Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Language/2007 December 20

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Language desk
< December 19 << Nov | December | Jan >> December 21 >
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.

December 20[edit]

Verb tense follow-up[edit]

Sometimes, events that happened in the past (and would ordinarily require past tense verbs) are written about in the present tense, using present tense verbs. A (hypothetical) example might look something like this:

  • January 1, 1913 - John F. Kennedy is born in Massachusetts
  • March 12, 1945 - John F. Kennedy gets married in Paris
  • November 4, 1960 - John F. Kennedy runs for President
  • December 3, 1973 - John F. Kennedy dies in Texas

Is there a term to describe when past events are written/described in present tense? Is this proper ... and, if so, how can it be proper to describe past events in present verbs? Thanks. (Joseph A. Spadaro (talk) 00:34, 20 December 2007 (UTC))

"Historical present" / "Narrative present"... AnonMoos (talk) 01:09, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
Also more correctly "March 12, 1945 - John F. Kennedy marries in Paris", but that's stylistic. The tense is correctly used. Steewi (talk) 03:50, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
If it's purely a stylistic thing, it's neither more nor less correct, just different. -- JackofOz (talk) 10:08, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
True. Badly worded on my part. Steewi (talk) 00:20, 21 December 2007 (UTC)
  • You sometimes call it dramatic present as well, don't you? Dhwaga (talk) 06:36, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
The tense is commonly used in telling jokes and anecdotes, ("A man walks into a bar...") in English, and in other languages as well (French, Italian and Croatian, for example). SaundersW (talk) 10:11, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

What does Jahasra mean?[edit]

I think it is a Maltese greeting because of google results but I can't find an actual translation. Oh I ask because Shaun Micallef says Jahasra and goodnight to sign off Newstopia..

Cheers, Shniken1 (talk) 02:37, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

I can't read Maltese very well, but I saw it in a few contexts; one "Jahasra Minghajr Htija (Unfortunately Innocent)" and "Jahasra Miskin", an alternative to "Il-vera miskin". Apparently 'miskin' is a wretch. Il-vera might imply 'true'. I also saw it as an introductory particle in a similar context to where we'd use 'Well, ...". It also seems to be some kind of greeting. According to my understanding of Maltese phonology, it's pronounced 'ya-has-ra'. I don't know how Shaun Micallef pronounces it. There are a number of references to a Micallef with it in the title. Steewi (talk) 04:10, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

That is how he says it. He is of Maltese decent... —Preceding unsigned comment added by Shniken1 (talkcontribs) 04:38, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
It's equivalent to Arabic 'yahasrah', but I'm having trouble translating it without my dictionary here (different place). Steewi (talk) 00:34, 21 December 2007 (UTC)
يحسرة is (I think) how you write it in Arabic script. I think it might be a Maghreb (NW Africa) word, because Googling it results in only 1700 examples. Steewi (talk) 01:10, 21 December 2007 (UTC)
Google Translator translates it as 'Ihsrh', which is a perfect example of why we need human translators! Well done, Google! I don't have to worry about my pension!--ChokinBako (talk) 23:51, 21 December 2007 (UTC)
In Tunisian Arabic this is two words 'ya ħasra' 'Oh loss', meaning more or less 'What a shame', or 'you unfortunate thing' Root is 'to lose' I think... Drmaik (talk) 09:38, 22 December 2007 (UTC)
Maltese is my mother tongue. 'Ja hasra' simply means 'What a pity'. Its is never used in the context of ending a show, Shaun might be using it to say "Unfortunately that's all for this episode"

It is also used to say Poor thing in Maltese it can be sarcastic or empathetic

Malt liquor in Dickens[edit]

I'm cross-posting this question from the malt liquor talk page:

I came across the following in a Dickens novel: "I never knew her do it when company was present, at which time you may freely trust her with wines, spirits, or malt liquors." (from Bleak House, Ch. 9) Is Dickens referring to the same stuff described in our Wikipedia article? How old is the term, and what does it refer to? I suspect the idea of "malt liquor" is not of 20th century American origin, as our article implies.--The Fat Man Who Never Came Back (talk) 04:48, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

The OED gives "an alcoholic drink made from malt by fermentation as opposed to distillation, such as ale, beer, or stout." The earliest usage given is in the 1693 London Gazette.--K.C. Tang (talk) 05:03, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
Ya, see malt, and of course there are malt whiskeys also. In the context of Dickens' time, malt liquor (also called malt drink) was a generic term which encompassed both ale and beer. If you need / want a source for the article, google "The London and Country Brewer", which is from 1736; there are full versions of it for free online. On another note, I still can't believe I used to drink "forties" when I was a kid, disgusting. Azi Like a Fox (talk) 05:37, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
Thanks for the replies. K.C. Tang, do you have access the OED? I do not. If so, can you tell me if gives the earliest known usage of malt-liquor in the American sense--to denote cheap, strong high-alcohol beer like the kind Azi used to drink? I could use this information to improve the malt liquor article.--The Fat Man Who Never Came Back (talk) 02:13, 21 December 2007 (UTC)
The OED entry doesn't give this sense: the line K.C.Tang quoted above is the whole of the definition. There is a quotation from 1993 "Brother Dennis Jay was hospitalized with a .48 blood-alcohol level after drinking malt liquor, wine and whiskey." which may have this sense. --ColinFine (talk) 22:26, 21 December 2007 (UTC)
(ec)I found this rather interesting "A History of Malt Liquor" [1], which might have a cite for what you're looking for. It suggests some controversy about the claim for "invention" of American style malt liquor (see section titled 'The Clix Riddle'), which has 1937 and 1942 as dates for its American origin and a link to a patent. Seems like there's a lot there that could be used to improve the article... Azi Like a Fox (talk) 22:29, 21 December 2007 (UTC)
I agree with you. The link already appears as an inline citation, but there's a lot of sourced info on that website that could be used. Thanks!--The Fat Man Who Never Came Back (talk) 13:49, 22 December 2007 (UTC)

even used to mean the same[edit]

In Indian officialese (English), even is used to mean the same. For example in the reference line of a letter you would see "letter of even No. dated **/**/****". The intended meaning is that this letter has the same number as the letter referred. Is this correct/standard usage? Dhwaga (talk) 05:21, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

"Even" is used in this way in the specific expression "of even date", but this is very old-fashioned now, and I don't believe it's standard English otherwise. --Anonymous, 06:55 UTC, December 20/07.
I have a suspicion that this is an example of something preserved in Indian English which has more or less vanished from British English (and American English, I would assume). So if you're writing to Indian officialdom it's quite possible that this use of even is standard or 'correct', while best avoided in international contexts. But I could be wrong. (talk) 13:46, 21 December 2007 (UTC)
A few years ago I worked for a major British financial institution, in their solicitors' office. One of the cases we were working on involved Indian currency exchange regulations, and a lot of correspondence with Indian police and government agencies. The example given is very typical of the way the Indian authorities worded their letters. I recall one of the older British lawyers saying how nice it was to read letters written in the way he had been taught to write official letters many years before. For what it's worth, I find Indian English delightful - it seems to me to combine some "old-fashioned" turns of phrase which appeal to me, with an inventiveness and energy which give a real lift to the language. DuncanHill (talk) 14:10, 21 December 2007 (UTC)

suo moto[edit]

This is widely used in Indian legal parlance. A court takes suo moto action, meaning it starts a legal process on its own. Shorter versions of Oxford, Websters Unabridged, Chambers etc. lack this phrase. Isn't this used in other parts of the world? Dhwaga (talk) 05:23, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

It should be "suo motu". The Catholic church uses a similar phrase, "proprio motu". "Sua sponte" is another similar phrase. Adam Bishop (talk) 08:05, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

But sir, I see Suo moto. Pity, I hadn't looked earlier. But I still can't see why it is not there in those dictionaries I named. Dhwaga (talk) 12:38, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

My 1983 edition of Chambers Dictionary does have suo motu (meaning "on one's own initiative") listed, but it is not in the main text, rather it is in the "Phrases and quotations from Latin, Greek and modern foreign languages" near the back. I suspect the reason it is not in the main text, and not in the other dictionaries mentioned, is that altho' the phrase is used in English-speaking countries, the editors have made a judgment that its use is not widespread enough to include it in a general dictionary. Hope this helps, DuncanHill (talk) 13:02, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

When I checked the "history" of Suo moto I see that a guy moved the page from Suo motu to to its current headword. This is the relevant item in the history.

(cur) (last) 17:31, 25 March 2006 Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington (Talk | contribs) m (moved Suo motu to Suo moto: The term "Suo Motu" does not exist. It is in reference with Suo moto cognizance) (undo) Really funny! Dhwaga (talk) 13:06, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

As far as I'm concerned, suo moto is just plainly wrong. The Latin noun motus ("motion") is a noun in the fourth declension[2][3], which does not have a form like moto but keeps the u in all forms. In theory, moto might a form of the perfect participe motus of the verb moveo, which means: "[something] having been moved", but that does not fit with the meaning.
Here are a few sources in the Latin Wikisource containing the combination suo motu: Ethica - Pars secunda - De natura et origine mentis, Principia philosophiae, Compendium theologiae, Historia Scholastica, Commentariorum in Somnium Scipionis.
Suo moto by itself can be Latin, as we saw, and in fact also Italian, but in both cases it does not have the right meaning.  --Lambiam 21:22, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
I think this calls for a move back to suo motu. AecisBrievenbus 13:02, 21 December 2007 (UTC)
Done! Adam Bishop (talk) 19:29, 21 December 2007 (UTC)
I can see where you are coming from, and I have never been a student of latin. However, the term "suo moto" has been widely used in Indian legal parlance, than "suo motu". – [4]. Best, — Nearly Headless Nick {C} 10:27, 23 December 2007 (UTC)


I'm trying to complete my puzzle book and I'm stuck on these analogies. Can you plese help?

Rockies : North America :: _________ : South America {which mountain?}
lion : _________ :: Beaver : industriousness {lazy?}
_________ : rings :: Mars : canals {Saturn?}
boil : simmer :: pound : _________ {beat?}
anti- : against :: _________ : around
_________ : fish :: aviary : birds
_________ : swift :: scarce : rare {fast?}
adverse : averse :: _________ : unwilling
_________ : house :: pieces : jigsaw puzzle {rooms?}
paradox : incongruity :: simile: _________ {metaphor?}
horse : canter :: _________ : swim {fish?} —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:25, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
I'd alter the following: boil, simmer and pound are all verbs, and simmering is a light form of boiling, so you need a light form of pounding. Paradox is a rhetorical form expressing incongruity, and simile is a rhetorical form expressing similarity.
boil : simmer :: pound : __beat, bruise__
paradox : incongruity :: simile: __similarity__ SaundersW (talk) 10:05, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
Rockies : North America :: Andes : South America —Preceding unsigned comment added by Shniken1 (talkcontribs) 11:03, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
piscary : fish : aviary : birds --ChokinBako (talk) 11:13, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

"Andes for the first one sounds about right. Circum- : around. Aquarium : fish. Pound : (knead?) Ok, I'm done, wouldn't want to have all the fun... Saturn is right, by the way." 05:42, 20 December 2007 (UTC) (Reposting my answers, they got removed along with a few other people's, Pfly's for one. I'm still a bit confused about using the history tab so beats me how/why they were removed or how to fix everyone else's deleted responses...) Azi Like a Fox (talk) 11:27, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

Looks like SaundersW might have accidently erased some answers if I'm reading the history right. I've reproduced all the deleted ones below, minus mine which I already put back above. So, hopefully I fixed it okay and if not, sorry. Azi Like a Fox (talk) 12:01, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

(Apologies if I accidentally deleted stuff: I intended to copy something to keep its formatting and edit the copied verion. SaundersW (talk) 14:37, 20 December 2007 (UTC))
Beavers symbolize industry, lions symbolize royalty, king of beasts, etc. Birds are kept in aviaries, fish are kept in aquariums. Pfly (talk) 06:16, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
Lion: bravery :: beaver: industriousness is more likely than royal. Or maybe that's the influence of Wizard of Oz... My first stab would be something like:
Rockies : North America :: __Andes__ : South America
lion : __bravery__ :: Beaver : industriousness
__Saturn_ : rings :: Mars : canals
boil : simmer :: pound : __ounce__
anti- : against :: __circa-__ : around
__aquarium__ : fish :: aviary : birds
__fast___ : swift :: scarce : rare
adverse : averse :: __hostile__ : unwilling
__rooms__ : house :: pieces : jigsaw puzzle (I'd also buy wood, 2x4's, or gypsum board....)
paradox : incongruity :: simile: __metaphor__
horse : canter :: __fish__ : swim

Though some of these are debatable and there might be better answers. - Nunh-huh 08:51, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

If Saturn : rings :: Mars : canals is the "correct" answer then it's a poor example: Saturn does have rings but Mars doesn't have canals. Also I'd suggest 'bricks' as a possibility for the house/jigsaw one; 'similarity' or 'likeness' for paradox/simile and 'circum-' rather than 'circa-' for against/around (as in e.g. circumnavigate). AndrewWTaylor (talk) 09:33, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
Mars may not have canals, but canals were the main feature noted by astronomers on Mars, just as rings were the main feature of Saturn noted by astronomers. Sometimes the room is too smart for the analogy.... - Nunh-huh 15:55, 20 December 2007 (UTC)


Please tell me how to say roman god in mosaic? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:11, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

Are you referring to the language of Moses, ie Classical Hebrew ? If so, then one of the speakers, well, of Modern Hebrew, may be able to give you some help. --Cookatoo.ergo.ZooM (talk) 08:56, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
Well, if you're just looking for how to say "(a) roman god" in Hebrew, that would be אל רומי 'el romi. Macnas (talk) 11:08, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
If you were just looking for the Latin (Roman language) word for "god" to make part of a mosaic, that word would be "deus", typically represented in a mosaic in the capital letters "DEVS". However, usually, a mosaic would refer to a specific Roman god, such as Jupiter or "IVPITER". Marco polo (talk) 18:01, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
Jupiter actually has two Ps in Latin, Iuppiter (and turns into Iovis, etc, in the other cases). Adam Bishop (talk) 23:42, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
In short, we're not sure what you mean by "to say in mosaic", and also not really for "roman god". Could you rephrase the question and perhaps also explain what you need or might use the answer for?  --Lambiam 21:48, 20 December 2007 (UTC)


Dictionaries say it is a verb. But I mostly see it used as a preposition as in the example. "...what information can be divulged as per your request have already been sent to you vide letter cited first".

Two ancillary questions as well.

  • Please also comment on the use of "as per" in the example.
  • How do you start an incomplete quote?

..."quoted text".


"...quoted text."

? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Dhwaga (talkcontribs) 06:41, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

"Vide" is a Latin verb whose meaning is "see" (in the imperative). That is how it's used in your example. "As per", a rather formal expression, is used correctly here; essentially it serves as a preposition and means "in accordance with". And an ellipsis indicating an omission from the quoted matter always goes inside the quotation marks, as per your last example. --Anonymous, 07:01 UTC, December 20/07.
A little warning: you're showing us some rather ugly commercial English—telegraphic, too. The usage in your example is best confined to memos between people who can stomach such stuff. "As per" is especially bad that way. And "information" construed as plural is very odd. Where did you find this? --Milkbreath (talk) 11:27, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
The OP is, I believe, from India, and the quotation looks to me like perfectly normal Indian Business English. DuncanHill (talk) 12:55, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

Thanks. But I still can't see how a verb can go there. The part of the speech and the environment really don't agree, do they? Do we have different and lax rules for occurrence of foreign words in incompatible environment? Fowler's Usage says it can be replaced by "see". You try and replace here. The result is a disaster unless you provide some appropriate punctuation. I had thought this to be a case of what Fowler called being "taken over by the illiterate" and used by them "in extended senses". Milkbreath, believe me, that was taken from a letter signed by a University's Vice-Chancellor. To be true to her the full sentence (which I mutillated) reads thus:

"With reference to your appeal you are informed that the informations/documents that can be divulged as per your request have already been sent to you vide letter cited first."

It has enough to invoke "the illiterate" Fowler mentions. Dhwaga (talk) 12:57, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

Yes, DuncanHill, I am from India. But the usage didn't occur in business English. Dhwaga (talk) 12:59, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

It is telegraphic, but can easily be detelegraphicised with the insertion of a semi-colon or dash after "you":
  • "...what information can be divulged as per your request have already been sent to you; vide letter cited first".
This demonstrates that vide is definitely a verb, meaning the imperative "see". Converting that into slightly more conventional English:
  • "...what information can be divulged has already been sent to you; please refer to the letter cited first",
which could be rewritten as:
  • "...all the information that can be provided has been provided in the letter already sent to you".
. -- JackofOz (talk) 21:07, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

second ancillary question[edit]

An ellipsis (". . .") replaces omitted matter, so it belongs within the quotation. —Tamfang (talk) 04:25, 26 December 2007 (UTC)

Association Football or Association football or association football?[edit]

An interesting (to me anyway) question that has arisen from a potential move of the football (soccer) page to Association football is - which of the forms is correct? (avoiding the football vs soccer argument and avoiding the suggestion of synonyms or variants on phrases such as footballer please)

  • When speaking about the game itself, would you write "the game known as Association Football" or would it be "the game known as Association football"?
  • When speaking about the game indirectly, would you write "he is an association football player"?

In what cases would you use the differing versions? (talk) 17:20, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

There is no conceivable reason to capitalize "football". So it is either "Association football" or "association football". A quick Google search shows that, outside of Wikipedia, the most common usage is "association football", all lower case. This seems reasonable, as it is no longer clear exactly which association the name refers to and the name now has a generic quality. If it is lower case as a compound noun (as in your first example), then it should be lower case as a compound adjective (as in your second example). Marco polo (talk) 17:57, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
Unless something really special is going on, the first letter of the first word of a Wikipedia article title should be capitalized: Asparagus, Beetroot, ..., Zucchini. But in running text, when wikilinking, you use lower case unless this is a proper name or such, or at the begnning of a sentence: "Hotchi-potchi is a vegetable stew made from twenty-six different vegetables, ranging from asparagus and beetroot to zucchini." See Wikipedia:Naming conventions (capitalization) and fWikipedia:Manual of Style (capital letters).  --Lambiam 20:45, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
And what about our articles Brown Bear, Brown Rat and Whooper Swan etc. Should not Association f/Football follow the same example? Jooler (talk) 00:38, 21 December 2007 (UTC)
Last time I looked, the Manual of Style specified that those expressions should be capitalized because the normal practice in the relevant fields is to do so. (Which I find surprising, but never mind that.) If the normal practice in sports it so write "association football" in lower case, then by the same guideline that's what Wikipedia should do. --Anonymous, 00:50 UTC, December 21, 2007.
I actually think that capitalizing the names of common animals such as "brown rat" or "brown bear" is at odds with Wikipedia style. (So the title of the article on brown bears should be "Brown bear".) I don't know why this exception from Wikipedia style is made for the generic names of animals. Fixing it would be too massive (and perhaps contentious) a project for me to undertake. Marco polo (talk) 01:47, 21 December 2007 (UTC)
The first letter of a Wikipedia article is automatically capitalized, so there's no difference between brown bear and Brown bear. It's apparently customary among ornithologists to capitalize every word in a name that refers to a particular species, thus Whooper Swan and not whooper swan. At Wikipedia, people have extended this to other animals, so we have Brown Bear, Brown Rat, etc. Ostensibly, the reason is that "Brown Bear" refers specifically to Ursus arctos and "Brown Rat" refers specifically to Rattus norvegicus, while "brown bear" and "brown rat" could just be any member of Ursidae or Rattus respectively that happened to be brown. —Angr If you've written a quality article... 05:11, 21 December 2007 (UTC)

Stowd / Stoud[edit]

This is probably a pretty Scots-specific word, especially since many Scots people haven't heard of it themselves! It means busy, by the way. I've been saying it since I was a child, and wondered if anybody knew of its origins. The very few examples of its use on the internet (mainly forums) don't dictate a specific spelling either. --Bearbear (talk) 20:59, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

what is the word for this[edit]

what is the word for a person who blindly follows a cause, without full knowledge of said cause.

i know it starts with a M. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:59, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

Moron? AecisBrievenbus 23:53, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
Are you thinking myrmidon? Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 00:28, 21 December 2007 (UTC)
Minion? Clarityfiend (talk) 02:36, 21 December 2007 (UTC)

myrmidon, thats it! thanks much —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:50, 21 December 2007 (UTC)

Two words for Spanish[edit]

Hi all,

I've seen both the terms Español and Castellano (i.e., Castillian) used to mean the Spanish language... is there a usage or other technical difference between them? (e.g., is one used for Spanish worldwide and the other only for Spanish as used in Spain?). Thanks in advance, Grutness...wha? 23:23, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

Spanish language#Naming and origin , Names given to the Spanish language... AnonMoos (talk) 23:48, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
From the above cited article: "Spaniards tend to call this language español (Spanish) when contrasting it with languages of other states, such as French and English, but call it castellano (Castilian), that is, the language of the Castile region, when contrasting it with other languages spoken in Spain such as Galician, Basque, and Catalan." Castilian is spoken by the majority of people in Spain. Thomprod (talk) 02:00, 21 December 2007 (UTC)
As in right-wing Spaniards hazing Catalan nationalist politician Jordi Pujol with "¡Pujol! ¡Enano! ¡Habla castellano!" ("Pujol, you dwarf! Speak Castilian") "¡Habla español!" just wouldn't have the same ring (nor, I suppose, such a convenient rhyme). - Jmabel | Talk 22:37, 21 December 2007 (UTC)
The answer is quite simple: Speakers of modern day catalán and modern day castellano both traditionally called their language español. Due to the influence of Castilla, castellano became the main language of the area, so outsiders referred to the language as Spanish; however, within the country, it was slightly confusing to just call it español. As such, it's mostly European speakers of the language that refer to it as castellano; Latin Americans call it español. A lot of it, of course, is just for the sound of it (e.g., it's not unusual to refer to an Englishman as a Brit). The Evil Spartan (talk) 09:01, 22 December 2007 (UTC)
It's not true that Latin Americans call the language español. In Argentina, as in other places (check out this already mentioned article, the name for it is castellano. It is of course a more precise term, though international usage (English speakers call it Spanish) is undermining this terminology. Pallida  Mors 15:13, 22 December 2007 (UTC)
And in Peru, castellano also dominates. Drmaik (talk) 12:27, 24 December 2007 (UTC)