Questions related to English vocabulary, forms, phrases, and syntax that is now more commonly seen in written literature than in everyday speech.

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Why isn't it appropriate to use an exclamation point in an essay? And how can I get around that? [closed]

I am currently writing a research essay for my English twelve class, and we are not allowed any exclaimation points whatsoever. But this one sentence is something I feel absolutely requires it! HELP: ...
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0answers
15 views

Where can I ommit “a” and “the” articles? [duplicate]

Should I allways use "a" article, when something is indefinite? And should I allways use "the" article, when something is definite? Where can I ommit these articles?
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3answers
54 views

What is the name of the term for character facial expressions showing meaning in a play?

Last year I learnt the term for a character's facial expressions showing the audience what they feel, as well as their tone of voice in the stage directions when reading a play. I am currently writing ...
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1answer
68 views

Is there any relation between the meanings of the word “cataract”?

Oxford defines "cataract" as "a steep waterfall" as well as gives the more common meaning of the word i.e. the medical condition that causes a loss of sight. Also, "cataract", as meaning ...
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2answers
286 views

What do you call someone who (over)uses archaic terms and expressions while writing?

I came across a literary article from one of my cousin's numerous English books. The author, in what I presume to be an effort to showcase their vocabulary and command over English, seems to have ...
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0answers
26 views

‘For’ at the beginning of a sentence [duplicate]

I'm reading books in English and sometimes I see sentences like these: For are we not just at that point in the model where the slope will increase exponentially? What is the meaning of for in ...
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0answers
55 views

Is there a word meaning “vicarious speaker”?

I remember that there is a word (I can't recall if it is an adjective or a noun) referring to the author when he/she makes a point vicariously through his character's voice. As far as I can recall, it ...
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1answer
56 views

Help explain what “miseries were as vast as the sky” mean [closed]

I'm totally confused about the use of this phrase in this situation: After Margaret Sanger saw the worst of many women who had to do abortion with abortionists, they suffered from physical pains ...
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2answers
65 views

meaning of “no longer me” [closed]

What does "no longer me" mean in The Blue Star poem by Philip Levine? Does it mean "I had no feeling any more" or "I could not have any feeling of myself and my previous personality any more", ...
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1answer
184 views

A word for someone that loves learning/ curious, has wonder about the world In general [duplicate]

I need a word that describes the love of learning, discovering, or it could even be a word that describes a curious person.
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2answers
74 views

The fine line between stilted and sloppy

I received a comment to one of my questions that I would like to elaborate on. Because the inversion of word order in the original makes it sound a little stilted The original question yielded ...
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1answer
133 views

What is it called when some pronounces their “s” sounds sharply

I've long noticed that when it comes to pronouncing words containing an "s" sound, their are those that pronounce it softly and those that pronounce it sharply. I have always wanted to put a name to ...
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6answers
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What do we call 'Shakespearean trash-talk'?

A classic example: In the opening scene of Richard II, Henry Bolingbroke and Mowbray seeks the adjudication of the king. They hurl accusations of treachery and cowardliness at each other. They ...
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1answer
41 views

Help formulating: an object is held on the forearm, leaning against the breast

There's simply no way I can think of formulating this in a nice way :(. I got a character in my short story that's carrying a heavy cube. I want to say that the cube is leaning on her breast. You ...
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2answers
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What does it mean by “bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of…” in Lincoln's 2nd inaugural adress?

I'm not sure who is the bondsman and why his wealth matters here. Here is the quote, from the paragraph of Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the ...
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4answers
3k views

Why did English change so much between Chaucer and Shakespeare?

My inexpert perception of things is that the distance between The Canterbury Tales (end 14th century) and Romeo and Juliet (end 16th), from a language perspective, is vast, and vastly greater than the ...
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3answers
3k views

Therefore vs. wherefore [closed]

I saw these words in The Silmarillion: Then there was unrest among the Ainur; but Ilúvatar called to them, and said: ‘I know the desire of your minds that what ye have seen should verily be, not ...
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5answers
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What does “better angel” mean in Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address?

I'm reading the book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. It mentioned that Lincoln replaced the phase "guardian angel" to "better angel". I don't understand what the phrase means. ...
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2answers
1k views

What does this “Change” mean in Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’?

The word Change doesn't seem to make much sense in this quote from A Christmas Carol. To emphasis the sentence, I kept it in bold-type. MARLEY was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever ...
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3answers
2k views

Is 'sluttish time' a metaphor?

The phrase 'sluttish time' is used by Shakespeare in one of his sonnets. Can it be termed as a transferred epithet as the word 'sluttish' here seems to be an epithet(adjective) or is it essentially a ...
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1answer
129 views

Is there a more proper way to denote the question-and-answer literature, as title of academic work? [closed]

In a context of an academic publication addressing readers favoring British English, what would be the better way to denote the "Questions and Answers" genre? I am looking for a more specialised way ...
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4answers
999 views

What does “ 'Nation ” stand for in this context?

I was reading the novel A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. In Chapter 2, there are sentences like: “I hope there ain’t, but can’t make so ’Nation sure of that,” said the guard, in gruff ...
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3answers
1k views

Collective noun for lightning(s) / thunderbolts

What is the collective noun for lightning(s) / thunderbolts? A ________ of thunderbolts/lightning(s) Can we use the plural form of lightning with a collective noun? Or should it stay in ...
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3answers
338 views

Semantic shift in “around”

I'm interested in the use of "around" as a synomym for "about, concerning, related to", which doesn't seem to be recorded in current dictionaries. I'd call it an academic/pseudo-academic usage and ...
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1answer
431 views

Meaning of “bile” from Great Expectations

In the book Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, the character Joe tells Pip, “Somebody must keep the pot a biling, Pip, or the pot won’t bile, don't you know?” What does the word bile mean in ...
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1answer
90 views

Use of “nay” - still current?

I get the sense that the interjection nay is seen as outdated and used only for humorous effect. Is this assumption true, or is it still acceptable in serious writing?
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3answers
4k views

Is “oftener” obsolete?

Does any native speaker of the English Language ever use oftener instead of more often?
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2answers
505 views

Is the word, “kinda-sorta” accepted as a normal word to be used in writing?

I was drawn to the word, “kinda, sorta” which appeared in the article of Time magazine (April 27) under the headline, “The Clippers Should Have Boycotted Game After Owner’s Racist Remarks”: The ...
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2answers
125 views

Can “lackadaisical” be used in literature?

Has lackadaisical ever been used in literary works? My Oxford Dictionary of Quotations has no quotation that includes this word. Who first used lackadaisical in the 1760s as the OED claims?
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3answers
987 views

Why are foreign words used in modern vernacular?

Why are seemingly foreign words such as hors d’œuvres, maître d’, garçon, and Gesundheit used in American vernacular?
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3answers
2k views

Is there any archaic word for “finally”?

So I was wondering whether there is any archaic word that means "finally" or "at last"?
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2answers
595 views

Word that describes a dramatic device that disrupts equilibrium

I am seeking a word, should it indeed exist, that describes a dramatic or literary device found when a new character is introduced into a story which disrupts the natural equilibrium, driving the ...
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3answers
139 views

Does the phase “what's an honest man to do?” have a specific literary origin, or is it simply a common-usage rhetorical question?

I have seen the phrase used in this form or as a template for other rhetorical questions - e.g., "what's an honest economist to do?"; "what's an honest business owner to do?";"what's an honest ...
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13answers
1k views

Searching for a rare word for “something taken as truth due to having been repeated so much”

I'm searching for a certain single, rare, literary word meaning "something taken as truth due to having been repeated so much". This "something" could be either true or false. It is not necessarily ...
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5answers
13k views

Why is quixotic pronounced as it is?

Since "quixotic" was coined with Don Quixote as its basis, why is it pronounced "kwicks-OTT-ick" when it should by rights/origin be pronounced "Key-HO-tick"? It even sounds more onomatopoeiatic the ...
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6answers
15k views

Words that describe food and eating [closed]

I'm writing a piece that relates to food and eating and am looking for adjectives that describe both. I just picked up the word prandial and that piqued my interest. Are there any similar words out ...
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2answers
3k views

What does “a woman of mean understanding” mean?

In the end of the first chapter of Jane Austin's Pride and Prejudice, Mrs. Bennet is described as a "woman of mean understanding". On the Web, I found two meanings: of little knowledge bad temper ...
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3answers
158 views

What does 'had been took with fits and held down in 'em' mean?

The following appears in The Haunted House by Charles Dickens. What is the meaning of the bolded phrase? This very concise summary of the facts was all I could learn, except that a young man, as ...
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2answers
300 views

What does 'sanding a doorstep' mean?

What does "sanding a doorstep" mean? Does it mean polishing the doorstep? Or filling it in with sand? I read this expression in Charles Dickens' book, The Haunted House where it says, I found ...
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1answer
2k views

Capitalization of certain terms in English Literature

In English literature, improper capitalization of some phrases is common. A friend of mine calls them 'Milnesian Capitals'. These tend to be used in late 19th early 20th century British writings. ...
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3answers
3k views

How to use “learn you” [closed]

While I was reading "The Adventures of Tom sawyer",I came across this phrase. Huck said ,"I will learn you." Is it right to say like that?Or we should say "I will learn from you"?
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1answer
2k views

Use of “many good wishes 'to carry with you'”

In "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" there is two times this phrase: "many good wishes to carry with you": And the Winkies gave them three cheers and many good wishes to carry with them. But he at once ...
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1answer
343 views

Does “the cornet of horse” mean a knight/rider? [closed]

The original sentence: The first that stood up, to open the ball, were a cornet of horse, and that sweetest of olive-beauties, the soft and amorous Louisa. ...
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4answers
18k views

What does “brought up by hand” mean?

In the book Great Expectations, Pip narrates: My sister, Mrs. Joe Gargery, was more than twenty years older than I, and had established a great reputation with herself and the neighbours ...
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3answers
433 views

What word describes the shape of a whirlwind when seen from above?

What word describes the shape of a whirlwind when seen from above? Swirl Whorl Radial The shape they make when seen from above resembles a radial pattern or even a whorl.
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468 views

Is the phrase “breed of men” weird or just different?

Forgive me for asking two questions in a single post, but I think it would make more sense to post them together. So please indulge me. Sentence: He is not unique. We should be able to discover such ...
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Usage of 'on the brink of'

(Talking about a chimp): "In human age, he would have been on the brink of puberty." I was told that this sentence is odd because 'be on the brink of' is usually used for something negative: ...