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Feb
28
comment What is the difference between illegal and unlawful?
Unlawful and lawful are good, stout Anglo-Saxon words that tend to be of the law -- that is, they are used in statute -- while illegal and legal are fine, robust Latinate words that have historically tended to be about the law -- they're lawyer talk, full of baloney (Bologna).
Feb
27
comment Can one “decrease” or “increase” sound volume?
+1, although I'm sure it's more to do with stupidity than insanity.
Feb
27
comment “like I” or “like me”?
@Fixee: you have been taught quite thoroughly, then. I have only known one person who habitually used the subject form in everyday conversation, and she was (perhaps not surprisingly) an elementary school teacher of a certain age. As Neil notes in his answer, English is not alone in this usage -- we have company in the Scandinavian Germanics as well as the Romance languages.
Feb
27
comment Why are the words “lose” and “choose” written differently and pronounced the same way?
Why would a double o be more logical? One would think that a u would make a lot more sense, since in every language but English, that's the sound that letter makes. The fact is that English spelling was more or less fixed at a time when the spelling made sense. A double o meant "make an o sound for twice as long as normal". Maybe we should have waited until after the Great Vowel Shift, but we didn't know it was coming.
Feb
27
comment “on the train” or “in the train”?
Old usage -- omnibus carriages (the current version is just a motorized version of something that has been around for centuries) have not always been enclosed (and some still are not). Keep throwing -- I'll keep catching :o).
Feb
26
comment “on the train” or “in the train”?
You are in carriage D, and carriage D is in the train. The train is the group of cars, etc., that forms a line. You are not a part of the line, so you cannot be in the train; you are merely riding in one of the cars that is part of the line.
Feb
26
comment Words for different types of leatherworking
... and I'd also be at the extreme edge of my expertise. I worked for a cobbler for a short time, but since English was not his first language, all I learned was the names of current materials and machines for ordering purposes (and how to swear profusely in Pugliese). As a mangiacake (the Italian-Canadian derogatory equivalent of WASP) I wasn't entitled to learn the craft, and what I would have learned wouldn't have been the older English vocabulary. I don't want to be responsible for blatant anachronisms in your work.
Feb
25
comment What's a word for an instance in which one has an opinion about something without having tried it?
@mipaldi: The word prejudice(d) (pre-judging) is the correct one -- racial prejudice is only one form of this disease of thought. Bias, by the way, is an essential part of what you are describing. An unbiased opinion would preclude contempt prior to investigation.
Feb
25
comment Classical language
I read that as part of the meaning of the word classical. One cannot answer the question in any form without exploring the use of the word classical as it pertains to tradition and education (that is to say, why Latin and ancient Greek, among others, are classical while others are merely foreign). It would devolve into an off-topic question if it were a matter of structural linguistic differences between languages, but it has nothing to do with any intrinsic attribute of a language. It's not like the question is "why is English not considered a polysynthetic language?"
Feb
25
comment Classical language
I really don't see this as being off-topic. It is asking about the meaning of an English phrase, and the answer hinges on a particular meaning of the word classical. If I had the required reputation, I would cast a reopen vote.
Feb
24
comment Why is “t” sometimes pronounced like “d” in American English?
@kiamlaluno: The dialects I'm referring to are "merely" dialects of the standard Tuscan. If I had meant differently, I would have said so. (I am aware that Italy as a political entity is defined by geography rather than language.) Any natural "language" is just a collection of dialects (absent a controlling institution), and the phenomena that cause language to change from one to another is constantly at work in all of them.
Feb
24
comment Is it correct to say that English has the dative case?
Case really requires inflection. It would be proper to say that English has constructs that fill the function of the dative case in other languages, but we really only have the declension of a very small list of pronouns and the plural forms of a relatively short list of "homely" nouns remaining of what was once a highly-inflected language.
Feb
24
comment Why is “t” sometimes pronounced like “d” in American English?
Consonant softening (voiceless plosives becoming voiced, etc.) is normal in human language, although it is more likely (or, probably, simply faster to occur) between unstressed vowels. Writing -- artificially crystalising pronunciation -- is not the normal state of affairs. That's why pasta e fagioli comes out pastafazool, or capicola is pronounced something like gabbagool, in many Italian dialects. (And yes, I did understand that you meant it doesn't happen in the word Italian -- I'm just using Italian words to demonstrate that it isn't an English phenomenon.)
Feb
24
comment 'Questions' vs. 'Concerns' vs. 'Doubts'
To explain my previous comment: vindaloo, often called "the king of curries", originated as vindalho -- a Portuguese stew with a wine-based sauce.
Feb
24
comment To have behavior?
If everything is happening exactly as intended, it's time to re-evaluate your intentions -- or -- If everything seems to be going smoothly, you've obviously overlooked something.
Feb
24
comment How to read a year?
Okay, no sense for rhetorical questions...
Feb
24
comment How to read a year?
@advs89: "Sixty-six", naked, is ambiguous. (And it was a very good year -- first bike, first golf clubs, first camping trip.) Where were you when the rest of us (well, the rest of us programmers, at any rate) were scrambling to save the world from Y2K?
Feb
24
comment How to read a year?
@Anna: I would say "one thousand and eight" (because I come from a place where the "and" is more prevalent than not. It's the "oh" -- it just doesn't feel right, does it?
Feb
24
comment A saying for something that's good but also has a downside
I believe the idiom uses "ain't" and "lunch" (and appears more frequently as TANSTAAFL than spelt out). It is likely that "ain't" would clash with "alas", though.
Feb
24
comment How to read a year?
@advs89: And that is relevant how? "Twenty" is two syllables, "two thousand" is three and "two thousand and" is four. Even if you want to invoke the Principle of Least Effort, "twenty" still wins.