Tagged With mind your language

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Every language has its own slang and phrases you should master to sound like a true native speaker. Australian English is no exception.

You may have heard “G’day mate”, “fair dinkum”, and “strewth!” before, but the dialect is much broader than that. Try these next time you speak to an Aussie and you might convince them you’re “true blue”.

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Just how likely does "probably" sound to you? To some people, "probably" means that something is practically locked in. To others, it means the likelihood of something happening is highly dubious. This graph assigns percentage values to a range of common phrases relating to probability. Turns out you should say "almost certainly" instead of "probably" if you want to minimise doubt.

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At approximately 12am tonight, the 2017 Perseid Meteor Shower is set to wow the world. Many eyewitnesses will use the words "meteor", "meteorite", "comet" and "asteroid" interchangeably to describe the celestial event they're seeing.

In reality, these are all completely different types of space rock. If you want to avoid a social faux pas tonight (or want to be the smarty-pants who corrects fellow stargazers), here's what sets each type apart.

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Steven Pinker, the famous linguist who isn't Noam Chomsky, doesn't think using "literally" figuratively is all that bad. "The figurative use doesn't mean the language is deteriorating," he says in a 2014 interview, comparing it to the hyperbolic use of "terrific" or "wonderful".

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I once heard a comedian say, "Never ask a woman if she's pregnant unless you actually see a baby's head coming out of her legs." Sage advice — too bad no one ever takes it. I can't tell you how many times people asked me if I was pregnant, if I was planning on getting pregnant or what I was waiting for to get pregnant.

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We all know the rule: "I before E, except after C..." except... uh... something. Good news: You can forget everything except the "I before E" part. And even that will only help you guess correctly three times out of four.

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As a youth, I was a prescriptivist. I thought that correcting other people's speech was doing them a favour. I overheard people saying "Where ya at?" into the phone and muttered, "It's 'Where are you?'" I was technically correct, and I sincerely believed that was the best kind of correct. When I finally got my own mobile phone, I realised that "Where are you?" sounds too aggressive, and the softening effect of "Where ya at?" is more important than the grammar.

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It seems like every time a police officer describes a crash involving a car that exceeded the speed limit, he or she says the vehicle was travelling at a "high rate of speed." This is a bad phrase and everyone needs to stop using it.

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The other day I overheard a conversation that began with, "I'm not racist but..."

Bad start.

It followed with a bog-standard conversation about how people who move to this country should drop everything and dedicate all of their time and energy into learning to speak English. IMMEDIATELY.

Sure, learn to speak English. But here's a newsflash people: English is insanely hard and it makes no goddamn sense, like at all.

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It seems like everyone has different head canon for the word "dude". Did it come from England? Was it about drifters in the Wild West? Thanks to a 2013 study, we have a better idea.

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Last week, a 32-year-old man in the US was nearly electrocuted after falling asleep with his iPhone charging in bed. The key word here is "nearly" - a point of difference many journalists failed to make.

As any English teacher or medical student will tell you, electrocution is not the same thing as an electric shock. While the latter can cause serious injury, only the former results in instantaneous death.

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Contrary to popular belief, commas don’t just signify pauses in a sentence. In fact, precise rules govern when to use this punctuation mark.

When followed, they lay the groundwork for clear written communication. We’ve compiled a list of all of the times when you need the mighty comma.

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Do you go to the store for "cupcakes, vanilla, and chocolate" or "cupcakes, vanilla and chocolate"? There's a long-running debate over whether it's proper to include that last comma in a list. Lifehacker's policy is to eschew it, but we have to admit that the so-called 'Oxford comma' does makes things clearer on occasion - as proven in a recent US lawsuit.

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Whether you like it or not, swearing has gradually been normalised and dropping an F-bomb in mixed company would barely raise an eyebrow these days. But have you thought about whether swearing in public is legal in Australia? If so, read on.