Proofreading Service - Pain in the English
Proofreading Service - Pain in the English

Your Pain Is Our Pleasure

24-Hour Proofreading Service—We proofread your Google Docs or Microsoft Word files. We hate grammatical errors with a passion. Learn More

Proofreading Service - Pain in the English
Proofreading Service - Pain in the English

Your Pain Is Our Pleasure

24-Hour Proofreading Service—We proofread your Google Docs or Microsoft Word files. We hate grammatical errors with a passion. Learn More



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July 24, 2006

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Latest Comments

“No, the company know how their company name and product should be spoken by us, the consumer. We are under obligation to get the name of the company and the product right.”

What obligation is this? Is there a law? Companies try to enforce how their trademarks are used, but it doesn't work - for instance “kleenex”.

“The fact also remains that LEGO is not English in the first place, it is Dutch, and comes from the Danish phrase "leg godt", which means "play well".”

It was borrowed from Danish, but it's an English word. The claim that it should be used a certain way because of its history is the etymological fallacy.

You say that “Lego” has a zero plural, like “sheep”. However, in my dialect “lego” is a mass noun, like “water”. I would say “one piece of Lego, two pieces of Lego”, not “one Lego, two Lego/Legos”.

“But I'm sure you'll ignore my sheep comment, yet again, and ramble on how it's the English speakers who apparently make up their own rules even when it's wrong.”

So if every English speaker on Earth starts to say “legos”, it's still wrong because of someone’s opinion about how the word should be used?

"What you're essentially saying it, just because Americans use the term "Legos" instead of "LEGO" [...], it's somehow right and anything the company says won't matter, end of discussion."

What I'm saying is that in language, like any other field of study, you find ou how it works by examining the evidence. If a speech community uses a word a certain way, then that's the right way to use the word in that speech community. The Lego company can certainly say how they think the word should be used, but English speakers are under no obligation to follow their rules. Companies don't decide how language works, English speakers do. 

Frank35, when it comes to language, we determine what is "right" by looking at how the language is used. If everyone says "Legos" then "Legos" is the plural form. The company's opinion is irrelevant.

Having said that, I think the most usual plural is "Lego", at least according to the OED.

“If I was” vs. “If I were”

  • August 10, 2012, 10:50pm

Understanding other Indo-European languages give us an idea of what Proto-Indo-European looked like. But the study of the development of a language, its diachronic study, is a very different thing from its synchronic study: what it looks like at a specific point in time. For instance, "if I were" is historically derived from the Old English past subjunctive. But from a synchronic standpoint, it is not the past subjunctive, at least not in a modern linguistic analysis. Huddleston and Pullum call "were" the irrealis. It's not the past subjunctive because "if it were done" is not the past tense of "if it be done", and because it only occurs with the verb "be" - for all other verbs we use the preterite.


  • August 8, 2012, 7:35am

I've read Lieberman's Word Origins And How We Know Them, and he doesn't say what features characterize Germanic languages, besides the sound changes due to Grimm's Law. But I assume he's talking about things like the -ed past tense ending and the use of two word verbs like take off, put on, etc. Of course English still has these features, and it is not going to lose these any time soon. And it certainly won't lose them just because it's borrowed a lot of Latinate words.

In my view, English won't stop being a Germanic language, because "Germanic" is the label we give to one branch of the IE tree. No matter what happens to English, it will still be on that branch.


  • August 6, 2012, 7:16pm

"English is still a Germanic tongue, but many of it's upper-crusty know-it-all's seem to want to keep on shaping it into the new Latin. English will then go the way of Gothic, Langobardic, and Frankish."

No it won't. English is gaining more speakers every day. The fact that it has a large vocab borrowed from Latin doesn't mean it's not English. All languages borrow words, there's no such thing as a pure language.


  • August 6, 2012, 5:07pm

The idea that a word has a "true root" seems silly to me. "feud" was borrowed from French, which borrowed it from OHG. Where did it come from before that? Was it borrowed from another unknown source? Some experts think that a large percentage of Proto-Germanic vocab doesnt come from PIE. And if it goes back to PIE, where did it come from before that?


  • August 6, 2012, 4:51pm

"My whole thought above was about Academia not acknowledging the true roots of "French" words that came into English."

I don't know what this means. The etymologies of these words are easy for anyone to look up. If a dictionary says "obscure" that means that either experts aren't sure or don't agree. If the earliest know source is Germanic, the dictionaries will say so. No one is hiding anything.

The question of where a word is "from" completely depends on what you want to know. You could be interested in the immediate source, or you might want to go further back in time. 


  • August 6, 2012, 8:57am

Ængelfolc posted this a while ago:

* allegiance (from O.E. læt)

"allegiance" is derived from Old French "liege", which *might* be a borrowing of Old High German "ledig".

* Feudal (from Goth. *faihu, O.H.G. *fihu)

This is in Skeat, but it is disputed. "feudal" is ultimately from medieval Latin "feodum", and the OED has a long discussion on why further etymology is obscure.

* standard ( from Frankish *standhard)

This is either ultimately from Latin "extendere" or from Frankish *standan, from PIE *steh2.

* baron ( from Frankish baro; merged with cog. O.E. beorn)

"baron" is from late Latin "baro", which might from Celtic *bar, or from OHG bero "bearer", or from the same source as OE "beorn", or from something else entirely.

Ængelfolc writes "Check twice, if you think, or more importantly someone (especially in Academia) tells you, a word in English is borrowed from French."

But all these words were borrowed from French. The might be from a Germanic source if you go further back, but that doesn't change the fact that they were borrowed into English from French.


  • August 1, 2012, 10:01pm

I'm pretty sure it's the etymology. Clark is saying the etymology of "clȳsan" is "clūse" which means "bar, bolt: enclosure: cell, prison", which is borrowed from Latin "clausum". So "clȳsan" is an i-umlauted verb form of "clūse".