4
votes
1answer
165 views

Origin of alternate meanings

How do some words get alternate meanings that have nothing to do with their original definition? For example, the word cool means both moderately cold and permitting such a sensation. How are these ...
2
votes
1answer
1k views

Words with pronunciations more complex than spelling

The word mischievous is sometimes pronounced with a long e sound between the v and the last vowel (mis-chee-vee-us), although this is controversial. Is there a name for this type of word, where the ...
6
votes
1answer
875 views

Etymology of “gladhand” (truck hose coupler)

References for "glad hand" in its common meaning of "effusive but perhaps insincere greeting" seem easy to find [1], and it's easy to find definitions for the truck-hose-coupler meaning of gladhand [2]...
3
votes
2answers
6k views

“shameful” vs “shameless” [closed]

I have seen shameful and shameless being used interchangeably, but it is surprising that they would mean the same. Is there a difference?
0
votes
3answers
251 views

Meaning of “suits trading airport stories”

It's still from this sentence in New York Times, Despite all the sartorial trappings, guests dressed like any in your typical off-the-rack hotel. On a recent Monday, there were F.I.T. parents in ...
0
votes
1answer
901 views

What does “F.I.T.” stand for here?

Context (New York Times), Despite all the sartorial trappings, guests dressed like any in your typical off-the-rack hotel. On a recent Monday, there were F.I.T. parents in the slate-gray lobby, ...
7
votes
1answer
813 views

What is the meaning of the idiom “Like the Nation”?

In the book The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn there are several curious references to "the nation". For example, in chapter 22: And at last, sure enough, [...] the horse broke loose, and away he ...
-1
votes
3answers
222 views

“Over-protected” or “over-secured”

A person I know is always well-protected by his mother. His mother goes with him whenever he goes, he is already 26 years. Which word sounds more correct for me to use as in the following sentence? (...
2
votes
3answers
8k views

What is a “kinetic” military operation?

General John Allen reports US soldiers killed a group of Taliban: "We dealt with them in a kinetic strike." What's the meaning of "kinetic" here? Timothy Noah says the word is used to designate ...
1
vote
6answers
6k views

The more complete 'Poor you'

In sentences like "Go home," the 'You' is implied, as in 'You go home.' What would be the implied words/full form of the sentence "Poor you"? It certainly isn't "You are poor." ** I am editing this ...
2
votes
1answer
489 views

Add one more level of indirection in ownership description: “Peter teacher's car”?

If I want to describe a car owned by Peter, I will say "Peter's car". But how do I describe the car his teacher owns? "Peter teacher's car" or do I have to be descriptive: "the car of Peter's teacher"...
0
votes
1answer
830 views

“pop bottles all night” - slang or valid term?

I know the meaning of "pop bottles all night" - drink all night long. My question is - is this valid term, or slang invented by the person who wrote the song?
3
votes
2answers
360 views

Are there words that refer to the different duration of months?

I had a hard time formulating the question, but I wonder if a month with 31 days has a specific name, Likewise months with 30, 29 and 28 days.
2
votes
3answers
2k views

Proper punctuation for joining pro-sentence with independent clause

I recently said the following in chat: Do you mean 90 cents, or 9 cents? 90 cents. Okay, you left out the zero so I wasn't sure. Afterwards it occurred to me I could have replaced the comma ...
15
votes
4answers
8k views

Pronunciation of “er” in “farmer” vs. “earth”

I'm confused about the difference in pronouncing "er" in words such as "farmer" and "earth". I hear them the same, but they have different phonetic symbols. Is there any difference in pronouncing "er" ...
3
votes
2answers
6k views

What does the phrase “putting them in time out” mean?

I have a sentence, but there is an expression I can't understand. Could someone explain it to me? Here it is: "You should treat your employees like adults instead of putting them in time out like ...
1
vote
3answers
137 views

“Had entries” or “had an entry”? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: "Only those who qualify will be awarded a certificate" or "Only those who qualify will be awarded certificates"? In this question, there is a part that ...
11
votes
4answers
4k views

Is ‘Take something cum grano salis’ a popular phrase? Can I use it in casual conversation?

I came across the phrase, ‘cum grano salis’ in the article written by Chris Cillizza, a political pundit in the August 8th Washington Post’s article under the title ‘GOP smells blood in Presidential ...
12
votes
3answers
92k views

Correct use of “circa”

I understand the use of circa / c. as it applies to approximating dates. However, I have a writer who (over)uses the word in other contexts. Examples: ... from circa early 1990's up until circa 8 ...
2
votes
4answers
2k views

Explain the verb tense in “I wish I never woke up this morning”

This is from a song by Police, Darkness: "I can dream up schemes when I'm sitting in my seat I don't see any flaws 'til I get to my feet I wish I never woke up this morning Life was easy ...
8
votes
7answers
4k views

What is the “superlative” way of expressing “thank you”

On rare occasions, you are in a situation where a simple Thank You seems like you're undermining the other person's help. You know, instances where you are too grateful to express your feelings of ...
2
votes
2answers
705 views

'to'-infinitive without the verb

I seem to recall reading somewhere that using a to-infinitive with the actual verb omitted (because it's clear from context) — as in He asked me to go, but I don't want to. (1) — is ...
8
votes
3answers
2k views

Is there a name for inverting word order to accomplish a different meaning?

There are many sayings that invert the word order to convey a different meaning. e.g. "Do you live to work or do you work to live?" "He who fails to plan, plans to fail" Is there a name for this ...
5
votes
9answers
3k views

An experiment without a hypothesis?

An experiment is normally intended to test a hypothesis. Is there a noun or phrase to describe an experiment with no hypothesis -- i.e. doing something just to 'see what happens'? (A convincing ...
1
vote
4answers
2k views

What is the name of this figure of speech?

I've been reading Nevil Shute books recently, and they are set in late-1940s Britain. As a consequence, the characters are always using expressions such as "frightfully good", "terribly good" and "...
0
votes
2answers
347 views

“shaving cream” vs. “shave cream”

I read this term shave cream in NY Times today. According to the results in COCA (Corpus of Contemporary American English), shaving cream (I also found this word in the dictionary) is far more common ...
0
votes
3answers
130 views

Meaning of “unbundling”

In New York Times, The first hint of television’s unbundling actually came back in the 1980s, when viewers snapped up videocassette recorders. I found defintions of unbundle in the dictionaries (...
0
votes
1answer
2k views

“Have this been” or “Had this been” provided

Which of the following sentences is grammatically correct? Had this been a solution that can be provided in Java 5 and above, the overloaded replace(charSequence, charSequence) may be used. ...
5
votes
3answers
7k views

Is the phrase 'have something down' the same as 'have something down pat'?

Once we have the functional mechanics down, we’ll customize the display of fields using properties and then using richer data templates for the edit, add, and display modes. This sentence is ...
7
votes
4answers
377 views

What is the origin / history of “can't seem”?

The construct "I can't seem to X" is widely used and considered normal, as far as I know. However, looking at the meanings of the verb "to seem", I can't find any that would fit the use in this phrase....
5
votes
1answer
326 views

Can I use an explicit verb in a comparison clause?

It seems that I often write something like this: The sizes of these datasets seem to grow faster than the processing power of computers does. Now, a longish text I'd written was proofread (by a ...
2
votes
2answers
627 views

How should we treat a plural term that refers to singular term?

I'd like to better understand why is the following grammatical: One of the problems is flags. Here flags refers to the flagging system. However, flags is plural and the flagging system is ...
3
votes
1answer
1k 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 ...
7
votes
5answers
700 views

What does “I believe in making America safe for old-fashioned light bulbs and not those weird curly ones,” mean?

I saw the line, “That’s all I believe in. That and making America safe for old-fashioned light bulbs and not those weird curly ones,” in the speech of Michele Bachmann quoted in Maureen Dowd column in ...
2
votes
2answers
131 views

A word for “inner protected world”

What can be the word for "inner protected world"? I want to use for this title sentence: A guy in his inner protected world It's some sort of mental sanctum. I want to use it in a positive ...
11
votes
2answers
14k views

Preferred way to apostrophise in case of dual or multiple ownership by distinct entities [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: “Nikki's and Alice's X” vs. “Nikki and Alice's X” Consider describing the wedding of X and Y. If I want to avoid the overly-formal and ...
1
vote
2answers
128 views

What is the correct spelling: “filterbank” or “filter bank”

On Wikipedia, the usage is "filter bank" exclusively. A search on Google Scholar returns essentially the same number of both spellings. This is for a scientific document about digital signal ...
13
votes
1answer
3k views

Did “Mrs” originally imply possession?

Was Mrs ever intended to mean Mr's, as in mister's to indicate possession? I started thinking about this when someone brought a breakdown of the word history (his-story) to my attention. It ...
16
votes
1answer
2k views

Where did the names of English letters come from, and why are they all monosyllabic (except for “w”)? [duplicate]

I don't know too many languages, but the ones I know have more elaborate names for their letters than the monosyllabicity of names for English letters. (E.g. - I'll pick on Greek here - ay instead of ...
4
votes
3answers
3k views

What does “guinea” mean here?

The following lyrics I'm about to post from the song Virginia, rapped by Pusha-T from the now defunct duo, Clipse. For background in answering my question, in the rap, Pusha-T has begun bragging ...
6
votes
4answers
12k views

Is ‘Everybody’s cup of tea’ a well-used English idiom?

I found the headline,‘Facebook friendships are not everybody’s cup of tea,’ in 'Ask Amy' of the Lifestyle section of today’s Washington Post (August 9). Without special needs for taking bother of ...
16
votes
3answers
3k views

Why do some words have “X” as a substitute?

Why do people sometimes substitute x for letters in a word? Examples: Xing Xmas Xfr
3
votes
2answers
2k views

Term for people who cause accidents just to look like a hero

What's the term for people who cause accidents so that they can step in, save the day and look like a hero?
3
votes
5answers
3k views

Vernacular vs Lingua Franca

I'm curious about the concept of vernacular vs lingua franca. Historically there is a negative connotation to the word 'vernacular,' where it was used to refer to an inferior language (of the slaves) ...
7
votes
2answers
3k views

What is the origin of “pan” as a slang term for “face”?

I was think of posting a picture of my ugly pan here instead of the gravatar, when I started to wonder, why is it my ugly pan? The slang term pan meaning face occurs chiefly in phrases such as ugly ...
19
votes
19answers
5k views

What would you call someone who makes no lasting impression?

What word would describe someone who doesn't generally leave much of an impression on people?
0
votes
1answer
281 views

Origins of the phase “smash-and-grab capitalism”

I want to find the first use of the phrase "smash-and-grab capitalism." (I want to use the expression but I want to make sure I am not unwittingly quoting Ronald Reagan.) I have googled "origin '...
6
votes
2answers
1k views

Would the “Cavendish drawl” be considered a dialect?

I was reading the biography Georgiana, by Amanda Foreman, and came across a description of what she calls the Cavendish drawl, an accent of sorts that was spoken by the Cavendish family. One blog ...
2
votes
3answers
2k views

What is the origin of “cr*p on a crutch”?

Where did the saying "Crap on a crutch" originate? My mother used to use it a lot and I find myself using it also.
7
votes
4answers
1k views

Why is “oh” spelled “oh” and not “o”?

Oh my! In the above example, to me, "oh" seems to suggest one should pronounce "o" as a short vowel, whereas "o", seems to suggest one should pronounce "o" as a long vowel. In other words, I would ...

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