This tag is for questions about choosing the best word for a particular context or meaning.

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16
votes
3answers
20k views

Which is correct: “This is her” or “This is she”?

Upon answering the telephone, the person calling asks if Joan is available. If Joan is the person who answered the phone, should she say "This is her" or "This is she"?
16
votes
5answers
360 views

What's the name for those times when your attempts to get a task done right eventually get you to momentarily perform increasingly worse?

If you've tried to perfect a difficult, long task by repeating it multiple times, you'll know what I'm talking about. You start tackling the first few phases of the problem, until you succeed. Then ...
16
votes
4answers
4k views

Font/Fount of Information?

I have seen it both ways: He is a veritable font of information. He is a veritable fount of information. The first is referenced by M-W's definition and seems to match the pronunciation I'm ...
16
votes
4answers
23k views

“Can hardly wait” versus “can't hardly wait”

This has been bothering me for a while and I'm finally at a forum where I feel like I might get an answer. I have heard people say "I can hardly wait for summer to get here" and I've also heard "I ...
16
votes
2answers
4k views

Using “that” and “this” interchangeably

Learning and using English I'm always confused about what word to use for referring to things that have been described by me a few sentences earlier: "that" or "this". Confusion comes from the fact ...
16
votes
2answers
4k views

Does “filling out” equal to “filling in”?

I quoted the following from a pamphlet: Please read the instructions carefully before filling out the application form. The application will be returned to you and the registration may be ...
16
votes
6answers
5k views

When must one use “should” and when should one use “must”?

I tend to use should when it's a suggestion I don't have a strong opinion on, i.e. it could be done in many other ways than the one I'm suggesting and it can still happen. You should stop by that ...
16
votes
8answers
677 views

Does English have frequently used ordinary words that distinguish between equality and equivalence?

Does English have frequently used ordinary words that distinguish between equality and equivalence? For example: It was the same man on the photo. Equality. The two persons are identical. ...
16
votes
7answers
2k views

What is the name of the first decade in a century?

80s the "Eighties" 90s the "Nineties" 00s the ??? For that matter, what is the second decade called? The "tens" just doesn't sound right.
15
votes
16answers
3k views

A word that means 'most important'?

I tried to find a single word that means "most important", but I couldn't. I want it to be able to express what's missing below: If you get hurt, the _ thing to do is to stay calm. It would ...
15
votes
6answers
2k views

Friendlier way to express you paid for a person's drink/dinner and expect it to be paid back

In Dutch we have the word voorschieten. In English it translates — according to Google Translate — to "advance, lend, disburse". The Dutch word voorschieten is used in an informal setting between ...
15
votes
4answers
3k views

Is it awkward to use the word “aubergine” instead of “eggplant”?

According to Google Ngrams eggplant is far more common (although in British English aubergine seems to have a small advantage over eggplant). So, not being a native speaker of English I wonder ...
15
votes
5answers
3k views

What is the opposite of the “sub” prefix?

The term subcategories refers to lower level categories. Which term should I use to refer to higher level categories? Does supercategories sound right?
15
votes
4answers
3k views

What is the difference between an apocalypse and a cataclysm?

What is the difference between an apocalypse and a cataclysm? I've been told that an apocalypse is an act of God, but we seem to use it as a generic term for any grand disaster. What is the ...
15
votes
4answers
6k views

Is “kinda” a word?

I've used "kinda" as a word basically meaning "kind of" just run together. I wouldn't use it formally, but I noticed that Microsoft Word's spellchecker says that it isn't a word. I searched some and ...
15
votes
14answers
9k views

Antonym for “exceed”

I am trying to find a single word antonym for "exceed". I am using the word as a verb (so "beneath" doesn't work) and it should have a positive connotation (as in a golf score which falls below par). ...
15
votes
3answers
6k views

Is “since” a synonym of “because”? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: When are “because”, “since”,“for” and “as” interchangeable? A few years ago, I was told that "since" should only be used ...
15
votes
3answers
3k views

Short Sleeves or Shirt Sleeves

I've always referred to a shirt that has short sleeves as a "short sleeve" shirt. However, I've also heard it be referred to as a "shirt sleeve" shirt or "wearing shirt sleeves." This seems like a ...
15
votes
4answers
896 views

What are English counterparts to Japanese Honne (real intent) and Tatemae (public position)?

I think many foreigners who have lived or worked in Japan heard this set of words, “Honne 本音– real intent” and “Tatemae 建前– outward reason.” Actually many expatriate colleagues I had worked with in ...
15
votes
6answers
706 views

What would be the word equivalent of paperwork in the digital age?

The classic definition for paperwork says Routine work involving written documents such as forms, records, or letters. Now, given that we are in the digital age and computers have taken many ...
15
votes
4answers
415 views

“Upvote” vs. “up vote” vs. “up-vote”

Should I use "upvote", "up vote", or "up-vote" on SE sites? What about "downvote"? They're not words in the sense that they're in the dictionary, but they are commonly used in this community. Also, ...
15
votes
4answers
7k views

“right” vs “correct”

Except when we use right to denote direction, what is the difference between these two terms? Also, which one is the preferred construction between these two Am I right? or Am I correct?
15
votes
4answers
2k views

Is there anything wrong with the word “denigrate”?

A few years ago there was a controversy over the word niggardly — a perfectly innocent word that unfortunately sounds like a racial slur. Given that controversy, is it safe to use denigrate, which ...
15
votes
4answers
20k views

Is “either” only used with two options?

Does “either . . . or” apply to only two options? For example, can I say, “It can provide either 100, 150, or 400 amps of power”? Or should it just be “It can provide 100, 150, or 400 amps of ...
15
votes
5answers
10k views

What is the difference between “gift” and “present”?

What is the difference between gift and present?
14
votes
10answers
7k views

What do you call someone who betrays his/her spouse?

What do you call someone who betrays his/her spouse? Is the word different for men and women? Is it different for people who are in a relationship and not still married?
14
votes
10answers
890 views

A different word for “meaninglessness”

This is where I want to apply that word: "He discovered the meaninglessness of consumerism and work" I looked in dictionaries and reverse dictionaries but for some reason I can't find a word ...
14
votes
8answers
3k views

How should I describe a woman who serves food and drinks on a plane?

When I want to speak of a woman who serves food and drinks to passengers on a plane, should I use 'air hostess' or 'stewardess'? What's the difference? And when I take a plane, how should I call her?
14
votes
6answers
3k views

In the context of family, what is the opposite of “immediate”?

In the context of family, the term "immediate" refers to member of the family connected by birth, adoption, marriage, civil partnership, or cohabitation. Is t here a term that refers to the rest of ...
14
votes
7answers
2k views

Why do signs read “wet floor”, not “slippery floor”?

Every other time I see a "wet floor" sign the following idea comes to my mind. That sign forces me through unnecessary mental effort to deduce that wet floors can be slippery. I think it's like ...
14
votes
8answers
3k views

Is there any subtle difference between “to study” and “to learn”?

I don't know how to phrase my question better, but I just want to know if there will be any little difference if I directly replace one with the other.
14
votes
12answers
10k views

What is the difference between “quicker” and “faster”?

What is the correct word to use here and why: I will get there quicker [than you] vs. I will get there faster [than you] There must be similar adverbs for "slower".
14
votes
9answers
3k views

What is a word for somebody who lies to themselves

I feel like the fact that people lie to themselves about things can tell you a lot about that person but I just can't put my finger on a single word that I'd use to describe them. In fact, not just ...
14
votes
9answers
13k views

What would you call a person from India?

My guess would be "Indian", but that sounds like a guy with a feather on his head who hunts buffalo. Is there a better name?
14
votes
4answers
3k views

When describing a person without siblings, should I say “the -” or “an only child”?

I understand the phrase "only child" means the only person born from or adopted by a set of parents in a family, or a person with no siblings. I often hear the term used as "an only child," which ...
14
votes
6answers
2k views

What is implied in calling someone “Citizen”?

In many dystopian stories, people call each other citizen. In other contexts too, I'm thinking Citizen Kane for example. Why? What is implied here?
14
votes
12answers
997 views

Is there a word for the 'pitter patter' of speech?

Consider how you can hear the announcer of a sporting event in several languages, even those you do not know. Or even when it is turned down too low to understand in your own language. You still ...
14
votes
9answers
3k views

Antonym of 'stigma'

I am looking for a word that has the opposite, positive connotation from 'stigma': For example, There is a stigma of laziness associated with poor people. What would be the replacement for ...
14
votes
7answers
27k views

What is the difference between “nothing but”, “anything but”, and “everything but”?

What is the difference between these phrases? When is it valid to use which? Should they be avoided as being ambiguous?
14
votes
5answers
691 views

What Is the Real Name of the #?

I used to say "sharp sign" to refer to the # sign. Today a friend told me that the correct term is number sign or hash sign or even just hash. What is the difference between these options and ...
14
votes
6answers
4k views

What is the correct form of address for a police officer?

How should one address a police officer in English speaking countries? More specifically, in a non-emergency situation—asking directions for example—what is the expected form of address used to call a ...
14
votes
10answers
13k views

Is it offensive to call a redhead a “ginger”?

So I just re-watched this great comedy by Tim Minchin, and here are the questions: How bad/offensive is the g-word really (other than being an anagram of the n-word)? What are alternatives? Is ...
14
votes
6answers
11k views

“Like something more” or “like something better”

When people like something more than something else, it's common for me to hear them say they like it better than something else. Is this proper English? I've always thought the word more fits better, ...
14
votes
3answers
3k views

“open mike” vs. “open mic”

I run comedy shows, and at these comedy shows there is always an "open mike" section. Frequently I get people saying to me, shouldn't it be "open mic", because "mic" should be the shortened version ...
14
votes
2answers
4k views

How popular is ‘Contrafibularities’ as a day-to-day English word?

I found the phrase “My sincerest contrafibularities, Tim” given to one of the comments to my question about the word, 'Cromulent' in EL&U site. As I was totally unfamiliar with the word, ...
14
votes
3answers
32k views

“proficient <in/at/with>” What is the correct usage?

Which preposition is correct in the phrase "proficient in/at/with English"?
14
votes
3answers
7k views

“Sick” or “ill”?

If I'm not healthy, am I sick or am I ill? Are these interchangeable, or do they merely overlap?
14
votes
3answers
591 views

What are wrong with this phrase?

Is the phrase what are wrong with XY and ZZ correct English? I stumbled upon it in a question on movies.SE: What are wrong with the bleach and the fish in the Machinist?, and instantly thought ...
14
votes
3answers
1k views

Is “eachother” correct?

I recently saw someone intentionally use "eachother" instead of "each other". In what circumstances would this be correct?
14
votes
3answers
883 views

“User accounts” or “users account”

Is it correct to say user accounts or users account when referring to the accounts any user has on a site like this one? In general, in the case of a noun that is used as adjective for the noun that ...