, a misquote of the familiar maxim. To say you're not obliged is is a slap in the face to your friends, family, and the rest of society. To say you're not forced is a call to action intended to urge someone to overcome their dispair and change a bad situation.

One more thing, while it is certainly insightful and enlightening to examine a word's etymology, equating a word's definition with its etymology is an etymological fallacy, even if the definitions happen to agree.

porsche September 16, 2011, 7:03am

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AnWulf, the "hey'hay in hey/hay is for horses" is a double entendre referring, simultaneously and equally, to the grass and the previously-spoken greeting. As such, I would say that either spelling would be correct.

Well, actually, now that I think about it, "hey" makes a little more sense:

"Hay is for horses" means that "there exists this plant called hay, that is intended for horses to eat" and nothing more.

"Hey is for horses" means "the utterance you just made, "hey", is a barbarism that I'm criticising by comparing metaphorically to a plant that horses eat." The "hey" in "hey is for horses" refers the previously-spoken utterance.

Not that this proves anything, but in a Google vote, "hey" wins out, two to one.

porsche September 16, 2011, 3:20am

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tiigerrick, I guess it's what one is familiar with. What blows my mind is that some people pronounce "Mary," "merry," and "marry" all the same! Chacun à son goût.

porsche September 14, 2011, 2:55am

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AnWulf, I'm not sure I agree. Even if you use oblige in its strongest sense, you may ALWAYS choose not to do something that you're obliged to do (if you are willing to bear the consequences). Even if you use the word compel in its weakest sense, you are NEVER able to avoid doing something you are compelled to do. If you avoid doing it, then you weren't actually compelled.

porsche September 11, 2011, 3:23am

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Kate, referring to the pronunciation as "long a" is standard terminology. Most vowels have a long and short version. The long version actually is longer to say because it is a dipthong. Long A is two different sounds, -eh followed by -ee, to create the --ey sound. The short version, as in "cat" is a single, short phoneme.

porsche September 9, 2011, 4:31am

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Pluralizing as e-mails shouldn't really upset you. If you compare electronic and paper correspondence, then you have mail and e-mail as mass nouns describing general correspondence. If you talk about individual countable pieces of mail, then for paper, you'd have a letter or letters. While you might find it unfortunate, the electronic version of letter is e-mail. so "a letter" becomes "an e-mail" and letters becomes e-mails. Sure, we could have come up with another word, but, er, we didn't. I guess e-letter never caught on.

porsche September 9, 2011, 4:14am

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oops, bad edit. delete the last two lines of my post above:

"i have a choice.
For one thing, you can be obliged to stay in a job you hate."

shouldn't be there

porsche September 9, 2011, 4:02am

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I would agree that oblige is not really the right word. I'd go as far as to say it's a a misquote of the familiar saying. I think "forced" is the more common word. They don't mean the same thing. If I'm obliged to do something, I'm supposed to do it but I don't have to. I can choose not to. If I'm forced to do something, then I cannot opt out. I must do it. If I'm obliged to go to a social event, I can still choose not to go and risk the wrath of my family and friends. If I'm forced to go to jail, I can't choose otherwise. I'll be dragged there physically, against my will.

Next, if you look at the actual meaning of the saying, "obliged" doesn't make any sense. Plenty of people, perhaps most, are obliged to stay in their job, whether they hate it or love it. On the other hand, no one is "forced" to stay in their job. That's the point of the saying. If you hate your job, you always have other options.

i have a choice.

For one thing, you can be obliged to stay in a job you hate.

porsche September 9, 2011, 4:00am

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oops, that's ...stand..., not ...sand...

porsche August 3, 2011, 11:21am

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While some may disagree, I would not use "to stand down" to mean "to resign". More often, to sand down means to cease hostilities or cease preparation for hostilities. Telling someone to stand down is like saying, stop your "sabre-rattling". Instead, I would use "step down" to mean "resign".

In any case, while I have never heard "to be stood down" before, it's certainly a plausible construction. Someone or something can stand up, or can also be made to stand up by someone or something else. Similarly, if someone else forced the commander to stand down, then he would have been stood down by that person, yes? ...was compelled to resign rather than simply resigned.

porsche August 3, 2011, 11:21am

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Sigurd, I would disagree. I don't think that African-American necessarily implies that one is descended from transaltantic slaves. Rather, I think it simply denotes an American of African origin, no different in structure than, say, Italian-American is an American of Italian descent. I would further suggest that all "black" Americans are ultiimately African-Americans, at least if they consider their heritage ultimately to be African. Actually, I would suggest that all Americans are ultimately African Americans, as all humans are ultimately of African descent.

porsche July 24, 2011, 11:36am

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Hailey, "border" in border collie refers to the herding dog's origin, the border between Scotland and England. The border between two countries is not a proper noun, so should not be capitalized.

porsche July 20, 2011, 9:33am

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