For questions on how and why certain words are used in varying ways within various contexts.

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11
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1answer
749 views

What does “Empedocles’ sandal” mean in terms of English usage?

I first heard the expression “Empedocles’ sandal” a long time ago without knowing what it referred to. It seems to derive from the legend of the ancient Greek philosopher Empedocles (who was ...
11
votes
1answer
75k views

Correspond to vs. Correspond with

Is there any significant difference between Correspond to and Correspond with? I only mean in the sense of "matching", here, rather than "communication". I've looked at a few sources, but I can't ...
11
votes
2answers
7k views

“Intent” vs. “intention”

How are intent and intention distinguished in terms of usage? My guess after checking my pocket dictionary is Intent is used to mean a bad purpose. Their intent to kill the boy is crystal ...
10
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3answers
2k views

Can “the rubber meets the road” be used as a stand-alone phrase to mean “stop disaster in its tracks or keep it at bay”?

I didn't know the idiom, "the rubber meets (hits) the road." So I was drawn to the passage, “When it comes to Ebola, the rubber met the road at the Firestone rubber plantation” appearing in NPR’s ...
10
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3answers
2k views

What does “have a pastrami on wry” mean?

I was drawn to the expression, “I wish I could have pastrami on wry“in the beginning sentence of Maureen Dowd’s article, titled “Still mad as hell” in New York Times (February 8): "I often wonder ...
10
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7answers
674 views

Which is more certain - “sure” or “confident”?

My friend and I have an ongoing debate over which word communicates a stronger sense of conviction. For example, when I'm 98% positive of something I often say "I am confident that's how it happened, ...
10
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5answers
1k views

“He's unarguably the best” or “He's arguably the best”

I keep hearing the phrases unarguably the best and arguably the best. Some people say one, some people say the other when they mean he's the best. However which one is actually correct? If he's ...
10
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4answers
4k views

What is meant by a “two-lane” road?

When people say that a road has "two lanes"? Two lanes total, one travelling in one direction, and one travelling in the opposite direction? Two lanes travelling in one direction, and two more ...
10
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3answers
2k views

Correct usage of the verb “to hock”

Sometimes I read/hear the verb "to hock" used as a synonym of "peddle/hawk", as in "The street vendor hocked his wares." Is that correct? I always thought that "to hock" meant "to pawn". Perhaps it's ...
10
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3answers
476 views

Does “They don't have a life” sound correct?

As he and I walked past a group of individuals, my rude friend said, "They don't have a life." I hadn't heard the expression before that. Does it make sense? They were individuals (plural) but he ...
10
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2answers
273 views

Is there a word for the second part of a story title after a main character?

I commonly see the format: Main Character(s) and some other important idea Story titles: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day The ...
9
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18answers
1k views

Idioms for a 'obvious' or 'needs no explanation'

I need to find an idiom for the following situation. I am talking to the HR department about a particular policy. I did not know about the policy beforehand and HR had never explained it to me. For ...
9
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3answers
2k views

What does “Give a chicken in every pot” mean?

There was the following statement in October 29 New Yorker’s article that came under the title, “Why the G.O.P. Candidates Don’t Do Substance”: Did any of the candidates detail how they would pay ...
9
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3answers
921 views

Gendered terms — particularly female — becoming neutral?

I have been hearing that many gendered terms are simply being absorbed into the masculine equivalent, while many other words are retaining their usage. A few examples are the terms "actress" becoming ...
9
votes
4answers
29k views

“was able to” vs “could”

According to my grammar book, here are some usages of was able to and could could can be used to refer in general that someone has a skill. e.g. At that time I could still read without spectacles. ...
9
votes
4answers
442 views

“[a/the] equivalent of” vs. “[a/the] equivalent for” vs. “[a/the] equivalent to”

Which of the following constructs sound more idiomatic to you? Is there any British/American equivalent to the French phrase "broyer du noir"? Is there any British/American equivalent for the ...
9
votes
1answer
402 views

Influence of Spanish and usage of Spanish words in US English

A recent report by Instituto Cervantes ["El Español una lengua viva, informe 2015"] lists the US as the 4th country in the world with the highest number of native Spanish speakers (41.343.921), ...
8
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5answers
1k views

What does “Anyone who is married” mean in “Anyone who is married should know that facts and logic are not always helpful to one’s cause”? [closed]

I’m drawn to the phrase, “anyone who is married” taken from Benn Steil's recently published book, The Battle of Bretton Woods that deals with the battle engaged by Maynard Keynes and Harry White, each ...
8
votes
3answers
620 views

“jam,” “jelly,” and “jello” in AmEng vernacular

What exactly is the fruit preserve called "jam" in the U.S.? Is it what is referred to in France as "confiture"? If so, then what would be the French for, what is called "jelly" in the U.S. ("jam" ...
8
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6answers
1k views

Which is correct or more common when talking about medicine: “buy drugs” or “buy medicine”?

I mean it in the sense of buying medicine, for example for common cold or other diseases. When talking about buying medicine, which of these sentences is more correct or more commonly used: "go to ...
8
votes
3answers
911 views

What does ‘be one’s “buddy”’ mean aside 'be one’s “friend”'?

What does ‘be one’s “buddy”’ mean aside be one’s “friend”? I was drawn to the phrase, “My short game’s always been my buddy” appearing in the following quote of Tiger Woods in the Time magazine’s ...
8
votes
1answer
555 views

What does“low wattage” mean in “A politician not being mocked for low wattage”?

Time magazine (October 25) carries the article titled “The Populist Egghead” with a caption: “Sen. Cruz isn't being mocked for low wattage the way Palin and Reagan had been. He's being singled ...
8
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3answers
1k views

“Short for” vs. “Stands for”

US stands for "the United States". US is short for "the United States". What are the subtle differences between them?
8
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3answers
460 views

The usage of “banzai”

I started to reread a pretty old mystery of Thomas Harris, “The silence of the lambs,” which I once gave up reading because of difficulty of understanding the narrative studded with technical jargons ...
8
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4answers
34k views

Origin of current slang usage of the word 'sick' to mean 'great'? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: How and why have some words changed to a complete opposite? How did 'sick' come to mean 'awesome' or 'really good / cool' in modern U.S. slang? I'm interested in origins ...
8
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2answers
58k views

“Is equal to” or “equals” [duplicate]

Are both is equal to and equals similar in meaning? Which is the more natural? For example, one plus one equals two or one plus one is equal to two.
8
votes
1answer
675 views

Source of the phrase “call [somebody] out of name”

I was introduced today to the phrase "Call out of name" as in: She claimed the other girl called her out of name. I had to ask what it meant and the answer was "she called her a bitch". I'm ...
8
votes
1answer
20k views

“Should I” vs. “Shall I” vs. “Do I” in AE

In colloquial prose, is there some difference to saying "Should I/we", Shall I/we", "Do I/we" to ask someone's advice? E.g. Should I call the police? Sounds like I'm asking someone (or myself) ...
8
votes
2answers
332 views

“the 'first/last' of the [day/night/week, etc.]” for "the 'beginning/end' of the [day/night/week, etc.]

Where in the U.S. and Canada do they say, at the first/last of [the day/night/week, etc.] for at the beginning/end of [the day/night/week, etc.]? Luck had it that they only experienced a very ...
8
votes
1answer
144 views

The use of possessive pronouns in phrases like “I don't know my geography” or “He certainly knows his Star Wars”

There's a rather peculiar use of possessive pronouns. In my experience, it normally occurs in the context of referring to someone's familiarity with a particular subject (or lack therof), e.g. You ...
8
votes
3answers
144 views

What's an evidential basis for discussing gender-neutrality of terms? [closed]

I keep finding myself looking at questions involving the concept of gender neutrality of words or phrases. (Check out the RELATED panel down to the right there.) "Craftmanship" for example - is it ...
8
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2answers
4k views

Why is “Good Night!” dismissive

To start off let us construct a situation were I am walking along and I pass another person. Depending on the time of day and to be polite I say one of the following: "Good Morning!" "Good Evening!" ...
7
votes
3answers
3k views

Is “despite” outdated?

A friend of mine, a respected linguist, mentioned recently that "despite" (prep) is outdated. Whilst it is true that I hardly ever hear someone using the word in ordinary conversation, I still hear ...
7
votes
6answers
3k views

The meaning of 0% and 100% as opposed to other percentages?

Oftentimes, percentages are rounded to the nearest whole number. A $49.99 item may be marked 50% off, even if the price becomes $24.99 (it should be 50.03% off). However, I have come to notice that ...
7
votes
7answers
2k views

Does “wobble” sound negative?

I'm launching a project which I want to make big as possible. I want to find a name, but I'm not looking for any real meanings. This project is a web tool (Javascript prototype & API) so I want to ...
7
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4answers
13k views

Is “on one hand, on the other hand” a cliche? [closed]

We should find a Way of long peace instead of living just for today. On one hand, we have to prevent the community from coming apart and suffering the disasters caused by it, on the other hand, to ...
7
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4answers
2k views

“A new pair of ” or “A pair of new”

a new pair of shoes / pants / scissors a pair of new shoes / pants / scissors I can’t find which one of those two it should be, and I’ve seen some debate about it. “A new pair of shoes”: Could it ...
7
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4answers
2k views

Usage of diffuse vs. defuse

I often hear phrases such as "infantry were sent in to diffuse/defuse the situation," and I am never quite sure which people are saying, and which is correct. Both seem to make sense. To me (a ...
7
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4answers
4k views

How often is “more often than not”?

A person, supposedly a native speaker of English, assured me that I would say "often" means roughly 50-60% of the time, whereas "more often than not" means 75-95% of the time, and is closer in ...
7
votes
1answer
894 views

Heard a native saying: “did you see where she had a baby??” refering to Facebook

I am Spanish and my fiancé is from the States. The other day we were hanging out with his mum and she said the following: "Did you see where Emma had a baby???" I was very confused because I hadn't ...
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2answers
1k views

Does one “take” a photocopy or “make” a photocopy? [closed]

If the verb for "photograph" is take, I presume that the verb for a "photographic copy" should also be take. The word photocopy is often abbreviated to copy. I have noticed the verb make is used for ...
7
votes
3answers
507 views

“cologne” and “aftershave” for “fragrance for men”

Per Farlex Trivia Dictionary, perfume or parfum is 20–40% oil and the highest concentration; eau de toilette is 10–18% oil, and cologne or eau de cologne is 3–9% oil. Leaving aside the technical ...
7
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3answers
354 views

Authors who “fracture” the language

What's this reportedly AmEng usage of fracture to mean go beyond the limits of (as rules); violate (M-W), as in "This writer fractured the English language with malaprops"? How does this word differ ...
7
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3answers
5k views

usage of “yet to be”

Can I say He is yet to be a murderer. to mean the he is not a murderer, but very soon he will be one?
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3answers
1k views

“Have” vs. “Is” + Verb

The phrases have expired and is expired are in practice more or less identical. Formally, of course, they are different in that the former uses expired as a verb with have as its auxiliary, whereas ...
7
votes
1answer
966 views

Why is something fried on a griddle called grilled?

To my understanding, to grill is cooking with a heat source located beneath an open slatted grate (or ribbed closed pan). (For example, using a barbecue grill on one's patio.) The word grill is ...
7
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3answers
2k views

Usage of “stood up” to mean “set up”

I was reading this question on meta.ELU and was struck by what, to me, was a strange use of the phrasal verb to stand up: The site for English Language Learners was stood up in large part so that ...
7
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3answers
4k views

English usage: Every vs all?

Today I was writing a simple message to be shown to the user whenever at least one field was not supplied. Every/All fields must be supplied. I'm in doubt about the usage of Every vs All, which ...
7
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4answers
308 views

The rain is “lifting”

How can the rain "lift"? I mean, I can pretty well figure out that the fog or mist or smog, etc. "lifts", i.e. disappears or disperses by or as if by rising, but "the rain lifting" sounds like it's ...
7
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5answers
25k views

Does “turning down the air conditioning” make it warmer or colder?

As the title says, I've heard two possible meanings for turning down the air conditioning: It could mean set the target temperature lower (i.e. colder) or make it work less (i.e. warmer). Turning ...