Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Language/2008 January 12

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January 12[edit]


I was looking for a definition for mastery, and noted one was not available.

Lily —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:46, 12 January 2008 (UTC)

Have you tried looking it up in Wiktionary (wikt:mastery) ? --PalaceGuard008 (Talk) 03:49, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
First meaning in OED: "1. The state or condition of being master, controller or ruler; authority, sway, dominion; an instance of this."
But this is more fun:
(Sorry. Carry on.)
– Noetica♬♩Talk 04:10, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
Well, if you insist!
(Really they should be right-justified, but I don't know a way to do that in wikitext and also align with the left-justified triangle above.)
--Anonymous and very silly, 05:15 UTC, January 12, 2008.

Finding a Word[edit]

Give me a word that means a psychological definition of sighting semblance of the happenings ,characters and many other things. Flakture (talk) 08:05, 12 January 2008 (UTC)

"Sighting semblance" might be perception as in the individual's perception of an event, persons or whatever – in connection to their subjective reception and organisation of external data. If not, can you be more specific? Julia Rossi (talk) 08:30, 12 January 2008 (UTC)

Actually a specific perception that cause immediately judgement .for example: you're angry and it can be perceived from your face, then you turn and look at me, then I conclude you hate me so much. Flakture (talk) 07:00, 13 January 2008 (UTC)

You might call that a "snap judgement", which often makes for a "false impression". --Milkbreath (talk) 14:01, 13 January 2008 (UTC)

Help with French pronunciation[edit]

I am familiar with the Merriam-Webster phonetic alphabet and will use to ask my question.

Why is \i\ pronounced like \a\ in the French language?

Why is Chopin pronounced \'shō-pan\, not \'shō-pin\ or \'shō-pən\ ?

In other words, why does the vowel in the 2nd syllable of Chopin have the same phonetic sound as the vowel in the word ass?

Is there some pattern here concerning the letter i? Is i always pronounced \a\ in French?-- (talk) 09:56, 12 January 2008 (UTC)

Be careful, since that "a" is actually a nasal open-mid front unrounded vowel. It is pronounced that way whenever it is followed by an n (barring some special circumstances), a consonant that, in French, usually nasalizes the preceding vowel instead of having a sound by itself. There are rules concerning this matter which can help, however I think it's better to just get a French dictionary with proper IPA transcription and learn them through examples. --Taraborn (talk) 10:05, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
To use your phonetic alphabet: pin=pan, pinne=pin, pinacle=pinakl, pince=pans. This is the pattern for i followed by n or m (all of them are real French words).--K.C. Tang (talk) 11:30, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
The combination /oi/ in French is another case where, loosely speaking, 'i' is pronounced like an 'a'; for example in voir or Lavoisier. Haukur (talk) 16:19, 12 January 2008 (UTC)

As Taraborn implied, Chopin in French is pronounced /ʃɔpɛ̃/ so the vowel is of men, not man (unless you live in New Zealand, in which case, man is accurate). A morphological rule in French leads to feminine/masculine alternations between /in/ and /ɛ̃/ as with dauphine/dauphin, argentine/argentin, brigantine/brigantin, etc. — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 03:51, 13 January 2008 (UTC)

More generally, vowels in French as nasalized when succeeded in script by m or n. Here's the pattern:

Letter combination Pronunciation in IPA Explanation
am, an, em, en [ɑ̃] nasal "a" in "arm"
im, in [ɛ̃] nasal "e" in "men"
om, on [ɔ̃] nasal "o" in "bore"
um, un [œ̃] nasal "u" in "uh"

See also French phonology. — Kpalion(talk) 10:45, 13 January 2008 (UTC)

Nice table, though [œ] is not the vowel of "uh"; it has no English equivalant.— Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 20:12, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
I've always heard French orthographic "im", "in" as the nasalized counterpart of the [æ] vowel in English "cat"; only French orthographic "ien" as in "bien" really sounds to me like the nasalized counterpart of the [ε] vowel... AnonMoos (talk) 14:42, 14 January 2008 (UTC)
AnonMoos, I am french and I promiss you that I pronounce the first vowel in "impossible" exactly the same as the vowel in "bien". You might have heard people from the south, who pronounce "bien" as [biεn] or [biεŋ]. --Lgriot (talk) 16:31, 14 January 2008 (UTC)
I know [œ] doesn't exist in English, but thought "uh" might be fairly good approximation for want of anything better. The whole table is a very much simplified one and only shows the most general rules without all the exceptions that there are, like bien.
One more thing to the OP: in Polish, which was Chopin's native language, his name is normally pronounced ['ʂɔpɛn] ('shō-pen) – even though the nasal vowel [ɛ̃] ("ę") does exist in Polish – and some people in Poland even spell it Szopen (never: Szopę), in line with the rules of Polish ortography. So if you can't pronounce nasal vowels, then 'shō-pen may be the best way for you to pronounce that name. — Kpalion(talk) 22:27, 15 January 2008 (UTC)
To make it even more complicated, Polish "nasal vowels" are not the same as French ones, as Polish phonology describes and Szopę would be something like [ˈʂɔpɛj̃] or even [ˈʂɔpɛ] in casual speech whereas Szopen won't lose the nasal element and the e is likely to be phonetically nasalized by assimilation: [ˈʂɔpɛ̃n]. — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 08:01, 16 January 2008 (UTC)

All right vs. Alright[edit]

I'm a little confused...What's the difference between all right and alright? They seem to mean the same thing. -- (talk) 17:52, 12 January 2008 (UTC)

All right is the only acceptable form in most formal writing, although alright is often seen in informal contexts. However, there is a slight difference in meaning between the two. Alright means "okay", while all right is a combination of the words "all" and "right". Compare the sentences The answers are all right (they are all correct) and The answers are alright (they are acceptable). Many, though not all, speakers (in the US at least) also pronounce alright and all right slightly differently in casual speech. Macnas (talk) 18:13, 12 January 2008 (UTC)


I came upon the word shittle a couple of days ago, which a dictionary says is an English variant of shuttle, and it got me wondering: Are there any other words in the English language that contain the spelling and/or pronunciation of a profanity yet mean something completely harmless? I am especially interested in words that contain fuck. Just curious. Thanks!--El aprendelenguas (talk) 20:20, 12 January 2008 (UTC)

Fukuoka? Or how about Controversies about the word "niggardly"? --Sean 20:53, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
Scunthorpe anyone? DuncanHill (talk) 20:58, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
Titan? Does that count? --Taraborn (talk) 21:04, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
(edit conflict) Niggardly and harassment have profanities in them such that people avoid using the former term and may stress the latter term differently. Uranus has a similar situation though that's technically a naughty part not a naughty word. — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 21:06, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
"Country"? -- JackofOz (talk) 21:16, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
Shakespeare was full of dirty words, all most innocently accepted in classrooms now, or glossed over. Hamlet tried to embarrass Ophelia by talking of "country matters". See Filthy Shakespeareby Pauline Kiernan (2006). —Preceding unsigned comment added by BrainyBabe (talkcontribs) 22:40, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
Clitheroe and Penistone may repay a visit. DuncanHill (talk) 22:41, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
Oh, if we're allowed proper nouns there is no end to it. I vote for Dildo, Newfoundland. BrainyBabe (talk) 22:44, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
Reminds me of that great Henry Purcell opera: Dildo and Any-arse.  :) -- JackofOz (talk) 22:56, 12 January 2008 (UTC)

(resetting indent) For pronunciation: Suffolk. SaundersW (talk) 23:07, 12 January 2008 (UTC)

...and similarly, the name of a pub quiz team at my ex-local: "Norfolk 'n' Chance". DuncanHill mentioned Scunthorpe: see here for some relevant hilarity. And I must mention that while searching the Companies House database for something else a few months ago, I (ahem) came across the company name "Dick Seaman Farms Ltd". Hassocks5489 (talk) 23:45, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
Oh, and in the first year of my Economics degree, our lecturer allowed us all "time out" to have a giggle at the Slutsky Equation. Also, I'm sure I've heard of popular-culture references to the similarity of Balzac and ball-sack. The footballer Danny Shittu has played more than 200 games in England. For spelling, does "mishit" count? Hassocks5489 (talk) 23:55, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
Compared to Norfolk, which - by definition - is the absence of profane procreative activities - Suffolk does sound a bit vulgar. The region mentioned by SaundersW certainly is not known for zero population growth. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Cookatoo.ergo.ZooM (talkcontribs) 23:54, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
Cummingtonite is beloved of geologists. DuncanHill (talk) 03:55, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
I would refuse to buy any products from Smeg on principle. -- JackofOz (talk) 04:29, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
And maybe this guy should change his name. -- JackofOz (talk) 04:32, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
A few more: some people practise Fukyugata; there was a German composer called Johann Fux; and there’s a Japanese ship called the Fukyu Maru (plenty of Google hits). Also, here’s a link to a forum that had a similar interest to what you’re after – [1]. -- JackofOz (talk) 04:41, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
There is a cleaning product which sounds like a popular social disease, which can make asking for it in a shop a touch awkward. DuncanHill (talk) 04:48, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
If you allow wandering off to other languages, then there are some popular German lightbulbs whose brand name means "I will shit on (you)" in Polish. Despite this threat many of those lightbulbs do actually hang at the ceiling in many Polish homes. — Kpalion(talk) 10:52, 13 January 2008 (UTC)

Hello. -- BenRG (talk) 11:04, 13 January 2008 (UTC)

Hello. Another word I have seen fall foul of "de-swearing" software on forums is weightwatching or weightwatchers. Telsa (talk) 12:04, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
A Polish air ace was giving a talk to a girls' school about his battles in the Second World War, and to the girls' delight he kept on saying "zis Fokker", "zat Fokker", "anuzzer of ze Fokkers". So the headmistress jumped in to explain what a Fokker was. But the airman quickly disagreed with her - "Oh, no, madam, all zese Fokkers was Messerschmitts". Xn4 16:22, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
Recently the two candidates for leadership in Japan were Fukuda and Asoo... Steewi (talk) 02:24, 15 January 2008 (UTC)
The BBC runs or ran several websites under the banner of "Sportsextra" -- banned by certain ISPs. Also NB the English counties Essex, Sussex and Middlesex. But again these are all proper names -- not really what the OP requested.
What about that nautical standby, the cuntsplice? Also, the word "cock" in some parts of the English-speaking world means rooster, and in some means penis, and in some means other things, including stopcock. Plenty of room for cross-cultural misunderstandings.
Also, specifically about "fuck" (have you checked the article?), because it is just one syllable, it can be worked into innocuous sentences. Air Babylon by Imogen Edwards-Jones and Anonymous, which purports to be entirely based on real events, begins with an airline steward welcoming passengers onboard and directing them to their seats in the widebody jet: "Near queue, sir. Fuck you, madam." Comedy songwriter Pete Gold achieves the same effect by persuading his audience to sing along to a song with the refrain "Fucking hell" under various guises -- "For King Hal", the "far canal", etc. See [2] but I can't remember the song title.

BrainyBabe (talk) 23:18, 15 January 2008 (UTC)

Titbit seems to so alarm some people that the word tidbit has risen to avoid their blushes. Is suppose that blue tit, great tit, etc would also fall foul of this. Then, for simplicity, I suppose there's ass; the way the euphemism has come to be seen as more potent than the original in some places always amuses me. (talk) 01:28, 16 January 2008 (UTC)

Related to this topic was the unfortunate fact that the Italian power company, Powergen Italia, couldn't put a space in their website url.


Sorry if this sounds strange, but I recently recalled a word (somewhat randomly) that I'm pretty sure I've heard before, but for the life of me can't remember the meaning. My best guess at the spelling is "calique" (Cal-leek - as in the first syllable of California and then leek). It's really bugging me that I can't remember what it means, and Google & dictionary searches aren't helping. I think it has something to do with art (painting?) or music, ... or maybe with ancient Arabia/Persia, although I'm not sure. Any thoughts, or am I possibly just hallucinating words now? -- (talk) 21:53, 12 January 2008 (UTC)

Calligraphy ? --Cookatoo.ergo.ZooM (talk) 21:56, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
How about Céilidh (for music) or Caliph (Arabia)? AndrewWTaylor (talk) 21:57, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
Calque? Caique? Calico? Calcutta? Oh Calcutta, the play of the play on words, a bilingual pun meaning "what a nice arse you have"? (Scrabble anyone?) BrainyBabe (talk) 22:42, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
Oh, mon dieu! You are, perchance, referring to "garlique", the franciphone onionesque rootiferous allium of pungent flavourescence. Indeed, it was used by Arabic painters of California leeks and peas :-)
I apologise to 128.104 for my occasional attacks of infantile oxymoronity. --Cookatoo.ergo.ZooM (talk) 02:09, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
Also Calyx... AnonMoos (talk) 02:24, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
The only thing that comes to mind for me is cowlick. --Falconusp t c 04:32, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
How about Caliche? --jpgordon∇∆∇∆ 18:19, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
Khalique, Kalik, or Kalik?---Sluzzelin talk 18:25, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
clique? —Tamfang (talk) 05:25, 14 January 2008 (UTC)
Another wild guess, Cacique. Pfly (talk) 07:02, 15 January 2008 (UTC)

Thanks All! BrainyBabe got it in one. I'm pretty sure calque was what I was looking for. Thanks. -- (talk) 16:24, 18 January 2008 (UTC)

Surname prefixes[edit]

Do the Romantic de/de ladi/du/, plus the Germanic von and van in front of surnames have a collective term? And 2 - are there any others? And 3 - why do people (especially Americans) not understand capitalisation rules that they shouldn't be capitalised unless starting a sentence? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Andy Fisher-Scott (talkcontribs) 23:57, 12 January 2008 (UTC)

The Dutch use the term tussenvoegsel. Algebraist 00:20, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
As far as the Dutch "van" is concerned, the rule is not as simple as "only capitalise when "van" starts a sentence." It should also be capitalised if the surname is mentioned without the given name (e.g. Van Nistelrooij, Mr. Van Basten). When the given name is mentioned as well, "van" should not be capitalised (e.g. Marco van Basten). These are the rules in the Netherlands. In Belgium, "van" in a surname is either always capitalised, under any circumstances, or never. AecisBrievenbus 00:25, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
Would it be correct to say these are all patronym prefixes? As are Mc and O'. BrainyBabe (talk) 02:39, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
No. As tussenvoegsel explains, many are toponyms. Many are noble surnames, as in de Medici and von Bismarck. Algebraist 03:01, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
I believe the term nobiliary particle is relevant - we have no article on it, but the term crops up in various places ([3]). -- JackofOz (talk) 04:25, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
Nobiliary particle has a Wiktionary entry.  --Lambiam 00:16, 14 January 2008 (UTC)
Would that include the Slavic suffix -ski which served more or less the same purpose in surname formation as de and von? — Kpalion(talk) 10:29, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
The French word is just "particule". --Lgriot (talk) 10:13, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
-ski/ska in Polish serves a similar "nobiliary" use as von in German but not as van and de in Dutch which is merely descriptive (John the young, Peter from Gouda, etc.) De in French may be nobiliary, I think. Rmhermen (talk) 18:26, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
In Sweden, af is used. CarbonLifeForm (talk) 21:24, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
As Algebraist indicates, the Dutch word "van" is usually part of a toponym. When there is more than one element in the toponym, however, it usually indicates notability. The surname "Wttewaal van Stoetwegen", for instance, or "Van Voorst tot Voorst". They refer to the lands over which the noble family ruled. For a full list, see the list of Dutch noble families. AecisBrievenbus 00:36, 15 January 2008 (UTC)