77
votes
28answers
14k views

Is there an American English equivalent of the British idiom “carrying coals to Newcastle”?

I'm an American living in the Netherlands who is learning Dutch. There's an idiom in Dutch that describes performing a needless/futile activity, "water naar de zee dragen," which literally translates ...
2
votes
5answers
480 views

Rule or white list of words that can be prefixed with “up-” or “down-”

Some words (verbs and nouns) can get up- or down- attached before them to get new meaning. For example, Grade becomes upgrade or downgrade. Vote becomes upvote or downvote. Load becomes upload or ...
10
votes
2answers
11k views

What is the expression for coughing at the beginning of an utterance officially called?

I was wondering what is the name for the introductory "coughing" in English, i.e. when somebody clears their throat to start their utterance. For example: "Ekhm... Welcome! How can I help you?" ...
33
votes
2answers
24k views

Use of “f ” instead of “s” in historic, printed English documents

I was at a museum in London yesterday, and one of the items on exhibit is a document from the eighteenth century. It uses the letter f a lot where s should be used—for example, in Majefty. Did the ...
4
votes
4answers
13k views

Difference between “tournament”, “competition” and “match”

I was just reading the article about TopCoder. Before this article I thought a tournament and a competition is the same. What is the difference between tournament, competition and match?
2
votes
4answers
16k views

What do you call someone looking for a job?

I am trying to compose a sentence, and I am currently stuck for the right word. I am trying to say: In a job interview, the audience would be the employer and the --------- That is the word I am ...
2
votes
1answer
604 views

Expression “if and when something happens”

What is the level of formality in the expression “if and when” while referring to a possible happening? Googling “if and when X happen” gives me all sorts of entries, some formal some clearly informal....
8
votes
5answers
3k views

Word for something that can be validated

What is a word to describe something that can be validated? From verify we have verifiable. What is the equivalent for valid or validate? Obviously validifiable is not a word, so what is the ...
17
votes
13answers
17k views

How do you correctly say large numbers

I saw a post on The daily What which links to a video where a person counts from 1 to 100,000. Is he saying a large portion of the numbers wrong? Back in high school my algebra teacher was extremely ...
1
vote
2answers
20k views

Correct way to write a range of dollar figures

What is the best way to express the range from $4.5 billion to $5.2 billion? Is the following correct? ... between $4.5 and $5.2 billion...
20
votes
5answers
1k views

In “Are you staff?” does “staff” need to be preceded with an article?

Is it appropriate to say "Are you staff?" when asking someone if they are a staff member, or do you need to say "a staff"? This is regardless of any slang possibly incurred through either spoken, or ...
4
votes
3answers
724 views

Is “you’re the door on the right.” grammatically correct?

The you is Harry Potter. I’m really curious about the grammatical construction and the reason why JKR chose it. ”Mrs. Weasley, why – ?” ”Ron and Hermione will explain everything, dear, I’ve ...
4
votes
1answer
440 views

What does “I’ll give you undercover!” mean here?

I have no idea on the meaning of “give you undercover” in the following citation. “ ’S’ up, Figgy?” he said, staring from Mrs. Figg to Harry and Dudley. “What ‘appened to staying undercover?” “I’...
1
vote
2answers
235 views

Term for someone who calls herself negative things that are not true

What is the correct term for someone who usually says negative things about herself (that she is fat,ugly or dumb) even though she knows that she is not?
18
votes
3answers
22k views

Origin of “continental breakfast”

What is the origin of the term continental breakfast? Was it originally from British English and meant to describe a sub-par breakfast eaten by mainland Europeans?
2
votes
2answers
8k views

When did Indo-European descendants stop speaking Old English? What were the influencing factors in the shift from Old English to Modern English? [closed]

There is Old English, and there is the English we speak now. When did exactly did the British (or Americans) change from speaking Old English to speaking the current form of English?
2
votes
3answers
274 views

Is ‘Political gold’ a cliché or just a compound noun?

I found the word, ‘political gold’ in the following sentence of the article of Boston News (August 13) titled “Romney sees gain in ‘Corporations are people’ remark.” “Romney's response that "...
4
votes
2answers
9k views

Should I replace “It would be possible that” and if so, why?

At the end of the Wikipedia article on Jerusalem Colophon, it reads (regarding whether a text was written in Jerusalem vs. Greece), According to Caspar René Gregory it would be possible that the ...
8
votes
4answers
5k views

What's a gay transsexual woman?

I know how it sounds but it's a serious question. I saw an article title about it on the Guardian today. If someone tells you that a person is a "gay transsexual woman", is it possible, logically, to ...
5
votes
6answers
3k views

Is there a word for positive distraction?

The word "distraction" has generally negative or frivolous connotations, but shifting your mental focus can often be positive (you go on a walk and solve the hard problem, you spend a few days away ...
3
votes
4answers
129k views

“Principal” vs “owner”

What is the business perception of identifying yourself as the Principal vs the Owner? I assume they are largely synonymous (please tell me if there are subtle differences, but in a small business ...
3
votes
3answers
226 views

Term for people who feel they have some disorder when they read about it

What is the term for people who, when they read symptoms of some psychological disorder, start feeling that they have it?
34
votes
6answers
27k views

Difference between “artifact” and “artefact”

Is there any usage preference between artifact and artefact? My understanding was that an artifact was properly applied to physical, historical objects, while an artefact was more correct for more ...
3
votes
3answers
6k views

Use 'got' instead of 'was'? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Why is “to get” sometimes used where “to be” could be used? Sometimes I hear people say things like this: I just got robbed. (Personally I would rather say 'I was ...
2
votes
2answers
196 views

Incorrectly taking something facetious seriously

Is there a word for taking something that's meant tongue in cheek seriously? For example trying to prove someone wrong after they taunt you by saying “You couldn't fight your way out of a paper bag”.
3
votes
1answer
2k views

Difference between female and male usage [closed]

What explains the difference of a de facto larger frequency of vowels of one writer compared to another? In the statistics data I examined, a vowel had higher probability in the text from the female ...
5
votes
1answer
2k views

Good and bad - suppletive adjectives

In English, there are three suppletive adjectives: good, bad and far. Their comparative and superlative forms derive from different stems, i.e., we have best instead of *goodest, worse instead of *...
2
votes
3answers
3k views

How commonly does “done” replace “did”?

How common is it for native English speakers to actively replace the past tense 'did' with the past participle 'done'? I used to think it was only really done in rather vulgar dialects, but I have ...
5
votes
3answers
164 views

Imaginary line from your finger when pointing

Is there a term for the imaginary line extrapolated from the tip of your finger when pointing at something?
9
votes
2answers
882 views

Meaning of “dust” when referring to a person

I stumbled upon the following passage while reading Lord Dunsany (The Sphinx at Gizeh). Delilah was younger than she, and Delilah is dust. Time hath loved nothing but this worthless painted face....
8
votes
1answer
8k views

Difference between “subsequently” and “consequently”?

When studying and reading course material in "softer" sciences that are descriptive the word "subsequently" appears in a way like "and subsequently" ...what does it mean, disctinct from "consequently" ...
1
vote
2answers
3k views

Wh-questions: auxiliary verbs or not?

What's the difference between these two questions: Why they chose football? and Why did they choose football?
2
votes
2answers
2k views

What does “jackpot” mean in this passage?

When you say 'jackpot,' would you normally refer to it as something that you should be happy about, or something that you can very highly unlikely obtain? I find this use of 'jackpot' hard to ...
2
votes
1answer
45k views

'Seen as' or 'seeing as'

Look at these examples: You should clean the milk seen as you spilt it. You should clean the milk seeing as you spilt it. Which one is correct, and how is it grammatically defined/termed?
0
votes
1answer
207 views

“Game money” vs “Play money”

In this blog post Tobold uses the term "play money" to indicate money that is used in games such as MMORPGs. Is this a correct term to name such money? If not, what is the correct one?
5
votes
3answers
5k views

“Decision” vs. “resolution”

I read the following sentence: We can defer a resolution, but not a decision. ...and I would like to know what the differences are between "decision" and "resolution" in that context.
6
votes
2answers
1k views

“Purge” vs. “expunge”

Whats the difference between purge and expunge, if any? For example: All the duplicate pages were expunged from the book. All the duplicate pages were purged from the book. Do these ...
16
votes
3answers
125k views

Do you need a comma before a subordinating conjunction (like if)?

Are both of the following sentences correct? a: You can call me, if you need me. OR b: You can call if you need me. Note that in a:, the comma is placed before the "if" and is not present in case ...
4
votes
2answers
638 views

How long has “looney” been in use?

How long has looney been used as an abbreviation of lunatic? Is it a recent addition or something substantially older?
3
votes
2answers
151 views

Use of “measles” as an interjection

I have a friend from Illinois USA who uses measles as an exclamation of frustration or disappointment. For example, Measles! My flight was just canceled. I find this odd. Is it commonly used ...
2
votes
2answers
1k views

What's the meaning of “delivering up” here?

Context (Abraham Lincoln's Inaugural Address), There is much controversy about the delivering up of fugitives from service or labor. The clause I now read is as plainly written in the Constitution ...
4
votes
2answers
137 views

Letter shared by many words

I'm looking for a word describing the sharing of an object (for example a letter) by other objects (for example words) such as: The B in Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid as shared on the ...
2
votes
1answer
1k views

Meaning of “press upon”

In Abraham Lincoln's Inaugural Address, I now reiterate these sentiments, and in doing so I only press upon the public attention the most conclusive evidence of which the case is susceptible that ...
2
votes
4answers
10k views

Words that can be repeated and still make sense [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Are there other repeated single word sentences like the Buffalo sentence? Are there words in English like had that can be repeated while still making sense? For example, ...
9
votes
3answers
2k views

Where can I find a list of common padding words?

Like a lot of people, I actually have the habit of actually adding a lot of actual padding words when I actually write. A common one I use is actually. These are actually rarely worth keeping, ...
6
votes
3answers
12k views

Difference between “function” and “operation”

Which one of the following is correct? Instructions given by the Vice Principal on behalf of the Principal for smooth function of the school must be followed by all staff members. or ...
7
votes
3answers
1k views

Meaning of “reductio ad Hitlerum”

Can anyone explain what reductio ad Hitlerum means in simple English with examples? I tried reading the Wikipedia article but it didn't help.
5
votes
3answers
1k views

Abbreviating names that start with a vowel

What are the rules about abbreviating names that start with a vowel? Would abbreviating "Alanis Morissette" to "A. Morissette" be correct or should it be "Al. Morissette"?
3
votes
2answers
244 views

What does “famously absent” mean?

What does the term "famously absent" mean? I was reading the wiki article about Ward Lamon and saw it in there: Ward Hill Lamon (January 6, 1828 - May 7, 1893) was a personal friend and self-...
5
votes
2answers
7k views

“What it did was” versus “what it did is” versus “what it does is”

I feel a bit uncertain about the use of tense in the above sentence structure. Which one is grammatically correct and sounds most natural between "what it did was," "what it did is," and "what it ...

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