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16 thoughts on “Ask Glosso

  1. Peter Harvey


    Would you be interested in posting a review of A Guide to English Language Usage? If so, I will send you a review copy. I must warn you that it is 422 pages and 190,000 words. On the other hand, your father is a great fan of it.


  2. Louise Post author

    Hi Peter,
    That’s a really nice idea … I have to admit, I’ve never written a book review, and I don’t think of myself as a writer, but I think I might be up for the challenge (and I would really like to see a copy of the book). Let me have a think about it, and let’s be in touch on Facebook?
    Thanks for the idea!

  3. Andrea Chiou

    Will you help me understand why Europeans spell the word ‘lose’ (as in, misplaced, failed, etc) with two o’s? I thought initially that it was just my non-native English speaking friends – and that perhaps their English teachers in grade school consistently taught it wrong. However, this past week I found a native speaker (in U.K) also spelling it ‘loose’. It drives me mad!!! I know this is more about me and my lack of willingness to see it spelled any other way than ‘lose’. Short of therapy to sort out my resistance, I thought perhaps you could edify me and this would calm me down a bit.



    1. Louise Post author

      Hi Andrea!
      All I can say is that a lot of people don’t know how to spell “lose” (or the difference between “lose” and “loose”) – whether they’re American, European, or Martian. I think it’s one of the most common misspellings out there. I’m certain that there isn’t a standard alternative spelling of “lose” with two ‘o’s: it’s just that so many people get it wrong, it’s beginning to feel legit. A bit like “alright” (which should be two words – “all right”): because it’s so often spelled as one word like that, many people now think of it as standard. But as far as all my dictionaries are concerned, “lose” and “loose” mean two different things!
      I’m not sure if that calms you down or makes you feel even more annoyed, but that’s my understanding of it.
      Good to hear from you: thanks for checking in! And happy 2014 ..

  4. Jim Kendrick

    Hi Louise,
    Different than/ different from. Reading an article this morning the first just sounded wrong. Any thoughts on usage?

    Oh, and a pet peave… “Across the world,” while annoyingly common, seems to admit to believing the earth is flat.

  5. Louise Post author

    Hi Jim,

    Yes – the “different than”/”different from” is partly a Brit-American thing: I covered it briefly in this post about prepositions back in January: I think Americans tend to like “than” where Brits prefer “to”, whereas we’re not that different from each other when it comes to “from” …

    Yeah – across the world is pretty bad. But what about “across the universe”? Do you think The Beatles got that one wrong?


  6. Jonathan

    Can you please tell me the origin of the expression ‘vains’ or ‘fains’ meaning ‘I won’t deal with it’ or ‘not for me’?

  7. Louise Post author

    Hi Jonathan,
    Sorry not to reply sooner: I’m going to look into this and probably do a post on “truce words” (which are quite an interesting subject in themselves). Stay tuned, and thanks for the question!

  8. Sam Brown


    Are you happy to receive content similar to the piece “Slang: the most esoteric and quintessentially human form of language?”?

    I am putting together a complete online dictionary of cockney rhyming slang, which I’m pretty sure will be of interest to you.

    Would you be open to taking a look when it’s completed?

    Thanks very much for your time either way:)

    Best wishes


    1. Louise Post author

      Hi Sam,

      Sorry for the delay in replying: I’d be happy to take a look at your online dictionary of slang once it’s completed. Please send me the link when it’s up.

      Many thanks,

  9. Colin Williams

    In a recent Zoom-based “Lockdown Quiz”, there was a question about whether a helicopter is regarded as masculine or feminine. I know ships and aeroplanes are referred to using feminine pronouns and I imagined the same was true of helicopters, too. Apparently, I was wrong! My team won the quiz, so it didn’t upset me too much but I am curious. Is there any reason why helicopters should be referred to using masculine pronouns?

    1. Louise Post author

      Gosh: what an interesting question! Let me look into it and see if I can find out what’s behind this curious anomaly …
      Thanks for raising it!

    1. Louise Post author

      Hi Gary,
      I’m afraid I don’t, but most of my posts are on the Glossophilia Facebook page (as well as additional content), so that’s the easiest way to keep up with the blog.
      I’m glad you’re enjoying it!
      Glossophilia (aka Louise)

  10. Louise Post author

    Hi Irene,
    According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “moral compass” has the following definition:

    “moral compass” n. anything that serves as a guide to making a morally informed choice (cf. moral sense n.).

    And here are some early citations:
    1843 C. Dickens Martin Chuzzlewit (1844) iv. 36 Mr. Chevy Slyme, whose great abilities seemed one and all to point towards the sneaking quarter of the moral compass.
    1879 Mind 4 245 The temporary oscillation of the moral compass which ensues on the full perception of this aspect of scientific conclusions.
    1922 Jrnl. Philos. 19 324 For love is the most accurate moral compass with which human nature is endowed.
    1978 Jrnl. Higher Educ. 49 509 I believe it was Charles Magruder who said: ‘Somewhere between college and Watergate, I lost my moral compass.’

    I hope this is helpful!


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