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

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16
votes
5answers
387 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
6k 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
32k 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
5answers
32k 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 ...
16
votes
2answers
7k 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
4answers
12k views

“Relation” versus “relationship”

What is the difference between relation and relationship? Some say that relationship often refers to social connections. For instance, She has a close relationship with her daughter. How ...
16
votes
2answers
16k views

When to use override and overwrite

My intention is to use on the following sentence: The administrator has the right to ____ the user time slot for the venue A inside the online system. So, which word would be suitable: override or ...
15
votes
13answers
12k 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?
15
votes
13answers
3k views

Is there a word or phrase for someone who works hard at night and does not sleep?

All the words or phrases I know for people who stay up at night merely describe the habit of not sleeping (e.g.: a night owl or insomniac) I am looking for a word or phrase with an emphasis on ...
15
votes
11answers
20k 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?
15
votes
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
3k 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
votes
7answers
44k 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
votes
4answers
5k 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
9k 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
1k 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
votes
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
votes
9answers
15k 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
votes
5answers
2k 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
3answers
12k views

“Sick” or “ill”?

If I'm not healthy, am I sick or am I ill? Are these interchangeable, or do they merely overlap?
15
votes
3answers
17k 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
666 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
13k 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
905 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
3answers
3k views

Why can humour be dry but not wet?

Humour that is presented in a matter of fact way, as it weren't even an attempt to be funny, can be described as dry. And any sort of writing or information can be dry if it's overly factual in ...
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
20k 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
8answers
781 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. ...
15
votes
2answers
16k views

What's the difference between 'resolve' and 'solve'?

What's the difference between 'resolve' and 'solve'?
15
votes
5answers
17k views

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

What is the difference between gift and present?
14
votes
12answers
6k views

A word that means suffering great loss if failed but highly profitable if successful?

This is a task that'll bring you back a great profit if successful but may also end you up with heavy loss even your life. I have been thinking whether there is one word or a phrase or some self ...
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
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
3answers
2k views

What's another phrase for “word for word”? [closed]

It's a sudden random question I have but I distinctly remember there being another phrase, probably of another language, which means exactly the same as "word for word". What is it?
14
votes
6answers
4k 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
5k 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
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
votes
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
votes
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
votes
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
7answers
6k 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 ...