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"The Anglish Moot," a website devoted to Anglish, defines it as "a kind of English, but without those words which have been borrowed from other languages." The site describes the purpose of Anglish:

"The purpose of Anglish differs from person to person, but mostly it is to explore and experiment with the English language . . . By stripping away the layers of borrowed words, Anglish allows us to better appreciate that core and the role it plays in our language."

This sounds like an interesting academic exercise. The problem is that English has always had "borrowed words" in its lexicon. Nearly two hundred Latin borrowings—that we know of—were brought to England from the Continent by the Anglo-Saxons. Another 350 or so Latin words were added to Old English prior to the Norman Invasion. Other words found their way into Old English from Old Norse. Shall we discard these?

"The Anglish Moot," gives this reason for the existence of Anglish:

"English words taken from Latin, French, and Greek are made up of parts whose meanings are on the whole unknown or at least unclear to the English speaker."

Indeed. Do they include words like butter, cup, kitchen, mile, pepper, plant, pound and street, all of which are Latin-based, and all of which were brought by the Anglo-Saxons when they crossed the Channel? Quoth the Moot: "So extreme is this beclouding of so much of the English wordstock, that we get severely hard-to-make-out-the-meaning-of words like “inebriate”, completely incomprehensible to the English speaker from its wordbits, since it contains the wodbit ‘ebri’, from the latin ‘ebrius’, meaning drunk." (I have kept the spelling and punctuation intact.) Unless one is inebriated, and very much so, the meaning of "butter" is hardly incomprehensible. And is "hard-to-make-out-the-meaning-of" better than "incomprehensible?"

The more I look at Anglish the less I like it. It is not scholarly, and has an odor of xenophobia about it.

douglas.bryant July 26, 2010, 6:57pm

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I think Avrom had a handle on this issue. "Might could" is an example of modal stacking. (A modal is an adverb used to express the one's view of the truth of a statement.)

Still, "might could" equivocates, it delays. It arises out of social decorum, not grammar. Asked a favor—or an invitation, or other odious obligation—"might could" buys time. The literal meaning of "I might could" is both "maybe I could" and "maybe I will." But the inference is "likely I won't." From my experience living in the South the phrase generally means "no." But gently so.

douglas.bryant July 25, 2010, 6:48pm

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The objection to the adverb "real" is that it is informal, and better suited to speech than to writing. Some have gone so far as to object to "real" as an adverb entirely. This is one of those nineteenth-century grammatical shibboleths that is largely ignored in practice, and rightly. True, the adverbial "real" is perceived—by some—as less formal than "really," but it is not incorrect. It has a long history of usage, both spoken and written, and is perfectly standard English.

"Real," as an adverb, is a simple amplifier, similar to "very." The adverb "really" is more nuanced; it might mean "very" (he is really angry) or it might mean "actually" (he is really angry). In general, however, "really" is more often used to mean "actually" than "very." Whether "real" is the appropriate adverb depends on the intended meaning.

douglas.bryant July 21, 2010, 10:46am

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The correct plural is yeses. Nouns ending in -s (focus or excess, for example) generally are made plural simply by adding -es.

douglas.bryant July 21, 2010, 9:32am

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Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Fifth Edition (1947 printing) lists both \?änt\ and \?ant\ as standard pronunciations. (I have updated the phonetic symbols to reflect their current standards.) Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary (1991 printing) also lists both pronunciations.

And Webster's Ninth says this in its explanatory notes:

"The presence of variant pronunciations indicates that not all educated speakers pronounce words in the same way. A second-place variant is not to be regarded as less acceptable than the pronunciation that is given first. It may, in fact, be used by as many educated speakers as the first variant, but the requirements of the printed page are such that one much precede the other."

Can we please move on? Lots of English words have more than one pronunciation, and all English-speaking people have accents. My southern friends—some of them—say "earl" for "oil" and "Paypsee" for "Pepsi." We may kid each other about it, but we don't call each other names.

As for "forte," Merriam-Webster Online has this comment on its pronunciation:

"In 'forte' we have a word derived from French that in its “strong point” sense has no entirely satisfactory pronunciation. Usage writers have denigrated \?f?r-?t?\ and \?f?r-t?\ because they reflect the influence of the Italian-derived 'forte.' Their recommended pronunciation \?f?rt\, however, does not exactly reflect French either: the French would write the word 'le fort' and would rhyme it with English 'for.' So you can take your choice, knowing that someone somewhere will dislike whichever variant you choose. All are standard, however. In British English \?f?-?t?\ and \?f?t\ predominate; \?f?r-?t?\ and \f?r-?t?\ are probably the most frequent pronunciations in American English."

No mention at all of "Dynasty."

douglas.bryant July 18, 2010, 9:43pm

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Same to you, Jan.

douglas.bryant July 17, 2010, 4:35am

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As one who is "not here to argue," Jan, you argue quite a lot. Your "viable definition" to “just saying” is simply a crib from a mob-based website, where "best and most correct" is defined by random opinion, not knowledge. Trust me, Porsche has read and understood your original post:

"I needed to know what some people were talking about when they used this phrase (as each had a different definition of what the phrase means to them), so I looked it up in the urban dictionary.

Urban Dictionary: just saying?Just saying: a phrase used to indicate that we refuse to defend a claim we’ve made—in other words, that we refuse to offer reasons that what we’ve said is true."

Here are some current definitions for "just saying," taken from today's Urban Dictionary:

"A phrase that is used when someone is offended by something you said. This phrase then removes all the offensiveness of the previous statement, making it all good."

"Response when your motive for saying something is questioned and you a) had no motive or b) do not want to reveal your motive."

"Response when one has been proven wrong but is not humble enough to admit being incorrect or cannot settle with the other person's statement."

Rather a wide field of opinion. Hardly definitive.

This here site tends to be argumentative. People hereabouts "offer reasons that what we’ve said is true." Have you an opinion of your own?—I'm just saying.

douglas.bryant July 16, 2010, 5:12am

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The Urban Dictionary website says:

"All the definitions on Urban Dictionary were written by people just like you."

Which is to say: not by "definition experts."

douglas.bryant July 14, 2010, 4:18pm

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Purely a stylistic choice, Nigel, and a subjective one.

But you raise a valid point: some consider it rude to refer to someone in the third person in their presence, as if they weren't there. However, that is a matter of etiquette, not of grammar.

douglas.bryant July 9, 2010, 1:54am

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Nigel writes:

“In most contexts, “she and I” is awkward (which is not to say “wrong”).”

How is the phrase “she and I” awkward? As a subject it is both grammatical and commonplace. The placement of the third person pronoun first is customary; this has as much to do with clarity as with etiquette. The identity of the third person must be established prior to the use of the pronoun to be understood: “This is my friend Jane. She and I traveled to Kansas together.” Placing 'she' before 'I' in the second sentence keeps the relationship between 'Jane' and 'she' close and clear. It is only incidentally polite.

douglas.bryant July 4, 2010, 7:22am

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They might believe that. Or they might think you a noodge.

Seriously, there are few situations, other than parent-child or student-teacher or editor-writer, where correcting another persons grammar is welcomed. (Not that it's especially welcomed in these.) If you have understood the speaker then the grammatical gaffe has not been deleterious. If the speaker's grammar is so bad as to hinder comprehension, the polite action would be to ask for clarification, not to torch his car. (I speak metaphorically, of course. You brought up the "radical" thing.)

The purpose of language is communication. Interruptive nit-pickery hampers that.

douglas.bryant June 29, 2010, 5:04pm

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Merriam-Webster Online defines 'ignorant' as: "lacking knowledge or comprehension of the thing specified." Which sounds pretty close to the usage of the word in your soccer example. The word may be being over-used; this happens. But it's just slang.

I think 'ignorant' is a vogue word, to use Garner's appellation. It, like 'random' and 'radical,' will pass. It is not "ever-persisting." Resist the "compulsion to correct." People will think you random.

douglas.bryant June 29, 2010, 2:56am

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Conciseness should not trump clarity. The construct "following is" risks what Bryan Garner calls a "miscue:"

"A miscue is an inadvertent misdirection that causes the reader to proceed momentarily with an incorrect assumption about how—in mechanics or in sense—a sentence or passage will end." (A Dictionary of Modern American Usage)

In the phrase "the following is" the word "following is clearly a noun: it owns an article. But when a sentence begins "Following is..." the reader might expect the sentence to be about the nature of following. The common phrase "the following is" (or are) avoids this possibility.

But "the following is/are" is a hackneyed phrase, like "enclosed please find," and should be avoided. In the interest of conciseness write "Here is a complete list of tags..." Then follow with a complete list of tags.

douglas.bryant June 23, 2010, 5:47pm

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Jim M is correct. "[A] pen and three pencils" is the compound subject, and takes a plural verb.

douglas.bryant June 19, 2010, 1:17pm

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Nobody has addressed Sunil Kumar's second question:

"Similarly I find the use of "the" very problematic. Why it can't be reduced to a minimum?"

That the questioner's native language is one without articles may be inferred by the fact of the question itself.

Naturally the existence of articles in a new language would seem problematic for one used to none. But keep in mind the function of the word the: it establishes definiteness in a noun phrase. (For example, "the good book" means the Bible, while "a good book" could be Harry Potter.)

In languages without definite articles, definiteness still exists. However, it is established in other ways, such as by inflecting the noun or by employing an adjective that acts on the noun. Amongst languages with definite articles, English may have the simplest system: many European languages have three or more definite articles, English only one.

So as for reducing the use of "the," it already has been reduced to a minimum. (Prior to Middle English there were three definite articles.) To eliminate it altogether would require structural changes to the language itself.

douglas.bryant May 31, 2010, 9:37am

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The distinction in meaning between "everybody" and "everyone" does not exist. Lucas' answer would be correct for "everyone" versus "every one." But AO was correct: "everyone" and "everybody" are synonyms. Fowler does not distinguish between them. Nor does Garner. who says:

"Because the terms are interchangeable, euphony governs the choice in any given context."

Neither word is inherently more formal than the other. I have seen opinions elsewhere that one or the other is more formal—or more polite—but I have seen no real substantiation either way. I have found documentation that "everyone" is used more frequently than "everybody" in formal writing, but "everyone" is used more frequently overall, so I don't see this as definitive.

douglas.bryant May 19, 2010, 11:29am

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What I said was "And as such, it is not a 'southern thing,' as you point out." In other words, I acknowledged that you pointed out that "aks" is not a southernism. Perhaps I could have been clearer.

douglas.bryant May 13, 2010, 10:06am

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Actually, I didn't quote Chaucer. The reference was in the cited passage from Random House, which is signed "Heather." I don't claim a "vast knowledge of the English language’s history," but I do know a little about factual research.

The fact is that the pronunciation of "ask" as "aks" is ancient. It predates the discovery of America. And as such, it is not a "southern thing," as you point out. But it is not a "black thing" either. It is a relatively common variant which crosses social and cultural boundaries.

The point I was trying to make is this: non-standard English is not the same as sub-standard English. Simply that.

douglas.bryant May 10, 2010, 11:35pm

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The pronunciation of "ask" as "aks" is not an ordinary mispronunciation. It is indeed a Metathesis, but a very old one. It is non-standard, yes, but widespread. I agree that cultural background influences the way we all speak. But in the case of ask/aks the cultural factor is not merely race-based.

douglas.bryant May 7, 2010, 10:09am

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I have addressed the ask/axe issue elsewhere, but it seems to bear repeating.

The pronunciation of "ask" as "aks" is sometimes seen as a sign of ignorance or poor education, but it is not. Nor is it a race-based variant. I found the following explanation online:

"While the pronunciation /aks/ for ask is not considered standard, it is a very common regional pronunciation with a long history. The Old English verb áscian underwent a normal linguistic process called metathesis sometime in the 14th century. Metathesis is what occurs when two sounds or syllables switch places in a word. This happens all the time in spoken language (think nuclear pronounced as /nukular/ and asterisk pronounced as /asteriks/).

Metathesis is usually a slip of the tongue, but (as in the cases of /asteriks/ and /nukular/) it can become a variant of the original word. This alternative version in Old English was axian or acsian, as in Chaucer's: "I axe, why the fyfte man Was nought housband to the Samaritan?" (Wife's Prologue 1386). Ascian and axian co-existed and evolved separately in various regions of England. The ascian version gives us the modern standard English ask, but the axian variant ax can still be found in England's Midland and Southern dialects.

In American English, the /aks/ pronunciation was originally dominant in New England. The popularity of this pronunciation faded in the North early in the 19th century as it became more common in the South. Today the pronunciation is perceived in the US as either Southern or African-American. Both of these perceptions underestimate the popularity of the form.

/aks/ is still found frequently in the South, and is a characteristic of some speech communities as far North as New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Iowa. It is one of the shared characteristics between African-American English and Southern dialects of American English. The wide distribution of speakers from these two groups accounts for the presence of the /aks/ pronunciation in Northern urban communities.

So in fact, ... /aks/ [is] a regional pronunciation, one with a distribution that covers nearly half of the territory in the United States and England."


Perhaps instead of making fun of your principal behind her back—hardly a professional thing to do—you should consider that she is merely quoting Chaucer.

douglas.bryant May 1, 2010, 12:19am

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