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Warsaw Will

Joined: December 3, 2010
Comments posted: 1371
Votes received: 1050

I'm a TEFL teacher working in Poland. I have a blog - Random Idea English - where I do some grammar stuff for advanced students and have the occasional rant against pedantry.

Questions Submitted

fewer / less

May 3, 2014

Natural as an adverb

April 13, 2014

tonne vs ton

January 25, 2014

Tell About

October 18, 2013

“reach out”

May 25, 2013

Recent Comments

I have to agree with the majority of native speakers on this thread, 'friendlily', even though listed by Oxford and Merriam-Webster, sounds awkward, and I have no problems with 'in friendly way', 'in a friendly manner' or 'in a friendly fashion' -

As porsche has already mentioned, 'friendly' is by no means unique in this regard; there are quite a lot of adjectives ending in -ly that don't normally take an extra -ily. Here's one list of 37 of them -

Here are a few more to add to porsche's list:

bubbly, curmudgeonly, prickly, comely, manly, deadly , silly, chilly

Even though sillily and chillily do seem to exist (although being red-lined by Firefox) , I personally would never use them and would stick to the 'in a ~ way / manner' formula, and that's certainly what we teach our EFL students.

As for comparative and superlative, all the dictionaries I've checked (including Merriam-Webster, Oxford, American Heritage, Longman) list - 'friendlier, friendliest', none saying anything about 'more friendly'. This is only to be expected, as that is following the standard rule for two syllable adjectives ending in -y.

But it's certainly true that 'more friendly' is also used, and especially in the past -

In fact there are quite a lot of two-syllable adjectives where we have a choice:

clever, common, cruel, gentle, likely, narrow, pleasant, polite

We usually recommend students to take the 'more, most' route here (which seems to be becoming more common / commoner, but I would certainly use crueler, gentler, narrower.

As a native speaker, I must say that what you see as confusion I see as choice. Which is especially useful for creative writers: sometimes 'pleasanter' will fit better, sometimes 'more pleasant'. Variety is, as they say, the spice of life.

Warsaw Will December 20, 2014, 7:29am

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@jayles - good choice of parameters - to which I'd add -

Warsaw Will December 19, 2014, 10:10pm

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I don't think the way people use it today, it is totally synonymous with problem, or at least only in certain contexts. Sure "Do you have an issue with that?" has to a certain extent replaced "Do you have a problem with that?", but that was always a very specific use of the word 'problem'. On the other hand, I don't think many people would say they were having an issue getting their car started in the morning.

Especially in the plural it can suggest baggage (history) of a certain type - the song "She's got issues" suggests a lot more to me than if it had simply been called "She's got problems".

These examples are from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary definition of "issue", under the subheading:

2 [countable] a problem or worry that somebody has with something

Money is not an issue.
I don't think my private life is the issue here.
I'm not bothered about the cost—you're the one who's making an issue of it.
Because I grew up in a dysfunctional family, anger is a big issue for me.
She's always on a diet—she has issues about food.
He still has some issues with women (= has problems dealing with them).
If you have any issues, please call this number.

As I said, I think that this is a very specific meaning of problem (apart perhaps for the first and the last last ones), and that "issue" is unlikely to replace the more standard meaning of problem. It may be an unfashionable view, but I believe that new words often become popular because they have a more precise meaning than existing ones - they fulfill a need.

As for the trend, and it doesn't seem to be a huge one, at least not in books, it seems to have started around 1990:

Warsaw Will December 19, 2014, 10:55am

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@jayles - You're no doubt right about 'will' and 'shall' instead of present continuous with future meaning, but I'm not so sure about 'here comes':

Charlotte Bronté - Jane Eyre

is coming 1 - Tell her, Sam, a gentleman is coming
here comes / there goes 0

Emily Bronté - Wuthering Heights

is coming - 4
Don’t make more mischief; my brother is coming: be quiet!
Ah, he has caught a glimpse of us—he is coming in!
‘I’ve prayed often,’ he half soliloquised, ‘for the approach of what is coming
Catherine is coming, dear master!

here comes / there goes 0

Anne Bronté - The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

is coming 2
He is coming to see me soon
But death will come—it is coming now—fast, fast!

here comes 2
and here comes my aunt to scold me
Ah, here comes one that will not rejoice at it!

'shall' is certainly used a lot, but mainly as an alternative to 'will' - in Jane Eyre there are around 260 instances, mostly in the first person, a couple with 'he/she' and around 20 with 'you'.

But the real way to sound Brontéesque is to have your characters ejaculate a lot:

Jane Eyre - 'he/she ejaculated' - 7
Wuthering heights - 'he/she ejaculated' - 5
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall - 'he/she ejaculated' - 3

Warsaw Will December 18, 2014, 10:13am

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It's not well known that Santa has several brothers. There's a younger brother who is always giving into him, and so is known by the rest of the family as Concession Claus.

Another brother has so little time for the family that they don't really regard him as one of the them, calling him Nominal Claus. A third is always going around set on doing something or other, Purpose Claus,he's known as. And then there's Conditional Claus, the black sheep of the family, who is only accepted at family dos on the proviso that he behaves himself. And of course there's the one with the dimple on his chin, Cleft Claus.

Then there are those who have flown the roost, the independent Clauses, leaving behind all the small Clauses. And there's those teenage Clauses who go round saying things like 'He was like Hi and I was like Cool, and like How are you, man. Cool.' The Verbless Clauses, they're called.

And if you want to get in touch with any of them just ask Mrs Claus, she knows all their numbers and email addresses. Not for nothing is she known as Contact Claus.

Warsaw Will December 17, 2014, 12:34pm

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@Harrycastle, belatedly - "In the French language, for example, the present perfect doesn't exist - rather they use a simple present. i.e. I have = j'ai and I have got = j'ai."

This is a double whammy, I'm afraid.

1. The 'I've got' construction is nothing to do with present perfect, of 'get' or anything else - so the 'j'ái' thing is neither here nor there. It's simply an idiomatic version of 'I have' which can only be used in the present; for other times we need to use 'have'. If 'I've got' was present perfect we would be able to use past simple and past perfect of 'get' with same meaning (which we patently can't):

She's got blonde hair = She has blonde hair

* When I first knew her she got brown hair - where did she obtain it from, I wonder?
- correct version - When I first knew her she had brown hair

* She had originally got black hair, apparently - again, where had she obtained it from?
- correct version- She had originally had black hair, apparently

Forget present perfect, it has nothing to do with it. Why is it that most foreign learners grasp this quite easily, but some native speakers just can't see the wood for the trees, I wonder?

2.French does have a tense constructed in the same way as present perfect - passé composé, which has two functions. In spoken French it is used instead of the passé simple to talk about the past. But its primary function is much the same as present perfect - "Le passé composé fonctionne normalement comme forme d'accompli dans le présent" (Grammaire du francais - Denis, Sancier-Chateau, Livre de Poche) - The passé composé functions normally as a form of completion in the present:

"Jusqu'á présent Paul ná écouté que de la musique classique"
"Up until now Paul has only listened to classical music."

Warsaw Will December 16, 2014, 11:36am

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Warsaw Will December 13, 2014, 12:11pm

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@jayles - "I never understood why the French for 'detour' is 'deviation' on all the roadworks".

French has two words - détour and déviation; 'taking the scenic route', for example, would be 'faire un détour', and 'détour' is also used for more permanent meanderings of rivers and roads. It seems to me that 'détour' is used for more deliberate or permanent situations, whereas 'déviation' is used more for temporary situations or those over which we have no control, such as those caused by road works, as is borne out by a quick look at Google Images, or when a plane has to make a detour, for example. However, this is just one of many meanings of 'déviation', which also shares several definitions with its English cousin.

Dictionnaire Altif :éviation

I'm not quite sure why you should be surprised, as both deviation / déviation come from Latin deviare "to turn out of the way". Spanish for detour, for instance, is the rather similar 'desviación', while in Portuguese it's desvio, and in Italian it's deviazioni. It seems to be specifically in English that 'deviation' has deviated away from its literal meaning to include only metaphorical and mathematical ones. The sexual meaning alluded to by HS is quite recent, 1912 according to Etymology Online. Nineteenth century examples seem to be mainly of the mathematical type.

Incidentally, Google dropped support for the plus operator some time ago. :)

Warsaw Will December 13, 2014, 12:09pm

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Ah. The forgotten beauty of 'Road works ahead'.

Warsaw Will December 11, 2014, 9:38am

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@HS - and please keep feeding me these little titbits to research. These little oddities are grist to the mill as far as I'm concerned, and as I neither pay much attention to sports pages nor live in NZ I would miss a lot of them otherwise.

But just to play devils advocate - "road improvement" or "lane upgrade" would certainly explain why you were being held up, but they wouldn't give you the whole picture - that they are converting the road from two lanes to three. As far as I can see, this upgrade is a pretty major development for both the NZTA and the NZ government, and perhaps they want people to know that something significant is going on.

Incidentally, a lot of the hits I got were for online gaming: 'laning' seems to be something you do in two online games: 'DOTA 2' and 'League of Legends'.

Warsaw Will December 10, 2014, 8:59am

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In fact, it turns out to be quite a bit older than that:

"This overpass built at a cost of $507,000 completes the three-laning of Highway U. S. 30 from the city of Cheyenne east to the Nebraska state line. " - Western Construction - Volume 30, 1955

"The Colorado department of highways has completed grading for three-laning six miles of U.S. 40, from Berthoud Pass down the western slope of the Rockies." - Roads and Streets, 1961

Warsaw Will December 9, 2014, 11:00am

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I don't really see the problem. It's succinct and tells you exactly what's happening in a more precise way than "Road widening in progress" or "Motorway upgrade in progress" or some such thing. Also this addition of lanes seems to be an imajor part of the NZTA's strategy, which they no doubt want to differentiate from normal road improvements

I take it that this is the Upper Harbour Highway to Greville Road Northbound section. Here 3-laning contrasts with 4-laning projects at SH1 Russley Road, Christchurch and Wairere Drive, Hamilton.

Although many of the entries for 3-laning are indeed from NZ, it doesn't seem to have been dreamed up by NZ 'suits', but more likely by US engineers. Google has entries from India and the US: Athens, Georgia and Waverly, Iowa. Nor is it particularly new; this link is to the Ocala Star Banner, Marion County, and is from 1987:

Warsaw Will December 9, 2014, 10:47am

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You could start with, which checks the word in a lot of dictionaries. It found definitions for 6 out of 9 words I found from a collection of curious Victorian words and sayings at Wordnik is also usually quite good, but seems to be having server problems at the moment.


Two out of the other three were easy enough to find with Google, leaving only broading - 'not found'

There is also a dictionary of Victorian slang -

Warsaw Will December 8, 2014, 9:39am

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Deliberate misspelling is usually done for effect, innit? - I would imagine signalling that it is deliberate would rather spoil that effect. Cos (sp!) it wouldn't be very kool (sp!) if yer (sp!) had to tell people the whole time you were deliberately misspelling, would it? - Imagine the signs - Krazy (sp!) Kuts (sp!), Frying tonite (sp!) etc.

But I'm intrigued. When would you want to deliberately misspell something unless you were quoting someone else, when you could use [sic], or suggesting that something was dialect - when you wouldn't want to add anything - There's a famous expression in Britain (from a comedy show) - "Am I bovvered?" - to add any symbol to that would ruin it.

Warsaw Will December 6, 2014, 8:54am

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Thanks HS for putting me on to this. I've now done a bit of research, which I've posted on my blog, and this this is how I conclude:

"The expression 'look on', as in 'watch from a distance', goes back to least to 1601. A variation, 'watch on', has been used very occasionally in books since around 1820, but with nothing like the frequency of 'look on'.

In the vast majority of cases, this use of 'watch on' in books is unconnected with sport: I've only been able to find sixteen sports-related examples at Google Books, with the earliest from 1950. Of these only two are to do with football, the area where it seems to be primarily used in the media, and both of those are recent, 2012 and 2013.

It appears to have started being used in the British media in the early years of this century, with the earliest I've been able to find being from 2003, but didn't really take off till about 2012, most examples being from 2103-2014."

Incidentally, there are a couple of interesting points from a NZ perspective: one of the earliest book references is from 'McKechnie, Double All Black: An Autobiography', New Zealand, 1983:

"Watching on as McKechnie made his point at national level for the first time, his Southland Boys' High School coach Clive Williams recalled how he had been drawn to his ability seven years earlier."

And the earliest newspaper example I can find is from an AP report on a game between the All Blacks and Canada at the 2003 Rugby World Cup:

"Watching on from the sidelines was Ben Blair, whose World Cup future was thrown into doubt just hours before the kick-off"

Warsaw Will December 6, 2014, 5:31am

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Correction - 'watched on_ADV'

Warsaw Will December 2, 2014, 12:22pm

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I'm afraid the results at Ngram don't really tell us anything, because in most of the examples 'on' is simply a preposition:

"how much violence they watched on television".
"Tell me,is there anything else worth watching on those screens of yours?"

But Hairy Scot is talking about a phrasal verb, where 'on' is an adverb:

Try Ngramming 'watched on *,watching on *' and it's all prepositions; 'watched_ADV' gets no hits at all.

But go to Four Four Two, the British football magazine, and there's a very different story

"Watching on from afar will be Tosh Farrell, the former Everton coach"
"Munsterman will be watching on from the Netherlands on Saturday"

In these, 'watching on' is almost always followed by 'from', and 'looking on from' hardly gets a look-in, with only 5 hits, compared with 29 hits for 'watching on from'. ('watched on' 23, 'looked on' 7)

Meanwhile at Ngram, 'watching on from' draws a blank , although there are a few at Google Books, so I think HS is probably right that this is fairly recent and particularly connected with sport, and especially football and rugby, judging by what comes up when you do a standard Google search for 'watching on from'. Of the first 10 examples, eight are sports related (one is prepositional, and one is general - 'watching on from afar') :

Warrington Wolves (rugby league)
Twitter (American football)
Twitter (football)
Canada (World Cup football)
West Ham World (football)
Total Barca (football - Suárez: “You feel helpless watching on from afar”)
Daily Mail (football)
Facebook (football - the Suarez quote again)

There are 31 examples of 'watching on from' at Google Books, very few of which are connected with sport. The earliest is from a book published in India in 1977 - 'And he was off, trumpets sounding alert on both ships and a visibly worried Naval Chief watching on from the other side of the water.' And there are only three other examples from the 20th century, none of them connected with sport.

The earliest example at GB connected with sport is from 2007, and is about cricket:

"The setting could not have been more perfect: a hill-country town he loves, with a large family he adores, all watching on from the main pavilion."

And the next isn't till 2012, when we get a couple from 'El Clasico: Barcelona V Real Madrid', by Richard Fitzpatrick:

"There is a gulf separating the two 'traditions', between the political and cultural drivers that animate their fans watching on from the sidelines, and the reality of the sporting action on the field"

I've no doubt that certain expressions do get taken up by sports commentators and players, but see no particular harm in that. Most interest communities develop and use expressions in common: it's part of establishing a group identity, especially amongst young people. People copy their peers, sure, but is that affectation? I doubt it. In any case 'watching on' seems to me rather more active than 'looking on', and so entirely appropriate for people watching sport.

As for 'onwatchers', the football examples I've seen refer mainly to individuals, particularly managers, who you'd hardly call simple onlookers, so I don't think there's much danger of 'onwatchers' taking off. So HS can sleep easy on that one. (Come to think of it, would we normally refer spectators as onlookers, anyway?)

But good to see you getting the ball rolling again, HS. And interesting subject; I'd hadn't noticed it before.

Warsaw Will December 2, 2014, 12:21pm

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Marking plurals of nouns ending in vowels,especially of foreign origin was, of course, one of the original functions of the apostrophe:

'Comma's and points they set exactly right' - Alexander Pope, approvingly quoted by Dr Johnson

And from the Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language:

'There was formerly a respectable tradition (17c - 19c) of using the apostrophe for noun plurals, especially in loanwords ending in a vowel (as in We doe confess Errata's, Leonard Lichfield, 1641, and Comma's are used, Phillip Luckcombe, 1771)'

Moreover, possessives without apostrophes were common in seventeenth century books:

'A word to Londons Provinciall assembly', Nehemia Cent, 1650
'For fear (I think) the Kings affaires should thrive too well', A Vindication of King Charles, Edward Symmons, 1648

The greengrocer's apostrophe is as old as the hills, and I'm happy to say, just as resilient in British English as in American English. It was really only in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that apostrophe's current functions became established.

Warsaw Will November 29, 2014, 12:27pm

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"There were Tom, Dick, Harry and myself" - of course whether we should use an object pronoun after 'be' is a different question, discussed in some detail on other threads.

Warsaw Will November 21, 2014, 1:47am

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