Streams

Word Maven Patricia T. O’Conner

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Word maven Patricia T. O’Conner answers your questions about our wacky English language. Call us at 212-433-9692 or leave a comment below.

Guests:

Patricia T. O'Conner

Comments [103]

Jane from Canada

Ellen at #91 and others have covered the cousin question well.

The relational terminology that stumps me is the idea of my grandmother's brother being my "great-uncle". Why not my "grand-uncle"? After all, my grandparents' parents are my "great-grandparents". Shouldn't their siblings be my "great" uncles and aunts? Was "grand-uncle" or "grand-aunt" ever used in English?

Mar. 20 2008 04:54 PM
Susan Peterson from New Providence, NJ

I have an answer to Ms. O'Connor's inquiry about cousins being "removed." The terms first, second, third, fourth, etc. cousins refers to cousins who are in the same generation - for example, your first cousin is the son or daughter of your aunt or uncle. Your parents and their parents are in the same generation and you and the cousin are in the same generation. You and that cousin share a set of grandparents.

Your second cousin would be the grandchild of your great-aunt or -uncle and you would share a mutual set of great grandparents with that cousin. The term "removed" comes into play when talking about cousins that are of a different generation. Your first cousin, once removed, would be the child of your first cousin - they are not in the same generation as you; one of their sets of great-grandparents would be your grandparents. A first cousin twice-removed would be the grandchild of your first cousin, and so on.

I hope this helps you understand the term! I really enjoy listening every time the word maven makes an appearance.

Mar. 19 2008 02:45 PM
Melissa Chepuru from Scarsdale, NY

How come Native Americans have now gone back to being referred to as Indians. It's inaccurate and confusing. I see it everywhere and take exception to it personally. My husband and father of my two kids is Indian from India. My son, who is 7, had a project to do in school to dress a figure in traditional garb from his own heritage. My son was looking for a picture of a Native American warrior. I asked him about it and he said, "Daddy's an Indian". I asked someone who was politically involved with Native Americans about thier use of the term and they said that the Native Americans didn't mind. I guess it's small potatoes compared with what they've had to accept.

Mar. 19 2008 02:37 PM
John from Maplewood, NJ

On military terminology, it's interesting the way "troop" has become a singular non-collective noun. A troop is properly a group of soldiers (think "F-Troop"), but with the use of "troops" to mean "a whole bunch of soldiers", "troop" has come to mean just one. Thence also the non-collective use of "troops" as in "Six troops were injured by an IED in Iraq today."

Mar. 19 2008 02:20 PM
Harry from Manhattan

1. Re herb. I've long been under the impression that "herb" came into the language twice. First probably with the Norman conquest, ultimately pronounced with the English h and signifying herbs and grassy things. The second arrival came with the ascendency of French cuisine as the proper fancy food, pronounced without the h then and still now by many. Hence, both are acceptable, although many British tend to favor the h except when making specific reference to a French dish with a French name.

2. Although I grew up with the saint still in St. Valentines day, I think the change was caused by a drift away from things religious to things romantic. People started saying "Be my Valentine" and referring to the beloved or lover as a valentine. Within a generation or two, youngsters grew up thinking that the purpose of the day was for lovers/valentines and it became their day, hence: St. Valentine's Day became Valentine's Day which properly should be spelled in the plural: Valentines' Day.

Mar. 19 2008 02:15 PM
Julia Bronder from Trumbull, CT

Did I hear "schism" pronounced "shizm" instead of the correct, "sizm" or the somewhat less used "skizm"?
My pet peeve is the increasingly common use by many NPR commentators of "...there's many soldiers..." or "There's several articles..."
instead of, "...there are many..." (or "There're...").

Mar. 19 2008 02:12 PM
Amy from Manhattan

On Marjorie's comment (#42), true as far as it goes, but I'd add that because bad things that happen to people in drug trials may or may not be caused by the drug, the usage "adverse *effects*" was changed to "adverse *events*." (I'm a medical editor who's been reading these things long enough to see the change.)

And I'd add to all the comments on cousins once removed that it goes both ways. Your 1st cousin's child is your cousin once removed, but you are also that child's cousin once removed.

Mar. 19 2008 02:07 PM
Sheila R from Manhattan

Leonard, you just said "he goes" instead of "he said".. I never heard you do that before. When I was growing up in the 50's, only the less educated people used goes for said. It seems that more people tend to use the former now. I would have liked to hear Patricia's take on this.

Mar. 19 2008 02:06 PM
Gene

1. How about people who don't know how many "a couple" is?

2. Talk about wasted locutions. How about people who call what they know is a time-sensitive program, and say, "Hi, How are you?" and expect to go through all the niceties. Just get to it.

Mar. 19 2008 02:01 PM
Philip from manhattan

St Valentine's feast day feb 14 was deconsecrated (if that's the word) in 1969 by the Western Catholic Church. There were at least three people who were or might have been St. Valentine. In any case I think the dropping of the "St" from the holiday began then.

re: cousins. Ms O'Connor is wrong, her friend is right. Traditionally, a second cousin is the child of your parent's first cousin. You first cousin's child is your first cousin once removed, and that cousin's child is your first cousin twice removed.

Mar. 19 2008 02:00 PM
Ezra from NY, NY

How is coyote pronounced properly? Isiah Shepherd of Selected Shorts uses a pronunciation I have never heard before; but I am hesitant to disagree with him.

Mar. 19 2008 01:58 PM
sarah from nyc


I get annoyed by people's emphasis on the "d" in sandwich...I don't want to eat sand!

Mar. 19 2008 01:57 PM
Chad from Bronx

Way to go Leonard. I often find it smug when people correct others over word use. However, I do find this discussion very interesting.

Mar. 19 2008 01:57 PM
Ellen

Your caller re the cousins was correct, although you seemed to misunderstand him. Here is another way to express it:

First cousins have grandparents in common. Second cousins have great-grandparents in common, ETC.

So, therefore, the children of first cousins are 2d cousins.

Another way to look at it is that first cousins, second cousins, third cousins (i.e., with no removal) are the same level of the family tree.

You introduce the "removed" when cousins are NOT the same level on the family tree. In other words, you are first cousin once removed to your first cousin's child.

Create a simple family tree and think about it.

Mar. 19 2008 01:57 PM
Justin from Park Slope

Am I correct to be annoyed by the increasing usage of 'pleaded' as in the past tense of 'plead;' as in 'the man pleaded the fifth' vs. 'the man plead the fifth.'

I would think it would be similar to the word 'read;' as in 'the man read the book' and NOT 'the man readed the book.'

Thanks,

Mar. 19 2008 01:57 PM
Vanessa from Manhattan, NY

Two things,

One - could you please explain the evolution of the term "used to" as in, "I used to go to the store" or "I got used to it". The term takes on a meaning different from the meaning of the individual words.

Two - I was taught that the plural of shrimp is shrimp, and yet I read and hear "shrimps" all the time in publications of high reputation, can you clarify the correct plural of shrimp?

thank you!!!

Vanessa

Mar. 19 2008 01:56 PM
John from Maplewood, NJ

The easy way to remember cousins is to figure out how many generations back their common ancestors are. First cousins share grandparents, one generation before their parents. Seconds cousins share great-grandparents, two generations before their parents.

Schism "should" be pronounced "skizm", if we actually used rules, since the -ch- is a Greek chi.

Retronym is an awful word, combining Latin and Greek roots, like homo/hetero-sexual or automobile.

PTO is a poor excuse for a language maven.

Mar. 19 2008 01:56 PM
pv from Long Island

tint- to lighten or to darken a window

Mar. 19 2008 01:55 PM
eCAHNomics

Amy,
Thanks. I guesss I didn't think about it long enough! *g*

Mar. 19 2008 01:54 PM
Barbara C from New York

How would you use disrespect as a noun? Now that everyone uses Dis which is short for disrespect- it seems like it is used incorrectly all the time.

Mar. 19 2008 01:54 PM
EL from LONG BEACH

Leonard, I still say FebRuary and it bothers me when I hear FebUary on TV or radio.
My mother drummed it into my head

Mar. 19 2008 01:54 PM
Marybeth from brooklyn

to clarify, a simpler way to remember may be that a cousin is "removed" from the grandparents at the beginning of a lineage. my father's first cousins are my first cousins "once removed" because I am another generation away from his grandparents. those cousins children are my second cousins (not removed because we are the same number of parents away from the "grands"). this is apparently something that is important in royal lineage to discern who the next in line for a throne will be (i believe this is how King James became king)

Mar. 19 2008 01:53 PM
Ingo Fast from Brooklyn, NY

Why is it only correct to say "a couple of children" or "half of a bottle" if it seems to me that it's correct, in its original form, to say "half an hour" or "half a million" We don't say "half OF an hour" or "half OF a million", or do we? Thanks - Ingo

Mar. 19 2008 01:53 PM
Chris Franklin from New Jersey

Wikipedia has a chart on the usage of cousin.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cousin

Mar. 19 2008 01:53 PM
Geoffrey Abrams from NYC

And why do people on TV say "pundiNt" instead of pundit?

Mar. 19 2008 01:53 PM
Dayan from UWS

Why do people say?
Bicyclist instead of Cyclist which is the correct adjective.
And say Quick instead of Fast.
This drives me crazy.

Mar. 19 2008 01:52 PM
Geoffrey Abrams from NYC

Doesnt an economy grow?....Does a government or president "grow" an economy?

Mar. 19 2008 01:51 PM
Dottie from Brooklyn

Regarding the cousin questions:

It was always my understanding that relatives of the same generation or more correctly or “rung of the lineage ladder” are cousins of a certain degree. When you have uneven rungs, that’s when you get cousins removed by various degrees. For example:

- The daughter of my aunt (my mother’s sister) and I are both first cousins.
- The children of my aunt’s daughter are my first cousins once removed (my first cousin’s children)
- My children and my first cousin’s child would be second cousins
- My grandchildren would be second cousins once removed from my first cousin’s children.
- My first cousin’s grandchildren would be my "first cousins twice removed” and so on.

Whether this is correct, I am not sure.

Mar. 19 2008 01:51 PM
lorna donnelly from connecticut

On the subject of the word "of"
- is it correct to say "I took the book off of the shelf" - or is the "of" redundant?

Mar. 19 2008 01:50 PM
Don Gabor from Brooklyn

Possessive question:

Mary's and John's boat ...or...Mary and John's boat.

Mar. 19 2008 01:50 PM
lauren from Woodbury NY

"once removed" is the child of the cousin.
My first cousin's daughter is my "first cousin, once removed."
My child and that child are second cousins.
Their children are my first cousin TWICE removed.

Mar. 19 2008 01:49 PM
Celia from NYC

Two words commonly misused:

notoriety = original meaning was fame for something negative, now used as a synonym for fame

nonplussed - often misused to mean its opposite - instead of meaning bewildered, it is used to mean "no reaction - not disturbed".

Mar. 19 2008 01:48 PM
Aviva (Genealogist) from Brooklyn

Cousin type or degree(?) is determined by generational distance (removal) from a common ancestor. Therefore, two persons sharing a common grandparent are first cousins; persons sharing a common great-grandparent are second cousins, and so on. These people occur an equal number of generations from the common ancestor.

Two related people in different generations are defined by their remove from the common ancestor(s). So, the child of your first cousin is your first cousin once removed. Also, the parent of your second cousin is your first cousin once removed.

Mar. 19 2008 01:48 PM
Alex from NYC

Re: 10 Items or Less

I disagree; I think this is correct, in the sense that less doesn't refer to the number of items; it refers to the abstract collective "10 items".

Mar. 19 2008 01:47 PM
Katrina Hohlfeld

I have an ongoing dispute with a friend...
is it
enamored of?
or
enamored by?

Mar. 19 2008 01:47 PM
Meg from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York

What about the use of 'perfect'? Is it now okay to say "most perfect" or "more perfect"?

Mar. 19 2008 01:47 PM
Debra Trisler from summit, nj

We have been hearing many using "verse" instead of "versus". Have you noticed this?

Mar. 19 2008 01:47 PM
Jay F. from nyc

HELP... Who and Whom...

Mar. 19 2008 01:46 PM
Paul from Jersey City

Ms. O'Connor doesn't seem to understand that the rules of language are governed by usage.

Someone called and said that she hears many people say "less amount of people." Ms. O'Connor agrees that this is wrong. But if this is how people say it, then this is correct usage!

Similarly, "10 items or less" is correct, since that's how people actually speak!

Mar. 19 2008 01:46 PM
levinej

sorry for terseness

lessen carbon emissions
vs.

reduce carbon emissions

thanks

Mar. 19 2008 01:46 PM
Judy from NY

Patricia asked for explanation of second vs. removed in terms of cousins.
My understanding is that it is generational. Example: I have a child; my first cousin has a child. My first cousin's child to me is a first cousin once removed. My child and my fist cousin's child are second cousins.

Mar. 19 2008 01:46 PM
Andy

Which is correct??

- it seems as IF..........

- it seems as THOUGH......

Mar. 19 2008 01:45 PM
richard from manhattan

Answer to "cousin" question:

The number before "cousin" refers to the number of degrees from a common ancestor. The number of degrees removed refers to the numbers of generations between two cousins who are not of the same generation.

Thus: the child of my grandparent's sibling is my third cousin. [We are both 3 generations from the common ancestor, our great-grandparent.]

The child of that person is my third cousin, once removed, because we are one generation apart.

Mar. 19 2008 01:45 PM
Amy from Manhattan

I agree with drora. Even worse is "free gift with purchase"--that one's a free redundancy with oxymoron! (And to eCAHNomics: The problem is, most of the times "free gift" is used, it does require a purchase or signing on to some agreement, so it tends to mean a gift that does have strings attached!)

Mar. 19 2008 01:44 PM
nat from brooklyn

Cousins once removed vs. Second Cousins

Thank you for bringing this up, as this has always confused me.

I have always understood that a First Cousin once removed was my cousin's child. The odd thing here is that that would make me that person's Second Cousin; where a second cousin is defined as a parent's cousin. This would make that relationship entirely one way based on which generational direction that you are looking.

Mar. 19 2008 01:44 PM
Russ Carmel from Manhattan

re: cousins

Cousins are determined [as far as I know] by relation to grandparents:

people with the same grandparents who are not siblings are cousins.

My cousin Larry is 22 years older than me, but I am a mere 4 years older than Wendy, his first child. Wendy is my first cousin once removed. My children are Wendy's second cousins - despite an age difference of over 45 years.

Mar. 19 2008 01:44 PM
MCH from Brooklyn

I agree with #38. "Removed" has to do with generational levels. So if I have a child and my sibling has a child, they are first cousins and nieces or nephews to me and my sibling. Their children will be second cousins. If I have a child and my first cousin has a child, I am a first cousin once remove of the child but the children are second cousins to each other. Think of it this way: siblings share a set of parents, cousins share a set of grandparents and second cousins share a set of great-grandparents. Complicated enough?

Mar. 19 2008 01:43 PM
Karen from Cliffside Park, NJ


Cousin (a.k.a "first cousin")

Your first cousins are the people in your family who have two of the same grandparents as you. In other words, they are the children of your aunts and uncles.

Second Cousin

Your second cousins are the people in your family who have the same great-grandparents as you., but not the same grandparents

Mar. 19 2008 01:43 PM
Jane from Bronx

"Once removed" refers to generations, while "first cousin" refers to shared ancestry.

My mother's first cousin is my first cousin, once removed. My grandmother's first cousin is my first cousin, twice removed.

My mother's first cousin's child is my second cousin.

Mar. 19 2008 01:43 PM
Gustav Rech from manhattan

I recently ran across a headline on Eurpsport refering to a first time winner in a slalom event as having "lost his duck". I am familiar with the term losing (or winning) one's maiden which seems obvious, but a duck?

in the same vein, I often hear of "getting of the schneid(?)" to refer to a first win in sports, so what praytell is a schneid?

Mar. 19 2008 01:42 PM
Penelope from NYC

Once, twice, etc, removed refers to your parents, grandparents, etc. generation. Second, third, etc. cousins are your generation. For example, my grandmother's 1st cousin is my 1st cousin twice removed. The children of my mother's 1st cousin are my second cousins.

Mar. 19 2008 01:42 PM
Lonnie from Brooklyn

St Valentine stopped being holy when Hallmark and Advertising took over and Men across the country began to dread the coming of Feb 14th. It would be problematic to associate a 'Saint' with a day where men are badgered to be sure that they 'HAD BETTER get her something OR ELSE".
St Valentine would be chagrined.

Mar. 19 2008 01:42 PM
Dan

I agree with mombi's comment. Second cousins are from the same generation; cousins once removed are from the previous or next generation.

Mar. 19 2008 01:42 PM
Joe from Englewood, NJ

Which is correct?

I graduated from Harvard.
I was graduated by Harvard.
I was graduated from Harvard.

Mar. 19 2008 01:42 PM
Tom Hopes from London

Please explain the origins of the english language- I understand that it is a combination of several roots.

Mar. 19 2008 01:41 PM
Kristin Price from Manhattan

Regarding cousins:
"First Cousins Once Removed" are the children of your first cousins; their children will be "first cousins twice removed". Second Cousins are more difficult to explain, but there is a useful chart at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_cousin.

Mar. 19 2008 01:41 PM
brooklyn b from Brooklyn

Mothers Day originally started as an ANTI-WAR day . That meaning has certainly been lost over the years even more than christendom has been pushed out of valentines day.

Mar. 19 2008 01:40 PM
E. Kaplan from Manhattan

Regarding cousins "removed," I've always thought that the removal referred to generations. Eg, my mother's first cousin is my first cousin once removed. Her child is my second cousin. That person's child is my second cousin once removed. This makes lots of sense to me, but I have no idea whether it's correct.

Mar. 19 2008 01:40 PM
Tabitha from Brooklyn, New York

regarding cousins:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cousin

Is it just me, or does the chart relating the terms (about a quarter way down the page) make you just want to shake your head and close the window?

I think i'll just call everyone related in that way "cousin" and leave it at that.

Mar. 19 2008 01:40 PM
Henry from Katonah , NY

"Removed" refers more precisely to cousins of different generations. E.g. my father's 1st cousin is my cousin once removed.

Mar. 19 2008 01:39 PM
Tom Klimuc from Westfield, NJ

Once Removed...

The "removed" has to do with generation. So, my mother's first cousin is my first cousin once removed because I am the next generation past my mother and her cousin.

Mar. 19 2008 01:39 PM
Joanna Riesman from Manhattan

Cousins:

First cousins have a common grandparent

Second cousins share a common grandparent (children of cousins).

First cousins once removed are of different generations; one person's grandparent is the other's great grandparent.

Mar. 19 2008 01:39 PM
Marjorie from NY

I am a physician, formerly in practice, now working in the corporate sector. The use of the term 'adverse event' is used in the internal arena of quality-control and isn't generally intended for public consumption. Adverse events of drugs, procedures or treatments may include minor problems such as a rash, more severe problems such as convulsions, and critical problems such as life-threatening allergy or death. The public may perceive that the use of such terms is lacking in compassion, and it certainly sounds so when the term is employed in legally circumspect public disclaimers. However, it is necessary to be analytical when examining adverse events in order to learn how to correct them.

Mar. 19 2008 01:38 PM
Glenn Cain from Brooklyn

A contranym I noticed recently:

Burn : (1) to destroy; (2) to save (as in burn to a CD).

Mar. 19 2008 01:38 PM
Janet Shapiro from Montclair NJ

"Removed" refers to a generation. For example: My mother's first cousin is my first cousin once removed.

The offspring of that first cousin once removed is my second cousin

Mar. 19 2008 01:38 PM
Carolyn Martin from Litchfield CT

Your removed cousin is in a different generation than you are, e.g., your first cousin's child. Your child and that child are second cousins, but are in no way "removed" because they are in the same generation. Cheers!

Mar. 19 2008 01:38 PM
mombi from NYC

I believe my first cousin is my daughter's first cousin once removed and my first cousin's child is my daughter's second cousin.

Mar. 19 2008 01:38 PM
Ronda Alexander from Midtown West

Two things:

#1-"Adverse Events" (in relation to the heparin discussion) is not really a 'corporate' term. It comes from medical research and is an umbrella term that includes deaths, injuries and bad reactions.

#2-Now, a question- if the Dow Jones is an "index", what do you call the Dow, Nasdaq, and the rest together: Indexes (common in the media) or Indices (my instinct)

Mar. 19 2008 01:37 PM
Tony Bruguier from San Jose, CA

About cousins:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/87/CousinTree.svg

Mar. 19 2008 01:37 PM
Isaac from Jersey City

I don't understand all these politician's using this word "resiliency". Don't you have "resilience"? Why the "y"?

Mar. 19 2008 01:37 PM
eCAHNomics

Interesting Prof. Hodge. Did the case that Leonard cited, where the company actually apologized, get that used in court against them?

Mar. 19 2008 01:36 PM
Kevin from Weehawken, NJ

I just want to say that this is the first time I've listened to Public radio, on assignment from school, and I have to say that it is really interesting, the concept of Public Radio. I view it as Radio for radio's sake, though I could be wrong. Your knowledge of words, Patricia, things we take for granted, is remarkable, rock on!

Mar. 19 2008 01:36 PM
Leslie Hamilton from Cliffside Park, NJ

I've heard this from even the very eloquent personalities on NPR:

IN ten minutes FROM NOW.

Wouldn't it be IN ten minutes

OR

Ten minutes FROM NOW?

Thanks, love your show!

Mar. 19 2008 01:35 PM
Ryan from Jersey City


I understand that language change is constantly happening as people use words to mean different things. However, in the case of
"common usage" some of this "evolution" occurs because people do not understand the meaning of the words they are using. George Carlin pointed out that accepting this is state of affairs is tantamount to saying that "because these people are idiots, we should adopt their standards".

Can the Word Maven please comment on this?

Mar. 19 2008 01:35 PM
Erin Kaufman from New York City

i am getting confused about was and were. isn't "was" correct sometimes? when? thank you.

Mar. 19 2008 01:35 PM
Dashiell from washington heights

how does one pronounce columnist?

Mar. 19 2008 01:35 PM
Miguel from Maywood, NJ

Which is the correct form:

"I don't know what was I thinking" Or
"I don't know what I was thinking"

Thank you.

Mar. 19 2008 01:35 PM
John Celardo from Fanwood, NJ

“Almost exactly” always makes me crazy. I actually saw the two words used yesterday on the front page of the New York Times. Yikes! What’s your opinion on using this phrase?

Mar. 19 2008 01:35 PM
hjs from 11211

when corps say they (meaning people who work for them, because corps can't be sorry as they have no feelings) are sorry they get sued

Mar. 19 2008 01:34 PM
Richard

i think when you come in 2nd to last, you did worse than the worst ne-c'est pas?

Mar. 19 2008 01:34 PM
Erin Kaufman from New York City

hello
is gingerly an adjective?
i thought one had to say "in a gingerly manner"...?
thanks!

Mar. 19 2008 01:33 PM
Prof. Robert L. Hodge, Jr., J.D. from Criminal Justice Dept.-Nassau Comm. College

The major reason why corporations and such do not & will not apologize for any mistake is because such an apology will be quoted in the civil damages law suit that always follows such "mistakes" in industry!

Mar. 19 2008 01:33 PM
RS

I was on the EDCO website which reads "ECDO Management Corporation is a real estate management and development company that is operated and is located in the infamous historical community of Harlem." Does the word "infamous" have any positive connotations?

Mar. 19 2008 01:33 PM
Richard Karnatz from Texarkana, TX

Screen has an additional meaning. That is to print. I am a silk screen printer. Since Andy, To Screen has gained usage

Mar. 19 2008 01:31 PM
hjs from 11211

cloth diapers are still around and are better for the environment!

Mar. 19 2008 01:30 PM
eCAHNomics

Deaths as "adverse events" is the same kind of political pornography as "clean coal."

Mar. 19 2008 01:29 PM
eCAHNomics

Why do people still say "dial" the phone?

Mar. 19 2008 01:27 PM
lucas from nyc

They're also called "Janus words." Google it!

Mar. 19 2008 01:27 PM
Steve from Manhattan

My Japanese girlfriend recently asked about "wicked" (like bad) and "wicked" (like what happens to water). English, she claims, is unfair.

Mar. 19 2008 01:25 PM
Adam Cherson from NY

Why do the British always say: Two weeks time, or Three hours time? Are there any other types of weeks or hours? Thanks.

Mar. 19 2008 01:24 PM
eCAHNomics

drora kemp,
I've thought about that a bit, and finally decided it is to distguish free gifts from gifts that come with strings attached.

Mar. 19 2008 01:22 PM
Moshe Feder from Flushing, NY

Do "next to last" and "second to last" mean the same thing? Many people use them that way, but I've always felt that they don't.

To my mind, "next to last" means "first to last," or "penultimate," while "second to last" means "antepenultimate." What do you think?

Mar. 19 2008 01:12 PM
david schneider from Minnesota

Sorry,
Explanation.

Now, on to "have got." This is not an Americanism, by the way. It is perfect English, both in Britain and in the United States, and always has been. It's the present-perfect form of the verb "get." The confusion arises because of the presence of "have," which in this case is not the simple verb meaning "possess," but an auxiliary verb with no meaning of its own. As a linguist would say, it has no content, only function.

Mar. 19 2008 01:10 PM
david schneider from Minnesota

Hello,
I have a long standing pet peeve about the use of 'Have, and Got' in the same sentence.: 'I have got.' To me it seems redundant to use both of them in conjunction. I wrote grammarphobia.com and received the following explanation, which although very thorough, still has me scratching my head. Please clarify this so I can once again get a sound nights sleep.

Mar. 19 2008 01:08 PM
levinej

"Lessen" for "Reduce"?

Huge pet peeve!

Mar. 19 2008 01:04 PM
hjs from 11211

why do people say "direct descendant" is there such a thing as an indirect descendant?

Mar. 19 2008 12:56 PM
drora kemp from north nj

I cringe every time I read or hear the expression "free gift". What other kind of gift is there? And yet it's been used by everyone recently, including prestigious institutions like the Met. Am I wrong in thinking it a strident redundancy?
Thanks - drora kemp.

Mar. 19 2008 12:33 PM
David from NYC

#5--excellent!

Mar. 19 2008 12:29 PM
jonathan from W Village

In honor of Gov Spitzer et al, what are the derivations of the following terms that have been in the news recently:
1)pimp
2)john
3)hooker

Mar. 19 2008 12:25 PM
Peter Vaughan

What has happened to the adverb? The "LY" seems to be disappearing any ideas why? My new favorite show on TV (AMC) is titled "Breaking Bad" and I somehow think it should be "Breaking Badly".

Mar. 19 2008 11:18 AM
lilybelle

Is the personal pronoun "me" in the phrase "Woe is me" a kind of dative of possession, hence not an example of a grammatical error (having a copular verb take an object rather than complement)?

Mar. 19 2008 08:53 AM
a. hammagaadji from new york

Among English speakers, is it only Americans who use the word ton [a measurement of weight] to measure everything else under the sun? "I have tons of time" is one of the many bizarre usages I I commonly hear.

Mar. 19 2008 05:43 AM
Marc Naimark from Paris

In case you have a slow moment (hah!), here's a minor peeve which I rarely pet. I listen to a podcast (Geek Speak) which the host presents as a show in which they answer listeners' questions "of" technology. It drives me crazy every time... but am I right to believe that this is just wrong?

Mar. 19 2008 04:00 AM

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