Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Language/2008 February 25

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February 25[edit]

Three nuns[edit]

Joseph A Spadaro might appreciate this. I'm writing about the adventures of a group of three nuns, whose names are Sister Mary Benedicta, Sister Mary Perpetua, and Sister Mary Vaticana. When I introduce them, I want to spell out their full names, but in later references this seems arduous and unnecessary. In most cases I will refer to them simply as Benedicta, Perpetua and Vaticana. But where I'm referring to all three of them and the context demands their titles be included, such as a police report of their allegedly nefarious doings ("Sisters Mary Benedicta, Perpetua and Vaticana were observed lurking lustfully in the vicinity of Michelangelo's David"), I have a problem.

It's ok to use the plural title "Sisters". But "Sisters Mary ... " seems to jar. And "Mary" is actually part of their clerical name, not part of their title; moreover it belongs just as much to Perpetua and Vaticana as it does to Benedicta. A part of me is saying "pluralise the Mary, Jack", which would produce either "Sisters Marys Benedicta, Perpetua and Vaticana", or "Sisters Maries Benedicta, Perpetua and Vaticana". Two problems: (a) both of them look odd and wrong, even more so than "Sisters Mary ..."; (b) "Maries" is also the plural of "Marie", and I don't want to convey the impression that any one of their names contains "Marie".

A kind of analogy is when we pluralise "King Edward" in order to refer to "the eight King Edwards". But I've also seen "Kings Edward", and indeed "kings Edward", but never "Kings/kings Edwards". This analogy doesn't quite work because: (a) there's only one name in "Edward", compared with two names in "Mary Benedicta", etc; and (b) that is collecting various kings all named Edward, whereas I'm collecting various nuns with the same first name, Mary, but different primary names. Thinking about it a bit more, we do talk of "the 2 John Pauls" (popes), and that doesn't seem to confuse anyone, but if there were ever a Pope John Leo, and we were talking about him and Pope John Paul II, would we say "Popes John Leo and Paul", or "Popes John Leo and John Paul"? I think the latter, because the "John" in those cases has as much "status" as the "Leo/Paul", whereas the "Mary" in nuns' names is extremely common and they're often referred to as just "Sister Benedicta", etc. The context I've described above, however, requires the "Mary" to be included.

So I seem to have to choose between various evils. My intuition tells me to go for the sentence I first wrote without thinking too much about it: "Sisters Mary Benedicta, Perpetua and Vaticana were observed lurking lustfully ...". If I do this, I'd be assuming that readers would know the "Mary" applies to all of them, and not just to the first-mentioned. I think this would be a fair assumption, particularly as this sentence will appear nowhere near the start of the piece, and readers will already know who's who. I think that in the course of writing this question out, I've arrived at the best solution (this often happens with me), and so maybe I should take my recent advice to Noetica and trust my intuition. But since I've gone to the trouble of writing it out anyway, does anyone have any suggestions or recommendations? (PS. I have considered "Sisters Mary Benedicta, Mary Perpetua and Mary Vaticana were observed ...", but for reasons I can't quite explain, I don't want to go that way.) -- JackofOz (talk) 02:12, 25 February 2008 (UTC)

Alas, your last rejected idea is the only one I'd dare use. —Tamfang (talk) 02:21, 25 February 2008 (UTC)
I see nothing wrong with "Sisters Mary". It's like "Brothers Grimm". In the police report situation, I am tempted to write, "The Sisters Mary–Benedicta, Perpetua, and Vaticana–were observed..." Also, this story sounds awesome. HYENASTE 02:31, 25 February 2008 (UTC)
This is a lovely situation to consider, and you are right to only want one Mary: it sounds so much more amusing and delightful. Now, looking first at Edward, I would say "the three King Edwards were involved in local wars" (using the title as part of a name, as we'd say "the two John Pauls") when I was considering them as individuals (who shared common characteristics) but "Politics were complicated in the time of the kings Edward" when I was looking at them more collectively. But looking at them collectively and individually at the same time (ie considering their characteristics as a group, but also wanting to identify the individuals within the group), I would say "the Kings Edward -Longshanks and Caernarfon- were plagued by the Scots." So, that arrives at the same answer as Hyenaste. Gwinva (talk) 02:56, 25 February 2008 (UTC)
I can understand you not wanting to write out the whole thing, but your options generally don't sound good (Marys/Maries doesn't sit right at all). I like Hyenaste's suggestion, using a dash to expand on the Sister's Mary, but to avoid confusion, I'd have another character use each of their full names at some stage (possibly while telling them off - "Sister Mary Perpetua, what on earth are you doing?!"). I also think of it as a really interesting linguistic situation, and a good plot hook for a story (my guess is a murder-mystery of some kind). Steewi (talk) 03:56, 25 February 2008 (UTC)
While having Mary in front of all three would be accurate (as it's their name) I think the best alternative is one that you actually used without even realizing it: " belongs just as much to Perpetua and Vaticana as it does to Benedicta." That's right, take out Sister and Mary. — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 04:55, 25 February 2008 (UTC)
If you don't like the parenthetical suggestion, then go with your first instinct; it reads nicely, and is far more charming for the context than adding extra Marys or dropping them entirely. Talking of which, if you do want to refer to them in the plural then "the Sister Marys" is good; don't get clever with "Maries", unless you have a character who wants to appear clever, and thus pontificates on the grammar. In fact, you could have a riot finding different ways to refer to them collectively; a little linguistic adventure for them along the way! Thanks for sharing your dilemma, Jack. The three sisters Mary have already taken lodgings in my head; I look forward to meeting them properly. Gwinva (talk) 05:17, 25 February 2008 (UTC)
If there's not another group in lustful competition lurking with them would just "the nuns" do – or is it necessary to sort out for the film poster? Julia Rossi (talk) 05:48, 25 February 2008 (UTC)
Wow! Am I too late for this year's Oscars? Hmm .. perhaps. Maybe I'd better finish writing the damn thing first. Yeees, that seems best. To Hyenaste - the "Brothers Grimm" analogy doesn't work for me as such, because "Grimm" is the end of their name, whereas "Sister Mary" is missing the main name by which they're known. But it's not far off; a better analogy would be between "These books were written by the brothers Grimm - Jakob and Wilhelm" and "Over there ogling David are the Sisters Mary - Benedicta, Perpetua and Vaticana". Which is pretty much what Gwinva was driving at. To Steewi, thanks for confirming that Marys/Maries doesn't sound right, and it wasn't just me. To Julia Rossi, the plot requires a police report to be quoted, in which their names are mentioned. "The nuns" will be used at some points, but in this situation and in this sentence I need to refer to them by name. To Tamfang - can you explain your reticence to use any but the version I rejected? To Aeusoes1, your suggestion seems to avoid the issue - nothing wrong with that, I do it all the time - but in this case I need to grapple with it. A police report, particularly in Italy, would not refer to a nun as simply "Benedicta", but by her full title. Have I forgotten anyone? Special mention here of Gwinva, who hit the nail on the head about why I don't like "Sisters Mary Benedicta, Mary Perpetua and Mary Vaticana" - it doesn't have the charm of "Sisters Mary Benedicta, Perpetua and Vaticana", and if a story doesn't have charm, what does it have? That pretty much settles it as far as I'm concerned, so thanks to everyone for your excellent suggestions. (I wonder if Tolstoy agonised over every sentence like this). -- JackofOz (talk) 07:03, 25 February 2008 (UTC)
I'm glad we could be of help, Jack. While I can understand you can't afford to agonise over every sentence if you ever want to finish the thing, from my perspective I would be pleased if you did: then we can enjoy more insights into the lives of the Sisters Mary! Gwinva (talk) 07:45, 25 February 2008 (UTC)
I have to say I'm amazed at the level of lively interest this question has elicited. The only thing you lovely people know about these lubricious nuns is that they're somewhat excited by David - to which one might ejaculate "And?". But having let the cat out of the bag about this particular literary project of mine (there are others ... oh God, don't remind me of all the unfinished masterpieces in my computer and my head!), I know I have to finish it now. Stay tuned for progress reports. My only question is, how on Earth can I be a committed Wiki-addict while writing this .. this .. whatever it is? But if Clio can do it, that shows it can be done. -- JackofOz (talk) 08:10, 25 February 2008 (UTC)
It comes to us all: the realisation that our life's ambitions and dreams are just stumbling blocks in the path of our Wikipedia commitment. Hence you have offered it here, so that it might gain some validity. Now that it has been Noticed, it is no longer the thief of your Wikipedia time, but the life blood of our discussions. It has worth! Gwinva (talk) 08:25, 25 February 2008 (UTC)
What else is there but wikipedia? Publication, international distribution, miniseries and film rights, is what. Go Jackoz! Julia Rossi (talk) 09:15, 25 February 2008 (UTC)
Let me point out that respected historians of the archaic Oz Lit today unanimously agree that the "Bard from Down Under" was in reality the obscure Australian actor Willy Shakesbeer, whose Perpetual and lustful lurking in the Vatican, accompanied by vile and expletive Maledictions - only recently deciphered in the fossil records of the cryptic scrolls of the WP:RD - remains the sole ducumented proof of his seminal existence. Good luck, JoO. --Cookatoo.ergo.ZooM (talk) 11:15, 25 February 2008 (UTC)
(Smirk). Thanks, C.e.Z. (What happens when you take off Shakesbeer's mask? You find Edward de Beer, naturally.  :) -- JackofOz (talk) 21:23, 25 February 2008 (UTC)

All fun and games, till someone loses an eye.[edit]

This phrase, or variants, goes back to C19. See thread at User talk:Newbyguesses#All fun and games. But I still think it traces back to the gladitorial schools of the Romans, maybe. Can you help? Newbyguesses (talk · contribs) 11:50, 25 February 2008 (UTC)

It's been ascribed to the rules of wrestling during the Roman period, as the oft-quoted rule of "anything but eye-gouging" was said to have existed. Whether it was in use at the period or was attached to it later by modern comedians or writers is unknown (at least to me as it doesn't appear in the Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable). Nanonic (talk) 12:17, 25 February 2008 (UTC)
I believe it's just a pessimistic extension of the phrase "all fun and games", meaning "exciting goings-on" (and frequently used ironically). The Penguin Dict. Cliches dates "fun and games" to early 20th C, as does the OED. Interestingly, during WWII it was forces slang for "any brush with the enemy at sea". The gladiatorial link is just wishful thinking. Gwinva (talk) 01:07, 26 February 2008 (UTC)
Thanks, users Nanonic, and Gwinva! Can anyone supply links to the WP:ARTICLES which discuss gladitorial training schools of the Roman era? I thought that's where i got this idea from, but i could be mistaken, and can't recall now which article I was looking at. Thanks again. Newbyguesses - Talk 01:28, 26 February 2008 (UTC)
Maybe in the article on Pankration. It seems to be mentioned in On Gymnastics by Philostratus too, who added that the Spartans even eliminated the sissy "no-eye-gouging" rules. ---Sluzzelin talk 02:32, 26 February 2008 (UTC)
Thankyou user:Sluzzelin, Pankration has In fact, there were only two rules: contestants were not allowed to gouge eyes or to bite.[citation needed]. And, from Greek wrestling (redirects from Ancient Greek wrestling) - Rules - No gouging the eyes or biting is permitted, since even the Pankration does not allow these. Now, does any learned editor have further information about an article, or talkpage, which discusses in particular the training schools for gladiators? Thanks, Newbyguesses - Talk 04:15, 26 February 2008 (UTC)
We have an article on the Ludus Magnus, the main gladiator training school in Rome. Adam Bishop (talk) 04:49, 26 February 2008 (UTC)
Thankyou, Adam Bishop, I will look at that article. I suspect I may be on the wrong track here, or flogging a dead horse. The other possibility is that i came across this discussion on a talk page somewhere, so it could be anywhere, I vaguly recall a discussion of the ins and outs of gladiator schools,. and how the teams of gladiators were, I think, Red, Green and Blue. but, I have to get back to other stuff. I will still check back for any late comments, but I must thank everyone who has helped so far. Newbyguesses - Talk 00:53, 27 February 2008 (UTC)
Yeah, I don't think this has anything to do with ancient sports, it seems unlikely that they would describe something as "just a game" like that. And the reds, greens, and blues were factions in chariot racing, the soccer of the ancient world! Adam Bishop 03:47, 27 February 2008 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk)

Better phrasing for "assuming no..."[edit]

A colleague has asked me if there's a better way to say "assuming no interference..." or "in absence of interference...". She was thinking of writing "foregoing any interference" but "foregoing" isn't the right word. I can't help thinking there's a single word similar to "foregoing" or "notwithstanding" that fits in this context but I can't put my finger on it. Any ideas? — PhilHibbs | talk 14:24, 25 February 2008 (UTC)

I suppose you could try "Absent any interference..." Marco polo (talk) 14:51, 25 February 2008 (UTC)
Pedants with computer science backgrounds like to say "modulo any interference ...". I'd stick with "assuming no" or "as long as there is no". KISS! --Sean 14:55, 25 February 2008 (UTC)
I see no issue with "Interference notwithstanding, ..." Steewi (talk) 23:12, 25 February 2008 (UTC)
That has a different meaning.  --Lambiam 23:37, 25 February 2008 (UTC)
I'm always unsure whether "notwithstanding X" means "unless X" or "even if X", though I think "X notwithstanding" always means the latter. —Tamfang (talk) 22:06, 28 February 2008 (UTC)
"In the absence of any interference", or, in the right context, maybe "ceteris paribus" (other things being equal). SaundersW (talk) 19:41, 26 February 2008 (UTC)
If you want to be formal/pedantic, you can always say "if one assumes there is no interference..." Grutness...wha? 23:02, 1 March 2008 (UTC)


charges/complaints are brought against a person what is the difference of the 2? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Minmag (talkcontribs) 14:26, 25 February 2008 (UTC)

Complaints can be brought by a citizen and may be without confirming evidence or credibility. Complaints may form a basis for charges, which only law-enforcement authorities can make, and they are supposed to be made only on the basis of credible evidence, possibly including complaints. Marco polo (talk) 14:48, 25 February 2008 (UTC)

Incorrect textbook (again)?[edit]

A vocabulary textook of mine states:

I answered d, but the textbook says the answer is a. I'm 99.999% sure that I'm correct, but I would like some verification from a third party. Thanks. --~~MusicalConnoisseur~~ Got Classical? 19:17, 25 February 2008 (UTC)

I would say you are correct. The only way I can think of to link odometer to alphabet is by using the phrase "has nothing in common with". Which I suppose would also work for Croesus and dog, but that would make b and c just as valid. --LarryMac | Talk 19:23, 25 February 2008 (UTC)
Textbooks always make typos. One of my ways to pass time in class is to look for them. One of my textbooks back in college was so consistantly wrong that our teacher gave us questions asking what the book got wrong and what is the correct information. (talk) 20:02, 25 February 2008 (UTC)(outdent) The analogy is faulty in any event: an odometer is a device for measuring distance traveled, but Croesus is not a device that measures wealth. (OK, in the phrase "as rich as Croesus" he might be taken as a measure of wealth, but a standard of comparison is not the same thing as a measuring device.) The only connection that works for both parts of the analogy is "has something to do with," so the correct answer is "None of the above." Deor (talk) 20:10, 25 February 2008 (UTC)
Agreed. The question was poor in the first place, before the typo. Steewi (talk) 23:13, 25 February 2008 (UTC)
Most or possibly all such questions are imperfect, since analogies can work so any ways (see an earlier section). This one is not bad at all if we take d to be the answer; d joins to each item the most strikingly obvious measurable quantity that is associated with it. In isolation, I could even ask you "What abstract noun is associated with Croesus?" I would expect the answer wealth. And for odometer, distance.
Playful side question: what could conceivably make a right? Well, alphabet has one syllable fewer than odometer, and dog has one syllable fewer than Croesus. And many more quibbles could be adduced: whence the imperfection of such puzzles.
And a playful side-puzzle:
nutation : ________ :: shaking : ________
a. nictitation / nodding b. negation / affirmation c. nubilation / hiding d. nugation / cache
Also imperfect!
– Noetica♬♩Talk 04:27, 26 February 2008 (UTC)
I'm going to have to go with b. as my answer. - Azi Like a Fox (talk) 05:19, 26 February 2008 (UTC)
You could say that an odometer counts miles (or kilometers), and Croesus counts his wealth. Awkward, yes, but a little closer as a valid analogy.--Eriastrum (talk) 18:44, 26 February 2008 (UTC)

Obviously a) is correct because an odometer is a relatively rare creation of man, the alphabet is a commonly seen creation of man, people called Croesus are rare live creatures, and a dog is a commonly occurring creature. (talk) 18:16, 27 February 2008 (UTC)

So rare that one is found in every car? Dforest (talk) 21:50, 27 February 2008 (UTC)

Bonus articles[edit]

Hmm I wanted to lookup bonus....but I got none...

Isn't this a normal term....

Can I give you a bonus?

Or can I have one? Where to get it..not in the wikipedia...or wiki dictionary....

How cooooool is that!

Anyway I will start an artivle tomorrow if noone else does ---- azalin (not logged in) (talk) 21:12, 25 February 2008 (UTC)

It most cetainly is in Wikionary - [1]. --LarryMac | Talk 21:25, 25 February 2008 (UTC)
An article on bonus would be about the concept of why one might recieve a bonus (christmas, commission, etc.) but I'm not sure whether that meets WP criteria for an article. Well, if it doesn't, it'd end up on AfD anyway, so Be Bold. Steewi (talk) 23:15, 25 February 2008 (UTC)
Actually it was created before, but failed AFD unanimously. See Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Bonus. If you disagree with this, you could dispute the decision at Wikipedia:Deletion review. Dforest (talk) 10:14, 27 February 2008 (UTC)