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Wednesday May 9, 2007

Is it eraser or rubber?

I ASKED my colleague for an “eraser” to remove some pencil markings from a piece of paper. My colleague commented that if those markings were from a pencil, then I should use a “rubber” because an “eraser” was for removing markings from pens.  

Which is the more appropriate term to call this thing that is used to remove pencil markings – rubber or eraser? Peter, Kuala Lumpur  

There is no difference in meaning between an “eraser” or a “rubber” in the sense you describe. Either word can be used, whether you are removing pencil marks or ink marks.  

The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines an eraser as “a thing that erases, esp. a piece of rubber or plastic used for removing pencil and ink marks.” One of the OED definitions of rubber is “a piece of rubber [or other substance] used for erasing pencil or ink marks”. 

“Rubber” is used more in British English and “eraser” more in American English or formal usage.  

Charter or chartered flights? 

WHICH one is correct – “chartered flights” or “charter flights”?  

As you can see in the clipping, The Star carried a headline on Feb 24 using “chartered flights”, but in the text of the report, both “chartered flights” and “charter flights” appear. 

According to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, a “charter flight” is a flight by a chartered aircraft. M.M. Hiew, Kota Kinabalu  

All the dictionaries I consulted use very much the same terms as the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, i.e. “chartered aircraft/plane” but “charter flight”. This makes sense, because it is the plane, not the flight, that is hired for a special purpose.  

However, “chartered flight” is often used instead of “charter flight”, or interchangeably with it, and not just by Malaysians, as can be seen in the following excerpts taken from the Internet: 

“An airline can simply refer delayed passengers to either their tour operators – in the case of a chartered flight – or even to their travel insurers ... According to the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) charter flight customers can refuse to take a seat on a plane ...”  

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/2159 240.stm 

“KARACHI (Reuters) – The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is trying to arrange a chartered flight for its players to return home from Jamaica ...” 


However, the report in The Star needs to be consistent. It should not have used “chartered flights” in the first paragraph and “charter flight(s)” in the other paragraphs. It should also be consistent with what is used for the headline.  

Why an open secret? 

WHAT does “open secret” denote? Why is it open and still a secret? Bulbir Singh, Seremban  

An “open secret” is an expression meaning something that is supposed to be a secret, but that a lot of people know about, hence “open”.  

This often occurs because the few people who originally knew about “the secret” have leaked it to friends or even the press. 

Neither/ neither one/ neither one of them 

1. WHICH is the correct spelling – “forsee” or “foresee”? 

2. Is it “neither one of them had it” or “neither had it”? 

3. Are these phrases – (a) “brazen land” and (b) “I wish you well/calm” – correct? Angel 

1. It is “foresee”. You can find this word in most good dictionaries. 

2. Both expressions are correct. For example, if I were to write the sentence: “I asked the two students if they had the class attendance book.”, it could be followed by “Neither one of them had it.” OR “Neither had it.” OR “Neither of them had it.” 

3. a) “Brazen” is an adjective that can mean “made of brass”, “resembling brass” or “openly shameless”. The phrase “brazen land” can be applied to land that has the colour of brass, as can be seen in the following extract from an online book:  

“Yes, she carried the desert within her, and she was wandering in it alone. She saw herself, a poor, starved, shrinking figure, travelling through a vast, a burning, a waterless expanse, with an iron sky above her, a brazen land beneath. She was in rags, barefoot, like the poorest nomad of them all.” (Robert Hichens, A Spirit in Prison) 


b) “I wish you well” is a common expression of goodwill towards a person, usually wishng him success or happiness in something, e.g. “I wish you well in your studies at the university.” 

“I wish you calm” is not commonly heard, but it is not incorrect. “Calm” can be a noun meaning “a peaceful time or situation” (OALD), and “I wish you ...” is often followed by a noun, as in “I wish you success and happiness.” 


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