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84
votes
3answers
12k views

Why does “quadratic” describe second power while “quad” usually describes “four”?

In mathematics, quadratic means "involving the second and no higher power of an unknown quantity or variable". But the prefix quad- usually describes something that has to do with four, such as ...
38
votes
1answer
3k views

Origin of “-ing”

What is the origin of the suffix -ing used to form gerunds and present participles? Why is the suffix the same in both cases?
19
votes
4answers
5k views

A murder of crows?

I love the subset of collective nouns known as the terms of venery. These are collective nouns specific to a particular group of animals. Some of the more inventive examples are: a murder of crows, a ...
13
votes
5answers
3k views

How do you form the 'north' and 'south' versions of 'occident' and 'orient'?

How does one correctly form the "north" and "south" forms for which occident and orient are "west" and "east"? I found boreal and austral, but those look like adjectives and I'm after the nouns. ...
13
votes
4answers
619 views

The use of “trespasses”

According to a dictionary search for "trespasses": v. Enter the owner's land or property without permission n. A voluntary wrongful act against the person or property of another, esp. unlawful entry ...
11
votes
2answers
10k views

Word formation with the nominal suffix -tion: when and why do we insert an “a”?

Recently, a colleague became flustered when she used orientate instead of orient. She says she frequently makes this sort of "back formation error" because of the nominal form, which is orientation. ...
9
votes
2answers
411 views

Is there a rule for when contractions are not possible? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Is there some rule against ending a sentence with the contraction “it's”? In conversing with non-native English speakers online, I saw someone type: ...
8
votes
2answers
249 views

Is 'worse' the only comparative that has neither -er nor more?

There was a question recently about comparatives and it got me thinking about how comparatives are formed. There are those that take -er and those that use more to indicate comparison, but is worse ...
8
votes
1answer
10k views

Why is it “grandfather”, but “great-uncle”?

I know that there are six forms of this word, but "great-uncle" is most common ("great-aunt" has a similar graph). Why is this, if "grandfather" and "grandmother" are common?
6
votes
4answers
841 views

What's the adjective form of “data”/“datum”?

"Informative" is the adjective form of "information". What's the adjective form of "data"/"datum"?
6
votes
2answers
615 views

How suffixes like -ness and -ship are chosen when forming abstract nouns?

In some programming situations I came across making up abstract nouns to give name to an information that indicates some quality. Eg. if the quality is orange one may be tempted to form the word ...
5
votes
16answers
4k views

Is there a word to describe the state of being the only one of something?

I need a word to describe the state of being the only one of something. For context, it's for the UI of a scientific device that detects and analyzes cells. In this particular case, we are talking ...
5
votes
1answer
377 views

Why “USSR” but not “UCSR”?

USSR stands for Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The adjective "Soviet" is formed from the noun "Soviet" which in Russian means "Council". (That was roughly the idea behind the revolution and USSR ...
5
votes
1answer
329 views

How do I present a word ending in “‑f ” that may be plural or singular?

When we don’t know if a word refers to one or more, it is common to use a parenthetical s: door/doors: door(s) lamp/lamps: lamp(s) What’s the best or least awkward way to render this for words ...
4
votes
2answers
1k views

Is it proper to use ordinal suffixes on fractions?

I know in more formal writing, spelling out fractions is preferred (e.g. two-thirds), and in math no suffix is used, but I frequently see ordinal suffixes being used on fractions (e.g. 2/3rds), even ...
3
votes
6answers
2k views

Email Capitalization: “Hi Michael, please bring…” or “Hi Michael, Please bring…”

In an email, if I don't put a new line after the heading, how am I supposed to capitalize the next word? With a new line, it's straightforward: Hi Michael, Please bring the books. But ...
3
votes
2answers
399 views

What is the adjective form of “black humo(u)r”?

If one were to describe a statement by referring to "black humour", how should he/she go about forming the adjectival form of the term? "blackly humourous" or "black humourous"
3
votes
1answer
898 views

“Mutexes” or “mutices”? [closed]

When we create new words ending in -ex (mutex being short for mutual exclusion), should we (may we?) use the Latin plural form because the suffix is similar to the latin suffix -ex? (Personally I've ...
3
votes
1answer
258 views

Name of a word where you can continually remove one letter from the beginning or end

This is possibly off-topic here - please redirect me if necessary I am looking for the name of a type of word where you can continually remove one letter from the start or end of the word, until ...
2
votes
2answers
645 views

Why don’t other pronouns get to albe-themselves, à la albeit’s “it”?

YES: "Euthanizing this particular kitten was a traumatic, albeit humane necessity." NO: "The geese, having pooped everywhere, made for hideous pets, albethem delicious as an entree." NO: "Most of the ...
2
votes
3answers
2k views

Beneficiaries of an action ending with the “-ee” suffix

To refer to the beneficiary or patient of an action, sometimes one can form a word using the verb and the -ee suffix, e.g. assign → assignee employ → employee refuge → refugee On the other hand, ...
2
votes
4answers
3k views

How are diminutives formed in recent English words?

A large variety of suffixes were used to form diminutives in English. The Wikipedia page on diminutives shows these: * -k/-ock/-uck: balk, bollock, bullock, buttock, fetlock, folk, hark, hillock, ...
2
votes
2answers
990 views

Mixing adjectives and nouns in scientific writing

I've noticed that biological scientists tend to use nouns as adjectives when detailing experiments both in writing and in speech. Examples: The experiment was performed "in monkey cortex" instead ...
2
votes
1answer
127 views

“Nightmare” derivation

I did some research about word nightmare. In most cases this is what I've found: night + Old English mære "incubus." I would like to use the word mare for poetic purposes, but its meaning in ...
2
votes
1answer
267 views

Etymology/word formation of “program” (as in computer program)

The word is obviously derived from the noun 'programme' however I can't work out which way it's most likely to have been created. I'm thinking its either descended from the British spelling of the ...
1
vote
2answers
434 views

The relation between “temporal” and “time”

The word "temporal" is the XXX form of the word "time". What is XXX? I can't find the answer anywhere, I don't even know where to look.
1
vote
2answers
70 views

Hour minute format pluralization in a specific context

Check the following screens: https://www.dropbox.com/s/bp40q2yqk4xatzc/11.png https://www.dropbox.com/s/cobof2uvk6htwv9/1.png you can see that I'm not consistent with the hour format. My question ...
1
vote
1answer
90 views

Can something be “ratable”?

As I explained in my other question, I'm writing up specs for a website with learning materials for our alpha testers to comment on. Among others, I'm describing the rating system, which has multiple ...
1
vote
1answer
362 views

Is 'acronymise/ze' a word? Is it used only colloquially, if at all?

I just sent a text to a friend, who didn't understand an acronym I used for a game: "Ah, I said it in a previous text so thought it was ok to abbreviate it." Though, since it was an acronym I ...
1
vote
1answer
71 views

Adverbial form of “scrutiny”

What is the adverbial form of the word scrutiny? I'm looking for the exact synonym of the "with scrutiny" expression. I've tried searching for the form like scrutinily but I've only found something ...
1
vote
3answers
114 views

Word for “little body”?

Is there any term (a diminutive) in English for "little body"? I suppose that the forms such as "bodylet" and "bodyling" are utterly incorrect. Here is the context: "Graving snow caressing the little ...
1
vote
1answer
819 views

plural of compound nouns [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: What is the plural form of “iPad 2”? When can an adjective be postposed? I'm curious particularly with iPod Touch and iPad Mini The plural would be iPod Touches and ...
0
votes
1answer
55 views

Is there a noun form for “fine-grained”?

For example I want to say: ...the level of (fine-grained in noun) that is needed... I wonder if the word "grainery" will work.
0
votes
2answers
105 views

What's a word to describe black humor of the variety that criticizes the injustices of the world?

For example, let's say I see a homeless man and woman eating scraps of food next to a garbage fire to keep warm and I say to my friend, "Must be date night" (with undertones of "This is a sad world"). ...
0
votes
2answers
486 views

What is the act of self-referencing?

Ok, so something can be self-referencing. "This sentence contains thirty-eight letters." or "This is not a pipe." But what is "doing that" called? Along the lines of how self-deprecating is ...
0
votes
2answers
70 views

Using diacritics in new-formed words

There is some historical usage of diacritics in English, like naïve, résumé or even façade. I've been once told that these are used to mark a different spelling, and it may be used like in coöperative ...
0
votes
1answer
1k views

Word form dictionary/system/tool

Is anyone aware of any word form dictionary available (online): If we were to take a common word. For example: eat Then you would have the following: Present: eat Simple past: ate Past ...
0
votes
1answer
3k views

What's the meaning of “what am I to do” [closed]

Is "what am I to do" be commonly used in daily lives? Also what do following sentences imply? What should I do the next? What am I to do the next? Please.
0
votes
1answer
335 views

Entry(s) or Entrie(s)? [duplicate]

Sometimes you come across this format suggesting 'one or more', in not as many words, like "Please select the book(s) you wish to loan". But what happens in that case of plurals that don't follow the ...
-1
votes
0answers
300 views

What is the English word for the Hindi word 'Jugaad' which means attaining a result in a crude/easy way? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Is there a single noun in English for “jerry-rigged”? Jugaad in Hindi refers to an object that has been produced/modified in a crude/primitive way. I do not know its ...