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hpr2558 :: Battling with English - part 1

Misunderstandings about English grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.

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Hosted by Dave Morriss on 2018-05-23 is flagged as Explicit and is released under a CC-BY-SA license.
grammar, spelling, punctuation, word misuse, English. 8.
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Duration: 00:11:18

Battling with English.

Looking at the English language and highlighting some common anomalies, mistakes, mispellings, grammar problems and similar.

Battling with English - part 1


This is the first episode of a series about the English language. In it I want to look at some of the problems people (including myself) have with it. I plan to do several episodes and I want to keep them short.

The English language is old and has changed – evolved – in many ways over the years. It has come from a multitude of sources, and it's difficult to say what is correct in an absolute way.

For example, when I was at school we were taught that "nice" should not be used in written material. At that time it was becoming common to see phrases like "I had a nice time" meaning pleasant (in a bland sort of way). In my "Concise Oxford Dictionary" from 1976 the 6th definition, "agreeable" is marked "colloquialism", whereas today this is a common usage.

However, it's easy to use the wrong word in the wrong context. You might choose one that sounds similar for example. You might also have problems with the spelling of a chosen word. Spelling in English is not always logical. You might also find yourself confused about the use of punctuation – the correct use of apostrophes can be challenging for example.

In this series I want to examine some of the problem areas and try to give you the means of remembering the right way.

Note: I'm not an authority on this stuff, but I have tried to teach myself not to make these mistakes over the years. I just wanted to share what I have learnt1 with some links to higher authorities.

Long notes

I have provided detailed notes as usual, and these can be viewed here.

  1. One thing I have learnt is that "learned" and "learnt" are both correct and mean the same. However, "learnt" is more common in the UK, whereas "learned" is used both in the UK and the USA.


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Comment #1 posted on 2018-06-14 15:31:10 by Michael

Great idea!

Thanks for starting that series! While the first examples were quite obvious to me, I can see how they can be helpful on a global scope, given the diverse international HPR community. Fort the last bit, I have to admit that those were actually two new words I learnt (make that three with "learnt" :-)).

Regards, Michael

Comment #2 posted on 2018-06-14 17:25:59 by Dave Morriss

Thanks Michael

Glad you liked the episode. I'm amazed by the number of times I see the then/than and there/their/they're errors in forums, YouTube comments and similar. I don't know if it's an autocorrect problem or what it is, but it's very common. I'm actively collecting similar problems, so I hope I'll have enough to make a few more episodes!

Comment #3 posted on 2018-06-15 12:08:05 by Hipstre

Battling With English

Interesting! I'd like to hear a little bit about the origins of the mixups when it is historically interesting... Like, perhaps, one word comes from French and the other from German. But not necessary, viewing Communication as the problem and English as a flawed tool to solve it is a good route to take. Looking forward to the next one.

Comment #4 posted on 2018-06-15 15:20:26 by Dave Morriss

Thanks Hipstre

That's a great suggestion. I spent some time looking at the etymology of the words I was talking about, as you can tell from the links, but I didn't consider talking about the subject. I'll mention such things in the future if it seems relevant.

Thanks for the feedback.

Comment #5 posted on 2018-07-06 13:24:24 by The Snitch

The Jig is up Dave !

Comment #6 posted on 2018-07-06 15:19:55 by Dave Morriss

Re: The Jig is up


Isn't that like that line from that Star-Trek-Wars film: "Leverage the Force Luke!"?

No, I'm wrong, that's a verbification I think...

Comment #7 posted on 2018-11-06 02:29:00 by FiftyOneFifty

You missed one

OK, probably more than one, I can see why English is so hard if it is not your first language. Amazing we forced it down the world's throat as the universal tongue, over Latin and French. Yeah team Anglo?

Anyway, in a future episode, you should reference affect/effect. I also learned something else. No American would think of using tenant as a verb. That's another elephant in the room. In the US, we reference ourselves with a term that applies to an entire hemisphere. The topic abounds on YouTube, British vs USA culture. Maybe we should open this up internationally and ask for third parties to tell us why we are both farking nuts?

Comment #8 posted on 2018-11-10 12:32:07 by Dave Morriss

Re: You missed one

Hi Fifty,

Oh yes, English is difficult. It's rich and interesting (to me anyway) but it's a beast as well.

Yes to affect/effect. I thought it was in my list, but it was not.

British vs USA stuff: As I have aged I have tried very hard not to do the finger pointing and criticising of US English. I try to be critical across the board...!

In the 1980's I went to a conference run by Burroughs (when we had a mainframe at my work) and the speaker (from the US) said the word "instantiate". Some British guy interrupted and criticised him, saying it was not a word, only to be shot down with a dictionary reference. He looked a fool I thought, and vowed to myself never to do that!

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