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Member Since

June 17, 2010

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Retired, did some college English teaching and other things. Lived many years in a state often used as a comparison in discussing a rather large but not gigantic entity, e.g.: The oil spill now covers an area the size of Rhode Island. Now live in the green state of Vermont.

Latest Comments

“reach out”

  • February 27, 2018, 6:04pm

I hesitate to add yet another annoying example to this discussion, but this one is really so contrary to the original meaning of "reach out" that I cannot resist. Delta Air Lines recently bowed to gun-control advocates (admirably!) and tweeted this announcement: "Delta is reaching out to the NRA to let them know we will be ending their contract for discounted rates through our group travel program."

Yes, and I'm sure the National Rifle Association appreciated this outreach.

agree the terms

  • October 15, 2017, 7:15pm

Finebetty's research seems to settle the question. But as an American user of the language I will not be saying "agree the terms" anytime soon.

“went missing/gone missing”?

  • October 11, 2017, 3:11pm

For LaurenBC: I find it's useful to read previous comments before posting. For example, Warsaw Will on June 6, 2014, contributed a lengthy discussion of the idiom's history and defense which included the fact that it's been seen in British written texts as early as 1859.

So the phrase is not of recent origin and is now widely accepted. I think fewer folks are bothered by it than by, say, the use of multiple question marks (or exclamation points in declarative sentences) in online posts.

Omitting the “I”

  • March 1, 2016, 5:57pm

Your example sounds like something in an email, and like Hairy Scot I would have no problem accepting that in informal communication. On the other hand, I would not use it in, say, a letter to a college you wanted to visit.

How does one debate a person?

  • September 21, 2015, 5:51pm

Just discovered this topic. The Google books ngrams are certainly useful, but in my experience as an American I think debating a person is pretty common in non-book usage--in conversation and in news media whether print, TV, or Internet.

Just one example, from a 2014 report: "Watch Bill Nye the Science Guy Debate Creationist Tonight" ( In fact, if you Google "will debate creationist" you find many instances of this usage (all seeming to involve Bill Nye).

“Based out of”: Why?

  • June 11, 2015, 12:17pm

Glad to find someone on the same wavelength on these two usages as I, VegasDJ ;-).

issue as problem

  • March 3, 2015, 5:23pm

I am afraid that in the States "issue" has indeed almost fully replaced "problem," at least in informal English.

I mean, when you take your car to your local service station for an oil change and the manager asks, "Any issues we should look at?", you know some kind of watershed moment has arrived. (Yes, this happened to me recently.)

This issue (I use the term appropriately here, I think) surfaced a good seven years ago online, at

Have to say I am in agreement with the original poster and the commenters there, and I'm relieved to see posters here expressing some concern about conflating the two terms.

Now Warsaw Will, I definitely have a problem with that last example from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary: my goodness, surely the advice to "call this number" would pertain to a problem, not an issue, don't you think? (Unless the number is for, say, an agency that collects topics for group discussion or something. But absent a context I expect such advice is much more likely to involve something like a plumbing emergency.)

Plaque for family home

  • August 17, 2014, 12:35am

As a North American I concur with Warsaw Will's response. I also have to admit that sadly in this country one often sees signs, usually for seasonal residences (cottages, camps, cabins), indicating that "The Smith's" or "The Adams'" abide there. I've never understood this misplaced affection for the apostrophe.

I'm glad we all agree that it should be "graduate from," at least if one is graduating at all ;-). I'm curious, though, about the relation of finishing a secondary school to gaining employment without attending a college. For example, a firm here might be looking for candidates for a low-paying job and say they want a high-school graduate. Is there an equivalent shorthand for that in the UK?

In North America students working toward a bachelor's degree at a college/university are indeed called undergraduates. Those studying beyond that are graduate students, and if going beyond a master's might also be called doctoral candidates (which is pretty formal). And an undergrad aiming for medical school might be termed pre-med.

As for high school proms, I'm sorry to hear those are catching on (in part due to the ridiculous expenses incurred). "Prom" is an interesting term, as its origin is clearly in "promenade" yet even going back to the 1950s no one here ever called them promenades in my experience.

Good to hear from both of you!

I guess then, Mr. H. Scot, that here in the colonies we're just not living in the real world (I refer to the USA and Canada). If Scots do not choose to graduate students from high school or college, so be it. At least that would seem to mean that your students do not graduate those schools either.


“and” or “but” followed by a comma June 29, 2012
“Over-simplistic” September 12, 2013
“Based out of”: Why? November 19, 2013
agree the terms March 29, 2017