Sunday, 15 December 2013

200 Common Redundancies

I have just come across this wonderful list of 200 common redundancies (the links in the tweet above are clickable). Many of them are so common that we use them without thinking; until now, I hope. A page worth saving in your bookmarks.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Hilarious tweets

Click on the image in the last tweet to view it in a larger size.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Fair better or fare better?

According to yesterday's Times of India, "doctors' children fair better than that of engineers" in IIT entrance exams.

Nope; they fare better.

The second mistake is the use of that, which refers to children. Since children is plural, the sentence should have read: Doctors' children fare better than those of engineers.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

I wish I were an astronaut

I wish I were an astronaut on the International Space Station; I could then look out through the portholes and take in breathtaking views of the Earth. Sadly, I am not.

But what does this have to do with the English language?

Well, when we talk of situations which are not true (for example when we express a wish) we should use a verb in the subjunctive mood. In the sentence If I were an astronaut..., were is in the subjunctive mood because I am talking about a situation which is not real. Many people would have written If I was an astronaut..., where was is in the indicative mood.


 Similarly, the song If I were a rich man from the movie Fiddler on the Roof correctly uses the subjunctive were because the character in the film is not rich; he is just singing about what he would do if indeed he were rich.

Likewise, were is correctly used in the following sentences:
  • If I were you I would... (in reality I am not you)
  • If you were the Prime Minister what would you do to tackle corruption? (in reality you are not the Prime Minister) 
  • I wish you were here.
You might have noticed that the second part of such sentences usually contains would or could.

It is for this reason that If God was a Banker, a novel written by Ravi Subramanian, should have used the subjunctive, were, in the title. The same holds true for the Ronan Keating song Carrickfergus, whose first line reads: I wish I was in Carrickfergus; were would have been more appropriate. Ditto for Enrique Iglesias' Wish I was your lover.

You can read more on this topic here and here.

The use of the indicative was is very common, nevertheless. A google search for "I wish I was" produced 350 million results whereas "I wish I were" gave 59.4 million.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Prone vs Supine

I don't know about you but I used to think that these two words were synonyms. They are not. A person is prone when they lie on their stomach and supine when they lie on their back.

    Prone                                                          Photo: Daily Mail       

Supine                             Photo: Finger Lakes Runners Club

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Learn a new word: tare

While searching for a digital weighing scale for my kitchen I came across the term tare, a word which I had never heard before. I looked it up on Macmillan online dictionary and this is what it said:

The weight of an empty truck or large container, used for calculating the weight of the goods that it carries.
And according to Collins dictionary:
1. The weight of the wrapping or container in which goods are packed.
2. A deduction from gross weight to compensate for this.
It can also be used as a transitive verb to mean to weigh (a package etc.) in order to calculate the amount of tare. 

So let us say that you are going to bake a cake and want to weigh baking powder on a digital weighing machine. The tare function will help you by deducting the weight of the container and arriving at the net weight of the baking powder in it.