This tag is for questions concerning the written representation of the English language, especially spelling and word breaks (including hyphenation).

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0answers
21 views

When do you link composite words with dashes? (compounds)

In German (my mother tongue) it is very common to combine several nouns into a new word by linking them together with dashes. After a word has been established in German, you even see it getting ...
10
votes
3answers
1k views

Why is “build” spelt with a “u”?

I was just looking at build on Wiktionary and I noticed that in Middle English the word was bilden. Where did the u come from? I can understand why words such as guide have a u; it's to make the g "...
1
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1answer
69 views

What do you call the phenomenon where you suddenly feel that a word's spelling is wrong?

First of all, does this actually happen to others? Hopefully it does. In my case at least, the most commonplace words suddenly seem to be spelled wrong. The most common examples are why, while, ...
-1
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1answer
62 views

Why are there silent letters? [duplicate]

Why do we put letters in some words which are silent in pronunciation? If they make no sound then why we waste space in words? For example: "Knife"; 'K' is silent "Doubt"; 'b' is silent etc.
2
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2answers
807 views

3D vs 3d vs 3-d vs 3-dimensional

How do you correctly abbreviate that something is in "three dimensions" in formal writing? As per the title, would you write either "3D", "3d", or "3-d"? I want to write something like: The ...
23
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1answer
2k views

Graphotactics of possessive: the true reason for the apostrophe

I have some hypotheses for English graphotactics: 〈w〉 and 〈y〉 are optional positional variants (i.e. allographs) of 〈u〉 and 〈i〉, respectively, in digraphs that correspond with diphthongs or vowels: 〈...
4
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2answers
111 views

Other special hyphenation examples than eight-teen

According to The TeXbook [Don Knuth, 1984], solution to Exercise 14.8, the word eighteen should be hyphenated eight-teen. It is, indeed, standard practice in pre-reform German to contract triple ...
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0answers
41 views
5
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1answer
164 views

Proper spelling of variant of “suspicious”

I'm not sure if it's an Aussie thing, but if something is suspicious, then it's sus(s), e.g: Someone added me on Facebook but they don't have a profile picture. I think they're a bit sus(s). The ...
2
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2answers
135 views

What is the origin of the word “What”?

Where does the word what come from? Why do we say wot when it's spelt the way it is?
1
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1answer
47 views

“Neandertal”? Have English-speaking scientists now adopted the modern spelling?

In the 19th century the name of the valley in Germany was spelled "Neanderthal", and now it seems to be "Neandertal", with exactly the same pronunciation. But as far as I knew before tonight, the ...
1
vote
2answers
7k views

Why is the plural of “basis” “bases” and not “baseis”?

Looking at the noun basis on Wiktionary.com, it indicates that the plural is either bases or baseis. It looks like the rare baseis comes from the Greek, but the common bases just refers back to basis ...
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2answers
2k views

Accent Marks in English

Why doesn't the English language have accent marks? I have been trying to understand the critical differences that are present between the English and Spanish language, however I just can not wrap my ...
1
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2answers
4k views

“Leader board” vs. “leaderboard”

Is there a preferred spelling for the word "leaderboard"? Should it be one word or two? It would seem that both are correct, but is either preferred?
0
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2answers
29 views

How to spell correctly: “neutral-stability curve” or “neutral stability curve”? [closed]

I have a question regarding spelling the following phrase: "neutral stability curve" in the meaning of "curve of neutral stability". Should I put a hyphen between "neutral" and "stability" or not? Is ...
2
votes
1answer
106 views

Why is “number” abbreviated as “No.”? [duplicate]

The spelling of number is number, but the abbreviation is No (№). There is no letter o in number, so where does this spelling come from?
22
votes
2answers
25k views

“noone”, “no one” or “no-one”?

What is the correct form? Does context play a role? Are there noticeable trends towards the awkward "noone" or is it just a by-product of careless orthography on the Internet?
0
votes
2answers
35 views

Communism/communism and Communist/communist [duplicate]

I have some doubts regarding capitalizing or not the following words: Communism Communist I know that Communism is generally written with capital letter, but sometimes I have this doubt and cannot ...
1
vote
1answer
70 views

Word for a word that changes spelling but not meaning?

What is the word that describes a word that has changed in spelling but not meaning, such as how the word "to-day" was once spelt "today"?
3
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4answers
14k views

“Fermentor” vs. “fermenter”

I am curious to know the correct usage of these words as it seems to be misused often. See http://meta.homebrew.stackexchange.com/q/202/59 for a related question.
7
votes
2answers
2k views

Do Americans also typically use the word “aesthetic” spelled that way?

As far as I know, the word "aesthetic" can be considered the "British" or "European" way of spelling the word, like "caesium" or "haemophilia". The spelling "esthetic" (which replaces the ae with e as ...
71
votes
8answers
105k views

Plurals of acronyms, letters, numbers — use an apostrophe or not?

When I was in high school back in the 1970s, I was taught that to make a plural of an acronym, a letter, or a number, one should add an apostrophe and "s". Like I would have written this sentence, "......
9
votes
3answers
7k views

How was 'Sundae' derived from 'Sunday'?

On Sunday, April 3,2011, Google displayed a commemorative graphic for the 119th anniversary of the first documented case of the Ice Cream Sunday. (Image comes from: http://www.google.com/logos/2011/...
24
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5answers
3k views

Words with a leading silent w

My eldest is a beginning reader. Yesterday we read one of my favorite books, The Wreck of the Zephyr. He pointed at wreck and asked me why that one looked like it said "wuh-reck." I explained that ...
11
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1answer
2k views

What does “steenking” mean?

I read some source code and came across this sentence: Hopefully it works, and we don't need no steenking BIOS anyway [...] You see the word "steenking" in there. I traced its origin down to the ...
15
votes
2answers
6k views

“Oestrogen” and “oesophagus” — why are they spelled differently in British English?

Within Biology, there are some biological terms that differ in spelling between the British English and American English dictionaries. For example, oestrogen and oesophagus, as well as the word ...
0
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1answer
4k views

Why does a silent “-e” at the end of a word lengthen vowels?

There's a common pattern in English spelling where "short" vowels are pronounced as "long" vowels with the addition of a silent "e" at the end of the word. E.g. bit → bite mat → mate pet → pete ...
4
votes
2answers
123 views

Why is “batting” spelled with two t's, but “combating” spelled with one?

The "bating" in "combating" is pronounced the exact same way as "batting". It doesn't make sense to me.
2
votes
0answers
65 views

Usage of Robo vs Robot [closed]

In my job I'm researching about finance management and advisors. There is a class of software called "Robo Advisors". They are not Robot Advisors, but Robo. http://www.investopedia.com/terms/r/...
0
votes
1answer
76 views

Difference between “birth weight” and “birthweight”

Is there any US/UK English difference in the spellings "birth weight" and "birthweight"? In scientific journals, I have found usage of both spellings. E.g., Overall birth weight is not different for ...
0
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2answers
6k views

Is grownup, grown up, or grown-up the correct usage (as a noun)? [closed]

When used as a noun (meaning an adult), is "grownup", "grown up", or "grown-up" more appropriate?
10
votes
2answers
4k views

Is “vapourise” considered incorrect, even in British English?

According to Wiktionary, the British spelling of "vaporize" is vaporise, not vapourise as one might expect from the word vapour (and similarly, the Canadian spelling is still vaporize, not vapourize). ...
6
votes
2answers
4k views

Is there an online dictionary listing words spelled in reverse?

A final "s" in a word is usually pronounced \z\, so it is an interesting that the final "z" in "quartz" is pronounced \s\. (I mention interesting quirks like this to my ESL students.) I was wondering ...
1
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0answers
40 views

When did summer lose its capital? [duplicate]

In modern English the seasons spring, summer, autumn and winter, don't start with capital letters. However, it hasn't always been thus. For example, 1667 Milton Paradise Lost iii. 43 The.....
7
votes
3answers
288 views

Spelling etymology of “-il[l]” words

I've noticed that modern English seems to have a very strong bias at the end of verbs towards the spelling "-ill" (i.e. with a double "l") instead of "-(consonant)-il". The overwhelming majority of ...
0
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0answers
16 views

Separate or join words [duplicate]

I've read some answers abour when to join two words and when to write them separate, and when to write them with a hyphen. "Username", "user name" or "user-name" Which ...
0
votes
2answers
67 views

Should I use negotiate or negociate? [closed]

There are some word references and debates for "negociate". Anyone knows if both are correct ? Where does the spelling "negociate" comes from ?
0
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1answer
67 views

Capitalisation of “Nature”

Why is "Nature" usually spelt with a capital letter at the beginning in scientific journals? I am mainly referring to life science here, in case this matters. I am not talking about the obvious cases,...
-1
votes
1answer
53 views

What would be “inquetht”? [closed]

"I thay, misther," expostulat the Hebrew, "shut that bocth. Thmellth like a blooming inquetht." From "Percival Bland's Proxy" by R. Austin Freeman. I can decipher it as "I say, Mister," ...
5
votes
3answers
184 views

Evaluable vs. Evaluatable

How do we describe "something that can be evaluated"? My first thought was "evaluatable", since we have inflate -> inflatable debate -> debatable equate -> equatable However, "...
6
votes
1answer
1k views

What are words similar in spelling but differing in meaning called?

I frequently encounter "vs" words like: prodigal vs prodigious ingenuous vs ingenious affluent vs effluent These words are very similar but not identical in spelling, and have different meanings. (...
2
votes
1answer
68 views

Is it formal or informal to use y/o as an abbreviation of “years old”? [closed]

This is my first question on this site. I am not a native speaker. My question is, is it formal or informal to use y/o as an abbreviation of "years old" in British English?
34
votes
6answers
27k views

Difference between “artifact” and “artefact”

Is there any usage preference between artifact and artefact? My understanding was that an artifact was properly applied to physical, historical objects, while an artefact was more correct for more ...
2
votes
6answers
4k views

Similar words that change from “-ter” to “tre”

I just found out that luster in British English was actually lustre. This was something that I did not know before. Are there any other words that behave like this? Why? (According to what?)
3
votes
2answers
50 views

'De-exoticize' or 'deexoticize' [duplicate]

As an antonym for exoticize, would you favor de-exoticize or deexoticize? Google currently finds ~2970 results for the hyphenated version and ~440 results for the unhyphenated, but both of those ...
36
votes
7answers
24k views

Why is “primer” pronounced with a short “i” sound?

This word—used to mean an elementary textbook, not a painting material—annoys me to no end. Does anyone know why, exactly, "primer" is pronounced with a short "i" sound? I don't know why, call it ...
1
vote
2answers
55 views

English words with underlining like Uluṟu

Apart from words derived from Australian Aboriginal languages, are there any words in English that are written at least some of the time with individual letters being underlined for pronunciation ...
0
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3answers
56 views

to be spelled as or to be spelled by?

What is the correct preposition to use with the verb "to spell"? I'm trying to write a sentence "this sound is usually spelled by the letter "e". I'm not sure if I should say "by the letter "e" or "as ...
0
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3answers
78 views

Should “japanese” be capitalised when used as an adjective

Which one of these is the correct usage: 1) Your favourite Japanese restaurant 2) Your favourite japanese restaurant (being an adjective in this case, it should be in lower case)
0
votes
1answer
73 views

What's the meaning of “finniky”?

There is this sentence in a letter of Bertrand Russell: Even the absurdities - the thunder and lightning - are big and invigorating after the stifling finniky appropriateness of everything French. ...