What is the origin of "making it sing," as in to cause something to be at its best, be it an instrument, weapon, machine, or anything else? [more inside]
What are some examples of really easy/obvious etymological descents that most people aren't really aware of? I'm trying to prove to somebody that there are a lot of these in the english language but I've forgotten most of the interesting ones I used to know. [more inside]
Is there a term for a seer/diviner/oracle that is only able to see into the past? I'm willing to grab one from a non-English language if there is a word that means specifically "a seer who can only see the past", but English is prefered. Antiquated terms are OK. Bonus points for interesting etymological details (or links to interesting etymological details). [more inside]
I am looking for a text file of a list of words (roughly the 5000-10000 most common English words) and their root word and root word language. My Google Fu only turns up single words or pages that I can type in a word to get to another page to get the etymology. Wikipedia has some stuff, but it is sorted by language root, which is not what I am looking for. I would like to have a long list of words in a text file so that I can manipulate it programatically. Comma separated or whatever, any format would be great. Here is one use case: Yoke - [list of words that have yoke in the etymological history] (Many, many many English words come from the root work for Yoke.) All answers appreciated!
Business idioms that are actually useful? [more inside]
What are some English words that contain a prefix, but the root is either not a word or is substantially unrelated to the prefixed word? [more inside]
E.B. White and George Orwell both suggest that short, lively Saxon words are often better than long Latin ones. This rule has helped my own writing, but my thesaurus is still full of Greek and Latin. Is there a thesaurus that includes only Anglo-Saxon synonyms? Even better, is there one sortable by origin?
What words become different words when you double a letter? [more inside]
What does the word "abstract" mean? [more inside]
Is there a graphical representation of the number of english words, broken down by popular use? If not, is the raw data available online somewhere?
Two questions about vocabulary in the American South and elsewhere: did your parents call you sugar and did they, when you were in trouble, use both your first and middle names to summon you for the reckoning? [more inside]
There are certain obscure English words that are rarely used alone, but show up in more commonly used word pairs - the best example I can think of is "miasmic fug". I am trying to write about this phenomenon, so if anyone can suggest other word pairs like this I would be very grateful!
Help me find English words that have meanings hidden in plain sight. For example, it only recently occurred to me that a "quart" is a quarter of a gallon. [more inside]
What is the word for the thing that happens when two people are walking toward each other from opposite sides of the lane and one goes left to let the other pass, but the second goes left too and then they both go right together and left again?
Is there a word for a person who has been subpoenaed? If two people are subpoenaed, they are called co-...? They're not co-defendants. Is there an equivalent?
Grammarians: Is it OK to take liberties with the word "win" when publicizing a contest or draw? [more inside]
Why do we say "female child" or "male child," but reverse the word order for "adult female" and "adult male?"
Is the English language stagnating or do dictionaries just suck? [more inside]
Tariff: Are there any other words in English that include two Fs next to each other?
Who's "stupider"? [more inside]
What are the funniest-sounding English words to speakers of other languages? If you grew up speaking another language (for some weird reason) what English words still make you giggle?
What is the shortest sentence that would highlight differences in dialects and accents in the English language? [more inside]
About unisex terms: What is the reasoning behind them? By this I mean, for example, flight attendant instead of steward or stewardess, server instead of waiter or waitress, etc. I suppose during the height of the feminist movement in the 70s it was probably claimed that it was sexist to use terms that specify gender. But I am scratching my head wondering what the logic would be behind this. After all, if you use a term to specify females (eg stewardess) then you are also specifying males (eg steward), so I fail to see how this would be sexist. Also, it strikes me as a very handy conversion to be able to specify gender in the same word as the title. Nowadays, we have two words.. so you might hear your neighbor say, "I went to see a female doctor yesterday" (indeed, I think this is a common one), so we are still specifying the sex, so why not use doctress? I'm just curious about why this trend towards unisex words is happening and the logic behind it because frankly, I fail to see any. Thanks for any thoughtful replies!
What does one call something that contains the seeds of its own downfall? [more inside]
Is there a term for when people go by a single name like Madonna or Cher? [more inside]
What are the 500 most commonly used words in the English language ? Where can I get such a list ? [more inside]
What words do people use that consistently make you cringe and wonder if they understand what they are saying? [more inside]
I'm pretty verbose, but I don't think my vocabulary has grown much in years. And I'd like to build it up. [more inside]
What does "normative" mean? Is it a useful word? I only ever see it used in obscure, academic writing, which makes me suspect it's worthless. How is it different from "normal"? My dictionary says it means, "Of, relating to, or prescribing a norm or standard: normative grammar." That sounds like "normal" to me, so why not just say "normal"? Can someone give me some clear sentences that use the word -- sentences that are not written in post-modern, complit speak? Can one use "normative" meaningfully in a sentence about real-world things, like butter, eggs or bricks?
What's the difference between the words "proffer" and "offer"? This has been driving me mad for some reason for a few days now. Every dictionary I consult basically seems to say that they mean the same thing. But surely there must be a difference, right?
Why do people misspell 'lose' as 'loose'? I was looking at this old entry at waxy. All the info on the web seems to be of the 'haha, look how stupid people are' variety but I haven't found anything that tries to explain these mistakes away. Is it phonetics, usage, words that are an exception to a rule?