This tag is for questions about correctly using a word.

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79
votes
7answers
8k views

Can “doubt” sometimes mean “question”?

I often see questions on Stack Exchange sites which I presume are written by non-native English speakers who use the word "doubt" in place of the word "question". Is this a case of misunderstanding ...
39
votes
6answers
3k views

How long can you say “the late so and so”?

When you refer to the deceased, you say "the late so and so." How long can you say that? Is JFK referred to as the late John F. Kennedy? How about Abraham Lincoln?
37
votes
8answers
5k views

Can I “wear an umbrella”?

Does it make sense to say the following? Yesterday I wore an umbrella and a coat.
32
votes
4answers
6k views

“Two yellow spots on its wings” vs “a yellow spot on both wings?”

"The bird has two yellow spots on its wings." versus "The bird has a yellow spot on both wings." Do they mean the same? Which one describes more accurately the yellow spots of the following ...
31
votes
3answers
20k views

Why use the word “copy” in “do you copy that”?

I notice "do you copy that?" is used in movies to ask for confirmation in telephone/interphone conversation. I only know copy means make things duplicated, so why use it in "do you copy that"? Is ...
29
votes
9answers
6k views

Is there a word/term for a question where the asker knows he'll criticise any answer?

What do you call it when a person asks somebody a question when they know they'll criticise any answer regardless? For instance, a man asks you something like "If you were recruiting staff would you ...
28
votes
8answers
13k views

If someone is electrocuted, do they have to die or can they just be injured?

Is it correct to say I electrocuted my friend if he was only injured by electricity?
26
votes
7answers
2k views

What makes “like” and “so” popular?

So, I was like, why does everyone say like and so in every sentence? Where did this trend come from, like, what started it, and is it actually grammatically correct to like, insert like into our ...
25
votes
4answers
716 views

Can “née” be used for entities other than people?

The qualification née is typically used to signify the name a woman previously had, most likely before her marriage. However, today I've seen it in a Spiegel article applied to a company name: ...
23
votes
5answers
11k views

What does 'sucker for' mean?

I recently came across a couple usages of 'sucker for' which indicates that it means 'crazy about', 'enthusiastic for', or 'interested in'. For example, 'I am a sucker for sports.', seems to say, 'I ...
20
votes
5answers
3k views

Is “what on earth” still commonly used in real life? Is there any alternative that is not cursing or obscene?

I'm a non-native speaker. When I was at school, we were taught that "on earth" is used for emphasis in questions such as: What on earth are you talking about? However, from my experience ...
20
votes
4answers
925 views

Does “girlfriend” or “boyfriend” always indicate partnership?

My usual understanding is that someone's girlfriend is their (female) partner in an exclusive romantic relationship. Same for boyfriend. Is this correct, or are there instances where girlfriend ...
20
votes
4answers
4k views

Why does “corn” mean “maize” in American English?

I keep hearing "corn" as a synonym of "maize". This is widely popularized worldwide by popcorn. However, this is American English! In British English, "corn" can mean any type of "grain", especially ...
19
votes
6answers
2k views

Can “wet” be used for liquids other than water?

Wet can be used to describe being dowsed in liquids such as beer, milk, juice, urine etc. All of these, however, are water-based. Can wet be used for a liquid that has no water? Can you be wet by ...
19
votes
10answers
5k views

How should “deceptively” actually be used?

I'm not sure if this is a duplicate question, but I couldn't find anything on here on the topic. I can't seem to figure out what is actually meant when using the word "deceptive," or rather, what is ...
18
votes
9answers
9k views

Are “heterosexual” and “straight” exact synonyms?

Of course, heterosexual and straight are interchangeable in most contexts, but there are times when I find myself wanting to make the distinction of whether the attraction to the opposite sex is ...
17
votes
5answers
976 views

Is the word “author” correct for the artist who created particular painting?

Recently, on another SE page, I've asked a question about a painting that was used as a decoration in a particular movie. It contained the following sentence: What is the name and author of that ...
16
votes
4answers
4k views

Is “evidence” countable?

As a native English speaker, I am often asked by friends and colleagues to correct their manuscripts. One of the most common mistakes I find is the use of the noun evidences. Now, the dictionary ...
16
votes
2answers
13k views

People's names as names for genitalia?

How did Peter, the surname, Johnson, and the nicknames for William(Willy) and Richard(Dick), come to mean penis? Was the first instance of these usages, related to a specific person? Are there more ...
15
votes
4answers
1k views

___, ___, and I am/are…

What is the proper way of saying: "Jim, John, and I am going to the beach." Whenever I say "Jim, John, and I are going somewhere", I stumble over "I are going". Should it be "am" or "are", or ...
15
votes
6answers
2k views

Using “so” and “very” for ungradable adjectives

We generally use modifiers such as "so" and "very" for gradable/normal adjectives (water can be quite/so/very HOT, but not quite/so/very BOILING (an ungradable/extreme adjective). Yet would you say ...
15
votes
7answers
3k views

Another meaning of the vulgar word “slut”

I guess people who speak American and Philippine English will unanimously agree that the word "slut" is a very offensive term referring to a promiscuous woman. However, Merriam-Webster and Oxford ...
15
votes
3answers
527 views

Can I use “US-American” to disambiguate “American”? If not, what can I use?

Based on this question, I wonder: as an alternative to USAian (which is very nonstandard) is it OK to use US-American to more clearly indicate "inhabitant of the USA"? According to Google Ngram, this ...
14
votes
4answers
15k views

Using “seldomly”

I'm not a native English speaker. If at all possible I try to use spell checkers while writing anything on the web hence using one in Firefox as well. Whenever I try to write "seldomly" it highlights ...
14
votes
3answers
3k views

What is a “Hobbesian trap”?

A recent Economist article (see The drug war hits Central America) uses something called a Hobbesian trap like this: Central America has fallen into a Hobbesian trap: the better-off make ...
14
votes
3answers
3k 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 ...
14
votes
1answer
843 views

On the usage of “etcetera”

In Spanish, we use the word etcétera at the end of an enumeration to imply there are more things to mention, which may (or not) be important, but they will be omitted. Thus, I was fairly surprised ...
14
votes
1answer
563 views

Can the word Gentoo be used in a derogatory way?

I was reading a Wikipedia article on Gentoo Penguin and came across the following Paragraph. The application of Gentoo to the penguin is unclear. The Oxford English Dictionary notes that Gentoo ...
13
votes
2answers
453 views

How (and when) was it that the verb 'go' began to mean 'say' in common usage?

i.e. "So then she goes, 'Hey!' and I go, 'What?' because I was on my way out..." I was musing about this the other day, so I decided to try to find out. Unfortunately, my skills lie in different ...
13
votes
7answers
2k views

How long does it take to mull something over?

I used the phrase "we'll mull it over" in an e-mail. My intent was to let the readers know that we (the team) needed to give it due consideration and come up with a considered response to their ...
13
votes
8answers
2k views

Does the term “Asian” have different meanings among various English-speaking countries?

I have always had the view that the term "Asian", when pertaining to cultures, primarily refers to the cultures of the Far East. Recently I have been told that it also includes Indian and other ...
13
votes
10answers
2k views

Word for someone who is extremely up-to-date with the latest facts (news or research)

I seek a word for one who is up-to-date, enlightened, and extremely well informed about the latest developments or research in a particular field. An example is a person who complains about a recent ...
13
votes
1answer
461 views

Doing drugs vs having breakfast

Why do we do drugs but have food? Or even have a beer, which is alcoholic beverage thus a sort of drug too. In both cases we consume something. Is there a rule for this?
13
votes
6answers
747 views

Does the word “newbie” have a negative connotation?

Imagine that I'm running a friendly and informal online business. I would like to introduce my service to the new customers by a blog post that entitles, 'Are you a newbie to XYZ.com?'. Will that ...
13
votes
2answers
1k views

Why do we use the word “oops”, if something goes wrong?

Why do we use the word oops in a sentence or when communicating with others, if something goes wrong? I would like to know the correct information regarding this question.
13
votes
4answers
3k views

Is it a “driver license” or a “driver's license” or a “drivers license” or…what?

I've often wondered why my Ohio license is called a "driver license". It is awkward to say it like that. Wouldn't something like driver's license be more appropriate? Or driving license (like ...
12
votes
3answers
6k 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 ...
12
votes
5answers
457 views

The use of “real” in the following cases [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Real quick question If you listen real close... Can you swing by real quick... Sentences like the above two are what I often hear in daily life. If I didn't ...
12
votes
4answers
4k views

Is it correct to say “He got a fatal injury in the accident” when there is a possibility that the person’s life will be saved?

I would like to know whether “fatal injury” means (1) an injury which causes a death, (2) an injury which almost causes a death but not necessarily does, or (3) both (1) and (2) depending on the ...
12
votes
4answers
668 views

What are the possible meanings of positive “any more”?

Ordinary any more [usually with negative or in questions] to any further extent; any longer: she refused to listen any more Positive any more is the use of the adverb any more in an ...
12
votes
8answers
10k 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 ...
12
votes
4answers
529 views

In the context of cooking, what is the difference between “flipper” and “spatula”?

I'm genuinely confused about this because at first I thought a spatula was a cooking tool resembling a flat pallet attached at an angle to the handle that could be used for activities such as flipping ...
12
votes
3answers
2k views

Is it correct to use the word “birthday” for the deceased, or is there a better alternative?

How does one refer to the birthdate of someone who is no more, we usually say Today is my uncle's 80th birth anniversary (Common in Indian English, not sure if it's correct) or Today would have ...
12
votes
4answers
22k views

How does one use the Latin word “cum” in a sentence?

I'm talking about the Latin cum, which I've seen used conjunctively, as in A-cum-B. What does it mean, and how do you use it?
12
votes
1answer
1k views

What is the difference in usage between “lethal” and “fatal”?

This cropped up when I was in a conversation with a friend. I guess fatal must talk of something which has necessarily resulted in death, while lethality is more about potential to cause death. Yet I ...
12
votes
1answer
735 views

Whose usage determines correctness?

I will illustrate this question with an example, since I think it's much easier to see what I'm asking there, rather than from an abstract question. I am a native English speaker. I was, for a while, ...
12
votes
2answers
764 views

Guidelines for the use of the slang term “cise”

I heard an unfamiliar regional slang word used thusly: I'm gonna go cise (rhymes with ice) me a sandwich and then I'll be back. When I questioned the user, the speaker insisted it has been ...
12
votes
4answers
806 views

Why does the common meaning of “impertinent” have nothing to do with “pertinent”?

Every time I want to use an antonym to "pertinent", I think of "impertinent", which I don't like to use because of its more common meaning. How did "impertinent" come to mean "intrusive or ...
11
votes
2answers
367 views

What does the term “kerplewy” mean?

What does the term mean and what is the best way to use it? And, I also wanted to know if there is any information about where it comes from. And by the way, how do we pronounce it?
11
votes
2answers
302 views

“Peeving about grammar disguised as a question”

In the FAQ for this site, peeving about grammar disguised as a question is discouraged. The various forms of peeve in Merriam-Webster however does not justify this usage. Peeve is a verb meaning ...