42
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 ...
42
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 ...
42
votes
4answers
969 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 ...
42
votes
3answers
7k 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 ...
42
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
9answers
7k 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 ...
41
votes
23answers
10k 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 ...
41
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 ...
41
votes
10answers
12k 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.
41
votes
14answers
7k 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 ...
41
votes
14answers
9k 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?
41
votes
11answers
12k 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 ...
41
votes
13answers
5k views

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

Is there another way of saying something is 'user-unfriendly'?
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
6answers
9k 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?
41
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 ...
41
votes
14answers
4k 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 ...
41
votes
3answers
2k views

Etymology of “a pride of lions”

Etymonline does not hesitate to assume that "a pride of lions" is the same word as pride, noun of adjective proud. There would be other possibilities, e.g. a connection with Latin praeda (prey). A ...
41
votes
6answers
30k views

What is meant by “don't piss on my boots and tell me it's raining”?

I have heard a couple of times recently the phrase "don't piss on my boots and tell me it's raining", usually in the context of a heated argument so I've hesitated to ask speaker what exactly he meant ...
41
votes
8answers
15k 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 ...
41
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 ...
41
votes
5answers
7k 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 ...
41
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 ...
41
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 ...
41
votes
2answers
158k 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?
40
votes
19answers
6k 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 ...
40
votes
20answers
10k 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 ...
40
votes
8answers
9k views

Oil is slippery; rubber is _____?

What's the best word (or words) to describe rubber's 'gripping' property that is the opposite of oil's slipperiness? It's not 'rough', since rubber grips without necessarily being rough.
40
votes
12answers
17k 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 ...
40
votes
4answers
6k views

What word means “the feeling of discomfort caused by watching people's ineptitude”? [duplicate]

I am watching a UK TV programme called "The Apprentice". The candidates have to sell guided tours. Some candidates are terrible at giving these tours. They fluff their lines, or they haven't ...
40
votes
7answers
62k 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 ...
40
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 ...
39
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.
39
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 ...
39
votes
9answers
10k 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 ...
39
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 ...
39
votes
18answers
7k views

What is a word that means unforgettable but with a negative connotation?

When I look up unforgettable in a thesaurus, I get words like enduring, remarkable, or exceptional. These all are positive; I just cannot forget such a wondrous thing! I, however, want a word that ...
39
votes
5answers
18k 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?
39
votes
7answers
167k 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 ...
39
votes
13answers
10k 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 ...
39
votes
6answers
59k 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 ...
39
votes
6answers
4k 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 ...
39
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 ...
38
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 ...
38
votes
6answers
5k 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: ...
38
votes
3answers
7k 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 ...
38
votes
3answers
93k 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?

15 30 50 per page