Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Language/2011 July 23

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July 23[edit]

How would one say "Those who cannot live, serve" in Latin?[edit]

Anyone willing to translate this phrase into Latin for me? "Those who cannot live, serve." Just curious, thank you. --Brasswatchman (talk) 02:53, 23 July 2011 (UTC)

What exactly are you trying to express? Sounds like an exercise from Wheelock. In any case, Serviunt ei qui non vivere possunt will, among a thousand other options, do. μηδείς (talk) 03:32, 23 July 2011 (UTC)
This reminds me of the famous morituri te salutant: "those who are about to die salute you". Looie496 (talk) 05:31, 23 July 2011 (UTC)
I could translate that too. The problem is that without a good paragraph worth of context behind it backstory, it is impossible to know what is meant and, especially, what is being stressed in this phrase. Should the subjunctive be used? The verb scire? The adverb etiam? Who knows? μηδείς (talk) 05:42, 23 July 2011 (UTC)
Would Qui non vivere possunt, serviunt? be a grammatically correct translation? JIP | Talk 09:27, 23 July 2011 (UTC)
Yeah, same as medeis' translation above, although for medeis' version I would take out the "ei" (it's not necessary to use an explicit personal pronoun, and actually I thought it was supposed to be a dative object of serviunt at first). But as mentioned, more context for the English phrase would help us give a better translation. Adam Bishop (talk) 13:25, 23 July 2011 (UTC)
Yes, of course it is grammatically possible to omit the ei, but the word those is rather prominent in the English version, hence my deliberate decision to use it. JIP's word order has a different emphasis. μηδείς (talk) 17:23, 23 July 2011 (UTC)
In this sort of "whoever does X, does Y" proverb, the singular might be more idiomatic in Latin (as indeed it is in German): Quis vivere non potest, servit. Maybe "must serve" would be better, too, then: "Quis vivere non potest, debet servire". But a lot depends (as others said above) on what context this is being said in, and what exactly is meant by "those who cannot live". Latin is much more literal-minded than English, and the only thing that those who literally cannot live do is die. Using "live" in a metaphorical way may be acceptable in English but sound distinctly odd in Latin. Angr (talk) 18:20, 23 July 2011 (UTC)
Context, then? Okay. The phrase came about as the result of a conversation with a friend of mine, in which he posited that those who cannot feel happiness -- like those suffering from depression or what have you -- should strive to make others who have no such limitations happy. (At least then, *someone* will be, you see). So, yes, "those who cannot live" is meant metaphorically. I guess I'm looking for something pithy and motto-like, similar to morituri te salutant. And if there was some way to keep the double meaning of "cannot live," that'd be nice, too... For some reason, I like that feature of the phrase. Thank you, everyone, for your help and input. --Brasswatchman (talk) 20:08, 23 July 2011 (UTC)
On second thought, would it help if we changed the phrase to "we who cannot live, serve"? --Brasswatchman (talk) 20:15, 23 July 2011 (UTC)

You would have to use the subjunctive, something like, "May they serve who cannot live" or, "Let him who cannot please himself please others." The indicative will come across as a statement of fact that those who cannot live do serve which is not a claim you are making. μηδείς (talk) 20:52, 23 July 2011 (UTC)

As Angr said, it would be strange to use "vivere" like that. It can be used metaphorically in Latin, but more likely Latin would use another phrase with the noun "vita" ("vitam agere" or "vitam ducere", for example), or to use an adjective or adverb with "vivere" ("bene vivere", maybe "felix vivere"). For maximum pithiness we could also avoid the qui-clause entirely and use a present participle instead. With medeis' very sensible suggestion of the subjunctive, you could then say "serviant non bene viventes". There are lots of other options though...there is even a verb "to make (someone else) happy", "fortunare", and "infortunati fortunent" could mean "may the unfortunate make [others] happy". I have a feeling this sort of idea comes up in Greek and Roman philosophy, so there is probably a Latin discussion of it somewhere anyway. Adam Bishop (talk) 21:46, 23 July 2011 (UTC)

How then fortunet ut fortunetur? The philosophies mentioned above would be Stoicism and Epicureanism, although the sentiment is not a specific doctrine of either. μηδείς (talk) 23:56, 23 July 2011 (UTC)
Does that mean "pleases or is pleased"? JIP | Talk 06:51, 24 July 2011 (UTC)
No, it means "let him make (others) happy so that he may be made happy". Angr (talk) 11:33, 24 July 2011 (UTC)
Fortunet ut fortunetur was Sauron's original choice, until he finally settled on Ash nazg durbatuluk.... μηδείς (talk) 00:35, 25 July 2011 (UTC)

"i don't need no education"[edit]

Shouldn't it be "i don't need any education" or "i don't need education"?88.8.79.148 (talk) 14:34, 23 July 2011 (UTC)

You're quite right. Now if you can make a recording with that title that sells more than 4 million copies, you'll have made your point ;-) Seriously, I suspect that Roger Waters was well aware of the correct grammar, but went for something with more street credibility (as we would say these days). Alansplodge (talk) 15:56, 23 July 2011 (UTC)
Besides, the incorrect grammar fits the rhythm and meter of the song better, which is as fine of a reason as any to do it that way (and by the way, the line is "we don't need no education"). --Jayron32 16:06, 23 July 2011 (UTC)
In addition to the above, I always assumed the irony of the statement was deliberate (for artistic purposes). - Jarry1250 [Weasel? Discuss.] 16:15, 23 July 2011 (UTC)
And then there is "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" Bielle (talk) 16:24, 23 July 2011 (UTC)
And this is where Mr Tweedly of the Citizens' Radio Committee comes in. If he can insist on "Elderly Man River" for PC-related reasons I'm sure we can all relate to in this PC-enlightened era, there's no telling what good he can spread. Pretty soon, we'll have Sir Michael Jagger singing "I can't get any satisfaction". Oh joy! -- Jack of Oz [your turn] 18:22, 23 July 2011 (UTC)
Ooh and what about "There isn't any sunshine when she's gone" or "You aren't anything but a canine". I'll think of some more in a minute... Alansplodge (talk) 23:21, 23 July 2011 (UTC)
What is the problem with those names? Which would be the more standard version? (non-native English speaker asking here). 88.8.79.148 (talk) 21:55, 24 July 2011 (UTC)
Assuming your question is serious and not jerking us around, standard English is one thing and poetic English is another. Those are fine as English sentences, but boring as song titles and/or lyrics. Song lyrics express feelings more than grammar. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:59, 24 July 2011 (UTC)
I see your IP address resolves to Spain. Are there no Spanish songs which are sung in idiomatic, rather than strictly grammatical, Spanish? Tonywalton Talk 22:50, 24 July 2011 (UTC)
Spanish hip hop/reggaeton is more slangy than ungrammatical per se in the English sense of ungrammatical. (Actually, "don't need no" is more non-standard than actually ungrammatical.) For example listen to, Chulin culin cunfly (Voltio) and Tango del pecado (Calle 13). There are also a lot of traditional dialectical songs in Spanish, for instance, La bien pagá which have nonstandard features, nada>na, pagada>pagá, but which are still rule governed. μηδείς (talk) 23:34, 24 July 2011 (UTC)
Yes, my question was serious. I just wanted to know. Surely there are similar problems in Spanish. "You aren't anything but a canine" sounds pretty OK for me. 88.8.79.148 (talk) 23:47, 24 July 2011 (UTC)
At the risk of sounding like a cheap psychotherapist, why do you see this as a problem? As BB (almost) said above, lyrics are about more than just communicating information. Tonywalton Talk 23:51, 24 July 2011 (UTC)
For the editor who first asked the question (who may not be a native speaker of English), our article on Double negatives should have more information. rʨanaɢ (talk) 23:56, 24 July 2011 (UTC)
Nice answer. That is, I wanted a grammar reference (from the lang RD). 88.8.79.148 (talk) 00:19, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
As grammatical sentences, "We don't need any education" is correct and "We don't need no education" is incorrect. But the latter has much stronger verbal impact in the context of a song, as well as being ironic in that the singer obviously does need some education. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 06:44, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
"We don't need no education; we don't need no thought control" (no dark sarcasm in the classroom, either). As the article on double negatives points out, they used to be perfectly good written and spoken English intensifiers (as were double superlatives, e.g. "this is the most happiest marriage"), used by among others Chaucer, but as scholars started writing formal and (at least in their fondest hopes) systematic grammars of an untidy and ever-evolving language, double negatives that were reinforcing rather than negating each other were discouraged and then disallowed in "educated" English because of the inherent ambiguity. But they've always had a strong existence in aggressively-informal spoken English and in its dialects. The existence of reinforcing double negatives in other languages shows that the English convention we learn in childhood has no strong inherent or intuitive advantage over the opposite convention ("we shall take multiple negatives to reinforce rather than negate each other.") —— Shakescene (talk) 10:39, 25 July 2011 (UTC)

"Obama has turned into President Rodney Dangerfield: He doesn't get no respect. (For readers too young to remember Dangerfield, that's not litotes. He used the double negative as an intensifier.) 'So we're left with a stalemate,' he said last night. 'At least that's what Michelle tells me.'" WSJ μηδείς (talk) 15:19, 27 July 2011 (UTC)

Better term for "hierarchical precedence level consistency" ?[edit]

I'm guessing that nobody has a clue what I'm talking about when I use that term, hence the need for something clearer. Let me explain what I mean with several examples:

1) In a simple two element example, let's say two roads intersect multiple times (obviously at least one must change direction). I'd be surprised if road A sometimes has stop signs, with none on road B, and at other intersections the situation is reversed.

2) I'd normally expect the best sports player or team to beat the rest. It would be surprising if the best (defined, say, by the highest percentage of wins), can never beat one particular opponent.

3) In the pecking order of chickens, it would be surprising to find a low status chicken pecking a higher-ranked chicken.

4) One game which does violate this principle of "hierarchical precedence level consistency" is Stratego, where the lowest ranked piece (the spy), can defeat the highest ranked piece (the marshal).

So, does anybody have a better term for this concept ? StuRat (talk) 16:51, 23 July 2011 (UTC)

To a mathematician it is a kind of "intransitivity". That article links to some non-mathematical domains in which it appears. --ColinFine (talk)

20:12, 23 July 2011 (UTC)

Also have a look at strange loop. --ColinFine (talk) 20:45, 23 July 2011 (UTC)
  • Some common terms are, in fact, "pecking order" (or "pecking-order tree") which is assumed (typically) to be top-down; another term is "chain of command" (also, top-down). Hence, to indicate a different ranking, add other adjectives, such as "circular pecking order" or "uncertain chain of command". In forensics, a common term is "chain of custody" (of evidence) which is intended as a linear chain, and unbroken; otherwise data can be (further) contaminated when not sealed, controlled, or when left unattended. -Wikid77 06:31, 27 July 2011 (UTC)

Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Icelandic[edit]

How similar are these languages? Can the speaker of any one of them partially understand another of them, as with Italian and Spanish? 92.28.245.233 (talk) 21:23, 23 July 2011 (UTC)

Just a note to help with your searches, it's Icelandic, not "...tic". (Searching under "Icelantic" might rune your search results. :-) ) StuRat (talk) 21:34, 23 July 2011 (UTC)
See North_Germanic_languages#Mutual_intelligibility --Pp.paul.4 (talk) 22:12, 23 July 2011 (UTC)
See also Mutual intelligibility, which provides sources for the assertions that Swedish and Norwegian are mutually intelligible, and both are partially intelligible with Danish. Icelandic and Faroese are mutually intelligible in their written forms only. PP.paul.4's link above asserts that Icelanders understand the continental Scandinavian languages even better than the continental Scandinavians understand each other, which I think has a lot to do with the fact that Icelanders all learn Danish in school, and has little to do with any inherent mutual (or unidirectional) intelligibility of the languages per se. Angr (talk) 22:18, 23 July 2011 (UTC)
  • Compare similaries of words in Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish versus German:
· English: "The quick brown fox had jumped over the lazy dogs."
· Swedish: "Den snabba bruna räven hade hoppat över de lata hundarna."
· Bokmål Norwegian: "Den raske brune reven hadde hoppet over de late hundene."
· Danish: "Den hurtige brune ræv havde hoppet over de dovne hunde."
· German: "Der schnelle braune Fuchs war über die faulen Hunde gesprungen."
Note the similarity of the languages, versus comparison to German (with the verb split "war ... gesprungen"). The words for "quick" (fast) differ: snabba, raske, hurtige, but the words for "brown" are similar: bruna, brune, brune. I have not researched why those languages use "hund*" (hounds) rather than a word similar to "dogs". Their pronouns for he/she/they are mostly similar, as: han/hon/de, han/hun/de, han/hun/de, compared to German: er/sie/sie (he/she/they). -Wikid77 (talk) 14:36, 27 July 2011 (UTC)

As a Dane I do understand written Norwegian and Swedish. I also understand most spoken Norwegian and Swedish although some dialects are rather unintelligble for me (but so are some Danish dialects). However I have met many Danes, as well as Norwegians and Swedes who doesn't understand the other Scandinavian languages and switch to English if they want to communicate with other Scandinavians. Icelandic is a quite different language from Danish, Swedish and Norwegian, even though a lot of words may recognisable to other Scandinavians in written form. --Saddhiyama (talk) 22:30, 23 July 2011 (UTC)

Speaking from personal experience, I have seen Norwegians and Swedes converse without difficulty, each in their own language. When I asked them if they could understand any other Nordic languages, they said that Danish was difficult to understand, because they thought that they didn't pronounce their words properly! Alansplodge (talk) 23:06, 23 July 2011 (UTC)
Yes, it is a common joke in Norway and Sweden that Danes talk as if they have a potato in their mouth, because Danish doesn't have the same pitch accent as Norwegian and Swedish. I have heard that on account of this it is easier for Danes to understand Swedish and Norwegian than it is for Swedes and Norwegians to understand Danish. --Saddhiyama (talk) 23:19, 23 July 2011 (UTC)
The joke that I heard in Norway was that Danish wasn't a language it was a throat disease (apologies to all watching Danes). Mikenorton (talk) 10:21, 24 July 2011 (UTC)
Would this not also be because Danish consonants are more highly modifed from their Nordic antecedents than are the consonants of its northern neighbours? I would compare the relationship of Russian to Rusyn, or Portuguese to Castellano with the relationship of Danish to Swedish and the Norwegian standards. Just as the Spanish can read Portuguese and the Portuguese can more easily understand Spanish than vice versa, isn't this because Danish and Russian and Portuguese are more derived--i.e., more modified from from their common ancestors--than are Norwegian, Rusyn and Castilian?
How mutually intelligible are Bokmål and Nynorsk? The Mark of the Beast (talk) 03:54, 24 July 2011 (UTC)
This is pure OR, but my Bokmål speaking Norwegian neighbor has said that Nynorsk isn't too difficult for her to understand, although it's a bit more marked in reading. Also, although it's obviously impossible to know now, I wonder if Norn was intelligible to Norwegians. The Blade of the Northern Lights (話して下さい) 04:52, 24 July 2011 (UTC)