Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Language/2007 May 10

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May 10[edit]

English sounds like. . .[edit]

Most languages seem (at least to me) to have a unique sound. For instance, although I do not know German, I recognize it by its guttural sounds. I don’t know any Indonesian languages, but I find that many place a lot of emphasis on open mouth sound, particularly –ongs and -uls. (Not unlike Gamelan Music.) So my question is, to a non-native speaker, what is English’s characteristic sound or personification? What sounds do people use to identify English? S.dedalus 04:38, 10 May 2007 (UTC)

Well: We do not have the gutteral "r" of German, the trilled "r" of Russian, or the "ch" of German. We do have an "h" that I think French at least doesn't have. umm... We have no particiular system of connecting words together to sound nice (such as Turkish's euphony rules or the complicated rules about French constanants on the end of words) which may lead to clashing parts of speech. We have no specific voice modulation for words like there is in Thai and many other Asian languages. It is a very Europeany/Romancy language. errr... I would personally think of English as very plain, unmusical, yet varied in vowel sounds. Others may disagree, and of course, a language sounds different when spoken by different people or in different places. Hope that helps Storeye 06:14, 10 May 2007 (UTC)
Now I think I’m developing an inferiority complex :-) S.dedalus 07:02, 10 May 2007 (UTC)

This question probably needs a non-native English speaker to answer it, but I'd say somewhere between German and French (our two major language influences).Cyta 07:35, 10 May 2007 (UTC)

One thing English has that a lot of languages don't is the two different "th" sounds. --Anon, May 10, 08:13 (UTC).
I think the most obvious sound in English that identifies it as "English" for someone that does not speak English is the "r". The English r is very particular among European languages, I can't think of any other European language that has that sound. On the coneither roll it like the Spanish or Russian "r", or gutturalise it like the French or the German "r". There may be other languages in the World that have that soft r like in English, but I have not heard of them. Now Lambiam or some other Ref desk guru is shoot down my theory :-) Lgriot 08:29, 10 May 2007 (UTC)
FWIW, a common imitation of native English (esp. US) speakers by foreigners is to insert a lot of rolled Rs (even when not speaking English). I guess that also mimics the way that American L2 learners sound when trying to speak a foreign language. Well, I know at least one :-). Duja
The sound you linked to (also known as alveolar trill, IPA /r/) does not occur in English – except Scottish English. You probably mean the alveolar approximant, IPA /ɹ/, which occurs in rhotic accents of English. It is not rolled but produced by a steady airflow.  --LambiamTalk 14:03, 10 May 2007 (UTC)
Besides the consonant clusters that do not occur in some other languages, and the unusual consonants of English (consontal 'r' and the voiced and unvoiced 'th'), English is unusual in the prevalence of schwas. Most unstressed syllables have this vowel. Only stressed syllables have strong vowels. To speakers of other languages, English may sound like a series of staccato syllables with strange consonants and schwas, punctuated by long stressed vowels. Even the stressed vowels tend to at least start as central or open vowels, though many of them are diphthongs that end in close vowels. English has fewer strong close vowels [i] and [u] than most other languages. So English probably sounds rather consonantal and mid-mouth to speakers of other languages. Marco polo 14:41, 10 May 2007 (UTC)
Northumbrian English has a strong Germanic "r" sound, quite unlike the Scottish "r" which is more of a trill. --Tony Sidaway 17:04, 10 May 2007 (UTC)
To the original questioner: I'm a native speaker of both Spanish and Catalan and, since a very very young age, I've always recognized English by a perceived omnipresence of "r"s. The great difference between English r and the Spanish and Catalan ones was probably responsible in part for this. When I was about three years old and I saw someone speaking English on TV, I was like "hey, this guy only says something like wrourrarruour". --Taraborn 13:30, 11 May 2007 (UTC)
I wonder whether that's partly because of the reduction of unstressed vowels, as Marco noted above, to what can pass for a nonrhotic /r/ (if that's not an oxymoron). Without that, I imagine that the large repertoire of vowels would stand out. —Tamfang 21:54, 12 May 2007 (UTC)

in too deep[edit]

im just curious to know what "in too deep" means in the song that has the line "coz im in too deep, and im trying to keep up above in my head..."

The phrase "in too deep" means that you've gotten into a situation that you can't handle and things are overwhelming you. The lyrics, as you posted them, don't really make any sense. "I'm trying to keep up above in my head" just doesn't make grammatical sense. Dismas|(talk) 13:12, 10 May 2007 (UTC)
"In too deep" implies that one is in water over one's head, and presumably can't swim. I read "Trying to keep up above" in the sense of trying to keep one's head above the water. Here is further discussion of this very lyric (albeit with a not-too-friendly tone). See also idiom --LarryMac 13:19, 10 May 2007 (UTC)

thank you.. you have been very helpful. Carlrichard 19:13, 14 May 2007 (UTC) 06:12, 13 May 2007 (UTC)

Translate "Be all that you can be" into German[edit]

The US Army used to have a slogan: "Be all the you can be". How would you translate this into german-- it's a very nonstandard use of "be" and the tenses are insane? Now that I think about it, I'm suprised I can even understand "Be all that you can be" in English, although that's my native language.

Bonus points if we can find a translation that was "official", i.e. used by the US Army. --Alecmconroy 16:30, 10 May 2007 (UTC)

Personally, I find nothing non-standard about it.
  • Be all that you can be.
  • Eat all that you can eat.
  • Go everywhere that you can go.
These are all fine, IMHO. --Kjoonlee 17:14, 10 May 2007 (UTC)
"Sei alles was Du sein kannst."
The first 'be' is imperative mood — it's a command — while the second is infinitive as it's the object of 'can'. As a slogan, and a rather poor one at that, it should, perhaps, read „Seien Sie alles, daß Sie sein können“, but I'm not entirely sure about it. — Gareth Hughes 16:31, 11 May 2007 (UTC)
Sorry, but I like the anon's version better. First, I think "du" is better in this context (it's supposed to reach you on a personal level). Second, "daß" is wrong, it has to be "das" (it's a relative clause). And finally, I'd never use "alles, das" but "alles, was" (this is purely my gut feeling, but I think it's because no actual object is given). </nitpick> --Dapeteばか 19:34, 11 May 2007 (UTC)
Yep, "alles" always takes "was" as a relative pronoun. "Alles das" or "alles dass" is incorrect. -Elmer Clark 01:01, 12 May 2007 (UTC)
"Be quiet!" "Be careful!" More examples of "be" as a command, as Kjoonlee said. The slogan might be more clear if "become" were used: "Become all that you can become", i. e., "Become as good as you can possibly become". "Be" is shorter and catchier. Does that help any with the English version? Unimaginative Username 04:18, 15 May 2007 (UTC)

Translating "pickles" into french[edit]

I've looked in dictionaries and asked french canadians how to say "pickles" in french. (I was wondering because i work at a Subway in New Hampshire and get customers who speak french.) Despite my research attemps I can't find a sound answer to my question. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 17:00, 10 May 2007 (UTC).

I think the word you are looking for is cornichon. "Pickles" would be "des cornichons". - Eron Talk 17:04, 10 May 2007 (UTC)

I wonder if that translation was used for Stu Pickles, Didi Pickles, Dil Pickles, Angelica Pickles, and Tommy Pickles in Rugrats in Paris: The Movie. StuRat 03:00, 11 May 2007 (UTC)

I am not familiar with the New Hampshire use of the term pickle. For pickle in the sense of "(pickled) gherkin", cornichon is right. If pickle is used for "(pickle) relish" (typically chopped, not necessarily (only) gherkins), then it appears the French for this is also relish, as in: Avec de la relish?[1].  --LambiamTalk 09:41, 11 May 2007 (UTC)
Never heard of relish in France. My dictionnary gives the French word achards (alaways plural) for relish. My French dictionnary gives pickles as a synonym for achards. 16:29, 11 May 2007 (UTC)
This may be Canadian French. Achards appears to be more like Indian pickle (also known as achar). No cucumbers but other vegetables like for example beans, carrots, cauliflower, and cabbage, and typically containing turmeric. Indonesian acar is similar, but seems to contain no oil.  --LambiamTalk
You are right. The Grand dictionnaire terminologique [2], from the Office Québecois de la langue française translates "relish" by relish and adds a note: ((Le nom de ce)) condiment américain est intraduisible en français d'autant plus que le mot lui-même veut dire goût, saveur, soupçon, amuse-gueule, condiment ou assaisonnement
Ce condiment nord-américain sucré est bien éloigné des achards dont certains ont songé à lui donner le nom. 06:47, 14 May 2007 (UTC)


Can anyone impart some wisdom? Is Znüni Masc. or neut.? It's a type of snack if that helps. MHDIV ɪŋglɪʃnɜː(r)d(Suggestion?|wanna chat?) 20:01, 10 May 2007 (UTC)

According to Duden Deutsches Universalwörterbuch it can be either masculine or neuter. (My nonnative intuition favors the neuter, though, because it's a diminutive.) It's discussed at de:Zwischenmahlzeit#Vesper, Znüni und Zvieri, but only occurs either without overt case/gender marking or in the dative, so you can't tell which those authors prefer. —Angr 20:18, 10 May 2007 (UTC)
Our article Helvetism also has "der/das Znüni".  --LambiamTalk 09:50, 11 May 2007 (UTC)
Masculine and neuter are both acceptable in Swiss German dialects and in Standard German (as a borrowed helvetism - see the article Lambiam linked to). There are regional preferences, but there is also the phenomenon of flexible license, perhaps more so in spoken dialects with few standardized and codified norms. As a native speaker, my usage is inconsistent, and I believe I use both grammatical genders for all the names of meals beginning with the letter 'Z':
es or en Zmorge (breakfast, from zum Morge, to/with morning)
es or en Znüni (morning snack (or second breakfast?), from zum Nüni, to/with nine o'clock (am Nüni means at nine o'clock. The noun nine is Nüni (neuter), not an unflexed Nün/Neun (f) like in Standard German. I don't think 'Znüni' is a diminutive.)
es or en Zmittag (lunch, from zum Mittag, to/with noon)
es or en Zvieri (afternoon snack, from zum Vieri, to/with four o'clock. vier/Vieri same numerical substantivation as with 'nün/Nüni')
es or en Zabig (dinner/supper in some dialects, from zum Abig, to/with evening)
es or en Znacht (dinner/supper in other dialects, from zu de Nacht, to/with night).
For a text written in Standard German, I'd probably choose the masculine version. To my ears, it would give the word more of a Helvetic feel in a German Umfeld. ---Sluzzelin talk 11:51, 14 May 2007 (UTC)