Comment, Suggestion, and Feedback

A reader asks about these three words:
I was wondering about the differences between comment, suggestion, and feedback. They often seem to be used interchangeably. I would like to know how to use each word appropriately in different contexts.
Here are the relevant definitions of these words in the context of social media:
comment noun: a remark or criticism on or upon anything.
suggestion noun: an idea or thought suggested, a proposal.
feedback noun: information about the result of a process, experiment, etc.
The word comment has the broadest application because a comment can contain a suggestion or provide feedback.
The comments that follow the posts on this site provide examples of all three terms.
Carnival – The word derives from a phrase meaning “the putting away of flesh”… as in the fasting from meat as Christians [according to traditional dogma] are supposed to do during Lent. It became an event of feasting and revelry because it’s the last chance for the next 6 weeks to indulge in that delicious pot roast, steak dinner, or other self-gratifications.
The reader has added information relating to a post about words derived from a Latin word meaning flesh. This kind of comment enriches the site by expanding the post in a relevant manner.
Could you also clarify and explain the origins of “chalk it up”. I’ve also seen “chock it up” which I assume is an error.  I’ve also heard “chop it up” in the same context.
This reader, in commenting on the post about chock-full, has made a suggestion for a future post. Such suggestions keep me supplied with topics.
I think your spelling of “cockeyeed” is incorrect. I think it is spelled cockeyed. (minus one “e”)
Feedback can be positive or negative. Comments that express agreement or appreciation let writers know they’re on the right track with their intended audience. Comments that point out errors or ambiguity enable the writer to improve a published post.
NOTE: I like to receive feedback that points out typographical errors by way of email, rather than in the open comments section—and not just to minimize my embarrassment. When the error has been corrected in the post, the comment remains as a distraction to future readers.
The figurative use of feedback derives from a technical term relating to electronics:
feedback noun: The return of a fraction of the output signal from one stage of a circuit, amplifier, etc., to the input of the same or a preceding stage, “positive feedback” tending to increase the amplification; “negative feedback” tending to decrease the amplification. Also, a signal so returned.
I’ll take this opportunity to thank my readers for all three—comments, suggestions, and feedback. They are and have been of tremendous benefit to me, as a blogger and as a student of English.
Related post:
Comment Etiquette
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Source: Vocabulary

Is Ask a Noun?

A reader questions the use of ask as a noun:
“The ask was unreasonable.”
“I realize it’s a big ask, but I’m hoping you can do it.”
In these examples, “ask” seems to be a synonym for “request.” Merriam-Webster says “ask” is a verb, but increasingly I hear it used as a noun.  Is this use of “ask” increasingly prominent?  Is it appropriate?

Examples of ask as a noun can be found in Old English, and the OED includes a citation of its use as a card-playing term in 1886, but the uses illustrated in the reader’s question are fairly recent.
The financial idiom “bid and ask” appears on the Ngram Viewer graph in 1903. In the context of the stock market, the bid is the price a buyer is willing to pay for a stock, and the ask is the price the seller is willing to accept. This use of ask is business jargon for what in standard speech would be called “the asking price.”
After a brief flurry in the 1920s, the phrase “a big ask” appears on the Ngram Viewer in 1989 and soars from there. M-W labels this use of ask “chiefly British, informal.”
The OED agrees that ask as a noun is “colloquial,” but identifies the usage as “originally Australian” and observes that it occurs chiefly in the context of sports.
M-W defines noun ask as “something asked for, requested, or required of someone,” but the OED specifies that ask as a noun in modern usage is accompanied by a modifier like big, huge, or tough. Ask in this sense is not simply “something asked for,” but “something that is a lot to ask of someone; something difficult to achieve or surmount.”
Outside the context of the stock market, the reader’s first example, “The ask was unreasonable,” is not even good informal English. If the speaker is talking about the price of something, then the appropriate term is “asking price.” If the person is talking about a request, then the noun wanted is request or demand.
The second example, “I realize it’s a big ask, but I’m hoping you can do it,” passes muster as acceptable colloquial English because “a big ask” is not the same as a mere request. “A big ask” is an idiom like “a tall order,” something asked of a person that will require more than average effort to accomplish.
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Source: Vocabulary

A reader asks for clarification regarding the use of the phrase “anyone and everyone” in such sentences as these:

Everyone knows they love to talk on the phone to anyone and everyone.

Anyone and everyone is [sic] to speak to you on the phone.

You will speak to anyone and everyone who might listen.

Anyone means “an individual person”:
“I will give a free book to anyone in the audience who can solve this problem.”
—Only one person or a selected few (depending upon how the problem is presented) will win the book.

Everyone means “every person in a group”:
“Everyone in the audience received a video recorder.”
—All of the audience members received a free recording device.

The combination “anyone and everyone” is used in the context of a welcome or invitation as a way to emphasize inclusivity, as in these examples from the Web:

Anyone and Everyone are invited to join the server after we open, which is very soon. 

Anyone and everyone are invited to Roundtable. 

Anyone and everyone are welcome to come hack on things.

Sometimes the phrase is used in the sense of “people in general” or “people of no specific qualifications”:

Today anyone and everyone can set up an online business.
Amazon also maintains a flourishing side enterprise in self-publishing, where anyone and everyone can write an e-book.

And sometimes, especially when preceded by just, “anyone and everyone” occurs in the context of exclusion:

If just anyone and everyone are too easily included, we are saying in effect that anything goes. 

We don’t want just anyone and everyone, just a select few.

We will not sign on just anyone and everyone. We demand the best.

We don’t work for just anyone and everyone.

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Source: Daily Tips

Many and Much

This post is in response to a reader’s email:
Please I want to know the usage of many and much.
Both words have more than one function in English, but a common challenge for ESL learners is how to use many and much with countable and uncountable nouns.
Countable nouns have singular and plural forms.
Countable nouns are so called because they can be counted as individual items. Many, in the sense of “a large and indefinite number,” is used with countable nouns:
many cats
many apples
many books
many countries
many people

Uncountable nouns are construed as singular. They are not used with a number. Much, in the sense of “a great amount of,” is used to qualify uncountable nouns:
much coffee
much rice
much disagreement
much wrangling
much love

The word much can also function as an adverb and as a pronoun:
Thank you very much.
I am much indebted to you.
Julie scored much higher on the exam than I did.
Much of our success derives from teamwork.
Though much is taken, much abides.
He’s not much to look at.
In the plural, many can be used as a pronoun in the sense of “many individuals”:
He is only one candidate among many.
Among their captives are many of our nation.
Many are called, but few are chosen.
Governed by the article the, many can be used as a noun to designate “the masses,” “the multitude,” “the general public,” or “the hoi polloi”:
Until that happens, the few practice lawful plunder upon the many.
The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.
Making the Economy Work for the Many, Not the Few
Note: “The few,” in the sense of “a small, privileged elite” is often used as the opposite of “the many.”
Related post:
Hoi Polloi
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Source: Vocabulary

Below is Not an Attributive Adjective

The word below is used as a preposition and as an adverb, but never as an attributive adjective.

At least, that is what I believed until I received this email from a reader:

Have you written about the current use (or, rather, misuse) of “below”? People are saying, “Please read the below information and send your reservation,” etc.

Sure enough, a quick Web cruise provides numerous (international) examples of the phrases “below information” and “below form” from sites run by universities, health services, local governments, and newspapers:

To facilitate the application process, please read the below information completely. After reading the below information, please apply.—Virginia Tech graduate school.

Please read the below information carefully before using the old Vocals Syllabus in your exam.—Rock School (UK).

For data classifications and handling please read the below information provided by Purdue University.—Purdue University.

If you already participate in CAQH: Please complete the below form and submit it (or any questions) using the contact information below.—Molina Healthcare.

Please read the below information to help with the application process.—City of Buffalo, New York.

Please read the below information to see which option suits you.—The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia).

In each of these examples, the word below should follow the nouns and not stand in front of them.

The OED defines this use of below as follows:

below adverb: Lower on a written sheet or page; hence, later in a book or writing; at the foot of the page.

When an object is present, below is a preposition:

Read the information below the dotted line. (The object is “the dotted line.”)

When no object is present, below is an adverb:

He was asked to sign his name on the line, but he wrote it below.

In a construction like “Read the information below,” the word modified by the adverb is not stated. O’Conner and Kellerman at Grammarphobia offer this suggestion:

It might sometimes help to imagine an unstated word like “located” or “positioned” in there somewhere: “the offices on the floor [located] below.”

Merriam-Webster muddies the waters in the entry for below as an adverb by placing the word adjective in parenthesis beside the word adverb: be·low adverb (or adjective).

Paul Brians (Common Errors in English Usage) regards the below + noun usage as an oddity:

When calling your readers’ attention to an illustration or table further on in a text, the proper word order is not “the below table” but “the table below.”

Although it is common to see above placed before a noun in this way, doing it with below sounds very strange to most speakers of standard English.

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Source: Daily Tips

5 Arabic Words in the News

An article in this morning’s newspaper contained the following Arabic words:
“He was identified as a member of the country’s large stateless population known as bidoon.”
1. bidoon
The word does not appear in either the OED or M-W. I found this definition in an article at PBS:
Bidoon refers to a diverse group of people [in Kuwait] who at the time of independence were not given Kuwaiti nationality.
The term comes from the Arabic phrase bidoon jinsiya, “without nationality.” A Wikipedia article spells the word Bedoon and defines it as “an ethnic group in Gulf Arab states and Iraq.”
“[He] was wearing jeans, a knee-length djellabah robe [sic] and a loose towel over his head…”
2. djellabah
I didn’t find this word in either the OED or M-W, but I did find it at
djellabah: a loose hooded cloak, typically woolen, of a kind traditionally worn by men in North Africa.
“French authorities say Salhi had links to radical Salafists—who preach an ultraconservative form of Islam…”
3. Salafists
A Salafist is an adherent of Salafism. I found this definition of Salafism in an article at PBS:
Salafism is an ideology that posits that Islam has strayed from its origins. The word salaf is Arabic for “ancient one” and refers to the companions of the Prophet Mohammed. Arguing that the faith has become decadent over the centuries, Salafists call for the restoration of authentic Islam as expressed by an adherence to its original teachings and texts.
“The Sunni extremists of Islamic State consider Shiites to be heretics…”
4. Sunni
The OED defines Sunni this way:
The orthodox Muslims who accept the Sunna as of equal authority with the Qur’an, considered collectively.
Note: The OED defines Sunna as “the body of traditional sayings and customs attributed to Muhammad and supplementing the Qur’an.”
“Authorities said he flew into Kuwait’s international airport at dawn on the day of the noontime attack at one of the emirate’s oldest Shiite mosques.”
5. Shiite
In this sentence, Shiite is the adjective form of Shia, a Muslim sect whose name derives from Shiat Ali, “the party of Ali.” When Muhammad died in 632 CE without naming a political successor, some of his followers thought his son-in-law Ali should be their leader; others declared for his father-in-law, Abu Bakr. Abu Bakr served as the first caliph (632-634); Ali served as the fourth caliph (656—661). Today, the majority of Muslims are Sunnis—somewhere between 85% and 90%. Shiites represent only about 10% of Muslims, but in Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, and Azerbaijan, they are in the majority. 
Note: Caliph is from an Arabic word meaning successor. After the death of Muhammad, it became the title given in Muslim countries to the chief civil and religious ruler. The last caliph in Istanbul was killed by Mongol conquerors in 1258. The Ottoman caliphate was abolished by Kemal Ataturk in 1924.
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Source: Vocabulary

Angles and Anglos

The word Anglo, like English, derives from the Latin name for one of the Germanic tribes that settled in Britain after the Romans abandoned their colony there.
The first documented use of the word Anglii is in a history of the German tribes by the Roman historian Tacitus (56-c.117 CE). The Angles were only one of several Germanic tribes that later settled in Britain after the Romans left, but it is their name that has given us the words England, English, and Anglo.
Anglo has various meanings, depending upon context.
Anglo as a Combining Form with a Hyphen
One use of Anglo is as a combining form to create compounds relating to England, Britain, or the English language. Here are some examples:
Despite its sentimentality, “The Bright Side” is expressive of real moral outrage, and founded largely on valid observation of the plight of Anglo-Germans during the war. —“Anglo-Germans” designates people of German origin who were living in England at the outbreak of the war.
This work examines aspects of Anglo-French relations since the late eighteenth century.—“Anglo-French relations”: diplomatic relations between England and France.
This book discusses the “Anglo-Italian” identity politics of post-Napoleonic British expatriates in Italy.—“Anglo-Italian” refers to people of English origin living in Italy.
Journalist Kris Griffiths was born to a Welsh father and Anglo-Indian mother.—“Anglo-Indian” indicates that one of the mother’s parents was British.
Bede’s Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum belongs to the category of Anglo-Latin literature.—“Anglo-Latin literature” is literature from Britain originally written in Latin.
Anglo as a Combining Form without a Hyphen
These words are used as nouns and adjectives. Sometimes they are written in lowercase. Here are definitions for their use as nouns:
Anglophobe: A person who has a strong aversion or hostility to England (or Britain), its people, culture, etc.
Anglophile: A supporter or admirer of England (or Britain), its people, customs, etc.
Anglophone: A person who speaks English.
Anglosphere: A group of countries that maintain a close affinity of cultural, familial and political links with one another, notably, the United Kingdom, Ireland, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
Anglo as a Noun
In Canada, Anglo refers to an English-speaking Canadian.
In India, an Anglo is a person of mixed British and Indian descent.
In the United States, Anglo refers to a resident who is not of Hispanic origin.
Note: The hyphenated form Anglo-American can refer to a) relations between Great Britain and the United States, b) the culture shared by the United States and Anglo-phone Canada, and c) English-speaking nations in the western hemisphere contrasted with non-English-speaking nations.
Related post:
Anglos and Saxons Before England
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Source: Vocabulary

Paronyms and Paranyms

Thanks to a question from an ESL learner, I discovered the word paronym.
The OED offers three definitions of paronym in the context of word types:
1. A word which is derived from another word or from a word with the same root, and having a related or similar meaning, (e.g. childhood and childish); a derivative or cognate word.
2. A word from one language which translates into another with only minor changes in form, or with no change at all; a word formed by adaptation of a foreign word.
3. A word similar in sound or appearance to another; especially, a near homonym.
The ESL student was looking for a list of words like these:
I usually call such words “words commonly confused” or—in headline-speak—“Confused Words.”
Like other nouns that denote semantic terms, paronym is made up of a Greek element, par- (“altered”), plus the suffix -onym (“name” or “word”).
Note: The word-forming element par- can also be rendered “alongside, beyond; contrary; irregular, and abnormal.”
The earliest citation for paronym in the sense of “a near homonym” is 1867. The other uses also emerge in the second half of the 19th century.
In the course of researching the meaning of paronym, I discovered that it has a paronym of its own: paranym.
Lance Hogben (a zoologist who wrote popular books on language) used the word paranym in 1963 in sense of “a near synonym,” but the OED notes that this use is “rare” and fails to cite any other examples. A different, more useful definition is this one:
paranym: A euphemistic word or phrase whose literal sense is contrary to the reality of what it refers to, used especially to disguise or misrepresent the truth about something.
Here’s the earliest OED citation for this use:
A newspaper columnist has recently been collecting what he calls ‘paranyms’—words whose meaning is generally the opposite of that intended by the speaker…The writer Brian Aldiss thereupon contributed an example he had found in the New Testament: ‘“everlasting life”; in other words “death”’. The Listener, 1976.
Whereas I find words like synonym, antonym, homonym and heteronym extremely useful because they are easily defined and well known, I won’t be using paronym because it has more than one meaning.
Paranym, on the other hand, appeals to me. In these times of political correctness, we can use a word that means “A euphemistic word or phrase whose literal sense is contrary to the reality of what it refers to.” It’s a worthy companion to Stephen Colbert’s truthiness:
Act or quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than those known to be true.
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Source: Vocabulary


A British reader questions what he sees as a recent use of unbeknownst:
Curious about the current (British/Irish English only?) replacement of ‘unknown to him’ by ‘unbeknown/unbeknownst to him’ (university students’ work attests to it in yoof-speak, and BBC documentaries to it in them elder lemons what should beknow better). Is this also creeping into American English?
Partial paraphrase of the reader’s comment:
The writing of university students offers evidence that “unbeknownst to him” is current in youth slang, and the phrase occurs in BBC documentaries written by old-timers who should know better than to use it.
Although some speakers feel that unbeknownst “sounds medieval,” it is a fairly recent coinage, although not as recent as the reader seems to think: it dates from the 19th century.
The first OED citation is from a letter written by novelist Mrs. Gaskell:
You don’t see me, but I often am sitting in the rocking-chair unbeknownst to you. (1848)
The phrase “unbeknown to,” on the other hand, is documented as early as 1636. How the -st became attached to the word is—well—unknown.
A Google search indicates that the phrases “unbeknown to him” and “unbeknownst to him” are in use, but they rank far behind the more conventional “unknown to him”
1. “unbeknown to him” About 151,000 results 
2. “unbeknownst to him” About 391,000 results 
3. “unknown to him” About 12,800,000 results
On the Ngram Viewer, Number One does not even show; Number Two makes a slight showing, and Number Three shows a marked decline in 1900, but remains well ahead of “unbeknown to him.”
As for the phrase’s “creeping into American English,” it did that eighty-four years after Mrs. Gaskell used it—in Light in August by William Faulkner: “Interfering with his work unbeknownst to him.”
The use of unbeknownst in modern English is probably best described as “jocular” or “colloquial,” although it can be found in professional contexts:

Description of a car accident, NBC News
Unbeknownst to the first people who tried to help the victim of the crash, an adult male, the water was electrified.
Report of an experiment, Chicago Booth, publication of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business
Unbeknownst to them, the first part of the experiment served simply to expose them, in the form of a celebrity-trivia quiz, to pictures of high-profile, successful individuals.
Article about deception, Wired.
Unbeknownst to the subject, the boy is wearing a radio receiver in his ear, and every word he says is transmitted to him by a 37-year-old university professor sitting in a nearby room.
Article about stress of modern life, The New Republic
Unbeknownst to her at the time, a shooting had occurred the previous day in the same neighborhood. 
Feature about racism among children, PBS Frontline
Unbeknownst to his parents, he had started a blog, which they only learned about when another parent called to warn them.

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Source: Vocabulary

Varying Degrees of Stupid

As I browse the Web, skimming comments on various topics, one word comes up again and again: stupid.
There’s no end of people or things that some grump somewhere is calling stupid in speech or in writing. For example:
The government is stupid.
Women are stupid.
Men are stupid.
April Fool’s Day is stupid.
Handwriting is stupid.
Classical music is stupid.
Riding a bicycle is stupid.
What a waste!
English speakers are blessed with dozens of words that convey numerous shades of stupidity.
First, let’s look at the meaning of stupid. Some speakers regard it as the opposite of intelligent, but that’s misleading. Intelligent people often say and do stupid things.
Stupid derives from the Latin adjective stupidus, which in turn comes from the Latin verb stupere, “to be stunned or benumbed.” English stupid is still used with that meaning. For example, a person might be “stupid from a blow to the head,” “stupid with grief,” “stupid with sleep,” “stupid from lack of sleep,” or “stupid with drink.” In these contexts, the stupidity is temporary. It refers to an impaired ability to think and react normally.
More commonly, applied to a person, stupid means “slow of mental perception.” A stupid person is slow-witted, lacking in quickness of mind. Applied to an idea or a thing, stupid means that the thing is dull, uninteresting, or ill-considered.
Numerous synonyms for stupid exist.
When the intention is to point out a lapse of judgment or careful thought, these are useful options in serious discussions of literature, personal relationships, and public affairs:
Some terms common in colloquial speech are considered inappropriate for formal use because they derive from terms once used to describe types of mental deficiencies. For example:
Note: The words ignorant and dumb are also used colloquially to mean “mentally slow,” but they are unfortunate choices. Everyone is ignorant in some areas. All ignorant means is “lacking in knowledge.” Likewise, dumb has a meaning unrelated to intellectual ability: “unable to speak.” An intelligent, well-informed person may for some reason lack the ability to speak.
Some words that name impaired thinking also connote ridicule and disdain:
thick, thickheaded
dim, dimwitted
batty cuckoo

Finally a few adjectives convey the idea of stupidity without the sting of ridicule—among friends, at least. Here are some:
Admission: Even with all these options, sometimes stupid is the only word that satisfies the feelings of the speaker. For example, “This stupid app keeps crashing!”
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Source: Vocabulary

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