Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Language/2009 November 16

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November 16[edit]

the name of a test[edit]

A test having a number of wrong answers and exactly ONE correct answer is called a multiple choice question.

(     ) Mirror, mirror on the wall, who in the land is fairest of all?
(A) Michael Jackson
(B) "Queen"
(C) Snow White
(D) Rin Tin Tin

Now what's the name of a test having a number of correct answers? I thought it may be called a "multiple-answer question".

(     ) Mirror, mirror on the wall, who in the land are NOT fairest of all?
(A) Michael Jackson
(B) "Queen"
(C) Snow White
(D) Rin Tin Tin

Wikipedia does not seem to have an article for this kind of test. -- Toytoy (talk) 04:52, 16 November 2009 (UTC)

I have seen these called "multiple response" questions - Pollinosisss (talk) 05:02, 16 November 2009 (UTC)
I would still call this multiple choice. From the first sentence of our article (emphasis added): "respondents are asked to select the best possible answer (or answers) out of the choices from a list." rʨanaɢ talk/contribs 05:09, 16 November 2009 (UTC)
I agree. It would still be a multiple choice test. Dismas|(talk) 16:19, 16 November 2009 (UTC)
I've had teachers refer to it as "multiple multiple choice" to distinguish it from standard multiple choice. (i.e. when explaining to students that they can't just circle the first correct answer they come across and call it done.) -- (talk) 20:19, 16 November 2009 (UTC)
Windows OS uses a parallel system of Radio buttons, where only one choice may be selected, and Check boxes, where one or more choices may be selected. --Thomprod (talk) 18:22, 19 November 2009 (UTC)

Poll + pollex[edit]

What do you say about the relationship between "poll" (as in voting, in that people might have used to vote with a thumbs-up or -down) and pollex. The Talmud speaks of the Temple priests putting their thumbs into a circle so that an eenie-meini-moe sort of lottery could be cast to see who would be honored with various tasks in the Temple service. DRosenbach (Talk | Contribs) 13:05, 16 November 2009 (UTC)

Poll means "head" in Middle English from various Germanic languages[1] - a poll (vote) is a head-count. Pollex means "thumb" in Latin[2]. I suspect it's just a coincidence they sound similar.Alansplodge (talk) 14:08, 16 November 2009 (UTC)


What does WI-FI mean? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:36, 16 November 2009 (UTC)

Did you see our article Wi-Fi? +Angr 14:40, 16 November 2009 (UTC)
And, specifically, see this section: Wi-Fi#The_Wi-Fi_name. StuRat (talk) 15:03, 18 November 2009 (UTC)
...which says, in part, "The term Wi-Fi suggests Wireless Fidelity, compared with the long-established audio recording term High Fidelity or Hi-Fi." --Thomprod (talk) 17:51, 18 November 2009 (UTC)
I don't intend any sarcasm, nor heartlessness, or harshness, by my statement, but perhaps we should just boycott questions that ask for a definition of a word or acronym/initialism/etc. that is very, very easy to find my typing into the Wikipedia search field? Then people would know to input a search rather than engaging in the time consuming process (for asker and answerer) of posting a question. Of course, I know this isn't the Village Pump. --Dpr (talk) 18:22, 18 November 2009 (UTC)
Our guidelines for answering questions direct us to "provide as much of the answer as you are able to" and to "provide links when available". I take these as instructions to give the answer to any question if it can be given briefly, as well as providing a Wikilink where possible. Of course, it would be better for the questioner to search for the definition him/herself, but since they have chosen not to do that, I believe it is our responsibility to either give an appropriate answer to a question asked in good faith or decline to post a response. --Thomprod (talk) 19:05, 18 November 2009 (UTC)

How do you pronounce years 2009, 2012 etc.. ?[edit]

Hello you all! We are French and we wonder how the English speakers do pronounce the years following 2000. The article is interesting but I read that you say for 2009 : "twenty OH nine" or "two thousand and nine". But I guess that one of these two pronounciations must be dominant. Do you have other ways to pronounce these years ? May be it's different from one country to an other ? Thank you for your help. -- (talk) 15:42, 16 November 2009 (UTC)

Personally, I don't say either of those, but "two thousand nine". However, I'm going to make a concerted effort to pronounce the years from next year on "twenty ten", "twenty eleven", and so forth. That wouldn't have worked for 2000–09, since "twenty hundred" sounds dumb, and "twenty one", "twenty two", ... "twenty nine" would sound like 21, 22, ... 29. +Angr 15:48, 16 November 2009 (UTC)
From 2000 through 2009, I use something like "two-thousand-nine". Anything above that, it is something like "twenty-twelve". That is just what is natural to me. Every once in a while I hear something like "two-thousand-twelve", but that is very uncommon. I have never heard "twenty-oh-nine". —Akrabbimtalk 15:51, 16 November 2009 (UTC)
Northeast US here. And the only thing I hear on a regular basis is something akin to "two thousand nine". Dismas|(talk) 16:02, 16 November 2009 (UTC)
I agree that, in the USA at least, "two thousand nine" is most common. People don't speak so often about years in the future, so I don't think that a "dominant" pronunciation has yet been established for 2010 or 2012. I've heard both "two thousand ten" and "twenty ten" about equally often. I suspect that by March or April, one pronunciation or the other will have won out. Marco polo (talk) 16:05, 16 November 2009 (UTC)
Whenever I hear someone talking about the movie "2012" They call it twenty-twelve. Googlemeister (talk) 16:23, 16 November 2009 (UTC)
As I recall, 2010 was called twenty-ten, too. +Angr 16:47, 16 November 2009 (UTC)
So it was. That was in 1984, of course. I was used to thinking of the first movie and novel as "Two Thousand and One: A Space Odyssey", so I automatically thought of the sequel as "Two Thousand and Ten" by analogy and was surprised to hear the other pronunciation (and also that the movie omitted the novel's subtitle). Similarly, early in John Brunner's 1968 novel Stand on Zanzibar there is dialogue referring to the year "twenty-ten", and I do not believe that on first reading I realized that that was supposed to be the year. But today I certainly do say that this year "two thousand (and) nine" will be followed by "twenty-ten". --Anonymous, twenty-three forty-four UTC, November sixteenth, two thousand nine.
When I hear people talking about "two thousand and twenty-five"and the like, I always want to ask them if they think the Battle of Hastings happened in "one thousand and sixty-six". AndrewWTaylor (talk) 16:53, 16 November 2009 (UTC)

In the UK 'two thousand and nine'dominates -- (talk) 16:54, 16 November 2009 (UTC)

I'm sure that I read a newspaper article on this subject - The Daily Telegraph perhaps. They had consulted the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, which in the UK is the absulute authority on time and date. Their opinion was that "two thousand and nine" was acceptable but that it MUST be "twenty ten". Unusually I can't a reference to it on Google, but there's a review of the arguments in the Wikipedia article for 2010.Alansplodge (talk) 17:20, 16 November 2009 (UTC)
You can listen to and -- Wavelength (talk) 17:54, 16 November 2009 (UTC)
I was astounded to hear someone say "twenty three" recently, referring to the year 2003. (Or maybe it was another year this decade — I forget precisely — but the same idea.) (I, as others above, say "two thousand nine". I'm American.)—msh210 18:36, 16 November 2009 (UTC)
This is discussed a little in our articles on 2010 and 2011. Apparantly, if the "twenty X" convention doesn't take hold for 2010, it will definitely do so for 2011 since "two thousand and eleven" is just way too friggen long. — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 19:07, 16 November 2009 (UTC)
I usually hear "two thousand nine" or "two thousand and nine". Charles Osgood is one broadcaster who is trying to establish what I assume he believes to be the correct way to say it, as "twenty oh nine". "Twenty nine" would be wrong. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 19:13, 16 November 2009 (UTC)
Two thousand; two thousand and nine; twenty-twelve. (Seem to be dominant here in the UK.) Two thousand ten sounds like an americanism around here. - Jarry1250 [Humorous? Discuss.] 19:18, 16 November 2009 (UTC)
Do all awkward phrasings sound like Americanisms in the UK? Even if they aren't common in the US (like in this case)? —Akrabbimtalk 19:23, 16 November 2009 (UTC)
Most. "Two thousand nine" also sounds American (although the "and" contracted to 'n' is not unusual). As for a rule, they either sound regional (particularly on the pronunciation of single words) or American. One could theorise it sounds correct but unusual in the UK, therefore it is a native but non-UK speaker, and therefore likely an American. - Jarry1250 [Humorous? Discuss.] 19:51, 16 November 2009 (UTC)
I think both Americans and Brits have a tendency to assign to the other side of the herring pond any linguistic phenomena that sound unfamiliar but not non-native. I've known German and Dutch people whose English pronunciation was so good you'd never know they weren't native speakers - except that everyone thinks they're native speakers of someone else's accent: the Americans think they must be British, and the Brits think they must be American (or Australian). I moved from New York State to Texas when I was 9 years old, and a girl my age there thought I must be from England because I didn't have a Texas accent. +Angr 20:04, 16 November 2009 (UTC)
Heh. My ex-wife was born in Liverpool, New South Wales, a suburb of Sydney. Her parents spoke Russian (and some other languages) but very little English. They wisely decided not to try to teach her English at home, but let nature take ts course. So, her first language was Russian, and she learned English only after mixing with other kids and going to school. But she learned so well and her words were so well-formed that people often asked which part of England she came from. She would answer "Liverpool". That seemed to satisfy them, even though she doesn't sound remotely like a Liverpudlian. -- JackofOz (talk) 20:17, 16 November 2009 (UTC)
This was anticipated by the movie released in 1968 which was usually called "two-thousand one: a space oddysey". As far as some self-appointed authority saying it "must" be twenty-ten next year; well, all the more reason to keep saying "two thousand ten". ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 20:27, 16 November 2009 (UTC)
In line with the other things that have been said, that film is almost always called "Two-thousand-and-one: A Space Oddysey" in the UK. - Jarry1250 [Humorous? Discuss.] 20:37, 16 November 2009 (UTC)
Yes, we say "two thousand and one", too, but we spell it "Odyssey" for some odd reason.  :) -- JackofOz (talk)
Drat. This laptop does not a have a speelchkere. That's at you too, Bugs. - Jarry1250 [Humorous? Discuss.] 20:56, 16 November 2009 (UTC)
Always had trouble with that word, "odyssey". I often heard "two thousand and one" in addition to "two thousand one". NEVER "twenty oh one". Unfortunately, the year itself is never stated within the film. It's only in the film's creators and the critics talking about that those usages are heard. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 22:46, 16 November 2009 (UTC)
If you could find an audio clip of Arthur Clarke and/or Stanley Kubrick stating the title of the film, that would be telling. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 13:06, 17 November 2009 (UTC)

Angr: It's unlikely that Brits will confuse Germans for Australians - Germans don't understand rhyming slang!! Alansplodge (talk) 09:22, 17 November 2009 (UTC)

From an article in The Times [3]:
Logically, then, we are living in “twenty oh five” (2005). Stop 100 people in the street, however, and they will all say “two thousand and five”.
The same article notes that the BBC has issued no guidance on the pronunciation issue. However, you can find the occasional complaint from listeners about BBC Radio 4 newsreaders saying “twenty-oh” [4]. In addition, a few American broadcasters such as Paul Harvey were known for the “twenty-oh” usage [5]. —Mathew5000 (talk) 08:28, 19 November 2009 (UTC)
Wouldnt the construction be the same as for the years 19XX, simply replacing "19" by "20"? US and UK pronounciations of year dates seem to differ. (talk) 11:54, 19 November 2009 (UTC)
In the UK, "Nineteen oh one/two/../nine" ranks slightly ahead of "Nineteen hundred and one", although you wouldn't sound particularly odd if you used the latter. This is in contrast to the current decade. - Jarry1250 [Humorous? Discuss.] 19:44, 20 November 2009 (UTC)

Pronunciation of comfortable[edit]

Is non-pronunciation of the second 'o' and putting the 'r' sound after the 't' in comfortable, making it sound like 'comftɘrble' the norm in the English-speaking world, or is my pronunciation non-standard? (talk) 17:10, 16 November 2009 (UTC)

Not pronouncing the 'o' is very common in England, but we don't put the 'r' after the 't', primarily because most accents of the UK are Non-rhotic and we don't pronounce the 'r' anyway. --KageTora - SPQW - (影虎) (talk) 17:16, 16 November 2009 (UTC)
Sudden shift from England to UK there - "Flatten all the vowels and throw the "r" away", huh? :) Grutness...wha? 22:29, 16 November 2009 (UTC)
Well, I started by speaking from England, where I am, and broadened my comment to include the rest of the UK. --KageTora - SPQW - (影虎) (talk) 11:18, 17 November 2009 (UTC)
Technically, I think you do put the r after the t, and then don't pronounce it. Otherwise you'd have something like "comfətbl". rʨanaɢ talk/contribs 04:44, 17 November 2009 (UTC)
I disagree. The '/ə/' in our pronunciation of 'comftəbl' is from the '-a-' in the final '-able'. --KageTora - SPQW - (影虎) 11:18, 17 November 2009 (UTC)
Ah yes, that's also possible. rʨanaɢ talk/contribs 16:07, 17 November 2009 (UTC)
According to the article on Metathesis, it's a "frequent pronunciation" -- (talk) 17:26, 16 November 2009 (UTC)
My Oxford English dictionary has [ˈkʌmftəbl] as the RP pronunciation, and [ˈkʌmfərtəbl] as the US one. If [ˈkʌmftərbl] is common, it's apparantly non-standard. — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 17:42, 16 November 2009 (UTC)
I think it's pretty common in the US. That's how I usually pronounce it anyway. Rckrone (talk) 18:01, 16 November 2009 (UTC)
I don't the OED is a good arbiter of what's "standard" in the United States, if there is such a thing as a standard. According to Webster's New World Dictionary, edited and published in the United States, the primary pronunciation of "comfortable" is [ˈkʌmftərbl]. It is quite rare here to hear any other pronunciation from a rhotic speaker. Marco polo (talk) 18:02, 16 November 2009 (UTC)
For this and similar questions, you may wish to see the appropriate Wiktionary entry.—msh210 18:33, 16 November 2009 (UTC)
I don't agree with Wiktionary's judgment that "comfterble" is unstressed and "comfortable" is stressed; I'd say that "comfterble" is colloquial and "comfortable" is formal. I for one would only pronounce "comfortable" in four syllables and with all consonants in their written order if I was being very careful and speech-conscious. My usual everyday pronunciation is "comfterble". +Angr 19:46, 16 November 2009 (UTC)
In the United States, at least, I think that the only context in which you might expect to hear "comfortable" with four syllables, according to the "formal" pronunciation (as suggested by Angr) might be in a rehearsed speech by a highly educated person such as a college president or the current president of the United States (but not the previous one). Marco polo (talk) 20:56, 16 November 2009 (UTC)
FWIW, here in New Zealand it's [ˈkʌmftəbl] except in the far south of the South Island, where [ˈkʌmftərbl] is fairly common (the semi-rhotic Scottish-influence of the Southland burr plays a part in that - watch The World's Fastest Indian for Sir Anthony Hopkins doing a good job of imitating the Southland burr). Grutness...wha? 22:29, 16 November 2009 (UTC)
As of Ƶ§œš¹, if we have to use the same analogy, then we have to pronounce the word ‘college’ as /cʌledʒ/ (as closer as in Indian Enɡlish /caːledʒ/).
As of KageTora, it seems correct (I guess) that 'r' in most UK or US accents are non-rhotic except at the initial. That is, the initial 'r' is always pronounced (may be not the same way as in the IPA, but as a flap). Is this correct? --Mihkaw napéw (talk) 04:32, 17 November 2009 (UTC)
No, I don't see where "as a flap" is coming from. And it's not true that most US accents are non-rhotic... more likely, most are rhotic (particularly, General American is). rʨanaɢ talk/contribs 04:46, 17 November 2009 (UTC)
So how do you pronounce the ‘r’ in ‘rhotic’? You have two choices: a) as a tap or flap, or b) as a trill. However, the flap/tap is not the IPA of the US or UK English; a ‘trill’ is. Correct?--Mihkaw napéw (talk) 05:53, 17 November 2009 (UTC)
No, it's generally an alveolar approximant. I can't think of any situation where an American English speaker would trill an r, or pronounce it as a tap. Perhaps you are confusing English with Spanish. rʨanaɢ talk/contribs 06:19, 17 November 2009 (UTC)
OK. What kind of alveolar approximant do you use for ‘r’? Do you mean /ɹ/? Can you perhaps reference this for ‘rhotic’ (from any phonetic dictionaries of UK or US)? I think the ‘r’ in US or UK English is the trill (but a short) if it is rhotic. If not, this can be an approximant (depends on the vowel in the environment). Correct?--Mihkaw napéw (talk) 11:55, 17 November 2009 (UTC)
Yes, I mean /ɹ/. You will not hear US speakers trilling. rʨanaɢ talk/contribs 12:02, 17 November 2009 (UTC)
I think they do (have to) but not a long drill like in other languages. Can you perhaps reference the /ɹ/ in 'rohtic' that the /ɹ/ is the phonetic transcription for 'r'? Thanks.--Mihkaw napéw (talk) 12:34, 17 November 2009 (UTC)
From , Of a phoneme, it has the quality of the said letter. This includes the sounds of the IPA symbols /ɹ/, /ɻ/, /ɚ/, /ɝ/, and some would say /r/, or has r coloring. (talk) 15:30, 17 November 2009 (UTC)
Mihkaw, I am an American, we don't trill r's. You can walk around the US for years and you won't find an American English speaker who trills their r's. rʨanaɢ talk/contribs 16:07, 17 November 2009 (UTC)
Otherwise, there would be no ‘r’ in the language, and the sound would be an approximant as in ‘car’ or ‘core’. If one does not drill or flap/tap, canot get the ‘r’ pronounced. To get an ‘r’ sound, the active articulator must drill or tap/flap. For example, if one pronounces ‘r’ of any word initials in English as in the word ‘rhotic’, there is very clear /r/ sound. Although, in a non-rhotic accent, the phonemes are not just /kaː/ and /kɔː/ for ‘car’ and ‘core’, but there must be approximants to hit the ‘r’ sound slightly.--Mihkaw napéw (talk) 17:19, 17 November 2009 (UTC)
Yes, exactly, American English is a language that does not have /r/ (see General American#Consonants). God forbid. rʨanaɢ talk/contribs 17:31, 17 November 2009 (UTC)
I do hear American English spears use a flap in words like three and thrill, but that's not all speakers. — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 18:52, 17 November 2009 (UTC)
My opinion is that a language which is non-rhotic sensitive produces in general even the ‘r’ sound as an alveolar trill (a short) in a word like ‘three’ and the ‘r’ as an alveolar-palatal flap in a word like ‘rhotic'. That is, in these environments, there isn’t any approximants in their articulations. However, in some other non-rhotic environments like in ‘rt’ or 'tar', the ‘r’ sound is stoped (but not completely). But I do not know the correct explanation to these phonetic features; perhaps by an approximant or by a schwa plus approximant.--Mihkaw napéw (talk) 20:31, 17 November 2009 (UTC)
Unfortunately, your opinion is wrong and I don't know where you're getting these ideas. This is simply not how American English speakers pronounce these words, and if you think it is then you clearly have not listened to an American English speaker. Maybe speakers of your dialect pronounce things this way, but speakers of American English do not. Maybe later today I can upload a recording so you can hear the pronunciation. rʨanaɢ talk/contribs 22:12, 17 November 2009 (UTC)
I'm a native speaker of American English and I can't even make an alveolar trill sound if I try. Rckrone (talk) 22:45, 17 November 2009 (UTC)

Chain conundrums, anyone?[edit]

I was reading The Game of Words by Willard R. Espy the other day. He mentions something called a chain conundrum, which is a sort of chain of puns that lead into each other. His example turns a potato into a beehive by calling a potato a specked tater, which is a spectator, which is a beholder, which is a bee holder, which is a beehive (or something to that effect). I was wondering if chain conundrums exist outside Espy. Does anyone know any famous ones or where to find them? Does anyone want to try their hand at making one up themselves (I'm so curious about these things!)  ?EVAUNIT神の人間の殺害者 20:29, 16 November 2009 (UTC)

How do escape a room given only a table? Rub your hand until it's sore; use the saw to cut the table in half; put the halves together to make a whole; climb through the hole. Not exactly what you describe, but similar (popular in these parts). :) 22:10, 16 November 2009 (UTC)
For an extended version of the chain in the original posting, see this page. -- Wavelength (talk) 00:37, 17 November 2009 (UTC)
I devised this 30-word chain, which contains both nouns and verbs: designs, draws, pulls, jerks, starts, introduces, presents, shows, spectacles, glasses, tumblers, jumpers, dresses, habits, customs, taxes, levies, levees, banks, stocks, blocks, bars, poles, polls, surveys, measures, bars, counters, adders, vipers. -- Wavelength (talk) 03:19, 17 November 2009 (UTC)