# Pet Peeves of your native language

#### DrClaude

Mentor
Could that impression be (at least partially) due to a tendency to take less notice of more locally (and consequently more frequently and familiarly) encountered examples?
Not exactly. I am well-versed in colloquial American English and my observation comes from having to often explain to my kids things they read in books or hear in movies.

#### sysprog

Not exactly. I am well-versed in colloquial American English and my observation comes from having to often explain to my kids things they read in books or hear in movies.
Perhaps your kids aren't as well-versed in US English as you are, and the dynamic I suggested might apply to them, and thereby influence your perspective?

#### pinball1970

Gold Member
This reminds me of a book of illustrated idioms in French and English. You would have for instance "It's raining cats and dogs," with a drawing of cats and dogs falling down, and on the facing page you would have "Il pleut des cordes," with ropes "raining" down. Was very funny!

Isn't it also a problem that idioms can be quite regional? Brits and Americans don't always use the same idioms.

Generally, I get the feeling that Americans speak much more in metaphors and idioms than other people. Am I wrong?
I regularly speak to Americans and we often have to explain what we each mean in conversation. Sayings I think are well known, 'young pup' was one when I was referring to my niece, she had no idea I just meant when she was very young. The same American lady also requested that I did not 'dog' her on her YouTube page. This simply means to be nasty (we were discussing the evidence for evolution as she was a creationist, I had not been nasty just qualify she just wanted assurances!)
Dogged is stoic, to dog someone would be following? Tracking? A dog's dinner is a mess, a dog is a bad thing or attempt, a dog if it is a person is slang for unattractive. I would never associate 'dog''with being nasty.

#### sysprog

@pinball1970 "Don't be lookin' the dog at me" means don't stare confrontationally at me -- have you heard that one?

#### DrClaude

Mentor
I regularly speak to Americans and we often have to explain what we each mean in conversation. Sayings I think are well known, 'young pup' was one when I was referring to my niece, she had no idea I just meant when she was very young. The same American lady also requested that I did not 'dog' her on her YouTube page. This simply means to be nasty (we were discussing the evidence for evolution as she was a creationist, I had not been nasty just qualify she just wanted assurances!)
Dogged is stoic, to dog someone would be following? Tracking? A dog's dinner is a mess, a dog is a bad thing or attempt, a dog if it is a person is slang for unattractive. I would never associate 'dog''with being nasty.
Was she barking up the wrong tree? Or is this a case of the tail wagging the dog? Or of man bites dog? Was this during the dogs days of summer?

#### sysprog

Was she barking up the wrong tree? Or is this a case of the tail wagging the dog? Or of man bites dog? Was this during the dogs days of summer?

#### Mark44

Mentor
Some more examples that must greatly confuse non-native speakers of English:
tear - a rip, pronounced the same as tare
tear - a fluid produced by an eye, pronounced the same as tier (level)
tire - verb or noun (Am. Engl.), pronounced the same as tier (as in a tier of knots)

And then of course, I, eye, and aye, all pronounced the same but with different meanings.

#### pinball1970

Gold Member
@pinball1970 "Don't be lookin' the dog at me" means don't stare confrontationally at me -- have you heard that one?
Dog ear, hang dog, hair of the dog, dog leg, raining cats and dogs,working like a dog and the 'the dogs 'anatomy'' that is prone to teratomas in some species but the saying actually means very good. It sounds amusing but that one unlike the others does not make sense, I would have thought that horses work harder than dogs too.

#### fresh_42

Mentor
2018 Award
My observation is, that English as a code is really bad in error correcting: you can often change a single letter and receive again a valid word of a completely different meaning, beside the many, many multiple meanings of a single word.

Just today I've read a joke about nuns and rude teenagers. The clue was the double meaning of cross as a noun and as an adjective.

And fresh from a PM: I almost made a typo and missed the 'o' in count. So my complaints about error correcting have a real life cause.

#### sysprog

Dog ear, hang dog, hair of the dog, dog leg, raining cats and dogs,working like a dog and the 'the dogs 'anatomy'' that is prone to teratomas in some species but the saying actually means very good. It sounds amusing but that one unlike the others does not make sense, I would have thought that horses work harder than dogs too.
Perhaps 'that one' (the 'very good' canio-anatomic feature) is a reference to the canine baculum, which, compared to the corresponding human hydrostatic-only mechanism, is highly efficient.

#### pinball1970

Gold Member
Perhaps 'that one' (the 'very good' canio-anatomic feature) is a reference to the canine baculum, which, compared to the corresponding human hydrostatic-only mechanism, is highly efficient.
Baculum is a good word, I studied biology and until now, was not aware of it.
Anyway I was referring to the two veg not the meat in the analogy. Another metaphor that is very British and makes no sense whatsoever other than numbers.
(SCC or BCC not teratoma for that region btw -rare luckily)

#### epenguin

Homework Helper
Gold Member
Many years ago when I lived in Paris, I happened to tune in quite a few times on short wave radio to a University course for French students in British Life and language. “Mes chers élèves…” the lesson always started. From them I learned quite a few things about these. Nothing I didn't know already – but I didn't know I knew.

There was one explicitly and carefully spelt out rule I had never realised according to which an adverb changes its meaning according to its placement in an English sentence. If the adverb follows an action verbt it qualifies the manner of action. If it precedes the verb it describes something more overall, I’m not sure how to express this, but it could include the intention of an action. For example if I say “I learned French stupidly” then that was my inefficient manner of learning it, whereas if I said “I stupidly learnt French” it means the whole idea of doing so was a mistake or waste of time. Ah, but then in the manner of grammatical rules in languages there is a further rule - that this rule applies only to adverbs ending in -ly! And in the manner of grammatical rules, I think there are exceptions to that rule.

So I knew the rule in that I would never use one word order if I meant what was implied by the other, but I had no idea that there was any such rule, and I think that native English speakers are never taught it, they just know.

Without knowing that they do.

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#### pinball1970

Gold Member
Many years ago when I lived in Paris, I happened to tune in quite a few times on short wave radio to a University course for French students in British Life and language. “Mes chers élèves…” the lesson always started. From them I learned quite a few things about these. Nothing I didn't know already – but I didn't know I knew.

There was one explicitly and carefully spelt out rule I had never realised according to which an adverb changes its meaning according to its placement in an English sentence. If the adverb follows an action verbt it qualifies the manner of action. If it precedes the verb it describes something more overall, I’m not sure how to express this, but it could include the intention of an action. For example if I say “I learned French stupidly” then that was my inefficient manner of learning it, whereas if I said “I stupidly learnt French” it means the whole idea of doing so was a mistake or waste of time. Ah, but then in the manner of grammatical rules in languages there is a further rule - that this rule applies only to adverbs ending in -ly! And in the manner of grammatical rules, I think there are exceptions to that rule.

So I knew the rule in that I would never use one word order if I meant what was implied by the other, but I had no idea that there was any such rule, and I think that native English speakers are never taught it, they just know.
I never really considered this.
I think punctuation can change the meaning here possibly.
'I learned French stupidly,' for me is not the same as, 'l learned French, stupidly.'

#### sysprog

Baculum is a good word, I studied biology and until now, was not aware of it.
If you think that's a good word, let's please not forget its female counterpart: baubellum, as in os baubellum felis lea, the clitoridal bone of the lioness.

#### Mark44

Mentor
There was one explicitly and carefully spelt out rule I had never realised according to which an adverb changes its meaning according to its placement in an English sentence. If the adverb follows an action verbt it qualifies the manner of action. If it precedes the verb it describes something more overall, I’m not sure how to express this, but it could include the intention of an action.
Because I worked as a (technical) writer for quite a few years, this is a rule I'm familiar with, but many people aren't.
Compare these two sentences:
1. He only plays the piano. (adverb "only" precedes the verb)
2. She plays only the piano. (adverb "only" follows the verb)

In sentence 1, the implication is that he doesn't move the piano, polish the piano, tune the piano, or perform any other operations on the piano.
In sentence 2, the implication is that she doesn't play any other instrument.

I think punctuation can change the meaning here possibly.
Yes, I think so. "He, only, plays the piano." -- No one else plays it. For even more emphasis, "He, and he only, plays the piano."

#### fresh_42

Mentor
2018 Award
Is it possible to say: "He plays the piano only."?
(He only plays only the only piano.)

#### sysprog

Is it possible to say: "He plays the piano only."?
(He only plays only the only piano.)
"He plays the piano only", without other information, would mean only that the piano is the only instrument that he plays; it would not mean that there is only one piano available for his piano playing.

#### pinball1970

Gold Member
Because I worked as a (technical) writer for quite a few years, this is a rule I'm familiar with, but many people aren't.
Compare these two sentences:
1. He only plays the piano. (adverb "only" precedes the verb)
2. She plays only the piano. (adverb "only" follows the verb)

In sentence 1, the implication is that he doesn't move the piano, polish the piano, tune the piano, or perform any other operations on the piano.
In sentence 2, the implication is that she doesn't play any other instrument.

Yes, I think so. "He, only, plays the piano." -- No one else plays it. For even more emphasis, "He, and he only, plays the piano."
Interesting, I would use the first one for both, the second does not quite feel right even if it's grammatically correct.
I would use inflection in speech and italics writing it out to distinguish between the two.
Plays and piano, not polishes and violin.

#### pinball1970

Gold Member
Is it possible to say: "He plays the piano only."?
(He only plays only the only piano.)
Too many 'only's.'

#### pinball1970

Gold Member
If you think that's a good word, let's please not forget its female counterpart: baubellum, as in os baubellum felis lea, the clitoridal bone of the lioness.
That sounds hideous.

#### mjc123

Many years ago when I lived in Paris, I happened to tune in quite a few times on short wave radio to a University course for French students in British Life and language. “Mes chers élèves…” the lesson always started. From them I learned quite a few things about these. Nothing I didn't know already – but I didn't know I knew.
“Mes chers élèves…” reminds me of an English idiom that gave a French translator trouble. In the program notes to a CD of Schubert's Moments musicaux, it says that the first edition was published with the misspelt title Momens musicals due to the publisher's "schoolboy French". The French translator evidently misunderstood this, and says that the title Moments musicaux (the correct spelling shows that he missed the point) was given by the publisher's "élève francais", a person previously unknown.

#### epenguin

Homework Helper
Gold Member
I never really considered this.
I think punctuation can change the meaning here possibly.
'I learned French stupidly,' for me is not the same as, 'l learned French, stupidly.'
Yes that is an alternative. Along with it, and this is the sort of thing that doesn't get into the textbooks that people learn from, you would pronounce 'Stupidly' in those two formulations with different tones. The non- mothertongue speaker almost never is taught and not often learns this sort of thing I believe.

#### Mark44

Mentor
Interesting, I would use the first one for both, the second does not quite feel right even if it's grammatically correct.
Like I said, a lot of people don't understand the rule about placing modifiers close to what they modify.
I would use inflection in speech and italics writing it out to distinguish between the two.
Probably wouldn't make much of a difference.
"I nearly made $50 today" vs. "I nearly made$50 today."

Compare those two with the following: