English Language & Usage Weekly Newsletter
English Language & Usage Weekly Newsletter

Top new questions this week:

Word a male can use to refer to a female that is not old or young (girl/lady/woman)

I'm a married male in my mid-thirties and meet a woman of a similar age and talk about business. I want to refer to this meeting later, and it feels weird to say "I met a girl today...," (feels like …

*word-choice *single-word-requests  
asked by user85707 30 votes
answered by oerkelens 59 votes

Can a person happen? Is "Zodanga happened" correct?

I was watching movie John Carter where there was some dialogue like this: — What happened here? — Zodanga happened. Here Zodanga was a bad guy in the movie. I don't understand how a guy …

*grammar *grammaticality  
asked by paul 21 votes
answered by Andrew Leach 44 votes

What does “balls” mean as a reply word or interjection?

Here’s a question again in Jeffery Archer’s The Prodigal Daughter. Richard (husband of Florentina Kane, the heroine of the novel) finds in The Wall Street Journal that Jake Thomas, chairman of …

*meaning *slang *offensive-language  
asked by Yoichi Oishi 17 votes
answered by FumbleFingers 27 votes

Is there a word or phrase meaning to plant my idea in someone else’s mind?

Is there a word or phrase that means to plant my idea in someone else’s mind so they think it is their own idea? Just like what happened in the movie Inception.

*single-word-requests *expressions *phrase-requests  
asked by cheecheeo 15 votes
answered by bib 4 votes

Meaning of “But I repeat myself” in Mark Twain's quote?

There is the following sentence in the conversation between Florentyna Rosnovski, the heroine of Jeffrey Archer’s novel, The Prodigal Daughter, who was first elected as the Congressman of Illinois and …

*meaning-in-context  
asked by Yoichi Oishi 14 votes
answered by Gary's Student 51 votes

Rule for when to use "thin" versus "narrow"

My 5-year-old asked this morning if you would say a road was "thin" or "narrow". We had no difficulty telling her she should use "narrow" in that case, but couldn't explain why. We found it …

*word-choice *adjectives  
asked by CupawnTae 13 votes
answered by Janus Bahs Jacquet 9 votes

He nearly drowned

Imagine two similar, but technically different scenarios: While swimming he was caught by the torrent. It put him under water, he breathed in some water, got unconscious. Some passers-by pulled him …

*single-word-requests *adverbs  
asked by Honza Zidek 12 votes
answered by oerkelens 17 votes

Greatest hits from previous weeks:

When to use "lives" as a plural of life?

I am confused when talking about a general idea using "our life" when sometimes I feel like using "our lives". Please tell me the correct answer with appropriate explanation.

*grammar *grammatical-number  
asked by Sudhir 7 votes
answered by Daniel Harbour 12 votes

"I use to", or "I used to"

Which is the correct way of saying the following sentence (if there is a correct version)? "I use to be a hitman" "I used to be a hitman" I've read the 2nd recently in a book, but was sure it …

*grammar *verbs  
asked by Chris S 16 votes
answered by kiamlaluno 17 votes

Can you answer these?

"That awkward moment when..."

I know when people use the phrase "that awkward moment when (blah blah blah)..." it is clearly a sentence fragment. What exactly is it called though? A dependent clause? A noun clause? I have no idea. …

*clauses  
asked by Jeff 1 vote

Is there reference material for dictionary abbreviations used in the first half of the 20th century?

I have a lot of abbreviations that I can't work out the meaning of from an old etymological dictionary and I'm looking for a reference that will explain them all. I have a copy of an etymological …

*abbreviations  
asked by CJ Dennis 4 votes

spread of the quotative "be like" outside North America

I thought that the quotative "be like" was limited to American English, but was surprised to hear a 60-something New Zealand woman using it repeatedly recently. What is the status in world English? …

*world-english  
asked by hunter 1 vote
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