Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Language/2009 December 17

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December 17[edit]

A month of blue Mondays[edit]

In the novel 'Devil's Teardrop' by Jeffery Deaver, someone says "Never expected to see me in a month of blue Mondays, did you? Wait, I'm mixing up my expressions."

I have no idea what he is saying. Does he mean that he's mixing up two or more idiomatic expresions or quotations? Or something else?

Please help me out.--Analphil (talk) 16:19, 17 December 2009 (UTC)

He's mixing up the expressions "a month of Sundays" and "a blue moon" (both used to mean "a long time"), with perhaps a dash of "blue Monday" (used to describe the [relative] depression one feels when having to return to the daily grind after a weekend). Deor (talk) 16:28, 17 December 2009 (UTC)
Or he means Blue Mondays.--Shantavira|feed me 17:24, 17 December 2009 (UTC)

French question[edit]

In French poetry and song, do you customarily add a schwa only to words that end in <e>, or do you add it even to words like "vol" and "mer"? --Lazar Taxon (talk) 18:02, 17 December 2009 (UTC)

As far as I can tell it's only to words that are spelled with an <e> on the end, but I'm not 100% sure; that's just what I've seen in my experience. rʨanaɢ talk/contribs 18:12, 17 December 2009 (UTC)
Just the words with <e>, and even then not in all cases. See [1] and [2] for more information.--Diacritic (talk) 05:31, 18 December 2009 (UTC)

question about a sentence in a wikipedia article[edit]

hey, quick question. in the wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Nightingale_(1851)

here is the sentence in question from the article: "Early in 1863, she became ordnance ship at Pensacola, Florida, and continued this duty until returning to Boston, Massachusetts, 9 June 1864."

my question is, should the word "an" be inserted before the word ordanance in the sentence? i know this is minor and kinda stupid, but i was just wondering if this is the correct syntax for this sentence.

have a nice day, MACKDIESEL5 (talk) 18:56, 17 December 2009 (UTC)

That depends on whether Pensacola always has one assigned ordnance ship, which would make the Nightingale the ordnance ship, meaning "an" isn't really necessary. But if she's just one of many ordnance ships, it is required. However, for clarity's sake, I'd add either "an" or "the", whichever is true. Seegoon (talk) 19:26, 17 December 2009 (UTC)
I don't entirely agree; if your first sentence's speculation were correct, I'd expect it to say "...she became Ordnance Ship at ...". Almost certainly the word "an" is missing, so I added it in the article accordingly. Comet Tuttle (talk) 20:46, 17 December 2009 (UTC)

Meaning of the Expression "coon's age"[edit]

My mother and grandmother have long used this expression to mean "a long time" or "many years", and I've picked it up as well. Is this expression correct in that context? I've read the Raccoon article and they don't seem to live more than two or three years in the wild. I'm asking because someone recently told me that the expression could be interpreted as a racial epithet. Thank you.Chief41074 (talk) 20:31, 17 December 2009 (UTC)

According to the Wiktionary entry on coon's age, you are correct; it is an "Americanism" used to mean "a long time". It likely comes from the older English phrase "a crow's age". You are also correct that "coon" appears to have recently come into use in the southern United States as a pejorative term for an African-American person. Xenon54 / talk / 20:43, 17 December 2009 (UTC)
List of ethnic slurs lists "coon" (alone) as an ethnic slur and gives a possible etymology. Comet Tuttle (talk) 20:44, 17 December 2009 (UTC)
I like this brief discussion, because it points out the dates for various uses of "coon". Yes the phrase could be interpreted as a racial epithet, but (in my opinion), that would be overly politically correct. --LarryMac | Talk 20:50, 17 December 2009 (UTC)
Oh, don't be so niggardly. Comet Tuttle (talk) 21:48, 17 December 2009 (UTC)

The swiftness of helpful replys on the ref desk never ceases to amaze me. Thanks guys.Chief41074 (talk) 21:10, 17 December 2009 (UTC)

When I used this expression at the age of 10 or 11, having read it in a comic book, my parents scolded me sternly for using such a racist phrase. Until that point, I had never heard "coon" used as a racist epithet, and assumed it referred to raccoons. +Angr 22:43, 17 December 2009 (UTC)
Don't use this word in the UK - we don't have raccoons. Alansplodge (talk) 12:02, 18 December 2009 (UTC)
It's always worth considering: how likely is it that my audience will have heard this phrase before and know its etymology? Even if they do, do they know that I know the right etymology? What meanings are mostly likely to spring to their mind? If your aim is not to hurt people, but rather to communicate 'a long time', this is probably a phrase to avoid. This doesn't mean that anyone using the phrase has a racist meaning in mind, but neither does the 'raccoon' etymology mean that nobody using it has the racist meaning in mind. If you don't want to be misunderstood, file it under 'interesting old phrases with an altered connotation'. Though you used the phrase innocently, it sounds like you never forgot your parents' reaction: a useful thing. 86.176.191.243 (talk) 02:07, 19 December 2009 (UTC)

A "coon's age" refers to a type of hunting dog usually a hound used to hunt racoon's. A hunting dogs useful hunting age is about 4-5 years. Hence the phrase "in a coon's age" It would be ridiculous to refer to a African American's life span as being anything different from any other human being. It's rather racist to think coon automatically denotes a African American. This is just another example of prejudice against poor southern country folk by urban dwellers who've seen deliverance to many times. Stereotypes are prejudicial and should be shunned by everyone.