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Written by Wordwatch

07/11/2009 at 10:35 am

188 Responses

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  1. Ok- here is one that drives me nuts. Is it “disoriented” or “disorientated”? I say disoriented. My friends say disorientated. Which one is it?


    11/11/2009 at 8:46 pm

  2. Hi, Kristi – thanks for your excellent question. In fact both are correct – you pays your money and you takes your choice:

    ‘Disorient’ is simply another word for ‘disorientate’.

    However, I understand that in the US ‘disorient’ and ‘disoriented’ are preferred, as are ‘orient’ and ‘oriented’.

    The word is from 17th century French ‘désorienter’ meaning ‘turn from the east’.

    Nice to hear from you!

    For more on this, see Oxford Dictionaries.


    11/11/2009 at 8:57 pm

  3. Deborah,

    “A beginners’ guide to making money” is wrong English.

    It should be ‘A beginner’s guide’ or ‘Beginners’ guide’


    I have seen a wrong ad on the net and want to correct the guy. And about the BBC errors that you see on TV, it will be great if you can get a snapshot of the error and it could be submitted to popular blogs like failblog etc. On very popular sites, if you see errors just grab a screen shot from print screen option in keyboard and save it!

    • Hi, Vikas – lovely to hear from you. Hope you’re well.

      Yes – because just one beginner is being talked about (“a beginner”) the possessive apostrophe should be before the ‘s’.

      If the ad had said:
      “Beginners’ guide” the apostrophe would be correct if two or more beginners were being talked about.

      I hadn’t thought about grabbing shots from the screen – thanks for that tip.


      22/11/2009 at 12:04 pm

  4. Is “Avant Garde” correct English!? See this title (a blogging contest; you can also nominate your posts http://alchemistpoonam.wordpress.com/2009/12/03/the-avant-garde-bloggies-awards-2009-kick-off/ )

    I think it is avant-garde or avantgarde, no?

    Also A in Avant should be in lower case letters in that title, no?


    • Hi, Vikas – how nice to hear from you on this very grey and rainy day in the UK. However – you have opened a can of French worms!

      I think you are right to say that ‘avant-garde’ should be hyphenated. See Oxford Dictionaries:

      And in my Collins French-English dictionary ‘avant-garde’ has a hyphen. However, there is disagreement about this. You will frequently see it written without a hyphen, and some style guides, including the Guardian’s (UK newspaper) and the University of Kent’s, specify that there should not be a hyphen.

      With regard to the capitalisation – I would say it’s OK in the example you have cited because it is part of the title or heading; the writer has chosen to capitalise each word in the heading, which is acceptable. However – when ‘avant-garde’ is used in a capitalised heading in this way, some writers believe it would be correct to leave the ‘g’ in ‘garde’ lower case. So the heading would be:

      ‘The Avant-garde Bloggies Awards’.

      My advice would be to choose how you want to write ‘avant-garde’, complying with any style guides that are applicable to you, and be consistent – don’t mix and match between hyphenated and non-hyphenated in your writing.

      By the way – amid all the confusion – I have not seen any examples of ‘avantgarde’ being cited as the correct way to write this word.


      07/12/2009 at 1:39 pm

      • Thank you Deborah for the elaborate reply and research on the topic. You could have made it a new post on this blog!

        I had erred. It is ‘the avantgarde.’ So you are right in not spotting ‘avantarde.’

      • Fr is avant-garde, so it would make sense to use it that way in Eng. Its evolution is interesting: from lit. a vanguard of troops to (now) a collective abstraction for a group or movement on the cutting-edge.

        Michael Farrell

        29/01/2010 at 5:14 pm

        • Yes – I agree, I would go for ‘avant-garde’. It’s strange how disagreement has arisen over how it should be written in English. Thanks for the info about its evolution. Interesting.


          29/01/2010 at 5:24 pm

  5. You’re welcome – it was interesting to look into!


    07/12/2009 at 3:44 pm

  6. This is incorrect English, isn’t it?

    On IMDB, arguably the most popular movie site (sari is a popular Indian garment worn by women):

    “Aamir Khan and Kareena Kapoor weaves sari” on page http://www.imdb.com/news/ni1303601/ (they may have moved it if you can’t see it).

    It should be weave, right?

    P.S.: I can’t see the ‘comment reply subscription’ box! You may have changed the settings from dashboard>settings>discussion by mistake (allow visitors to subscribe to comments on this blog).

  7. Ignore the PS above. I am already subscribed to comments on this page and that is why the said box is missing for me.

  8. Hi, Vikas – yes, two or more people ‘weave’, one person ‘weaves’.

    I’m glad I haven’t done something weird re. subscriptions on my blog – you had me worried there for a minute!


    16/12/2009 at 3:26 pm

    • Deborah, they corrected the error and made it ‘weave’!

      I think there are still two more errors there. Please write if you also think they are errors. Go to the link http://www.imdb.com/news/ni1303601/

      1. “He not only disguised himself and traveling to different parts of the country” should be ‘and is traveling’.

      2. “On knowing how under adverse condition, they are earning their livelihood, Aamir decided to help them by promoting…” also has errors.

      • Hi, Vikas – good news on the correction! You are right – that should be ‘is travelling’ (N.B. As you probably know, ‘traveling’ with one ‘l’ is the American spelling).

        And as I think you also spotted, that should be ‘adverse conditions’.

        You are an excellent proofreader!


        19/12/2009 at 12:57 pm

        • Thanks Deborah.

          Don’t you think there is an extra comma (the first comma below) as well:

          On knowing how under adverse condition, they are earning their livelihood,

          Or is it correct?

          • Hi, Vikas – you are on fire this morning! Yes – I would say you are right – the comma is not required there. I have been looking at the sentence for a minute or two trying to work out why the comma is wrong, and I think it is because there should either be no comma at all, or two commas should be used, as in: ‘On knowing how, under adverse conditions, they are earning their livelihood…’. The latter would be a case of adding extra information into the sentence, as explained in my post:


            We are being very geeky today!


            19/12/2009 at 1:11 pm

  9. Thanks.

    Sorry for the false alarm!

  10. You can change discussion settings and comments will appear instantly. Ignore if you want comments to go in moderation queue.

  11. Thanks, Vikas – all your advice re. my blog is very welcome – I am still a novice. I think I will leave comments to be moderated for now.


    16/12/2009 at 3:36 pm

  12. Thanks Deborah for the confirmation. I cannot give a nested reply because it is only 5 levels deep according to your settings.

    I will write a post on it soon. 🙂

    It is almost 7 pm here! You enjoy your morning coffee! 🙂

    In another comment I had asked on using last and past but you missed it probably. It’s okay; tell me that later. Leaving now. Thanks again.

  13. Hi, Vikas – I have changed my settings so that up to ten replies can be nested. I did reply almost straight away to your query about ‘past and last’ – the reply is on my blog. Let me know if you still have problems seeing it.


    19/12/2009 at 1:22 pm

    • ohkk, it didn’t come to my mailbox (or maybe it did and I missed it). Will check it later. Leaving now. Bye.

      Add an archives page if possible (surfing will become easy). Just publish a new page with only this typed in the content box (type it manually; do not copy paste from here):


      More details here http://en.support.wordpress.com/archives-shortcode/

  14. PS – here is the URL re. ‘last and past’



    19/12/2009 at 1:23 pm

  15. RTI is right to information.

    It should be an RTI application/petition or a RTI?

  16. Hi, Vikas – I’ve looked into this problem myself in the past and found that there is a difference of opinion.

    The first argument says that because the sound of the letter ‘R’ begins with a vowel sound, you would write ‘an RTI’ – which certainly sounds correct and is easy on the ear. This method is probably the most popular option.

    The second argument says that you should write ‘a RTI’ because if you read the first word out in full it begins with a consononant sound and so should be used with ‘a’ – in other words, you would write ‘a right to information application’, so you would therefore write ‘a RTI’.

    My advice is to choose the style you like, comply with any style rules that apply to you, and be consistent – don’t mix and match between the two styles.

    Hope that helps. I’ve made a note to do a post on this in future – it’s an interesting one. I’ll dedicate the post to you for raising the issue!


    20/12/2009 at 9:08 am

    • Deborah,

      I have always used ‘an RTI’ unlike my friends.

      The article ‘an’ precedes a vowel ‘sound’ (many still think it is a vowel alphabet physically i.e. a,e,i,o or u).

      Thanks for the elaborate reply, as always! Please add an archive page when you have time.

  17. The first sentence in my latest blog post is this:

    Have come across two major instances where Indian newspapers have made an error in reporting the number of Twitter followers for popular Indians.

    Do you think the sentence is correct? Can a sentence begin with ‘have come across’?

  18. Hi, Vikas

    Thank you for following me on Twitter!

    Your question is a very good one because the way people write has been very much influenced by the use of email and texting etc. In other words, when using these mediums, we truncate our sentences and words. When emailing, I frequently start sentences with ‘Have’, as in for example, ‘Have been trying to get hold of you’, ‘Have had a bad day’ (or whatever).

    However, in more formal writing, including I would think for your blog, this style is not appropriate (although it would be for a blog written throughout in a very casual ’email’ style). So your sentence should read:

    I have come across two major instances where Indian newspapers have made an error in reporting the number of Twitter followers for popular Indians.

    Hope that all makes sense!


    23/12/2009 at 5:32 pm

    • Thanks I corrected it. I sometimes speak like that but had never used it in formal writing.

      P.S.: You can read the Twitter help pages. Good night!

  19. Hello Deborah,

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! 🙂

    P.S.: You made some nice changes (change in homepage and removal of latest RSS feeds from sidebar included). You can also remove the digits preceding each category! It will arrange itself alphabetically. Nobody uses digits in categories (I do that though on my Delhi zoo blog because I wanted an order http://delhizoo.wordpress.com).

    See you later.

  20. Hi, Vikas – thanks for your good wishes – I hope you are having a good time, and I wish you all the best for 2010.

    Also – thanks for your continuing advice re. my blog. I’m glad you like the changes – I am learning a little more every day. I am now going to change the categories as you advise.


    25/12/2009 at 2:08 pm

  21. …or I would have done if I hadn’t run into problems! Apparently you can’t change the name of categories if you have matching tags. And it’s not possible to globally delete tags (I just checked on the forums). So the numbers will have to stay for now. I haven’t got time at the moment to go to all my posts and delete tags individually – I’m cooking Christmas dinner! Yum.


    25/12/2009 at 2:41 pm

  22. I have never really understood about the correct usage of the word ‘bimonthly’. Can you clear this up for me?


    02/01/2010 at 6:55 pm

  23. PS I have just thought of another one that confuses me ‘principle/principal’?


    02/01/2010 at 7:00 pm

    • Hi, again – here is a brief explanation of the difference between the two:

      ‘Principal’ can mean someone who is a leader or a head of something, for example:

      ‘She is the college principal.’

      Principal also means the main, or most important, or the first in rank, for example:

      ‘My principal concern is to get home before it rains.’

      ‘Principle’ means a moral belief or a personal standard of behaviour, for example:

      ‘He has no principles and nobody trusts him.’

      ‘Principle’ also means ‘theoretically’ as in:

      ‘I have no objection in principle.’


      03/01/2010 at 1:54 pm

      • Many thanks for clearing those up for me!


        03/01/2010 at 5:55 pm

        • You’re welcome!


          03/01/2010 at 5:59 pm

  24. TOI is one of the most visited newspaper websites on earth. It writes : “Churchill Brothers Players held for molestation…”

    See link http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Churchill-Brothers-players-held-for-molestation-get-bail/articleshow/5417145.cms

    • Hi, Vikas – I think you mean that there should be a possessive apostrophe after ‘Brothers’ as the players belong to the team. That would not be incorrect, but I think that in this case the writer is forming a compound noun (a noun made up of two or more words)so no possessive apostrophe is required. (The noun being ‘Churchill Brothers players’.)

      Here are two more newspaper examples of compound nouns used in this way:

      ‘Chelsea players hold training-ground inquest over set-piece errors’ (‘Chelsea players’ being the compound noun)

      ‘Summer of chaos feared as British Airways workers vote against job plans’ (‘British Airways workers’ being the compound noun).

      Hope that helps!


      06/01/2010 at 2:42 pm

  25. If a sentence ends in etc. within bracket then which one is correct?

    ‘(etc.).’ or ‘(etc).’

    Two dots in a row don’t look good!

    • Hi, Vikas – you are right that strictly speaking,’etc.’ should have a full stop after it because it is an abbreviation of ‘et cetera’ or ‘etcetera’ (originally from Latin meaning ‘and the rest’).

      However, you will also see it written as ‘etc’, especially in informal writing.

      So – ‘(etc.).’ would be correct at the end of a sentence, even though it isn’t pleasing on the eye.

      A further interesting point to consider is if you would have two full stops at the end of a sentence if you didn’t use brackets. Personally, I think that would look too much like a typo, and I’d only use one. In more formal writing, to get round this problem, I think I would write out ‘et cetera’ in full.


      08/01/2010 at 4:32 pm

  26. Which one is correct?

    How to find the cheapest laptop and electronic/electronics prices?

    • Hi, Vikas – I think you need to write ‘electronics’ prices because (I presume) you are using the word ‘electronics’ as a noun to mean ‘electrical items’. Otherwise, ‘electronic prices’ might mean prices that are powered by electricity??!!


      08/01/2010 at 4:36 pm

  27. Which is the correct phrase to add below a blog post:

    Copyright by Tina
    Copyrighted to Tina

    • Hi, Vikas – how very interesting! This is not something I have previously considered. I have just checked several books to see how this is generally written, and the accepted format seems to be:

      Copyright © Tina 2010.


      08/01/2010 at 5:30 pm

      • Thanks for the research. I still will want to know if it is okay to write

        Copyright by Tina

        if Tina is the blogger?

        I mean should it not be ‘Copyrighted to Tina’?

        • Hi, Vikas – sorry, I should have answered that the first time. You are right – it would be ‘to’ Tina.


          09/01/2010 at 9:08 am

  28. wow! a thought-provokin’ question vikas.
    This led to a very interesting and informative discussion..Here’s more to it


    09/01/2010 at 7:30 pm

    • Thanks very much for that link, Tina – it’s a really interesting and detailed piece.

      I think that the way to think of it is as copyright being ‘granted to’ the originator of the work. Under UK law, for example, we are governed by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. So, under that law, copyright is granted to us. The piece of work is by us the copyright is granted to us.

      Thanks so much for dropping by.


      09/01/2010 at 8:02 pm

  29. Deborah, I had sent an email to Core copyright. Read the link Tina has submitted. They wrote a full article on it!

    • Hi, Vikas – that’s what I call a thorough response to your question! Yes ‘Poor man’s copyright’ is not good – ‘poor person’s’ would probably be better. However, I’m not sure how far back in history the phrase goes and it can be a tricky decision to change such a phrase if it is rooted in history and has a specific – perhaps legal – meaning.

      With regard to copyright being a verb or a noun – it can be both, and also an adjective:
      ‘Copyright’ is the name (noun) given to the person’s exclusive right to their work.
      ‘To copyright'(infinitive verb) is to secure that right.
      The phrase ‘copyright book’ uses the word ‘copyright’ as an adjective (describing word).

      I notice that the detailed reply to your query also advises a straightforward copyright notice (© Copyright 2010, Tina Rathore.)- without the need to consider whether to use ‘by’ or ‘to’.

      Who would believe that one little word could cause so much discussion!


      10/01/2010 at 8:58 am

      • Tina is going to correct all her existing copyright notices! That’s a huge task! I give one copyright/Creative commons licence notice in sidebar.

        Yes it is a verb, noun and adjective too but I didn’t argue with the specialist.

  30. A new Bollywood film (‘Three Idiots’) has a very famous scene celebrating “Teacher’s day”. Now can we write like that? Shouldn’t it be ‘Teacher’s day’?

    The banner is so prominent in the film.

  31. Typo in my comment! I mean ‘Teachers’ day’.

  32. Teachers’ day is celebrated in India on 5 September every year.

  33. Hi, Vikas – welcome back. I missed you!

    This is a very interesting query. If the scene in the film is definitely referring to the Indian ‘Teachers’ Day’, spelt and punctuated in that specific way, then I would say the banner is wrong to move the apostrophe.

    Having said that, I am also reminded of celebratory days such as ‘Mother’s Day’ and ‘Father’s Day’, which although including all mothers and fathers (i.e. more than one) still have the possessive apostrophe before the ‘s’. I am presuming this is because when we think of Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, we only think of our own mother or father. Hope that helps.


    13/01/2010 at 1:04 pm

  34. For the notice, I’d use either “© Tina” or “Copyright Tina,” since “© Copyright” is redundant. By international law, either suffices to assert the copyright. Under US style, at least, no need to add any preposition to “copyright” in such a notice.

    Michael Farrell

    13/01/2010 at 4:48 pm

    • Thanks, Michael – that’s useful info.


      13/01/2010 at 4:51 pm

  35. Here’s a flub I found today on a gossip blog (which blogs are cornucopias of flubbage): “GM is now one of the many companies that has disassociated themselves from Tiger over the last couple months.” The subject–companies–doesn’t agree with the verb–has. The blogger has been misled by “one.”

    People always struggle with this concept, but a device makes it really easy to grasp the subject and correct verb. Invert the sentence so it reads “Of the many companies that HAVE disassociated themselves from Tiger over the last couple months, GM is now one.”

    Contrast a similar sentence where “one” truly is the subject. The same device will set you free. If the sentence instead began “GM is now one company that…,” the verb would be the singular “has.” (Test that, if needed, by inverting the sentence to read “One company that has … is GM.”)

    Michael Farrell

    14/01/2010 at 4:54 am

    • I think this may cause some disagreement…

      I would have written that sentence as follows:

      ‘GM is now one of the many companies that has disassociated itself from Tiger over the past couple of months.’

      (Changing ‘themselves’ to ‘itself’ to agree with ‘has’ and ‘last’ to ‘past’ – the latter being totally unrelated to the point in question, but nevertheless correct).

      However – I stand to be corrected on this one and may be persuaded to change my mind as I can see that the following also seems to be correct:

      ‘GM is now one of the many companies that have disassociated themselves from Tiger over the past couple of months.’

      But this latter construction seems to evade the general rule that the phrase ‘one of the’ is singular, as in: “One of the nurses is missing.”

      Any enlightment/clarity is welcome…


      14/01/2010 at 6:51 pm

      • In reply, I’d like to note that I am one of the people who ARE always in the gutter, but not looking up.

        I’d like to cite, Your Honour, two preeminent US grammarians:

        Bryan Garner (Mod. Amer. Usage, p. 572): “This construction [one of the *plural* who/that] requires a plural verb in the relative clause.” Who or that is the subject; the verb takes its number from the subject.

        Patricia O’Conner (Woe Is I, pp. 60-61): “If that or who comes before the verb, it’s plural: ‘He’s one of the authors who SAY it best.’ If not, it’s singular: ‘One of the authors SAYS it best.'”

        She says that “one” in the first example is not the subject; it’s “who.” “Who” is plural because it refers to “authors.”

        *retiring to pub for well-earned draft/draught*

        Michael Farrell

        14/01/2010 at 8:09 pm

        • Thank you, counsel.

          I now call on counsel for the defence.

          But seriously – thanks for this, Michael. Although I’m still not 100% convinced …

          Any other offers??


          14/01/2010 at 8:22 pm

          • No, a wise barrister always retires once he’s made his point. I therefore will reserve any other arguments for my rebuttal. *snapping red suspenders/braces, contacting expensive foreign-car dealer*

            Michael Farrell

            14/01/2010 at 10:14 pm

  36. Choosing “fewer” or “less” sometimes causes problems, but they’re often more of form than substance. In today’s online Ipswich Evening Star, a lead reads “LESS than half of Suffolk’s 16-year-olds are leaving school with five GCSEs at the A*-C standard, new league tables published today will reveal” (eveningstar.co.uk; all-caps in orig’l).

    The headline writer wrote “FEWER than half 16-year-olds leave school” etc. (sic; all-caps in orig’l). While the headline has since been changed to drop “fewer” in favor of something that sounds crude to me (so much that I won’t mention it here), a UK reader noted the bizarre, juxtaposed use of both fewer and less to express the same basic thought.

    The old-fashioned rule was that “fewer” is correct when it modifies countable objects or plural nouns; “less” modifies uncountable things or mass nouns, like time or money. But, possibly under assault from such expressions as “15 items or less” seen in checkout lines, use of “less” is taking over “fewer” in most cases (in the US, anyway).

    In the news story, you could argue that “half” and “teenagers” are both countable objects. But, to my ear, “less” seems to fit better. Either would get the idea across. But maybe best to re-cast the sentence entirely, such as “More than half of the 16-year-olds in Suffolk’s schools do not leave with at least five GCSEs at the A*-C standard….”

    Of course, I have no idea what a GCSE or an A*-C standard is, but I infer that Suffolk’s teens need to spend less time (<<–) playing Wii.

    Michael Farrell

    14/01/2010 at 6:20 am

    • Hi, Michael – ‘fewer’ and ‘less’ can throw up a few conundrums. A while back someone asked me to write some brief guidelines for them on this, which I’ve dug up and pasted in below. I’m sure that many people would disagree with at least some of these suggestions – but I feel that they’re OK to follow:

      ‘Fewer’ refers to separate items that can be counted. For example, items of shopping in a basket.

      ‘Less’ refers to bulk or quantity – stuff that can’t be counted.

      For example:

      Less shopping, fewer items

      Less bread, fewer slices

      Less concrete, fewer paving slabs


      A segment such as a half or a quarter should be seen as a single quantity, and therefore, the following are correct (grammatically, that is, I don’t know the statistics):

      Less than a quarter of the population likes going to the opera.

      Less than a third of the cake has been eaten.

      And in the example you cite:

      Less than half of Suffolk’s 16-year-olds are …


      When talking about money, amounts such as £50 should be seen as a single quantity of money, and therefore ‘less than £50’ is correct, for example:

      The supermarket is offering customers the chance to talk to friends and family via their computers for an upfront cost of less than £20.

      Measured amounts

      A measured amount of something should be seen as a single quantity, for example:

      Less than 30 gallons of water.


      When talking about time, for example, weeks, years or minutes, it is acceptable to use ‘less’ if you feel more comfortable doing so in your writing, for example:

      I’ll be there in less than two minutes.

      It’ll take no less than five years to complete.

      Just think about your audience and the overall tone of what you are writing. ‘No fewer than five years’ can sound a bit overly posh, depending on the circumstances.

      I also posted some brief info on this topic a while back.


      14/01/2010 at 11:37 am

  37. Nice! And clear. Thanks. Do have a look at the Evening Star’s revised headline–def worth a juvenile snicker.

    Michael Farrell

    14/01/2010 at 4:27 pm

    • Hi – I’m glad that was useful.

      The newspaper headline, would not, I think, be worth so much of a snigger/snicker on this side of the pond. Doesn’t quite ‘work’ in the same way!


      14/01/2010 at 5:59 pm

  38. More’s the pity. 🙂 *lolling in gutter*

    Michael Farrell

    14/01/2010 at 6:16 pm

    • …but looking at the stars??


      14/01/2010 at 6:20 pm

  39. No, just the gutter.

    Michael Farrell

    14/01/2010 at 6:28 pm

    • Ha – very funny!


      14/01/2010 at 6:29 pm

  40. Today, three prominent US sports broadcasters on a nationally syndicated radio show were discussing great moments in sports history. They got on the iconic, last-gasp home run in 1988 by L.A. Dodger (this is baseball, now) Kirk Gibson, where he won a key championship game in the last inning, then, fist-pumping, hobbled around the bases on aged knees.

    They played tape of the announcer (Jack Buck) yelling, “I don’t believe what I just saw!!” They then got all befuddled over whether, as a myth seems to have it, that was improper grammar. One (stumbling) suggested it perhaps should have been “what I have just seen.” I say it was fine as is (in the simple past). What say you, grammar maven?

    Michael Farrell

    15/01/2010 at 4:32 am

    • Hi, Michael – yes ‘I don’t believe what I just saw’ sounds fine to me too. As you say, the simple past tense (saw) is being used to refer to something that happened in the past, in this case the very recent past, as in ‘just saw’.

      I’m sure you know that ‘seen’ is the past participle of ‘saw’. And as I am sure you also know, a past participle can be used to create a tense called the ‘past perfect’ or ‘pluperfect’. This type of past tense is used to refer to something that happened before a particular point in time. It is formed by combining the past participle with the word (verb) ‘had’ – so I don’t think the combination of ‘seen’ with ‘have’ is correct in your second example cited above?? See Oxford Dictionaries.

      An example of the past perfect or pluperfect would be: “He had left by the time I arrived.” (‘Left’ being the past participle of ‘leave’).

      That would be my take on it!


      15/01/2010 at 11:52 am

  41. Thanks!! I’m going to try to email the radio show, since it sounded as if the notion that the announcer struck out was widely held. Wait, baseball metaphors won’t work here, will they?

    Michael Farrell

    15/01/2010 at 4:08 pm

    • Not in Blighty…!


      15/01/2010 at 4:10 pm

  42. I an essay I have written (link is http://vikas-gupta.in/2009/01/01/essay-on-education-and-education-ministers-in-india/ )

    “India – a superpower” is a castle built in the air.

    Should it be ‘castle in the air’ because that is the specific idiom? Nafisa, in a comment on that post, suggests that.

    Vikas Gupta

    16/01/2010 at 1:03 am

    • Hi, Vikas – that’s interesting. I just checked it in my Oxford Dictionary of English and it’s listed as ‘castle in the air’, or, as an alternative ‘castle in Spain’. I have never heard the latter expression used. As a native English speaker I would not have thought your version of the saying strange or jarring, but I suppose if you want to be absolutely correct you may wish to change it to the dictionary version.


      16/01/2010 at 8:30 am

  43. […] day or Mother’s day is fine but not ‘Teacher’s day’! It should be ‘TEACHERS’ DAY’ in the banner on 5 September (Chatur Silencer’s Balatkaar […]

  44. Here’s something I’d like to nip in the bud: using an em-dash when a colon is required. This example, from the online Globe & Mail, seems clearly wrong: “Each one of these studies points to a common conclusion – improving blood flow appears to benefit the brain.”

    I abuse dashes in casual writing, but, in something as formal as a newspaper article on a serious topic, a colon is required. It’s required because the writer is presenting something: literally, in this example, a conclusion — not just an interruption in a thought, where a dash would work.

    Michael Farrell

    17/01/2010 at 3:07 am

    • Thanks for that, Michael – I agree. Your distinction between when a colon is required and when a dash would work is very clearly explained. I too use a lot of dashes in casual writing, and don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. But it’s good to have the confidence to know when to use a colon in more formal writing. I am planning a post on the colon. Watch this space!


      17/01/2010 at 7:29 am

      • Note also the “each one … points” sing. subj./verb agreement in the G&M sentence. 🙂

        Michael Farrell

        17/01/2010 at 5:20 pm

  45. hi. i will be glad if u help me
    is it ‘me & my friends’ or ‘my friends & i’


    22/01/2010 at 1:31 pm

    • Hi, Shahrukh

      There is an easy test to apply when deciding if you should use ‘I’ or ‘me’ in a sentence.

      Look at these two sentences:

      My father is taking me and my friends out to dinner.

      My father is taking my friends and I out to dinner.

      In this case, the first sentence is correct. The test is to shorten the sentences:

      My father is taking me out to dinner.

      My father is taking I out to dinner.

      Now you can easily see that the first version is correct. You would not say:

      My father is taking I out to dinner.

      Therefore, you would not say:

      My father is taking my friends and I out to dinner.

      The correct version is:

      My father is taking me and my friends out to dinner.

      A similar test can be applied with the following two sentences:

      My friends and I are going out for dinner.

      Me and my friends are going out for dinner.

      Just shorten the sentences:

      I am going out for dinner.

      Me is going out for dinner.

      You can immediately see that the first version is correct:

      I am going out for dinner.

      Therefore, the following is correct:

      My friends and I are going out for dinner.

      However, also remember that when speaking or writing in a casual/informal style, it’s not a hanging offence to break these rules!


      23/01/2010 at 5:36 pm

      • hey! thanks a lot.
        one more question.
        IS it ‘how is you’ or ‘how are you’?????
        as far as ma knowlegde goes.it shud be ‘ how are u ‘
        I have always heard people using weird sentences using word ‘ personification’ please suggest me a proper sentence.
        Please help !!


        23/01/2010 at 7:40 pm

        • That would be ‘How are you’.

          Glad to help.


          23/01/2010 at 7:43 pm

  46. I just found in the L.A. Times this example of a misused em-dash (as well as a misspelled “you”): “You’ve waited hours in line to get your hands on Kogi’s Korean BBQ tacos, and as you step away from the truck, the unthinkable happens – your drop your meal on the ground.”

    The unthinkable — dropping your meal on the ground — is clearly the product or result of the verb “happens,” so a colon would be far better. Is it still clear with the em-dash? Of course, but not as clear or as effective to convey what happened.

    Michael Farrell

    27/01/2010 at 5:56 pm

    • Yes – I think a colon would be far better there.

      I have a few posts planned on the colon. Here’s an extract which would seem to fit the case you cite:

      “Use a colon if you want the second part of your sentence to explain, illustrate, or elaborate on the first part of your sentence. For example:

      He is determined to overcome his greatest fear: public speaking.

      The result was inevitable: nobody survived.

      When using a colon in this way, the first part of your sentence will usually be able to stand alone. In other words, it would still make sense if you were to delete everything after the colon and replace the colon with a full stop.”

      Thanks for that, Michael. I think it’s a really clear example of how writing can be greatly improved with correct punctuation.


      27/01/2010 at 6:15 pm

  47. Ugg: “Decades after publication, the book remains a defining expression of that most American of dreams — to never grow up.” Def a colon instead.

    Michael Farrell

    28/01/2010 at 6:30 pm

    • Yes – that’s another perfect example. Thanks, Michael.


      28/01/2010 at 6:42 pm

  48. But, with some tweaking, you could say it with em-dashes (in a weaker sentence): “That most American of dreams — to never grow up — defines the book.” The diff is the em-dashes show an interruption in the flow of thought — an aside.

    Michael Farrell

    28/01/2010 at 6:46 pm

    • Agreed – I also agree that it’s a weaker sentence. Thanks for that.


      28/01/2010 at 6:59 pm

  49. I spent far too much time last night looking into use of “aloud” (mostly British: see “Girls Aloud”) vs. “out loud” (mostly American). Both are adverbs and mean the same thing: audibly. But only “aloud” is a word; “out loud” is a phrase that acts as an adverb (and it’s not so easy to find in a dictionary — you might have to look under “loud”).

    You’ll find “outloud” (incorrect) used a lot (not “alot”) in the U.S., more by the young, in casual writing, or as a political rallying cry (“Outloud” magazine).

    Michael Farrell

    31/01/2010 at 4:07 pm

    • That’s interesting – I didn’t know Americans preferred ‘out loud’ to ‘aloud’. ‘Outloud’ is horrible – although it seems OK as the name of the magazine. Yes – I could only find ‘out loud’ under ‘loud’. On my way there, I found this American word:


      There’s a word I’ve never come across before – and definitely not used here! It means least successful? Or losing most often?


      31/01/2010 at 5:21 pm

  50. Sounds like a sports term — sports reporting is not a bastion of good English. Yes, the team or player with the most losses.

    Michael Farrell

    31/01/2010 at 5:40 pm

  51. What do you think of this, Ms. Grammar Person? A used-Toyotas salesman said, “Toyotas are notorious for keeping their high resale value.”

    Michael Farrell

    09/02/2010 at 4:25 am

    • Interesting! Before I got to notorious, I tripped up over ‘used-Toyotas salesman’ and lingered there for at least one cup of tea (official UK measurement of time). Why does that sound wrong when it isn’t? I think it’s because it would be more common to say/write ‘used-car salesman’ – and so by logical extension, ‘used-Toyota salesman’. But anyway, I’ll return from that cul-de-sac to look at ‘notorious’. As a description from a salesman, not an appropriate choice of word – ”known’ or ‘renowned’ is really what he would want to say to a potential purchaser, I think. But in casual conversation, if you were thinking of buying a used Toyota but couldn’t afford one, you might use the word ‘notorious’.

      Now I expect you’re going to tell me that you weren’t referring to either of these two points! What did I miss?

      Btw – ‘Ms Person’ is fine – I don’t stand on ceremony.


      09/02/2010 at 8:28 am

  52. hahaha. No, you got my main point: notorious. “Known” or “noted” would have been fine; as a used-car salesman, I wouldn’t expect him to use “renowned.” Oddly, the noun form (notoriety) can properly be positive.

    If you know me, you know I struggled over “used-Toyotas” before using it. “Used-car” is fine, but this guy just sells one brand. “Used-Toyota” is also okay, except it sounds like he only has one car to sell. Since I knew I had to use “Toyotas” in the quoted portion, I kept it in the adjective, too. *sigh* I need help, huh?

    Michael Farrell

    09/02/2010 at 4:26 pm

    • …and probably beer.


      09/02/2010 at 4:31 pm

      • What do you think I had much of before the original post? Beer only addresses the symptoms; it’s by no means a cure.

        One final comment: I originally toyed with “a seller of used Toyotas,” which sounds correct but wordy. So I figured that made him a used-Toyotas salesman.

        Michael Farrell

        09/02/2010 at 4:53 pm

      • Yes, I too am sad enough to have been playing around with that construction – but it sounds even worse. I think ‘used-Toyota salesman’ is best. Who cares if it suggests he’s only got one to sell – it sounds better, dammit.


        09/02/2010 at 5:02 pm

  53. Agreed. In fact, this is more than a little academic, since no such seller would ever dream of saying “used” now. It’s always some cheap euphemism like “pre-owned.”

    Michael Farrell

    09/02/2010 at 5:16 pm

    • There was a bit of a fad here a while back to use the term ‘pre-enjoyed’.


      09/02/2010 at 5:36 pm

      • Oh, YUCK. If you enjoyed it so much, why did you trade it in? Or: I can see you enjoyed it a lot: the back seat is a tattered mess and the engine leaks oil by the pint.

        Michael Farrell

        09/02/2010 at 5:46 pm

  54. I could use some help diagramming this sentence from The Guardian. Thanks in advance.

    “As I discovered when I wrote my MA dissertation about Love Actually (it was also about hyperlink dramas in general) you can’t have that many characters and stories in a genre film without throwing out plot consistency or a sense of actors playing more than grace notes versions of themselves or characters they’ve played in earlier films because genre films require a predictable plot structure featuring goal orientated protagonists (film school!) and a minimum of at least four scenes in order work that through — and four scenes is hardly enough time to do anything.”

    Michael Farrell

    15/02/2010 at 6:42 am

    • “If a film has too many stories and characters the plot is inconsistent and the acting is rubbish.”

      You’re welcome.


      15/02/2010 at 9:36 am

  55. hahaha. I said “diagramming,” not simplifying. Just be happy you didn’t have to read or grade his MA thesis: 60 pages of that. Talk about a writer (1) not caring about his reader; (2) not sure what he means to say; and (3) using pompous language and jargon to impress, not because they’re needed.

    Michael Farrell

    15/02/2010 at 3:53 pm

    • Ah, yes – thought I’d got away with avoiding the diagramming thing. What does that mean, by the way? (Just for the benefit of other readers who may happen to land here.)


      15/02/2010 at 4:23 pm

  56. In my simplified understanding of diagramming — I am not that good at it — you break down the components of a sentence (subject, verb, object, adjective, etc.) and portray them in a fishbone fashion. It helps you see the syntax or structure of the sentence.

    Michael Farrell

    15/02/2010 at 4:40 pm

    • I knew that.


      15/02/2010 at 5:04 pm

      • Especially the bit about the fishbones.


        15/02/2010 at 5:04 pm

        • So-called because diagramming sticks in one’s craw.

          Michael Farrell

          15/02/2010 at 5:08 pm

        • … and I think ‘fish bones’ is two words when referring to the bones of a fish – but one word when referring to a ‘fishbone diagram’:


          16/02/2010 at 9:12 am

  57. I’ve always wondered what the title of the movie ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ really meant. Could you please shed some light.
    Thank you.


    15/02/2010 at 9:18 pm

    • Hi, Vidhya – that’s a very interesting question!

      The title of this 1999 film by Stanley Kubrick is at its most basic level a play on the familiar phrases ‘with eyes wide open’ and ‘with eyes shut’.

      ‘With eyes wide open’ means to go into a given situation in full knowledge of all the possibilities and implications. For example:

      “I took the decision to buy the house with my eyes wide open.”

      Similarly, the phrase ‘with eyes shut (or closed)’ means to do something without fully thinking it through or having full knowledge. For example:

      “She married him with her eyes closed.”

      Interestingly, ‘with eyes shut’ is also used to mean being able to do something without effort. For example:

      “I can do that job with my eyes closed.”

      So, ultimately, you can read what you like into the title of the film (and many people have!).

      One obvious explanation would be that the characters in the film are deeply lacking in knowledge and self-knowledge – the exact opposite of having their ‘eyes wide open’. The phrase ‘eyes wide shut’ sums this up as a clever play on words.

      Another interpretation would be that the film has scenes which could possibly be the characters’ dreams or fantasies rather than reality – so the characters are aware of what is happening (they can see), but what they see isn’t real and so they are not truly seeing at all. Also, of course, if they are dreaming their eyes would be shut (but open in their dreams).

      As a play on the phrase ‘with eyes shut’ to mean being able to do something easily and without effort – perhaps this is a comment on the couple’s affluent and self-indulgent lifestyle?

      The interpretations are endless!


      16/02/2010 at 9:00 am

  58. I found this sentence in the Globe. I am unsure whether it should be who or whom. Thanks in advance.

    “The man, who the RCMP won’t name, was arrested, let go and later caught another flight.”

    Michael Farrell

    19/02/2010 at 5:53 am

  59. Hello, Michael – ‘who’ and ‘whom’ are strange beasts and many esteemed grammarians now assert that ‘whom’ has become lost in the mists of time and is now redundant. Of course, it is still much loved and venerated by agèd professors and petty grammar tyrants.

    Damn – I was about to tell you if ‘who’ or ‘whom’ would be correct in the sentence you quote, but I appear to have run out of spa


    19/02/2010 at 2:01 pm

  60. It’s too bad you ran out of space, because lives hung in the balance. But carry on with whatever else you were doing; please don’t feel guilty on their account.

    Michael Farrell

    19/02/2010 at 3:16 pm

  61. Hello again, Michael – I’ve just rented this bit of extra space to say that strictly speaking, ‘whom’ is correct in the sentence you quote. I’m kinda suspecting that you already knew that. (For ‘kinda suspecting’ read ‘sure’).

    For the benefit of anyone else who’s interested in all this who/whom malarkey, look at the phrase ‘who the RCMP won’t name’. A trick that works quite well (but is not infallible) is to ask a question when faced with a choice between ‘who’ and ‘whom’. In this case: Who won’t the RCMP name? The answer is ‘him’ as in ‘they won’t name him’.

    ‘Him’ (along with ‘me’, ‘her’, and ‘us’) is always associated with ‘whom’. So Michael’s sentence should read:

    “The man, whom the RCMP won’t name, was arrested, let go and later caught another flight.”

    That’s a very quick summary of one way of dealing with the ‘who/whom’ problem. Some grammarians no longer bother with ‘whom’ and in informal writing and speaking there’s no need to get bogged down in the distinction.

    Look out for a more detailed post on ‘who’ and ‘whom’ – coming to this blog soon.


    19/02/2010 at 8:18 pm

    • Hi, Vikas – it’s always lovely to hear from you. My immediate reaction was that it should be two words and this is confirmed in the Oxford Dictionary of English and by Oxford Dictionaries.

      I have done some quick research and cannot find ‘paydirt’ listed as an acceptable alternative as yet. However, I have found ‘paydirt’ used as one word in at least two UK newspapers (Guardian and Times). I suspect that strictly speaking this would be wrong. I’m going to do a bit more research later on today and will let you know what I find. At the moment, I’d say ‘pay dirt’ is correct. Watch this space!


      21/02/2010 at 8:32 am

      • In the Cambridge dictionary that I have on my desktop it is two words.

        Seems like newspapers are birds of same feather!

        I am always subscribed to this page, needless to say.

        • Hi, Vikas – I cannot find any authority that says ‘pay dirt’ can be one word. I think there must be a lot of lazy journalists out there, and even lazier sub-editors. ‘Pay dirt’ it is – two words.


          21/02/2010 at 5:26 pm

  62. I am confused with is/are!

    Which is correct: is/are?!

    All reviews, as well as the Top 10 ranking itself, is/are based on true experiences.

    I say are.

    • Hi, Vikas – You are right. You can take out the ‘extra information’ between the commas so the sentence reads:

      All reviews are based on true experiences.

      I think the confusion has arisen because of the way the sentence has been constructed. I think it should read something like:

      All reviews, including those in the top ten ranking, are based on true experiences.

      Would that make sense to you? (I’m looking at the sentence in isolation, so it’s more difficult for me to tell.)


      22/02/2010 at 4:57 pm

      • Hmm, you are right. The sentence needs to be rewritten.

        • One suggestion I have seen is just to make it a plural subject, removing the issue: The reviews and the top-ten rankings are based on true experiences. (I also might substitute “real life,” “reality,” or “actual events” for “true experiences.”)

          Michael Farrell

          22/02/2010 at 5:09 pm

          • I keep reading that — is it quite accurate? Wouldn’t that mean that the ‘ranking’ is based on true experiences, rather than the reviews that feature in the top ten ranking?


            22/02/2010 at 5:15 pm

            • I’m not sure the suggestion works in all cases, but it can remove the problem. The “aside” is often not an actual aside, but only a disguised plural subject. The “as well as” construction is like people writing “both Jane and Bob arrived,” as if the “both” added something.

              I think Vikas’s original sentence was stating that the reviews also were based on true experiences, so we haven’t done violence to the facts.

              Michael Farrell

              22/02/2010 at 5:34 pm

              • …it still doesn’t sound quite right to me. It’s not the ‘rankings/ranking’ that are/is based on true experiences, is it? It’s the reviews that appear within the top ten?


                22/02/2010 at 5:49 pm

                • Both the rankings and reviews are based on true experiences. A user has to submit a ranking (stars e.g. 4/5) as well as a review.

                  Good night, I am tired and it is 11.20 PM here.

                • *head spinning, getting dizzy* I meant to say “rankings,” not “reviews.”

                  Michael Farrell

                  22/02/2010 at 5:53 pm

                  • I think Vikas is taking the best course of action.


                    22/02/2010 at 5:56 pm

                    • You mean lying down for a spell?

                      Michael Farrell

                      22/02/2010 at 6:18 pm

  63. I am not happy with AP’s use of “none has” here:

    “Although other tribes around the nation have oil interests, industry officials said none has likely experienced a recent windfall of this scale.”

    A plural verb would fit better, since “none” refers to “other tribes.” What say you, Ms. Grammar-maven-person?

    Michael Farrell

    24/02/2010 at 7:53 pm

    • Interesting — she said, playing for time.

      I don’t think you could say that either one or the other is definitely correct, could you? To my ear, I prefer ‘none has’ here. Why? Because I would tend to read it as: ‘…not one (of the tribes) has …’, rather than ‘…not any (of the tribes) have…’.

      More problematic to my English ear is the phrase: ‘…none has likely experienced…’. In the UK, this would probably be written as: ‘…industry officials said none is likely to have experienced …’


      24/02/2010 at 8:41 pm

      • Yes, it comes down to the writer’s intent: not one or not any?

        You Brits — always adding more words or letters….

        Michael Farrell

        24/02/2010 at 11:17 pm

  64. How would you fix the punctuation in the parens? (Ignore the implied sexism/ageism and the “him.”)

    “Gary Busey’s 40-year-old girlfriend Steffanie Sampson (25-years younger than him) gave birth to a son yesterday.”

    It could be “25 years younger” or “younger by 25 years.”

    Michael Farrell

    25/02/2010 at 5:59 am

    • I think I’d re-write it:

      Steffanie Sampson, the 40-year-old girlfriend of Gary Busey, 65, gave birth to a son yesterday.


      25/02/2010 at 7:04 am

      • Ouuuu. Elegant.

        Michael Farrell

        25/02/2010 at 7:10 am

  65. Something bothers me about this headline: “Lindsey Vonn skies out of slalom, Olympics.”

    Michael Farrell

    26/02/2010 at 8:33 pm

    • …but isn’t ‘skis’ a funny word (although correct)? Where was the headline?


      27/02/2010 at 7:45 am

  66. Yahoo News, which I think is from AP. I read many comments on the story, expecting any sec to find someone who flagged it. No one did, at least as far as I read.

    It’s almost understandable, in that the past is “skied.”

    Michael Farrell

    27/02/2010 at 7:49 am

    • ‘Skiing’ is also unappealing – as a word (and, to me, as an activity).


      27/02/2010 at 7:56 am

      • Not if you’re girded in an anorak.

        Michael Farrell

        27/02/2010 at 8:27 am

  67. Is a “mini-series event” any more eventful than a mini-series? Is a “workplace facility” any more facile than a workplace?

    Michael Farrell

    15/03/2010 at 8:25 pm

    • I’m guessing you would say no and no. But…

      A mini-series is just that.
      A mini-series event could be just a mini-series with the added word ‘event’ being redundant.
      However, a mini-series event could also be interpreted as a mini-series that is head and shoulders above other mini-series. Perhaps it could be especially spectacular or groundbreaking in some way?

      Similarly, a workplace facility could be a tautology. On the other hand, it could be a facility within a workplace.


      15/03/2010 at 8:35 pm

  68. That’s how an HBO radio ad just used “mini-series event”: to describe HBO’s 10-part WW II blockbuster “The Pacific.” That must mean that HBO’s other mini-series are less eventful or groundbreaking? To me, it’s typical Hollywood aggrandizing.

    P.S. A 10-part series is no longer “mini.”

    Michael Farrell

    15/03/2010 at 9:09 pm

    • Yes — definitely aggrandizing, but aggrandizing is in Hollywood’s job description. A 10-part series is mini compared to/with/in contrast with/to Murder She Wrote.


      16/03/2010 at 7:15 am

  69. The CEO of the news organization Tribune Co. just dictated 119 worn-out news phrases and clichés that its flagship radio station, WGN, must never use. Some of them are well taken, such as “shower activity.” Here’s the full list (note “mute point”):


    Michael Farrell

    16/03/2010 at 2:55 pm

    • Thanks for that link, Michael. I’m not sure why ‘welcome back’ should be banned? Some of the others are very funny.


      16/03/2010 at 4:22 pm

  70. “Welcome back” is overused when the newscast returns from a commercial break. While the Tribune CEO is a major pedant and unlikely to change how people normally speak, it’s always useful to think about how we carelessly use empty clichés and pointless redundancies.

    Michael Farrell

    16/03/2010 at 4:31 pm

    • As opposed, of course, to meaningful clichés and helpful redundancies.

      Michael Farrell

      16/03/2010 at 7:22 pm

  71. Hi, Deborah. First, I am sorry that I have to ask you the question that out of topic from your blog theme. I have a problem like you had in blog setting. Front page displays option not showing in settings.
    I read in your conversation with thesacredpath, and you have resolve your problem. Would you like to tell me what I have to do?
    Thank you.

    Sunu Widjanarko

    Bukit Karst

    01/04/2010 at 4:29 pm

    • Hi – no problem. It was a glitch that WP staff had to fix. Just contact staff and they’ll sort it out for you.


      01/04/2010 at 8:08 pm

  72. “Please revert back to us if you have any other questions.” [from the email of my book suppliers flipkart.com ]

    Just revert is enough, right?

    • Hi, Vikas — yes, you’re right. Having said that, I’ve never quite understood the use of ‘revert’ in sentences such as the one you have cited. Here’s Oxford Dictionaries’ definition.

      So much better to write something like: Please contact us if you have any questions.


      10/04/2010 at 10:58 am

      • Thanks for the explanation. I am writing a mail to them and will surely link this reply. Hope they will agree to it and make the corrections.

        PS: I bought another copy of Middlemarch (Wordsworth Classic edition); it’s so beautiful and cost just 2 dollars! Wordsworth publications’ http://wordsworth-editions.com/ catalogue will delight any literature or book lover!

        • PS – and if you remember, you were my WordPress consultant when I first started blogging. I will always be grateful for all the help you gave me when I was starting out.


          10/04/2010 at 11:26 am

          • Hmm, yes I do recall that. Thanks. 🙂

            I have even mulled over writing a book on blogging for Indians (including a how-to portion)!

            Ignore typos in my comments above (I discovered a few on second reading).

        • You certainly get some book bargains, Vikas. All this talk of Middlemarch makes me want to read it again. As mentioned before, I’ve read it several times, but never tire of it. I’ve also recently watched a BBC adaptation of it, which was excellent. I’m so looking forward to hearing what you think of the book when you read it later this year.


          10/04/2010 at 11:32 am

        • Correction: It’s 2.5 dollars after a 20 per cent off in India.

          • …still a bargain!


            10/04/2010 at 11:11 am

            • I have bought some 200 books at amazing prices (all excellent quality). Also, books here (developing nation) are sometimes cheaper than the first world.

              I think somebody can hire me as a consultant to suggest them how to find new books at amazing prices online!

              If you want to gift books in the US to some relatives or friends just visit tor books or dover publications (the latter has beautiful editions, glossy cover pages, all classics) and you can gift books that will cost you 2 or 3 dollars!

              PS: Time for consuming oats! It’s almost 5 pm here.

              • Just after midday here. I think you’d make a great consultant! Enjoy your meal!


                10/04/2010 at 11:21 am

  73. They read our discussion (I had sent the link) and corrected it. They said, “I apologize for incorrect usage of the sentence in my previous email.”

    Now the line is : “Please contact us if you have any questions.” 🙂

    • Hi, Vikas — that’s what I call a result! I’m so glad your efforts paid off – thanks for letting me know.


      10/04/2010 at 12:00 pm

  74. “Spendthrift” is an odd word. My COED does not have an etymology. It’s an odd one because a spendthrift is being lavish with spending, not thrifty.

    Michael Farrell

    10/04/2010 at 7:27 pm

    • Yes, I’ve often thought this a strange word. There is no etymology in the ODE either, but ‘thrift’ comes from Old Norse apparently, meaning to ‘grasp’ or ‘get hold of’. ‘Thriftless’ means, as logic would suggest, a person who spends money in an extravagant and wasteful way — ‘spendthrift’ must have gradually come to mean the same. Perhaps because it’s easier to say whilst retaining one’s false teeth?


      10/04/2010 at 7:41 pm

      • Here’s a reader comment from http://www.phrases.org.uk:

        The OED, under spendthrift, says “Cf. the earlier dingthrift.” Under dingthrift, the first meaning, from the 1500s, is “spendthrift,” but the second meaning for dingthrift is an obsolete game from the 1300s. I’m guessing that the game dingthrift gave rise to a name for someone who wastes money. Then at some point the word was corrupted or mispronounced so often that it became “spendthrift.”

        Michael Farrell

        10/04/2010 at 8:46 pm

        • That’s interesting — you are probably right. I wonder if dingthrift was a type of card game?


          11/04/2010 at 6:41 am

Comments are closed.