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  #1  
Old 01-06-2013, 10:51 PM
Aspidistra Aspidistra is offline
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Words that go together

In modern English, if you "wreak" something, it's generally "havoc" (or possibly revenge). The only thing that can be "akimbo" is "arms". There's only "flotsam" where there's also "jetsam"

Is there a term for words like this that are solely or mainly used in just one context? And what are some more that people can think of?
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  #2  
Old 01-06-2013, 11:01 PM
Peanuthead Peanuthead is online now
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You never hear nook without cranny.
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  #3  
Old 01-06-2013, 11:05 PM
Kolak of Twilo Kolak of Twilo is offline
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You never hear nook without cranny.
I would say that is actually the other way around. I've never heard cranny in another context but I've heard of a breakfast nook.
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  #4  
Old 01-06-2013, 11:07 PM
Superhal Superhal is offline
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The technical term is collocation.

You can't write a picture, draw an essay, go the dishes, or play skiing.
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  #5  
Old 01-06-2013, 11:19 PM
zombywoof zombywoof is offline
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"Ajar" ("Door")
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  #6  
Old 01-06-2013, 11:21 PM
Aspidistra Aspidistra is offline
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Yeah, that's close. But this would be a particular type of collocation - one in which a component had fallen so much into disuse that it never appeared outside that specific context.

I'm seeing Collocational restriction on wiki as well, but again that isn't quite it - the 'white' in 'white wine' or 'white man' might be different to 'white paint' but the word 'white' is still ubiquitous in other contexts.
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  #7  
Old 01-06-2013, 11:21 PM
troubledwater troubledwater is offline
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I was just noticing today that "nigh" is usually preceded by "The end of the world is."
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  #8  
Old 01-06-2013, 11:25 PM
Leaffan Leaffan is offline
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Michelle, ma belle,
These are words that go together well.
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  #9  
Old 01-06-2013, 11:34 PM
Superhal Superhal is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aspidistra View Post
Yeah, that's close. But this would be a particular type of collocation - one in which a component had fallen so much into disuse that it never appeared outside that specific context.

I'm seeing Collocational restriction on wiki as well, but again that isn't quite it - the 'white' in 'white wine' or 'white man' might be different to 'white paint' but the word 'white' is still ubiquitous in other contexts.
Yeah after more thought, there's several different terms for "words that go together."

Compound nouns: the trash bag is never the waste bag because "trash bag" is a word in itself.
Cliche, expression, saying: A bird in the hand is worth __________.
Phrasal verbs: when a verb and a preposition are put together to form a new, specific meaning, they always must go together.

I believe the OP has examples of all of the ones I mentioned in their original post except phrasal verbs.
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  #10  
Old 01-07-2013, 12:37 AM
Senegoid Senegoid is online now
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We had this discussion just last month, started by OP Silver Tyger

http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/...d.php?t=675139
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  #11  
Old 01-07-2013, 12:39 AM
Senegoid Senegoid is online now
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Originally Posted by troubledwater View Post
I was just noticing today that "nigh" is usually preceded by "The end of the world is."
A train also draws nigh, especially when it's about to plow over Bill Grogan's goat.

Last edited by Senegoid; 01-07-2013 at 12:41 AM..
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  #12  
Old 01-07-2013, 01:04 AM
jnglmassiv jnglmassiv is offline
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Originally Posted by Senegoid View Post
We had this discussion just last month, started by OP Silver Tyger

http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/...d.php?t=675139
And the answer is fossil word. Lottsa good examples in the Wiki entry.
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  #13  
Old 01-07-2013, 03:51 AM
njtt njtt is offline
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Originally Posted by Superhal View Post
The technical term is collocation.

You can't write a picture, draw an essay, go the dishes, or play skiing.
All those words go perfectly well with lots of other words. They are not in any way examples of what the OP is talking about.

Furthermore, the fact that you cannot write a picture, etc., is not a fact about language at all, it is a fact about the natures of the acts and objects named.
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  #14  
Old 01-07-2013, 03:53 AM
Aspidistra Aspidistra is offline
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Originally Posted by jnglmassiv View Post
And the answer is fossil word. Lottsa good examples in the Wiki entry.
FTW!
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  #15  
Old 01-07-2013, 04:03 AM
Superhal Superhal is offline
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Originally Posted by njtt View Post
All those words go perfectly well with lots of other words. They are not in any way examples of what the OP is talking about.

Furthermore, the fact that you cannot write a picture, etc., is not a fact about language at all, it is a fact about the natures of the acts and objects named.
Had a long answer planned, but instead I'll just call you ignorant and advise you to check any grammar book about "word choice error" or "collocation error."

Last edited by Superhal; 01-07-2013 at 04:05 AM.. Reason: changed "stupid" to "ignorant"
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  #16  
Old 01-07-2013, 05:52 AM
Stealth Potato Stealth Potato is offline
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Originally Posted by Superhal View Post
Had a long answer planned, but instead I'll just call you ignorant and advise you to check any grammar book about "word choice error" or "collocation error."
If you generously grant that njtt meant "grammar" specifically and not "language" generally, his statement is correct.
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  #17  
Old 01-07-2013, 05:54 AM
Superhal Superhal is offline
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Originally Posted by Stealth Potato View Post
If you generously grant that njtt meant "grammar" specifically and not "language" generally, his statement is correct.
Sigh. Read my post above and follow the same instructions.

If you've never heard of either, I'd suggest dropping it now and calling it a loss.

Last edited by Superhal; 01-07-2013 at 05:57 AM.. Reason: I tried to help the previous poster save face.
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  #18  
Old 01-07-2013, 06:16 AM
Stealth Potato Stealth Potato is offline
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Originally Posted by Superhal View Post
Sigh. Read my post above and follow the same instructions.

If you've never heard of either, I'd suggest dropping it now and calling it a loss.
Far be it for me to get into a grammar argument at 4 in the morning when I should be working, but according to my understanding, the invalidity of phrases like "write a picture" is semantic and not syntactic. "Write a picture" is as grammatical as "read a book."
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  #19  
Old 01-07-2013, 06:17 AM
Superhal Superhal is offline
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Originally Posted by Stealth Potato View Post
Far be it for me to get into a grammar argument at 4 in the morning when I should be working, but according to my understanding, the invalidity of phrases like "write a picture" is semantic and not syntactic. "Write a picture" is as grammatical as "read a book."
Again, I would advise you to figure out what a "word choice error" and a "collocation error" are before you continue to embarrass yourself.

Last edited by Superhal; 01-07-2013 at 06:19 AM.. Reason: Weighing the effort of calling this guy "ignorant" too.
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  #20  
Old 01-07-2013, 06:19 AM
Stealth Potato Stealth Potato is offline
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Originally Posted by Superhal View Post
Again, I would advise you to figure out what a "word choice error" and a "collocation error" are before you continue to embarrass yourself.
Alternatively, you could explain what a word choice error is and why it has anything to do with syntax.
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  #21  
Old 01-07-2013, 06:21 AM
Superhal Superhal is offline
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It doesn't. It's a well accepted grammar error that would be marked wrong by perhaps 100% of native speakers who saw it, which is the gold standard for deciding what is "right" or "wrong" in terms of grammar.

Last edited by Superhal; 01-07-2013 at 06:23 AM.. Reason: heh, i didn't realize these things were so ripe in sarcastic humor. :D
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  #22  
Old 01-07-2013, 06:27 AM
Stealth Potato Stealth Potato is offline
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And most native speakers don't know the difference between syntax and semantics, but there's no reason to be sloppy when you're talking in a context where the difference might be important or useful. The rules of syntax may be determined by corpus linguistics, but that doesn't mean that every time someone says "this is wrong" it means "this violates the rules of English grammar."

IOW, if somebody says "write a picture" is bad grammar, they're wrong, or they don't know what grammar is. There is absolutely no difficulty in parsing "write a picture" as English.
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  #23  
Old 01-07-2013, 06:29 AM
TonySinclair TonySinclair is offline
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The only thing you can make the welkin do is ring.

Last edited by TonySinclair; 01-07-2013 at 06:34 AM..
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  #24  
Old 01-07-2013, 06:32 AM
Superhal Superhal is offline
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Originally Posted by Stealth Potato View Post
And most native speakers don't know the difference between syntax and semantics, but there's no reason to be sloppy when you're talking in a context where the difference might be important or useful. The rules of syntax may be determined by corpus linguistics, but that doesn't mean that every time someone says "this is wrong" it means "this violates the rules of English grammar."

IOW, if somebody says "write a picture" is bad grammar, they're wrong, or they don't know what grammar is. There is absolutely no difficulty in parsing "write a picture" as English.
"Write a picture" is a well-known grammar error, if only you did the research I suggested.

Last edited by Superhal; 01-07-2013 at 06:35 AM.. Reason: I f'd your Grammar last night :D
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  #25  
Old 01-07-2013, 06:45 AM
Superhal Superhal is offline
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Originally Posted by Stealth Potato View Post
Far be it for me to get into a grammar argument at 4 in the morning when I should be working, but according to my understanding, the invalidity of phrases like "write a picture" is semantic and not syntactic. "Write a picture" is as grammatical as "read a book."
It is also very early in the morning for me yet I have an MA in a related field and have been teaching grammar for ~20 years.

Last edited by Superhal; 01-07-2013 at 06:48 AM.. Reason: :0 ;0 :0: I just wanted you to see my "0" face when I meet your Grammar tonight.
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  #26  
Old 01-07-2013, 06:47 AM
Stealth Potato Stealth Potato is offline
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Originally Posted by Superhal View Post
"Write a picture" is a well known grammar error.
Many things are "well known" grammar errors that have nothing at all to do with grammar. A simple parse of the phrase in question is enough to correspond its structure with one of the most basic units of English syntax:

[VP write a picture] = [VP [V write] [NP a picture]] => [VP [V write] [NP [D a] [N picture]]]

To claim that merely nonsense phrases are bad grammar is to blur the definition of grammar to the point of uselessness. It would be like saying that dropping an anvil on your foot is bad metallurgy: sure, there's a connection there, but no, not really.
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  #27  
Old 01-07-2013, 06:50 AM
Superhal Superhal is offline
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Originally Posted by Stealth Potato View Post
Many things are "well known" grammar errors that have nothing at all to do with grammar. A simple parse of the phrase in question is enough to correspond its structure with one of the most basic units of English syntax:

[VP write a picture] = [VP [V write] [NP a picture]] => [VP [V write] [NP [D a] [N picture]]]

To claim that merely nonsense phrases are bad grammar is to blur the definition of grammar to the point of uselessness. It would be like saying that dropping an anvil on your foot is bad metallurgy: sure, there's a connection there, but no, not really.
Seriously, you're trying to drop that UG crap to win an argument? Green dreams sleep furiously?

Again, see what I posted.

Last edited by Superhal; 01-07-2013 at 06:53 AM.. Reason: I'm looking forward to f'ing your Grammar and your Gram-Papa today. :D
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  #28  
Old 01-07-2013, 06:59 AM
Stealth Potato Stealth Potato is offline
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"Green dreams sleep furiously" is nonsense but good grammar. Really, why are you so insistent on making syntax do a job that it's not meant to do? If you could point out to me where in a reputable book on grammar by actual linguists (CGEL for example) it lists the rule by which "write a picture" can be judged ungrammatical, I would happily concede the point.

EDIT: and you leave my grampapa alone!

Last edited by Stealth Potato; 01-07-2013 at 07:00 AM..
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  #29  
Old 01-07-2013, 07:00 AM
Superhal Superhal is offline
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Originally Posted by Stealth Potato View Post
"Green dreams sleep furiously" is nonsense but good grammar. Really, why are you so insistent on making syntax do a job that it's not meant to do? If you could point out to me where in a reputable book on grammar by actual linguists (CGEL for example) it lists the rule by which "write a picture" can be judged ungrammatical, I would happily concede the point.
Go ahead and pick up any writing or grammar text written in the past 10 years. There's probably numerous sections on why word choice/collocation errors are real, accepted errors.

Last edited by Superhal; 01-07-2013 at 07:03 AM.. Reason: Your Grammar loved it. :D "Oh Superhal, tear my superfluous imaginations about linguistics apart again! again! AGAIN!"
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  #30  
Old 01-07-2013, 07:02 AM
Stealth Potato Stealth Potato is offline
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Originally Posted by Superhal View Post
Go ahead and pick up any writing or grammar text written in the past 10 years. There's probably numerous sections on why word choice/collocation errors are real, accepted errors.
Errors, yes. Syntax errors, no.

EDIT: it strikes me that perhaps the root of this disagreement is that I've been using "grammar" to mean precisely "syntax," but you might mean it more broadly. I'd hoped this was implied when I drew the distinction between "language" and "grammar" wrt njtt's post, but if that's all this is about then I retract my belligerent corrections.

Last edited by Stealth Potato; 01-07-2013 at 07:04 AM..
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  #31  
Old 01-07-2013, 07:05 AM
Superhal Superhal is offline
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Originally Posted by Stealth Potato View Post
Errors, yes. Syntax errors, no.

EDIT: it strikes me that perhaps the root of this disagreement is that I've been using "grammar" to mean precisely "syntax," but you might mean it more broadly. I'd hoped this was implied when I drew the distinction between "language" and "grammar" wrt njtt's post, but if that's all this is about then I retract my belligerent corrections.
No problem.

Last edited by Superhal; 01-07-2013 at 07:06 AM.. Reason: "Oh Potato, does this mean Superhal will never visit me again?" Superhal: "Oh, I'll be around...don't you worry."
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  #32  
Old 01-07-2013, 07:15 AM
Stealth Potato Stealth Potato is offline
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Well, in my defense I'll only say that in linguistics, "grammar" usually does refer only to morphology and syntax. In my field (computer science, admittedly a bit removed from human linguistics), it does so exclusively.
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  #33  
Old 01-07-2013, 07:16 AM
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Apropos "write a picture", following the katharevousa Greek idiom the proper verb for what an Eastern Orthodox iconographer does in creating one, which most of us would use "draw and paint" as the relevant verbs, is "to write an icon." The reference, as I understand it, is to the symbology appropriate to each saint's iconology.

Though a quite specialized usage, I'd have to say it is grammatically sound English.

Last edited by Polycarp; 01-07-2013 at 07:20 AM..
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  #34  
Old 01-07-2013, 07:17 AM
Superhal Superhal is offline
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Originally Posted by Polycarp View Post
...
Sigh.

Last edited by Superhal; 01-07-2013 at 07:19 AM.. Reason: I guess I got a new Grammar I gotta visit. :D
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  #35  
Old 01-07-2013, 07:21 AM
Stealth Potato Stealth Potato is offline
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Sigh.
I'm with Polycarp on this one. He said it was grammatically spund, and I completely agree.
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  #36  
Old 01-07-2013, 07:22 AM
Superhal Superhal is offline
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I'm with Polycarp on this one. He said it was grammatically spund, and I completely agree.
I figured you would.

Last edited by Superhal; 01-07-2013 at 07:23 AM.. Reason: Your Grammar told me to tell you to stop "showing your ignorant monkey butt" in public.
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  #37  
Old 01-07-2013, 07:27 AM
Stealth Potato Stealth Potato is offline
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Notwithstanding that Polycarp's argument relates to Greek, I still challenge you to find any evidence of unspundness. I am quite sure none exists.

EDIT: of course now I see that Polycarp has corrected his post and thereby rendered me ridiculous.

Last edited by Stealth Potato; 01-07-2013 at 07:29 AM.. Reason: Well, _more_ ridiculous.
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  #38  
Old 01-07-2013, 07:28 AM
Superhal Superhal is offline
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Notwithstanding that Polycarp's argument relates to Greek, I still challenge you to find any evidence of unspundness. I am quite sure none exists.
Unspundification has a long history.

Last edited by Superhal; 01-07-2013 at 07:32 AM.. Reason: Now your Grammar is pissed! She took out her dentures and put in her fangs! She looks like Dick Cheney and Secretariat's baby
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  #39  
Old 01-07-2013, 07:35 AM
Superhal Superhal is offline
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Unspundification has a long history.
Found a cite:

http://www.aaargh.get.that.scary.twi...ay.from.me.com
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  #40  
Old 01-07-2013, 08:23 AM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
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Originally Posted by Aspidistra View Post
In modern English, if you "wreak" something, it's generally "havoc" (or possibly revenge). The only thing that can be "akimbo" is "arms". There's only "flotsam" where there's also "jetsam"

Is there a term for words like this that are solely or mainly used in just one context? And what are some more that people can think of?
Not true -- Legs can also be akimbo. I thought of naming a character "'Legs' Akimbo", but shortly afterwards, the comic strip Meek and Eek did just that.
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  #41  
Old 01-07-2013, 09:06 AM
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She looks like Dick Cheney and Secretariat's baby.
I admit, I lol'ed.
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  #42  
Old 01-07-2013, 09:07 AM
Superhal Superhal is offline
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Originally Posted by Zsofia View Post
I admit, I lol'ed.
Heh, I can't stop lol'ing actually.

Personal best thread ever.

Last edited by Superhal; 01-07-2013 at 09:07 AM.. Reason: And your Grammar agrees!
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  #43  
Old 01-07-2013, 10:47 AM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Superhal View Post
Had a long answer planned, but instead I'll just call you ignorant and advise you to check any grammar book about "word choice error" or "collocation error."
Quote:
Originally Posted by Superhal View Post
Sigh. Read my post above and follow the same instructions.

If you've never heard of either, I'd suggest dropping it now and calling it a loss.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Superhal View Post
Again, I would advise you to figure out what a "word choice error" and a "collocation error" are before you continue to embarrass yourself.
Moderator Note

Superhal, you can make your argument without resorting to so much snark and personal remarks. No warning issued, but let's dial it back.

Colibri
General Questions Moderator
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  #44  
Old 01-07-2013, 11:36 AM
Wheelz Wheelz is offline
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Though you'll often find kits on their own, you'll never see a caboodle without one.
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  #45  
Old 01-07-2013, 11:54 AM
Leo Bloom Leo Bloom is offline
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Originally Posted by troubledwater View Post
I was just noticing today that "nigh" is usually preceded by "The end of the world is."
Well.
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  #46  
Old 01-07-2013, 11:57 AM
Leo Bloom Leo Bloom is offline
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Originally Posted by Leaffan View Post
Michelle, ma belle,
These are words that go together well.
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  #47  
Old 01-07-2013, 12:17 PM
Keeve Keeve is offline
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You can't write a picture, ...
Am I the only "Merkin who immediately thought of "writing an exam" upon reading this?

To Americans, if one can be said to "write an exam" at all, it is an action done by the teacher who designs the exam which the students will be tested with. To a Brit, I understand it to be a perfectly normal description of when the students do when the write down the answers to those questions.

In my opinion, it would be foolish to suggest that "write an exam" is acceptable grammar in England, but unacceptable grammar in the States. Rather, the grammar is acceptable in both places, but the usage is not found in the US. And by extension, "write a picture" would be acceptable grammar everywhere, but acceptable usage nowhere.
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Old 01-07-2013, 12:22 PM
BrotherCadfael BrotherCadfael is offline
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If you ever hear the phrase "Bay of Pigs" without the word "fiasco" attached, it is a geographic reference.
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  #49  
Old 01-07-2013, 12:31 PM
Leaffan Leaffan is offline
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Am I the only "Merkin who immediately thought of "writing an exam" upon reading this?

To Americans, if one can be said to "write an exam" at all, it is an action done by the teacher who designs the exam which the students will be tested with. To a Brit, I understand it to be a perfectly normal description of when the students do when the write down the answers to those questions.

In my opinion, it would be foolish to suggest that "write an exam" is acceptable grammar in England, but unacceptable grammar in the States. Rather, the grammar is acceptable in both places, but the usage is not found in the US. And by extension, "write a picture" would be acceptable grammar everywhere, but acceptable usage nowhere.
What? You don't write an exam in the US? What do you do?
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  #50  
Old 01-07-2013, 12:36 PM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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What? You don't write an exam in the US? What do you do?
Take an exam.
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