51
votes
12answers
6k views

A way of describing the lesbian parent that is not pregnant?

A friend of mine is in a long term relationship with her female partner. After deciding they wanted a family, my friend's girlfriend got pregnant. Normally when talking about a couple expecting a ...
51
votes
9answers
5k 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 ...
51
votes
10answers
63k views

Are collective nouns always plural, or are certain ones singular?

I'd say Microsoft have a way of bending the rules and I know that McLaren have won the championship. While this sounds strange, I believe it is correct English (sorry, I'm not native). But when it's ...
51
votes
3answers
5k 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 ...
51
votes
3answers
11k 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 ...
51
votes
7answers
12k views

Where did the term “OK/Okay” come from?

I've heard lots of varying histories of the term "OK". Is there any evidence of the true origin of the term?
51
votes
3answers
14k views

Is there a reason behind the ordering of letters in the English alphabet?

Is there a reason behind the ordering of letters in the English alphabet? i.e. why are we taught “A,B,C,D,E,F,...,Z”? Why not “L,A,S,U,I,Z,...,C”? I am asking this because, in some of the languages I ...
50
votes
25answers
23k views

Is there a secular, non vulgar alternative to “for heaven's sake”?

I know for heaven's sake, for Pete's sake, for God's sake and for Christ's sake. All of those, however are religious references. The only non-religious equivalent phrases I know are for fuck's sake ...
50
votes
16answers
11k views

Is there a word for a change so small that it doesn’t seem to be a change at all?

Today, I was reading an article on pharmaceutical companies making minute changes to a drug in order to extend the patent. In one instance, the company profiled did not actually change the content of ...
50
votes
14answers
25k views

What do you call a person who started something that is later followed by everyone?

What do you call a person who started something that is later followed by everyone? For example, someone started to stay late at night till 8 p.m. and later everyone started to stay till 8 p.m..
50
votes
19answers
8k views

The act of baiting someone into (incorrectly) calling bullshit

Is there a single word, or commonly-used term, to describe the act of baiting another person into calling bullshit, when in fact you're not bullshitting? Conceptually, this either a sub-type, or the ...
50
votes
20answers
7k views

Alternative expression for “xyz Nazi”

I'm not a native English speaker, but I do understand and personally appreciate the use of the term "xyz Nazi" to say that someone is a bit dogmatic about their point of view, without necessarily ...
50
votes
22answers
9k views

Are there any “fake” French words used in English?

Are there any "fake" French words used in English? By "fake French" I mean words that are of French origin but are not actually correct French. This could happen if the word changes as it becomes ...
50
votes
6answers
4k views

The dark dot in your eye

I think every single one of us has experienced a dark dot in his/her sight when looking at a white surface such as a white ceiling, there's something in our eye that with a little focus we can see it, ...
50
votes
12answers
5k views

What's the English equivalent of the Japanese saying, “A fart ruins 100 days of sermons by the priest (bishop)”?

I was amused by the expression "Paid a penny and only farted" (related by @FumbleFingers), which suggested a similar Japanese saying: 大山鳴動鼠一匹 - "Find only a small mouse coming out after hearing ...
50
votes
8answers
19k views

Polite alternative to the term “bitch” when referring to a female dog

I'm writing an example of constructing logic, and I need to differentiate between an adult female dog, an adult male dog and a puppy and am searching for polite terms. Unfortunately, the word "bitch" ...
50
votes
12answers
45k 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 ...
50
votes
7answers
11k views

When is my son's first birthday?

[Clue: he was born three weeks ago, on 23 September 2014.] Originally, as I understand it, the word birthday meant the day of one's birth. It was a one-off event. I don't want to quarrel with the ...
50
votes
10answers
8k views

Is there a word similar to “reddening” for the color blue?

In planetary astronomy often the "color" of an object is described by relative amount of reflected light in the blue versus the red part of the spectrum. If something reflects light equally at all ...
50
votes
4answers
6k views

Why “Speak of the devil”?

Why is the expression "Speak of the devil" and not "Speaking of the devil"? For me, the -ing would make more sense because you're currently talking about someone, when he/she appears. For example, if ...
50
votes
6answers
341k views

What does the phrase “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish” mean?

It was Steve Jobs's ending comment in the Stanford Commencement in 2005, and Jobs mentioned: Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. What does this phrase mean? I understand this may also seem ...
50
votes
7answers
7k views

Was “book” to “beek” as “foot” is to “feet”?

"Foot" is a curious word in English because it is pluralized in an unusual way; the "oo" in the word is changed to "ee". Did this once use to be a standard way of pluralizing things in English (or a ...
50
votes
3answers
3k 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. ...
50
votes
5answers
7k views

Where did “cc” and “bcc” come from?

I've just realised that CC is "carbon-copy" and BCC is "blind-carbon-copy". Basically I'm wondering, where did these terms come from?
50
votes
5answers
4k views

Are there rules to determine whether a musician's title will end with “-er” or “-ist”?

There are drummers, buglers, fifers, whistlers, and fiddlers. Folks who play all the other instruments use the -ist suffix -- pianist, violinist, cellist, tympanist, guitarist, flautist, etc, etc, ad ...
50
votes
4answers
148k views

'Made of' vs. 'Made from'

What is the basic difference between "made of" and "made from." Both expressions are used in English. For instance, "This chair is made of wood," and "Cream is made from milk." Though the question is ...
50
votes
2answers
9k views

Why is “q” followed by a “u”?

Is there a particular rule that states that q should always be followed by a u? Because in certain cases like Qatar, or qawwali, this so-called rule is violated. What do you folks say?
50
votes
1answer
3k views

What does “c'tee” mean?

I have been seeing the word c'tee frequently. Here are some examples: Sports minister sets up c’tee to find solution to football crisis ...
50
votes
3answers
41k 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!
50
votes
9answers
5k views

Is “rather” shifting to become a verb?

In colloquial English, I constantly run across sentences of the form: I rather my [noun] [verb] A quick Google search returns tons of examples: I rather my opponents don't find out. I ...
49
votes
10answers
10k views

Is the word “repeat” really used as a synonym of “vomit”?

I came across an online English language course where the teacher claimed that if one used the expression "Could you please repeat?" instead of "Could you please repeat that?" over the phone it would ...
49
votes
24answers
8k views

Are there counterpart English expressions to Japanese proverb, "the nail that pops up is always hammered down?

I was once reminded by Robusto-san of a Japanese popular saying, ‘出る釘は打たれる - the nail that pops up is always hammered down,’ when I complained about sequential down-votes that I received. I wondered ...
49
votes
10answers
5k views

Is there a term which covers ATM cards, credit cards, and debit cards?

I work in accommodation for international travelers, and people can pay with various kinds of cards: In some countries such as USA, credit cards are very common, but debit cards are not so common. ...
49
votes
12answers
432k views

How do you greet multiple recipients in an e-mail?

How do you greet multiple recipients in an e-mail? Assuming they're both male, I just use "Sirs", but it seems a bit informal.
49
votes
7answers
22k views

What does “you will want to” mean?

I often find people (mostly American people) telling to me "you will want to do this" or "you will not want to do this". Does it mean they are telling me that I should do something (in the sense of ...
49
votes
27answers
5k views

A better word for “unanswered”

You might have heard that we are restructuring the navigation of all sites in the network. As part of this change there will be 3 tabs which are currently named as: New—it contains questions ...
49
votes
5answers
31k views

Why do people say “to be honest”?

For quite some time, I've been hearing the phrase "to be honest" almost every day. I've heard friends say it, characters on TV shows, and even an NPR reporter said it in an interview. Example: ...
49
votes
7answers
67k views

What did “google” mean in the 1900s?

I know that Google got its name from the word googol (10100), and that Google/google referring the search engine/using the search engine are recent additions to the dictionary. Their definitions are ...
49
votes
7answers
4k views

English counterpart to Japanese signal word, “Dokkoisho”

What is an English counterpart to the Japanese signal word, “Dokkoisho” uttered unconsciously in such case as sitting down on the bench? When you get old, it becomes tough to move your body. We ...
49
votes
12answers
16k 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 ...
49
votes
7answers
258k 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 ...
49
votes
7answers
17k views

Where does the “quint” in “quintessential” come from?

Doesn't "quint" mean "five"? What does that have to do with the meaning of "quintessential"?
49
votes
2answers
157k 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 ...
49
votes
6answers
39k views

“Status” vs. “state”

Can anyone explain what the difference between status and state is when I talk about the condition or situation of an object? Here's what I got from Longman English Dictionary. status: a ...
49
votes
4answers
90k views

Origin and exact meaning of the phrase “I have to go see a man about a dog”

I hear my older coworkers use this idiom/phrase occasionally. It seems possibly to be a humorous way to get out of a conversation. Even as a native English speaker, I've never figured out the exact ...
48
votes
10answers
5k views

Idiom: People caring about minor stuff while something terrible is happening

Imagine a situation in which the whole place is on fire, a bomb is about to explode, everyone is running for their lives and someone is checking his looks on the mirror... pretty inappropriate for the ...
48
votes
15answers
6k views

An English equivalent of Arabic idiom ‘Show us the breadth of your shoulders’

The Arabic idiom “OK, now you can show us the breadth of your shoulders.” has a meaning similar to get lost, but with a more humorous edge. The idea of the idiom comes from when the recipient turns ...
48
votes
3answers
8k 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 ...
48
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 ...
48
votes
10answers
22k views

“Eat” is to “feed” as “drink” is to what?

I can say "I feed someone". Am I forced to say "I give someone a drink", or is there a single word for this (as in "I [verb] someone")? Unfortunately my thesaurus can't really help me.

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