Ask an English Teacher: Good or Well?

If someone asks how I am, should I say I’m good or I’m well?

The answer depends on whether the person who asked really cares how you’re doing. If they’re only asking to be polite, the correct answer is, “Fine, thanks!” But if they really want to know, the correct answer is probably closer to, “To tell you the truth, I’m haunted by existential angst and the creeping suspicion that Soren Kierkegaard was right when he said that our age is putting on a veritable clearance sale not just in commerce but in the world of ideas, too — that everything can be had so dirt cheap that one begins to wonder whether in the end anyone will want to make a bid.”

That wasn’t very helpful.

I tend not to be.

A Lyrical Revelation 34 Years in the Making

1978. I’m five years old, and I swear the couplet goes “Spins a web, any size./Can’t you see? Just like eyes!” Did it make sense? No. But it was close enough for jazz — and the theme from Spider-man was one heck of a jazzy tune.


2012. I’m significantly older. I hear the Ramones on Pandora, and it hits me: “Spins a web, any size/Catches thieves just like flies!”


Thanks for clearing that up, Joey… wherever you are!

Ask an English Teacher: “Like” vs. “Not Unlike”

A regular reader of this blog recently wrote with the following quandary:

Q: It drives me crazy when I hear someone say “It’s not dissimilar to…” or “It’s not unlike…”  THEN IT’S SIMILAR OR IT’S LIKE, YOU IDIOT! Please explain this language phenomenon to me.

A: What we’re dealing with here is a matter of degree. To say one thing is “like” another is like saying the two things have a lot in common. To say one thing is “not unlike” something else is not unlike saying that while the two things may be largely different, they still have a couple of common traits.

Q: Sounds to me like a mechanism for avoiding a commitment.

A: It’s not unlike that at all.

Q: I think I’ll go pull out my fingernails with pliers.  The pain is not unlike what I feel when I hear someone say these things.

A: Now you’re catching on!

If you have a question for “Ask an English Teacher” feel free to drop me a line. Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back!