Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Language/2007 May 18

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May 18[edit]

Twelfth Night[edit]

Hello. In Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, Sebastian claimed that he was called Roderigo. Roderigo in Twelfth Night has nothing to do with the other Roderigo in Othello. Why was Sebastian called Roderigo? Thanks. --Mayfare 01:20, 18 May 2007 (UTC)

Shakespeare routinely reused names from play to play. There's also multiple Portias, Antonios and indeed Sebastians. Sometimes he'd have to give a character a certain name- even if he'd used it before - because they were a historical figure or from an existing story. A lot of the time though, I think he was too busy coming up with new plays to invent super-original character names, too. 10:01, 23 May 2007 (UTC)

'Prince' as 'ruler' in the 19th century[edit]

Someone on Slashdot asked about a 'Prince James Version' of the Bible that his family owned. Judging from the usage of the word in the Preface to the KJV and the article on Prince, 'Prince' was an acceptable generic term for sovereign when the KJV was written, and James could accurately be called a 'Prince' at the time. The question, relating to the /. comment, is: in the 1880s, when the 'Prince James Bible' appears to date from, did 'Prince' still have this meaning? --superioridad (discusión) 08:59, 18 May 2007 (UTC)

According to the OED, the 1885 Britannica gave "The emperor of Russia, the queen of England, and the king of the Belgians are equally princes or monarchs, and the consorts of emperors or kings are princesses". No idea how widespread the usage was at the time. Algebraist 12:25, 18 May 2007 (UTC)
Reasonably common, and reasonably official. Even today, the Great Seal of the Realm of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland characterizes the current queen as "Elizabeth II D[ei] G[ratia] Britt. [=Britanniarum] Regnorumque Suorum Ceter[orum] Regina Consortionis Populorum Princeps F[idei] D[efensor]". So she's still a prince in 2007, though of the Commonwealth, and though the "official" translation translates "princeps" as "head". Many of the announcements of the British monarchs' style see here characterize them as most excellent prince, most high and mighty Princess, etc. - Nunh-huh 12:35, 18 May 2007 (UTC)
The US Constitution of 1787 uses the phrase any King, Prince, or foreign State, suggesting that the generic usage was beginning to fade. —Tamfang 05:20, 19 May 2007 (UTC)

apostrophe or not apostrophe... that is the question[edit]

Whether, tis nobler in the mind etc etc

Ok. if you were to use the sentence "jim had 20 years' experience" is the apostrophe in the right place - or is it needed at all?


Spiggy 14:54, 18 May 2007 (UTC)

Yes it is. Please see [1], [2]. Best regards, Dr_Dima the creators of Two Weeks Notice found out thanks to Lynne Truss ;) — Matt Eason (Talk &#149; Contribs) 16:31, 18 May 2007 (UTC)
See also a related question & answer seen on this reference desk back in February. Wareh 18:48, 18 May 2007 (UTC)

thanks to all three of you. But especially Dr Dima for throwing in the bonus 'who' or 'whom' answer! spiggy 19:19, 18 May 2007 (UTC)

Eco-terrorism confusion[edit]

My dad keeps using the word eco-terrorist to mean someone who commits heinous acts against the environment. I keep telling him that word doesn't mean what he thinks it means (it really means someone who commits terrorism in the name of the environment), but he just shrugs it off and says "Well, what word should I use instead?". Is there a nice short word he can use? 17:05, 18 May 2007 (UTC)

un-ecological? gas-guzzler seems to be a favourite but obviously that refers more to car-owners than as a general statement of ones lifestyle. I have heard of the "throw away generation", i.e. that we live in a generation whereby people just throw things away and replace them rather than think about getting them repaired/using them more 'ecologically'. ny156uk 17:22, 18 May 2007 (UTC)
"polluter". - Nunh-huh 18:57, 18 May 2007 (UTC)

Interesting question. I'm not sure there is a term for intentionally destroying the environment, such as the Romans sowing salt into the soil of Carthage to destroy their ability to grow crops. The short-term destruction of the environment is common in warfare as the "scorched earth" defense, but the environment can recover from this in a few years, versus the salt which well may permanently damage the environment. The retreating Iraqis setting fire to the Kuwaiti oil wells might be another example of temporary "scorched earth" damage. StuRat 00:53, 19 May 2007 (UTC)

Also, the British colonists' removal of enormous areas of native vegetation in Australia has had a permanent and massive effect on our environment. JackofOz 01:39, 19 May 2007 (UTC)
Was that done to intentionally damage the environment ? StuRat 04:59, 19 May 2007 (UTC)
I'd have to say, yes. They thought all those trees were an obstacle to their agricultural objectives, so they just cut them down, in the millions. No matter what their primary purpose was, they could not possibly have believed that such a massive desecration was in their own best interests in the long run. So yes, they did it with the intention of removing the native environment and replacing it with their British conception of what the environment should be, without any thought as to whether such an approach would work. JackofOz 07:54, 20 May 2007 (UTC)
So what you mean is: "No, it was done to improve the environment." --Anonymous, May 20'07, 17:54 (UTC).
Yea, it sounds like they either didn't know or care about the long term damage to the environment, but were acting in their own short-term interests, which is quite distinct from intentionally destroying the environment. StuRat 22:49, 20 May 2007 (UTC)
  • Laying-waster?hotclaws 08:18, 19 May 2007 (UTC)

Polluter just doesn't have the same pizzaz as "eco-terrorist"; there really should be a catchy word for what your father means. I suggest that you suggest, enviro-bandit. -- Azi Like a Fox 04:22, 19 May 2007 (UTC)

Or dumping desperados? ---Sluzzelin talk 06:24, 19 May 2007 (UTC)
Planet pillagers? -- Azi Like a Fox 04:53, 20 May 2007 (UTC)

Captain Planet apparently fought eco-villains. Such a great show, teaching Kids that pollution wasn't a by-product of, for example, the electricity powering the TV they were watching, but was in fact caused by evil mutants! Cyta 16:05, 23 May 2007 (UTC)

Old Norse dialects--Old Swedish vs Old Danish[edit]

I'm working on a novel that is slightly based off of "Beowulf." My question is: would Beowulf, who was from what is now Sweden, be able to speak without a problem to Hrothgar, a Dane? I know nowadays that very often a Swede will speak in Swedish to a Dane and a Dane will understand and be able to respond in Danish, but I'm unsure if there was any actual difference in languages then, or if there were two seperate dialects.

Thanks for all help.


Yes, they would all have spoken essentially the same language, now called Proto-Norse. Even today the Scandinavian languages are to a large degree mutually intelligible – although Danes find it considerably easier to understand Swedes than the other way around. (According to our article on Scandinavian languages, Danes understand approximately 45% of spoken Swedish, but the Swedes can only grasp about 25% of what the Danes are saying.) In the 6th century, these languages had not yet differentiated.  --LambiamTalk 18:57, 18 May 2007 (UTC)
Gordon's Introduction to Old Norse, says (p.320) "Until about 1000 East and West Norse did not differ greatly". A fortiori, Old Swedish, Old Danish, and Old Gutnish, which were all East Norse, cannot have been much different. --ColinFine 19:43, 21 May 2007 (UTC)

spelling the word palatte[edit]

How do I correctly spell the word palatte, referring to one's sense of taste?

Palate. --LarryMac | Talk 19:13, 18 May 2007 (UTC)
Although it occurs to me that's not quite what you mean. Can you elaborate? --LarryMac | Talk 19:14, 18 May 2007 (UTC)
The OED gives this word a secondary meaning of "Popularly considered as the seat of taste; hence transf. the sense of taste", which is not included in the Wikipedia article. Interesting that it should have acquired this meaning, since we do not taste with our palate.--Shantavira|feed me 19:49, 18 May 2007 (UTC)
According to our article Taste, receptor cells for taste in humans are also found along the soft palate.  --LambiamTalk 20:41, 18 May 2007 (UTC)
Interesting. Soft palate article doesn't ack this.--Shantavira|feed me 09:52, 19 May 2007 (UTC)