Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Language/2009 December 1

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Language desk
< November 30 << Nov | December | Jan >> December 2 >
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 1[edit]

PIE cognates[edit]

Is the English word SAME cognate with the Greek syn? (as in syntax, symposium, etc) thanks

Duomillia (talk) 03:07, 1 December 2009 (UTC)

No, but it is cognate with "homos", in the same way that "six" and "seven" are cognate with "hex" and "hepta". Apparently "syn-" is from an older Greek form "ksun" which doesn't seem to be related to anything in English. Adam Bishop (talk) 03:48, 1 December 2009 (UTC)
Another PIE. :) ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 04:13, 1 December 2009 (UTC)
On the other hand this source has them cognate. --Cam (talk) 06:01, 1 December 2009 (UTC)
Kind of. "(Together) with" is the way they define "syn". ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 12:46, 1 December 2009 (UTC)
Yeah, and that page is kind of all over the place...the source for "syn" is Webster's, while for some other words they are using IE etymological dictionaries, so what's going on? Did the compiler just list every word that sounded kind of maybe sort of similar? Adam Bishop (talk) 21:38, 1 December 2009 (UTC)
The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots seems quite sure that syn- derives from *ksun (Adam is correct that there don't seem to be any native English descendants, although two words with which most folks are familiar—soviet and Sputnik—are related), whereas same comes from a completely different root, *sem-. Deor (talk) 22:18, 1 December 2009 (UTC)
Hm, yeah, I guess there may be some wishful thinking at my UT link. My syn-cerest apologies. :-) --Cam (talk) 01:43, 2 December 2009 (UTC)

"Spill" in the context of Australian politics[edit]

The Liberal Party of Australia just changed its leader. In Australian sources, and in the linked article for that matter, the process (or part of it) seems to be described as a "spill" (often "leadership spill"). I've not heard this word used like that elsewhere, and was wondering whether the usage just Australian, and what its origins are. The best explanations I can get using a dictionary are that it relates to "spill blood", or that it relates to the less common use of the word to mean "fall" or "stumble". (That would make sense if "spill" refers simply to the toppling of the current leader and not the election of a new one — does it?). Am I correct, or is there something I'm missing? -- (talk) 04:49, 1 December 2009 (UTC)

Spill: to stumble, trip up, fall down or put a foot wrong.DOR (HK) (talk) 07:01, 1 December 2009 (UTC)
The mental image I always have is of a bunch of party leadership positions written on pieces of paper in a hat being overturned (= spilt as in milk) onto a table, where interested persons can then stake their claims to whichever job or jobs they want. In this case, the hat contained only one piece of paper, the leader's position. -- JackofOz (talk) 07:38, 1 December 2009 (UTC)
SOED suggests that it is an Australian term only, defining it thus: "spill noun [ORIGIN from the verb.] ... 4 A vacating of all or several posts of a parliamentary party to allow reorganization after an important change of office. Austral. M20." Mitch Ames (talk) 12:41, 1 December 2009 (UTC)
The word is first recorded by the OED in Jack Lang's I Remember (1956) in reference to the political turmoil of 1929-32, the beginning of the great depression and James Scullin's term as prime minister. Whether the word was used in this sense in the 30s or was an coining by Lang in his 50s book is unclear. meltBanana 13:52, 1 December 2009 (UTC)
A leadership spill reminds me of a landslide victory. -- Wavelength (talk) 19:53, 1 December 2009 (UTC)

I think it must be an Australian only term, since it's not used here in New Zealand, and we're usually the first overseas country to pick up Aussieisms (for instance, the term "rort" is slowly entering the NZ vocabulary). Grutness...wha? 23:02, 1 December 2009 (UTC)

Thanks for all the answers. -- (talk) 04:42, 3 December 2009 (UTC)

Mob Rules[edit]

Let's say there's a violent mob making a demostration outside a building, and the security fails to keep them at bay and the people manages to get inside it. Which the best correct word in english for such a situation? Invasion? Overrun? Taking over? Something else? MBelgrano (talk) 13:25, 1 December 2009 (UTC)

To my American ears, "overrun" and "taking over" would be the best options from those given. Invasion would suggest a military and a country being involved. Dismas|(talk) 13:51, 1 December 2009 (UTC)
Riot? Googlemeister (talk) 15:24, 1 December 2009 (UTC)
Once the demonstrators have taken over the building, the word "occupation" and its related forms would be applicable. (talk) 16:06, 1 December 2009 (UTC)
I would say that the mob was storming the building when they were in the process of overcoming the security personnel. I agree with 87.81 that, once they had overcome security, the building would be occupied, or, as others have said taken over. Marco polo (talk) 16:21, 1 December 2009 (UTC)
In the US when student radicals broke into a campus building, such as a President's office or the Administration building, newspapers often referred to them having "occupied the building." They prevented the officials who worked there from performing their functions. If they had "taken over" the building they might have started admitting students, issuing diplomas, and performing other other functions normally done there, but the term "took over" was also sometimes used:[1]. A legacy of the U.S. civil right movement of the 1960's is the use of the term "sit-in" to describe nonviolent occupation. This may in turn have come from the 1930's term "Sitdown strike" in which workers on strike refused to leave the plant, to prevent strike-breaking scabs from replacing them. Edison (talk) 17:55, 1 December 2009 (UTC)
Once the students or demonstrators (disdaining the term "mob") had taken over the building, with or without physical force, in the 1960's, they would often—in half-serious, half-jocular allusion to Ike, Ché, Ho Chi Minh and Daniel Cohn-Bendit—declare that it had been "liberated". But this of course would not be an objective description for a non-partisan research paper, newspaper story or Wikipedia article. —— Shakescene (talk) 20:59, 2 December 2009 (UTC)
The Iran hostage crisis of 1979, which sank Jimmy Carter's Presidency and put us on the road to where we are today with Iran, was referred to as a "takeover" and subsequently an "occupation". ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 14:06, 2 December 2009 (UTC)

Station wagons[edit]

Why are station wagons referred to as "estate cars" in British English? Is it solely because of luxury car makers calling their station wagons "estate" and "touring" and such and the single term of "estate" just sticking? Please forgive me for using the term British. I mean no offense. The station wagon article uses the term and it doesn't seem to be vandalism due to the fact that we have a British English article and all. Dismas|(talk) 13:49, 1 December 2009 (UTC)

Are we not allowed to say British English anymore? FreeMorpheme (talk) 14:43, 1 December 2009 (UTC)
News to me... I'd certainly like to know why "British" is now an offensive word - should I be offended by my passport? --Tango (talk) 17:04, 1 December 2009 (UTC)
It seems to be common practice in some areas of the world (America) to refer to the island of Great Britain as 'Britain', rather than using that term to refer to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as the UK government and most Britons do. It then follows that they assume the term 'British' must only refer to the island of Great Britain, rather than the UK. Evidence that the UK government and most Britons use the adjective 'British' to refer to the country not the island is ignored, or treated as evidence that everyone else is wrong and the speaker is the sole voice of reason. Combined with genuine issues to do with what to call the islands that include Ireland and Great Britain, and the charged ground of when to use 'Scottish', 'English', 'Welsh', 'Irish,' 'British', it is fair to assume that a person not from these islands might be confused and feel it safer to apologise at every use, rather than risk the explosion. They might even have received the impression that every use of 'British' is offensive, but not seem to have an alternative to use. (talk) 18:34, 1 December 2009 (UTC)
Pretty much got it there. Americans, as a general rule, don't know when it's offensive to say "British". You can call an American a 'yank' or 'yankee' and we'll know what you mean. Even if the American being referred to is from a Southern state. They may feign offense but they know what you meant and normally don't get too bent out of shape about it. Additionally, another American may be referred to as a 'colonial' (not that we hear it much over here) even though they are not from one of the original 13 colonies that are now US states. And again, we'll know what you mean and not be offended. But call someone from one of those islands over there by the wrong term and you'll wish you'd have shagged the queen since that would be a less objectionable offense. And these people seem to congregate on the Ref desks. So, for my questions here, I apologize in advance, I clearly state that questions are not for medical advice, and I clearly define when I'm asking a homework question. Dismas|(talk) 05:46, 2 December 2009 (UTC)
Judging by the British Isles naming dispute on and off Wikipedia, I think it's fair to say that the peoples from those islands north of France can't agree on when it's offensive either. AlmostReadytoFly (talk) 14:27, 2 December 2009 (UTC)
Generally you are safe with "British". It's saying "English" or "England" when you mean the whole UK that tends to offend some people (usually the Scottish). --Tango (talk) 15:08, 2 December 2009 (UTC)
Generally you are safe with "British" unless you're talking about Ireland or anyone from there. If you need to refer to someone or thing from Northern Ireland, you're safest not using either "British" or "Irish": someone is sure to take offence. I have the greatest sympathy for the confusion all of this causes. (talk) 21:28, 2 December 2009 (UTC)
I can't answer the question directly, but estate cars used to be known as "shooting brakes" back in the day (about 50 - 60 years ago!). I wonder why the usage changed? --TammyMoet (talk) 14:56, 1 December 2009 (UTC)
The best dictionary definition for "estate car" I have been able to turn up (Collins English Dictionary of the English Language, Glasgow, Feb 1979) is "a car with a comparatively long body containing a large carrying space, reached through a rear door: usually the back seats can be folded forward to increase the carrying space." Unfortunately, no derivation is given.
One of the commoner meanings of the word "estate" in the UK is along the lines of "a house in the country with extensive farming or other land", from which the term "Estate Agent" (US: "Realtor") also derives. One of the pursuits of people who own such estates was/is shooting game birds, etc. I suggest, without being able to cite corroborative evidence, that when only relatively rich people could afford cars, the design of car called both a "shooting brake" and an "estate car" was in the UK specifically intended for driving around such estates with accoutrements such as muddy wellington boots, lunch hampers and retriever dogs, or on non-shooting days other bulky estate-maintenance-related equipment, in the back section, and although increasing wealth has greatly broadened the ownership and uses of such cars, the name has stuck. (talk) 16:04, 1 December 2009 (UTC)
So, to reverse the question, why are estate cars called "station wagons" in US English? Is there any relation to the Australian "station", meaning a large farm or ranch? If so, the two names are very close, if an estate car is for driving round your estate.. AndrewWTaylor (talk) 16:20, 1 December 2009 (UTC)
According to Originally a covered wagon used to convey passengers from a train station to their hotel.. (talk) 16:26, 1 December 2009 (UTC)
They're always called "station wagons" in Australia, but I assumed that was an American term originally because we don't otherwise use "wagon" to mean any kind of motorised vehicle. "Station wagon" is never connected to the meaning of "station" described by Andrew, because most owners are city dwellers who've never seen a cattle station in their lives. -- JackofOz (talk) 19:53, 1 December 2009 (UTC)
[2].—eric 18:51, 1 December 2009 (UTC)
Thanks, that seems to confirm that estate cars are so named because of their uses on estates. And to the above who didn't know why Americans call them station wagons, it's in the station wagon article. The cars were used to carry people and their luggage from train stations. Thus 'station wagon'. Dismas|(talk) 05:46, 2 December 2009 (UTC)