Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Language/2009 May 2

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May 2[edit]

Mac and Mc surnames[edit]

I do quite a bit of category sorting in my "spare time". It's a worthy endeavour that I commend to everyone. In particular, I make sure that surnames starting with Mac or Mc are all sorted under Mac (as our guidelines require). I am continually coming across such names that I've never heard before, and I'm wondering whether there's a list of all known Celtic surnames starting with either of these prefixes, and showing all recorded variants. -- JackofOz (talk) 00:14, 2 May 2009 (UTC)

I am interested in seeing one or more links to those guidelines. -- Wavelength (talk) 00:24, 2 May 2009 (UTC) / I have just found Wikipedia:Categorization of people#Other exceptions, point 5. -- Wavelength (talk) 03:46, 2 May 2009 (UTC) / An imperfect match for your interest is at, but maybe I can find something better. -- Wavelength (talk) 00:37, 2 May 2009 (UTC) / See Category:Irish surnames and Category:Scottish surnames. -- Wavelength (talk) 00:57, 2 May 2009 (UTC) / See Government of Ireland and scottish government, scottish office - devolved government scotland - Scottish Executive. / If the websites do not have the information, then you might be able to obtain it by contacting the governments. / -- Wavelength (talk) 01:16, 2 May 2009 (UTC) / Category:Celtic surnames has four subcategories: Category:Cornish surnames, Category:Irish surnames, / Category:Scottish surnames, and Category:Welsh surnames. -- Wavelength (talk) 01:32, 2 May 2009 (UTC) / See -- Wavelength (talk) 01:36, 2 May 2009 (UTC) / See and -- Wavelength (talk) 02:02, 2 May 2009 (UTC) / See / and -- Wavelength (talk) 02:06, 2 May 2009 (UTC) / See -- Wavelength (talk) 02:29, 2 May 2009 (UTC) / Category:Wikipedians by ethnicity and nationality includes the following subcategories: Category:Cornish Wikipedians, Category:Gaelic Wikipedians, Category:Irish Wikipedians, Category:Manx Wikipedians, Category:Scottish Wikipedians, Category:Ulster Scots Wikipedians, Category:Welsh Wikipedians. -- Wavelength (talk) 03:33, 2 May 2009 (UTC)
Five now - why wasn't Category:Manx surnames in there? Grutness...wha? 07:11, 2 May 2009 (UTC)
All very helpful, I'm sure. Being the lazy sod that I am, though, I was really after an existing superlist of Mc/Mac names, to get an idea of what other unusual names I might encounter in my travels. I'm not really in the business of creating my own list. -- JackofOz (talk) 10:59, 2 May 2009 (UTC)
I just re-read that, and it could be interpreted as a little dismissive. It wasn't meant that way. I do appreciate your hard work, Wavelength. And your contribution too, Grutness. -- JackofOz (talk) 12:13, 2 May 2009 (UTC)
The Amazon page says that "a comprehensive list of family surnames" is provided. -- Wavelength (talk) 21:33, 2 May 2009 (UTC)
Hmm, yes it does. I wonder if it mentions some of the more recent spelling variants such as McGwire (for McGuire). I guess there's only one way to find out - buy the book - but I don't plan to do that. -- JackofOz (talk) 22:27, 2 May 2009 (UTC)
A recent condensation of my comments reduced nineteen lines to sixteen lines (only three lines fewer) and made reading them more difficult. -- Wavelength (talk) 06:22, 4 May 2009 (UTC)

Crocodile wife[edit]

What is a crocodile wife? Please state your sources. Thanks ;-) --Shantavira|feed me 08:53, 2 May 2009 (UTC)

Apart from this decidedly unreliable source, it seems to be a nonce phrase uttered by Mohammed al-Fayed. Tonywalton Talk 14:34, 2 May 2009 (UTC)
Strange the circular nature of the WP reference desk. It may seem like a nonce coinage to people unacquainted with foreign folklore but is seems a clear symbolism to me: crocodiles are mean beasts, their wives might well be even nastier. Aside from the Panchatantra depiction of a greedy cruel wife there is also a Zambian drinking song with the lyrics "My father, he married / A crocodile wife, / I-ya, I-ya-wo-yel / That bites, that bites" listed in Songs and Tales from the Dark Continent by Natalie Curtis and perhaps it is the basis of the Crocodile Wife song from The Zulu and the Zayda. Also closer to Mohammed al-Fayed are folk tales form Egypt about sacrificing a virgin to the Nile crocodiles (personified as Sobek in ancient Egyptian mythology) to ensure fertility. meltBanana 23:53, 2 May 2009 (UTC)

Book Titles[edit]

How come in English book titles on the spine are written top to bottom whereas in French for example, they run bottom to top? -- (talk) 08:56, 2 May 2009 (UTC)

As it says at Bookbinding#Spine orientation and titling conventions, if the title is written top to bottom, then it reads correctly when the book is lying flat on the table with the front cover upright. However, if you take volumes 1 and 2 off the bookshelf together and lay them on a table, volume 2 is on top. With titles reading the other way on the spine, you can pick up volumes 1 and 2 from the table (with 1 on top) and put them on the shelf together, either by setting the books upside-down on the shelf or by reading the volume numbers from right to left along the shelf. I remember Henry Petroski making this point in his book The Book on the Bookshelf, but my copy does not seem to be anywhere on my bookshelves that I can find, and I don't remember what he says about how books actually are shelved in countries where they print the titles that way.
Incidentally, I have one book in English where the title does read from bottom to top, and it is volume 1 of a two-volume set. When volume 2 was published several years later, it turned out to be fat enough that they ran the title across the spine instead of along it. --Anonymous, 15:50 UTC, May 2, 2009.
Well, maybe I was mistaken. I found Petroski's book and looked in the most likely place, but at that point he does not say anything about multi-volume works. Either it's somewhere else in the book -- I don't have time to reread all of it in the near future -- or I read it somewhere else. Cecil Adams, maybe?
Petroski does say that British publishers also used to have the spine title reading upward, and the specific two-volume set I referred to in the last item is British. --Anon, 01:07 UTC, May 6, 2009.
When scanning many book on library or bookshop shelves, it's obviously preferable to have the spine texts' orientations consistent, so you don't have to keep twisting your neck. It happens that French publishers have (mostly) settled on one convention, and English publishers on the other. Arguably the French custom is superior (and I speak as an English ex-bookseller) because when the book is lying face down one can still easily read the spine. (talk) 03:52, 7 May 2009 (UTC)

Comparatives and Superlatives question[edit]

I asked a question over on the humanities desk asking about the name and other details of the 2nd girl who plays Latika in the film Slumdog Millionaire because I am trying to see if I can make an article on her. Now some people were asking what I meant by 'the older girl', and with there being three of them, that would be an understandable question, but the youngest girl would be, obviously, not the one I am talking about, so we only have two alternatives, older or oldest. Now, while I do realize there was a misunderstanding, it got me thinking. We have 'older' and 'oldest' (comparative and superlative) but do we have anything else, a form of nomenclature for that are neither 'older' nor 'oldest'? (And 'youngest' is not the answer I am looking for, before you even try).--KageTora (영호 (影虎)) (talk) 09:03, 2 May 2009 (UTC)

I always run into this problem when discussing my two sisters. I am the oldest of the three siblings. How do I describe the second sibling in our family? She is the older of my two sisters, but she is not my older sister. (talk) 19:09, 2 May 2009 (UTC)
You could use their placing numerically, such as "The second sister," just like KageTora did. --Ye Olde Luke (talk) 19:20, 2 May 2009 (UTC)
Or the "middle girl" or something. -Elmer Clark (talk) 19:35, 2 May 2009 (UTC)
But she's neither the middle girl nor the second sister. She's the middle sibling, but the first sister. Who then was a gentleman? (talk) 21:30, 3 May 2009 (UTC)
Just call them by their names. "I have two younger sisters: Melanie is three years younger than me and Allie is two younger than Melanie. And Melanie once told me that...". That's what I do with my two older sisters so I can avoid having to say things like "the younger of my two older sisters once said to my oldest sister that...". —Angr 21:43, 3 May 2009 (UTC)

Not actually what I am thinking of, but thanks, anyway. These are three different actresses that play the same character, at various stages in her (the character's) life.--KageTora (영호 (影虎)) (talk) 14:42, 3 May 2009 (UTC)

Then to avoid the problem use "childhood Y", "adolescent Y" and "adult Y" or something similar.--TammyMoet (talk) 17:59, 3 May 2009 (UTC)
IMDb uses "Latika", "Middle Latika" and "Youngest Latika", if that helps. Tonywalton Talk 19:01, 3 May 2009 (UTC)
Angela's Ashes also has three actors playing the same character at three different ages. IMDB calls them "Young Frank", "Middle Frank", and "Older Frank", but they may well have been credited thus in the film itself (i.e. it's not IMDB's call). —Angr 12:42, 4 May 2009 (UTC)
Yeah, it is a difficult one... In this precise case "youngest", "middle" and "oldest" are simple and unambiguous, but it isn't always so easy. Just make sure you avoid that horrible Americanism of using "older" to mean "old" (I assume it is supposed to be political correctness, but in reality it is just wrong). --Tango (talk) 19:33, 7 May 2009 (UTC)

Chinese Song[edit]

What does this mean?

太阳光金亮亮 雄鸡唱三唱 花儿醒来了 鸟儿忙梳妆 小喜鹊造新房 小蜜蜂采蜜忙 幸福的生活从哪里来 要靠劳动来创造

青青的叶儿红红的花儿 小蝴蝶贪玩耍 不爱劳动不学习 我们大家不学它 要学喜鹊造新房 要学蜜蜂采蜜糖 劳动的快乐说不尽 劳动的创造最光荣

太阳光金亮亮 雄鸡唱三唱 花儿醒来了 鸟儿忙梳妆 小喜鹊造新房 小蜜蜂采蜜忙 幸福的生活从哪里来 要靠劳动来创造 青青的叶儿红红的花儿 小蝴蝶在玩耍 不爱劳动不学习 我们大家不学它 要学喜鹊造新房 要学蜜蜂采蜜糖 劳动的快乐说不尽 劳动的创造最光荣

Propagandic children's song about the joys of labour. A rough literal translation:
Stanza 1.
The sun's rays are golden
The cock crows three times
Flowers awake
Birds are busy dressing themselves
The little magpie is building a new house
The little bee is busy collecting honey
Whence comes the blissful ilfe?
It is to be created by labour.
Stanza 2.
Green leaves, red flowers,
The little butterfly is indulging in play
It does not like labour and does not like studying
We do not learn from it.
We should learn from the magpie building a new house
We should learn from the bee collecting honey
The joys of labour are too vast to recount
Creation through labour is the most honourable.
(The whole thing is then repeated)
(Private cringe). --PalaceGuard008 (Talk) 08:42, 3 May 2009 (UTC)
For comparison purposes, I offer How doth the little busy bee. (talk) 11:36, 3 May 2009 (UTC)

Chinese word into English letters by pronunciation[edit]


Hi, I have no experience with the Chinese language whatsoever, but I'd like a pronunciation of this word: 反朝廷 in english letters. The website gave an audio demonstration, which sounded like [I]fan-tak-keen[/I] but I want to know exactly how I'd write it if I were going to put it in an essay using only English letters. Thank you --Ye Olde Luke (talk) 19:17, 2 May 2009 (UTC)

Fanchaoting. —Angr 20:41, 2 May 2009 (UTC)
There are several systems in the Romanization of Chinese. -- Wavelength (talk) 21:26, 2 May 2009 (UTC)
Ah. Thank you both, Angr for the translation, Wavelength for the resource link! --Ye Olde Luke (talk) 22:29, 2 May 2009 (UTC)
Fan Chaoting? Fan-chaoting by analogy to "anti-government"? --PalaceGuard008 (Talk) 08:33, 3 May 2009 (UTC)
The word I was going for was "rebel." I'm writing an essay comparing moral codes in various American science fiction frachises, and the word in question is needed for the Firefly section. --Ye Olde Luke (talk) 01:44, 4 May 2009 (UTC)