Paper cut to the heart

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Merriam-Webster's twitter account has been offering good usage advice, for example

This particular tweet led to an exchange that went viral.

First, a series of complaints about M-W failing in its parental duties:

And then M-W's response:

The responses to the response are almost all pro-M-W, and of course include a wide selection of mic drop, shade-throwing, and sick burn memes. One example among many:

Buzzfeed has it: "People Can’t Get Over The Dictionary’s — Yes, The Dictionary’s — Savage Clapback (“This needs to go down in the dictionary as an example of ownership.”) Buzzfeed's URL puns on another recent meme:

Other reaction:

Luis Gomez, "PSA: Don't troll Merriram-Webster's Twitter account", San Diego Union-Tribune 9/7/2016
Sammy Nichols, "Don't pick a fight with Merriam-Webster on Twitter. You will lose.", Esquire 9/7/2016
Hope Schreiber, "The Dictionary Clapped Back At This Hater’s Twitter Rant And It Was Epic", Elite News 9/7/2016

Update — Gabriel Roth responds: "No One Cares How I Feel, According to Merriam-Webster", Slate 9/8/2016.


  1. RP said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 4:08 am

    The usage advice is sound, but if this is how rude M-W are to customers or prospective customers then they deserve to lose them.

  2. Charles Antaki said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 4:15 am

    It would be fun if "I don't care how you X" was the product of a malign text-recognition program, programmed to pick out mental appreciation verbs from correspondents' input, and respond sniffily. The alternative is even more bracing – that it's a harmless human drudge, channelling the spirit of Dr Johnson, and getting their own back.

  3. James said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 4:52 am

    I'm not going to buy that dictionary. One of its social media employees was rude to a Tweeter!

  4. MattF said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 5:52 am

    'Polite tweet' is an oxymoron.

  5. Breffni said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 6:41 am

    Mic-dropping, shade-throwing, (sick) burn, clapback, owning, … has the semantic field of "retort" always been so densely populated, or is social media spawning a whole new metalanguage for verbal confrontation? I'm failing to keep up.

  6. Greg Malivuk said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 7:11 am

    @RP: How many Twitter users interacting with a dictionary's social media account do you think planned to buy a physical copy of that (or any) dictionary in the first place?

    In any case, given the reaction from the rest of the internet, they'll gain more customers than they lose by this.

  7. Christian Weisgerber said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 7:18 am

    Regarding the usage question: My impression is that in American English, the primary meaning of mad is "angry", and "crazy" is secondary. In British English it's the other way around.

  8. Greg Malivuk said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 7:33 am

    Yeah, in the Google Books corpus, "mad at" overtook "mad with" in about 1940 in American English and as of 2000, "at" was more than 5x as common as any other adposition. (In British English, "at" only overtook "with" in the 1990s.)

    That's not a perfect indicator of the meaning in every case, of course, but it's likely a good proxy since "angry at" is so much more common than "crazy at".

  9. RP said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 7:33 am

    @Greg: The first point has only limited relevance: I would expect companies to be polite in their interactions with the general public. But perhaps as someone who doesn't use Twitter and is getting old (38), my expectations are outmoded.

    On the second point, you could be right. It's odd, because contrary to what Charles Antaki implies, there is nothing Johnsonian about M-W's insult. It is a common or garden insult that anyone could say – it is scarcely more sophisticated than if they have said "shut up" or "screw you". Johnson, by contrast, is remembered for his wit. A Johnsonian comeback would have been more along the lines of: "Sir, you are no more qualified to comment on language usage than I am to expound upon the physiology of geese, and probably rather less so."

  10. Zombie Warthog said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 7:56 am

    @Christian Weisgerber, exactly. I wondered for a second what bizarre parallel-universe America M-W was writing for with this fatwa about "mad." You'd have to be pretty desperately prim to think there was something "wrong" with mad as angry in American English.

    In fact, you'd have to have a pretty big dowel in your rectum to have the dire need for rules Gabriel Roth seems to have. Guy needs a dominatrix, not a dictionary.

  11. L said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 8:02 am

    @Christian –

    As a native speaker of American English in the American Midwest, if I heard someone say, "I think he's mad," I would definitely interpret that to mean "angry." I would only think "crazy" if I thought the speaker was putting on a British affectation. (As some American speakers talk about "flats" and "pubs" and "queues" with varying levels of affectation.)

    The exception would be "mad about." That could mean, roughly equally, "angry over" or "in love with," and I'd have to guess from tone and context.
    "He's mad about Obamacare" = angry
    "He's mad about his new Pomeranian" = in love with
    "He's mad about the new iPhone" = flip a coin.

  12. Keith said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 8:20 am

    It would have been funnier, had the eloquent Mr. Roth pronounced himself "ambiguous about that".

    I don't understand the "mic drop" or" shade-throwing". Explain, can or no?

  13. KeithB said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 8:32 am

    I am not sure about the shade thing, but a "mic drop" is when a comic says something that completely shuts down the argument, so he drops the mic and walks away. (As a sound guy, I am not sure where all this animus towards the poor microphone comes from.)

  14. C said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 8:45 am

    @Keith is your friend for such terms.

    throw shade
    to talk trash about a friend or aquaintance, to publicly denounce or disrespect. When throwing shade it's immediately obvious to on-lookers that the thrower, and not the throwee, is the bitcy, uncool one
    "How does Kimmy keep any friends? Last night at the party all she did was throw shade at people."
    #bitchy complaining #

  15. Rachael said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 8:47 am

    Am I the only one who read Gabriel's rant as tongue in cheek?

  16. Ray said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 8:47 am

    this is hilarious. it's like the twitter writer that merriam-webster hired to do their tweeting let the mask slip. (sort of like the time when sinead o'connor and miley cyrus were having their twitter spat, and it quickly became apparent that it was really their hired writers who were having their own p.r. hissy fit, since no one could imagine either sinead or miley having the time or energy to sit there writing all those long letters and dredging up two-year-old tweets…)

  17. L said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 9:02 am

    @KeithB –

    "I ain't no joke, I used to let the mic smoke
    Now I slam it when I'm done and make sure it's broke
    When I'm gone, no one gets on cause I won't let
    Nobody press up and mess up the scene I set

    Eric B. and Rakim, "I Ain't No Joke," Paid in Full (1987).

    I'm not sure if Rakim is exaggerating here, but I think the dropping of the mic probably originated in freestyle rap battles. I doubt the usual intent is actually to "make sure it's broke" (or else that MC risks not being invited back, I suppose!), but I think the motivation to drop the mic (as opposed to handing it off or setting it down) may be two things: First, it demonstrates a commitment to what was just said: "What I said was so decisive that I don't need this microphone anymore–whatever you might try to say next isn't even going to deserve a response from me." Second, if the two rappers are passing the mic back and forth, it disrespects the other by making them either stoop down to pick up the mic or simply letting the battle be over. Plus, it makes a nice (?!) loud bang which punctuates the proceedings effectively.

  18. mollymooly said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 9:36 am

    It's worth noting that Gabriel Roth (says he) is "a senior editor at Slate", so MW joshing at him doesnt have the cruelty or hubris that picking on a random three-follower tweeter would.

  19. leoboiko said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 9:52 am

    I'm as anti-prescriptivist as the next linguist, but I do feel M-W stepped over the line in this particular case. Roth's complaint isn't aggressive or idiolect-shaming, but rather seems to me quite reasonable; he was taught to rely on linguistic authorities to outsource his decisions about usage, and I can see how one would feel disoriented about a lack of guidance. When he says "it means we're responsible for our own decisions", he's obviously seeing the point, and his professed ambivalence is half-jokingly self-mocking.

    What I'd expect from M-W in this situation would be a friendly encouragement of his newfound linguistic freedom, together with pointers on how he can defer to usage authorities if he feel the need to – only that it's his decision, not his obligation (the usage norms are here to help him, not to rule him); and it's his responsibility to evaluate why each usage rule should or should not be obeyed. Something similar in tone to Pinker's introductory essay to the American Heritage.

  20. john burke said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 9:52 am

    There's also adverbial "mad," as in "I haven't had anything to eat since breakfast, I'm mad hungry."

  21. Rod Johnson said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 9:55 am

    I agree with Rachael—I also heard Roth's original complaint as a mildly ironic jest. I have trouble with "it means we're responsible for our own decisions" as a complaint being taken any other way… tbqh.

    And "nobody care about" is yet another meme, one that perhaps doesn't have as much reach as the M-W tweeter imagined. This whole conversation is the kind of internet performance that is destined to confuse olds.

  22. Andrew (not the same one) said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 10:00 am

    I agree that in American English 'angry' is in most contexts the primary sense of 'mad', but here we're talking n about a dog, for which the the primary sense would presumably be 'rabid'.

    But I don't think this is a case of M-W refusing to provide guidance. It is providing guidance: 'this usage is legitimate'. Roth seems to be equating 'making rules' with 'forbidding things': but one can't forbid everything; some of the rules must allow things. Either that, or he has a preconceived idea of what the rule must be (in which case why consult a dictionary?).

  23. Rod Johnson said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 10:00 am

    "cares" *sigh*

  24. Jonathon Owen said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 10:08 am

    @RP: How many Twitter users interacting with a dictionary's social media account do you think planned to buy a physical copy of that (or any) dictionary in the first place?

    I think a lot of their revenue these days comes from mobile apps and ads on their website. They don't necessarily need to get people to buy the print dictionary—they just need them to use the site or the app.

  25. Ralph Hickok said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 10:33 am

    I find it hard to believe this is still going on. The "don't say 'mad" when you mean 'angry'" thing was the first of Miss Thistlebottom's Hobgoblins that I ever encountered, sometime around 70 years ago. It didn't work then and I doubt that it's going to work now.

  26. bfwebster said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 11:10 am

    I can't stop laughing. It was exactly the right response (IMHO), but not one that I would have expected from a dictionary publisher. Makes me proud to share a last name. :-) (My former wife and I used to joke about naming one of our daughters "Miriam", but we had too much compassion to do that.)

  27. SlideSF said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 11:18 am

    It puts me in mind of people who object to using the word "hard" to mean "difficult". That ship sailed at least a generation ago, probably two.

    Nevertheless, I gave MW a one-star review on Yelp! because of their snarky attitude. I deserve to be treated better than that, even though it wasn't me they were addressing.

  28. Bill S. said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 11:21 am

    [This is probably stating the obvious, but I'm too clueless to figure out if it's part of the shared background or not]. Some of the context for M-W's reply is (I would think) the prescriptivist injunctions against the use of "I feel like" for "I think that" — I've seen waves of complaints about "I feel like" washing up on various internet shores over the past year (may be recency effect though). If read as ironic deployment of prescriptivism against prescriptivism, it has enough artfulness to counter the rudeness (to me, anyway — you don't get a good opportunity for a one-liner like that every day, and it would be a shame to pass it up). Read cold, it's just harsh.

  29. Guy said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 11:22 am


    But they did give him guidance, they made what should be the totally uncontroversial observation that "angry" is one of the primary meanings of "mad". But because he apparently took exception to that guidance he compared a dictionary to adults who provide drugs to minors. (And surely there's nothing reasonable about thinking "angry" isn't a firmly established meaning of "mad", and it seems to me it must be idiolect-shaming, because I can't imagine somebody who speaks AmEng having this bizarre opinion on this point)

  30. Nelson said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 12:20 pm

    There was a somewhat high-profile mic drop earlier this year:

    (Apparently he brought in a special mic to drop, since he was usually using one on the podium.)

  31. Daniel von Brighoff said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 12:24 pm

    There's a really terrific definition of "shade" in the 1990 film Paris is burning that's worth watching in its entirety (both the definition and the film). Here's the clip:

    I seem to recall someone else in that film more succinctly defining shade as "attitude in motion".

    In any case, this is yet another example of term originating with Black drag queens spreading to gay male subculture generally and then crossing over into mainstream usage (probably via RuPaul's Drag Race).

  32. Mark F. said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 2:17 pm

    What is the most common word young British children use for "angry"? I think the first time I realized that "mad" could also mean "insane" was when I was puzzled by the Mad Hatter and some grownup had to explain the secondary (in the US) meaning to me.

    Anger is so much more a part of the childhood experience than insanity that I wonder if people tend to learn the "angry" meaning first even when the "insane" meaning is actually the more common one.

  33. Greg Malivuk said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 2:42 pm

    As mentioned, the guy works at Slate, so he's not just some random Twitterer from the general public. They don't need to hold his hand through the realization that language doesn't depend on his personal need for an authority figure or whatever.

    (Given his position as not-just-a-member-of-the-general-public, I see both sides of the exchange as good-natured ironic ribbing more than any kind of genuine animosity.)

  34. maidhc said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 2:47 pm

    If you're talking about a typical public address mic like a SM58, dropping isn't going to break it. They're built to take a lot of abuse. But as L said, you'd make the other person have to bend over to pick it up.

    Studio mics are more delicate, but you don't normally hold them in your hand.

  35. C Murdock said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 3:00 pm

    As an American, I remember reading the first Harry Potter book as a kid and being confused during the part where Harry asks Ron whether Dumbledore is "a bit mad". I had no idea at the time that "mad" meant anything other than "angry".

  36. The Philadelphianist said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 3:26 pm

    In the cartoon series "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" (based loosely on the cult film), I recall that Dr. Gangreen (voiced by John Astin from "The Addams Family") always insisted that he was an "angry" and not a "mad" scientist:

  37. Jerry Friedman said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 3:27 pm

    "Mad" for "angry" is still rare in American formal writing. Most of the uses of "mad at" in the academic section of COCA are in quoted dialogue. It wouldn't have hurt M-W to mention that instead of implying that sense of "mad" was always fine.

    I'm not looking forward to the sick-burn era of customer relations.

    "There's a mistake in your book. [Details mistake and correct version.]" "Cool story, bro."

    "My package didn't arrive." "We've got a package for you right here."

    By the way, "burn" was universal for successfully insulting repartee in my childhood in the '70s. Am I right in thinking that it was less common for a few decades before coming back?

    This seems to be a good time to mention that I'm mad at M-W for putting the simple definition before the real one in their on-line entries. I'd rather they'd made two different dictionaries.

  38. Mark F. said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 3:28 pm

    Gabriel Roth's comment that "we feel quite ambivalent" about being "responsible for our own decisions" gave me the sense that he was being entirely facetious and was actually on MW's side, which made their retort jar a little. But I think Greg Malivuk has the right perspective.

  39. Ralph Hickok said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 3:57 pm

    "No one cares how you feel" seems very mild to me. I wouldn't even take it as an insult, although I would hope that the speaker was wrong.

  40. Michael Watts said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 4:28 pm

    "Mad" meaning crazy does survive in the fixed AmE expression "drive [someone] mad".

  41. Ethan said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 5:50 pm

    @Michael Watts: It also survives in titles, e.g. "Mad Men", "MAD Magazine", "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World", …
    Oh, and in "mad cow disease".

  42. Mark F. said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 6:19 pm

    Gabriel wrote a piece in Slate in response. I think he's exactly right about the lack of inherent wit in MW's response and why people think it's so funny.

  43. Mark F. said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 6:21 pm

    Gabriel wrote a piece in Slate in response. Not surprisingly, he didn't think it was so funny, but I kind of think he's right.

  44. John McIntyre said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 8:11 pm

    I rather thought his set of tweets was a labored attempt at humor that, whether he knows better or not, appeared to betray an ignorance of what dictionaries are for and how lexicographers work. His talking about feeling ambivalent made the Merriam-Webster response concise and apt. The language doesn't care how you feel about it.

  45. rcalmy said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 9:18 pm

    I'm old fashioned enough that I found the M-W tweet unprofessional. However, Mr. Roth's response in Slate did not impress me.

    "I find myself wistfully remembering the days when tweeting at brands was a safe, innocuous pastime. The brand is so much bigger than you, after all, that you can’t imagine it will hear you. Even if the brand were to become aware of your zingers, like a horse irked by a gnat, you assume it won’t turn on you—because, you believe, the brand is prevented by commercial imperatives from acting like a dick in public."

    So basically, he wants soft targets that he can insult in public without any comeback. It doesn't excuse what M-W did, but is does show that they're not the only ones lacking in professionalism.

  46. tangent said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 10:30 pm

    "I find myself wistfully remembering the days when tweeting at brands was a safe, innocuous pastime."

    Good heavens. He identified a feeling of his that I care about less than his feelings for linguistic chastisement!

    Does he also like to snark at customer service reps about the company that employs them? What a life.

  47. Keith said,

    September 9, 2016 @ 2:28 am

    So, Mr Roth claims to be "a senior editor at Slate"… Hopefully, he will grow up to be a real writer, one day.

    Neither am I impressed by his fake nostalgia for "the days when tweeting at brands was a safe, innocuous pastime."

    I think that his own attempts at a kind of ironic, post-modern humour, are rather weak.

  48. Rachael said,

    September 9, 2016 @ 2:56 am

    Mark F: IME, British children say "cross" or "angry".

    (Hmm. Mad isn't the only word that means angry in US English and something else in UK English. There's also pissed, which means drunk over here. If I didn't know better, I'd make a comment about Americans needing more words for angry :)

  49. phspaelti said,

    September 9, 2016 @ 4:07 am

    As an American speaker I would say
    "mad" in predicative context: angry >> crazy
    "mad" in attributive context: crazy (ok) *angry

  50. Greg Malivuk said,

    September 9, 2016 @ 7:13 am

    @Rachael: or perhaps Americans need fewer words for drunk and insane?

  51. Daniel von Brighoff said,

    September 9, 2016 @ 10:25 am

    I have trouble seeing this as a "customer relations" situation when there's no apparent evidence that Roth was Merriam-Webster's "customer" in this situation. This wasn't a commercial transaction; he admits he was just taking potshots at a target he thought wouldn't clap back. That's obnoxious behaviour, and I'm glad to see it shut down.

    Moreover–as others have said–it's Twitter. His false nostalgia for the days when it was all unicorns and gumdrops could serve to illustrate the definition for "disingenuousness".

    Getting back to linguistics, I find it interesting that usage of many of our most basic adjectives still differs fundamentally between English varieties. In addition to "mad", there's also the example of "sick" (in BE, "sick to one's stomach", the equivalent of the common AE usage being "ill") and "smart" (in AE referring to intelligence [BE "clever"] and in BE looks [AE "sharp[ly dressed]").

  52. Andrew (not the same one) said,

    September 9, 2016 @ 11:25 am

    By the way, to me as a Brit 'crazy' doesn't mean insane. It means, variously, irrational (of a plan, rather than a person), enthusiastic, wacky (of a kind of humour), erratic, and so on. It's true that the same sort of thing could be called 'a mad scheme' and 'a crazy scheme', but that's local convergence rather than actual sameness of meaning. So my natural answer to 'does "mad" mean "crazy" would be "no"'. When Americans say 'crazy', the natural word for that in my dialect is 'mad'.

  53. Jerry Friedman said,

    September 9, 2016 @ 12:49 pm

    John McIntyre: His talking about feeling ambivalent made the Merriam-Webster response concise and apt. The language doesn't care how you feel about it.

    "We don't care how you feel" or "The language doesn't care how you feel" (except insofar as his feelings affect his use as one of the hundreds of millions of English speakers) would have been concise and apt. In my opinion, "Nobody cares how you feel" is less apt.

    Ralph Hickok: "Nobody cares how you feel" implies the insulting "because you're so insignificant" or "because nobody likes you, which is because you're so unlikable."

  54. Julian said,

    September 9, 2016 @ 1:11 pm

    I was on board with the tongue-in-cheek tone and thought that M-W was on the harsh side until I saw this tweet: "Are they really enlightened + freethinking, or just checked out? is it somehow narcissistically gratifying to them to be the “chill” parent?" I took his first couple tweets as poking fun at prescriptivists, but then he turned around and got all nastily personal on the M-W team and seemed to actually side against their desctiptivist stance and he completely lost me.

    Regardless of mad-angry vs. mad-crazy (which Roth has made his stance on very clear: he is in fact a mad-angry guy) M-W's retort was fully warranted.

  55. Haamu said,

    September 9, 2016 @ 1:29 pm

    More of M-W's "don't care" attitude here:

    Infographic: How a Word Gets Into the Dictionary

  56. Ralph Hickok said,

    September 9, 2016 @ 1:41 pm

    @Jerry Friedman:
    It doesn't imply that to me … perhaps because I've almost always heard it used in a joking way.

  57. Ray said,

    September 9, 2016 @ 7:48 pm

    "I find myself wistfully remembering the days when people-posing-as-brands tweeting knew how to stay in character and weren't discountenanced by competing brands-posing-as-people on twitter."

  58. Uly said,

    September 10, 2016 @ 2:24 am

    There's also adverbial "mad," as in "I haven't had anything to eat since breakfast, I'm mad hungry."

    Also can be used as an adjective. Overheard quote: "When I get home, I'm gonna eat mad rice." (I mean, she could have meant the rice was angry or crazy, but not likely.)

  59. Michael Watts said,

    September 10, 2016 @ 4:56 pm

    Daniel von Brighoff:

    In addition to "mad", there's also the example of "sick" (in BE, "sick to one's stomach", the equivalent of the common AE usage being "ill") and "smart" (in AE referring to intelligence [BE "clever"] and in BE looks [AE "sharp[ly dressed]").

    Well, I'm with you as to "smart", but "ill" is not normal in American english. We say "sick". (e.g. "he's out sick"; "I'm taking a sick day"; "I don't want to get sick"; etc.) We don't say "sick up" for "throw up"; perhaps that's what you were thinking of?

    Uly, I think the prototype for this sense of "mad" is the phrase "mad skills"; at least, I process "I'm mad hungry" as being the same sense of "mad" as in the much-better-known-to-me "mad skills". Is it a usage from rap? Googling for "mad rhymes", I found some headlines of interest: "‘Hamilton’ inspires state senator to drop mad rhymes in effort to pass ticket reform" and "Amazon Echo keeps you up on the times while spitting mad rhymes".

  60. William Locke said,

    September 11, 2016 @ 4:56 am

    It seems to me that M-W missed an opportunity to use a common meme to illustrate their point:

    u mad bro?

  61. Guy said,

    September 11, 2016 @ 4:56 am


    Actually, I think that usage of "mad" may be a determinative, though I suppose it's possible that it blocks more usual determinatives for semantic, not syntactic, reasons. Off the top of my head I can't think of a good test to resolve it definitively.

  62. Greg Malivuk said,

    September 12, 2016 @ 7:24 am

    Both, I imagine. We know "mad rice" is quantifying the rice, not attributing characteristics to it, so that use of "mad" gets parsed the same way as other quantifiers.

  63. BZ said,

    September 12, 2016 @ 4:32 pm

    I'm in the US, but when I hear "mad", "angry" is just barely the default meaning. Usually it can go either way depending on context or even inflection in speech.

  64. Ellen K. said,

    September 13, 2016 @ 1:19 pm

    I would also say that, even when mad means angry, it's not an exact synonym. That crazy sense is in there too. There's the saying "I don't get mad, I get even", which does not mean the person saying it isn't angry, they get even because they are angry, but they don't get "mad".

  65. Greg Malivuk said,

    September 13, 2016 @ 5:02 pm

    I have always understood that expression as being the "angry" sense of the word.

  66. Ellen K. said,

    September 13, 2016 @ 7:40 pm

    Greg, yes, but not meaning the same thing as the word "angry". Referring to a way of being angry.

  67. Ran Ari-Gur said,

    September 14, 2016 @ 12:22 am

    @Michael Watts: "Well, I'm with you as to 'smart', but 'ill' is not normal in American english. We say 'sick'."

    In that case you're with him on both points. (He was not saying that "ill" is normal in American English, he was saying that "ill" is the British English equivalent for the meaning that "sick" usually has in American English.)

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