40
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 ...
40
votes
3answers
6k views

Why do some words have two past tense forms (e.g. “dreamed” vs. “dreamt”)?

While perusing ShreevatsaR's answer to this question, it occurred to me that my own verbal usage is out of step with what I see in current American literature. When speaking in the past tense, I ...
40
votes
4answers
3k views

Who is Jesus H. Christ?

When used as an expletive, the name Jesus Christ often gets an H inserted into the middle of it for some reason. I've heard lots of guesses about what the H stands for, the most popular one being ...
40
votes
7answers
3k 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 ...
40
votes
5answers
4k views

“Screwed” vs. “nailed”: why is the slang so different?

While the two names nail and screw have similar shapes and functions, why do the verbs differ so much? Someone has screwed something sounds like they have ruined something to me, while someone has ...
40
votes
4answers
2k views

Trolling: billy goats gruff or fishing reference?

Where does the internet jargon "Troll" come from? The way I see it. If it's a fishing reference, then you can't accuse someone of "Being a troll" and if it's a mythology reference then someone isn't ...
40
votes
5answers
2k 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?
39
votes
7answers
51k 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 ...
38
votes
8answers
6k views

Can I “wear an umbrella”?

Does it make sense to say the following? Yesterday I wore an umbrella and a coat.
38
votes
12answers
6k views

Word for software which has been killed or is no longer supported

When describing a piece of software on a list I have the following information: SoftwareName Released: 2013-12-12 ????: 2014-12-12 The ???? is like the opposite of Released. Maybe I could use ...
38
votes
9answers
8k views

A more appropriate word for feeling “high”?

What is a more formal or appropriate word to replace the word high when writing "feeling high"? By feeling "high", I don't mean the person has to be smoking weed or taking crack. So the person is not ...
38
votes
20answers
8k 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 ...
38
votes
11answers
6k views

Is the usage of 'personally' in 'I personally don't like something' redundant?

What is the difference between the following? I personally don't like wax museums. I don't like wax museums. The adverb personally does not seem to emphasize anything here. Is it ...
38
votes
7answers
55k views

What is the difference between “nevermind” and “never mind”?

I never remember the appropriate use of either of nevermind and never mind. What's the difference and how can I remember?
38
votes
7answers
145k 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 ...
38
votes
5answers
4k views

When should I not use a ligature in English typesetting?

Typesetting that goes beyond the scope of basic MS Word (e.g. LaTeX, or even modern Word versions with a good OpenType font) often uses ligatures for certain glyph combinations, the most common being ...
38
votes
2answers
125k views

“Which” vs. “what” — what's the difference and when should you use one or the other?

Most of the time one or the other feels better, but every so often, "which" vs. "what" trips me up. So, what's the exact difference and when should you use one or the other?
37
votes
5answers
15k views

What is the difference between “illicit” and “illegal”?

What is the difference between "illicit" and "illegal"? Are they just synonymous? Used in different contexts?
37
votes
13answers
9k 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 ...
37
votes
8answers
41k views

Plurals of acronyms, letters, numbers — use an apostrophe or not?

When I was in high school back in the 1970s, I was taught that to make a plural of an acronym, a letter, or a number, one should add an apostrophe and "s". Like I would have written this sentence, ...
37
votes
6answers
3k views

“For all it's worth” or “for all its worth”?

Should I put an apostrophe in "for all its worth"? The meaning comes to about the same thing either way, as far as I can make out, and it seems like "it's" is more popular. But is there an accepted ...
37
votes
8answers
3k views

Why is there no plural indefinite article?

The takes either a singular or a plural subject. A/an only takes the singular. When we pluralize a noun preceded by an indefinite article, we simply drop the article (sometimes replacing it with ...
36
votes
10answers
5k views

“To shoot out of cannon into sparrows”

In Russian we have idiom/saying "To shoot out of cannon into sparrows" (literal translation) which is used to convey an idea of applying too drastic measures to small problems. I believe there should ...
36
votes
12answers
10k 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 ...
36
votes
6answers
4k views

How did “Jew” become pejorative?

For some reason, the word Jew often carries a pejorative or offensive connotation, which the related adjective Jewish does not carry. This is most obvious when either word is used as an attributive: ...
36
votes
3answers
6k views

What is the meaning of the phrase 'Here be dragons'?

What does here be dragons mean in the example below? WARNING Here be dragons. Relative source binding can not only encourage bad application practices, such as binding to things defined in ...
36
votes
7answers
36k views

What is the correct way to pronounce 'router'?

Merriam-Webster lists both ˈrüt and ˈrau̇t as possible pronunciations for route but only ˈrau̇-tər for router. Is it really wrong to pronounce router as 'rüter ?
36
votes
2answers
2k views

Origin and evolution of “hapless”

I would like to know what the origin of hapless is. For example, He is a hapless person means He is an unfortunate person. Has it got anything to do with the fact that hapless people live ...
36
votes
3answers
74k 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?
36
votes
5answers
18k views

Why does Polly want a cracker?

Where does the expression "Polly wants a cracker" come from? Why is the parrot named Polly, and why doesn't she want seeds?
36
votes
10answers
35k views

Is there a standard ordering for the question mark and the exclamation mark used together?

We've all wanted to express certain questions, rhetorical or not, with annoyance, excitement, surprise, frustration and so on. What better way than with both a question mark (?) and an exclamation ...
36
votes
10answers
11k views

When should I use “shall” versus “will”?

Which is the correct use of these two words, and in which context should one be used rather than the other?
36
votes
5answers
10k views

What term can be used to describe Yoda's speech?

What is Yoda's speech called? Is there a particular name for it (such as "dangling...")?
36
votes
3answers
13k 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!
36
votes
6answers
48k 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 ...
36
votes
1answer
60k 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 ...
35
votes
5answers
4k views

Is “the girls are want to gossip” correct?

Is this the correct use and placement of want? The girls in the office are want to gossip. Does anyone have a reference citing this use?
35
votes
17answers
3k views

What do you call hypothetical inhabitants living on the Moon? [closed]

I'm writing a fiction where inhabitants live on the Moon, so I want a name for them. I know that 'venusian' means 'of or relating to the planet Venus', 'martian' means 'of or relating to the planet ...
35
votes
21answers
3k views

What is the word for an action that is “considered to be frowned upon”?

I'm looking for an adjective to describe a behavior or action that is considered to be a faux pas, or is frowned upon. Picking your nose is [word]. Wearing socks with sandals is [word]. ...
35
votes
7answers
4k views

“Left” and “right” are to “side” as “front” and “rear” are to what?

Is there an equivalent word to "side" when speaking of the front or rear of something (e.g. a car)? So, a mechanic might say: You damaged your wing-mirror? Ok, which side? ... or... You ...
35
votes
4answers
4k views

Term for something that is supposed to increase safety, but really just increases fear?

Some examples: A news station giving daily "terrorist reports". It doesn't actually say how to protect yourself, just gives information on how horrible they are & why you should be afraid. A ...
35
votes
7answers
5k views

Why use “of” in the phrase “delivered of a baby”?

With all the "Royal baby" craze comes something that really confuses me. All the news media used pretty much the same sentence to make the announcement: The Duchess of Cambridge has been ...
35
votes
4answers
2k views

English word for taking a derogatory term and owning it with pride

E.g. "geek" or "queer" were originally meant as an insulting term, but were taken by the recipients as titles of pride. Is there a term for this phenomenon?
35
votes
4answers
5k views

Why is “cupboard” pronounced with a silent “p”?

According to Google at least, the word "cupboard" originated in late Middle English as denoting a board that held cups. Since then, the word has evolved to mean a kind of cabinet. My question is, ...
35
votes
5answers
19k views

Should I use a semicolon or a dash to connect two closely related sentences?

When you want to connect two closely related sentences, you can use a semicolon or a dash. (You can also use a dash for other kinds of non-sentential relations). How would you choose whether to use a ...
35
votes
3answers
10k views

Why does “orange” rhyme with (almost) nothing in English?

Joel Spolsky asked what rhymes with orange. The official answer is, "Nothing," although a creative poet can get close by using half words, just the -nge part or resorting to place names and foreign ...
35
votes
6answers
8k views

What do you call the interconnecting bits of a puzzle piece in English?

This is hard to describe, but I'm curious about what the proper word is for these thingies in English. So I searched for a picture on Google and circled what I'm referring to with red:
35
votes
4answers
3k views

How to pronounce “720p” and “1080p”

How do you pronounce 720p and 1080p? Because I don't live in a country that uses English, I haven't heard it yet. I guess it doesn't have a rule. seven hundred twenty p seven twenty p seventy two ...
35
votes
5answers
2k views

Does the quirky spelling in English actually make it easier to read?

I just finished reading the question asked by Bobnix, in which RegDwight referred to another question with an interesting answer by Kosmonaut. Kosmonaut refers to the great number of pictograms (Kanji ...
35
votes
3answers
5k views

Alternatives to “and/or”?

As a programmer, I have no problem with seeing or using "and/or" in technical documentation. For example, I can upvote an answer that satisfies me and/or mark it as accepted. That's perfectly ...

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