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

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7answers
2k views

Is there a word that describes when two or more people have different understandings of the same word?

I'm asking this out of personal curiosity, it's not required for a document or anything. My friends and I often have interesting conversations or debates, and often times we get stuck on an issue ...
15
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?
15
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7answers
41k 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?
15
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4answers
4k 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
3answers
8k views

Is there a difference between “leading edge” and “bleeding edge”?

It seems to me that "leading edge" is the more established phrase, while "bleeding edge" is basically the same thing but the user has adapted the phrase for extra (rather meaningless) emphasis. Or is ...
15
votes
4answers
4k 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
5answers
908 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 ...
15
votes
4answers
8k 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
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9answers
1k views

Expression for losing something that you never really had

My "friend" keeps whining about "losing n reputation points" on Stack Exchange. My instinctive interpretation is that some of the votes he had earned were reversed due to vote fraud. What he really ...
15
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3answers
5k 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
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9answers
14k views

Do native English speakers use the word “touristic”?

A word usage that always annoys me and feels like Euroenglish to me is "touristic". I don't believe I've ever seen it printed or heard it used by a native English speaker and I've travelled in most ...
15
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5answers
1k 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
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11answers
51k views

“The point is moot”

I was recently called out for using the phrase "the point is moot" incorrectly. My intent was to indicate that I felt that the point wasn't really worth debating or discussing. I was then shown that ...
15
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3answers
15k views

“Need of” vs. “need for”

Is "need of religion" grammatically incorrect as opposed to "need for religion"? Or "need of salt" vs. "need for salt"?
15
votes
3answers
657 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 ...
15
votes
3answers
12k views

“Amount” vs. “number” vs. “quantity”

For what values of x does one write the number of x, the amount of x, or the quantity of x?
15
votes
6answers
862 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
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
3answers
7k views

“Todo list” or “to-do list”

I always thought it was a todo list, and quite a few places online refer to it as todo, but various spell checkers are telling me it should be to-do. The only meaning I could find was ...
15
votes
3answers
4k views

Is it incorrect to use “hard” when I mean “difficult”?

My late grandfather had several word-choice peeves for which he would gently interrupt a speaker, especially a grandchild, in order to correct. The one I remember most was his dislike for the use of ...
15
votes
3answers
18k views

Why is “guinea pig” used as the colloquial term for test subjects?

Why do we refer to people as guinea pigs when discussing the subjects of an informal experiment? Surely mice, rabbits and rats are much more common experimental subjects. Indeed, it's rare that you'll ...
15
votes
6answers
8k 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 ...
15
votes
4answers
8k views

Difference between “spicy” and “hot”

I make a distinction between "hot" and "spicy" food ("hot" not referring to temperature). I consider "hot" food the kind that "burns" and "spicy" food that has lots of flavor, but that may or may not ...
15
votes
5answers
16k views

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

What is the difference between gift and present?
14
votes
14answers
1k 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
7answers
4k views

What should I say if I am not drunk but I feel that my head is heavy?

Imagine you had several beers, you are not yet drunk but you feel that your head is heavy, you know, feel good. Is there any specific word for that?
14
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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
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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
12answers
13k 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
8answers
4k 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
11answers
19k 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
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5answers
4k 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
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5answers
1k views

What does a door do on its hinge?

In general sense of the language we would say that a door "opens" or "closes". But I am looking for a one-word answer (preferably) that would indicate its motion around the hinge. Does it swivel, ...
14
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14answers
3k views

Too serious to take seriously

This is a concept I often find myself trying to articulate in political discussions. You have a situation that everyone openly acknowledges, but it is so entrenched that people may paradoxically ...
14
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12answers
1k 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
10answers
1k views

Term for when consecutive events are “broken”

This is the use case: "...5 doughnuts to be awarded each consecutive day you visit the shop until the ???? is broken." I'm thinking it's going to be along the lines of consecusion or ...
14
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7answers
5k views

What would you call a former criminal who has been released from prison?

What do you call a former criminal who has served their sentence and been released from prison? I thought of “convicted criminal”, but that might imply the person is still a criminal and/or serving a ...
14
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9answers
4k 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
2k views

Where an ellipsis exists, is there a term for the missing text? [duplicate]

Suppose there is a long sentence like: This London hit show took America by storm, full of charm, humour and delightful songs that make it a perfect theatrical event for the entire family. And ...
14
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8answers
3k views

Best word for “Dr. Einstein, <blank> of the theory of Special Relativity.”

What is the best word to describe the creator of a scientific theory? As in: Einstein was the _____ of the theory of Special Relativity. Creator, author, originator, and inventor are ...
14
votes
10answers
18k 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
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6answers
6k 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
6answers
15k 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
4k 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
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5answers
847 views

Are there English equivalents to Japanese word, ‘有名税-Tax on the famous’?

When you are famous, you are always the target of gossip, curiosity, and ridicule. We call that “yu-umei-zei - 有名税” in Japanese, for which the literal translation is “tax (imposed) on being famous.” ...
14
votes
2answers
5k 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
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10answers
25k views

Difference between “I'm fine” and “I'm good”

When my coworker in the US asks me "How are you?" I usually answer "I'm fine", but the last time I told him "I'm good" and he replied "I'm glad to hear that". It looks like "I'm fine" means "I'm OK" ...
14
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3answers
11k 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
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1answer
17k views

Which is correct: “you and I” or “you and me”?

I was told the correct usage is for example: "My wife and me" but I hear often "I and my wife" or "my wife and I". Google gives 34M results for "My wife and I" and 909K results for "My wife and me" ...