Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Language/2007 January 21

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Language desk
< January 20 << Dec | Jan | Feb >> January 22 >
Welcome to the Wikipedia Language Reference Desk Archives
The page you are currently viewing is an archive page. While you can leave answers for any questions shown below, please ask new questions on one of the current reference desk pages.


January 21[edit]

A Polish word[edit]

I would like to ask: what does "Xieza" or "xieza" mean in Polish? I use this as an account name in Chinese Wikipedia and when I search it on the web, many sites with Polish sentences and .pl link ending appear. Could anybody tell me?--Fitzwilliam 04:13, 21 January 2007 (UTC)

Hmm, the letter x is absent from Polish orthography. Wareh 01:01, 22 January 2007 (UTC)

Polish? The sites I get are all in Dutch talking about a Chinese guy. CCLemon-ここは寒いぜ! 02:39, 22 January 2007 (UTC)

Thanks for your help. That's a funny word :)--Fitzwilliam 03:28, 22 January 2007 (UTC)

You can see the many Polish examples, which I hope someone can explain, via this Google search. Wareh 17:20, 22 January 2007 (UTC)

Got it the letter x is actually absent from the modern Polish alphabet, so the word "xieza" is not grammatically correct so I had to figure it out. But the letter X is often used during mathematics and science classses and then it is pronounced in polish as "ks" so xieza (xięża) is a rare short/funny/archaic word for księża (prular form of ksiądz) which means priests (usually catholic priests as most Poles are catholics). Mieciu K 16:36, 23 January 2007 (UTC)

Bravo. The Polish word in question is even mentioned in the first line of an English Wikipedia article: War of the Priests. Wareh 21:11, 23 January 2007 (UTC)

looking for origin of phrase " how are you? " / " how are your bowels "[edit]

If anyone knows the origin of " how are you? " please help . The only reference to it is " old school " terminology " how are your bowels" Thanks ... BillAlibaba090945 05:12, 21 January 2007 (UTC)

Isn't it just a shortened form of "how are you doing?" --pie4all88 07:08, 21 January 2007 (UTC)
If by origin you mean the earliest recorded examples, it is very old. The use of any phrase is likely to be well established before it appears in writing. The OED lists "Alas! alas! alas!" said sco, "How mai i live, how mai i be!" in a manuscript at some time before 1300. How do thay in gessen? about 1460, and around 1481 Caxton finally appears with What do ye? how is it with you?.--Shantavira 09:36, 21 January 2007 (UTC)
It sounds quite basic. Isn't it just an alternative way of saying "How are you feeling"? or so (although I have a hunch that it's much older than those periphrastic gerund sentences). 惑乱 分からん 14:53, 21 January 2007 (UTC)
What I'm referring to is questions/interrogative phrases like "How do you feel?", "How are you feeling?" etc. In Older English, I think a word order like "How feel you?", would have been more common... 惑乱 分からん 15:44, 21 January 2007 (UTC)
It becomes, by the nineteenth century, a standard polite greeting in the form of 'How do you do?' Where still used, this is usually answered with a similar question, no specific response being given by either side; but if you read the novels of Charles Dickens this social opener is most often answered by a fairly detailed account of the state of the recipient's health! Clio the Muse 15:32, 21 January 2007 (UTC)
Bert Leston Taylor (1866-1921) wrote: "A bore is a man who, when you ask him how he is, tells you". JackofOz 02:58, 22 January 2007 (UTC)

"Gee Willikers" Etymology[edit]

Anyone know where this phrase comes from? I'm also unsure about the spelling. Thanks! --pie4all88 07:08, 21 January 2007 (UTC)

It's called a minced oath; an old way for Christians not to break the commandment regarding taking the Lord's name in vain. Gee whiz probably came first and willikers followed. Not sure there's a precise entry anywhere on the latter.Wolfgangus 07:23, 21 January 2007 (UTC)
Geez Louise, why not? Clarityfiend 07:56, 21 January 2007 (UTC)

I am not sure of the exact time period, but the term "how are you" is a shortened term of "how are your bowels" originated by royalty as a proper greeting because of the rampage of disentary(?) in that particular era.

English word for property describing surface area to volume ratio[edit]

I'm looking for an acceptable English word (preferably one word) that describes an object's property in terms of surface area to volume ratio. Assuming the word was "surfaceness" (which I hope it isn't), a sphere would have low surfaceness and a fern leaf would have high surfaceness. Or it could be the other way around. The word can be a scientific term or a more commonly used word. Thank you in advance. ---Sluzzelin 16:19, 21 January 2007 (UTC)

I'd guess you'd get an answer on the maths desk - so I'll copy your question over..87.102.44.44 16:32, 21 January 2007 (UTC)
There is a two dimensional measure called the circularity ratio which wikipedia references as:
A common compactness measure, called the circularity ratio, is the ratio of the area of the shape to the area of a circle (the most compact shape) having the same perimeter. That ratio is expressed mathematically as M = 4π(area) / (perimeter)2. For a circle, the ratio is one; for a square, it is π / 4; for an infinitely long and narrow shape, it is zero.
So, in analogy to this, I'd call the three dimensional case the 'sphericity ratio', and refer to objects having high or low sphericity, however this may be a coinage on my part. --Neo 16:36, 21 January 2007 (UTC)
It seems to be the real term, actually: see Sphericity. -- SCZenz 18:29, 21 January 2007 (UTC)

Thanks, everyone. ---Sluzzelin 20:18, 21 January 2007 (UTC) ... and thanks again.This has turned out to be a useful and inspiring word. :) ---Sluzzelin 01:34, 23 January 2007 (UTC)

Apostrophe[edit]

hello....my question is this..........as a simple and general rule to use the apostrophe......i assume that the "apostrophe s" means a letter is missing, such as "ain't means is not.............

using the"apostrophe s" such as students' books, refers to possession..

can i be too far wrong using this assumption, simply and generally......thanks.....dg

There are indeed two main uses for the apostrophe. In the first case, as you said, it indicates a letter (or letters) is missing. For example "can not" -> "can't", "it is" -> "it's".
In the second case, usually 's indicates possession. So if some books belong to Bill, they are "Bill's books". When it can get a bit more complicated is when a word already ends is "s". If there are several people called Bill, who all own the books, they are "the Bills' books". Beyond this it gets a bit complicated.
Oh, and you might like to know that if, for example, a box has a side we say this is "its side", without an apostrophe. In this case "its" is like "his" and "hers", without an apostrophe. You only write "it's" when it is short for "it is".
So, you're generally right, but you would write "Bill's books" not "Bills' books" if there is only one Bill! Skittle 20:39, 21 January 2007 (UTC)
Also, when pluralizing abbreviations, it is common practice to use an "apostrophe s" (i.e. TV's, ID's, CD's). This same practice is commonly used when pluralizing letters and numbers (i.e. A's, I's, L's, 1's, 2's, 3's). Foxjwill 05:11, 22 January 2007 (UTC)
But not dates. Write "the 1990s", not "the 1990's". JackofOz 05:19, 22 January 2007 (UTC)
Er – apostrophe anyone?--Shantavira 09:53, 22 January 2007 (UTC)
Yes, but I thought they wanted something simpler. I should, of course, have linked to apostrophe for the more complicated bits. Skittle 17:33, 22 January 2007 (UTC)

Abstinence syndrome[edit]

How's that called in English in a more colloquial or vulgar way? Thank you :) --Taraborn 22:50, 21 January 2007 (UTC)

I think "cold turkey" is when you force yourself to abstain, but otherwise I don't know.--Siva 01:36, 22 January 2007 (UTC)
Loosely: Withdrawal, the D.T.'s or the Shakes come to mind, but the most colloquial I can think of is dopesickness, or being dopesick. That's what we called it at rehab ... Wolfgangus 01:35, 22 January 2007 (UTC)

Thank you very much guys. --Taraborn 20:51, 23 January 2007 (UTC)

Varieties of English spoken by continental Europeans[edit]

Which variety of English, British English or American English, do continental European students who take English as a second or third langauge learn? Is it standard throughout, or does it depend on schoolteacher/book used by the school district? Thanks. Picaroon 23:13, 21 January 2007 (UTC)

I think it depends. British English used to be standard in Sweden, but American is gaining ground due to the impact from popular media and music. 惑乱 分からん 00:01, 22 January 2007 (UTC)

I think I should make it clear, as those of you who know the United Kingdom will understand, there really is no such thing as 'British English'. Traditionally, many people learning the language for the first time would be introduced to Standard English or Received Pronounciation, of the formal type once spoken by the BBC. Perhaps Estuary English has replaced this as the updated preference? Clio the Muse 01:04, 22 January 2007 (UTC)

I don't think anyone outside UK really learns EE, I think it's quite hard to understand. RP (or at least attempted RP) used to be the standard taught in Sweden, anyway. 惑乱 分からん 01:39, 22 January 2007 (UTC)

Europeans generally learn "British English." The chief difference between the different dialects of English spoken in Great Britain is pronunciation, and most learners of English speak in their "home accent" anyway (rather than a London or Manchester or Edinburgh accent). The important thing is they generally learn to say "At the weekend, she had a bath and bought a pram," rather than "Over the weekend, she took a bath and bought a stroller." -- Mwalcoff 02:33, 22 January 2007 (UTC)

What is taught and what is spoken are quite different. In general, in the Low Countries, what is taught often tries to be standard Commonwealth English. What is learned comes from American television. I find that Europeans use mostly approximations of American pronunciation and a hodge-podge of American and UK vocabulary where it differs. But their speaking styles tend to use a lot of calques that aren't actually present in any standard variety of English. --Diderot 07:40, 22 January 2007 (UTC)
I'd say most Europeans use a hodge-podge of American and RP pronunciation as well, because as you say, they're taught RP in school but hear General American on TV. My husband (German) wants to use American pronunciation, because that's what I use, but still occasional pronunciations like "t[ɑː]sk" or "adv[ɑː]ntage" slip through that I have to correct. —Angr 08:27, 22 January 2007 (UTC)
Yeah, I hear that too sometimes. But I find that there's a strong class difference: people with money tend to have had native Brits as teachers and use those pronunciations more frequently than folks who've acquired a lot of English from TV. Also, native language makes a difference. IIRC, German distinguishes /[ɑː]/ from /[aː]/. Dutch doesn't really. --Diderot 14:44, 22 January 2007 (UTC)
No, German only has one long low vowel, which is slightly further back than the corresponding front vowel (i.e. /aː/ is [ɑ̈ː] while /a/ is [ä]). In Dutch they're the other way around, aren't they? The long [aː] is further front than the short [ɑ], right? Anyway, I'm quite sure my husband's English teacher was a native speaker of German, not of any variety of English (he went to Realschule, not Gymnasium). —Angr 15:35, 22 January 2007 (UTC)
Yeah, now that I look it up, I think you're right. Dutch - as far as I can tell - has no long vowels in the usual linguistic sense. Nearly all actual temporal length variations are controlled by vowel quality. Or at least, it seems that way to me in Belgium. I always figured that would make strict RP hard, and newscaster American relatively easy for Dutch speakers, but I may be facing sampling bias in coming to that conclusion. --Diderot 16:10, 22 January 2007 (UTC)
  • I was taught English in a British dialect here in the Netherlands, but television indeed had an effect on my pronounciation. I visited both the UK and the US and I caught myself adapting my dialect depending on my location and the person I was talking to. - Mgm|(talk) 12:50, 22 January 2007 (UTC)

Funny no one mentioned these yet: Denglish, Franglais, Poglish, Spanglish, Runglish, Czenglish, Greeklish, Swenglish, Finglish, Portinglês. TERdON 18:33, 29 January 2007 (UTC)