Questions From an Idle Mind

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This is a brand-new format where I find the answers to questions that I come up with when my mind has the chance to wander. I have always wanted to incorporate this idea into my regular posts but I never found the right way to include them. I also felt that they would take away from the context of the original content.

I recently started listening to a podcast called Answer Me This. It’s a monthly podcast with Helen Zaltzman and Olly Mann, where the duo answer questions sent in by listeners of the show. They can be simple ones like;

“Where do those weird pin cushions for sewing come from?”

Or difficult dilemma-based questions such as,

“Should I tell my best friend that I hate his wife-to-be?”

Either way, the show is incredibly entertaining and informative if there are questions that you were also wondering about. And Martin the Sound Man is incredibly awesome. ‘Nuff said.

This piece is partly inspired by this podcast, but I will research the answers to my own questions and save Helen and Olly some of the trouble. I will be sure to send the more difficult ones their way though.

So, I have three weird questions to be answered, OFF TO GOOGLE!

Why are they called “cream crackers”?

A question that has plagued my soul for much too long. I think I chalked it up to be related to the possible toppings associated with the cupboard staple; the most obvious of which would be cream cheese. The real reason why they are called “cream crackers” is due to the process of preparing the snack. Cracker cooks would “cream” the ingredients together to incorporate them. So they are just named after the preparation method. Much like how sponge cakes are not actually sponges but refer to the texture of the baked-good itself.

Sources: LBC | The Naked Scientists

What is the difference between “learned” and “learnt” in UK English?

This debate came up while I was getting an application form proofread by someone. For one of the questions, I mentioned a scenario where I was able to work with someone outside of my immediate team and form a mutually beneficial relationship. I stated that “the colleague I worked well with had learnt to manage their work better and made sure that my team could work as efficiently as possible.” Apparently I used the word “learnt” wrong in the context of what I wrote. I was told by my volunteer proofreader that the use of “learnt” is only in the case of a sentence like;

“The speech was learnt by the speaker.”

In all other cases, the past participle of “learn” should be “learned”. I had to take a moment to compose myself because I knew this sounded wrong, but I felt that I had to trust this person because they are a working professional that can, arguably, use the English language better than me.

Later that day, I decided to frequent the many grammar websites of the World-Wide-Web to figure out what the real answer was. In short, my proofreader was mostly wrong.

“Learnt” and “learned” are equivalent past participles of the verb “learn”, where “learned” is correct in the US and “learnt” is correct for any other English speaking countries and territories. But “learned” isn’t considered wrong in English speaking areas outside of the US. “Learned” has been accepted outside of America is due to the influence of US English on other English speaking areas. It’s becoming more commonplace to use “learned” and “learnt” interchangeably. I will always prefer “learnt” since that is what I was taught, but I understand if I have to move ahead with the times and adopt this mutation of my native language.

Sources: Grammarly | Writing Explained | Lexico (Oxford Dictionary)

What is the difference between “adviser” and “advisor”?

Another one of those English language conundrums that I often think about. Relating back to the application form I was getting proofread, the job title itself was for a Policy Adviser position at HM Treasury. For me, the word “adviser” is usually “advisor”, but that may be because I have been infected with US English, to the point where I was called out for using “gotten” instead of “got” in the following context:

In the past, I have gotten up to speed…

I figured out through some more grammar-based research that the proofreader was on the ball here. This is probably an indicator that I am half-way to accepting US English over UK English. *shudders*

But in terms of adviser vs. advisor, they are essentially the same word. The variance in spelling comes from US Engish, which replaced the “e” with an “o”. This falls in line with the usage, where “adviser” is preferred in UK English and “advisor” is preferred in US English. I have seen both spellings used interchangeably in UK English, often seeing “advisor” more often on my job search. Maybe “adviser” is reserved for jobs relating to the government or Her Majesty in some way?

I have seen some posts recommend the use of “adviser” for roles where the advice given holds weight, and “advisor” should be allocated to roles where the advice isn’t as concrete. But this could just be semantics gone rogue because people always want to make mountains out of molehills.

Sources: Grammarist | Stack Exchange | Grammarly

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By Ade

An aspiring creator in way too many areas, Ade loves to try something new, as long as it doesn't interfere with the balance of the universe too much. Trying to take each day as it comes, Ade edits videos for YouTube, occasionally records podcasts, and writes with strange mannerisms to entertain the world.