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I am a non-native speaker of English. I came across a sentence that baffled me today.

The original sentence is

Do some areas of your skin tend to break out with small to medium size blemishes, particularly around the time of your menstrual cycle?

What does "around menstrual cycle" mean?

Menstrual cycle is an on-going process, meaning a woman is always on one of the several menstrual phases. How could a time be around the menstrual cycle? Maybe this phrase refers to those days when a woman is on period?

  • Yes, you're right. Not only is the phrasing wrong, there's a clash between around and cycle. It should around menses or around the time of menstruation. – deadrat Aug 19 '16 at 2:37
  • The usage is imprecise at best, but it is often used in that sense. – Hot Licks Aug 19 '16 at 2:53
  • It is? Period, maybe... cycle, really? – stevesliva Aug 19 '16 at 3:31
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The sentence might be referring to the time around the menses or period - possibly just before, or just after. Is is an incorrect, but relatively common usage to refer to that time as the part of the cycle that is, hm, "on" or visible - "when on your menstrual cycle..." or something like that - to refer to when you are on that phase of the cycle. Really, it is more of a case of too much talking around terms and stacking evasions on top of each other, or something, since people are kinda squeamish around biology.

It is also possible that the sentence was attempting to refer to the blemishes appearing in relation to the cycle in general, rather than referencing a specific phase - the grammar would still be wrong, but in a different way. In this case, it could be trying to be deliberately imprecise about which times in the cycle are relevant to the outbreaks of blemishes - due to individual chemistry, individuals may find them during different parts of the cycle, but during the same parts of that cycle for each individual. If this is what the sentence was trying to say, it would be more correctly "particularly around certain times of your menstrual cycle" instead of "around the time".

  • +1 I'm quite sure your first interpretation is what was intended. I would, though, call it idiomatic rather than incorrect. I think it's a natural progression/truncation from constructions like "my cycle is all messed up this month." (For comparison, menses is just Latin for "months".) It's a bit euphemistic, but much better than things like "when your Aunt Flo is visiting" or "during The Curse." I don't think anyone really wants to have to say "around the time of the active shedding of your uterine lining," and truly precise terminology only gets worse from there ;-p. – 1006a Aug 19 '16 at 5:11
  • @1006a - to be fair, I call it incorrect because (as the post and comments mention) the phrase is more generally used to mean the whole cycle with many phases, which makes it confusing when also used for just part of the cycle without distinction. As for euphemisms, I don't mind them (my current favorite is ridiculously unspecific) - it is just when they are stacked or swapped out without care, the whole sentence can get quite confusing. – Megha Aug 19 '16 at 5:25
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“Menstrual cycle: The monthly cycle of changes in the ovaries and the lining of the uterus (endometrium), starting with the preparation of an egg for fertilization.” http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=7865 “Women vary in skin color over the menstrual cycle.” http://evoandproud.blogspot.in/2013/07/skin-color-and-menstrual-cycle.html Hope your queries are answered adequately.

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