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Warsaw Will

Joined: December 3, 2010
Comments posted: 1371
Votes received: 1051

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

Oh, no it's not!

Warsaw Will November 20, 2014, 10:16am

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@Maekong Mike - "Me is a subject pronoun. Myself is reflexive" - Well, yes, "myself" is reflexive, but that's only a half the story: "myself" etc are also emphatic pronouns:

"I did it all myself"
"I want to speak to the minister himself, not some lacky"
"The hotel itself is OK, but the food's not up to much"
"I can't believe we are still arguing about this, myself"

- those are not reflexive, they are emphatic. And incidentally, "myself" etc are used either reflexively "I hurt myself", "I couldn't control myself", or emphatically "I did it myself, nobody else was to blame" - I'm not sure what you mean by "reflexive emphasis".

But most glaringly of all, "me" is not, of course, a subject pronoun, it's the objective form (or case if you prefer) of the pronoun. Virtually nobody uses "myself" as a subject pronoun, but a quite a few of us see no problem using "myself" as an object pronoun after "and" - "There were Tom, Dick, Harry and myself", which Burchfield, in the third edition of Fowlers, calls"beyond reproach".

In Scotland it has an additional meaning - "I need to take a day off" - "Oh, you'll need to speak to himself"(ie the boss) , or "And how's yourself today". I'm not sure if it's Scottish usage or standard British English, but "And yourself" is quite a standard reply to "How are you" where I come from.

"the language is moribund anyway" - a strange word to use for a language that is continually being played with and extended, and which is possibly the most influential language there's ever been.

Warsaw Will November 20, 2014, 10:11am

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@vmoll - I seem to be missing something here. Up until you there had only been two commenters on this thread, Skeeter Lewis and me, neither of whom have expressed the slightest bit of rage.

As to "I ain't gots no pencil" of course it's language - it may not be your language and it may not be my language, and it may not be appropriate for the classroom, for example. But it's certainly language, no doubt following the rules of, and understood by, the dialect group who use it.

"Ain't got" is common in both AmE and BrE dialects, although "gots"is a new one on me, and standard English is probably almost unique in not allowing double negatives. Standard English they ain't, but you can often hear them on the streets of London.

Warsaw Will November 16, 2014, 10:17am

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@Skeeter Lewis - that's possible for the duke, but unlikely for 'the same exact time', I would have thought. But I grant you that in many cases 'exact' could be taken to mean 'precise', such as this one:

"And yet the bee had been for thousands of years, in all countries, unerringly working according to this fixed rule, choosing the same exact angle of 120 degrees for the inclination of the sides of its little room",1851

But this one seems to me more like 'exactly the same':

"appeared to me the same exact hue", 1856

But point taken; maybe I got a bit carried away on 'the same exact'. But I stand by the older use of "the exact same":

Warsaw Will October 31, 2014, 4:42pm

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Judging by Ngram, 'the exact same' started being used more often around 1970, as did to a much lesser extent 'the same exact', but 'exactly the same' is still by far the most common. The Ngram figures also seem to suggest that this modern upsurge is a largely American phenomenon. The percentage for 'the exact same' is roughly three times higher in American books than in British ones, and 'the same exact' hardly registers in British books.

But I have to say that there are plenty of British examples of 'exact same' around, too:

"Rather embarrassingly for Labour, Cameron and Miliband have the exact same levels of trust in Scotland: 23 per cent.", New Statesman

"These applications covered the exact same area as the single application for the 18 homes.", The Scottish Parliament

In the Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage, the first example is from 1973, but there's one for 'the same identical method' from 1947. 'Exact same', incidentally, has been used by respected writers, and in respected places, including by John Updike in the New Yorker (1982).

But we can do much better than that. At Google Books there are 43 examples of 'the exact same' from the first half of the nineteenth century, including several from British publications:

"and the carpet is the exact same pattern of the one in the dress-drawing-room of Eglintoun castle", The Edinburgh Monthly Magazine, 1820

"No two translators could have hit upon the exact same form of expression", the Quarterly Review, 1834

The earliest example at Google Books, is from The Bee, published in Edinburgh in 1722:

"but he suspects Arcticus, who is a scotsman, will not admit it to be of the exact same import with the other."

There are even more examples of "the same exact" from 1800 to 1850, just over 90, and we even can go back to 1685 :

"though not eve'y where and in all places according to the same exact time", A Complete History of England, 1685

"Our Men answered them by Plattoons, with the same exact Order as if they had been only excrcising.", The History of John Duke of Marlborough, 1742

So there's nothing new about the expressions themselves, although they have always been minority usages - from books published before 1800, Google Books have perhaps 10 examples of 'the exact same' and maybe 18 for 'the same exact', but over 200 for 'exactly the same'. What is relatively new is their increasing popularity, especially of 'the exact same'.

There's quite a lot of discussion about 'the exact same' on the web, at, amomgst other places, Grammarphobia and Stack Exchange, and on this forum in 2006:

As to why? That's a trickier one to answer ? Perhaps because we're already used to things like 'the very same' - "They both arrived at the very same time".

Warsaw Will October 31, 2014, 2:50am

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Here's a link to the entry for 'wer' in the Bosworth -Toller Anglo-Saxon Dictionary, which has several definitions:

I. a man, a male person
II. a man, a male that has reached man's estate
III. a being in the form of a man
IV. a married or a betrothed man, a man (as in man and wife), a husband
V. a male

We seem to have two references in Beowulf, written sometime between the 8th and 11th centuries:

'se æt Heorote fand wæccendne wer wiges bidan'

which one website translates as 'he found at Heorot a waking man waiting for war


'wonsæli wer weardode hwile', where 'wer' is variously translated as creature or wight:

the unhappy creature occupied for a while
the hapless wight a while had kept

But while Chaucer uses 'wif' quite a lot to mean a woman, and 'man' to mean a man, there doesn't seem to a single instance of 'wer' in the Canterbury Tales (end of 14th century), so it had presumably died out by then.

Warsaw Will October 19, 2014, 12:43am

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Lets get the easy one out of the way first - Ayatollah is Persian, Ayatullah is Arabic,:

Persian: آيت‌الله‎ ayatollah from Arabic: آية الله‎, āyatu allah (Wikipedia)

As for the Lebanese group, though Wikipedia lists it as Hezbollah, the nearest transliteration would be Hizbullah:

حزب الله‎ Ḥizbu 'llāh

I know nothing about Arabic, but I imagine the o/u sound could be interpreted either way, and we know that S often has a Z sound in English. Also, there are regional variations of Arabic, so pronunciation no doubt differs from place to place, added to the fact that there is probably no official transliteration (as in Chinese) as many countries are involved.

At Ngram, Hezbollah is by far the most common, (but Hizbollah in British books, for some reeason - but I think that might be an aberration), not only in the English collections, but also in French, Spanish and Italian books. In German, however, Hisbollah is the most common.

In English books, Hizbullah and Hizbollah, get less than half of Hezbollah (but see British books, above). Hisbollah and Hesbollah hardly register. Incidentally Firefox red-lines all but Hezbollah.

At the BBC, Hezbollah is by far the most common. (541 -real hits), as it is at the Guardian, Independent, Times. But interestingly, at the Economist, Hizbullah gets 622 to only 237 for Hezbollah.

The next most common at the BBC is for Hizbullah (336),but it's nearly all from the BBC Turkish service, so that looks like the standard Turkish spelling.

Hizbollah gets 157

Hesbollah brings up the BBC Romanian service (63)

Hisbollah gets only 23 - many in Welsh, Portuguese and Spanish.

So if you want to go with the flow it looks like it's Hezbollah, but if you want to be more faithful to the original Arabic - Hizbullah.

Warsaw Will October 19, 2014, 12:14am

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From Etymonline -

'Old English man, mann "human being, person (male or female)'

From Oxford Online (usage note)

'Traditionally the word man has been used to refer not only to adult males but also to human beings in general, regardless of sex. There is a historical explanation for this: in Old English the principal sense of man was ‘a human being’, and the words wer and wif were used to refer specifically to ‘a male person’ and ‘a female person’ respectively. Subsequently, man replaced wer as the normal term for ‘a male person’, but at the same time the older sense ‘a human being’ remained in use.'

Warsaw Will October 18, 2014, 11:23pm

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The day people stop inventing new words: that's the day we should start worrying about the state of English. But of course they won't, because people are creative with language, especially young people. A lecture at Ted Talks to illustrate the point:

Warsaw Will October 8, 2014, 2:46am

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Re: Banjo's spelling idea -

In most words starting "ec", a single c is followed by a consonant, "eclaire, eclectic, eclipse, ecstatic, ectoderm, ectoplasms, eczema" - all with a short e as in "bed", and "ech" words simply follow the same pattern, as do "ecc" words. (For a list of all words starting "ec" see:

With a single consonant + single vowel we would normally also have a short e sound. And apart from "ecarte"(from French), the only vowel that follows initial "ec" is "o" - and this is where the only variation I can see comes: in words starting "eco", which all belong to two word families based on "economy" and "ecology" (and related words with the prefix "eco" as in "ecowarrior").

So, as porsche has pointed out, the long "ee" pronunciation many of us use for these words is not down to a standard spelling rule (you can't really make a rule from what are basically two roots).

In dictionaries, the waters are rather muddy. Whereas Oxford Concise lists only /ɪ:/ ( the long ee sound) for "economy, economize , econometrics", it allows both long and short e for "economic, economical". For "ecology, ecologist, ecological" it allows both long and short e. But the /ɪ:/ (long ee) is always listed first. For those with the "eco" prefix "ecofreak, ecosystem, ecoterrorist", only the long /ɪ/ is given.

The American picture is rather different. The Free Dictionary is equally schizophrenic, giving /i/ (more like "ik"than "eek") only for "economy, economize, economist", and both long and short e for "economic" and "economical". They give /i/ for "ecology, ecologist" and long and short e for "ecological". But unlike Oxford, here the short e is listed first. With "ecosystems, ecoterrorism" both long and short e are given, but here long e is listed first.

So, although I agree with porsche that there are several variants - in standard dictionaries alone we can find /i:c/ (eek), /ic/ (ik), /ek/ (as in heck), I don't quite agree that "ee" doesn't get listed very much, although in American English it may not be so long - /i/ rather than /i:/. Where both are possible, recordings sometimes give one, sometimes the other.

One conclusion seems to be that these two dictionaries, one British, one American, list the nouns and verbs - "economy, economist, economize, ecology, ecologist" with "eek" or "ik" (AmE), and the adjectives and adverbs (and nouns based on them) are listed with both long and short e. Somebody who pronounces "economics" with a short e might well pronounce "economy" with a longer one.

And so what about Skeeter Lewis's suggestion about origins - ecology certainly entered the English language as oecology (1873 - from German) and you can find a few examples of oeconomy in eighteenth century books, although I'm not sure how "oe" was pronounced. But the economy family seemed to come to us via French, where they are definitely pronounced with a short 'e'.

Warsaw Will October 5, 2014, 10:17am

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@Olivia Queen - "Using whether is far more common" - Here, Grammar-Monster was only referring to "whether/if ... or ..." constructions, as in "She didn't know whether to stay or go".

In normal indirect questions, "if" is "far more common", even in written English:

Netspeak - "He asked me if" - 78,000, "He asked me whether" - 5000
Ngram - "He asked me if" - 0.0000190%, "He asked me whether" - 0.0000020%
British National Corpus - "He asked me if" - 37, "He asked me whether" - 5

Incidentally, this question wasn't really about using "if" or "whether", but the use of "that" instead of either.

Warsaw Will October 5, 2014, 8:28am

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Incidentally, I somewhat disagree with those earlier commentors who see a difference in meaning between the two, or say that 'in' is followed by a verb, and 'with' by a noun.

Both 'in' and 'with' are prepositions, so the only verb form that can follow either is a gerund (-ing form), which is in fact a verbal noun, rather than a verb per se.

While Ngram certainly shows that before gerunds, 'in' is nearly always used, it also clearly shows that 'in' is preferred before standard nouns as well.

And it also shows that while 'in' before gerunds is still way in the lead, 'with' before gerunds is increasing in use, at the expense of 'in', in American English., at least:

At Netspeak, the percentage of 'assist' followed by 'in' is 16.3% , compared to 6.7% for 'with':*

And 'assist in the' gets 5.1 % to 1.5% for 'assist with'

At the British National Corpus there are 541 instances of 'assist in', compared with 167 of 'assist in'. While many of those with 'in' are followed by gerunds, many are also followed by standard nouns:

"the civil servants he appointed to assist in the work"
"a suggestion from the Ministry of Supply to assist in the production of railway bridges"
"About the only contribution information technology can make is to assist in the compilation of cricket statistics. "
"Numerous tests are available to assist in the systematic assessment of a wide range of grammatical abilities"

Similarly,while the majority of instances of 'assist with' are followed by nouns, there are also quite a few followed by gerunds:

"Volunteers are welcome to assist with staffing of the City Varieties"
"where one is merely allowed to assist with abseiling a small group down a short drop"
"Guides will assist with the serving of tea or coffee and biscuits"
"a variety of methods have been evolved to assist with coping with them."

Everything points to the same conclusions:

'assist in' is by far the most common when followed by a gerund, but 'with' is also possible.
'assist in' is also more popular when followed by a standard noun, but the difference here is not so large.
All these sources suggest that 'in' is more common in a ratio of about 3.5 to 2

Warsaw Will October 3, 2014, 1:54pm

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Sorry, that Ngram address didn't work. Go to and enter:

assist in the *,assist with the *

Warsaw Will October 3, 2014, 1:06pm

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@MD - Both are correct, but "assist in" seems to be the most popular. Learner's dictionaries, for example, allow both, but most of the examples they seem to give are with 'assist in'. Incidentally, learner's dictionaries are rather better at giving this sort of information than standard dictionaries:

"assist in/with something" - Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary
"We are looking for people who would be willing to assist in the group's work."

"assist in/with"- Macmillan's Dictionary
Several top landscape designers assisted in the creation of the garden.

"assist (somebody) with/in something" - Longman's
You will be employed to assist in the development of new equipment.

"assist the police with/in their inquiries (UK)" - Cambridge Dictionary

The American Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary gives these examples:

" Another doctor assisted with the operation."
"Federal agents are assisting with the investigation."
"She assisted in making the decision."
"The cream assists in the prevention of skin cancer."

At Ngram, the ratio of "assist in the project"to "assist with the project" is about 3.5 : 2. In general, it puts "assist in" quite considerably in the lead, and this graph also shows that both 'in' and 'with' can be used with the same words, for example "assist in/with the development", "assist in/with the preparation" (the most common collocations):*%2Cassist+with+the+*&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=18&smoothing=3&share=&direct_url=t2%3B%2Cassist%20in%20the%20*%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs0%3B%3Bassist%20in%20the%20defence%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bassist%20in%20the%20work%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bassist%20in%20the%20formation%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bassist%20in%20the%20development%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bassist%20in%20the%20execution%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bassist%20in%20the%20establishment%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bassist%20in%20the%20production%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bassist%20in%20the%20process%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bassist%20in%20the%20maintenance%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bassist%20in%20the%20preparation%3B%2Cc0%3B.t2%3B%2Cassist%20with%20the%20*%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs0%3B%3Bassist%20with%20the%20development%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bassist%20with%20the%20work%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bassist%20with%20the%20preparation%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bassist%20with%20the%20other%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bassist%20with%20the%20cost%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bassist%20with%20the%20provision%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bassist%20with%20the%20design%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bassist%20with%20the%20harvest%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bassist%20with%20the%20construction%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bassist%20with%20the%20implementation%3B%2Cc0

Warsaw Will October 3, 2014, 1:01pm

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@jayles - Fair enough.

In history classes at university we had a lot of discussion as to whether certain changes that took place in the UK after WWII, such as the rise of consumerism and the new availability of certain household appliances, constituted Americanisation, or whether it was simply modernisation, which had started in America.

I'm sure it's much the same with language: because a lot of social and technological change first appeared in the US, not to mention the whole idea of business as a 'science', and the cultural domination of Hollywood, we are bound to have taken on a lot of words which though they may have originated in America,are simply part of our modern lifestyle.

But then again, we still seem to keep our differences, even for some of these advances, for example hoover, fridge and telly, which are far more prevalent in the UK than in the US. And that that sign in question - "Wait here till the red light shows" - seems to be uniquely British.

Warsaw Will September 28, 2014, 12:55am

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According to that Ngram, 'no-show' started to take off in Britain in about 1970, which means it's been around here all of my working life, and about the same time as quite a lot of words that originated in hippie or black American culture around the same period, such as 'hype', 'uptight', 'the munchies', 'laid back' etc, which I wouldn't now regard as particularly American, although their origins undoubtedly are.

And like those other words, its use is now deeply embedded in the British media, so again, despite its origins, I don't really think of it as American. But then again, I spent much of the late sixties and early seventies reading Rolling Stone and American books.

I imagine that what mainly accounts for the difference in usage between AmE and BrE is its use in the former as an adjective, which seems to dominate at Google Books, whereas as far as I know its use in Britain is restricted to it being a noun. The earliest examples at Google Books are of adjectival use, from 1957 and 1958, noun use from 1965 (funnily enough, referring to students).

Warsaw Will September 27, 2014, 2:31pm

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@jayles - incidentally, while I agree that 'show' to mean 'show up' is mainly American English (and is shown as such in, for example, the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary), I don't think that there is such a distinction with 'a no-show'.

Unlike the former, OALD lists it without any mention of it being American; in Ngram its use is almost exactly the same in American and British books, and I certainly use it myself when no students turn up for a class (not such an infrequent occurrence when you teach in-company).

Strangely, it seems to be used more in the British media than in some of their American counterparts: The Guardian gets 119 hits whereas The New York Times gets none, although there seem to be plenty at the Washington Post (176) and the LA Times (125); The Daily Mail gets 437, but at the tabloid NY Post it's zilch; at the BBC there are 91, while ABC, NBC and CBS together can only muster 9. As it is seen as informal, it is perhaps not surprising that it crops up a bit more on Fox News - 152 hits.

These site searches don't seem to be 100% accurate, however, as I've found an example at the NY Post - "Super Mario ‘granny groper’ a no-show in court", and being used as an adjective at the NY Times - "No-Show Jobs and Overstaffing Hurt New York Harbor, a Report Says".

Other examples of adjectival use:
"How Restaurants Can Deal With No-Show Diners" -
"Hotel's no-show charge" - TripAdvisor
"A $15.00 per player no-show fee will be charged" - NY State Parks

Warsaw Will September 26, 2014, 10:46pm

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@jayles - It's a standard road sign in the UK, approved by the Department of Transport, and often used at road works -

The UK press had some fun when a pedestrian stopped at one earlier this year -

Warsaw Will September 26, 2014, 4:24pm

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And it's not particularly new:

"The rain poured down, and never a light showed" - Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn, 1899

"Close to the top of the staircase, however, there opened a door, through which a warm light was showing" - Margaret Oliphant, 1884

"and at night the light shows plain enough to warn vessels that it is time to haul offshore" - US Lighthouse Board 1852

"The fact, however, is that nearly every merchant vessel's side lights show not from right ahead only, but from half a point to a whole point or more across the bow." - The Practical Mechanics Journal 1868

Warsaw Will September 26, 2014, 1:37am

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@Skeeter Lewis - what's wrong with intransitive 'show'?

From various dictionaries:

Fear showed in his eyes.
She tried not to let her disappointment show.
She's nearly forty now.And it shows.
They managed to fix it so that the break wouldn't show.
Her scar doesn't show, because her hair covers it.
Shirl was four months gone and just starting to show.
Now showing at a cinema near you!

Warsaw Will September 26, 2014, 1:01am

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