Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Language/2008 January 21

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Language desk
< January 20 << Dec | January | Feb >> January 22 >
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.

January 21[edit]

Economics 101[edit]

What does it means? (talk) 00:47, 21 January 2008 (UTC)

"101" is often the number designated to the introductory course in a subject at a university, so "Economics 101" would be a basic course in economics. -Elmer Clark (talk) 02:24, 21 January 2008 (UTC)

Kipper (medieval)[edit]

Kipper (medieval tournament) presents a "kipper" as a specific type of knight's servant, and is mainly unreferenced and seems a bit odd. Now, this term is not used in discussions of English tournaments (eg by Barber or Barker), as far as I have discovered, although Barber does refer to the "German turnier mit kipper" (which my school-girl German can translate). However, the term is present in German epic poetry, and thus in a number of works about the poetry, and is translated variously as "kipper" (with no specific explanation), "sergeant", "squire", or as a term to describe both squire (kneht) and sergeant (sargant) collectively (or non-specifically) perhaps as we might use "man-at-arms" to refer to squires and sergeants. I have an English translation of Bumke's Höfische Kultur: Literatur und Gesellschaft im hohen Mittelalter, but the term is translated kipper without a clear presentation of its meaning in an English context. Anyone know? I have some untranslated notes from the original sources, the most pertinent being:

"jâ bî rehten triuwen mîn," sprach Gunthêr der rîche, "daz lobe ich enedelîche. swelhen ritter rüeret kippers hant, er sî knabe oder sarjant, den des turneis niht bestê, daz ez im an die hant gê" (Biterolf 8579-88)

"Von kipperen ein michel rote Mit starken matziuwen, Die hinden nâch bliuwen, Mohte man dâ schouwen" (Heinrich von dem Türlin. Die Krone 776-79)

Thanks in advance. Gwinva (talk) 02:14, 21 January 2008 (UTC)

Tricky. Not something I know about. But kippen means to tilt in general, ja? And of course in English a tilt is a joust. OED:

I. 1. a. A combat or encounter (for exercise or sport) between two armed men on horseback, with lances or similar weapons, the aim of each being to throw his opponent from the saddle; = joust n. 1; also, the exercise of riding with a lance, or the like, at a mark, as the quintain.

Explicitly from the common verb to tilt, in the sense of totter and tip.
So... is there a simple connexion here, or have I merely raised a red herring (a smoked one, that is). If so, forgive my being so Lachs. (Lachst du mich aus?)
Actually, the truant squire might say of the jousting knight Am I my brother's kipper?
(Nah... should have let this one go through to the kipper.)
– Noetica♬♩Talk 05:12, 21 January 2008 (UTC)
Anyway, there's an explanation at Kipper (medieval tournament):

The origin of the word comes from various sources such as Icelandic kippa which means "to pull, snatch", the Danish word kippen which means "to seize" and the Middle High German which means "to beat or kick".

Needs editing, that. I'll fix it right now.
– Noetica♬♩Talk 05:19, 21 January 2008 (UTC)
I saw you'd cleaned it. I hadn't bothered: my instinct was to ditch it, since it seems a little fishy. But at least it's grammatical nonsense, now. As for the rest of your comments: kippered sensible, please.
Well, actually don't. Much more fun this way. (And it's been too many years since I learnt that school-girl German, but isn't Lachs salmon? in which case, another laugh.) The tilting meaning is interesting, but that might be another smoked herring, since while it means joust, it was a later word (OED has it 16th C, but I think it's earlier than that), coming from the 'tilt' or barrier introduced in the 15th century to stop knights colliding, which one source also calls a toile.
The kipper article has interesting etymologies, but without a source, who knows how accurate they are? Especially since the links take you to a Jewish skull cap and a Scottish village! But what I most want is a translator of Middle High German poetry, which seems to be the main (only?) source for this word. And someone who can tell me if the above note means 'a kipper, be he a squire or a sergeant' (implying the term covers them both) or 'a kipper, or a squire or sergeant' or some other variation. ie. is a kipper something exclusive to German society, and thus cannot be translated more specifically (and thus warrants its own (cleaned) page) or is it equivalent to an English rank (in which case merge).
Thanks for your help, anyway. It's always good herring from you. Gwinva (talk) 07:56, 21 January 2008 (UTC)
A pleasure. (Salmon? Shore! I was being laks, as I shad. I did that just for the halibut. But sea OED: "A kippered fish (salmon, herring, etc.); now esp. a herring so cured." And, just for completeness: "At the approach of the breeding season, the lower jaw of the male salmon becomes hooked upward with a sharp cartilaginous beak known as the kip." Some play is made on kip and kipper in JJ's Ulysses... but kip that to yourself.)
I don't understand quite where your uncertainties lie. Kipper (medieval tournament) does give one reference, as you can see. And that supports some but not all of the etymology. Why are you so suspicious of that article, in particular? You will also find in your OED this, among the twelve headword entries for kip:

[Obs.] kip, verb1...[ME. kippen: cf. ON. kippa to snatch, tug, pull; also MDu. kippen to catch, grip, G. dial. (Swiss) kippen to steal, ‘prig’.]... trans. To take hold of, take in the hand, seize, snatch, catch.

May that not be relevant also?
As for tilt and toile, hmmm... OED has tilt noun1 meaning "awning", etc. (see also tilt verb2), but makes no connexion with toile (Latin tela). And in tilt noun2 ("joust", "tipping over", etc.) a link is made with tilt verb1, but not with noun1 or verb2. So OED does not support the theory you mention. Where does it come from? Petit Robert knows no toile in jousting; TLFi has many military and other special applications of toile, but none in jousting; Greimas (Dictionnaire du moyen français) has for toile several meanings, including this: "Rideau que l'on dressait autour du terrain de joute", which doesn't sound like a barrier between knights, does it?
Best guess: a matter of multiple convergent etymologies. Bloody typical of those times, and those practices. I am suspicious of single neat accounts of these things.
But certainly the kipper was something of a sidekick to the skipper, wot? A junior to the jouster.
(Harenge me not with sharkastic gestes in reply! Good luck finding an MHG specialist. They're never around when you need them.)
– Noetica♬♩Talk 10:24, 21 January 2008 (UTC)
Let's not toil over toile, then; it seems a red smoked herring (as salmon once said to me). (And I can't be bothered trawling through my books to fish out the reference.) But OED me as much as you like (to owidee: he has owideed, she is owideeing, he will owidee), histories on the subject trace the term tilting to the introduction of the tilt: a barrier to separate the jousters, originally a rope or cord, eventually becoming a solid barrier. The term was not used to refer to a joust before the 15th century. OED has a sixteenth century usage as its earliest. (Ha! OEDs at dawn. Complete with seconds, to inspect the editions to ensure they are identical. I issued the challenge, so is it for you to choose the distance?) Anyway, later than the MHG poetry. To further complicate any link with kippern, the tilt was not used in German jousting rules. What is older is list (as in the lists, the fenced enclosure used for the fights), which (owideeing you) is seen in Chaucer. But a listing ship is tilting, no?
I wonder if we could translate it as varlet? Gravett makes reference to them attending knights in tournaments, and as the OED shows, the name can also mean sergeant.
Why was I suspicious of the article? Because I had never encountered the term outside Wikipedia, despite reading a number of histories, and the description of their role seems a bit dramatic. But then, I'm no reader of MHG poetry. (I have a copy of Ulrich von Liechtenstein's Frauendienst in translation, which was an amusing read: "Aunt, for what you've done for me/I'm just as thankful as can be./I'll always feel a debt to you;/you may be sure that this is true." It'd go down well in one of those greeting cards with insipid watercolour flowers on the front.) The reference was put in a few days ago, in response to my tagging of the article, but it contradicts the article: claims "kipper" is a term to describe squires and sergeants, which is certainly not the peasant or slave of the introduction. That suggests it could be merged with squire or something similar (but all those medieval tournamenty articles are in pretty poor shape).
Etymologies: who knows? Jolly poor show from the old chaps not to keep things simple by only creating words from one language, and writing down the source for us. Interesting, though. I admit I was out-owideed there (you've a killer backhand: been training with a master?).
Well, I'll joust kip at it, toiling away at full tilt, listing what I know. Or salmon else might help, or can smoke it out for me. Catch you. Gwinva (talk) 21:40, 21 January 2008 (UTC)

like a wedding, only again just to confirm your commitment[edit]

What is it called when a couple has a second (or third, or subsequent) "wedding"-like ceremony to confirm their commitment to each other? I remember hearing about it but can't find anything about it now... —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:14, 21 January 2008 (UTC)

"Recommitment ceremony"? -- JackofOz (talk) 03:22, 21 January 2008 (UTC)
I've also heard "reaffirming ceremony" or "we're reaffirming our wedding vows". Steewi (talk) 03:25, 21 January 2008 (UTC)
"Renewal of vows" is used, also. Gwinva (talk) 03:51, 21 January 2008 (UTC)
Yep, "renewing one's vows" is what I've always heard (in the U.S.) -Elmer Clark (talk) 21:54, 21 January 2008 (UTC)


Our article on Andromache says the name means "battle of a man", but what is the intended meaning? Is this intended to mean "fights against a man", or what? (talk) 03:18, 21 January 2008 (UTC)

This was me, and also what does "Achilles" derive from? Vultur (talk) 03:19, 21 January 2008 (UTC)
See Achilles#The name of Achilles. Algebraist 03:54, 21 January 2008 (UTC)
With ανδρός (man's) + μάχη (battle), we can get much farther with Andromache than with many other names of the Iliad. If you look (for instance) at Priam, we're in deep waters, and I've seen an argument that it may be Luwian. We don't even know what language the Trojans spoke, but we're fairly sure it wasn't Greek, so Andromache may have been invented by Homer, if there was a Homer. Xn4 14:32, 21 January 2008 (UTC)
OK, Thanks. So, are you saying that no one knows why it's "Andromache?" I always assumed that the underlying intent was something like "fights against/alongside men". Vultur (talk) 03:31, 22 January 2008 (UTC)
As you say, something like. It's a question for a Homerist and/or an anthroponymist. Of course, many of the names in Homer are clearly meaningful and related to the characters... for a start, see Gregory Nagy’s The Best of the Acheans. Xn4 13:51, 22 January 2008 (UTC)
Would it have an idiomatic meaning such as "fighting man"? Julia Rossi (talk) 03:42, 23 January 2008 (UTC)
By itself it has no specific obvious meaning, just as we wouldn't know without further explanation what to make of a native woman's name that is translated as Man Battle. Is it the battle of a man, or like a man, or for a man, or against men, or between men? The text of the Ilias offers no further hint.  --Lambiam 04:28, 23 January 2008 (UTC)
Most of the Indo-European languages had a tradition of forming names as compounds of two nouns, one of which was typically shared with a parent. (I say had because as far as I know the dithematic pattern is no longer productive in any IE-speaking culture.) Each language had a small stock of such roots that were favored for names. Sometimes the combination happens to make sense, but generally it's arbitrary. —Tamfang (talk) 05:50, 26 January 2008 (UTC)

Odd construction[edit]

I often come across constructions like "Sanskrit manuscripts from Tibet have begun to be published". I'm sure it's not right but I can't put my finger on why, and I'm not sure of the best way to improve it. I suspect this is more acceptable in US English, as I usually come across it in US published work. Does anyone else think it's unacceptable?--Shantavira|feed me 09:39, 21 January 2008 (UTC)

I agree it sounds clunky, to do with its use of the passive voice I think. How about recasting it in the active voice, something like "people [a better subject could be found, I'm sure] have begun to publish Sanskrit manuscripts from Tibet". --Richardrj talk email 09:45, 21 January 2008 (UTC)
It's the combination of the passive voice and "to begin" - normally, we begin to do something, we don't begin to have something done to us. As an alternative to Richard's solution (e.g. if a suitable subject cannot be found) perhaps either use an alternative to "begin" - does "start" sound better? - or, alternatively, use an active verb to follow "begin" - e.g. "Sanskrit manuscripts from Tibet have begun to appear in publication" - although I think "start" would sound better in that sentence, too. A third way to phrase it might be "Publication of ... have begun", though that changes the meaning somewhat. --PalaceGuard008 (Talk) 09:54, 21 January 2008 (UTC)
... or "has begun", seeing that publication is singular. -- JackofOz (talk) 12:02, 21 January 2008 (UTC)
oops. =P --PalaceGuard008 (Talk) 13:47, 21 January 2008 (UTC)
The original construction sounds just fine to me, but I'm American so maybe it is an American English thing ( wouldn't understand). —Angr If you've written a quality article... 17:55, 21 January 2008 (UTC)
Really? You think "Publication of Sanskrit manuscripts from Tibet have begun" sounds OK? That's very surprising, I must say. In the original sentence, the subject was "Sanskrit manuscripts from Tibet", a plural, so "have" was correct. But when it's made into a passive construction, the new subject is "publication", which is singular regardless of whether what follows "of" is one thing or many things. Seeing it your way, though, I guess it depends on whether you perceive the publication to be a single exercise (that just happens to involve many different manuscripts, and perhaps many different publishers operating independently at different times), or many separate publication exercises (which it probably is). (...yes, maybe I just don't understand these things) -- :) JackofOz (talk) 21:26, 21 January 2008 (UTC)
As an American, I would have said has begun. Corvus cornixtalk 23:49, 21 January 2008 (UTC)
I was talking about the OP's original sentence, "Sanskrit manuscripts from Tibet have begun to be published". —Angr If you've written a quality article... 05:09, 22 January 2008 (UTC)
Oh, that original sentence. Scrub my remarks above, in that case. -- JackofOz (talk) 13:30, 22 January 2008 (UTC)
If Angr had indented just one step (responding to the root) rather than five (seeming to respond to PalaceGuard008), you might not have been misled. —Tamfang (talk) 05:52, 26 January 2008 (UTC)

Better wording[edit]

Can someone please suggest a better way to word this sentence, so that it is correct and so that it sounds better? Thanks.

Since the inception of this award, 58 of the 79 Oscars for Best Director were for films that also won the Oscar for Best Picture.

The idea that I am trying to convey is this: there have been 79 films that have won the Academy Award (Oscar) for Best Picture. Of these 79 films, 58 of the directors of those 79 films have won the Academy Award (Oscar) for Best Director. I can't seem to get a sentence that is factually correct and sounds good. Here are some of the aggravating factors:

  • The Best Picture Oscar goes to a film, not to a person
  • The Best Director Oscar goes to a person (for his work on a film), not to a film
  • There have been 79 Best Picture Awards in the past 79 years
  • There have been 81 Best Director Awards in the past 79 years (due to ties, co-winners, multiple winners, etc.)

Thus, the original sentence is both technically and factually incorrect. Any way to clean this up so that it sounds decent and yet gets across the correct point? Thanks. (Joseph A. Spadaro (talk) 17:29, 21 January 2008 (UTC))

How about something like "On 58 occasions, the same film has won both the Best Director and Best Picture Oscars"? Just one query: Isn't the Best Picture Oscar won by the human producers of the film, rather than awarded to the film itself? I know we all say <name of movie> "won" the Best Picture, but if we're being technically accurate, then .... -- JackofOz (talk) 21:06, 21 January 2008 (UTC)
Hello. Thanks. I definitely would like to incorporate the number 79, though ... or else, the 58 has no context. Also, the film doesn't "really" win the Best Director Award -- the director does. And, regarding your other point: I really do believe that (technically) the film gets the Best Picture Award ... or, at the very least, the film is named Best Picture ... regardless of which human being grabs the statue. I am surprised at how hard this sentence is to construct. (Joseph A. Spadaro (talk) 21:29, 21 January 2008 (UTC))
Um, has anyone ever been nominated for Best Director without having the nomination attached to a specific job? If one director directs two award-worthy pictures in one year, could he be nominated twice in competition with himself, or would the nomination read "Clint Eastwood for One Darn Good Flick and Yet Another Spectacle"? —Tamfang (talk) 06:02, 26 January 2008 (UTC)
Yes, a director can be nominated twice in competition with himself (as separate nominations), and it has happened in the not-too-distant past. Seven years ago, Steven Soderbergh won Best Director for Traffic, and was also nominated the same year in that category for Erin Brockovich. [1] --Metropolitan90 (talk) 02:40, 27 January 2008 (UTC)
If you insist that the film does not win the Best Director award, and want to make a point of the denominator being 79, would "Since the inception of this award, the directors of 58 of the 79 films that received the Oscar for Best Picture also won the Best Director award." be correct? --NorwegianBlue talk 21:15, 21 January 2008 (UTC)
Of the 79 films awarded the Oscar for Best Picture thus far, 58 of the 81 directors were also honored as Best Director. Clarityfiend (talk) 03:54, 22 January 2008 (UTC)

Thanks to everyone for your input and suggestions ... I appreciate them. (Joseph A. Spadaro (talk) 04:11, 22 January 2008 (UTC))

Capitolinus Mons / Mons Capitolinus[edit]

The Wikipedia article entitled "Capitoline Hill" gives the Latin name as Capitolinus Mons. Usually, the word Mons precedes the particular name of a mount. Is this an exception? LShecut2nd (talk) 18:37, 21 January 2008 (UTC)

You're right, usually Mons comes first, but the word order isn't strict for such names and you do see Capitolinus Mons about as often as Mons Capitolinus. I think the same's true of Caelius Mons. Xn4 22:31, 21 January 2008 (UTC)
A bit like how some rivers are known in English as either Blah River or the River Blah? --PalaceGuard008 (Talk) 22:44, 21 January 2008 (UTC)
Others with "mons" second: Abeona Mons, Abila Mons, Albanus Mons, Algidus Mons, Anala Mons, Arsia Mons, Ascraeus Mons, Athis Mons, Circeius Mons, Ciuacoatl Mons, Elysium Mons, Haemus Mons, Lucretilis Mons, Maat Mons, Olympus Mons, Pavonis Mons, Sapas Mons, Theia Mons, Vaticanus Mons. --Sean 23:05, 21 January 2008 (UTC)
I'd say PalaceGuard is nearer the mark. For instance, Abeona Mons is a modern name, and you see both Mons Vaticanus and Vaticanus Mons. Xn4 23:12, 21 January 2008 (UTC)
While looking into this, I noticed that almost, but not quite all, WP articles about montes on the moon put Mons first, whereas those about montes on Venus and Mars tend to put Mons second. Does this reflect some deep-seated division between lunar and planetary astronomers, the idiosyncrasies of WP editors, or just coincidence? Deor (talk) 23:40, 21 January 2008 (UTC)
Not really, PalaceGuard008: word order generally is very much freer in Latin than English. The 'River X'/'X River' distinction is mostly one of dialect: British English overwhelmingly prefers 'River X', except for rivers in an English-speaking region where the other order is preferred. I.e. British speakers will refer to North American, and perhaps Australian rivers as 'X River', but most others as 'River X'. --ColinFine (talk) 00:18, 22 January 2008 (UTC)
Interesting, Colin. I suppose there should be expections to general rules, otherwise we might not hasten to qualify them as general. Surely River Thames is far more common than Thames River in Britsprache. (Do River Tiber and River Nile also predominate? Hard to sort out regional preferences from simple Google searches. Surely everyone prefers River Seine to Seine River.) Could it be that familiarity shifts river to first position? Exceptions abound to just about any such principle.
Here in Australia we call Melbourne's main river Yarra River more than River Yarra, though both are heard. Similarly for Murray River. Murrumbidgee River is much more likely than the reverse, making me suspect the relevance of phonetic considerations like number of syllables. Context might influence the choice. And for less familiar rivers we prefer even more strongly river to be second: Campaspe River, Condamine River, Ovens River.
Surely no one anywhere prefers River Mississippi to Mississippi River, hmm? Complex. Anyway, I'm just not sure about the distinction between British and American usages, nor between rivers in English-speaking regions and in other regions.
– Noetica♬♩Talk 01:04, 22 January 2008 (UTC)
Looking at List of rivers of England and List of rivers of the United States seems to confirm ColinFine's claims about English/US differences. Personally, while I (when talking about British rivers) would put 'river' first if anything, I would be more likely to just say 'the Cam' or whatever. Some names in particular (the Great Ouse, for example) sound ridiculous to me with the word river added, wherever it's put. How common is this usage in the US, Australia, and whatever other nationalities we've got? Algebraist 02:10, 22 January 2008 (UTC)
Certainly that is always an option in Australian English. We would most likely say simply the Yarra. (Our resource here is List of rivers of Australia.) Now, consider Daintree: without context, we would almost certainly say the Daintree River to distinguish it from Daintree National Park. Isn't that also the case universally? The Amazon would need diambiguating: Amazon River or Amazon Rainforest? Still not sure about regional differences in usage, intersecting with the geographical location of the named rivers. Investigation neither in Wikipedia nor through Google will settle this. You'd need access to regional corpora for a proper study.
– Noetica♬♩Talk 02:46, 22 January 2008 (UTC)
I say (as a US person) "X River", but most European rivers have unique names ("the Thames", "the Rhine"), unlike US rivers which usually share their name with another location (Mississippi River, Missouri River, Pecos River) or are just adjectives (Red River, Broad River). —Preceding unsigned comment added by Vultur (talkcontribs) 23:36, 23 January 2008 (UTC)
I reckon you've hit the nail on the head. Related question: why the river Foo but the village of Nobottle? —Tamfang (talk) 06:10, 26 January 2008 (UTC)
Noetica's and Tamfang's observations are consistent with what I suggested: we say 'Mississippi River' because we recognise that that's what the natives call it, but we say 'River Nile', 'River Ganges' and 'River Amazon' because it's irrelevant in English what the natives call them, so we use normal English order. We're mostly not sufficiently familiar with Australian rivers to be sure - 'Murray River' but 'River Darling' are what come to my mind, oddly. I'm not sure about Vultur's suggestion - certainly it's comparatively rare in Britain to have a river and another geographical entity sharing exactly the same name (we now have the county of Avon, but the river name precedes it by well over a thousand years), but even in North America, there are surely plenty of rivers whose names don't happen to apply to settlements as well, aren't there? --ColinFine (talk) 21:41, 26 January 2008 (UTC)

Poetic nonsense[edit]

This is where I used to sleep. My cot was against this wall. In the nights in their thousands to dream the dreams of a child's imaginings, worlds rich or fearful such as might offer themselves but never the one to be. - "never the one to be"? Never the one to be what? I don't get it. ----Seans Potato Business 22:56, 21 January 2008 (UTC)

Nice line; where's it from? Never mind, I can google that... this book by Cormac McCarthy.
The antecedent of "one" is "world"; "to be" means "that will be". You dream of many futures but never the one that's actually going to happen.
--Anonymous, 23:03 UTC, January 21, 2008.
Thank you. :) ----Seans Potato Business 00:05, 22 January 2008 (UTC)
Wait, is there a verb in that last sentence? I mean obviously there are verbs but you know what I mean.. a word linking subject and predicate. Words are all mixed up >_< With fewer unnecessary descriptors, it looks like In their thousands, worlds. Is that just being flowery and stupid, or am I parsing wrong? --f f r o t h 03:13, 22 January 2008 (UTC)
It's flowery all right. Serving the role of a main verb is the infinitive "to dream". In plain English this sentence would turn into a clause attached to the first sentence. "This is where I slept, to dream of the wrong futures." --Anonymous, 07:30 UTC, January 22, 2008.
When you talk in your sleep, your grammar is liable to get a bit fuzzy. —Tamfang (talk) 06:05, 26 January 2008 (UTC)