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August 20[edit]

Theravada Buddhists: Pali or Sanskrit?[edit]

From what I can tell, among Western Buddhists, Mahayanists prefer to use Sanskrit terms (karma, dharma, etc.), while Theravadins prefer to use Pali terms (kamma, dhamma). This made me curious about usage among Theravadins who speak an Indic language: from what I can find here, the Sinhalese words are කර්මය (karmaya) and ධර්මය (darmaya) – clearly not Pali-derived, because they have the Sanskrit r. So what's the reason for this seeming inconsistency? Is the preference for Pali over Sanskrit forms purely a phenomenon of Western Theravadins, and not actually the case among those in Sri Lanka or other Asian countries? --Lazar Taxon (talk) 00:42, 20 August 2014 (UTC)

It's not so much a preference, rather that Theravadins draw their teachings from the Pali Canon whereas the Mahayana draws much more on the Mahāyāna sūtras. However Sri Lankan Theravada Buddhists will naturally use Sinhalaese terms just as the English Theravada Buddhists will use terms that have become naturalised in English (e.g. the Sanskrit derived "karma" and "bodhisattva"), so I don't see any contradiction.--Shantavira|feed me 08:41, 20 August 2014 (UTC)
Lazar Taxon -- Buddhists originally chose Pali as a statement that they were preaching to the people in their ordinary spoken language, as opposed to Brahmins who used esoteric Sanskrit (which was already quite divergent from ordinary spoken language). This was the same reason why the Asoka inscriptions did not use Sanskrit. However, within a few centuries, ordinary spoken language in north India started diverging from Pali, and in later eras there came to be strong Sanskrit influence on many Buddhist texts or writings (see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit etc.)... AnonMoos (talk) 09:23, 20 August 2014 (UTC)
I am not familiar enough with the situation in Sri Lanka to comment (Shantavira's answer seems on the money though). However I can answer the final part of your question. In the countries of Southeast Asia where Theravada is practiced (Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Burma), Pali is the language of Buddhism. Words adopted from Sanskrit can be found in the areas of politics and literature, but, as the Theravada Canon came to the region in Pali, that language has a special significance. In fact, it's significance as a "sacred" language has spread beyond Buddhism in these countries and is used (often in abbreviated form or simply for the sounds of the words, not necessarily the meanings) by local animists for magical purposes/folk practices (e.g. Yantra tattooing, "love spells" and "black magic").--William Thweatt TalkContribs 18:59, 20 August 2014 (UTC)

Abbreviation "Ag" in German place names[edit]

This question is for a friend of mine whose research into her family's genealogy has taken her to a town called Gägelow Ag. Sternberg, in what's now Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Does anyone have any idea what "ag." stands for/signifies? I came up empty on Google and speak no German myself. -- AndreCarrotflower (talk) 01:37, 20 August 2014 (UTC)

(Copied from the Tourism Reference Desk, aka Wikivoyage Tourist Office by: (talk) 02:16, 20 August 2014 (UTC); I suggest answering there. Looking at Google Maps, it seems to show Gägelow as place either within or near Sternberg, so I suspect the word is a preposition.)

I think the answer is that this is not part of the place name at all. I believe it refers to the local court (Amtsgericht or Ag.) in the district of Gägelow in the town of Sternberg. --Andrewssi2 (talk) 04:23, 20 August 2014 (UTC)
I'd agree with Andrewssi2. Ag. is a abbreviation for Amtsgericht, a low level local court that tends to have a number of smaller towns and villages falling within its jurisdiction; it's more than likely trying to indicate that Gägelow is within the catchment area of the court in Sternberg. Sotakeit (talk) 08:35, 20 August 2014 (UTC)
+ 1. It was used formerly in order to distinguish towns like Gägelow AG Sternberg from Gägelow AG Wismar, see Mecklenburg Gazetteer. --Pp.paul.4 (talk) 12:54, 20 August 2014 (UTC)

Pronunciation of Greek surname[edit]

How would the surname Petratos be pronounced? Hack (talk) 03:18, 20 August 2014 (UTC)

IPA: [pɛ'tratɔs], pe-TRAH-tos. Fut.Perf. 04:58, 20 August 2014 (UTC)
Great, thanks for the reply. Hack (talk) 06:09, 20 August 2014 (UTC)
But how's it pronounced in the Present? —Tamfang (talk) 07:23, 20 August 2014 (UTC)
Beware of Greeks bearing Presents. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 09:02, 20 August 2014 (UTC)
I resemble that! μηδείς (talk) 01:45, 21 August 2014 (UTC).
My mistake: the question is clearly subjunctive. —Tamfang (talk) 03:14, 21 August 2014 (UTC)

comma question on names[edit]

This question is not related to a Wikipedia article, but I thought I would ask here as being the best place to get a quick answer. When writing a list of names, with last name first (as in "Blow, Joseph T.")... do you put a comma before Jr., Sr., III, IV, etc.
in other words is it:

  • Blow, Joseph T. Sr.
  • Blow, Joseph T. Jr.
  • Blow, Joseph T. III

or is it:

  • Blow, Joseph T., Sr.
  • Blow, Joseph T., Jr.
  • Blow, Joseph T., III

Please don't start a debate... if different style guides say different things, just tell me which ones say what. Thanks. (talk) 16:21, 20 August 2014 (UTC)

According to the The Chicago Manual of Style, your second set of three names is punctuated correctly.
Wavelength (talk) 23:02, 20 August 2014 (UTC)

Meaning of leporello in Italian[edit]

Can anyone confirm or give an etymology that shows that Leporello means "little rabbit" in Italian? A citable source for Don Giovanni would be helpful. Thanks. μηδείς (talk) 21:33, 20 August 2014 (UTC)

The closest I can think of is lepre, "hare". Lepre --> leporello is not any regular diminutive scheme I know, but it's pretty close. --Trovatore (talk) 21:35, 20 August 2014 (UTC)
Leveret is leprotto in standard Italian. --Pp.paul.4 (talk) 22:26, 20 August 2014 (UTC)
Isn't it lepus, leporis in Latin? So lepor- would be the stem; lepre is a plausible variation of that. AlexTiefling (talk) 22:49, 20 August 2014 (UTC)
Yes, that was what I was thinking, vulgar lepore- (either from leporē or leporem in Classical Latin could give this form dialectically in broad Italian. It also makes perfect sense that it's the name of the cowardly servant in D. Gio. μηδείς (talk) 01:43, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
Hares are not rabbits, and in English folk culture, at least, they have the attributes of speed and of hiding, and also ("March Hare") of madness. But not of cowardice. I don't know whether they have the same image in Italian folklore. --ColinFine (talk) 12:36, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
The Latin diminutive of lepus is lepusculus. Some claim that Mozart (his native tongue being Bavarian language) Romanized Lipperl, meaning Hanswurst, to pseudo-Italian. Others claim that there is a vulgar Latin *leporellus or a vulgar Italian *leporello. I do not know. I guess that an Italian speaker understands leporello as leveret, but the word does not seem to exist. --Pp.paul.4 (talk) 09:01, 23 August 2014 (UTC)

August 21[edit]

Cryptic Pregnancy in Chinese[edit]

There is an article called Cryptic pregnancy which describes a condition where someone is unaware of their pregnancy until they go into labor. I have tried in vain to look for a Chinese term to describe this condition - not even Google search results for this topic in Chinese seem to be helpful. Can someone help me find an appropriate Chinese term for this condition? (talk) 04:11, 21 August 2014 (UTC)

What was that again?[edit]

Suppose a guy introduces himself as "Frank Geary". You aren't sure whether you heard "Frank" or "Hank". I always go "Frank?" and they go "Geary". I go "yeah, yeah, ...Frank??" and they just repeat "Geary". Then I just give up and assume I was right, but it's annoying somehow - what if they didn't hear my "Frank" very clearly? Now I'm in China, and non-native speakers do this to me all the time, and I need a quick way of clarifying what I've heard. So be Frank with me - how do I get the first part of that, without going into detail? Overclarifying is tedious, so I want the simple way. Why does everyone (native or foreign) assume I want the second part? Is there a tone of voice that gets the idea across? IBE (talk) 06:02, 21 August 2014 (UTC)

How about, "could you repeat that please?" Always works for me, in any language. --jpgordon::==( o ) 06:59, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
Ask "Did you say your first name was Frank or Hank?". -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 07:25, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
OK, I hear you, but the point is that I instinctively do this, then realise I'm not being understood. Is there a "right" way? It interests me in and of itself, as well as being simpler if I can just use the right abbreviated way (assuming such a thing exists). It just seems strange that it comes out wrong much more than 50% of the time. IBE (talk) 10:19, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
How about repeating the entire name instead of just the first name? Or "Say again, please?" ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 10:44, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
Those suggestions actually might work, although the first one only works with something short. I used the example of a name because, although it happened 10 years ago, it's still fresh in my mind. At the time I couldn't work out for the life of me why he kept repeating his surname, when I asked him about his first name. "Frank?" "Geary." "Frank?" "Geary." "Frank??!!" "Geary!". I gave up, and figured it out afterwards. It's now happening with sentences in China, so I say the first bit, and they repeat the rest of the sentence. It usually means I've heard right, but I'm instinctively doing the dumb thing of just repeating myself. Just curious as to what the "canonical" way is of doing it without the laborious (and strangely unintuitive) trick of actually explaining yourself. IBE (talk) 11:55, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
When you say "Frank?", you're inviting him to fill in the rest of his name. That might sound counterintuitive, but that's how it works. You've obviously got the first name correct, and as far as he's concerned you want clarity only about the surname. If you said "Hank?" and his name was actually Frank, he would correct you with "No, Frank". -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 12:01, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
I sometimes repeat the phrase with 'what' or 'who' filling in the part I don't understand. E.g. "[who] Geary?", or "The great [what] of China?" With some practice, you can even vocally imply the square brackets/variable nature of the 'who/what' :) This might be a little familiar for very professional contexts, but it's always worked well for me in friendly situations. Since you're repeating every part you heard, it's very easy for people from different cultures and linguistic backgrounds to understand which part you didn't understand. For long phrases, you only need to repeat the words adjacent to the word you didn't catch. SemanticMantis (talk) 14:42, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
They say you only get one chance to make a first impression. I agree. If I don't hear a name, I just don't use it. In one-on-one dealings, they're not so important, anyway. If it's important to you and you catch the last name, you might try "Good to meet you, Mr. Geary" and hope for a "Call me Frank." Not surefire, of course. Plenty of people would still rather be called Mister.
If you questioned my first name, I'd repeat it for you, not my last. But I know it's common here to take it as a trailing "Frank...?", too. InedibleHulk (talk) 17:40, August 21, 2014 (UTC)

How did the Iago Sparrow get that name?[edit]

There's a "did you know" today about the Iago Sparrow, but the article, unless I missed it, doesn't explain how the poor bird happened to get named after one of the most despised characters in Western literature, a man whose evil is so unmotivated that it represents a flaw in an otherwise masterful play. Only Nurse Ratched comes close. (Is there a bird named after her?) --Trovatore (talk) 07:52, 21 August 2014 (UTC)

According to Iago_Sparrow#Taxonomy it was "first collected by Charles Darwin ... at the island of Santiago". Iago is a form of Jacob or James; presumably Darwin (or whoever named it) wasn't thinking of the Shakespearean baddie . AndrewWTaylor (talk) 07:59, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
Ah, thanks much. I don't think I would ever have made that connection. --Trovatore (talk) 08:04, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
Santiago Island is rather surprisingly named after King James I of Great Britain according to Galapagos Conservancy - my guess would have been Saint James the Great but you can't be right all of the time! Alansplodge (talk) 18:56, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
One might take exception to that description of Iago's character. See Iago#Motives, and, from a non-expert perspective, he hates his boss and wants to ruin his marriage. Is this so unimaginable a situation to be in? See Going postal. One might also recommend a viewing of Anthony Hopkins' portrayal of Iago in which this element of the character is brought out very positively. Tevildo (talk) 20:38, 22 August 2014 (UTC)

Translation of Shakespeare's date of death[edit]

I read this in a footnote (note 36) in the Shakespeare's life article: His age and the date are inscribed in Latin on his funerary monument: AETATIS 53 DIE 23 APR. Can someone please translate exactly what this means? And, also, what exactly would a "funerary monument" refer to? I assume it is something different than his gravestone (since his gravestone has that famous poem inscribed on it)? Thanks. Joseph A. Spadaro (talk) 16:27, 21 August 2014 (UTC)

See Shakespeare's funerary monument: it means that he died at age 53 on April 23 (1616). AETATIS is short for "anno aetatis suae", meaning literally "in the year of his age", best translated "at the age of", DIE is ablative of "dies", meaning "day" and APR just means April, so AETATIS 53 DIE 23 APR means "at the age of 53 on the day of 23 April". However, that's part of a longer inscription (see linked article). - Lindert (talk) 16:54, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
Thanks. I did not know that we had an article for Shakespeare's funerary monument. I will read that. So, in the meanwhile, a follow up question. Why would it say age 53 instead of 52? Or even 51, for that matter? Thanks. Joseph A. Spadaro (talk) 17:21, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
You are 52 during the 53rd "year of your age", as you only have that birthday at the end of the year. Rojomoke (talk) 18:06, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
According to Google Translate, anno aetatis suae 53 means "at the age of 53". ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 19:32, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
Google Translate is (as usual) wrong. It definitely means 'in the 53rd year of his age'; anno = in the year, aetatis = of age, suae = his (and agrees with aetatis, not anno). AlexTiefling (talk) 21:07, 21 August 2014 (UTC)

Thanks, all. But, I am totally confused. Does this mean (according to the customs and language/"wording" of his times), that he died at what we today would consider age 52? or age 53? Thanks. Joseph A. Spadaro (talk) 19:43, 21 August 2014 (UTC)

He died at what we would today consider age 52. Despite Google Translate, anno aetatis suae 53 does not mean "at the age of 53" but rather "in the 53rd year of his life", i.e. during the period between his 52nd birthday and his 53rd birthday. (Think about it: the first year of your life is the year between your birth and your 1st birthday, not the year in which you are called "1 year old".) This method of counting a person's age got started before Europeans had a firm grasp on the concept of zero, and is still common in German, where you see things like "Sale of spirits is prohibited to anyone who has not completed the 18th year of his life", which means anyone who not reached his 18th birthday. —Aɴɢʀ (talk) 20:49, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
He was born in the summer of his twenty-seventh year/goin' home to a place he'd never been before. So he was actually 26, I guess? I wonder what Denver had in mind. --Trovatore (talk) 21:27, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
I was born at a very young age, too, but being born at the age of 26 ....? Poor Mrs Deutschendorf. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 21:30, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
Especially with that wide mouth. Anyway, the time frame of his move to Colorado appears to coincide with having turned 26 and not having turned 27 yet. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:31, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
If the facts in William Shakespeare are correct, he actually died 3 days short of his baptism day, so he was either just about to turn 52 or had just barely turned 52. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:52, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
It's more complicated than that. In 1582, when WS was 18, the Gregorian calendar came into existence. England did not adopt it until 1752, but it's nevertheless useful to consider it when working out his actual lifespan. Had Shakespeare been Italian, Spanish, Polish or Portuguese, we'd say he died on 3 May 1616 (NS), which was 7 days after his baptism day, not 3 days before it. So, did he complete his 52nd year and was already a week or so into his 53rd; or had he not quite completed his 52nd? It seems we have a great deal more to learn about "year", particularly around that time. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 23:40, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
@JackofOz: I don't follow what you are saying. If England adopted the new calendar in 1752, how does that affect Shakespeare's death date in 1616? Joseph A. Spadaro (talk) 00:46, 22 August 2014 (UTC)
OK, think of it like this: Consider a person who was baptised in France on the same day as Shakespeare, and who died in France on the same day as Shakespeare. Regardless of anything else, we'd say their life spans were identical, right? Yet, the French guy would be recorded as having died on 3 May 1616, seven days into his 53rd year, while Willy boy was still three days short of completing his 52nd year. How can this be? -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 21:55, 22 August 2014 (UTC)
Yes, I understand that. But, in the case of France, the individual's age is being calculated according to a calendar that has changed midway through his life span. That is not the case with Shakespeare (as I understand your post). The calendar in use when he was born (1564) is the same calendar in use when he died (1616). So, if the "new" calendar did not take effect until 100+ years later (1752), how is this relevant to the computation of Shakespeare's age? Not the French guy's age, but Shakespeare's? Thanks. Joseph A. Spadaro (talk) 00:11, 23 August 2014 (UTC)
That's why I said "regardless of anything else", which meant "regardless of any changes to calendars, and whether such changes applied to them equally or not". Their actual lifespans were identical, so how can their ages at death be different? I guess this is where the meaning of the word "year" takes on some importance. It isn't always the same thing, and we already accept that because we're quite happy living in a system where it's sometimes 365 days and sometimes 366 days. But in 1582, in certain countries, it was only 355 days because of the switch to the Gregorian calendar, which required 10 days to be dropped. Then other countries gradually came on board by dropping as many days as appropriate for when they changed. When Britain changed in 1752, they had to drop 11 days. And Russia had to drop 13 days in 1918. Same for Greece in 1923. What's all this got to do with Shakespeare, I hear you cry. Well, I guess we're implicitly saying that we can justify saying his age at death and that of his French double were not the same, even though their lifespans were identical, because the set of "years" in Shakespeare's life wasn't the same set of "years" in the French guy's life. Hence the difference. I just felt the need to think this through aloud, so to speak. Please carry on. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 03:09, 23 August 2014 (UTC)
Before 1752, England's new year was March 25 (iirc) – which is irrelevant to an event in April. HTH. —Tamfang (talk) 07:19, 22 August 2014 (UTC)

Related question[edit]

Thanks. So, in light of the above discussion, what is all this confusion about his "real" birthday? We know the date on which he died, correct? And we know that he was age 52 upon death, correct? So, does that not conclude that his real birthday was, in fact, April 23? If, indeed, he were born on April 24 or April 25 or even April 26, they would have listed his age as 51 at death, no? What am I missing here? Or is the notion that he might have been born before April 23? I am so confused. Also, do we not "trust" his contemporaries, that they would get "correct" the age to inscribe on his funerary monument? Or do we have reasons to doubt that the contemporaries of that time got it (his age of 52) correct? Thanks. Joseph A. Spadaro (talk)

Two answers to that, I think. (1) He could indeed have been born before April 23; all we know is that he was baptized on the 26th. See Birth-baptism intervals for family historians: "Family historians working on the early modern period can usually assume that any date they uncover either in a parish register or on the International Genealogical Index (IGI) which specifies baptism will normally be no more than a week after birth." (2) We may indeed have reason to doubt the accuracy of funerary monument, since it was probably made several years after Shakespeare's death. Lesgles (talk) 22:15, 22 August 2014 (UTC)
See this preview of The Quest for Shakespeare by Joseph Pearce, which discusses the fact that 23 April is England's patronal festival, that may have influenced its adoption as his birthday. Alansplodge (talk) 12:18, 24 August 2014 (UTC)

Thanks, all. Joseph A. Spadaro (talk) 17:19, 26 August 2014 (UTC)

Alphabetical order[edit]

I have a question about the alphabet and alphabetical ordering. I read both of those articles, and they did not seem to answer my question. I clearly understand the concept of "alphabetical ordering" (e.g., the word "apple" comes before "boy", which comes before "cat", etc.). My question is: Is there any particular reason or rationale or philosophy as to the order of the letters of the alphabet? In other words, for example: Why is "D" the fourth letter, when it could just as easily be the 18th letter? Why does the letter "K" come before the letter "Q", when it could just as easily come after it? Things of that nature. Where and why does the present order come from? Was it just some random ordering? Or is there some rhyme and reason behind it? I am referring to the English language alphabet. Thanks. Joseph A. Spadaro (talk) 17:30, 21 August 2014 (UTC)

The order, for the most part, inherited from its predecessor alphabets. Perhaps Latin alphabet#Origins, Latin script, English alphabet and/or History of the Latin alphabet will have the exact answers you're looking for.--William Thweatt TalkContribs 18:03, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
This image summarizes things nicely. הסרפד (call me Hasirpad) 19:01, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
That's a nice picture, but what exactly is it saying? What do the columns mean? What do the colors signify? Thanks. Joseph A. Spadaro (talk) 19:45, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
The middle column is the Phoenician alphabet, from which the Greek (2nd from left) and Latin (left) alphabets are derived. The history of alphabetical order is shown by the background colors: Phoenician and Hebrew retain the original Semitic order (or rather, one of two original orders—see Ugaritic alphabet#Abecedaries). הסרפד (call me Hasirpad) 22:19, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
Generally, new letters get added to the end of the alphabet. Some letters can be split (I and J) retain their earlier places. This of course doesn't explain the base that we began with. Barney the barney barney (talk) 19:36, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
Apparently, we don't really know the origins of alphabetical order in the Phoenician and earlier Semitic abjads from which our alphabet is derived, but this article discusses some of the theories. Marco polo (talk) 19:42, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
It might also be worth pointing out that "alphabetical order", in the sense of ordering words like in a dictionary, is historically a function of only secondary importance, and much more recent than the first and foremost function of the order of the letters in the alphabet: that of serving as a handy mnemonic for learning the set by heart. Alphabets could have been invented simply as unordered sets of characters, as far as their actual function in writing was concerned, but in fact, from the earliest times, they seem to have been always handled as sequences with a fixed order, and with letter names to go with it, simply so that learners could have something like our modern alphabet songs to recite by rote when learning it. Fut.Perf. 21:29, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
sub question : do we have any good articles on WP that talk about the i/j split? The article i doesn't mention it, and j only gives a cursory mention, and gives a 1524 for use in Italian. I've heard from other sources that these letters and ampersand have been the most recent changes to the Latin alphabet, as used in English. For instance, Thomas Jefferson is said to have signed his name with an I, and the i/j split is sometimes given as a reason for why J is skipped in street names. So is there any info on when this settled down in AmEng? SemanticMantis (talk) 21:40, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
I'm not sure, but I think the U/V/W split is almost as recent. At least in German uppercase I/J were not distinguished until the 19th or early 20th centuries, depending on the style of type (see J). הסרפד (call me Hasirpad) 22:19, 21 August 2014 (UTC)

Joseph A. Spadaro -- The Latin alphabet ordering is an imperfect continuation of what scholars call the North Semitic or Levantine alphabet ordering. The earliest attestation of this North Semitic ordering is in the first 27 letters of the 30-letter Ugaritic alphabet. There's no evident rationale for the ordering of these 27 Ugaritic letters. Here's a table taken from Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Language/2012 March 8#Alphabetical order, showing which modern Latin letters correspond to which letters in the Ugaritic ordering (note that the Latin alphabet does not actually directly descend from the cuneiform Ugaritic alphabet, but rather from a mostly-unattested non-cuneiform alphabet of similar date):

ʔ b g d h w z y k š l m n s ʕ p q r ġ t

Some things are a little more complex than can be shown in this format (particularly "s"-"X", which has a kind of structural relationship, but no actual shape correspondence with the North Semitic letter). AnonMoos (talk) 23:00, 21 August 2014 (UTC)

The Semitic–Latin correspondence is better when one considers that Latin descends from the Phoenician alphabet, which (like Hebrew and Syriac) lacks characters for , , , ġ, and not from the Ugaritic alphabet. Thus:
ʔ b g d h w z y k l m n s ʕ p q r š t
(AnonMoos: I am a little confused regarding š/. Isn't S derived from š, not ?) הסרפד (call me Hasirpad) 23:49, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
Yes, but the Ugaritic alphabet (not the Phoenician alphabet) provides the earliest attestation of the North Semitic alphabetic ordering, and available indications are that the 27-letter alphabet probably preceded the 22-letter alphabet. The correspondence in order between Ugaritic ṯ/θ and Phoenician š is one such indication -- there was a historical "Canaanite" sound change of θ > š (also ð > z etc.), which meant that there would then be two letters writing [š], and when the 27-letter alphabet was reduced to 22-letters as a result of such mergers, it happened that the letter originally used to write θ was kept, while the letter originally used to write š was discarded. If one were to adopt the reverse hypothesis, that the 27-letter alphabet which underlies the 30-letter Ugaritic alphabet was expanded from 22 letters, then the correspondence in order between Phoenician š and Ugaritic θ wouldn't make much sense (William Foxwell Albright realized this over 60 years ago, almost as soon as Ugaritic "abecedarium" tablets were found). AnonMoos (talk) 00:46, 22 August 2014 (UTC)
AnonMoos: Thank you. I was aware of the Canaanite sound shift, but was under the (apparently wrong) impression that the alphabetical order follows that of the original characters. The shin, and consequently S (your favorites, no?), are derived from the glyph for š, not —is that correct? הסרפד (call me Hasirpad) 01:03, 22 August 2014 (UTC)
I never really saw much point in trying to compare Ugaritic cuneiform letter shapes to non-cuneiform letter shapes, so I'm not the one to ask about that... AnonMoos (talk) 01:49, 22 August 2014 (UTC)

Thanks, all. Joseph A. Spadaro (talk) 17:20, 26 August 2014 (UTC)

A billion here, a billion there - pretty soon, you're talking real money[edit]

Do those wacky British use "billion" in reference to money as meaning 1,000,000,000, or do they write "thousand million"? Do they sneer at Bill Gates for being a mere thousand millionaire? Do they differentiate between a "billion dollars" and a "billion pounds"? Also, is "bn" the British abbreviation for billion? Clarityfiend (talk) 21:50, 21 August 2014 (UTC)

This is in the context of a business/financial document. Clarityfiend (talk) 22:09, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
(ec) There's such a word as wikt:milliard, there's never any need to use a "thousand million", whether you're using the long or short scale. Anyway, see numberphile's video on this. The short system is increasingly dominant in the UK, so they would use "billion" in the same way as Americans, but if some really conservative Brits wanted to say £ 1,000,000,000 they would say a milliard pounds, not a thousand million. And though I'm not aware of any English usage of the word 'milliardaire', meaning billionaire in the normal sense, other languages, including French do use precisely that to describe Bill Gates. - Lindert (talk) 22:16, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
Huh? Can you please provide some cites where British (or any anglophone people) use "milliard" and expect general readers/listeners to know what they're referring to? The word may exist, but relatively few people know of it, and relatively few of them know what it means. It is not in general usage. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 23:26, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
That was my impression too. A few traditionalists in the UK (and maybe some other Commonwealth countries?) say "thousand million"; virtually no one says "milliard". But I don't have much to go on; I'd be interested in hearing from anyone who's genuinely sighted "milliard" in the wild, in English, used by a native English speaker. --Trovatore (talk) 23:32, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
I use "English Billion" for a million million, and "American Billion" for a thousand million. I would like to use "milliard" but refrain from doing so because few would understand what I meant. It was Harold Wilson who decided that Britain would use the American Billion for government purposes. (I've never forgiven him! ) Since the English (and European) Billion was rarely used before Harold Wilson's time, it has now fallen almost completely out of use except by those of my generation who remember pre-Wilson times. Dbfirs 12:01, 22 August 2014 (UTC)
I concur with Jack. The OED has a couple of citations from the 1990's, but in the sense of "a very large number". The latest citation it has that is unequivocally the specific meaning is from 1977. --ColinFine (talk) 13:18, 22 August 2014 (UTC)
Generally speaking, nowadays British people mean 10^9 when they say a "billion". This is especially true when people are talking about money. Bluap (talk) 13:44, 22 August 2014 (UTC)
Agreed. The BBC always use the Americanesque billion in their financial news. [1] [2] They have a feedback programme called Points of View, which sometimes featured letters from disgruntled older viewers complaining about the use of the American-style billion, but the BBC news editors always replied that it was widely understood and would only cause confusion if they reverted to the old method. I was taught at school that the European billion was obsolete, back in the 1970s. And yes, £12bn equals GBP 12,000,000,000.00. Alansplodge (talk) 16:19, 22 August 2014 (UTC)
Not exactly, Alan. "£12billion.00" would equal GBP 12,000,000,000.00, but plain "£12billion" or "£12bn" equals GBP 12,000,000,000. I sometimes see house prices as, e.g. "$875,000.00" (or "$875000.00") and I wonder if it would ever be anything other than zero cents, and if so, would the vendor refuse to sell if the final few cents weren't paid. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 21:46, 22 August 2014 (UTC)
Apologies, Jack. I started off without the decimal point but decided it looked a bit underdressed without one so I went back and put the pence in. Twenty five years' work in the City has its effects on one. Alansplodge (talk) 17:09, 23 August 2014 (UTC)
  • We have relevant articles on Names of large numbers and Long and short scales. They give a pretty good idea of who is using what terminology (although not much mention of Asian countries/languages). According to the article, modern Brits use "billion" in the same way Americans do: 10^9, and this corroborates the two preceding responses. As for the business or general culture of the language, I imagine most people who have any idea what's up just deal with it. Sure, a young smoker in the USA might chuckle if a Brit asks her for a fag, and some Brits will blush if an American mentions her fanny pack (which means something rather different to each of them), but mostly, educated adults learn to get over these kinds of usage differences. Unlike the silly American refusal to metricate (Mars_Climate_Orbiter#Cause_of_failure), these differences in large number terminology don't seem to cause many problems. SemanticMantis (talk) 17:32, 22 August 2014 (UTC)
A billion thanks, give or take. Clarityfiend (talk) 18:41, 22 August 2014 (UTC)

August 22[edit]

Capitalization for officeholders[edit]

I'm familiar with the basic rule for capitalization of an officeholder's title. I.e., we capitalize the title only when it immediately precedes the name. We write Senator Chuck Grassley from Iowa and Chuck Grassley, senator from Iowa. But what if it's written as Republican Senator Chuck Grassley from Iowa? Or even, Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley? Yes, the word "Senator" immediately precedes the name, but that word is immediately preceded by the word "Republican". "Republican Senator" is a description, not a title. So which is correct, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley or Republican senator Chuck Grassley?‑‑Mandruss (talk) 14:46, 22 August 2014 (UTC)

I would go with the latter. --Viennese Waltz 14:48, 22 August 2014 (UTC)
Thanks, but it seems likely there's a hard rule on this, I just can't find it.‑‑Mandruss (talk) 14:58, 22 August 2014 (UTC)
I may be mistaken, but I don't think Wikipedia has an explicit style on this (it's not mentioned at MOS:JOBTITLES, anyway). The U.S style guides with which I'm most familiar (Chicago, Words into Type) recommend the "Republican senator Chuck Grassley" style, considering that when the name of an office is modified like that, it is a common noun to which the person's name is in apposition rather than a title preceding the name. Deor (talk) 15:23, 22 August 2014 (UTC)
Thanks. How about U.S. President Barack Obama? Or Missouri Governor Jay Nixon? Same animal? ‑‑Mandruss (talk) 17:46, 22 August 2014 (UTC)
Well, it's just my opinion, but I would say that, yes, those would be treated the same. (I'm an old-fashioned sort, who likes to use the in expressions like "the British general Bernard Montgomery" or "the Republican senator Chuck Grassley"—rather than treating such "titles" as a strung-together bunch of attributives—so I would say that, wouldn't I?) In some cases, of course, the name would constitute a nonrestrictive appositive and would therefore be set off with commas—"In 1972, the U.S. president, Richard Nixon, ..." Deor (talk) 21:38, 22 August 2014 (UTC)
Anybody who says things like "attributives" and "nonrestrictive appositive"—with a straight face—is good enough for me! I'll try editing to U.S. president Barack Obama in the lead of this article, and see if it flies.‑‑Mandruss (talk) 21:57, 22 August 2014 (UTC)

I demur. We use capital letters where we are referring to a person in the nature of a "proper noun" context. We can refer to a "president" on many types but in US usage "the President" is the president of the US. [3] "President is capitalized when it comes immediately before the name of a president of a country. It is not capitalized when it refers to a president but does not immediately precede the name." CMOS says we do not capitalize "pope" unless used with the name. Thus we have "Pope Francis" but he is "the pope." We do not use "pope Francis." "Queen Elizabeth II" is "a queen of England" but the toast is "To the Queen." We do not use "queen Elizabeth II." The NYT Manual of Style also agrees on this.[4]. The CMOS is in a bit of a minority on some examples, but the general usage in the US and English-speaking areas is to capitalize when the intent is to denote a specific individual. Collect (talk) 22:31, 22 August 2014 (UTC)

Thanks. Are you demurring to Republican senator Chuck Grassley, or just U.S. president Barack Obama?‑‑Mandruss (talk) 22:52, 22 August 2014 (UTC)
And wouldn't the more apt comparison be "British queen Elizabeth II"?‑‑Mandruss (talk) 22:59, 22 August 2014 (UTC)
Another usage difference is that in Britain we'd tend not to use positions as replacements for honorifics, so "Prime Minister Cameron" sounds strange, it should be "The Prime Minister, Mr Cameron" or "Mr Cameron, the Prime Minister", etc. Barney the barney barney (talk) 11:28, 23 August 2014 (UTC)
To be consistent with the proposal, it would be "Conservative prime minister David Cameron" or "UK prime minister David Cameron" which, I trust, would be an unusual usage. I further note in UK usage "the Prime Minister" when referring to a person is invariably capitalized. [5] [6] etc. appear discordant for the CMOS, but in accordance with all other manuals and usual US and UK practice in newspapers. Collect (talk) 11:59, 23 August 2014 (UTC)
The rule I would infer is, if you're using it as a title or referring to a specific office, capitalise it. If not, don't. So David Cameron is the Prime Minister of the UK, and (say) attended a meeting of European prime ministers. I'd capitalise "president" as in "U.S. President Barack Obama", because that's a specific office, but if you were referring to him in the context of presidents of other countries - for example "Barack Obama is the first president of any modern republic to do x" - I wouldn't, because that's using "president" as a generic term. Not sure how to treat "senator" - I understand there is a national Senate but also state senates, so "senator" could be a generic term in some contexts and a reference to a specific office in others. --Nicknack009 (talk) 12:12, 23 August 2014 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Hi, if I could pull us back from US-UK comparisons for just a moment. As to my questions, Collect and Deor are two apparently knowledgeable people who disagree. Since Collect is the one more sure of his opinion, I'll go with his (not always a good idea, but it will do in this case). I just need some clarification on your position, Collect. Is it that all officeholder titles should be capitalized when they immediately precede the name, regardless of anything that precedes the title? Thanks. ‑‑Mandruss (talk) 12:45, 23 August 2014 (UTC)

Where the title is used to indicate a specific person as a proper noun, the rule is to capitalize the proper noun. This is not only applied to honorifics, but also to adjectives in general -- the "White House" is,indeed, "white" but the proper noun has the W capitalized anyway. Grassley is a "Republican senator" but he is "Republican Senator Grassley" - the first is not used as a proper noun, while the second is. "Queen Elizabeth II" but "Elizabeth II is the queen of England" where "queen of England" is not used as a proper noun. But (interestingly) "The Queen of England spoke" is capitalized as it is used as a proper noun (i.e. a specific person). We can have "... said President Barack Obama" "Barack Obama is the US president", "Barack Obama, president of the US", but "The President spoke at a conference" where it is used to denote a specific person. I know it may seem confusing <g>, but the concept is that a specific person, place or thing gets the majuscule letter, while a non-specific person, place or thing gets the minuscule letter. (OK - I did not really need the Latin) Collect (talk) 13:05, 23 August 2014 (UTC)
Chuck Grassley, senator from Iowa is a specific person, Collect, and I can't recall ever seeing that capitalized in any academic or journalism setting. Is my memory that bad? Never mind. The problem is with my reading comprehension, not my memory. I think I have it now. So the answer to my last question would be yes, since "precede the name" necessarily implies a specific person. I never had a problem knowing what to do with titles that don't precede the name, or titles not associated with a specific person. ‑‑Mandruss (talk) 13:15, 23 August 2014 (UTC)
See "False title".—Wavelength (talk) 16:56, 26 August 2014 (UTC)

Period placement for quotation at end of sentence[edit]

This has no doubt been asked here a few dozen times. It may even be somewhere in MOS. But I'm old and tired.

What is the rule for placement of the period when a sentence ends with a quotation? In or out? Does it depend on the length of the quotation? Does it depend on whether the quotation is a sentence fragment or a complete sentence? Thanks. Time for a Geritol break!‑‑Mandruss (talk) 14:56, 22 August 2014 (UTC)

This is one of those cases where American and British English differ. American style is to place the period before the closing quotation mark whereas British style is to place it after. See [7]. --Viennese Waltz 15:04, 22 August 2014 (UTC)
The MOS guideline for handling this in Wikipedia is at MOS:LQ. Basically, if the quoted matter is a complete sentence, put the period inside the closing quotation mark; if it isn't a complete sentence, put the period outside. Deor (talk) 15:10, 22 August 2014 (UTC)
Outstanding, just what I needed. Thanks for supporting AARP.‑‑Mandruss (talk) 15:13, 22 August 2014 (UTC)
No problem. I'm not a member of that organization, but I've been qualified for membership for more than 15 years. Deor (talk) 15:27, 22 August 2014 (UTC)

neutral or beneficial[edit]

Hello, Reference Deskers. I would like to describe some behaviors as either neutral (in that they are neither harmful or helpful) OR beneficial. I began with 'innocuous', but I don't think it really captures the "OR" that I want -- innocuous doesn't seem to include those that are beneficial. I could use the word non-harmful, but it doesn't have the right flair. Is there a word that does what I want? Thanks. Llamabr (talk) 21:07, 22 August 2014 (UTC)

why does it have to be a word? "benificial or at least harmless" if it's more likely to be beneficial, or "harmless if not beneficial" if at least harmless, and maybe even beneficial? (or as I just said, "harmless, and maybe even beneficial".) (talk) 23:12, 22 August 2014 (UTC)
Thanks. In the end, if I can't think of a word, I'll probably just stick with "Non-Harmful". I'm trying to give a certain concept a name, which makes the concept easier to refer to, and so for simplicity, I'd like it if the name is a single word. Llamabr (talk) 23:31, 22 August 2014 (UTC)
How about 'benign' which has two meanings (not harmful, kindly) depending on context. Personally, i think it has a neutral/positive shade -- especially in the medical sense, given the usual alternative/expectation of 'malignant' ... ie, 'benign' can seem relatively positive. If you give us a bit more detail in how you're using it as label/name, we might come up with a more suitable term. El duderino (abides) 04:10, 23 August 2014 (UTC)
I concur. "Benign" means harmless and possibly beneficial. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 12:40, 23 August 2014 (UTC)
"Harmless" might sound more natural than "non-harmful". Rojomoke (talk) 04:58, 23 August 2014 (UTC)

Thanks. I also like 'benign' though it doesn't have the flash I want. I'll decide between "harmless" and "benign" (probably the latter). Thanks. Llamabr (talk) 23:23, 23 August 2014 (UTC)

what did disco mean in the 19th century?[edit]

as per here -

what on earth could that have been? (talk) 23:08, 22 August 2014 (UTC)

A lot of the hits are just word breaks - disco ver etc. Other hits refer to the word disco in latin - I learn or get to know, also used in botanical description. Mikenorton (talk) 23:20, 22 August 2014 (UTC)
thanks so much! super clear. Though I wonder why line breaks no longer showed up? Did they stop breaking these words as frequently? (talk)
I think they used to use more fixed width spacing, which would make it harder to make all the lines work out evenly, unless you break the words. Variable width spacing takes more time and equipment when done by a printmaker, but now this is done by computer, so it's not a problem. It does sometimes lead to text that looks like this, though:
Bob and Julia
m   e   t   .
Personally, I don't think text needs to be both right and left justified. In fact, variable width lines make it easier for me to find my place again, when I look away and back. StuRat (talk) 23:44, 22 August 2014 (UTC)

August 23[edit]

German Phrase[edit]

I am an avid wargamer, and love watching war films. I speak German, but there is one phrase I hear very often, which I cannot understand. In WW2 games and films, there is quite often a phrase shouted by the Germans. It sounds like 'Sammy Tater' (as if it was a name spoken in a British accent). Can anyone guess what this might be? KägeTorä - () (Chin Wag) 04:50, 23 August 2014 (UTC)

I assume this should be "Sanitäter!", a shout to attract a medical support person. -- (talk) 05:47, 23 August 2014 (UTC) Oops, --Cookatoo.ergo.ZooM (talk) 05:48, 23 August 2014 (UTC)
Yep. The English equivalent is "Medic!" —Aɴɢʀ (talk) 20:07, 23 August 2014 (UTC)
Cheers. I had guessed it was a cry for help, due to the context. I just couldn't work out the actual word. Thanks. KägeTorä - () (Chin Wag) 07:10, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
Either that or a plea for a clean potato. Clarityfiend (talk) 18:31, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
Tscherman doesn't haff phrases. It only has Klauses. μηδείς (talk) 19:48, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
Funny, how different people hear differently. I understood this word (yes, obviously, "Sanitäter!") from the first occasion I've heard it (as I remember it was during the Blitzkrieg game, when in the game the German Soldaten were dying they shouted this). And in general German sounds to me more articulate than English, even I do know well not the first but the latter. Again during the game I understood most of the German phrases, while my German has been always very scarce, but I know English far and wide but still have problems with understanding of English speech (some accents drive me really crazy).--Lüboslóv Yęzýkin (talk) 19:02, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
If we ever meet at a Wikimania or something, Lubo, ask me to switch codes into the pure high mountain whine of my native Southern U.S. hills accent. It will make your brain hurt, yet (I'm told) might be closer to the English of Shakespeare's time than the English of the present-day Englishman. --Orange Mike | Talk 14:45, 27 August 2014 (UTC)
Well, to restore the balance I'd speak broken English with my Russo-Scottish accent.--Lüboslóv Yęzýkin (talk) 21:44, 27 August 2014 (UTC)

"Community driven development" vs "Community-driven development"[edit]

A Wikipedia article uses both community driven development and community-driven development. What is the correct term? --Mortense (talk) 09:13, 23 August 2014 (UTC)

They're probably both considered acceptable, with the proviso that only one version should appear in any given text. Our article, which has the hyphenated form in the title but the unhyphenated form as the opening word of the lede, is a beautiful example of a crap way to do things. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 10:01, 23 August 2014 (UTC)
What is "correct" depends on the style guide adopted by the publisher. In our case, it's Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style#Hyphens, point three. In your example, our MOS says the form "Community-driven development" is preferred. See also Compound_modifier. SemanticMantis (talk) 16:59, 23 August 2014 (UTC)
I do not agree that this is a style choice. I think that it is incorrect without the hyphen. (talk) 01:55, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
Me too. Without the hyphen it could be synonymous with "driven community development", whatever that means. —Tamfang (talk) 06:41, 26 August 2014 (UTC)

August 24[edit]

Económcia (Spanish spelling)[edit]

Is Económcia a typo for Económica? Context is "Fondo de Cultura Económcia", supposedly a Mexican organization. There are many search hits for this spelling but it still looks suspicious. Thanks. (talk) 00:51, 24 August 2014 (UTC)

It's a typo. (btw, WP:WHAAOE: Fondo de Cultura Económica)--William Thweatt TalkContribs 01:34, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
Thanks, I fixed my article draft and linked the WHAAOE to it. (talk) 05:02, 24 August 2014 (UTC)

Adjectives based on English names?[edit]

How many adjectives are there based on names? Is there a linguistic rule to follow when converting a name (proper noun) into an adjective? One example is the name John. The adjective is Johannine. Another example is the name Elizabeth. The adjective is Elizabethan. James becomes Jacobian. What about Peter, Thomas, Daniel, Adam, Paul, Martha, and et cetera? (talk) 20:58, 24 August 2014 (UTC)

See "List of eponymous adjectives in English". There might be others.
Wavelength (talk) 21:14, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
That list, if anyone's interested, contains 164 –ian, 86 –an, 37 –ic, 22 –esque, 13 –ine, 12 –ean, 10 –ist, 7 –ite, 6 –id, 5 –ist-ic, 5 –al, 2 –y, 2 –it–ic, 2 –ish, 2 –ing-ian. (I counted –ian as –an if the root had i.) —Tamfang (talk) 22:19, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
You have there two or three adjectives derived from the Latin form of a name, using one of several Latin suffixes (which are largely interchangeable), and then anglicized. Does that pattern amount to a rule? In Church or royal contexts the Latin root was used because of, y'know, the formal use of Latin. —Tamfang (talk) 22:00, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
Is "Reaganomical" a word? I kind of hope so... Evan (talk|contribs) 22:09, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
Sure, if you like, but it's derived from a portmanteau of economics rather than directly from Reagan. —Tamfang (talk) 22:19, 24 August 2014 (UTC) -- The adjective of James is usually "Jacobean" (definitely if referring to the reign of James the VIth and Ist). In religious contexts, the adjective forms of Peter and Paul are "Petrine" and "Pauline", and Adamites has been the name of several semi-obscure sects... AnonMoos (talk) 23:08, 24 August 2014 (UTC)

I tried to coin the word "palpatinian" to mean essentially the same thing as "Machiavellian," but it didn't quite pan out. Evan (talk|contribs) 23:21, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
It's a pretty sithy word. Anyway, you can't force language change. --NellieBly (talk) 02:48, 26 August 2014 (UTC)

It's worth pointing out that there are generally several possible constructions for any given name: Jacobean, Jacobian, and Jacobite all have quite different connotations and meanings. ☯.ZenSwashbuckler.☠ 16:03, 25 August 2014 (UTC)

Not to mention Jacobin. —Tamfang (talk) 06:42, 26 August 2014 (UTC)

Voiced consonants and devoicing[edit]

The section "English" in the article Final-obstruent devoicing clarified something I have always wondered. English and French generally state that final consonants don't devoice. Now the section says there is still devoicing to some extent in English. I wonder if this is true for all languages. In other words, are initial consonants always more intense than final ones? In French where there are no aspirated consonants, do voiceless finals even get a little bit aspirated? I myself grew up with German which has final devoicing and when speaking other languages it takes a lot of effort to pronounce a voiced final stop without an additional schwa [ə]. Somehow this doesn't apply to fricatives. Is there a reason for this? Another point is Mandarin is said to have no voiced consonants except [ʐ]. So for example, pinyin b, d, g are transcribed as [p], [t], [k], but as a native speaker I find it a bit misleading. Maybe it's just me because I read that German voiced consonants are not fully voiced either and consonant pairs are rather described as fortis and lenis so that I don't have enough exposure to real voiced consonants. I still find pinyin b, d, g to be more intense than French p, t, k, but both are transcribed as [p], [t], [k]. So are pinyin b, d, g a bit voiced or French p, t, k a bit aspirated? I know IPA are just symbols and that voiced-voiceless-aspirated has no boundaries. Therefore it's always a bit different in every language. However, are there any studies comparing voiced-voiceless-aspirated of different languages like vowel charts? -- (talk) 22:23, 24 August 2014 (UTC)

Word-final consonants are generally unreleased in English (and of course unaspirated, which follows from being unreleased), but the basic voiced-voiceless contrast is not neutralized. AnonMoos (talk) 23:00, 24 August 2014 (UTC)

(This would be so much easier on a forum with quote tags). It not appropriate to think of English as having final devoicing, as there's a number of things going on there. In fact, the voiceless-voiced (or aspirated-deaspirated, fortis-lenis, etc) contrast in English is a mixture of at least three different things (voice onset time, glottalization, vowel lengthening, and perhaps tone), which vary depending on the position in the word. Word-initially, the /k g/ contrast is one of strong aspiration versus partial voicing, while word-finally it's voiceless glottalization (ranging from an inserted glottal stop, unreleased, glottal replacement, ejectivization, and I've heard it claimed creakiness on the vowel) versus vowel lengthening and partial voicing. It's probably safe to assume most languages are closer to this level of complexity than the simple voiced-voiceless or aspirated-unaspirated that are often claimed, though the only language I've seen with similar amounts of research done on it is Korean, as no one can figure out one, easy answer to what the hell their tense consonants are. This is some of what you're seeing in French and Mandarin – French consonants are voiced/plain, but the voiced ones I've heard can actually be slightly prenasal, while Mandarin are aspirated/plain, but the plain can become voiced, especially with certain tones (3 and 4 maybe?). As for wanting to insert a schwa after [b d g] but not [v z], that's understandable as it's easier to hold the voicing since pressure isn't building up in the mouth. One thing you might want to look at is voice onset time, which may be similar to the aspiration charts you're wanting to look at. Finally, something you brought up early as if it's true for all languages. Armenian merges two sets of stops to the aspirate word-finally I believe, many Mayan languages aspirate their plain series word-finally, and devoicing is very common cross-linguistically. Oppositely, though, I believe I've heard of a language (Salish maybe?) that has no voiceless fricatives in its suffixes, they all underwent voicing. And again there's Mayan languages that change final implosives into preglottalized fricatives, and something broadly similar happened in Danish, were the voiced series is stopped in the onset and are approximants or semivowels in the coda (this is very likely related to your issue with [b d g] versus [v z] – two different ways of dealing with final voiced consonants is to devoice them so there's not the buildup of pressure, or get rid of the stop part so that voice can continue easier). “Stronger” sounds like aspirated stops and ejectives tend to be more common in stressed, initial syllables than elsewhere in a word (English “aspirated” stops often aren't aspirated at all medially and finally, and there's evidence of ejectives voicing in non-initial syllables in various Caucasian languages), and languages that have a single voiced series often have them as stops initially and fricatives elsewhere (Spanish, Danish again, and plenty of others). So I guess I'm saying, it's complicated, but you're not wrong either. Lsfreak (talk) 05:10, 25 August 2014 (UTC)

August 25[edit]

Big what?[edit]

In a British TV drama set in the North of England, one of the characters sometimes calls other people what sounds like "You big yoo-niss", as a kind of insult. What is that word? I wondered whether it could be "Eunice", a girl's name, a bit like "You big Jessie", but I can find zero relevant Google hits for the expression spelled that way. Any ideas? (talk) 02:57, 25 August 2014 (UTC)

I've heard something like that before, at least twice. Can't remember where (though it was YouTube), so can't say North or South, but definitely English. If we're thinking of the same thing, it sounded like an X at the end, so I thought it might be "lummox", but on replay, the L is either very silent or doesn't exist. I'm sure you found "Dancing With Big Eunice" in your search. I'd agree it's probably not relevant (though I don't know who/what that Big Eunice is). InedibleHulk (talk) 03:12, August 25, 2014 (UTC)
The word I'm hearing is definitely not "lummox", at least not any way I've ever heard that pronounced. For one thing, the vowel sound in the first syllable is "oo", not a short "u". (talk) 03:43, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
Yeah, mine had an "oo", too. "(y/h)oo-mix/z", I suppose. It wasn't like the lummox I know, but that guess was good enough for me. Not good enough for someone who really wants to know, though, I know. Just maybe a possible hint. I'd forgotten it was ever a problem for me, till you brought it up. I hope we both get a firm answer. InedibleHulk (talk) 04:08, August 25, 2014 (UTC)
Could you tell us the name of the series? Maybe that would help with searching. Dismas|(talk) 04:16, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
If someone is physically much bigger than average (someone like Giant Haystacks perhaps), he could be called a "big unit". --TammyMoet (talk) 09:04, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
Or a Big Daddy or a King Kong Kirk. InedibleHulk (talk) 01:47, August 26, 2014 (UTC)
As it happens, the character towards whom this is often directed is actually quite small. Also, my expression is only used as an insult. In my experience, "big unit" is not normally an insult. (talk) 12:50, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
Is there a BrEng dialect in which eunuch is rendered "eunuchs" or with the -ch elongated into more of a hiss? Or a character quirk which does so? That would fit the insult/ribbing bit better than most any other English word with a similar pronunciation. ☯.ZenSwashbuckler.☠ 16:02, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
Thanks for the continuing suggestions. I am pretty sure it cannot be "eunuch(s)". It is a traditional family show with no bad or risqué language, and I am almost certain they would not mention eunuchs in it. (talk) 17:17, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
As a wild shot, there's a British insult "big girl's blouse", meaning something like a wimp. Maybe see Big Girl's Blouse. (By the way, the outstanding baseball pitcher Randy Johnson was known as "the Big Unit".) —JerryFriedman (Talk) 17:34, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
I support your idea of Eunice. Have you ever heard "Bertha" or "Hilda" used in a disparaging way? I have, and can imagine "Eunice" might have connotations of "old lady" in some places... Can you find a link to the show, or at least tell us the name? A character's catch phrase may not be especially common outside the show. For instance, 'eat my shorts' didn't have much currency before Bart Simpson started using it. SemanticMantis (talk) 18:42, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
Oh sorry, it was asked above, but then I forgot to give details of the show. It is The Royal, and the character is Ken Hopkirk, played by Michael Starke. Actually, I'm thinking now that it may actually be "You great yoo-niss", not "big", though they seem more or less interchangeable. (talk) 19:08, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
"Eunice" is a recognised term, at least according to Urban Dictionary's definition, which inhabits the Parnassus of lexicographic excellence: Eunice: a name of a fine ass chick ever who get holla by 5 guys a day. It's not immediately clear how this appellation would apply in different contexts. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 20:19, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
Urban dictionary is like Wikipedia in that way. When it is good, it is pretty useful. When it is bad, it's hella bad. --Jayron32 20:22, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
Yeah...useful. InedibleHulk (talk) 01:51, August 26, 2014 (UTC)
  • "Your Big You-ness" as in "Your Royal Highness" See mondegreen.


Can someone explain to me what the meaning of the words "quasi-demiurgic"? -- (talk) 06:58, 25 August 2014 (UTC)

See Demiurge for the underlying concept. In what sense something could be "quasi" comparable to a Demiurge is probably something that could be explained only based on the specific context in which it is being used. Fut.Perf. 07:11, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
And here's the definition of "quasi-", if you need it. Something like a demiurge, but not quite. InedibleHulk (talk) 07:30, August 25, 2014 (UTC)
Yeah! --Demiurge1000 (talk) 00:54, 29 August 2014 (UTC)

Sequence of multiple adjectives in English[edit]

Why does there seem to be something wrong with "the wooden heavy blue big square box" but "the small red dotted vinyl bouncy ball" is ok? Is there a definite rule about the order of adjectives or is it simply a matter of what "feels" right? Roger (Dodger67) (talk) 08:09, 25 August 2014 (UTC)

You may want to look at this previous ref-desk thread, as well as Adjective#Adjective order. The PDF I linked at the very bottom of the ref-desk thread may also be of interest. Deor (talk) 08:34, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
Thanks, that PDF is just the ticket! I came here because the adjective article states the order as a "just so" without even attempting to explain why. Roger (Dodger67) (talk) 09:16, 25 August 2014 (UTC)

What are gunsails?[edit]

In The Black Swan (film), an order is made to raise the gunsails. I know what stunsails are; are these two one and the same? If not, what is a gunsail? After the order is made, and presumably carried out, if my memory serves me, they cut to the model ships, which of course won't look any different from the previous shots of the ships. But I did look to see if there was any difference, just in case; and nothing. – Kerαunoςcopiagalaxies 19:22, 25 August 2014 (UTC)

Are you sure it wasn't Gunwales (pronounced "gunnles")? --Jayron32 19:31, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
Is it possible to "raise" the gunwales? (talk) 20:04, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
How much lumber and nails do you have? --Jayron32 20:19, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
Shakelton's rescue Voyage of the James Caird may be the most famous incident of raised gunwales. (talk) 00:39, 26 August 2014 (UTC)
The subtitles said "gunsails" and the line was definitely "guns'ls". I'm beginning to wonder if they weren't making lingo up. The idioms and dialogue in the movie were fun to listen to, but perhaps there is no such thing as gunsails, then? – Kerαunoςcopiagalaxies 20:58, 27 August 2014 (UTC)

French doctor needed on the Chateau de la Croë[edit]

I was about to just pass this by, and then I thought of you fine people. I ran across a sentence in the above article, and my rudimentary French is well, rudimentary for reading the sources, can you help? The sentence is:

"Subsequent to its restoration the chateau had been damaged and squatted with only the structural work remaining."

Thanks - Alanscottwalker (talk) 21:02, 25 August 2014 (UTC)

My French is also rudimentary, but the sentence seems to be a translation of this French quote:
" « Lorsque nous découvrons cette maison, fin 2001, tout est brûlé, arraché, squatté. Il ne reste que le gros oeuvre. L'idée est alors de remettre la demeure au goût du jour pour nos jeunes clients tout en respectant l'architecture d'origine. »
"When we discovered this house at the end of 2001, everything was burned, torn apart, squatted on. Only the structure remained. The idea, therefore, was to restore the place to the tastes of our young clients while respecting the original architecture." --Bowlhover (talk) 21:14, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
"squatté" would be "occupied by squatters". --Xuxl (talk) 09:12, 26 August 2014 (UTC)
Thanks, with the help of you both, I have copy edited the article but if anyone has anything to add here or there feel free. Alanscottwalker (talk) 10:48, 26 August 2014 (UTC)

Word definition[edit]

In your article for Kathryn Stockett, the first section is called "Petrafa"... I have tried to find the definition of that word to no avail. What does it mean? (talk) 21:57, 25 August 2014 (UTC)

This was vandalism to the article, which has been reverted. Thanks for noticing it. Tevildo (talk) 22:00, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
Not even in the Urban Dictionary. InedibleHulk (talk) 01:57, August 26, 2014 (UTC)
I was too Petrafaed to look there. Clarityfiend (talk) 06:26, 26 August 2014 (UTC)

August 26[edit]

Introducing oneself as "Myself [insert name here]"[edit]

I have noticed that in Indian (South Asian) films, people sometimes introduce themselves with the sentence "Myself [insert name here]" rather than more conventional introductions such as "My name is [insert name here]" or "I am [insert name here]." I have never heard anyone use this introduction anywhere outside the Indian subcontinent. Is this a standard way of introducing oneself over there, and is this introduction virtually nonexistent elsewhere in the English-speaking world? (talk) 04:10, 26 August 2014 (UTC)

I've never heard it in the UK, and I believe that most people here would consider it strange or wrong. (talk) 13:52, 27 August 2014 (UTC)
Same here in Ontario. If any of the few South Asians I know said it, I'd probably correct them. InedibleHulk (talk) 04:16, August 28, 2014 (UTC)


How the hell is that pronounced? I used to work in Rochdale and had to get a taxi from the station to the place I was supposed to be, and the only major road on the way was this road. Giving directions from a place I can't pronounce is not a bundle of fun. So, to end my misery, does anyone know? KägeTorä - () (Chin Wag) 08:26, 26 August 2014 (UTC)

An old (now deceased) friend of mine by that name pronounced it "green-halg" if that helps (a as in cat). --TammyMoet (talk) 10:19, 26 August 2014 (UTC)
Is there any difference in pronunciationm between surnames and place-names? I guess with both there may also be regional variation. There's a hamlet with this name on the Fylde: Greenhalgh-with-Thistleton. The Doomsday Book records the village as "Greneholf" and, as far as I know, this is (usually) how it is still pronounced almost a thousand years later. Martinevans123 (talk) 10:29, 26 August 2014 (UTC)
Yes, the Fylde placename uses the old pronunciation, but the surname is usually "greenhalj", with some variation. Sorry I don't know the Rochdale version (and, as I expect you have discovered, Google isn't helpful). Dbfirs 11:59, 26 August 2014 (UTC)
Just to note: there are 13 people listed at the dab page Greenhalgh, but none of them has any IPA pronunciation guide in their articles. Is there a case for adding a guide at the top of the dab page? Martinevans123 (talk) 13:12, 26 August 2014 (UTC)
For the family name, the BBC Pronouncing Dict. for British Names (2nd. ed. 1983) has ˈɡriːn-hælʃ, -hɒlʃ, -hældʒ, -hɔːl.
For the Lancashire place name, it has ˈɡriːn-hælʃ, -hɔːlʃ. (Transcriptions translated into Wiki standard.)
Here's a thread at where the pronunciation is discussed.--Cam (talk) 14:04, 26 August 2014 (UTC)
I wonder how they got ʃ/dʒ there.--Lüboslóv Yęzýkin (talk) 14:16, 26 August 2014 (UTC)
Making a completely unsupported guess, it might have to do with yogh. Word spelled with yogh, pronounced (or shifted to) ʃ/dʒ, and then yogh was replaced with gh without accounting for pronunciation. Though a quick googling says it comes from older /halx/, so maybe spelling came first as gh and then there was an irregular palatalization. Lsfreak (talk) 20:12, 26 August 2014 (UTC)
I understand that this unusual spelling came from Middle English where /x~ɣ/ were spelled ‹gh› (formerly Old English "yogh"). Scots speakers must to retain partly the old pronunciation of the word. But I can hardly remember any other occasion where these /x~ɣ/ became /ʃ~dʒ/ especially in such environment. A pure anomaly (well, frankly, any oddities are normal for English).--Lüboslóv Yęzýkin (talk) 21:39, 27 August 2014 (UTC)
I think it must be pronounced like "haugh" [8][9].--Lüboslóv Yęzýkin (talk) 14:13, 26 August 2014 (UTC)
Some other dictionaries: [10][11].--Lüboslóv Yęzýkin (talk) 14:23, 26 August 2014 (UTC)
John C. Wells's Longman Pronunciation Dictionary gives: /ˈɡriːnhælʃ, -hɔːlʃ, -hɒlʃ, -hældʒ, -hɔːl/, of which the first is the one he recommends for ESL learners (the closest he's willing to come to calling a pronunciation "standard"). —Aɴɢʀ (talk) 15:21, 26 August 2014 (UTC)
... all of which just tells us that there is a lot of variation in the pronunciation. There are some well-known Greenhalgh businesses in Rochdale, and at least one of them gives e-mail addresses for the Greenhalgh owners. Perhaps KT should ask them directly, since the road probably has the same pronunciation. Dbfirs 19:54, 26 August 2014 (UTC)
  • This discourse reminds of the time when I moved into a certain street named Greenough Circuit, and I heard so many different pronunciations from my neighbours that I put the word out through my newspaper for help in identifying the one true version. Hah! That engendered a lively epistolatory debate, which only increased the number of versions to about 10, all of which were claimed to be the genuine article. Most unhelpful. I have all the details, if anyone is interested. (Yeah, I hoard shit like that.) -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 21:47, 26 August 2014 (UTC)
  • I thought this might be one of those lulzy "Featherstonhaugh"-like names with a whole buncha letters for very few sounds. Even though it isn't, I'd suggest the commencement of a campaign to pronounce "Greenhalgh" as "Grennah" ((/ˈgrɛnə/, to rhyme with "tenner") and treating any other pronunciation with the exaggerated understanding and tolerance one grants to those who don't even know what "shibboleth" means, let alone where to purchase a pair in the better department stores. Pete AU aka --Shirt58 (talk) 05:47, 27 August 2014 (UTC)
Shirt58 -- Daniel Jones' 1937 pronouncing dictionary offers [ɡriːnhɔː] as a third pronunciation (behind [ɡriːnhældʒ] and [ɡriːnhælʃ]), so that gets you part of the way there. However, this appears to be based on assimilating the pronunciation of "Greenhalgh" to that of "Greenhaulgh" (which is given [ɡriːnhɔː] as its only pronunciation)... AnonMoos (talk) 12:26, 27 August 2014 (UTC)
I was at university with a girl called Greenhalgh. We used to pronounce it "Greenhouse". Can't remember how she pronounced it. DuncanHill (talk) 08:54, 27 August 2014 (UTC)

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot[edit]

A TV show just said "a satellite will fly over our whiskey". From context I guess whiskey means location. Googling for "whiskey location" and "whiskey location military" I find nothing relevant, and more shockingly, Whisky (disambiguation) offers no help. What gives? The best I can guess is Whiskey = W = where. (talk) 20:03, 26 August 2014 (UTC)

Possibly, this is a reference to WSCE, as described here. Marco polo (talk) 20:19, 26 August 2014 (UTC)
See NATO phonetic alphabet etc. (though the word "phonetic" is a complete misnomer here)... AnonMoos (talk) 06:21, 27 August 2014 (UTC)
And it's not really NATO at all (as the article admits). It's really the International Civil Aviation Organization Alphabet. NATO won't get to keep it. Not for all the Tango in China. Martinevans123 (talk) 08:21, 27 August 2014 (UTC)
Where does it explain in that article specifically what "Whiskey" could mean in this context? (talk) 13:48, 27 August 2014 (UTC)
Maybe try being less demanding. The reference desk is a free service provided by volunteers. (talk) 14:01, 27 August 2014 (UTC)
Maybe try to stop making ridiculous comments. Supposing that a response to a question will try to answer the question is not being "demanding", it is normal common sense. (talk) 17:13, 27 August 2014 (UTC)
My understanding is that, for TV purposes (and not necessarily real navies), calls like "Head to point Bravo!" don't really mean any specific location in the real world, the understanding is that the characters have all been using the same map, with labeled points on it. So, I might label a point 'tango' for "target", and 'alpha' for my starting point, 'whiskey' for a western location, etc. It's just a way to make "go to this point, one of the several that we've previously agreed upon naming conventions for" sound cool. "Whiskey" appears a few other places in this list of military slang [[12]], but I don't think those uses apply directly here. SemanticMantis (talk) 14:20, 27 August 2014 (UTC)
Also doesn't appear at Multiservice tactical brevity code, (although Champagne does!) Martinevans123 (talk) 15:20, 27 August 2014 (UTC)
Yes. SemanticMantis (talk) 21:21, 27 August 2014 (UTC)
I just thunk up a theory: whiskey = w = west. There is some extremely weak evidence on the Internet that "whiskey bravo" is police slang for "west bound". The heroes of the show were approaching the US east coast on a ship. The satellite would have been imaging land, therefore necessarily west of the ship. "Fly over whiskey" = "fly west of us". (talk) 23:41, 27 August 2014 (UTC)
You could try posting the question on the IMDb page for the show. You're guaranteed plenty of inane responses, but you might get lucky. And you might have to keep going back to check for some time, as there's no watchlist equivalent there. Some people will stop by, some of them will look at the show's message board, some of them will reply to messages. ‑‑Mandruss (talk) 00:01, 28 August 2014 (UTC)

August 27[edit]

hindi translation[edit]

Hi what is the English for तेल से भसको तीकरी कछली पकड म।रीने चुनें होकगाबाकलू ? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:10, 27 August 2014 (UTC)

Google Translate turns it into "Choose from oil Bsko Tikri Mlrine catch Kcli Hokgabaklu", if that helps. Rojomoke (talk) 11:40, 27 August 2014 (UTC)

Expressing parents and grown children living together?[edit]

Is there a word for parents and grown children and young grandchildren who live together in the same house, but the grown children are the chief breadwinners of the household, while the aging parents may be the patriarch and matriarch of the household? I've looked up "cohabitation", but that one implies a sexual relationship. Is there a term to describe a situation where the homeowner pays for a tutor to educate the children at home and provides room and boarding for the tutor? (talk) 18:18, 27 August 2014 (UTC)

See "Sandwich generation".—Wavelength (talk) 18:25, 27 August 2014 (UTC)
The "Sandwich generation" is said to be coined in 1981. Does anybody know what this concept or family structure is called prior to that time period? In many cultures, such as India, it is expected that adult children take care of their aging parents as well as their own children. (talk) 19:25, 27 August 2014 (UTC)
A general term is extended family. That WP article uses the term "joint family" to refer to situations similar to what you describe. Deor (talk) 19:36, 27 August 2014 (UTC)
In an earlier time, a live-in tutor would have been called a governess. Rojomoke (talk) 20:04, 27 August 2014 (UTC)
I mean, in modern times. (talk) 20:13, 27 August 2014 (UTC)
See au pair. --Jayron32 20:28, 27 August 2014 (UTC)
An au pair is not a tutor, just a home help. Despite what I said above, governesses still exist, according to the article, although there's far fewer of them than there used to be. Rojomoke (talk) 04:58, 28 August 2014 (UTC)

August 28[edit]

General term for Uncle Tom ?[edit]

I refer to the def: "any person perceived to be a participant in the oppression of their own group". Is there a term used outside the US and not primarily used in a black/white context ? For example, a term for women who support the oppression of women ? StuRat (talk) 02:36, 28 August 2014 (UTC)

Don't know about outside the US, but there's race traitor, a phrase I hadn't heard of before. Clarityfiend (talk) 03:11, 28 August 2014 (UTC)
Race traitor (nowadays at least) is usually used in a self-deprecating way, to (self-)describe a person of the oppressing group who sympathizes with the oppressed group and rejects the privileges which they themselves receive without meriting them. See Noel Ignatiev for the most prominent such. --Orange Mike | Talk 03:19, 28 August 2014 (UTC)

More broadly, StuRat, there are terms like "collaborator" and "self-loathing fill-in-the-blank". --Orange Mike | Talk 03:20, 28 August 2014 (UTC)

A term that comes to mind is useful idiot. --Bowlhover (talk) 04:32, 28 August 2014 (UTC)
In the UK we have class traitor to describe working-class Tories. Trade Unionism gives us blackleg for strikebreakers. --TammyMoet (talk) 13:42, 28 August 2014 (UTC)
Fellow-traveller is a good general-purpose term for a traitor. Specifically in the context of women who oppose women's rights, "mouse" or "doormat" is a common term of abuse. Tevildo (talk) 18:27, 28 August 2014 (UTC)
I can't agree on "fellow traveler". It's a specific term for someone who works for some but not all the goals of some movement and is not officially a member of it, and it's especially associated with Communism.
Of the suggestions so far, my favorite is "collaborator", and "quisling" might also be a possibility. I once read an essay by a black writer saying that "Gunga Din" was a more appropriate term than "Uncle Tom" for such people. —JerryFriedman (Talk) 21:52, 28 August 2014 (UTC)

Why do synonyms exist?[edit]

What is the point of having multiple words that mean the same thing? What is the advantage from a communication point of view? (talk) 16:44, 28 August 2014 (UTC)

1) There are no perfect synonyms. Every word carries additional meanings and subtext that can indicate certain senses of meaning, register, tone, etc, which make one word distinct from the other. Shit and feces are considered synonyms, because the have the same thing they are referring to. But we cannot use them perfectly interchangably; there are different situations where shit and where feces would each be appropriate, and those subtle differences in meaning is what makes synonyms important and useful. --Jayron32 16:53, 28 August 2014 (UTC)
I'll differ slightly from Jayron32. I think there are some perfect synonyms, and I wish I could call some of them to mind on short notice. Many times this happens when the synonyms come from different languages, such as French and Latin. There's no Central Committee for the Elimination of English Synonyms, so the synonyms just hang around as long as people continue to use them. There are excellent documentaries about the history of the English language that talk about things like this. ‑‑Mandruss (talk) 17:01, 28 August 2014 (UTC)
My candidate for the most perfect pair of synonyms in English would be "anyone" and "anybody". -- (talk) 21:08, 28 August 2014 (UTC)
That's an example of non-perfect synonyms, as there are places where "anybody" wouldn't be appropriate. "Anyone" is more formal, "anybody" is more colloquial (in American English, at least; I can't speak for the Brits). A case of perfect synonyms is where the words are completely interchangeable in any context. ‑‑Mandruss (talk) 21:48, 28 August 2014 (UTC)
They are used pretty much interchangeably. But it is difficult to come up with perfect synonyms, even from the same word. Consider the words "hotel" and "hostel", which both derive from the same Old French word but are not quite the same thing. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 22:00, 28 August 2014 (UTC)
  • I don't think you see "anybody" much in academic writing or journalism, but it's quite common in everyday spoken language. Therefore they're not interchangeable.
  • "Beast" and "creature". Pretty much interchangeable in any context, at least in the most common sense of the words (referring ro actual non-human animals on Earth). No doubt you could identify certain senses in the definition of one that don't exist in the definition of the other; for example, a woman probably wouldn't say to a guy: You CREATURE!!. But I don't think all the senses have to line up to qualify as perfect synonyms. We're probably taking this deeper than the OP wanted. ‑‑Mandruss (talk) 22:09, 28 August 2014 (UTC)
  • "Creature" refers to any living thing, typically any animal. Hence creatures include both birds and beasts. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 22:12, 28 August 2014 (UTC)
You got me! Back to the Thesaurus! ‑‑Mandruss (talk) 22:14, 28 August 2014 (UTC)
Well, it's worse than that, I think. Creature tends to be a religious term, and it explicitly includes humans (and angels). I'm not particularly familiar with usages that exclude humans, outside of maybe a Creedence song. Is this a dialectal difference? --Trovatore (talk) 22:16, 28 August 2014 (UTC)
The "point", in addition to what the above users have said, is that English is nowhere in the neighborhood of being a "pure" language. It's a hodge-podge of different languages - offshoots of both the northern and southern Europe languages, along with bits and pieces from a host of others. And as stated above, words that are effectively synonyms can carry shades of meaning. As a fitting example, I can say I will carry my luggage, which is from Latin via French and is pretty much neutral; or I can say I will drag my luggage, which is from Old English for "carry" but convoys a degree of burden or annoyance at the task; or can say I will schlep my luggage, which is Yiddish for "drag" but conveys an even better word-picture. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 20:05, 28 August 2014 (UTC)
Good for poetry and songwriting. One word often has too many syllables or doesn't rhyme or starts with a vowel, while the other doesn't. An example (and counterexample) using words mentioned above is in "What Would Brian Boitano Do?":
"And when Brian Boitano built the pyramids, he beat up Kublai Khan / 'Cause Brian Boitano doesn't take shit from a-ny-bo-dy!" "Feces" wouldn't fly there, and the extra bit over the expected rhyme "anyone" is a bit awkward, but allows for a four beat tempo shift, which kind of grows on a listener. InedibleHulk (talk) 22:00, August 28, 2014 (UTC)
Actually, this is the same OP that asked about lasers that curve and then argued with the responders about it but wouldn't explain his question. Likewise here, the OP has stated a premise but has given no examples - and is unlikely to return here to clarify. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 22:02, 28 August 2014 (UTC)
Everyone who gave a physics-related answer understood his question perfectly fine. So did the one person who complained about the etymology of "laser"--he understood the question perfectly, but chose to complain about semantics instead of answering it. --Bowlhover (talk) 08:11, 29 August 2014 (UTC)
Many things happen in language that are not advantageous from a communications point of view. Not everything in language has a point.
English does have a lot of synonyms because it's taken vocabulary from a lot of sources, but I have the impression that all languages have synonyms.
My candidate for a very close pair of synonyms in English would be "though" and "although". —JerryFriedman (Talk) 22:04, 28 August 2014 (UTC)
They weren't originally identical, and they really still aren't, but they're close.[13][14]Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 22:15, 28 August 2014 (UTC)

Start, begin, commence. Widneymanor (talk) 08:07, 29 August 2014 (UTC)

To directly answer the OP, in England after the Norman Conquest, the existing laws and language were officially replaced by Norman French laws and language. However, so that the people (who spoke Old English) could understand what their new lords and masters meant (who spoke Norman French), word pairs were introduced, such as "let or hindrance": the first was Old English, the second was Norman French. --TammyMoet (talk) 08:43, 29 August 2014 (UTC)