46
votes
2answers
2k views

What is the etymology of “yellow”, and why is it so different in other European languages?

It seems like most of our names for colors come from our German roots (blue/blau, green/grün, red/rot, etc.). But yellow is gelb in German, amarillo in Spanish, jaune in French, and giallo in Italian. ...
46
votes
6answers
10k views

When did it become correct to add an “s” to a singular possessive already ending in “‑s”?

According to my grammar book, but at variance to the answer to this question, the correct singular possessive if a word ends in ‑s is: James’s car The grammar book allows exceptions for ...
46
votes
3answers
2k views

How “macro” in computer programming came about

The prefix macro- is normally used for large things like macroeconomics and macroscopic. How did it come to be used to describe text macros in the programming world?
46
votes
1answer
26k views

Why “meth-”, “eth-”, “prop-”, when there is “uni-”,“di-”,“tri-”?

In chemistry, the homologous series for hydrocarbons uses the following prefixes: Meth- Eth- Prop- But- Pent- Hex- Hept- Oct- Why are these prefixes used, instead of just ...
45
votes
15answers
11k views

Antonym of “recommend”

What's the antonym of recommend? For example: I recommend that item! I tried to use unrecommend, but the spell-checker throws an error and it sounds stupid as well!
45
votes
13answers
6k views

Does “so called” have a negative connotation in English?

In some languages the word-by-word translation of "so called" usually has a neutral connotation. E.g. in the Czech language you may very often find a sentence like this (word-by-word translated from a ...
45
votes
7answers
4k views

What’s purportedly wrong with Strunk & White’s “The Elements of Style”?

I was reading the comments on this answer where several users claimed that Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style was “misinformed, hypocritical, and wrong” and “flat-out wrong or totally ...
45
votes
2answers
2k views

What word denotes a belief that apparently inanimate objects actually express a malicious, autonomous will?

I came across this word a few years ago, but can't find it now. I do not mean deodand, animism, pathetic fallacy, scapegoating, anthropomorphism, or personification (Word for attaching blame to ...
45
votes
4answers
29k views

Is it “front-end”, “frontend”, or “front end”?

Possible Duplicate: When to use a hyphen in writing a compound word Which is correct? front-end engineering frontend engineering front end engineering I looked over ...
44
votes
21answers
7k views

Is there a saying or proverb for a situation where the weakest party will always lose?

Context - One might use it in the following situations: "An employee has an argument with her boss and a dispute follows." (she gets fired a few weeks later) "A student having an argument with his ...
44
votes
3answers
7k views

White Noise: Why White?

I'm always surprised when I hear the term white noise. White noise itself sounds a little more "evil" than anything else, I would almost expect it to be called black noise. Why is white noise ...
44
votes
11answers
19k views

Singular of “dice”

After a discussion on the topic I found out that the oxford dictionary describes that Historically, dice is the plural of die, but in modern standard English dice is both the singular and the ...
44
votes
5answers
5k views

How did phobia ever come to mean hatred?

I understand the word 'phobia' to mean an irrational fear of something, tracing its roots to the Greek word ῾φοβια᾽ associated with flight, dread, or terror. How then did this word ever come to ...
44
votes
9answers
4k views

What is the opposite of the Devil's Advocate?

If I am arguing against a proposal that I may actually agree with, then I am playing Devil's Advocate. However, what if I do not necessarily agree with the proposal but am arguing for it, with the ...
44
votes
7answers
3k views

What exactly is an “adverb”?

From comments to “Weekdays” used as an adverb", I learn that The Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary says "open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.", shows the word weekdays is an adverb. It seems to me ...
44
votes
7answers
201k views

“The Dude abides” — what does “abide” mean in that context?

I'm unfamilar with the word "abide" which is famously used the the movie quote "The Dude abides" (The Big Lebowski). Looking it up in a German/English dictionary makes me believe it's "The Dude lives ...
44
votes
7answers
76k views

When do I use “I” instead of “me?”

From some comments in the answers for common English usage mistakes, there's confusion around the usage of I vs. me: While the sentence, "the other attendees are myself and Steve," is agreed to be ...
44
votes
2answers
105k views

Which is correct: “rack my brain” or “wrack my brain”?

Which is the correct usage: "rack my brain" or "wrack my brain"? Google turned up pages with conflicting recommendations. One argument is that to "rack a brain" comes from the torture device known ...
44
votes
5answers
3k views

What did we say before “clockwise”?

Before there were clocks, what did people say to describe the clockwise and anti/counter-clockwise directions? Whilst we're on the subject, when was the word "clockwise" first used?
44
votes
9answers
8k views

Why, in old books, are dates often given with the years redacted?

silly question, and I'm not sure this is even necessarily the right forum, but it's the most appropriate on StackExchange, so here we are. Why is it, in older books, that years are sometimes redacted ...
44
votes
1answer
4k views

How did “s***” and “the s***” come to mean opposite things?

Your idea is shit Your idea is bad. Your idea is the shit Your idea is good. The same does not apply to "the crap" or "the poop", or other profanity like "the fuck". I can think of ...
43
votes
14answers
9k views

A word for a worldly wise person who pretends to be naïve?

What is a word for someone who is experienced and wise, but who deliberately acts naïve? I don’t intend it for sarcastic use; I’m trying to describe someone succeeding in making people think that ...
43
votes
6answers
16k 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?
43
votes
12answers
27k views

What is the term for when you become more aware of something?

For example, when you buy a car, you start becoming more aware of cars with a similar make and model. The number of that type of car hasn't increased, but your awareness of it has. Similarly, when ...
43
votes
5answers
14k views

What is a suitable word to describe a place where two rivers meet?

I've googled for a while and on some sites I've found the word "watershed" as the proposed word. Is it the word that best suits it?
43
votes
9answers
59k views

What is the difference between “complicated” and “complex”?

I can't understand: what's the difference between complicated and complex? They seem to be used interchangeably. Are they actually different at all?
43
votes
10answers
11k views

What is the opposite of Optimal?

Obviously something can be sub-optimal or poor, minimal, bad or terrible... But is there a word that means the exact opposite, the antonym, of optimal?
43
votes
1answer
2k views

What does “Barack Obama’s real crime is presiding while black” mean?

I thought it’s unusual for me to be able to come to the end of Maureen Dowd’s’ article without any second thoughts on her particular turn of phrases when I’ve read today’s NYT article titled “Reindeer ...
43
votes
10answers
21k views

Is it “alright” or “allright”?

In practice I find both spellings being used. From a logical point of view, "allright" (as in: "all's right — everything is fine") seems correct. However, I recall hearing that "alright" is the ...
43
votes
5answers
2k views

My shoes can't think; how can they be sensible?

Recently as some of us were getting ready to take a walk through the snow, somebody said to me "you're wearing sensible shoes". Now my shoes haven't developed cognitive abilities so far as I know ...
43
votes
12answers
12k views

I can run faster than _____. (1) him (2) he?

Consider the sentence "I can run faster than 15 miles per hour." Its meaning is clear and to my eyes obviously grammatically correct. Now let me present some variations that have given me trouble for ...
43
votes
3answers
117k views

When should “into” be used rather than “in to,” and vice versa?

"Into" (one word) and "in to" (two words) are frequently confused. In what situations should the former be used? The latter?
43
votes
7answers
79k views

Is it correct to use “their” instead of “his or her”?

Is this sentence grammatically correct? Anyone who loves the English language should have a copy of this book in their bookcase. or should it be: Anyone who loves the English language should ...
43
votes
4answers
1k views

Is there a term for referring to an organization by its city rather than by its name?

This happens specifically often in the technology press: There's no point trying to ascribe motives to what Redmond [instead of "Microsoft"] does. We'll see shortly if Cupertino [instead of ...
43
votes
7answers
4k views

Is there a difference between “disc” and “disk” for naming digital storage media?

I thought that a disc was a disc, and it is sometimes spelled disk. I now have got an indication that those two are not the same thing. In this answer on Graphic DesignBeta, I wrote floppy disc in ...
42
votes
23answers
16k views

Is there a word for the person who hides truth in order to deceive?

Let's say I caused a minor car crash some time ago and today I meet a woman. The conversation goes: Woman: Hey, I remember that car with the scratch from the crash last week, you must be the one ...
42
votes
19answers
7k views

Word for a task which is flawed or doomed to failure but which you have to do anyway?

I'm looking for a word which describes a task which I think is poorly designed and will lead to either mediocre results or failure, but which I have to do anyway, especially in a work setting. The ...
42
votes
10answers
13k views

What do you call unclean water that you can't see through?

What do you call unclean water that you can't see through? Probably contaminated with dirt, prolonged stagnation or mineral erosion, almost pale brown, like stagnated water on a rainy day.
42
votes
14answers
13k views

What would you call someone who imposes on other people's generosity?

What would you call someone who isn't afraid to ask for money or any kind of favor or who misinterprets someone's generosity for a consistent resource for what they need?
42
votes
20answers
11k views

What's the opposite of “concatenate” in programming?

To concatenate means to string together different things. Concatenating "snow" and "ball" produces "snowball." But what would the opposite action be? What is the name of the action used to derive two ...
42
votes
13answers
6k views

Is there another way of saying 'user-unfriendly'?

Is there another way of saying something is 'user-unfriendly'?
42
votes
5answers
11k views

Why can we say 'an American' but not 'a British'?

I am confused with the use of an indefinite article in front of British or Chinese. To my understanding, we can place an indefinite article in front of any “countable noun”. So, we can say a cup and ...
42
votes
4answers
54k views

“Unselect” or “Deselect”?

If I want the user to revert their operation of selecting an item, should I say: "Unselect the option" or "Deselect the option"?
42
votes
3answers
25k views

What is the plural form of “zero”?

I tried looking on Google, but there are some fairly contradictory results. I thought I'd ask you guys so we could get an authoritative answer on the subject!
41
votes
13answers
11k views

'Male'/'female' is to 'gender' as 'left-handed'/'right-handed 'is to…?

Is there a word to describe this? For example, if I ask a guy What's your ____? It should mean I'm asking whether he's left or right-handed. Another example could be Our designs are not ...
41
votes
5answers
2k views

Flora, fauna, robot

Are there any terms for referring to robot-kind, as flora refers to plants and fauna to animals? I'm looking for a word that would fit in with flora and fauna, so if it derives from Latin or Roman ...
41
votes
14answers
5k views

Word that describes someone that causes his own misfortune

Is there a single word to qualify/describe someone that causes his own misfortune, or even a single noun that refers to such a person?
41
votes
17answers
5k views

“If I were you, I'd apologise to my/your mum”

I'm stuck with this example which I don't know how to solve A: I've said bad things to my mum. B: If I were you, I'd apologise to your mum. Is it supposed to be your or my instead? My feeling ...
41
votes
7answers
2k views

Which variant of English should I use when my target audience is the world?

I know that all variants of English (American English, British English, etc.) can be generally understood by everybody who knows any of the English variants. However, there are some regionalisms that ...
41
votes
10answers
5k views

“Childlessness is hereditary in our family” What do you call a statement containing a contradiction such as the example?

This kind of sentence is usually absurd and may or may not be recognized as such by the person who utters it. She will regret it till the day she dies, if she lives that long! "Aren't you going to ...

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