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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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23 votes

Are both gasoline and mains gas called "gas" in the USA?

Yes, American English uses gas for both meanings. In fact, you've hinted at another: In your example gas is being used not only for petrol but as a shorthand for "natural gas." We would also ...
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  • 5,601
16 votes
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Is the word "chum" to mean friend a common word?

To take your questions in order, starting from the title question: It's not very common. In text, since 1960, 'Pal', 'buddy', and 'chum' all stay relatively very low until 1990, but then 'buddy' ...
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13 votes
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When do you use 'nom de plume' vs. 'pen name' vs. 'pseudonym'?

A pseudonym is any time you are using a name other than your own. A pen name is when an author publishes under a different name. A nom de plume is when a pretentious author publishes under a different ...
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  • 21.4k
12 votes

Re: "a premise which maintains that…" Can a premise maintain?

Can a premise maintain? I'm not sure that a premise can maintain anything, Yes, it most certainly can. Consider "The kettle boiled". Clearly kettles do not boil - but we all know that the ...
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  • 28.6k
8 votes

What can I call 2nd and 3rd place finishes in a competition?

A concise way to put it would be placegetter or placed. In the UK, Australia and New Zealand, "placed" would be understood to be in the top three. My understanding is a place in the US means ...
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8 votes

Is out building universally used?

It's usually written as one word, outbuilding. As the dictionary link suggests, it is certainly used and understood in the UK, and would not be considered to be an Americanism or unusual.
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  • 14.8k
7 votes

Is tl;dr used very much outside of the computer programming community?

tl;dr is internet slang. It did indeed originate as "too long; didn't read" and effectively still means that. It's common enough outside of computing. But it's not in any way formal English. ...
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  • 21.4k
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

How do you write "think'd", a contraction of "think would"?

Here's a few examples I think'd support the use of that contraction. Found in the Corpus of Historical American English Who do you think'd be postman from Selby here? (Northern Lights; Parker, ...
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  • 6,152
6 votes

When do you use 'nom de plume' vs. 'pen name' vs. 'pseudonym'?

I would suggest you write under a pen name rather than a nom de plume. The French don't say nom de plume: they say Nom de guerre. Nom de plume was made up by English-speakers 150 years ago. As H.W....
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6 votes
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A word meaning both masturbating and consoling oneself?

Something that comes fairly close to the Chinese with two meanings, one general and one specific, is self-gratification (n.) The act of pleasing oneself or of satisfying one's desires especially: the ...
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  • 17.3k
6 votes

Was the word "inoculation" regularly used for introducing a disease for purposes other than inducing immunity?

The word went from a botanical meaning in the late medieval era, to in the 18th century meaning near the modern sense, introducing disease agents to provide protection, and then in the mid-late 19th ...
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6 votes

Is out building universally used?

According to Collins dictionary, it is used in British English (note that it's a single word): outbuilding in British English NOUN a building subordinate to but separate from a main building; ...
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  • 9,170
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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  • 6,669
5 votes

How is the word "wrangle" used in Europe?

In the UK a wrangler is a person engaging in a lengthy and complicated dispute and a wrangle is such a dispute. The US meaning isn't common here, though people my age may remember hearing the word ...
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5 votes
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What is the origin of situations in which you cannot expand a contraction?

I would second the answer to this question that points out that constructions analogous to "why cannot I" were common through the 18th century and beyond, so though they sound old-fashioned ...
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5 votes
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Why are 'at least' and 'a lot' not single words?

You're certainly not the first to feel an urge to merge "a lot" into "alot." Maybe the most revealing question would be, why does it feel like "it should be a single word"...
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  • 5,601
5 votes

What is the part-of-speech of "intimates" in this article?

It apparently means "intimations" (based on the context). I checked several dictionaries (both American and British) and couldn't find this meaning of "intimate" in any of them, so ...
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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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  • 23.2k
4 votes
Accepted

Unusual usages of usurp

Never rely on only one dictionary in a case of this sort. The Merriam Webster dictionary (online) gives the following. to take power or control of something by force or without the right to do so: ...
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  • 9,544
4 votes
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Was the word "inoculation" regularly used for introducing a disease for purposes other than inducing immunity?

Etymology of inoculate: < Latin inoculāt-, participial stem of inoculāre to engraft, implant, < in- (in- prefix2) + oculus eye, bud. Apart from the horticultural meaning - now supplanted by &...
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  • 28.6k
4 votes
Accepted

"Catch one's breath" vs "One's breath caught"

As aparente001 points out in a comment above, the expressions tend to mean two very different things: "to catch one's breath" is a well-established idiom whose primary meaning is "to ...
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  • 151k
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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  • 14k
3 votes

How long does "half an hour" mean?

It depends greatly on the context. A half-hour TV drama or quiz show will be timed very accurately to 30 minutes as it has to fit the schedule. A recipe which calls for a dish to be cooked for 30 ...
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  • 16.3k
3 votes
Accepted

Is "I love that for you" grammatical?

Well, the linked Vogue article ("Why Is Everyone Saying 'I Love That for You?'") seems to be a fairly comprehensive history of the phrase's origin, use, and slide into sarcastic shade. ...
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3 votes
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Differences in antonyms of "balance" with negative prefixes

About im-, etymoline explains: variant of in- before -b-, -m-, -p- in the sense of "not, opposite of" Bear in mind that in- comes from Latin, and so it will follow Latin phonetic ...
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  • 12k
3 votes
Accepted

Can "avert to" be used to mean allude?

I believe this is a mistake for advert (which is pretty rare as a verb now anyway). Neither the OED nor Wiktionary records "avert" in this sense.
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  • 74.6k
3 votes

Is litany only used in negative connotations?

litany (n.) A usually lengthy recitation or enumeration a familiar litany of complaints M-W A tedious recital or repetitive series. a litany of complaints Lexico (Litany is used negatively in all ...
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