467
votes
18answers
34k views

How do you quote a passage that has used '[sic]' mistakenly?

The usage of '[sic]' is well defined for quoting a passage that you believe has an error in it: nearest to the mistake you place '[sic]' within the quotes. For example, suppose I write a letter from I ...
329
votes
6answers
92k views

Did English ever have a formal version of “you”?

From the top of my head, Danish "De" (practically never used), German "Sie", Chinese "您", French "vous", Spanish "usted" are a formal way of addressing someone, especially if one isn't familiar with ...
236
votes
38answers
92k views

Is there a non-sexual phrase for sleeping with someone?

The phrase "sleeping with someone" often means "having sex." What is the origin of this sexual connotation? Is there a non-sexual equivalent of this phrase to express sleeping with someone without ...
227
votes
5answers
85k views

What is the rule for adjective order?

I remember being taught that the correct order of adjectives in English was something along the lines of "Opinion-Size-Age-Color-Material-Purpose." However, it's been a long time and I'm pretty sure ...
219
votes
20answers
41k views

Is there a correct gender-neutral, singular pronoun (“his” versus “her” versus “their”)?

Is there a pronoun I can use as a gender-neutral pronoun? Each student should save his questions until the end. Each student should save her questions until the end.
218
votes
15answers
31k views

How many spaces should come after a period/full stop?

In the past — or at least, when I was in elementary school — periods/full stops were followed by two spaces. Lately, it's become more and more common to see just one space. In the modern ...
191
votes
1answer
250k views

When should I use an em-dash, an en-dash, and a hyphen?

I generally know how to use a hyphen, but when should I use an en-dash instead of an em-dash, or when should I use a hyphen instead of an em-dash?
191
votes
9answers
10k views

What is the factual basis for “pirate speech”? (Did pirates really say things like “shiver me timbers”?)

The "pirate speech" we hear/see/read, for example, on the website Talk Like A Pirate Day consists of a rhotic dialect characterized by phrases like "shiver me timbers," "ooh arh me hearties," and so ...
190
votes
7answers
36k views

How are “i.e.” and “e.g.” pronounced?

How are i.e. and e.g. pronounced?
185
votes
9answers
40k views

Is there a word or phrase for the feeling you get after looking at a word for too long?

Sometimes after looking at a word for a while, I become convinced that it can't possibly be spelled correctly. Even after looking it up, sounding it out, and realizing that there's simply no other ...
183
votes
9answers
98k views

What is the correct way to pluralize an acronym?

For example, if I wanted to write the equivalent of There are many automated teller machines in this city. Would it be There are many ATMs in this city. or There are many ATM's in ...
163
votes
15answers
27k views

Do most languages need more space than English?

I saw the following statement on User Experience: Supporting multiple languages can break the user interface, because most languages need more space than english This seems to be a gross ...
162
votes
7answers
92k views

Do you use “a” or “an” before acronyms?

99% of the time, I'm clear on when I should use "a" versus "an." There's one case, though, where people & references I respect disagree. Which of the following would you precede with "a" or "an," ...
157
votes
6answers
24k views

What is the origin of ZOMG?

I have looked in a number of places, with contradicting results. The Urban Dictionary provides a whopping 73 "explanations", of which I will quote just a few. (Original spelling and punctuation ...
154
votes
19answers
49k views

What is a feminine version of 'guys'?

I commonly use the word 'guys' to refer to a group of males colloquially. It's colloquial but not rude, off putting, condescending, patronizing (though I wouldn't use it with a group of men at a board ...
137
votes
3answers
5k views

Where were “should”, “shall”, and “must” in the 18th Century?

According to the following Google Ngram, in the U.K. the modals should, shall, and must were virtually missing from English writing during the 18th Century (I've added will for a comparison modal ...
134
votes
12answers
15k views

What do you call a disk with a hole in the middle?

Compact Discs, washers and Aerobie frisbees are all disks with a hole in the middle. Is there a word (either mathematical or not) to describe this shape? I mean the specific case of a round hole in a ...
133
votes
12answers
250k views

Which words in a title should be capitalized?

Are there any concrete rules that say which words (parts of speech) in a title should start with a capital letter? What would be a correct capitalization for the title of this question?
129
votes
14answers
6k views

Why do English writers avoid explicit numerals?

The junction has a stop sign on each of the four entrances. The junction has a stop sign on each of the 4 entrances. The first is preferred, for some reason, by many English texts. Why? I ...
125
votes
7answers
78k views

What the #$@&%*! is that called?

Is there a name for the use of symbols in place of curse words, for example #$@&%*!?
120
votes
2answers
12k views

Why is “bicycle” pronounced differently from other obviously related words?

The word bicycle is pronounced /'baɪsɪkəl/ (bahy-si-kuhl), like sickle. However, the words unicycle and motorcycle both have the -cycle pronounced as /-'saɪkəl/ (sahy-kuhl). Is there some sort of ...
119
votes
42answers
11k views

What are your favorite English language tools? [closed]

To prevent myself from asking an obvious, silly question multiple times: What are the English language tools you found most useful? I found Corpus Concordance English extremely useful for looking up ...
119
votes
17answers
31k views

Is there an English idiom for trying to do two things at the same time and failing at both of them due to splitting your effort?

I'm basically searching for the opposite of putting all your eggs in one basket, where the risk is total failure because you did not hedge your efforts. I'm searching for a phrase that encompasses ...
117
votes
17answers
14k views

Is there any English/American equivalent for the Hungarian phrase “beating the nettle with someone else's penis”?

I am trying to translate this comically vulgar Hungarian phrase, often (but not exclusively) used in a political context. It means to make someone else carry out one's rash or risky ideas, usually ...
117
votes
4answers
13k views

Why is “cannot” spelled as one word?

Why is “cannot” spelled as one word whereas other similar constructions such as “do not,” “will not,” “shall not,” “may not” and “must not” are spelled as two words (unless they are contracted as ...
116
votes
13answers
21k views

When is it appropriate to end a sentence in a preposition?

Like many others, I commonly find myself ending a sentence with a preposition. Yes, it makes me cringe. I usually rewrite the sentence, but sometimes (in emails) I just live with it. To, with... ...
115
votes
3answers
41k views

I don't get this joke. Is it some kind of play on “water, too?”

I don't get this joke. Is it some kind of play on "water, too?" Transcript: Two scientists walk into a bar. The first says, "I'll have some H2O." The second says, "I'll have a glass of water ...
113
votes
3answers
15k views

Why does “quadratic” describe second power when “quad” means “four”?

In mathematics, quadratic means "involving the second and no higher power of an unknown quantity or variable". But the prefix quad- usually describes something that has to do with four, such as ...
113
votes
15answers
132k views

Should I put a comma before the last item in a list?

Should I put a comma before last item in list? I would like crackers, cheese and some soda. I would like crackers, cheese, and some soda.
111
votes
10answers
25k views

Differences between slang words for breasts

What is the difference between “tits” and “boobs”? P.S. I'm not sure if this question is appropriate but as English is not my native language I really would love to know the difference.
111
votes
6answers
25k views

How do the tenses and aspects in English correspond temporally to one another?

Non-native speakers often get confused about what the various tenses and aspects mean in English. With input from some of the folk here I've put together a diagram that I hope will provide some ...
110
votes
19answers
23k views

Is “women men girls love meet die” a valid sentence?

Is "women men girls love meet die" a valid sentence? If so, what does it mean? The sentence shows up in academic papers about the "Sausage Machine" for natural language processing. (A google will ...
110
votes
7answers
11k views

What’s a “handegg”?

What’s a handegg? NOTE: This question is primarily related to the etymology of a compound noun which is not in The Dictionary. There is a hat this year called “Handegg”, given out for a posting that ...
110
votes
16answers
18k views

“Jane makes over six figures” - how much money does she make?

Suppose you are told that "Jane makes over six figures". Assuming this to be true, what is the minimum amount of money that Jane can be making? I have always understood this to mean "Jane makes at ...
109
votes
6answers
15k views

How to say “It's not rocket science” before rockets existed

Prior to the invention of rockets, was there a phrase equivalent to: "it's not rocket science"? If so, what was it? Here I am looking for a phrase that makes a comparison with a difficult job/task, ...
109
votes
9answers
20k views

What’s the rule for using “who” and “whom” correctly?

I can never figure out whether I should use who and whom. Most people use who for both colloquially, but that’s not correct. What’s the rule for using who and whom correctly?
107
votes
7answers
13k views

Can “doubt” sometimes mean “question”?

I often see questions on Stack Exchange sites which I presume are written by non-native English speakers who use the word "doubt" in place of the word "question". Is this a case of misunderstanding ...
106
votes
10answers
9k views

When to use “that” and when to use “which”?

When is it appropriate to use that as opposed to which?
106
votes
1answer
8k views

Did English ever have a word for 'yes' for negative questions?

The Germans have doch and the French have si as a word that means "yes" in response to a negative question, such as: Don't you want some ice-cream? Yes [I do]! In English, we only have yes (as ...
105
votes
9answers
8k views

Is there a word for a person with only one head?

Reading this article by the fantastic Douglas Adams I came across this interesting quote: ‘[I]nteractivity’ is one of those neologisms that Mr Humphrys likes to dangle between a pair of verbal ...
103
votes
14answers
88k views

When should I use “a” vs “an”?

In the following example, is it appropriate to use a or an as the indefinite article, and why? He ate __ green apple. I know that in the case of just "apple", it would be "an apple," but I've ...
101
votes
4answers
180k views

When “etc.” is at the end of a phrase, do you place a period after it?

Example: It's all about apples, oranges, bananas, etc. VS. It's all about apples, oranges, bananas, etc.. Update What happens if the abbreviation is inside parentheses, do you place a dot ...
99
votes
11answers
60k views

What is wrong with the word “performant”?

I keep getting the red underlining in Word whenever I write the word "performant". Here I intend to refer to something that performs well or better than something else (i.e., it's more performant). ...
97
votes
10answers
19k views

Is there any word in English where “th” sounds like “t+h”?

It might be a strange question, but I, as a non-native speaker (Pakistani), have listened to English pronunciations by my native people who have over time developed their own pronunciations. So, I ...
96
votes
13answers
158k views

When should “no problem” replace “you're welcome” as a response to “thank you”?

I have observed a growing trend in which people substitute "no problem" for "you're welcome" as a response to "thank you". In particular, it seems to be an increasingly common response from servers ...
96
votes
1answer
335k views

What does a single letter “J” mean in emailing?

Today is Halloween. After a successful party, many conversations have been going on in my company's email box. The end of one email said "Till next time J". I had no idea what "J" meant in this ...
94
votes
11answers
68k views

How many tenses are there in English?

Do we have 16 tenses in English? With future present past future in the past in these forms simple continuous perfect perfect continuous Can we manipulate these together to create English ...
94
votes
2answers
3k views

Are the dual transportation and learning meanings of both “coach” and “train” just a coincidence?

In a learning context, you have one individual who "coaches" and another who "trains". In a transportation context, "coaches" and "trains" are both methods of transport. Is this just a coincidence ...
94
votes
6answers
96k views

“My wife and I's seafood collaboration dinner”

I just stumbled upon a Reddit post titled: My wife and I's seafood collaboration dinner. How does it look? Sure enough, the top comment immediately points out that it should be "my wife's and ...
93
votes
16answers
261k views

How do native English speakers respond to “Thank you”?

In my school and university I was taught to say "Not at all" or "Don't mention it" in response to "Thank you!". Now I rarely hear these phrases used, but rather something like "You're welcome", "It's ...

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