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I am a university student (a very mature student), studying Modern Languages and Second Language Education. I find it odd that I feel like I am getting less confident in my language skills the more I study language (in fact, I am feeling self-conscious as I write to you now--I hope this feeling will eventually go away). Anyway, I wonder about using the preposition at instead of in.  Please consider this example:  "We are living at a time when almost anyone can obtain a university degree." I have spoken this way, and heard others do the same, but is it correct? Another example is, "I am a student at university." I do not think it is, but it nags at me, and I am too embarrassed to ask one of my professors.

"Correctness" of prepositions is a notoriously dicey proposition (no pun intended), so please don't be embarrassed! That is, a lot of the time, their use is purely idiomatic, with no particular relation to the meaning of the word. One example is the...

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The title of this post is not the name of a new cop show, but an acronym I just invented. It stands for “Changing Usage Impulse,” and it refers to the urge you (or at least I) get...

Word came—via Twitter, Tumblr, I don’t remember, something that starts with a t—that The New Yorker has been featuring on its Web site the five best sentences of the week. That was good to hear, as I collect great sentences, the way some people collect beach glass, small statues of turtles, or perceived insults.

I was disappointed to find, however, that “Backblogged: Our Five Favorite Sentences of the Week” consists of sentences from a rather small subset of published work, The New Yorker itself. No one admires The New Yorker more than I do. However, I judge a magazine, even The New Yorker, to be too small a sample to yield each week five sentences worthy of collecting: that is to say, sentences which you cannot think of a way to improve and which might have a chance of living on when the immediate...

 

At 10:14 PM on April 27, Barack Obama took the podium at the Washington Hilton to the tune of “All I do Is Win,” by DJ Khaled. According to the official White House transcript (which includes indications of laughter and applause), the president began by...

Enough already with the historical present. The go-to tense for history lecturers and NPR guests has worn out its welcome and is starting to come off as a twitchy reflex, as annoying as starting sentences with So or ending them with right?

You probably know what I mean by historical present (HP), but in case you don’t, here are some recent examples:


• “Alonzo King is arrested for assault and they swab his cheek as part of the arrest process. It pops up in a database.” (The New York Times reporter Adam Liptak, talking on NPR’s On the Media about a recent Supreme Court case)

• “Four months after the opening gala, the company that...

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