Posted on | February 9, 2014 | No Comments
Considering how many people use Twitter on a daily basis, chances are you’ve come across people who swear on it quite a lot, but how often does it actually happen?
Four researchers from Wright State University decided to find out by analysing 51 million tweets, all of which were randomly collected, and about 14 million users on Twitter.
They found that despite it being a public forum, people swear a lot. Even more than they would in real-life.
To start off, it’s estimated that around 0.5 – 0.7 per cent of all the words we say are curse words. On Twitter, that rate was 1.15 per cent.
Explaining the reason why this was the case to Co.Exist , Wenbo Wang, a PhD research student who led the study, said that “because of social media, people don’t see each other. They can say things they wouldn’t say in the physical world.”
Predictably, angry tweets were most likely to contain cursing – 23.82 per cent of the angry tweets analysed had swears in them – while the majority of them happen at the start of the week.
When looking at which swear words were used the most, the seven most common words accounted for more than 90 per cent of all swearing done online.
(Note: The swear words in question have been edited out below for obvious reasons so you will either have to use your imagination, or look at the report itself.)
The research was carried out by members of Wright State University, who presented the findings at the ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing.
The findings will form part of a much larger research project relating to mental health, verbal abuse, online harassment and gender differences in online communications.
Posted on | February 8, 2014 | No Comments
As a whole, English makes absolutely no sense. That becomes particularly evident in spelling.
Consider the fictitious word “ghoti,” an often cited example of English’s confusing sounds. “Ghoti” technically spells “fish.” Use the “gh” sound in “tough”; the “o” sound from “women”; and the “ti” sound from “nation.”
While English spelling includes many exceptions, we compiled a basic guide, based on the Oxford Online Dictionary’s American component, to help you avoid the most common mistakes.
1. Using “ei” vs. “ie”
Almost everyone knows the rhyme: “i” before “e” except after “c.”
This rule has some value, but only if you remember all the exceptions.
First of all, the “c” rule only holds for “e/i” combinations that sound like “ee,” as in “ceiling.” When the “e/i” combination after “c” makes a different sound, the “i” usually goes first, as in “science” or “efficient.”
Second, many times the “e” goes before “i,” such as when the vowel combination sounds like “ay,” as in “feign” or “vein.” Many words don’t fit the rules at all, such as “their” and “weird.”
In short, “i” goes before “e” except when they come after “c” and sound like “ee” or when they sound like “ay” — with many exceptions.
2. Spelling words with “q”
The letter “u” will always follow the letter “q.” (Exceptions to this rule exist but often as Anglicized versions of foreign words — such as the favorite Scrabble word “qi.”)
3. Using “-ible” vs. “-able”
Usually, a word that takes the suffix “-able” can stand alone as a word itself, like “understandable.” The same still goes for dropped “e’s” and double consonants, like “advisable” (stem: advise) and “stoppable” (stem: stop).
Words with “-ible” almost never function as words on their own, like “audible.” Also, words with a hard “c” (pronounced like “k”) and a hard “g” (as in “gig”) usually take “-ible.”
When in doubt, choose “able.” The Oxford Online Dictionary lists more than 1,000 adjectives that take “-able” compared to only 180 with “-ible.”
If you can recognize whether a word has a Latin root, it’s helpful to know that “-ible” usually accompanies words from Latin, like the word audible.
Let’s start with the most basic rule: Just add “s” to the ends of words to pluralize them.
Now, the exceptions:
First, when a word ends in “ch,” “sh,” “s,” “x,” “z,” just add “-es.” But if “ch” makes a hard “k” sound, just add an “s.”
Second, when a word ends in “f” or “fe,” change the “f” or “fe” to “ves.” If the word ends in a vowel and then an “f,” however, like “chief,” just add “s.”
Lastly, if the word ends in a consonant and a “y,” likes “spy,” remove the “y” and add “-ies.” So “spy” becomes “spies.”
5. Using “-ful” vs. “-fully”
Don’t use “-full” at the end of an adjective. Words like “beautiful,” “careful,” and “spiteful” only require one “l.” “Fully,” however often ends adverbs, like “beautifully.”
6. Adding “-ed” and “-ing” to verbs
To create the present participle and past tense of a verb, you need to add “-ing” or “-ed,” respectively, to its infinitive, like “to dream.” (Present participle refers to an action happening in that moment, like “I am running.”)
If the verb ends in an unpronounced “e,” like “bake” or “smile,” drop the “e” and add the “-ed” or “-ing” (i.e. baked, baking). In some rare cases, you’ll keep the final “e” to differentiate between words. For example, “singeing” (to burn) would look like “singing” if you dropped the “e.” For that reason, “sing” becomes “sang” in the past tense, so it doesn’t look like singed (burned).
If the verb only has one syllable, or ends with a stressed syllable, containing one vowel and a consonant, like “stop” and “refer,” then you need to double the final consonant before adding “-ed” and “–ing.” For example, “stop” becomes “stopping” and “stopped” while “refer” changes to “referred” and “referring.”
If the verb ends in a “c,” like “traffic” or “panic,” add a “k” before adding the ending. “Traffic” becomes “trafficked.”
7. Using “-ance” vs. “-ence” (also “-ancy” vs. “-ency” and “-ant” vs. “-ent”)
Added onto the end of a word, these suffixes form nouns from verbs or adjectives.
If the verb ends in a “y,” “ure,” or “ear,” you’ll add “-ance.” For example, “ally,” “reassure,” and “clear” become “alliance,” “reassurance,” and ” clearance.” If the verb ends in “ate,” like “tolerate,” you’ll also likely add “-ance,” though not always.
But if the verb contains “ere” at the end, like “revere” and “adhere,” you’ll need “-ence,” as in “reverence” and “adherence.”
The endings “-ancy” and “-ency” work the same way. For example, since “vacate” ends in “-ate,” the noun is “vacancy.”
Now, to turn the noun version into an adjective, add “-ant” or -”ent.” The same rules apply, only in the reverse order. If a noun ends in “-ancy,” you’ll usually add “-ant.” If a noun ends in “-ency,” it normally takes “ence.”
8. Using “-acy” vs. “-asy”
Certain nouns ends in “-acy” or “-asy.” But only four in English end in “-asy”: apostasy, fantasy, ecstasy, and idiosyncrasy.
9. Using “-ary,” “-ory,” and “-ery”
If the part of the word before the ending can’t stand alone as a complete word, you’ll usually add “-ary,” as in “library.”
Many adjectives or nouns that take “-ory” relate to words with “or” already included. For example, “contributor” becomes “contributory.” They also often stem from a noun that ends in “ion.” Consider that “introduction” becomes “introductory.”
Words that take “-ery,” often relate to nouns with “er” already included. For example, “brewer,” “bluster,” and “shiver.” Also, if the part of the word before the ending is a recognizable word, you’ll usually add “ery.”
10. Using -efy vs. -ify
Certain verbs end in “-efy” or “-ify.” But only four common ones end with “-efy”: liquefy, putrefy, stupefy, and rarefy.
11. Using -tion, -cion, and -sion
Pronunciation comes into play here. If you pronounce the end of the word “zun,” like “confusion,” you’ll use -sion. The suffix -sion will also usually follow a final “-l,” “-n,” or “-r” regardless of pronunciation. (Keep in mind the verb forms of words like “exertion” and “invention” actually end in “t,” as in “exert” and “invent”).
If you pronounce the end of the word “shun, ” like “station,” you’ll usually use “-tion.” Also, “-tion” will usually follow any letter other than “-l,” “-n,” or “-r.”
12. Using “fore-” vs. “for-”
This difference doesn’t actually apply to spelling rules. The prefix “fore-” means “before” or “in front of,” while “for” generally conveys banning or neglect.
For example, “forefront” means “before the front.” And “forbid” means “refuse to allow.”
13. Forming adverbs
Adverbs usually stem from adjectives and describe how or when an event occurred.
Using the basic rule, you just add “-ly” to the end of an adjective.
But if the adjective contains two syllables and ends in “y,” like happy, you need to replace the final “y” with “-ily.” For example, “happy” becomes “happily.”
If the adjective ends with a consonant followed by an “e,” like terrible, drop the “e” and add “ly” — as in “terribly.”
People often change adjectives that already end in “ly,” such as “friendly” or “lively,” into adverbs, like “friendlily.” But adjectives that end in “ly” can’t form adverbs. You’ll need to write, “in a friendly way” instead.
Posted on | January 15, 2014 | No Comments
We’ve already written about the most common grammatical mistakes, but to find out what word-related wrongdoing really irks people, we turned to the Internet.
Quora and Reddit users started two similar threads about the English errors they find most “annoying.” We listed the worst of the worst.
1. Using “it’s” instead of “its”
“I see it so much that I now expect to see it. I will be reading an article, distracted by the dreadful anticipation of knowing it’s coming. Then wham, I read a sentence like, “[T]he fire department said that it’s equipment is outdated,” and I will be brought to a rage,” Michael Wolfe wrote as Quora’s top comment.
Use “it’s” as a contraction to replace “it is.” Use “its” as a possessive pronoun to show ownership.
Example 1: It’s raining.
Example 2: The dog wanted its bone.
Note: The top comment on Reddit actually corrected the original question, which asked about “grammar errors.” “Grammatical errors,” in reality, is proper, as user A40 wrote.
2. Using “I” and “me” in the wrong spots
“I” will always be the subject of a sentence or clause, whereas “me” will be the object. “Me” should follow any preposition (of, in, on, etc.) and function as both the indirect and direct object in a sentence.
3. “I guess using an apostrophe for plural’s,” Reddit user wekiva joked.
Only possessive words (and contractions) require apostrophes.
Quora user Bruce Feldman discovered an entire website dedicated to photographic evidence of this terrible phenomenon.
4. Improper ellipses
Surprisingly, this appeared high on both sites’ threads.
“Ellipsis. Ellipses are three dots. Three. Not two, not four. Three,” Tzuwei Chen wrote on Quora. There should also be a space on either side.
And using four dots — a period follow by an ellipses — is actually correct at the end of a sentence, as Reddit user wethrgirl noted.
5. Using “than” instead of “then”
“Then” conveys time, while “than” is used for comparison.
Example 1: We left the party and then went home.
Example 2: We would rather go home than stay at the party.
6. Confusing homophones
Homophones — words that sound the same but have different meanings — weren’t explicitly mentioned in either site’s list, but we wanted to categorize these complaints.
The homophones include:
- They’re, their, there
- You’re, your
- could have, could of; should have, should of; would have, would of
- affect, effect
For the first, “they’re” is a contraction of “they are.” “Their” is a possessive pronoun. And finally, “there” is a location.
Similarly, “you’re” is the contraction of “you are,” while “your” is a possessive pronoun.
You should eliminate ”could of,” “should of,” and “would of” from your vocabulary entirely.
The last, using affect or effect, deserves its own section.
7. Using “affect” instead of “effect”
Use the acronym AVENUE to determine when to use the different forms. “Affect is a verb and effect is a noun, unless it’s one of the rare exceptions.”
These exceptions are: when someone “effects change” and “affect” as a psychological symptom.
8. Using “less” instead of “fewer”
“If you can count it, it’s ‘fewer,’ if you can’t count it, you use ‘less,’ Reddit user bigbangtheory_ wrote.
“It’s fewer marbles and less jam. One counts marbles but not jam,” Quora user Roderick Chow wrote.
9. Using “over” instead of “more than”
“Over is a spacial comparison. ‘The bird flies over the house.’ More than is appropriate for volume comparisons. ‘She makes more than he does per hour,’” Reddit user geaster wrote.
A lot is two words — no exceptions. You wouldn’t write “alittle,” so why write “alot?”
“Every time I see ‘a lot’ written as ‘alot’ I experience a fleeting, but very real homicidal urge,” Quora user Emma-Francis Rutherford admitted.
11. Using adjectives instead of adverbs
“Let’s walk quiet.” “I’ll do it careful” “Make sure to stir it gentle.” I grit my teeth every time I hear it,” Quora user Jim Seidman wrote.
Some people praise these ”flat adverbs” though.
Traditionally though, if you’re describing how you do something (a verb), you need an adverb, which will likely end in “-ly.”
Example: Let’s walk quietly.
12. Improper comma use
“Far too many people seem to think that punctuation use is a personal choice as opposed to a part of grammar. Were I not opposed to murder, I would hunt down Cormac McCarthy and kill him,” Quora user Ara Ogle said.
Check out BI’s complete guide to using commas without looking like an idiot. Our style guide dictates we use the Oxford comma (the last comma in a series), but some of our reporters vehemently disagree.
This isn’t an accepted word. Never use it.
14. Using “to” instead of “too”
“To” is either the start of an infinitive or a preposition. “Too” is an adverb to express excess.
15. Confusing “loose” and “lose”
“Loose” is an adjective that means “not tight.” When you “lose” something, however, it’s no longer in your possession.
Posted on | January 8, 2014 | No Comments
A new list of the most common words and phrases in the English language in 2013 was overwhelmingly negative.
“404″ — as in the error message that appears when a web page can’t load — and “toxic politics” both earned top spots, with “surveillance,” “drones” and “federal shutdown” also appearing on the list, from Global Language Monitor.
“We are surprised that the year came out with such a negative theme,” Paul JJ Payack, the founder of GLM, told Business Insider. “These are troubling times, but there are things like the rise of China, which causes some decline in the U.S. manufacturing system, that language ends up describing as a fail when really it’s more of a transformation.”
GLM uses an in-house technology to monitor word usage on the Internet, including social media platforms, the blogosphere, and 275,000 print and electronic global media publications. To quality, words, names, and phrases must be found globally, have a minimum of 25,000 citations, and a “breadth” and “depth” of usage, meaning they appear in various forms of media and all over the world.
Of course, words like “the” were used way more frequently than some of the words on these lists, but Payack said GLM’s rankings “distilled words that impact language in the news and global discussion.”
The Top Words of 2013
- 404: The near-universal numeric code for failure on the global Internet.
- Fail: The single word fail, often used as a complete sentence (Fail!) to signify failure of an effort, project, or endeavor.
- Hashtag: The “number sign” and “pound sign” reborn as the all-powerful Twitter hashtag.
- @Pontifex: The handle of the ever-more popular Pope Franciscus (Francis).
- The Optic: The “optic” is threatening to overtake “the narrative” as the narrative overtook rational discourse. Does not bode well for an informed political discussion.
- Surveillance: The revelation of the unprecedented extent of spying by the NSA into lives of ordinary citizens to the leaders of the closest allies of the US.
- Drones: Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) that are piloted remotely or by on-board computers used for killing scores or even hundreds of those considered enemy combatants of the US.
- Deficit: Looks like deficit-spending will plague Western democracies for at least the next decade. Note to economists of all stripes: reducing the rate of increase of deficit spending still increases the deficit.
- Sequestration: From Latin sequestrare, to hide away or isolate or to give up for safekeeping.
- Emancipate: Grows in importance as worldwide more women and children are enslaved in various forms of involuntary servitude.
The Top Phrases of 2013
- Toxic Politics: American-style scorch-and-burn political campaigns becoming the norm for democracies worldwide.
- Federal Shutdown: To the Founders it was a delicate balancing of powers. A generation ago it was called Checks and Balances. Today we call it Federal Shutdown.
- Global Warming/Climate Change: Add “anthropogenic” warming to this fact: The existence of the Bering Land Bridge 20,000 years ago suggests that the oceans were some 100 meters lower than today.
- Federal Deficit: The difference between what the government takes in and what it spends. Ten of the twelve largest global economies are running large deficits. The exceptions? China and Germany.
- Tread Lightly: The advice from Walter White of television’ s Breaking Bad, speaks volumes to many in the 21st century.
- Boston Strong: Signifying the resilience of Bostonians after the terror of the Marathon Bombing. Perhaps one day we will see Baghdad Strong.
- Marathon Bombing: Terrorist bombing at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon resulting in five deaths and 280 additional casualties.
- Chemical Weapons: As per the Geneva Convention, chemical weapons are any toxic chemical or its precursor that can cause death, injury, temporary incapacitation or sensory irritation through its chemical action.
- All Time High: Many see this all-too-prevalent description of many world markets as more of a warning that a cause for celebration.
- Rogue nukes: Sources state that Iran can now assemble a bomb in two weeks. This is going from hypothetical to reality. (If true, International Inspection Effort: Fail.)
The Top Names of 2013
- Pope Francis: The former Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church, born December 17, 1936 in Buenos Aires.
- ObamaCare: Five years after Obamamania, the president’s name is still in use though not always in a praiseworthy manner.
- NSA: The National Security Agency of the US collects intelligence through clandestine means of both foreign and (to the surprise of many) domestic sources.
- Ed Snowden: Edward Joseph Snowden, the former NSA contractor and CIA employee, who leaked classified United States, British and Israeli surveillance programs.
- Kate Middleton: Officially, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, the fashion and style icon, the future Queen of the Realm, wife of the Prince of Wales, and mother of Prince George of Cambridge. 5a. HRH Georgie: Nickname of Prince George of Cambridge, son of “Wills and Kate.”
- IRS: The Internal Revenue Service, the tax-collecting (or revenue enhancement) body of the US Government, that was in the spotlight for allegedly selectively auditing right-wing targets.
- Ted Cruz: Rafael Edward Cruz, the Tea Party supporter and Senator from Texas, who led a filibuster on the floor of the US Senate for 21 hours and nineteen minutes in opposition to the Affordable Care Act.
- Chris Christie: Governor of New Jersey who achieved national fame while touring the devastation wreaked on the Jersey Shore by Superstorm Sandy with President Obama.
- Tea Party: A Conservative political movement in the US, that takes its name from the Massachusetts protesters dumping tea into Boston Harbor in 1773 to highlight their call for “no taxation without representation.”
- Marathon Bombers: Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the alleged perpetrators of the Terrorist bombing at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon resulting in five deaths and 280 additional casualties.