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May
16
comment What is the English version of the Vietnamese idiom “như cá nằm trên thớt” - “like a fish on cutting board”
In every telling I've run across, between a rock an a hard place is freely interchangeable with between Scylla (a rock) and Charybdis (which, to a mariner, would be a hard place).
May
11
comment Is it ever grammatical to leave out the verb 'to be' between subject and predicate?
It's a topic/comment construction with weird punctuation.
May
11
comment When is an event so old that the phrase “the other day” no longer applies?
There's a slight age-based relativity to this as well. I've caught myself the other daying events that I almost immediately realised weren't even in the current century. Tempus fugit. (Feel free to pronounce fugit in whatever manner seems appropriate for the occasion.)
May
10
comment What's the masculine form of boudoir?
The usual English equivalent to the fumoir would be drawing room, but that does imply that guests are welcome; it's not a private apartment.
May
8
comment Does the word “and” always mean a logical (boolean) operation?
English is neither Boolean algebra nor a propositional calculus. The ordinary understanding of your I've seen all movies starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt example (capitalization removed since the word is a word, not an operator) would be that you've seen all movies starring Tom Cruise and all movies starring Brad Pitt (and would likely to be taken as a bit of an exaggeration). If you went all pedantic in a roomful of people who weren't programmers, you'd find yourself standing alone and unloved.
Apr
25
comment Are “ball” (formal event) and “ball” (sphere for playing with) etymologically related?
I wouldn't read too much into the apparent "sudden simplification out of nowhere" during the Middle English period. All we have is written evidence, and it is quite likely that late pre-Conquest Old English writing was to language on the ground as written Latin was to early (or proto-) Romance. Apart from a little vocabulary, the biggest influence that the Normans had on English was to force a hiatus in the literature such that when it resumed it actually resembled the language being spoken.
Apr
20
awarded  Nice Answer
Mar
31
comment Diacriticals and non-English letters in anglicized loan words: keep 'em, dump 'em, italicize the words, or what?
@sjy ...and the rules of English spelling (such as they are) would lead the reader to pronounce a c followed by either an e or an i as if it were an s. Before the letters a, o and u, it's normally pronounced as a k. The cedilla informs the reader that the letter c is to be pronounced as an s when the rules would otherwise indicate that it should be pronounced as a k. Facade is a bit of a special case in that it is relatively common (and a term of art in several disciplines); it is one of the very few instances where the cedilla could go missing without being missed.
Mar
27
comment What does it mean to call someone a 'drink of water'?
One may often see tall phrased as "a long drink of water" as well. This lends the name to Spider Robinson's character Longdrink McGonnigal.
Feb
16
awarded  Yearling
Jan
6
comment Is there a word similar to “reddening” for the color blue?
It's also a well-established process in laundry and hair-rinsing.
Dec
29
comment a nonrestrictive appositive with a restrictive clause
"Olympic athlete" is not restrictive? You have Jim's cousin did X; you may also have An Olympic athlete who lives in Boston did X, so why not Jim's cousin, an Olympic athlete who lives in Boston, did X?
Dec
28
comment Why does “raptor” not contain an apostrophe?
The namegiver was oviraptor (egg thief), which was initially thought to be associated with the eggs of various ceratopsians due to dietary proclivities. It turned out, on closer examination (and with the aid of x-rays) that the eggs were their own. It's not features in common with birds of prey, but with a poorly-named therapod, that gives raptors their name.
Dec
28
comment Is there a tool to find words that are related to multiple input words?
A traditional (dead tree) thesaurus is arranged conceptually rather than, say, alphabetically; it's not just a dictionary of synonyms. A good old Roget's (not the pocket edition, which is alphabetical, or the electronic version, which just automates synonym lookup) ought to get you where you want to go.
Dec
28
answered If it's incorrect to “learn” someone, then why is “learned man” correct?
Dec
20
comment Why did English change so much between Chaucer and Shakespeare?
Spenser was a contemporary of Elizabeth (born some 20 years later and predeceasing her); The Fairie Queene was published in 1590 and 1596. The English of the play Mankind (playwright unknown, ca 1470) is essentially recognisable, however, though it would have been spelled in a "foreign" manner, what with the y thorns, unnecessary sigla (abbreviations), and the u/v reversal and all. Chaucer died before movable type hit Europe; it was Caxton who published his work.
Dec
17
comment What’s a “handegg”?
American football was Rugby (Union) football long before the now-official size and shape of the ball was established. And the first games of American football were played with a round ball. The elongated, then pointed, ball developed over time as drop-kicks and laterals gave way to the forward pass. The idea that the game was named "football" for its foot-long ball is nonsense.
Dec
7
comment What does the “bother” mean in the sentence?
And that's what I mean when I say or I sing/Oh, bother the flowers that bloom in the Spring (from Gilbert & Sullivan's The Mikado). I believe you'll hear it often in various contexts from that great philosopher, Winnie the Pooh, as well.
Dec
7
comment What does it mean when someone says, “I bid you no evil”?
I'm late to the party, but I do have to point out that extending I bid you no evil to mean I hope nothing bad happens to you is going at least one step too far. I do not hope that something bad happens to you would be closer. It is an offer or a declaration of truce, or a grant of safe passage, or something in that vein; it doesn't quite rise to the level of well-wishing.
Dec
7
comment Why does “defenestrate” mean “throw someone out a window” and not “remove a window”?
The fenestra is the hole in the wall; the habit of filling in that hole with a framed slab of alabaster, glass, or an awkward sort of sieve meant to separate the breeze from the bugs is, in the grand scheme of things, a curious and relatively recent (and by no means universal) phenomenon. If defenestration meant something like unwindowing, it would have to mean bricking up the hole (or the figurative equivalent).