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46 votes

Is it common for native English speakers to confuse "18th century" with "the 1800s"?

As a first-language English speaker, my experience is that I have come to automatically associate the specific terms "20th century" and "21st century" with the 19--s and 20--s ...
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24 votes

Is it common for native English speakers to confuse "18th century" with "the 1800s"?

Yes, I have seen and heard many native speakers of English make the same mistake. And it works exactly the same way in Dutch: you say de 18e eeuw when you mean 1700–1799. And Dutchmen frequently make ...
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7 votes

Origin of the "angry/excited" meaning of "go nonlinear"

William Safire, writing for the New York Times in 1990, gives us the article On Language; Hitting Today's Ceiling, which explains the origin: Let us turn to physics and computer technology to help us ...
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6 votes
Accepted

Why use "can and may" both in a sentence?

Short Answer Although there is a subtle difference in meaning between can and may in these contexts (explained below), may implies can, so including can in such formulations is redundant. If one sees ...
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5 votes

Origin of the "angry/excited" meaning of "go nonlinear"

The term derives from mathematics. Linear processes are ones that progress in a simple additive way. For example a linear series 1, 2, 3 … may be reasonably confidently predicted to develop as … 4, 5, ...
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4 votes

Why do we use the word "unborn" instead of "nonborn"?

Wouldn't "un-" imply something that occurred and then was reversed? Like undo, untie, unravel? When attached to an adjective, un- means "not": "unhappy", "unclear&...
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3 votes

Why use "can and may" both in a sentence?

The remit of this site is not discussion of the motivation of writers but the meaning of their words. We leave the reader to speculate on their motivation. As a simplification, and in the context of ...
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  • 10.1k
3 votes

Is it common for native English speakers to confuse "18th century" with "the 1800s"?

Yes, it's a common mistake. The confusion arises from the fact that there are two common conventions for grouping consecutive years into centuries, and that the boundaries of the resulting centuries ...
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2 votes

Is it common for native English speakers to confuse "18th century" with "the 1800s"?

Yep. Done it several times (including on schoolwork). One of the most infuriating things about the english language and history. For reference, I’m a native english speaker.
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2 votes

Is it common for native English speakers to confuse "18th century" with "the 1800s"?

There is a simple way to check how common the use of numbering historical periods by centuries. Put into a translation programme the English '18th century' and translate it into as many languages as ...
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  • 9,495
2 votes

Is 'I have n things' the same as 'I have at least n things' or 'I have n things in total'

(Note: I'm going to stick with the "three coins" example throughout this answer, but the same principle applies more broadly. And I'm going to assume that these are coins in a multiplayer ...
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  • 14k
2 votes
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Standalone use of "vantage"

To my knowledge this word isn't used outside of "vantage point" in today's English, but certainly it was once. It meant an advantage, or a superior position. John Foxe: "The Londoners ...
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2 votes
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What is the origin of the phrase "due east"?

The sense of due in due east/south etc. appears to be of nautical origin: due (adv.): 1590s, "duly," from due (adj.). In reference to points of the compass, "directly, exactly" (...
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1 vote

comma usage question: a New Yorker example

Yes, there is a rule. When a conjunction coordinates two conjuncts, then the author may make the second nonrestrictive by surrounding it (along with the preceding conjunction) with paired punctuation (...
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1 vote

What are the origins of "tech" as an abbreviation for "technology?

Tech Toons cartoon - Colorado Transcript newspaper, July 23, 1967
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1 vote

What does the phrase "who had no congenial home to make her known in" mean?

The entire phrase is a relative clause: who had no congenial home to make her known in The subject is "who", the simple predicate is "had", and the direct object is "no ...
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1 vote

Is the phrase "in despite of" instead of "in spite of" incorrect?

in despite of occurs more often in old texts, including Shakespeare. Here is an ngram graph comparing it to simple despite: Google Ngram in despite of, despite Here is another, comparing it to in ...
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1 vote

Origin of the "angry/excited" meaning of "go nonlinear"

It seems more likely to have come from stress tests in engineering than from mathematics or computing. When you put a material under increasing stress or strain, it will at first react in a linear way;...
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