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English Usage FAQ



Frequently Asked Questions about English language usage

This FAQ about English was compiled and written by Mark Israel misrael@scripps.edu w with numerous contributions by others.

-01 Welcome to alt.usage.english!
alt.usage.english is a newsgroup where we discuss the ...
-02 Guidelines for posting (alt.usage.english)
-03 Related newsgroups (alt.usage.english)
-04 Dictionaries (Recommended books - alt.usage.english)
-05 Online dictionaries (Recommended books - alt.usage.english)
-06 General reference (Recommended books - alt.usage.english)
-07 Books on linguistics (Recommended books - alt.usage.english)
-08 Grammars (Recommended books - alt.usage.english)
-09 Books on usage (Recommended books - alt.usage.english)
-10 Online usage guides (Recommended books - alt.usage.english)
-11 Online language columns (Recommended books - alt.usage.english)
-12 Books that discriminate synonyms (Recommended books - alt.usage.english)
-13 Style manuals (Recommended books - alt.usage.english)
-14 Book on mathematical exposition (Recommended books - alt.usage.english)
-15 Books on phrasal verbs (Recommended books - alt.usage.english)
-16 Books on Britishisms, Canadianisms, etc. (Recommended books - alt.usage.english)
-17 Books on phrase origins (Recommended books - alt.usage.english)
-18 Books on "bias-free"/"politically correct" language (Recommended books - alt.usage.english)
-19 Books on group names (Recommended books - alt.usage.english)
-20 Books on rhyming slang (Recommended books - alt.usage.english)
-21 Basic English (Artificial dialects - alt.usage.english)
-22 E-prime (Artificial dialects - alt.usage.english)
-23 How to represent pronunciation in ASCII
-24 How do Americans pronounce "dog"? (Pronunciation - alt.usage.english)
-25 Words pronounced differently according to context (Pronunciation - alt.usage.english)
-26 Words whose spelling has influenced their pronunciation (Pronunciation - alt.usage.english)
-27 "acronym" (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
-28 "all ... not" (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
-29 "alot" (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
-30 "alright" (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
-31 "between you and I" (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
-32 "company is" vs "company are" (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
-33 "could care less" (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
-34 "could of" (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
-35 "different to", "different than" (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
-36 "done"="finished" (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
-37 double "is" (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
-38 "due to" (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
-39 "functionality" (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
-40 Gender-neutral pronouns (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
-41 "God rest you merry, gentlemen" (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
-42 "hopefully", "thankfully" (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
-43 "if I was" vs "if I were" (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
-44 "impact"="to affect" (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
-45 "It needs cleaned" (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
-46 "It's me" vs "It is I" (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
(freely adapted from an article by Roger Lustig)...
-47 "less" vs "fewer" (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
-48 "like" vs "as" (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
-49 "like" vs "such as" (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
-50 "more/most/very unique" (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
-51 "mouses" vs "mice" (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
-52 "near miss" (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
-53 "none is" vs "none are" (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
-54 Plurals of Latin/Greek words (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
-55 Foreign plurals => English singulars (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
-56 "Bona fides", "kudos", and "minutia" are singulars in Latin or Greek. (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
Graffiti (plural in Italian) is disputed in English. ...
-57 Preposition at end (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
-58 "quality" (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
-59 Repeated words after abbreviations (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
-60 "Scotch" (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
-61 "shall" vs "will", "should" vs "would" (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
-62 split infinitive (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
-63 "that" vs "which" (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
-64 "that kind of a thing" (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
-65 the the "hoi polloi" debate (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
-66 "true fact" (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
-67 "try and", "be sure and", "go" + verb (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
-68 "whom" (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
-69 "you saying" vs "your saying" (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)
-70 "." after abbreviations (Punctuation - alt.usage.english)
-71 spaces between sentences (Punctuation - alt.usage.english)
-72 ", vs ," (Punctuation - alt.usage.english)
-73 "A, B and C" vs "A, B, and C" (Punctuation - alt.usage.english)
-74 Foreigners' FAQs (alt.usage.english)
Non-native speakers are often unnecessarily cautious in their ...
-75 "a"/"an" before abbreviations (Foreigners' FAQs - alt.usage.english)
-76 "A number of..." (Foreigners' FAQs - alt.usage.english)
-77 When to use "the" (Foreigners' FAQs - alt.usage.english)
-78 Subjunctive (Foreigners' FAQs - alt.usage.english)
-79 "A.D." (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-80 "alumin(i)um" (notes by Keith Ivey) (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-81 "bloody" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-82 "bug"="defect" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-83 "Caesarean section" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-84 "canola" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-85 "catch-22" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-86 "cop" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-87 "copacetic" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-88 "crap" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-89 "ebonics" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-90 "eighty-six"="nix" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-91 "Eskimo" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-92 "flammable" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-93 "freeway" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-94 "fuck" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-95 "golf" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-96 "hooker" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-97 "ISO" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
by Mark
-98 "jerry-built"/"jury-rigged" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-99 "kangaroo" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-100 "limerence"/"limerent" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-101 "loo" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-102 "love"="zero" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-103 "merkin" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
(notes by Michael B. Quinion and Ruth Bygrave)...
-104 "nimrod" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-105 "O.K." (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-106 "outrage" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-107 "paparazzo" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-108 "pie-shaped" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-109 "portmanteau word" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-110 "posh" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-111 "quiz" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-112 "Santa Ana" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-113 "scot-free" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-114 "sincere" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-115 "sirloin"/"baron of beef" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-116 "SOS" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-117 "spoonerism" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-118 "suck"="be very unsatisfying" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
by John
-119 "till"/"until" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-120 "tip" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-121 "titsling"/"brassiere" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-122 troll (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-123 typo (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-124 Wicca (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-125 "widget" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
(notes by William C. Waterhouse)...
-126 "wog" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-127 "wonk" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
(notes by Fred Shapiro)...
-128 "wop" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-129 "ye"="the" (Word origins - alt.usage.english)
-130 "the bee's knees" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-131 "beg the question" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-132 "billions and billions" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-133 "blue moon" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
(notes by Philip Hiscock)...
-134 "Bob's your uncle" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-135 "Break a leg!" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-136 "to call a spade a spade" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-137 "cut the mustard" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-138 "cut to the chase" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-139 "The die is cast." (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-140 "dressed to the nines" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-141 "Elementary, my dear Watson!" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-142 "Enquiring minds want to know." (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
(notes by James Kiso)...
-143 "The exception proves the rule." (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-144 "face the music" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-145 "fall off a turnip truck" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-146 "full monty" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-147 "Get the lead out" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-148 "Go figure" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-149 "Go placidly amid the noise and the haste" (Desiderata) (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-150 "go to hell in a handbasket" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-151 "hell for leather" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-152 "hoist with his own petard" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-153 "by hook or by crook" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-154 "Illegitimis non carborundum" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-155 "in like Flynn" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-156 "Jingle Bells" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-157 "Let them eat cake!" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-158 "mind your p's and q's" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-159 "more honoured in the breach than the observance" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-160 "more than you can shake a stick at" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-161 "ollie ollie oxen free" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-162 "peter out" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-163 "politically correct" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-164 "push the envelope" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-165 "put in one's two cents' worth" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-166 "rule of thumb" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-167 "shouting fire in a crowded theater" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-168 "son of a gun" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-169 "spit and image"/"spitting image" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-170 "to all intents and purposes" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-171 "wait for the other shoe to drop" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-172 "Wherefore art thou Romeo?" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-173 "whole cloth" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
(notes by Ellen Rosen)...
-174 "the whole nine yards" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-175 "You have another think coming" (Phrase origins - alt.usage.english)
-176 words ending in "-gry" (Words frequently sought - alt.usage.english)
-177 words without vowels (Words frequently sought - alt.usage.english)
-178 What is the language term for...? (Words frequently sought - alt.usage.english)
-179 "I won't mention..." (Words frequently sought - alt.usage.english)
-180 names of "&", "@", and "#" (Words frequently sought - alt.usage.english)
-181 "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." (Words frequently sought - alt.usage.english)
-182 What is the opposite of "to exceed"? (Words frequently sought - alt.usage.english)
-183 What is the opposite of "distaff side"? (Words frequently sought - alt.usage.english)
-184 What do you call the grass strip between the road and the sidewalk? (Words frequently sought - alt.usage.english)
-185 What is a suggested format for citing online sources? (Miscellany - alt.usage.english)
-186 Does the next millennium begin in 2000 or 2001? (Miscellany - alt.usage.english)
-187 What will we call the next decade? (Miscellany - alt.usage.english)
-188 Fumblerules ("Don't use no double negatives", etc.) (Miscellany - alt.usage.english)
-189 English is Tough Stuff (Miscellany - alt.usage.english)
-190 What is the phone number of the Grammar Hotline? (Miscellany - alt.usage.english)
-191 Do publishers put false info in dictionaries to catch plagiarists? (Miscellany - alt.usage.english)
-192 How reliable are dictionaries? (Miscellany - alt.usage.english)
-193 etymologies of personal names (Miscellany - alt.usage.english)
-194 How did "Truly" become a personal name? (Miscellany - alt.usage.english)
by Truly Donovan (truly@lunemere.com)...
-195 trademarks (Miscellany - alt.usage.english)
-196 Commonest words (Miscellany - alt.usage.english)
-197 What words are their own antonym? (Miscellany - alt.usage.english)
-198 Why do we say "30 years old", but "a 30-year-old man"? (Miscellany - alt.usage.english)
by Rich
-199 sentences grammatical in both Old English and Modern English (Miscellany - alt.usage.english)
-200 radio alphabets (Miscellany - alt.usage.english)
-201 distribution of English-speakers (Miscellany - alt.usage.english)
-202 provenance of English vocabulary (notes by Lucia Engkent) (Miscellany - alt.usage.english)
-203 "billion": a U.K. view (Miscellany - alt.usage.english)
-204 Publications consulted: (Miscellany - alt.usage.english)
OED, Editions 1 and 2....
-205 Biblical sense of "to know" (Miscellany - alt.usage.english)
-206 Postfix "not" (Miscellany - alt.usage.english)
-207 Origin of the dollar sign (notes by Mark Brader) (Miscellany - alt.usage.english)
-208 Spelling reform (Spelling - alt.usage.english)
-209 Joke about step-by-step spelling reform (Spelling - alt.usage.english)
-210 What is "ghoti"? (Spelling - alt.usage.english)
(notes by Jim Scobbie)...
-211 How do you spell "e-mail"? (Spelling - alt.usage.english)
-212 Why is "I" capitalized? (Spelling - alt.usage.english)
-213 Diacritics (Spelling - alt.usage.english)
-214 "-er" vs "-re" (Spelling - alt.usage.english)
-215 "-ize" vs "-ise" (Spelling - alt.usage.english)
-216 doubling of final consonants before suffixes (Spelling - alt.usage.english)
-217 Where to put apostrophes in possessive forms: Pronouns
-218 Where to put apostrophes in possessive forms: Nouns
1. The standard rule: Use 's for the singular possessive, and ...
-219 Where to put apostrophes in possessive forms: History
For those who want to know where the apostrophe came from, ...
-220 Where to put apostrophes in possessive forms: Note For Non-English-Speakers
The apostrophe in these cases normally has no effect ...









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