Category: Usage


Biscuit or cookie?

There is a huge difference between a biscuit and a cookie. Just like between zucchinis and notes this subtle difference, giving two definitions for the word.

Short answer: A British biscuit is an American cookie and an American cookie is a British cookie and an American biscuit is a British scone and an American scone is something else entirely.Read more…


Linguists not exactly wow about FB new reactions

The introduction of Reactions, a set of five new “≈” with assigned textual meanings, probably isn’t supposed to be infantilizing. The social network just wants people to do more than “Like” someone else’s post. The new kids: Love, Sad, Angry, Wow, and Haha.

What do those words have in common? Not a lot, actually. To a grammar purist, that’s annoying. “These words are in radically different categories,” says Geoff Pullum, a linguist at the University of Edinburgh and contributor to the blog Language Log. “It looks like syntax is being thrown out the window here and being replaced by grunts like animals would make.”

Syntax, as you might remember, is the organization of words into sentences. By way of counter-example, syntactic conventions are what Internet meme languages like Dogespeak or Lolcats abuse. When you are sad because Monday, you are contravening the syntax of standard English. Much disappoint. Read more…


dreamed or dreamt?

Dreamt is often described as the British version of the word (1, 2, 3), however, a Google Books Ngram search shows that dreamed is more common than dreamt in both British and American English. Still, dreamt is on more equal footing in Britain than in America:

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How spelling keeps kids from learning

Johnny in Topeka can’t read, but Janne in Helsinki is effortlessly finishing his storybooks. Such a disparity may be expected by now, but the reason might come as a surprise: It probably has much less to do with teaching style and quality than with language. Simply put, written English is great for puns but terrible for learning to read or write. It’s like making children from around the world complete an obstacle course to fully participate in society but requiring the English-speaking participants to wear blindfolds.

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What does a “flap” look like?

Regardless of the reliability and the subject of this video, I’m sure it will help you understand what a “flap” is, as it presents a huge plastic eye, the flap of which is practically… movable!