Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Language/2008 December 3

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Language desk
< December 2 << Nov | December | Jan >> December 4 >
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 3[edit]

"You betcha"[edit]

What's the etymology of this colloquialism? I can infer that "you bet" implies something like "You could bet on [whatever I claimed] and win!", but where does the "cha" come from? (talk) 03:06, 3 December 2008 (UTC)

It's a pronunciation spelling of another "you," as in "You can bet your ("betcha") bottom dollar …" Deor (talk) 03:13, 3 December 2008 (UTC)
It's a form of regressive assimilation called palatalization. When you take an alveolar stop, like t or d, and follow it with a y sound, the t or d sound becomes a ch or j sound. So, "You bet you" becomes "you betcha". Wrad (talk) 03:15, 3 December 2008 (UTC)
An example: In Annie Hall the Woody Allen character takes it as an insult that people pronounce "Did you … ?" as "Did Jew … ?" Deor (talk) 03:22, 3 December 2008 (UTC)
See Relaxed pronunciation. -- Wavelength (talk) 04:13, 3 December 2008 (UTC)
You didn't bring your wallet witchadidja? (talk) 19:46, 3 December 2008 (UTC)
I forgot to remember it. DOR (HK) (talk) 07:08, 4 December 2008 (UTC)
I don't have a cite for this, but being of Scandinavian descent in teh Northwest I know that "ya, sure, you bet, ya" is a Swede-ism, part of many many old jokes, and joke-mimicry of Swedish/Norwegian accents dating to the 19th Century; the usages "hey!" (from hei) and "yeah" (from ja) and "Yeah, well..." (from ja, vel) I believe have been shown by someone, somewhere, to have their origins in adaptations of common Scandinavian idioms into English; "You betcha" and its longer version "Yeah, sure, you betcha" are of this kind, and are send-ups of Scandinavian speech mannerisms, of the same tenor and style as "My name is Jon Jonson, I come from Visconsin, I work in the lumbermills there..." etc.Skookum1 (talk) 23:53, 5 December 2008 (UTC)

"Woman" as adjective[edit]

I see this sort of usage all the time, particularly (for some reason), it seems, when the writer/speaker wants to be politically correct. Take a line such as, for example, "So-and-so is the first woman author to ...[whatever]" or "Jill A. was the first woman president of Country B," etc. Why would you not use "female" for "woman"? Why is "woman" used as an adjective?

You would never say it the other way around - for example, something along the lines of "John A. was the first man synchronized swimmer in the Olympics" would never be used; (if such synchronized swimming was always all-female) you would say "John A. was the first male synchronized swimmer." And it's not just that women are traditionally the "minority" (that is, discriminated/disadvantaged) group. You wouldn't say "So-and-so was the first Jew baseball player" (it'd be "Jewish"). It's trickier with other terms, sometimes - "African American," for example is both a noun and and adjective - but still, the same noun/adjective distinction can be shown, just in opposite, as you would use "black" as an adjective ("Jackie Robinson was the first black player in the MLB") and never "a black," the noun (Robinson was the first player in the MLB who was a black"). So what's up?

[As an aside, the reason why "he's a black," sounds so wrong is because it defines a man by one simple unalterable characteristic and lowers his definition beneath any personal accomplishment or sense of self. Objectification, essentially. So why use "woman" as adjective, instead of "female"? It seems the latter says that such a person is many things, one of them her gender, while the former says that she is precisely one thing, her gender above all. If it is being used by those trying to be politically correct - well, it doesn't seem like they're succeeding.] zafiroblue05 | Talk 06:52, 3 December 2008 (UTC)

Not true, man is sometimes used as an adjective when describing something usually reserved for women, just as woman is used as an adjective. Oddly enough, though, "black" used to be the politically correct term replacing "colored". If the words change before society changes, the words pejorate. Wrad (talk) 07:09, 3 December 2008 (UTC)
This is just a conjecture, but it may be partly under the influence of French. There are a number of cases of French words which are morphologically masculine (médecin "doctor", auteur "author"), but which must sometimes be used to refer to women, for lack of an acceptable feminine form. These were not normally used, until recent times, with feminine articles. So people would (and still do, as one choice) say une femme médecin "a woman doctor", une femme auteur "a woman author." (The last one sounds particularly funny to me in English.) It would be ridiculous to say "un médecin femelle", since it would sound like you were talking about a female animal.
Could it be that we borrowed this practice from them? (talk) 07:17, 3 December 2008 (UTC)
Strangely, they would say "un médecin homme", with a different word order from "une femme médecin." Maybe this is so they can use the feminine article une. (talk) 07:20, 3 December 2008 (UTC)

There are cases where both man and woman can be used in quasi-compounds: "He's one of of my man friends." / "She's one of my woman friends." etc. In earlier centuries, a gynecologist was commonly called a "man-midwife", and there was also "manservant" vs. "maidservant". I think Jespersen has discussion of this in his big multivolume grammar of English... AnonMoos (talk) 07:31, 3 December 2008 (UTC)

It's a very complex thing, with all sorts of tentacles. Take actor and actress. At one time, these were both perfectly acceptable words. Now, actress has become less acceptable for some odd reason, and every female thespian from Sarah Bernhardt to Nicole Kidman is supposed to be referred to as an actor. But that doesn't stop the Academy from having an Academy Award for Best Actress (not, note, for Best Woman Actor or Best Female Actor). -- JackofOz (talk) 08:41, 3 December 2008 (UTC)

The term woman author makes me wonder how many women the author has written. Did they start out as slim volumes and then gradually put on a lot of pages after marriage - as is so often the case? If the tomes get too weighty, will they try to get an abridgement done so they can fit into their wedding dress again? More importantly, can the author write one up (to spec) on demand? Matt Deres (talk) 21:38, 3 December 2008 (UTC)

Very funny. I think the answer, at least as far as the spoken language goes, is that woman would be stressed if woman author meant (the absurd) "a person who writes women", while author is stressed when woman author means "an author who is a woman." (talk) 23:41, 3 December 2008 (UTC)

Dutch names[edit]

How to pronounce(IPA) the Dutch mathematicians Jan Arnoldus Schouten&Albert Nijenhuis(in Schouten-Nijenhuis bracket)?--刻意 12:52, 3 December 2008 (UTC)

[ˈsχʌutən], [ˈnɛiənhœys] — Emil J. 13:44, 3 December 2008 (UTC)
Thanks, great! I have not heard the correct pronounciation before.--刻意 14:17, 3 December 2008 (UTC)
You still haven't heard it. ;-) --Matt's talk 16:07, 4 December 2008 (UTC)
Maybe s/he carefully pronounced the IPA EmilJ provided, practised it a few times, and listened to him/herself saying it. Perhaps recording it and playing it back to avoid the difference in hearing your own voice from inside your head (hmm, is there a term for that?) - IMSoP (talk) 21:36, 6 December 2008 (UTC)