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Joined: March 17, 2003  (email not validated)
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"The life of the people" is the collective social life of the people, as in "The life of the Hopi is still largely communal," or "The life of the medieval peasant was a hard one." If you turn it around and say "medieval peasants had hard lives," it pretty much means the same thing.

tnh March 17, 2003, 8:07pm

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I apologize for the English language, but there isn't a great deal of difference between the following phrases:

I am in control of the ship.
I am in full control of the ship.
I have the ship under control.
I have control of the ship.
I have the controls.

The last phrase is the only one with a significantly different meaning. "I have the controls" means "I am the person operating the control mechanisms," but doesn't necessarily imply that that person is in control of anything else that's going on. You can have the controls and still be no more than a pair of hands executing someone else's verbal orders.

tnh March 17, 2003, 7:28pm

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The job title lost its initial article, not because it was preceded by the name of the company, but because it was followed by the name of the jobholder. This becomes clearer when you remember that "Senator" is likewise a job title:

The Senator walked into the room.
The CTO walked into the room.

Senator Foghorn Leghorn walked into the rom.
CTO Ferdy Longbottom walked into the room.

If you separate the job title from the jobholder's name by inserting a comma between them, the job title stops being part of the person's name and gets its initial article back:

The CTO, Ferdy Longbottom, walked into the room.

tnh March 17, 2003, 7:06pm

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Dariensan nailed it: some text (the words on one or several pages in a book), a text (the whole book), some texts (several whole books).

tnh March 17, 2003, 6:34pm

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May I offer a slight emendation to that?

"Much" and "a lot of" are synonyms, though "much" is getting to be a tad archaic. It survives in forms like "has much to offer."

"Too much" and "a lot of" are not synonyms. "Too much" signifies excess, superfluity; whereas "a lot of" just means "a lot of", without any judgement about whether it's an appropriate quantity.

Dariensan's explanation of "much" vs. "many" is entirely correct.

tnh March 17, 2003, 6:21pm

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You only say "in futures" if you work in futures trading.

You can say either "in future" or "in the future". The tendency is to use "in future" to refer to relatively limited actions -- "In future, please address all such correspondence to our customer service department" -- and "in the future" to refer to broader situations: "In the future, all cars will run on a mixture of vodka and cider vinegar."

tnh March 17, 2003, 6:15pm

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Biks is right about the hyphenation. The rule there is that "38-year-old" is a compound adjective -- a group of words functioning as a single adjective -- and therefore hyphenated. Other examples: a coke-bottle-shaped vase; a full-throttle spread-eagle spare-no-expense business presentation.

tnh March 17, 2003, 6:06pm

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There's an older way to say that: "It lacks five minutes of ten." That is, you're five minutes short of ten o'clock. When that got shortened in everyday use, the answer to "What time is it?" became "It's five minutes of ten."

tnh March 17, 2003, 5:55pm

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There's a functional difference. "In itself" is a more ambiguous construction, and will occasionally get you into trouble where "in and of itself" won't.

"In" gets used so many ways, in so many different combinations, that if you don't clarify its function by using the "in and of" construction, it can erroneously appear to be teamed up with the wrong word: "The fish the dog brought in itself wasn't the problem."

tnh March 17, 2003, 5:52pm

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Purple Dragon's right again. A potboiler is a commercial project of no great moral or aesthetic significance that smooths out the jagged valleys of a freelancer's income.

I didn't know until this moment that painters use the term too. I know it from freelance writers.

tnh March 17, 2003, 5:33pm

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Whoops, forgot. Jun-Dai Bates-Kobash asked what you do when one element is plural and the other is not: "Two small apples or one large apple can be used, though neither is/are ideal"

The answer is that "neither [one]" still takes a singular verb.

tnh March 17, 2003, 5:24pm

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I have to respectfully disagree with a couple of you. As used in the sample sentence, "neither" unquestionably takes the singular. Think of it as being short for "neither one". "Neither one is ideal" is the only correct form.

Believe it or not, this is actually a rule, and therefore to be cherished for its rarity.

tnh March 17, 2003, 5:19pm

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A live chicken is a single indivisible unit. Once it's killed and cooked, it becomes some quantity of fried chicken, which is divisible -- and hard to keep track of, if you have light-fingered hungry people around. HonBancho's right; nobody wants to have to keep count. Fried chicken is just fried chicken.

tnh March 17, 2003, 5:08pm

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I'm not hearing any common use of terms signifying which century we're in, because it's usually so obvious from context that there's no need to specify which century you mean.

I'm hearing this decade called the Oughts, just like the first decade of the last century. Specific years are pronounced "oh three" or "ought three". If we continue to use the same forms as last century, which seems likely, the next decade will be the Teens.

tnh March 17, 2003, 4:56pm

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"Taking sides" is the common phrase, I suspect because that way you don't have to count up sides, or determine anyone's specific position. You can simply observe that they've gotten to the point of taking sides.

tnh March 17, 2003, 4:49pm

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It's "is" because it's a general statement about a continuous ongoing state of affairs: "My teacher explained why the sky is blue."

tnh March 17, 2003, 4:45pm

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The reporter was correct. It's colloquial New York usage.

This isn't a 100% reliable rule, but in general, regional designations are "on" -- the Upper West Side, the Lower East Side, etc. -- but you're "in" specific neighborhoods: Midtown, Chelsea, Harlem, Soho, Tribeca, Gramercy Park, etc.

It gets interesting. There's a large swath of Brooklyn that's "on the Slope"; that is, on the long westward downslope from Prospect Park to the waterfront. Only part of that area can be described as being "in Park Slope", a specific neighborhood south of Fort Green and east of Carroll Gardens.

Even better, there's a Lower East Side neighborhood called Loisaida, which is just "Lower East Side" as pronounced by its Hispanic inhabitants. If you're in that neighborhood, you're in Loisaida, but you're on the Lower East Side.

The boroughs are all "in" -- in Brooklyn, in the Bronx, in Queens -- except for Staten Island, which can be "in" or "on" as the speaker prefers.

tnh March 17, 2003, 4:33pm

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Purple Dragon's right. Anything can have value, or have some value; but when it has a value, it's a quantitative measure, and math probably comes into it.

tnh March 17, 2003, 4:14pm

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English has a bunch of irregular nouns left over from its amalgamation and transformation of several languages into Middle and then Modern English. It's been losing them gradually.

There are no simple rules for which nouns have irregular plurals. Your best bet is to own a copy of the Oxford English Diction and look them up on a case-by-case basis. Nouns can have quite surprising personal histories.

Regarding "cattle": I've known cattlemen out west. They wouldn't say "two heads of cattle." The word is "head": "Company's coming. Take a couple head of cattle up the wash so Cook can get started on 'em."

tnh March 17, 2003, 4:11pm

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