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Mar
8
comment What is the distinction between “role” and “rôle” [with a circumflex]?
The other three definitions are extensions of the original meaning (a character of part played by a performer). Once a word has been sufficiently well-adopted to undergo semantic broadening, it's probably time to stop using funny foreign squiggles to write it. (The circumflex, by the way, indicates that one or more letters had been given the old heave-ho in the original French. It had been rolle -- literally, the roll of paper or parchment upon which the part had been written.)
Mar
5
comment Inversion in English
Also archaic, I'm afraid. (Even that meaning of the word so only holds in certain specific phrases.) Old forms hold on in frequently-used words and phrases even as the world changes around them. There are a few individual idiomatic phrases you just have to know -- like so do I and how to pluralize ox. There is no general rule of grammar to apply.
Mar
5
comment Inversion in English
Yes -- it's a quotation from Shakespeare's Macbeth (Act IV, Scene I).
Mar
5
comment What does “8/7c” stand for?
The scheduling habit is a holdover from the radio days, believe it or not. The old major AM networks only needed a small handful of transmission sites, some emitting as much as a quarter of a million watts, to cover all of the Eastern and Central time zone in the US (and really tear a hole in Canadian reception while they were at it, by the way). Although over-the-air television is much shorter range (so the common schedule wasn't necessary anymore), you try telling the people in Chicago that they're getting the "latest" news an hour later than New York from this day forward.
Mar
4
comment Why do many forms ask for initials instead of full names?
It gets particularly difficult with compound names. A person with a Dutch sensibility might not "see" the v in a van or vander/van der as an initial, while an American with the same name likely would. The same would apply for de, al and so on (not to mention the O's, Mcs and Macs of this world).
Mar
4
comment Isn't the word “uninstall” wrong?
"Install" is a verb -- all of your counterexamples are adjectives. You can no more "uninsane" people than you could have "insaned" them in the first place.
Mar
4
comment Singular form for “headphones”?
Why does it need to be current? Radios came with earphones when I was a kid (or you could buy earphones at places like Radio Shack). Some of them went in the ear, some were rather like supra-aural or circumaural headphones with one side abbreviated, others were a sort of cup that went over the pinna, but all were earphones.
Mar
4
comment Was the “Ye Olde Shoppe” ever used or is it just an ancient-looking construct of modern times?
Whether the use of the y is a deliberate concession to convenience by printers or a simple misreading by people unaccustomed to the thorn, it's still a corruption of the original form.
Mar
3
comment Connotation of “maze” and “get maze”?
Yes -- it should be "get mazed" if you're going to use it at all. Using it at all, though, is probably not a good idea -- it would be like using stonied instead of astonished. It works perfectly if you want to write in the style of Mallory's Morte D'Arthur, but a vanishingly small number of modern readers would be able to derive any meaning from it.
Mar
3
comment Pronunciation of 'cos' (as in the mathematical term)
Thanks -- I just noticed I missed pasting in the upside-down omega dealie (obviously, I have all of these glyphs on tap, but I can't get at them directly on this <expressive glyphs missing> machine -- it was configured for Chinese and Hebrew originally, and I haven't been able to exorcise all of the weirdness yet).
Mar
3
comment Store names & possessive
Actually, J. C. Penney Company, Inc., did once call itself J. C. Penney's, then simply Penney's (although the apostrophe didn't appear in the company logo).
Mar
3
comment How is vehicle fuel efficiency expressed outside the United States?
The "abbreviation" is the ordinary scientific expression of the term: <quantity>l/100km. Once you slip into the metric world, you tend to get away from purely alphabetic abbreviations. In the US, you might drive at "60 mph"; in Canada, you would drive at "100 km/h" (but you'd pronounce it "clicks").
Mar
2
comment Possessive of Queen's?
It would have been so much easier if you'd gone the engineering route -- "I've been dyed purple" is quite a bit less grammatically complicated.
Mar
2
comment What is the correct usage of “whom”?
The grammarian in me agrees completely with the second paragraph; the linguist in me, however, believes it's time for us to admit that whom is rather quaint and precious these days and let it pass quietly into history.
Mar
1
comment Can I end a sentence with “on”?
One must never end a sentence with a preposition -- if there are grammar-school English teachers around. It is, to borrow a phrase, the sort of nonsense up with which they shall not put.
Feb
28
comment What is the difference between illegal and unlawful?
Traditionally, there has been a difference. Statutes (laws) are created, discussed and voted upon by "ordinary" folk -- some are lawyers by profession, no doubt, but not all by any means. The language of laws tends to be plain. The language of law, on the other hand, is complex and technical, and carries with it the baggage of nearly a millennium of history of resolving disputations and ambiguity. (Don't read anything prescriptive into what I've said; it's just historical observation. Having written a few, I've had to look at both how "people" read laws and how lawyers do.)
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.