<![CDATA[English Online Editing and Proofreading - AlterEnglish Blog]]>Sat, 30 Dec 2017 21:08:59 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[How the letters of the alphabet got their names]]>Thu, 16 Nov 2017 02:46:46 GMThttp://alterenglish.com/alterenglish-blog/how-the-letters-of-the-alphabet-got-their-namesThere seems to be little predictability to the English names for the letters of the alphabet, to say nothing of the names of letters in other languages. Some begin with an e-as-in-egg sound (effell); some end in an ee sound (teedee); and others have no obvious rhyme or reason to them at all. How did they get that way?
The vowels are all named after their long forms. In Middle English, these were roughly ah, ay (as in “may”), ee, oh, oo (as in “tool”). But the “Great Vowel Shift” scrambled the long vowels of English over several centuries, starting roughly in 1400. This made English vowels sound different from those in Europe, and changed the letters’ names with them, to ay, ee, aye, oh. U was still called oo after the Great Vowel shift; around 1600 it started being called yoo. The Oxford English Dictionary says of wy, also known as Y, merely that the name is of “obscure origin”. It is at least 500 years old.Top of Form
Bottom of Form

The consonants are more regular than first appears. The English pronunciations use a modified form of the system handed down from Latin. “Stop” consonants—those that stop the airflow entirely—get an ee sound after them. (Think B, D, P and T.) Consonants with a continuing airflow get an e-as-in-egg sound at the beginning instead (F, L, M, N, S, X). There are a couple of exceptions. C and G have both stop and non-stop (“hard” and “soft”) sounds, as seen in “cat” and “cent”, and “gut” and “gin”. They are called see and gee because in Latin they were only “stop” consonants and so follow the same naming rules as B and D. (Why they are not pronounced key and ghee is unclear.)
Other anomalies require a bit more explanation. R, which has a continuing airflow, used to conform to the rule above, and was called er. Its vowel changed to ar for unknown reasons. V was used as both a consonant and a vowel in Latin, and so does not fit the pattern above either: it is a fricative (a consonant in which noise is produced by disrupting the airflow), named like a stop. Double-U is a remnant of V’s old double-life, too. J did not exist in Latin; its English pronunciation is inherited from French, with some alternation. Zed comes from the Greek zeta. (Americans call it zee, perhaps to make it behave more like the other letter-names, though the exact reason is unclear.) And aitch is perhaps the greatest weirdo in the alphabet. Its name is descended from the Latin accha, ahha or aha, via the French ache. The modern name for the letter does not have an h-sound in it, in most places. But there is a variant—haitch—thought by some to be a “hypercorrection”, an attempt to insert the letter’s pronunciation into its name. In the Irish republic, haitch is considered standard; in Northern Ireland, it is used by Catholics, whereas aitch is a shibboleth that identifies Protestants. But it is not limited to Ireland: haitch is also spreading among the English young, to the horror of their elders.

<![CDATA[March 11th, 2017]]>Sun, 12 Mar 2017 01:02:30 GMThttp://alterenglish.com/alterenglish-blog/march-11th-2017Greetings everyone! It's March 2017 and time for us at AlterEnglish to raise our standard edit rate a smidgeon (that's an old holdout from British English :)). Our super-low rate of THB 350 ($10) per 1,000 words will henceforth go up to the still-great bargain of THB 400 ($11) per 1,000 words. We hope this doesn't cause any inconvenience for anyone out there, it's still a great rate, and we still do great work for all your editing needs.
All the best!
The AlterEnglish editing team

<![CDATA[Happy New Year - 2017, 2560 in Thailand, from all of us at AlterEnglish :)]]>Wed, 04 Jan 2017 02:48:38 GMThttp://alterenglish.com/alterenglish-blog/happy-new-year-2017-2560-in-thailand-from-all-of-us-at-alterenglishMore Colorful Britishisms from our resident Brit, George
While our beloved British editor  is freezing his knickers off in Northern England, he's been coming up with some more unusual "twistings" of the English language from his neck of the woods. Enjoy!

Booze related
on the pop - a drinking session. I heard it at football yesterday criticism of a player not trying  "Looks like he's been on the pop!" ie hungover
Pie-eyed - drunk
Early doors - early in the day, first into an event. Seems to come from when drinkers got their first drink of the day but now used generally.
Pack it in - generally used to mean stop but I overheard two old ladies, " She's 94, stopped eating, I think she's ready to pack it in"
Yorkshire/Northern dialect
The dialect spoken 100+ years ago in this part of the world has virtually gone. Mostly it remains in accent and pronunciation eg  "Daya wan' mil wi yer tea?" ie do you take milk in your tea. But I heard some just recently.
Ginnel - alley between houses
Gi owar - stop it or I don't believe it, Give over
Flit - move house
'appen - perhaps
siling it down - raining heavy
while - until "I'm working while 7"
Proper - truly, very

<![CDATA[British-isms]]>Thu, 24 Nov 2016 03:21:44 GMThttp://alterenglish.com/alterenglish-blog/british-ismsBritish Expressions can  be a real bugger (pardon the Australian English) for those of us who are more used to American English. As an American-born editor, I often ask our British editor, "Where did you guys learn English"? Just kidding, of course, but some "British-isms" are rather colorful, nonetheless. Here are a few.......

Tosser, Wanker - idiot
Give you a Bell - call you
Gutted- Devastated
Lost the Plot - Gone Crazy
Kip - Sleep or Nap
Bee's Knees - Awesome
Know your Onions - Knowledgeable
Dodgy - Suspicious
Wonky - Not right
Whinge - Whine
Arse-Over-Tit - Fall over
Dog's Dinner - Dressed Nicely
Made Redundant - Fired From a Job
Fancy - Like
<![CDATA[ Testimonials ]]>Mon, 21 Nov 2016 02:05:48 GMThttp://alterenglish.com/alterenglish-blog/-testimonialsThank you for your fast and professional work.  W.

Many thanks for the prompt service. S.

<![CDATA[The difference between “less” and “fewer” ]]>Mon, 31 Oct 2016 00:58:58 GMThttp://alterenglish.com/alterenglish-blog/the-difference-between-less-and-fewerFrom the archives of the Economist

The Economist explains

The difference between “less” and “fewer”
Aug 27th 2015, 23:50 by R.L.G.

MANY people insist on a bright-line distinction between “fewer” and “less”, and get quite agitated by the subject. David Foster Wallace’s novel Infinite Jest featured the Militant Grammarians of Massachusetts, who boycott stores with signs reading “12 items or less”. A few vigilantes have defaced such signs in real life. What is the distinction, and why does it matter?
Nouns can be “count nouns” or “mass nouns”. Count nouns are usually distinct things that can be counted, and take a plural: think “houses” or “shirts”. Mass nouns can’t usually be counted or made plural: think “water” or “oatmeal”. (They can sometimes be counted, as in a fancy restaurant offering several different waters, but “water” in ordinary use is otherwise a mass noun.) Under the traditional rule, “fewer” goes with count nouns and “less” with mass nouns. Hence “My sister has fewer shirts than I do”, but “My brother has less oatmeal than I do”. The rule was first proposed in this form in 1770 by Robert Baker in Reflections on the English Language.
But Baker expressed this as a preference, not a rule, perhaps because there are many shadings on it. The mass-count distinction does not always line up with the real-life properties of things: “clothing” is a mass noun (so it’s “less clothing”) but “clothes” is a count noun (so “fewer clothes”). Clothes are discrete items—like a typical count noun. And yet you can’t count them: “he is wearing four clothes” makes no sense. Meanwhile, some count nouns don’t represent discrete things at all. Take time and distance: years and miles are count nouns, but they represent arbitrary sections on a continuum. This probably is why many people find “I’ve lived here less than three years” more natural than “I’ve lived here fewer than three years”. And “less” is almost always more natural than “fewer” after one, in sentences like “that’s one less thing to deal with”.
Finally, there is the question of style. “Fewer” is never used with mass nouns, but in casual speech, “less” is often used with count nouns. “She won’t go out with anyone with less than three cars” is fine for the bar stool, but using this phrasing in print is likely to attract an editorial correction. The so-called rule has never reflected reality: as far back as the ninth century we find Alfred the Great writing swa mid laes worda, swa mid ma (“be it with less words or with more”). Even so, it is a good guideline for formal writing—and good for keeping the Militant Grammarians of Massachusetts out of your supermarket.

<![CDATA[October 25th, 2016]]>Tue, 25 Oct 2016 03:38:21 GMThttp://alterenglish.com/alterenglish-blog/october-25th-20163048323Most adult native test-takers range from 20,000–35,000 words
Average native test-takers of age 8 already know 10,000 words
Average native test-takers of age 4 already know 5,000 words
Adult native test-takers learn almost 1 new word a day until middle age
Adult test-taker vocabulary growth basically stops at middle age
The most common vocabulary size for foreign test-takers is 4,500 words
Foreign test-takers tend to reach over 10,000 words by living abroad
Foreign test-takers learn 2.5 new words a day while living in an English-speaking country

<![CDATA[October 25th, 2016]]>Tue, 25 Oct 2016 03:09:11 GMThttp://alterenglish.com/alterenglish-blog/october-25th-2016The Historical Present
The "historical present" is the tendency to use the present tense to describe past (and literary) events, as in this example from a radio interview about Lawrence Wright's book on Scientology:
    At some point L. Ron Hubbard takes to the sea and he moves the main people in Scientology to the sea with him. ... So at some point he decides to come back to land. He needs a safe place to be and a place where Scientology can flourish and he chooses Clearwater, Florida.
Another, more well-known, usage of this form of the present tense is in the telling of jokes in the form of a funny story.
A guy walks into a bar and sits at a table. Tells the waitress, "I'll have a Bloody Mary and a menu." When she returns with his drink, he asks "Still servin' breakfast?" When she says Yes, he replies, "Then I'll have two eggs-runny on top and burnt on the bottom, five strips of bacon ON END-well done on one end and still raw on the other, two pieces of burnt toast and a cold cup of coffee." Indignantly the waitress says, "We don't serve that kinda stuff in here!" Guy says, "Funny... that's what I had in here yesterday..."
Any more “guy walks into a bar” jokes out there?

<![CDATA[ The Usage Wars Over English, Authority versus Correctness ]]>Tue, 11 Oct 2016 03:31:02 GMThttp://alterenglish.com/alterenglish-blog/-the-usage-wars-over-english-authority-versus-correctness     In tackling the questions of right and wrong regarding the usage of the English language, two general views emerge as to how to do this: one top-down, based on authority, prestige, writing and stability, the other bottom-up, resting on how most people actually use the language, and open to change. These two schools of thought, known as “prescriptivism” (which sets down how the language should be), i.e., the former, and “descriptivism” (which tells how it is), i.e., the latter, are often at odds with one another: English teachers and some usage-book writers on one side, and academic linguists, lexicographers and other usage-book writers on the other. In the caricature, prescriptivists are authoritarians with their heads in the sand, insisting on Victorian-era non-rules. The descriptivists are mocked as “anything-is-correct”, embracing every fad, even that Shakespeare should be taught in text-message-speak. To take one example, some prescriptivists say “like” cannot be a conjunction (“tastes good, like a cigarette should”, in a 1950s advert.)
     Prescribing is not really the opposite of describing. Lexicographers must describe the language, grounding their definitions in real living English. Academic linguists, the arch-descriptivists, are perfectly willing to call some usages wrong and others plain ugly.
     One can prescribe and preach a high-quality English while accepting variety and change. Stability is not the same as rigidity. And judgment should be empirical, not dogmatic, open to real usage and willing to change when the facts change. Getting things right is worth the effort, and so are the struggles to adapt and change to an ever-evolving language. So, cheers to modern and open-minded authors, editors, linguists and lexicographers!

<![CDATA[New ways of paying]]>Tue, 05 Apr 2016 09:24:49 GMThttp://alterenglish.com/alterenglish-blog/new-ways-of-payingAlthough a direct deposit at a Siam  Commercial Bank branch or ATM is our most common way to "get the ball rolling" for a new edit, we are now accepting debt or credit card payments, too. We also still accept PayPal.