The Evolution of English

A very good piece on how English evolved to the English we know today, using the familiar Lord’s Prayer.

Answer on @Quora by Scott Mauldin to What happened during the transition between Old English and Modern English?

How do I get good grades in college?

Answer by Richard Muller:

I had a graduate student who, as an undergrad at Cornell, had more A+ grades than As — about 15.  Once I asked him how he did that.  “I use tricks” he said. They all seemed so obvious when he told me, that I’m not sure I can recall all of them.  Below I’ll mix in what he said with some of the things I observed in other great students.

He said he always read the assignment before lecture, not after. Do that, and you know what to pay most attention to.  You can ask questions about things you didn’t understand.  You can’t ask a book questions, but you can ask a professor. Moreover, your professor will be impressed that you ask the best questions. Remarkably, it takes no longer to read all the material before class than after class.

Visit the professor during office hours.  Some professors will just try to intimidate you into not coming so often; ignore them. Some will be delighted to have visitors.  It is a great opportunity to interact with a very smart and very knowledgeable person.

Don’t try to learn what you think is important, but try to learn what you think the professor thinks is most important. That’s really why the professors are there; they have enormously more experience in the subject, and know what is really important. You’ll discover you do much better on exams.

Find other students to study with. College is not a place to try to prove you are better than everyone else; it is a place where, among other things, you can learn how to work well with other people. Try throwing good questions at your friends.  It turns out that thinking of good questions gets you very far.  Don’t be surprised if some of the questions turn out to be the same ones the professor asks.

Go to lecture and, particularly if it is boring, try to figure out why the material is actually fascinating. All those courses are there because someone thinks it is important, even if your current professor doesn’t. Once you become interested in the  material, it will be easy to learn; in fact, it will be hard to forget.

Recognize that not all the material is equally important. See if you can identify that.  Think hard about the important stuff.

Take this to be your top homework design: there is a person who has limited time, not really enough, to learn some material.  What is the best way to approach that?  Pretend that that question is a homework exercise, and write a page.  Then follow your own suggestions.

How do I get good grades in college?

Is it fair to ask a 12 year old “How heavy are eight $1 Singapore coins? Six grams, 60g, 600g or 6kg?” for a maths question?

The PSLE question that has parents crying foul – what is the weight of 8 $1 coins? 1) 6g 2) 60g 3) 600g 4) 6000g.

“This is not a Math question!”

Yes it is. Math is more than just arithmetics and pushing numbers around. Our Mathematical syllabus includes Estimation and Tessellation (both taught at Primary 5), as well as patterns and Geometry (taught since Primary 1).

“How many children have an idea how much a coin weigh? This is unfair!”

It is not. Children should have already gone through an activity at either Primary 2 or 3 on Weight, where they have to weigh coins and other objects and got to understand what the various weight is like.

Ultimately, the PSLE is an exam meant to stream out the scholars from the farmers. The ability to answer certain questions would stream out those meant to be at the top. We seriously need to let our children know that it is not the end of the world if their PSLE score is not the most fantastic in the world, and to teach them resilience and ability to accept and move on. Our present bunch of students are too weak emotionally, and will be crushed by the tougher East Asian children who have gone through more stressful educational system than ours do.

In short, yes, it is fair to all such a question. They have enough prep in such questions.


Did dinner used to mean lunch?

Answer by Franklin Veaux:

Dinner is the largest meal of the day. It's a term that indicates the size of the meal, not the time of the meal.

In some places where I've lived, like Florida and Oregon, it is customary to have the largest meal in the evening, so we talk about having breakfast, lunch, and dinner. When I lived in Nebraska, it was customary to have the largest meal at midday, so we would talk about breakfast, dinner, and supper.

Did dinner used to mean lunch?

Why do we say “THE” United States of America but not in the case of India?

A descriptive noun is linked with an article "the". A plain proper noun (a name) does not.

Answer by Kelly Martin:

Do your friends address you as "Shiv" or "The Shiv"?

The "name" of the United States is not actually a name.  It is, instead, a description. It describes who we are: we are the "United" "States" of "America": a country comprised of states, all located in America, that have voluntarily united. Because it's a descriptive phrase, not a name, grammatically it needs an article. This is also why we say the United Kingdom: again, the name describes the country (in full, it is the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland").

India, however, is a name; the word doesn't describe the country, but simply names it, and thus grammatically does not need, or merit, an article.

Why do we say "THE" United States of America but not in the case of India?

The Order of Adjectives

Adjectives can be “stacked” into a long string of words that describe the noun that comes after them, but not many users of English are aware that there is an order to stack them.

  1. Opinion. lovely, wonderful
  2. Size. big, humongous
  3. Age. young, old
  4. Shape. square, round
  5. Colour. red, green
  6. Origin. Chinese, American
  7. Material. iron, leather
  8. Purpose or function. grilling, measuring

I guess you can say that Sensei Michael is a wonderful tall middle-aged Singaporean teacher. Now to come up with a phrase that uses all 9 for an epitome of the use of the above rule!

What’s the difference between “spin” and “turn”?

Answer by Joseph Michael Pallante:

Turn left! turn right!

You use "turn" mostly with directions or something that moves on a pivot point briefly.

Spin around, spin in a chair, my head is spinning. These are all fixed on one point and involve a rotation or series of rotations.

Think of turning as the process for spinning, but to spin you need to complete a circle. For example I can turn down streets going only left or right and complete one circle, yet I had to turn at 3 pivot points.

A turn has pivot points, a spin has 1 central pivot point and rotates in at least 1 circle.

What's the difference between "spin" and "turn"?