Dec 132012

Many native speakers of English also don’t have a good sense of what it is exactly they’re saying.  The sign below, that I saw recently at our local gym and sports club, displays a good example of this.  It shows what happens when somebody writes what he thinks he’s hearing. If this can happen to native speakers, it can happen all the more so to learners of English.

Find the big error.  Then look below the image.

lost in found

Have you ever LOST something? And have you ever then FOUND it?   The expression is “lost AND found”, not lost “in” found.

Because “and” often sounds like n –> lost and found sounds like lost n found, somebody then thinks the expression is “lost in found”. But that belies the logic of the expression: lost, and then hopefully found.

If you ever lose something, ask, “Do you have a lost and found here?”

Send us other examples of expressions that you think have been misrepresented in writing. They’re out there, just waiting for you!


Jul 142009

Sometimes a question that seems simple on the surface hides many other issues going on beneath the surface.  Here is another question that we have received from a reader:

Dear Help Desk,

Does a closing of an e-mail to a friend with “All the best” always mean a farewell?

With kind regards,

(name withheld)

We responded:

(name withheld),

Thank you for your question.

It is becoming a common way of ending an email between friends, and even people who do not know each other. Where it is not appropriate to end with “love”, “All the best” is appropriate because it is a congenial salutation.

Have you received this ending lately? If so, on what type of email?

The ESL Help! Desk

Next, we received the following question in return:

Dear Help Desk,

Thank you very much for the prompt response. The matter is that I have a friend. We had been known each other personally (not intimately) for half-a-year before becoming distant correspondents during the next six months. However I cannot assume we both know much about each oher. I recently sent an email with “All the best” ending and have not received a timely reply. I was just thinking if this could be concidered by him as my will to end our virtual relationship.

My kind regards,

(name withheld)

To which we responded:

(name withheld),

Hmmm…I don’t think that the time lag between your hearing from this pen pal and the present time can be attributed to your ending an email with “all the best”. However, how long has it generally been between emails?
Could your pen pal be on a vacation or traveling due to work? Or perhaps there has been, God forbid, a family tragedy? Sometimes people’s email goes down, as well.

If your relationship had been intimate, then I would say that “All the best” is not appropriate; it will establish distance. However, as you describe it, such was not the case. Could it be that this pen pal did desire a more intimate relationship? Of course you would want to be careful about that in any case, given the problem of these internet relationships.

Before you switched to “All the best”, how did you and he typically end your emails? I would suggest that you either 1) wait and see if and when you receive a response; or 2) send another short note and just say that you are  hoping everything is well with him, and sign it, “Your friend, (name withheld).”

But if you are going to use choice “b”, then wait a bit, as some people are weary of others being “pushy”.

Wishing you all the best!

the ESL Help! Desk