I want to use the following sentence: ‘each of the UK’s last 5 Prime Ministers was worse than their predecessor’. That sentence could have 2 readings: A distributive reading: each Prime Minster was worse than that Prime Minister’s predecessor. A collective reading: each Prime Minster was worse than the predecessor of the 1st in that…… Continue reading Collective and distributive readings of ‘their’
People often write or say ‘could potentially’ when just ‘could’ by itself is enough. For example, some people say ‘it could potentially rain’, instead of saying ‘it could rain’. Both these both modal expressions—the modal verb ‘can’ and the modal adverb ‘potentially’—express uncertainty. If we use one of them, the other is redundant. In this…… Continue reading There could potentially be too many modals here
In the last couple of years I’ve started hearing the phrase “based off of” instead of the seemingly more logical “based on”. Perhaps this upstart conveys greater dynamism, like some kind of springboard. (I’ve only heard it from Americans.) I tried searching Google Ngram to see how long it has been around but Ngram didn’t…… Continue reading What is this, like, based on?
Over the last 10 years or so, I have seen more and more sentences starting with the phrase Similar to. These sentences often say something like: Similar to A, B does X. Here is a slightly abbreviated version of a recent example I saw in The Times [of London]. Similar to much of myalgic encephalomyelitis…… Continue reading ‘Similar to’ in starting a sentence
In the last few years, I’ve heard my daughter saying in restaurants things like: Can I get the pasta? That usage of get still sounds very odd to me. If I said that, I would mean: Can I bring the pasta to you? not Can I receive the pasta from you? Intending the latter meaning,…… Continue reading Can I get this change?
In cricketing circles, there has been a trend recently to using the term batter instead of the traditional term batsman. I often side with (bat for?) the dinosaurs on this sort of terminology question, but on this one I’m now batting for the innovators. Here’s why. In the past, when I heard someone talk about…… Continue reading Time for batters to join the bowlers and fielders
To my mind, ‘good to see you’ is something you say only to someone you already know. When meeting someone for the first time, ‘good to meet you’ feels more appropriate to me, perhaps because it puts more emphasis on the meeting. But increasingly people seem to be saying ‘good to see you’ even when…… Continue reading Good to see you—or is it?
I’ve recently heard my daughter asking her children whether they are excited for things, for example about something that will be happening at school or about a friend’s forthcoming party. That usage sounds odd to my dinosaur ears. I would say I’m: excited about an event or thingexcited for a person I had a quick…… Continue reading Excited for
The pedantic old dinosaur in me gets grumpy when people use the verb ‘represent’ as a pretentious synonym for ‘be’. My inner dinosaur gets even grumpier when the literal meaning of this verb contradicts the intended sense. One striking example I saw: “women represent only 32 percent of lawyers”. Are these ladies really representing the…… Continue reading Representing you lazily