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Joined: June 17, 2010
Comments posted: 60
Votes received: 52

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.

Questions Submitted

agree the terms

March 29, 2017

“Based out of”: Why?

November 19, 2013


September 12, 2013

Recent Comments

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.

providencejim October 15, 2017, 3:15pm

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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.

providencejim October 11, 2017, 11:11am

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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.

providencejim March 1, 2016, 12:57pm

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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).

providencejim September 21, 2015, 1:51pm

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

providencejim June 11, 2015, 8:17am

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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.)

providencejim March 3, 2015, 12:23pm

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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.

providencejim August 16, 2014, 8:35pm

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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!

providencejim May 7, 2014, 6:54pm

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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.

providencejim May 7, 2014, 9:24am

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Will, the use of "like" as a "postponed filler," as per your example, I don't think I've ever encountered in American English. I checked your apparent source for the 1778 finding and was disappointed to see no example. I'm wondering just how an 18th-century usage would look.

Just googled "going really fast, like" and found on the first two pages no example of usage that would seem to qualify as a postponed filler. Rather, I see for example a skateboarder saying, "i was skating down a hill and going really fast, like car fast...."

Like many of my (our?) generation I also cringe at the overuse of "like"; it's interesting though how it's used conversationally as part of the phrase "was/were like" to mean "said." Did this start with people meaning "said something to the effect of'"? Seems to have definitely segued into meaning simply "said." Unanswerable question perhaps.

providencejim December 12, 2013, 12:11pm

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I share Buzzbuzz10's occasional confusion when seeing "sick" used online. I've come to the conclusion that if you know the poster is under 30, it almost certainly has a positive meaning (really cool); over 40, probably the original negative meaning (bad, awful, unseemly). Not sure about the 30-somethings.

Will, as for "like" as filler we Americans have been familiar with it since at least 1959, when The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis became a popular TV sitcom. Take a look at the Wikipedia entry for the show (which was one of my favorites in my teens), in particular the discussion of Maynard G. Krebs, "American television's first beatnik."

providencejim December 11, 2013, 12:46pm

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Will, with imply/infer you have hit on probably my longest-held pet peeve. If infer is simply going to mean imply, then what shall we use to mean infer? To me this is absolutely foolish. I can't blame people for using infer to mean imply because it's been going on in the US since at least the early 1960s (which I know due to a memory of arguing about it in a college class in 1964 or 65). It's a mystery: Why would people develop an affinity for infer over the "correct" word of the same length and simplicity?

A similar phenomenon exists with using "myself" rather than "me," as in "The report was written by Albert and myself." I agree with your categorizations of the examples given (ain't, kind of, taller than me, etc.). In all but formal writing I have no problem with all these usages (and do myself say "It's me" but never "Barb and myself will be there" or "Barb and me will be").

providencejim December 6, 2013, 12:41pm

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Well put, as usual, Warsaw Will. I agree that dictionaries have as a primary responsibility to provide meanings for words we use, regardless of acceptance levels. But I do like to see them tell us if something is "nonstandard" or "colloquial" or, as you say, controversial.

Your mention of pre-planning a funeral prompted me to google "planning your own funeral" and on the first page of hits only one instance of "pre-plan" showed up--although it was for a page at the National Funeral Directors Association (which drops the hyphen). Hate to admit it, but this is one usage context that actually seems reasonable to me--planning one's own funeral seems kind of stark, but pre-planning it adds some distance. So I shall not look down on anyone pre-planning their funeral!

I don't really look down on folks using words in a way I don't; I would say it just grates on me a little (OK, sometimes a lot) if it seems the usage violates common sense or clear communication. At any rate, being observant of how language changes is to me a fruitful pastime.

providencejim December 4, 2013, 12:43pm

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@Skeeter Lewis: The nautical use of "out of" makes perfect sense, given that ships doing business would be away from their home ports. Getting rid of the redundant "based" is a fine thing! Thanks for your input.

providencejim December 4, 2013, 6:47am

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Warsaw Will, thanks for your response (quite informative as usual). Actually I'd say the Small Business Administration _is_ discussing businesses conducted in homes. In the section on "Before You Begin" we find: "Where in the home will the business be located? What adjustments to living arrangements will be required? What will be the cost of changes? How will your family react? What will the neighbors think?"

Even if some of these businesses require one to go out to clients, they are run from the home (and many involve no outside work, just telephone and web-based activity). In your New York example, I would have no issue with folks talking about "working out of the NY office"--yes, they'll be going elsewhere often, but they'll still be _based in_ NY.

OK, I fear we just won't agree on that! "Preventative" is I think quite common in the US, and I guess "orientate" as well. The latter bugs me more, seems needlessly ornate, and I see that at TheFreeDictionary all three sources quoted identify "orientate" when used transitively as meaning "orient." I cannot say whether this is because I've simply become accustomed to hearing/seeing "orient" more over the years, but this may be.

"Pre-plan" I will have to align with "based out of" as another term I just do not like. "We need to plan ahead" is a redundancy, although one so common I don't think anyone takes it as such now. I'm curious as to how Oxford accepts "pre-plan" and then defines it "plan in advance"--as if there's any other way to plan!

Like you I really can't see why "proactive" is an issue for some: I've always understood it as being a different animal from "active," which unlike "proactive" has nothing inherently to do with doing something before a possible consequence. Thus the latter is a kind of antonym to "reactive."

"Burgled"--I think that's what happens in Great Britain, while in the States we get "burglarized." I kind of like burgled, but have probably never used it. So you've got me there!

I had noted the existence of "based out of" discussions and looked at a few. Just took another gander and found this observation (dated Sept. 2011) at "I would presume that 'based out of' indicates that although New York is your base, you regularly travel to places outside that area.
I'm only guessing though. I've never heard that usage in the UK." I hope it's still a rarity there!

providencejim December 3, 2013, 5:06pm

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@Warsaw Will: Ironic that the one novel I chose to try out the search function in Google Books turns out to be some kind of anomaly. At least we know Faulkner did not avoid using "he told about" ;-).

providencejim November 21, 2013, 3:17pm

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Warsaw Will, I was curious why A Giant's Strength, a play of just 52 pages, would have such a large number of "tell about" usages. I looked at your link and also did my own Google search in the text on a page not in Polish, and found a curious result: Although 16 instances are reported, in the only three passages shown by Google, none has the phrase highlighted (or unhighlighted). Then I tried The Sound and the Fury and got the figure of 35 hits for "told about" but the shown passages in fact did not have that phrase, but rather bolded examples of "told" and "tell" alone.


providencejim November 20, 2013, 1:21pm

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At first as an American of some years I thought, Why, that's awful! I never say that. But then after seeing some examples I realized I have been hearing and reading "tell about" all along, although not in sophisticated speaking or writing. I associate it with educational settings, maybe business settings too. That is an interesting spike in the 1940s, Warsaw Will; a look at Upton Sinclair's Wikipedia entry shows he published a book a year (or more) during the 1930s too, but maybe he helped get the spike started then.

providencejim November 19, 2013, 5:16pm

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As usual, Warsaw Will lends to the topic his deep knowledge of English usage and his affirmation of the value of letting go of prescriptivist dicta. I agree with him as far as informal contexts go, but until dictionaries define "lie" and "lay" as being the same verb I will expect writers and speakers in formal contexts to show they know the difference.

A side note: With Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay" I think there are two influences at work. One, popular songwriters frequently avoid grammatical correctness because it would seem out of place in their work (witness the frequent double negatives, as in "we don't need no education"). Second, "Lie Lady Lie" has alliteration but not the more pleasing alliteration Dylan used, where the L is joined by the long-A sound.

providencejim October 9, 2013, 1:23pm

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For JJMBallantyne and jayles the unwise: First, after reviewing the categories available at this site, I see now that Pet Peeves would have been the proper place for my initial post. I'm so used to looking at items in Grammar I just ended up there by habit. But I want to add that none of the reasons I've seen for accepting "over-simplistic" as part of good writing are persuasive to me. It seemed tautological to me before and still does. Might not qualify as bad grammar, but bad writing? Yes.

providencejim September 24, 2013, 11:16am

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