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Can “since” mean “because”?

Q: In your “disrupter”/“disruptor” post, you use the word “since” in the sense of “because.” To me, “because” indicates cause and effect, while “since” indicates time. Am I being hypercritical? A: Yes, you’re being hypercritical. The word “since” has been used as a conjunction in the sense of “because” for hundreds of years. Show More Summary

We have some ideas to share

Q: How about the use of the word “share” to mean communicate, as in “I want to share my concerns with you”? A: People have been sharing opinions and feelings since Shakespeare’s time, but the more personal sense of sharing that’s common today dates from the 1930s. Here’s the story. When the verb “share” showed... ? Read More: We have some ideas to share

Why “disastrous” isn’t a disaster

Q: When did the “e” disappear from “disastrous”? In other words, why don’t we spell it “disasterous”? A: English borrowed both the noun and the adjective from French, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. The source of the noun...Show More Summary

US Army apostrophe abuse. Don’t worry though; I fixed it.

The LONG wait through army medical processing isn’t made any easier with rampant abuse like this all over the place. (Thanks, Timm!)

One of the Safest City’s

Seen on a police display case (Thanks, Gary Ansok!)

Not every “uu” is a “double-u”

Q: I’ve read your article about why a “w” is called a “double-u.” What puzzles me is why we still have words with “uu”—i.e., “vacuum,” “continuum,” and “triduum.” And why the “w” in “weltanschauung” is pronounced like a “v.” Just curious. A: As we said in that 2011 post, English words were written in runic... ? Read More: Not every “uu” is a “double-u”

Happy hour

Q: I noticed a sign yesterday outside a bar that listed “Happy Hour” as being from 4 to 7. Besides wondering about the oddity of describing a three-hour-period as an hour, I became curious about the history of “happy hour” as an expression. Any ideas? A: The phrase “happy hour” showed up in the early... ? Read More: Happy hour

UW: Should I stay or should I go?

There’s a lot of talk now about UW faculty being poached or just looking to flee the state. The following is a real letter from a senior faculty member at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. I have been saying that the first real question for faculty now is whether to run or to fight. Show More Summary

A bad yegg

Q: Would you be able to help? I’m trying to find the origin of the word “yegg.” It seems to be an Americanism, but so far all I’ve been able to learn is that its origin is unknown. A: Yes, standard dictionaries generally say the origin of “yegg” (or “yeggman”) is uncertain or unknown, but... ? Read More: A bad yegg

Armed With An Apostrophe

Outside the DeWitt County, Illinois Courthouse and Jail in Clinton, IL. (Thanks, Max!)

Doubletree Hotel art

Stayed at the Doubletree Hotel at Lex and 51st recently and was surprised the artwork hadn’t been better vetted… (Thanks, Amy!)

Ah, Tradition

An historical plaque on the grounds of the University of Tampa. Cast in quite permanent bronze! Forever! (Thanks, John Panning!)

When “stay” means stop

Q: Why does “stay an execution” mean stop it, rather than “stay with it” or “stay the course” or “stay put”? A: Phrases like “stay an execution” or “stay one’s hand” make sense once you know that the original meaning of “stay” was to halt or stop. “Stay” can be traced by way of Old... ? Read More: When “stay” means stop

Open attack on academic freedom and free speech

Look at this clip of an interview with Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. The host, Mike Gousha, asks specifically about tenure, "why do changes need to be made?" Starting around 2:00, Fitzgerald responds with this:The idea that...Show More Summary

Participial physics

Q: Driving myself nuts over this sentence :”Not having heard of it, I was confused.” What is “having”? We have a present participle followed by a past participle! Please help this struggling English grammar teacher. A: In that sentence, “having” is an auxiliary verb (sometimes called a “helping verb”). Show More Summary

How French is your onion soup?

Q: Can you shed some light on the origin of the term “French onion soup”? A colleague of mine claims that the word “French” refers not to the origin of the soup but rather to the manner in which the onions are chopped (“frenched”). A: Well, the onions in French onion soup are often frenched—that... ? Read More: How French is your onion soup?

Zapf and linguistics

Hermann Zapf has passed away. The NYT obit has a good sketch of his life and work, including designing Palatino and Optima fonts. In linguistics, he has a special place because his Dingbats font provided a face, so to speak, for Optimality Theory (along with Wingdings). Show More Summary

Plovers lane

Q: I was at a loss to explain the pronunciation of “plover” to the son of a friend. Some sources say it rhymes with “lover” and others with “rover.” A poll of birders indicates that PLUH-ver is favoured over PLOH-ver by a small majority. I bet there’s a worthwhile post lurking here. A: You betcha!... ? Read More: Plovers lane

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