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

Top new questions this week:

How to say "It's not rocket science" before rockets existed

Prior to the invention of rockets, was there a phrase equivalent to: "it's not rocket science"? If so, what was it? Here I am looking for a phrase that makes a comparison with a difficult job/task, ...

*phrases *expressions *phrase-requests  
asked by spacetyper 44 votes
answered by Elian 50 votes

Why do we call a computer or TV display a "screen"?

I was wondering about why we call TV and computer displays "screens", and couldn't find any clear etymology for the term's use for displays. A screen is used to prevent things like bugs and leaves ...

asked by Martin Carney 25 votes
answered by Josh61 30 votes

What does ‘If she’s a feminist, then I’m a T. Rex’ mean?

There was the following passage in New York Times’ (October 6) article commenting on GOP Presidential candidate, Carly Fiorina under the headline, ‘If she’s a feminist, then I’m a T. Rex’: “Her ...

*meaning *usage *metaphors  
asked by Yoichi Oishi 23 votes
answered by tchrist 56 votes

What's an absent-minded drawing called?

There's a specific word which is used for drawings (like smilies, cars, cartoons, etc) which we made to pass the time, say while talking with someone or in a lecture. I need to know the exact word for ...

asked by ZumuRocks 23 votes
answered by Andrew Leach 80 votes

Why do we walk on "dry land" when we should be just walking on "land"?

land |land| noun the part of the earth's surface that is not covered by water, as opposed to the sea or the air. Many writers in countless books and various writings use the ...

asked by Michael Rader 18 votes
answered by Bobson 24 votes

What is the origin of the exclamation mark?

Granted this applies to more than English, but I hope it's not off topic. Recently I wondered when the exclamation point/mark entered our language and how. I did search the site for an answer and ...

*etymology *exclamation-mark  
asked by medica 16 votes
answered by shaunxer 14 votes

A word for people who work under a manager

I'm looking for a word to fit the sentence: Was it ethical for Bernie, the manager, to quit without informing his ____? Here are some of the words I've tried and why I don't think they quite ...

asked by Julia 16 votes
answered by mikeagg 38 votes

Greatest hits from previous weeks:

Which is correct, "you and I" or "you and me"?

When the phrase is used as an object, why so many native speakers are saying "you and I" instead of "you and me"? I'm not a native speaker but I thought "you and me" is correct. Not sure if this falls ...

*pronouns *grammaticality *object *hypercorrection  
asked by grokus 23 votes
answered by JSBձոգչ 45 votes

When should I use an em-dash, an en-dash, and a hyphen?

I generally know how to use a hyphen, but when should I use an en-dash instead of an em-dash, or when should I use a hyphen instead of an em-dash?

*punctuation *hyphen *style *dash *orthography  
asked by kiamlaluno 164 votes
answered by waymost 161 votes

Can you answer these?

Is the verb "swallow" related to the noun?

I looked at the Online Etymology Dictionary and it seemed unclear to me whether the bird's name comes from the action, or vice versa, or even if they are etymologically related. Are they related and ...

asked by SophArch 2 votes

How are English forms of Irish names used?

I've noticed that many Irish people use both their English and Irish versions of the name. For example, Moya Brennan, born Máire Ní Bhraonáin, also known as Máire Brennan. Can someone tell me what ...

*names *variants *anglicization *irish-english  
asked by PixelPower 2 votes

Is it correct to use plural, then define it in singular form?

For example: Snow leopards, another mammal with a relatively large tail, are also known to [...] edit: changed from big cat to mammal to emphasise that it's a definition, not a noun.

asked by lifesayko 2 votes
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