Does “gay” still include the meaning “merry”? lists eight meanings of gay, with “merry, lively” as the first entry. Microsoft banned an Xbox user for listing Fort Gay (a real place) as his hometown: Xbox Live considered the term gay absolutely inappropriate in any context. As a non-native English speaker, my question is whether in contemporary English, does gay always mean … Read more

Why isn’t “it” used in place of “he or she”, “he/she”, “s/he” etc.?

There is a related discussion on this Q&A site. My question is different. I’m all for gender awareness, but why hasn’t a properly defined pronoun “it” been used instead of “he/she” or “he or she”, etc. Am I missing something? Oxford English Dictionary: It: 1. a. As the proper neuter pronoun of the third person … Read more

How bad is the f-word, really?

I am confused: on the one hand, many of my native-speaker friends keep telling me that the f-word is very, very bad. Much worse than the s-word for example. On the other hand, I see it being used everywhere; for example, in the blogosphere, even by respectable economic blogs (e.g. Is the former intensity … Read more

Is “hell no!” impolite?

“What the hell?” is a toned down variant of “what the fu**” and can be considered offensive in some formal contexts. My question is more about other expressions like “hell no!”. Is it impolite or offensive as well? Answer “Hell no” is a way of conveying strong emphasis in one’s disagreement. As Berker mentioned, “politeness” … Read more

Is “My [nationality] friend” natural and appropriate English?

I sometimes come across Japanese speakers using the phrase “My [nationality] friend”. For example, something like “I met my German friend in Kyoto and we went to Kiyomizudera yesterday.” (The name of the friend isn’t mentioned, but that’s normal because it’s from something written on the internet) This feels strange to me, but I’m not … Read more

Why is “a Japanese” offensive?

When talking about a person from Japan, why is it offensive to say “a Japanese” rather than “a Japanese person”? The English language Wiktionary says (person in or from Japan): The singular “a Japanese” is less common than locutions using the adjective, such as “a Japanese person”, and is considered potentially offensive by many speakers. … Read more