About the alt.usage.english newsgroup

On this page:

About newsgroups in general

Right at the top of our home page it says: "This is the web site of the alt.usage.english newsgroup". If you don't know what a "newsgroup" is, or you realise that it's some sort of discussion group but you can't work out how to access it on this site, this topic is specially for you.

On the web there are thousands, probably millions, of discussion forums, dedicated to particular areas of interest. You use your browser to navigate to the "forum" web page of a site that interests you, where you can read what other people have written. You can usually post new messages to the forum after completing a web form to register your name, e-mail address, etc, at the forum.

A newsgroup isn't like that. A newsgroup is a completely different, very much older, type of forum. Newsgroups were invented over thirty years ago, long before the World Wide Web existed. Newsgroups work with special software called "newsreaders" and "news servers" instead of web browsers and web servers.

If you're not really interested in how newsgroups work - you simply want to know how to read and post messages with a minimum of fuss - you'll be pleased to hear that Google provides a web-based interface to newsgroups that makes them look pretty-much like normal web-based discussion forums. It's called Google Groups. Refer to the next section of this page for a list of useful links to get you started in alt.usage.english using Google Groups. But bear in mind that the Google Groups way of doing things is quite cumbersome, and most newsgroup users prefer to use the newsreader software described next.

To connect directly (not via Google) to a newsgroup you'll need newsreader software installed on your PC. Many PCs come with a newsreader already installed - it's Microsoft Outlook Express, the same program that many people use for e-mail. Popular alternative newsreaders include Forte Agent and Mozilla Thunderbird.

The newsreader needs to be configured to connect via the Internet to a suitable news server. There are thousands of news servers round the world and it usually doesn't matter much which one you connect to. Many ISPs provide free news servers which are accessible to their own customers only. Alternatively many alt.usage.english regulars make use of the inexpensive server provided at News.Individual.NET.

Having configured your newsreader to use an available news server, you can "subscribe" to any number of newsgroups, including of course alt.usage.english. Subscription is free and no registration process or password is required - all you have to provide is the name(s) of the newsgroup(s) you're interested in .

For more information see Wikipedia: Newsgroup and Wikipedia: Google Groups.

The alt.usage.english ("AUE") newsgroup

Information for newcomers to alt.usage.english is regularly posted to alt.usage.english in the form of seven "Intro" documents. The Intro documents are reproduced on this site for your convenience. Click on the links below to get a good picture of what alt.usage.english is all about.

Before posting a question about English usage, it's important to make some effort to see if your question is already answered in readily available sources of information. You can browse through the AUE FAQ and the AUE FAQ Supplement. Alternatively search this site using keywords that relate to your enquiry. Another place you might find your question answered is in previous postings to the newsgroup (click on the second link in the list below).

Some useful links to Google Groups:

The AUE logo

AUE has its very own Totally Official logo, shown below. Click for information about the logo.

AUE logo

AUE people

Many AUE people have contributed information about themselves to this site:

If you'd like to make a contribution please send it the webmaster.

From time to time some AUE people get together in person to share conversation, food, drink, gossip, etc. Such a meeting is sometimes known as a "Symposium" but the everyday word is boink. On this site there's a collection of boink reports, with pictures:

On a more serious note, an AUE regular deserving of special mention is Daniel McGrath.

Yes, but what's AUE really like?

For a humorous look at life in AUE, take a look at Tony Cooper's sketches, as posted to the newsgroup between August 2001 and June 2002. The links below take you to the Google archives, where you can also see the follow-ups:

There's more AUE humour in the thread Seven Years' War? what is the rule for the apostrophe?, summarised on page AUE on New Technology (thanks to Laura).

The Summer Doldrums Competitions

In (northern hemisphere) mid-summer each year, posting volumes are usually down, and the group indulges in a bit of fun - the Summer Doldrums Competitions. The intellectual giants of the group battle it out for the championship and the rest of us consider it quite an achievement to get on the scoreboard at all. When a competition is in progress, the current state of play is recorded at the Totally Official web site. On this alt-usage-english.org site, previous competitions are archived:

RHHDAS? What's that?

Like many a community, AUE uses its own abbreviations for commonly-used phrases, including dictionary names. If you don't understand them, take a look at Bob Cunningham's January 2001 List of initialisms sometimes used in alt.usage.english. There's also a short list of dictionary abbreviations in Intro A. (The answer, by the way, is "Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang".)

AUE statistics

Who posts to AUE? Has the number of postings always been this high? Answers to these questions and more are at: