Just read a fascinating article about how metaphors reflect more than just the way we speak, but also how we think… and how we can be manipulated: The Boston Globe – Thinking Literally
My English site, Lawless English, has information both for non-native speakers (ESL lessons), written in English, French, and Spanish, as well as a series of lessons on typically confusing English pairs for native speakers, (it’s vs its, affect vs effect, etc.) I recently created a blog to highlight new features – check it out!
When I was at MIIS, a friend of mine taking a linguistics class asked how often I replace “going to” with “gonna,” and I said always. But then he brought up the difference between “I’m going to drive to the store” and “I’m going to the store” and taught me something that of course I knew instinctively: “gonna” can only replace “going to” + verb. When “going to” is followed by a noun, you can’t say “gonna” – you can only abbreviate it to “goin’ to” (which I do). Stuff like this fascinates me.
I’m sharing this now because I just read a pretty good article comparing Obama’s and McCain’s use of “g dropping”: Language Log: Emphathic -in’
Do you ever use any of those great Seinfeld expressions like “regift” and “low talker”? You won’t find them in the American Heritage Dictionary, but there are some websites that aim to fill this gap in our cultural lexicon.
The Jerry Seinfeld Dictionary of Terms and Phrases
The Seinfeld Dictionary (searchable)
Seinfeld Dictionary (short listing but allows additions)
Even if you don’t speak French, you do – take a look at these French terms used in English
When talking about something that didn’t happen in the past, many English speakers use the conditional perfect (if I would have done) when they should be using the past perfect (if I had done):
Lesson on “If I would have…” vs “If I had…”
The English apostrophe s and s apostrophe cause a lot of problems, even for native speakers. This lesson’s task is to help you learn about possessives and contractions that need apostrophes and plurals that don’t.
The English prefixes bi- and semi- are often mixed up by native speakers. A semi-annual reading of this lesson will help more than a bi-annual one: Bi- vs Semi-
The terms “all together” and “altogether” can be confusing in English. Once you’ve read through this lesson, you’ll have an altogether better understanding of them: All Together vs Altogether
English lovers and nitpickers take note – I just discovered a great site, called The Eggcorn Database. An eggcorn is a particular type of English mistake wherein the wrong word is used in a common expression. It is usually due to ignorance of the underlying meaning and etymology, and is often the substitution of one homophone for another, such as “towing the line” (rather than “toeing the line”) or else a similar-sounding word, such as “fermenting trouble” when you really mean “fomenting trouble.” I’ve always been fascinated by these kinds of mistakes, which are, I believe, cousins of the common English mistakes I so love to explain on my own site.