There are dictionaries and thesaurus web pages, but most of the time if you don't understand the definition and use the word incorrectly in a sentence, it may not be obvious to you but it sticks out like a sore thumb!! Is it the more reading the more likely you are to understand the English jargon? For example, I had no idea what the saying "old wine in new bottles" meant.. In fact, this is just one example of many sayings/jargons/cliches, etc that can be very difficult to understand if you don't do a lot of reading.
Is there anyway of improving ones English writing skills or is it a skill you either have or don't have? Some people are able to read a very difficult passage and use the simplest of English to phrase it. When I write, I have to use a dictionary to understand every word, but this can be quite difficult in the case of the aforementioned saying.. looking up each individual word won't help..
Anyone know of a website where such sayings can be entered and their meanings duly located?
Can someone be kind enough to explain the meaning of "as against" in this sentence? I thought it meant 'compared to', but it doesn't seem to make sense if I use 'compared to'in place of "as against":

"at law, a business is stopped, as against a person acting in good faith, from denying that it had given a person power and authority to bind it to a contract".
1 2 3 4 5
mckensie wrote on 03 Aug 2004:
There are dictionaries and thesaurus web pages, but most of the time if you don't understand the definition and use ... example of many sayings/jargons/cliches, etc that can be very difficult to understand if you don't do a lot of reading.

This is not at all an opaque expression; it's a metaphor, not an idiom. Think for a second or two about what is being said here. If you drink "old wine"(1), the taste is bound to be bad. To fool customers, some dishonest wine merchants will put the old wine into new bottles. That makes the wine look new, but it doesn't change the bitterness of the beverage.
Is there anyway of improving ones English writing skills or is it a skill you either have or don't have?

You have used the correct word: "skill". No one is born with writing skills. They are acquired by reading, writing, editing (self-editing and the editing of friends and teachers), and more practice.
Some people are able to read a very difficult passage and use the simplest of English to phrase it. When ... in good faith, from denying that it had given a person power and authority to bind it to a contract".

You'll need a lawyer to give a definitive translation. I could make an intelligent guess, but I won't.
(1) "old wine" is not the same as "aged wine" and not all wine can be aged for 5, 25, 50, or 100 years and still taste good. The old stuff will either be in the process of turning into vinegar and might be bearable, or it will be 100% undrinkable vinegar.

Franke: EFL teacher & medical editor.
For email, replace numbers with English alphabet.
Subject: Re: definition of "as against" From: CyberCypher

Can someone be kind enough to explain the meaning of ... person power and authority to bind it to a contract".

This is tricky. After reading it several times, as far as it goes (more context needed), I've come to the conclusion that the problem is that it's badly written overall, not a problem with "as against".
"As against" is awkward, though, because it can sometimes operate as a set phrase and sometimes not, according to circumstance.

Contrast:
Sometimes, as against business opponents, I show a ruthless streak; but at home with my family I am a *** cat.
He was relieved to be fined, as against being sent to gaol.

The second of these sentences has more the meaning of 'compared to' that you mention. But I have the feeling that your example is more like the first sentence.
"at law, a business is stopped, as against a person acting in good

faith, from denying that it had given a person power and authority to bind it to a contract

I suspect this means that in cases where someone is complaining about a business, that business is prevented in law from denying that its contract was binding. I presume that a business would, on the other hand, have a case for denying a contract was binding where it had been deceived by the person it was contracted to (because that would amount to bad faith). I think that applies to contracts generally: they are only binding if they were made truthfully.

So I think "as against" here simply means "for example, against".

Peasemarch.
Site Hint: Check out our list of pronunciation videos.
Sorry, that was, of course, not a reply to Franke but to the original poster. (I missnipped.)
This is tricky. After reading it several times, as far as it goes (more context needed), I've come to the conclusion that the problem is that it's badly written overall, not a problem with "as against".

I substituted "in opposition to" in the place of "as against" in that paragraph. Am I correct?
"As against" is awkward, though, because it can sometimes operate as a set phrase and sometimes not, according to circumstance.

I agree!
Contrast: Sometimes, as against business opponents, I show a ruthless streak; but at home with my family I am a *** cat.

Yes, that's exactly like the sentence I had, "as against" is used in the same manner. "Sometimes, in opposition to business adversaries, I show a ruthless streak; but at home with my family I am a *** cat".

Come to think of it, now "as against" makes sense. Is that "as" absolutely necessary? Can't it just be "against"? Or am I incorrect?
The second of these sentences has more the meaning of 'compared to' that you mention. But I have the feeling that your example is more like the first sentence.

You are correct.
"at law, a business is stopped, as against a person acting in good

I suspect this means that in cases where someone is complaining about a business, that business is prevented in law ... they are only binding if they were made truthfully. So I think "as against" here simply means "for example, against".

hehe! Sorry, I should have found a different sentence - I used that sentence because I couldn't find another to show the usage of "as against".. It was the "as against" that threw me off for some reason. I don't understand why they need the "as".. I can say that I don't ever remember being taught 'grammar' at school. I think if I were taught the grammatical rules, I'd have no trouble phrasing sentences correctly. I really hate it when Microsoft Word pulls me up on every sentence, thinking it can correct it..
mckensie wrote on 03 Aug 2004: This is not at all an opaque expression; it's a metaphor, not an idiom. ... old wine into new bottles. That makes the wine look new, but it doesn't change the bitterness of the beverage.

One day I will learn the definitions of a metaphot and an idiom that will allow me to make the distinction.
Thank you for that lucid explanation - I understand the definition now. I guess I just have to look a little deeper and think about it. Perhaps I need to change my thinking.
Is there anyway of improving ones English writing skills or is it a skill you either have or don't have?

You have used the correct word: "skill". No one is born with writing skills. They are acquired by reading, writing, editing (self-editing and the editing of friends and teachers), and more practice.

This is very true. If you don't practice, then you'll never be good at it. However, if you were taught incorrectly or if you don't have a sound understanding of the grammatical rules, and your thinking is a particular way, I don't believe, with all the practice, it will help.

If I am unable to think in a critical manner, it wouldn't matter how many tutors I hired to edit my work, teach me the grammatical principles, etc, it's my thinking producing the poorly written essays, for example - it's my thinking and my inability to think critically. I wonder if there are teachers out there who can help people with the way they think and recondition their thinking.. Does that make any sense?
You'll need a lawyer to give a definitive translation. I could make an intelligent guess, but I won't.

I was actually after the definition of "as against" in the earlier sentence, it was the "as against" that was causing the problem. But the subsequent poster provided the requisite definition. Thanks.
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
Well, you can switch the grammar check off. I like having it on, even when it spouts nonsense; I find it interesting. I'm not proud enough to think that I'll never make typos, and I still, to my horror, make genuine mistakes.

This morning Word corrected "ash tray" to "ashtray", which I'm sure is better, though I don't quite know why.
mckensie wrote on 03 Aug 2004:
mckensie wrote on 03 Aug 2004: You have used the ... and the editing of friends and teachers), and more practice.

This is very true. If you don't practice, then you'll never be good at it. However, if you were taught ... the grammatical rules, and your thinking is a particular way, I don't believe, with all the practice, it will help.

No, that's not true. I wasn't taught to write very well. At least, I didn't learn to write very well when I was in high school and college. My first wife, and excellent writer and teacher, spent a year teaching me how to write clearly, but it took me another 7 years before I could write well enough to earn any praise for my writing. And in the 25 years since then, I've done what I could to improve my writing. More practice, more thinking about everything I say and how I say it, more thinking about whether I can say it better and more briefly, more smoothly, more interestingly, etc. It's a never-ending process. I'm far from where I'd like to be, but I can only get better.
If I am unable to think in a critical manner, it wouldn't matter how many tutors I hired to edit ... out there who can help people with the way they think and recondition their thinking.. Does that make any sense?

Yes, of course it makes sense. Writing is a thinking process for serious writers (which doesn't necessarily mean professional writers but people who take their writing seriously). Most of the time, I don't know what i think until I write it down. There's an ESL book called Writing as a Thinking Process :
(quote)
Writing as a Thinking Process, Second Ed.
Mary S. Lawrence, Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1996. Paper $20.95 ISBN: 0-472-08368-6
SKILL LEVEL: Intermediate to Advanced
Writing as a Thinking Process, Second Edition, has been thoroughly revised and reorganized, incorporating data updates, gender bias exclusions, new topics, and a peer-editing section. This textbook provides innovative instruction on expository writing and fosters in students an awareness of the writing process. Students learn to draw inferences from data, frame questions about data, impose order on information, and apply it all in writing. Chapters address chronological and spatial order, classification, synthesis, comparison/contrast, cause/effect, prediction, hypothesis, generalization, personal opinion, and proposals.
(/quote)
Look at this book. It should be at about the right level for someone who feels as you do about your writing. It will teach you to organize things properly and to ask the right questions. Being able to do that will increase your critical thinking skills without having anyone teach you what critical thinking is all about.
Critical thinking can be learned. It's a matter of asking yourself and the material you're reading (be it your own or someone else's) the right kinds of questions.
Click on these URLs and check out these books listed at Amazon.com:

http://tinyurl.com/6ylkw
http://tinyurl.com/5a4xt
Don't be so negative about your abilities and possibilities. You've got the right attitude. You want to learn something; you want to improve your skills. That motivation is more important than almost anything else. Once you've done some basic research and reading, find a friend or two who might also be interested and form a reading/writing/thinking/talking study group. You'll be surpised at how fast you'll become more skillful. And always be aware that no matter how good you become, there will always be people who are better and other people who will think of things you won't think of but should have. This sounds like fun to me. Too bad you're not here in Taiwan. I'd enjoy being part of such a group.

Franke: EFL teacher & medical editor.
For email, replace numbers with English alphabet.
Qp10qp wrote on 03 Aug 2004:
Well, you can switch the grammar check off. I like having it on, even when it spouts nonsense; I find ... mistakes. This morning Word corrected "ash tray" to "ashtray", which I'm sure is better, though I don't quite know why.

Probably because the ashtray is not made of ash but of plastic, metal, glass, or some kind of ceramic material.

Franke: EFL teacher & medical editor.
For email, replace numbers with English alphabet.
Teachers: We supply a list of EFL job vacancies
Show more