How and why certain words are used in varying ways within various contexts.

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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 ...
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386 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 ...
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695 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 ...
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1answer
537 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 ...
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923 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 ...
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2k 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 ...
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599 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 ...
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174 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 ...
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14k 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. ...
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273 views

Can anything be “bated” but one's breath?

We are all no doubt familiar with the phrase "with bated breath," but is it ever used in other contexts?
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242 views

How did 'wieldy', the positive form of 'unwieldy', come to be a non-existent word?

I.e., is there a known reason behind why the negative form of the word 'wieldy', 'unwieldy', is so vastly used, whereas the positive form is essentially a non-existent word — MacMillan ...
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Does the phrase “don't even pass the laugh test” pass as an idiomatic expression, or only a set of words?

I was intrigued to the phrase, ‘the argument doesn’t pass even the laugh test’ in the following statement of Bruce Schneier, a security technologist on the debate about whether Edward J. Snowden who ...
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“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.
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967 views

Are “was/were able to” and “could” interchangeable?

In a grammar book, the claim was made that in the following sentences one cannot substitute "was/were able to" with "could." The fire spread through the building very quickly, but everyone was ...
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1k views

The usage of “the same…as…”

Which one of the following two sentences is more correct? We use the same space as is specified in Chapter 1. We use the same space as specified in Chapter 1.
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3k views

Is the use of future tense (especially “will” and “shall”) going out of grammar?

My English teacher taught us that there is no such thing called "future tense" in existence. Instead we were asked to use present indefinite tense. He said that we should use "I am to go to London" ...
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4answers
926 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 ...
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4answers
1k 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 ...
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346 views

What does “as” represent for in “Cantor quits as Majority leader” and “Cantor to resign as Majority leader”?

Today’s New York Times reported Eric Canter’s defeat in Primary election in Virginia under the headline: “Eric Cantor to step down as House Majority leader” followed by the text copy: “Representative ...
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255 views

How do teachers ask to calculate expressions?

How do American/British primary school teachers ask their pupils to calculate an expression? E.g. What is 2+3 equal to? What is the value of 2+3? ... In particular, I'm interested whether the ...
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1answer
293 views

Etymology of “rabona”

In association football, rabona is used to describe a specific technique: a method of kicking the football whereby the kicking leg is wrapped around the back of the standing leg—effectively with ...
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2answers
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Prepositions: “in” vs. “on” a tab/widget

In my quest to grasp the dichotomy between "on" and "in" I have found another example that left me in doubt. Initializes the widgets added on the tabs. Validates the information on the ...
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“Actually” vs “really”

Sometimes I wonder if he is actually/really as lavish as he pretends to be. I know that this sentence can work without either actually or really, but if we were to use one of them to make an ...
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1answer
628 views

Using “rather” to correct a misstatement

For some reason I have it in my head that I can use the word "rather" at the end of a phrase to indicate that I am correcting a previous misstatement. For example: Down the hall, you'll find the ...
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2answers
986 views

What Defines a Utah Accent?

I have heard a number of people refer to the "Utah accent." What is it that distinguishes a Utah accent from others? I have noticed that, in some cases, people from Utah omit the 't' from words such ...
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What led to the increased usage of “schtupping”?

I was listening to a television show the other day and one of the characters used "schtupping": schtupping — to have sexual intercourse with Dictionary.com notes that the term's origin is ...
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361 views

Is the sentence “are you done your soup?” proper English? [duplicate]

My mother in law is Scottish and has lived in Canada for the last 45 years. She will often omit the word "with." When asking my child if he is ready to get out of the bathtub she will say "Henry, ...
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What does “stuff one's nose into another's orifices” mean?

According to Maureen Dowd's article in New York Times (May 20) under the headline, “Remember to forget,” the European Court of Justice ruled last week that Google and other search engines can be ...
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Do you know the meaning of the American idiom “pot calling the kettle black”? [closed]

I would like to know something more about this American idiom and how north American or English speaking people use it. Can you guys answer my questions? Do you know the meaning of this idiom? Are ...
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1k views

Difference between “ignorant” and “uninformed”

What is the difference between ignorant and uninformed? In ordinary usage, is one considered a put down and the other considered a statement of fact? If so, why? Am I ignorant or simply uninformed?
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472 views

How to appropriately use the word “baby” as in the pattern “ ____ baby ___”; for example, “run baby run”?

As a non-native English speaker, I am not sure what is the meaning of this pattern "_ baby _" as in "run baby run"? Another example: "USA continues to "drill baby drill" (referring to oil). What other ...
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Is there a term/word for using an incorrect homophone

What would you call the following: Speak now or forever hold your piece.
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How do I formally speak dates?

How are dates formally spoken? Are there any differences in the British and American versions?
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Does 'twink' imply a specific sexuality?

I know that twink is a slang term for hot young homosexual guys who do not have facial hair. This word is very common in the gay community (and their adult industry) and recently I've heard a debate ...
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683 views

What is a term to refer something in the middle of a list just like “former” and “latter” is used in a list containing two things?

In a sentence, if someone says the former, they are talking about the first thing they listed, and says the latter for the last thing they listed. What would be the term to refer something in the ...
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335 views

Usage of hain't

According to Dictionary.com, ain't has two meanings: Nonstandard except in some dialects. am not; are not; is not. Nonstandard. have not; has not; do not; does not; did not. When I ...
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618 views

What does “state” in “State University” refer to? [closed]

There are many universities and colleges in the United States with names such as "... State University". The word state has many distinct meanings, but pertinent to this question are: government, ...
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11k views

Cause for vs cause of

I read this sentence somewhere today, but I think that the of would fit better here than for, don't you think? The cause for the original problem will be analysed in the normal maintenance hours. ...
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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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8k views

You didn't miss me, right? (possible answer with correct use of English)

A) No, I didn't miss you. B) Yes, I didn't miss you. C) No, I did miss you. D) Yes, I did miss you. According to my common sense perfect answers can be C) and B) only, and reason behind it is- ...
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625 views

Why don't Americans refer to Indians (and others from the subcontinent) as Asians?

I know there is a related question here, but I am not seeing an answer to "Why is there a difference?" Merely that an explanation of what is used in each country. I am a speaker of American English, ...
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4answers
159 views

Must you be successful to be labeled an “assassin”?

Query triggered by this Globe and Mail article: Headline: Malala Yousafzai assassin held, freed in 2009 by Pakistan military First Sentence: The would-be assassin who shot a Pakistani girl in the ...
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416 views

Can et al. be applied to companies?

I am used to seeing this used to condense a list of authors; however, is it correct to apply it to a list of companies? For example, would it make sense to say: Seminars being held by Google, ...
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7k views

“Thus” vs. “Thusly”

I read an article that used "thusly" and was wondering if there is any grammatical credence to it. The quote: The issue started when Sokolowski quickly ran out of storage capacity in his 32GB ...
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23k views

Is using “needing” correct?

I've had a debate with my friend about the "needing" usage. I know we can't use "needing" in continuous tenses but take a look at my example: - That's the man needing some money. I'm sure I saw ...
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10k views

Why is mutton used for both sheep meat and goat meat?

The meat of an adult sheep is called mutton. The meat of an adult goat is called chevon or mutton. In the English-speaking islands of the Caribbean, and in some parts of Asia, particularly ...
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321 views

Is “nowadays” the same as “today”?

When helping an Italian speaker with her written homework, a cover letter, I told her to change the expression nowadays to that of today. Her original sentence was the following: I would be ...
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31k 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 ...
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842 views

Frequency of word use vs number of words

Let's consider a partition of the words in the english language according to respective use frequency. Looking at the frequency graph it should be easy to find classes of words with approximately the ...
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218 views

Her love letters--to and from Daddy--were in an old box,

Her love letters--to and from Daddy--were in an old box, tied with ribbons and stiff, rigid-with-age leather thongs:1918 through 1920;... Why (Daddy) in this sentence was written with a capital D?