Pretty, Pretty, Pretty Good


(of a person, especially a woman or child) attractive in a delicate way without being truly beautiful.

‘a pretty little girl with an engaging grin’


To a moderately high degree; fairly.

‘he looked pretty fit for his age’

‘it was a pretty bad injury’

Pretty is, well, a pretty interesting word. The definition that immediately comes to mind for you is probably the first one above. What really interests me about this definition is that last part: without being truly beautiful. Pretty is certainly a less powerful word than beautiful. Because of that it, like nice, feels almost like an insult to use it to describe someone. Sure, it’s technically a positive word, but when you’ve got so many other adjectives you can use, calling someone pretty feels like a deliberate choice to not use something more unambiguously complimentary.

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“None of them is” or “None of them are?”

Which of the following is correct:

It’s ok! None of the coffee is on my shirt!

I called the guys, and none of them is coming.

I called the guys, and none of them are coming.

(Oh man, usually when he asks Which one is correct? they’re all correct and he expects us to amazed. Watch)

Well, you might actually be amazed to find out that they’re all correct!

(*sigh* See?)

But why are they all correct?

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The Funniest Words in the World?

What makes something funny? Feel free not to even try to answer that, because obviously humour, like an earthworm in a snowstorm, is hard to pin down. Some suggest it’s based on minor transgressions, the release of tension, or shedding new light on things we take for granted.  Of course, all of this depends on context and a wide number of variables, and is still going to be subjective even then. If we look at which individual words we tend to find funny though, there aren’t so many variables to consider, and we might be able to find out why they’re funny.

I’m thinking about this because researchers at the University of Warwick conducted a study of what the funniest words in the English language are. They did this by choosing a random sample of 5,000 words, and the asking 800 people to rate them for humour from 1 (unfunny) to 5 (hilarious). Here’s what they came up with, starting with the funniest:

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Behind the Scenes of Blogging: Statistics

I want to take a little break from looking at language for this evening. Actually, I had tried to write something about language. I tried to write the post I’d mentioned yesterday: I wanted to start with the word English, and then let my phone choose which words would follow. I was hoping for some mad Dadaist poem, but was somewhat disappointed it was just recreating whole sentences from my blog or from emails. But then, having a look at my blog dashboard, and looking at other blogs, I decided to write about what I like about blogging. And when I started thinking about it, I realised I could write a lot, so I decided to focus on one aspect of the blogging experience: the statistics.

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Words for Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know Had Names (Except for “Aglet,” Because Everyone Knows that now)

Estimates vary as to the number of words in the English language (171,476 in current use according to the OED), but for most of us, it’s not really important, as we never use the vast majority of them. But what exactly are these other words? A lot of them are scientific and technical terms we never come across or need to know. But there are quite a few words to describe common situations or objects, that you may not have known had names at all. Such as…

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