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November 25[edit]

From the Russian: twice-bannered, twice-starred[edit]

I've just started a bit of native speaker's cleanup of the page here for the Alexandrov Ensemble, formerly known in brief as the Red Army Choir. In Alexandrov Ensemble#The renaming of the Ensemble we have the inelegant phrasing "Twice Red-bannered and Red-starred ..." I've a healthy respect for foreign entities' own English-language translations of their particular nomenclature, certainly in treating a former Soviet institution. So if this wording or another is "the official" or otherwise canonical form used in English by the Ensemble, I'd leave it in peace, adding a line to Talk:Alexandrov Ensemble#Names. (N.B. see the suggested "two times" for "twice.") . However, I'm unable to check it. The multilingual "European Homepage" in External links is broken, as is the .ru Official Home Page "Contact Us" feature (!). Meanwhile I'm leaving a message in the Guest Book of the "Unofficial Blog of the Alexandrov Ensemble of the Red Army". Perhaps in the interim there's another information channel I've overlooked? -- Cheers, Deborahjay (talk) 08:30, 25 November 2015 (UTC)

Amazon use the translation A. V. Alexandrov Twice Red-bannered and Red-starred Academic Ensemble of Song and Dance of the Soviet Army, if that's any help. I believe from previous discussions here that the "... named after A V Alexandrov" construction may be over-literal. Tevildo (talk) 11:17, 25 November 2015 (UTC)
It's not only clumsy in English, it's also potentially misleading. The phrase "twice red-bannered and red-starred" sounds as if they won two red banners and two red stars, and this is the interpretation implied in the heading here "twice-bannered, twice-starred." But in fact, the ensemble won two banners and only one star; the "twice" is attached only to "red-bannered" and doesn't distribute to "red-starred". It's not easy to translate this kind of Soviet-era pomp into another language, especially when constructions that would be an awkward false title in English are more normal in Russian. --Amble (talk) 20:12, 25 November 2015 (UTC)
Would simply flipping the construct ("red-starred and twice red-bannered") not solve the problem? I understand that overall it remains clumsy, but at least it wouldn't be misleading?—Ëzhiki (Igels Hérissonovich Ïzhakoff-Amursky) • (yo?); November 25, 2015; 22:01 (UTC)
Ëzhiki, perhaps you could weigh in at the Alexandrov Ensemble article on how to handle the naming of the ensemble? Your suggestion is less ambiguous, but also a less direct translation. I'd trust your judgement on how to balance precision vs. clarity here. --Amble (talk) 23:30, 25 November 2015 (UTC)
A probable variant is "The two Orders of the Red Banner and the Order of the Red Star Ensemble...", how do you think? Somewhat clumsy but it means clearly what it has to mean.--Lüboslóv Yęzýkin (talk) 11:38, 27 November 2015 (UTC)
OP summarizes: Considering the input provided above, my preference is to contact the Ensemble by some means to ask for their authorized English-language version of its official name, then make this information available to the other WP language projects via Wikidata. I'll update the Talk:Alexandrov Ensemble page accordingly.-- Deborahjay (talk) 14:15, 27 November 2015 (UTC)
"Twice Red-bannered and [once] Red-starred" keeps the original construction while clarifying the numbering. Akld guy (talk) 19:04, 27 November 2015 (UTC)

November 27[edit]

Tunisian alphabet?[edit]

I have a micro-conflict with a user. He claims there is the Latin alphabet for Tunisian, and he puts it in the articles concerning Tunisia. But I'm sure there is no any official alphabet, he just invented it himself and pushes his own agenda. Some time ago this "alphabet" was already mentioned here in the RD (diff). But the user went on and created a "Help:IPA" article pretending this alphabet is somewhat "official". I tried to correct the page, but in vain. By my opinion, what he is doing is an original research and disruptive editing. Probably, an attention to this user from the adminship is required, but I have no much interest, desire and time to make an official complain and escalate the conflict (I stumbled across the issue by accident). I do not remember if there are any admins here? However, there is a probability that I'm wrong (I'm always ready to accept that). So I ask fellow linguists to help and participate.--Lüboslóv Yęzýkin (talk) 11:21, 27 November 2015 (UTC)

I refer you and fellow editors to pages here on the Maltese alphabet which officially uses Roman characters, "the only Semitic language to do so" (per various sources, uncited). The Maltese language is mentioned as being "closely related" to Tunisian Arabic among the Maghrebi variants of Arabic. Of interest is Tunisian Arabic#Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft Umschrift giving the fairly recent but established history of using latin script for Tunisian. -- Deborahjay (talk) 14:09, 27 November 2015 (UTC)
As for me, I know that information and even more, I expanded a little the article about Maltese some years ago, but thanks anyway for your concern.--Lüboslóv Yęzýkin (talk) 11:04, 29 November 2015 (UTC)

November 28[edit]

Fruit saying[edit]

What is meaning of phrase "grow a pear"? My neighbour is Cockaney and told this to me last week but I cannot see it is a Cockaney rhyme slang. Have no garden or trees, so this is difficult for me. It is from London song maybe. (talk) 12:17, 28 November 2015 (UTC)

The normal phrase is "grow a pair", expressing the speaker's belief that the person addressed is not behaving in an appropriately virile manner. Tevildo (talk) 13:26, 28 November 2015 (UTC)
There's two possibilities I can think of. There's a famous bit of Cockney rhyming slang: " apples and pears " for "stairs". However, if one accounts for homophones to be the source of your misunderstanding, the phrase you are mishearing is most likely" grow a pair ", as in a pair of testicles. It's a common exhortation said to someone who is being cowardly. Look it up at Urban Dictionary.--Jayron32 13:30, 28 November 2015 (UTC)
Agreed; see "grow a pair". Alansplodge (talk) 16:41, 28 November 2015 (UTC)
  • I'll note in passing that Cockney rhyming slang typically omits the word that rhymes with the 'real' word: stairsapples and pearsapples. To decipher pears as C.r.s., we'd have to find a word commonly paired with pears. —Tamfang (talk) 09:13, 29 November 2015 (UTC)
Definitely not cockney slang, it is a colloquialism. Cockney slang would have the rhyming elememt with the rhyming word omitted like, for example "sausage roll" for "troll" but only "sausage" would be used Richard Avery (talk) 15:37, 29 November 2015 (UTC)

November 29[edit]

Plural behind measurements[edit]

I walked a five kilometer long trail.
I walked a trail that was five kilometers long.

How come one needs to be plural and the other one doesn't? Is there a prescriptivist rule in English that describes this difference?

Also, is there a parallel to this rule in other languages? 731Butai (talk) 08:01, 29 November 2015 (UTC)

I've heard both of them either way, although your examples are more conventional for whatever reason. The subtlety seems to be whether it's being used as an adjective or in a descriptive phrase. As in, "It was a five kilometer trail" vs. "The trail was five kilometers long." ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 08:10, 29 November 2015 (UTC)
I parse these like "five kilometer long" in the first example are three attributives represented by a numeral, a noun and an adjective, while in the second example "long" is an adverbial modifier. As nouns in the attributive function are usually not pluralized, therefore the noun of the first example is not as well.--Lüboslóv Yęzýkin (talk) 10:49, 29 November 2015 (UTC)
The first example should be hyphenated: "I walked a five-kilometer-long trail." (See MOS:HYPHEN,sub-subsection 3, points 3 and 8.)
Wavelength (talk) 14:31, 29 November 2015 (UTC)
Sure, if I was adding that sentence to a WP article. 731Butai (talk) 16:42, 29 November 2015 (UTC)
My Google search for hyphen measurements finds other style guides prescribing hyphenation in such expressions. For more than 12 months, I have been hyphenating attributive expressions of time measurement, as one can see by examining my contributions.
Wavelength (talk) 17:29, 29 November 2015 (UTC)
I note that if one uses {{convert}} with |adj, the adjectival form includes a hyphen, eg
{{convert|5|km|mi|adj=on}} trail → 5-kilometre (3.1 mi) trail.
However if you want to append "long", you have to include the hyphen yourself.
{{convert|5|km|mi|adj=mid|long}} trail → 5-kilometre long (3.1 mi) trail
{{convert|5|km|mi|adj=mid|-long}} trail → 5-kilometre-long (3.1 mi) trail
Mitch Ames (talk) 23:31, 29 November 2015 (UTC)
  • Regarding the hyphen, note that it has to turn into a space if the expression includes an SI (metric) unit expressed as an abbreviation (officially called a symbol). It was a five-kilometer or five-kilometre trail, but it was a 5 km trail. That's because the use of SI symbols is governed by an international standard that applies regardless of which language is being used. Specifically, see section 5.3.3 of the standard, third paragraph:
Even when the value of a quantity is used as an adjective, a space is left between the numerical value and the unit symbol. Only when the name of the unit is spelled out would the ordinary rules of grammar apply, so that in English a hyphen would be used to separate the number from the unit.
The common British practice of writing 5km without a space is also in violation of the standard. (Note: I linked to the US edition of the standard because it's available online, but it specifically mentions what things in it are US-specific and this is not one of them.) -- (talk) 09:33, 30 November 2015 (UTC)
  • Expressions like "a ten foot pole" come from the Old English genitive plural form of "foot", fota which did not have a final /s/ or vowel mutation. (See ten foot pole here at Harvard.) In essence, the expression means a pole of ten feet. Since "ten foot" is not an adjective, hyphenating it is a solecism. μηδείς (talk) 18:45, 29 November 2015 (UTC)
I think that's exactly Wavelength's point, though. An adjective is required here. "A ten pole" and "a foot pole" make no sense, because neither "ten" nor "foot" is an adjective. "Ten foot" will not do either, as simply juxtaposing the two words does not convert them into one adjective. The alchemy comes with the hyphen: "ten-foot".
Back to the original question, and here are some more examples, not involving measurements: mouse plague, drug addict, pencil case, car rally, boot polish. Nobody would read these and believe the plague contained only one mouse, the addict used only one drug, the case accommodates only one pencil, the rally had only one car, or the polish is for shining only one boot. A car rally that contained 50 cars could be called "a 50-car rally", but "a 50 car rally" has no meaning, really. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 20:07, 29 November 2015 (UTC)
Also, the singular is used even when the adjective is formed from a noun that is only ever used in the plural, such as "scissors" and "trousers".
Example: The main problem with his outfit was that one trouser-leg was longer than the other. It can't be "trouser leg", because there is no such word as "trouser"; that series of letters can exist only if an s is added to the end, or if it's hyphenated with "leg" or whatever. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 20:59, 29 November 2015 (UTC)
I think I might need to press you on that one, Jack. Martinevans123 (talk) 23:03, 29 November 2015 (UTC)
Only if there were a style of car called a "50". Another example that comes to mind is "Rule Book", which for whatever sport it's for, certainly has more than one rule. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:01, 29 November 2015 (UTC)
Only if there were a style of car called a "50" - how does that compute? A rally of Ford cars would be a "Ford rally", not a "Ford-car rally". A rally of 30 Ford cars would be "a 30-car Ford rally". -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 22:49, 29 November 2015 (UTC)
Here is an example of singular "trouser" - "rear trouser pocket". ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 04:25, 30 November 2015 (UTC)
  • In general, a "ten-foot pole" is wrong for the exact same reason that a 98.6-degree temperature is. The notion that only adjectives can modify nouns is simply false. The phrases John's dog, the dog that I saw yesterday, the dog on the corner are all perfectly cromulent.
We recently had the same issue where it was insisted that "combat sports history" should be hyphenated as combat-sports history, since "combat-sports" was supposedly being used as an adjective. But if it were being used as an adjective, then just as we could turn "black cat" or "brownish-black cat" into a cat that is black or a cat that is brownish-black, we would be able to turn "combat-sports history" into a history that is combat-sports.
And this is not just an exception because of the word history as if it were special; it's not. The terms "a socio-economical history" and a "marxist-leninist history" have absolutely no problem being turned into a history that is socio-economical or that is marxist-leninist. What we certainly do not do is turn a "500-page history" into a history that is 500-page.
Ergo, the assertion that "ten foot pole" is an adjectival phrase is wrong; it is a genitive one. And we most certainly cannot invent a "ten-foot pole" and then start taking about a pole that is ten-foot.
μηδείς (talk) 02:09, 30 November 2015 (UTC)
Imagine that English is some language from New Guinea with no written records before the 20th century. Will you then name "ten foot pole" a genetive phrase? No, it is not. "Ten foot" is not an adjective, neither it's a genetive, but it is an attributive represented by a numeral and a noun.--Lüboslóv Yęzýkin (talk) 08:14, 30 November 2015 (UTC)
That's very imaginative. Martinevans123 (talk) 09:40, 30 November 2015 (UTC)
It's called a synchronic approach.--Lüboslóv Yęzýkin (talk) 15:15, 30 November 2015 (UTC)
The purpose of hyphenation is to save readers time by making the garden-path parse the correct one, or in some cases to resolve an actual ambiguity (five-hundred-foot poles vs. five hundred-foot poles). I've never heard of a rule that "A-B C" should only be hyphenated if "C that is A-B" is also grammatical. -- BenRG (talk) 18:54, 30 November 2015 (UTC)
If one wants to argue, BenRG, that hyphens can be used to help the reader, that's entirely fine in my book. But in that case the choice of typography is entirely arbitrary. One could just as easily say "five hundred foot poles" vs. "five hundred foot poles", or a variety of other devices like five (5) hundred (100) vs. five hundred (500).
Ljuboslov is simply ignoring that I did give both a diachronic (historical) explanation, as well as a synchronic one. You can say a brownish-black cat is brownish-black. You cannot say a five hundred page book is five hundred page. Any fully competent native speaker is at least implicitly aware of this asymmetry. I suspect it was the nagging implicit knowledge that prompted Jack to ask for an explicit explanation of his original question. μηδείς (talk) 02:43, 1 December 2015 (UTC)

November 30[edit]

Languages on Serbian poster[edit]

Serbian poster "Sorry we didn't know it was invisible".jpg

What languages are on this Yugoslav Wars-era poster? Obviously the top one is English, but after that it looks like a mishmash of Slavic languages and the odd Romance language (is "avion ti gori" Romanian, perhaps?) switching freely between Latin and Cyrillic alphabets. Smurrayinchester 09:45, 30 November 2015 (UTC)

Apart from the first English sentence (and from the first English word of the second sentence) and from the last English sentence, the rest is in Serbian. Note that Serbian uses both Latin script (known as latinica i.e. латиница) and Cyrillic script (known as ćirilica i.e. ћирилица). HOOTmag (talk) 11:47, 30 November 2015 (UTC)
Ah, thanks! I knew Serbian used both scripts, but I didn't realize how many diacritics it had – I thought the line that used "č" was a different language to "ć". Smurrayinchester 12:19, 30 November 2015 (UTC)

"For a long time and good reasons, I have..."[edit]

Would it be considered good English to start a sentence with a zeugma like that? (I failed to find examples for practical use.) --KnightMove (talk) 15:03, 30 November 2015 (UTC)

I don't know if it's "good" English but I think it's grammatical and sort of poetic and zeugmatic. In my opinion zeugma always sounds a bit lofty, and is usually used in speeches and epics, not real-life conversations. Are you also looking for more everyday examples of zeugma? Or ways to come up with them? There are several types, as described in our article, I find a good way to recognize/generate them is to focus on a verb used in two different ways (which your example does not). So, to get further examples, think of a key verb with a literal/concrete yse, then think of a metaphorical use, then smash them together. E.g. You can fall down and fall off of things, but you can also fall into debt or into last place. So "He fell into danger and water", or "She fell off the house and into trouble" and "My hopes and hand were crushed" are more mundane zeugmatic constructions. SemanticMantis (talk) 15:56, 30 November 2015 (UTC)
It's the sort of thing I mostly associate with playful or comedic writing – Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams perhaps (for instance, Adams' claim that he "took a number of baths and a degree in English"). Not incorrect, but not standard (as SemanticMantis says, it can sound quite poetic), and perhaps poor style in formal writing. Smurrayinchester 16:22, 30 November 2015 (UTC)
Thanks. I guess in formal writing you properly follow the MPT-rule, like: "I have been staying here for good reasons for a long time"? --KnightMove (talk) 20:19, 30 November 2015 (UTC)
I don't think there's an easy formal/informal split here, and your example sentence sounds awkward to me and I'd prefer the zeugmatic phrasing or a total rephrasing to what you wrote (in most circumstances). But it doesn't matter what I prefer :)
Showy rhetorical devices and figures of speech are very common in important speeches, e.g. the chiasmus in "Ask not what your country can do for you..." Are such speeches examples of formal writing? I'd think the appropriateness of zeugma is more about the expected audience and goal of the piece of writing rather than formality. So I'd say zeugmas are not that useful or welcome in most WP articles (because they might be confusing, though I can't find any guidance by skimming WP:MOS), but these devices are fine in novels, blog posts, essays, etc. They would be fine in some school projects (creative writing) but frowned on in others (technical writing). The Chicago manual of style has recommendations for use and punctuation for elliptical constructions (which often fit the broader definitions of zeugma, type 3 in our article), but I don't have a copy of CMS present and I don't know if it talks specifically about zeugma/syllepsis. So if you really want a more authoritative voice on when it's ok, then look to a language maven like Strunk & White or a style guide like CMS. SemanticMantis (talk) 21:05, 30 November 2015 (UTC)

Lithuanian vocative[edit]

For almost seven years, Vocative case § Lithuanian has had a hatnote requiring attention from an expert, because it claims that it "developed new forms for several classes of nouns." What are the new forms Lithuanian developed? Thanks! — Sebastian 22:34, 30 November 2015 (UTC)

December 1[edit]

Is the word total singular or plural or both?[edit]

Is the word total singular or plural or both? Sentence A: "The total is much higher than I expected." The subject is total and the verb is singular (is). The sentence sounds fine to me. Sentence B: "A total of 17 prisoners were killed when violence broke out." The subject is total and the verb is plural (were). The sentence sounds fine to me. So, is the word total singular or plural or either/both (depending on context)? Thanks. 2602:252:D13:6D70:9562:88E6:981C:9C76 (talk) 08:28, 1 December 2015 (UTC)

I am re-examining Sentence B, which states "A total of 17 prisoners were killed when violence broke out." If we remove the prepositional phrase ("of 17 prisoners"), we are left with: "A total of 17 prisoners were killed when violence broke out." Or, in other words: "A total were killed when violence broke out." Something seems "off" there? No? 2602:252:D13:6D70:9562:88E6:981C:9C76 (talk) 08:32, 1 December 2015 (UTC)
"Total" is singular. Some words and phrases in English that are grammatically singular may be construed as plural when they refer to a group of things or people, because they are seen as referring to the things or people individually, not as a unit. Perhaps the most common example is "a number of people", which is plural because it's about the people. "A total of 17 prisoners" is another example of the same thing. -- (talk) 08:55, 1 December 2015 (UTC)
I once read somewhere in my travels through the world of venery that an appropriate collective term for a group of statisticians would be "a number of statisticians". That would be a singular use.
It's clear that the answer to the OP's question "Is the word total singular or plural or both?" is: It depends on the context. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 09:05, 1 December 2015 (UTC)
What is "off" is the grammatical analysis of Sentence B. "A total" is not the subject, modified by "of 17 prisoners". The subject is "17 prisoners", modified by "a total of". This can be shown by removing the modifying phrase. "A total was killed when violence breaks out" does not retain the essential meaning of the sentence. "17 prisoners were killed when violence broke out" does. --Nicknack009 (talk) 11:48, 1 December 2015 (UTC)
Looking for the essential meaning is something we were doing naturally and easily back then before the era of computers, before we started to "think" like computers... Akseli9 (talk) 12:35, 1 December 2015 (UTC)