Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Language/2010 August 27

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August 27[edit]


Is there a "positive" analog of the word "negation"? Position doesn't seem right. Positivation is not a word. -- (talk) 04:13, 27 August 2010 (UTC)

Affirmation. Looie496 (talk) 04:33, 27 August 2010 (UTC)
Double negation. Clarityfiend (talk) 05:22, 27 August 2010 (UTC)
Sure. To explain, since analogies A:B::C:D can be rewritten as A:C::B:D, this analogy could also be stated as "negative:positive::negation:???" When it's written like that, it's easy to see you need the antonym of negation to fill in the blank. This thesaurus lists three other possible answers. If you don't believe that it's possible to rewrite analogies like that, here's proof:
--el Aprel (facta-facienda) 06:03, 27 August 2010 (UTC)
I think the questioner was asking a language question, not a mathematics question, and the answer is "no, not exactly". Antonyms are seldom exact. Dbfirs 08:08, 27 August 2010 (UTC)
You're right. I spent about 15 minutes working out the rusty mathematics in my head and wasn't going to let it go to waste. :) --el Aprel (facta-facienda) 22:41, 27 August 2010 (UTC)

Encyclopaedia vs. Encyclopedia[edit]

Why is it usually spelt the second way, as opposed to the first? What is the 'correct' spelling of this word? Thanks. Chevymontecarlo - alt 07:29, 27 August 2010 (UTC)

I always spell the word "Encyclopaedia" or even "Encyclopædia" because that was the correct spelling in the UK at the time I learnt the word. In the USA, spelling reform simplified the spelling, and the simplest form is gradually creeping into UK spelling. Take your choice! Which version is most "correct" depends on where you live and what audience you are writing for. Dbfirs 08:13, 27 August 2010 (UTC)
Technically, it should be encyclopædia. The æ and œ ligatures are often simplified to ae and oe in Commonwealth English and simply to e in US English. Thus in the UK, Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, etc, we have encyclopaedia, anaesthetist, aeon, haemophilia, paediatrics; in the US and the Caribbean they have encyclopedia, anesthetist, eon, hemophilia, pediatrics. There are some words where the ae/oe format is slowly dying out in Commonwealth English (I haven't seen anyone write hyaena for a while), there are a few where the use of a simple a or e never took of in the US (they don't have TV erial, ameba, or subpena), and a few where the use of ae is only found in poetry (e.g., faerie). So it depends where you are, really. In the US and the Caribbean, you'd normally use encyclopedia; anywhere else you'd use encyclopaedia. Grutness...wha? 08:31, 27 August 2010 (UTC)
Grutness, ameba is an acceptable alternative spelling in the states. I looked here and here and saw to my amusement that while the American dictionaries (Merriam-Webster and American Heritage) consider ameba to be a spelling variant of (i.e. less common than) amoeba, the British dictionary (Collins) considers it to be "the usual US spelling". —Angr (talk) 13:52, 29 August 2010 (UTC)
That's a good summation, Grutness. Except for your first sentence. I cannot see any justification, in this day and age, for ever using an æ or œ ligature. Except maybe when quoting some olde worlde text verbatim. It's like writing "ye" for "the", or using that weird long s that looks like an f. They're just not on anymore. -- Jack of Oz ... speak! ... 11:13, 27 August 2010 (UTC)
... but it's only fifty-odd years since encyclopædia was the standard spelling (though I think it was changing here in the UK around that time). It is a much longer time since "ye" (strictly þe, or even ?) was used in standard print (though it is still heard in dialect), and even longer (200 years) since the long s went out of use. I agree that the ligature forms are now rare. The speed of language change seems to be increasing. Dbfirs 11:35, 27 August 2010 (UTC)
Excellent - thanks a lot! I know loads about this now - great! Chevymontecarlo - alt 12:19, 27 August 2010 (UTC)
I don't think "ye" is used for "the" in any dialect of English (apart from faux-archaic). It was a purely orthographic convention. --ColinFine (talk) 14:11, 27 August 2010 (UTC)
Sorry, yes, I was confusing the two words spelt "ye". Dbfirs 00:13, 28 August 2010 (UTC)
As are those ligatures. Does anyone who spells it as "encyclopædia" pronounce it any differently from those who spell it as "encyclopaedia" or "encyclopedia"? Answer: No. If one were to be consistent and use all the available Typographic ligatures, that could be justified, if not preferred. But this faux-correctness seems to be confined to -ae- and -oe-, which makes it pompous and snobbish. See Adam's comment below. -- Jack of Oz ... speak! ... 19:51, 27 August 2010 (UTC)
For the words Grutness mentioned, Canada tends to use the American spelling, for example The Canadian Encyclopedia. For medical things you might see both. Anyway, æ and œ are not really "correct", they are just ligatures, which essentially means they are meant to save space when you have a limited supply of ink and vellum. Otherwise it is meant to look fancy. There is nothing special about them that make them more correct than simple ae and oe. (And why are those bastardized Latin versions any better than the original Greek ai and oi?) Adam Bishop (talk) 16:50, 27 August 2010 (UTC)
Aerial is kind of an odd man out in the examples given thus far. Unlike the other -ae- words, the initial sound is not a "long e" so it would be unlikely to ever become "erial". Of course, we already have an Arial... Matt Deres (talk) 18:14, 27 August 2010 (UTC)
In the early days of the airplane, before the vocabulary had settled down, you sometimes saw the prefix aero- written with a dieresis, aëro- as in "aëroplane". I presume that in the original Greek word there were two distinct vowels and not a diphthong that might be reduced to the "æ" ligature. In any case people speaking English seem to have quickly settled on pronouncing "aeroplane" like "airplane" except for the O, and the dieresis (or diaeresis or diæresis) dropped out of use. --Anonymous, 22:15 UTC, August 27, 2010.
The ae- of aeroplan is not normally pronounced like the ai- of airplane. It's a much shorter sound, similar to the first -e- in "better" compared to the vowel sound in "hair" [ 'ɛrəpleːn] and [ 'ɛərpleːn]. And yes, you're all right about the ligature - my first sentence above should have read "Technically, it was originally encyclopædia." Grutness...wha? 22:55, 27 August 2010 (UTC)
Nobody I know pronounces the first vowel in "aeroplane" short. ['ɛəɾəplɛɪn] vs ['ɛəplɛɪn]. --ColinFine (talk) 14:00, 28 August 2010 (UTC)
... and was printed with a "pompous and snobbish" ligature on the spines of "encyclopædias", though I don't recall ever seeing "ærial". Dbfirs 00:27, 28 August 2010 (UTC)
No, it wasn't those adjectives back then; they had their reasons back then. But those reasons don't apply anymore. Oh, sure, if someone wants a particular look in their printed text and chooses to use a ligature here and there, that's fine, that's their choice. But to insist on the correctness of the ligatures and only the ligatures in words like Aeneas, just because they used to spell it that way a long time ago - that's what's pompous and snobbish. Not to mention "old hat, stodgy, pretentious and unnecessary". -- Jack of Oz ... speak! ... 04:00, 28 August 2010 (UTC)
When "a long time ago" is within my lifetime, I suppose I'll have to admit to being "old hat and stodgy", but I object to "pretentious, pompous and snobbish". However, I agree with "unnecessary" - I don't actually use the ligature, and I suppose I might regard someone as pretentious if they over-used it. Dbfirs 07:52, 28 August 2010 (UTC)
Please don't be troubled by my occasional outbursts of passion, Dbfirs. Nothing personal intended there. I'll retreat to the Moody Loners' Hermitage once more now.  :) -- Jack of Oz ... speak! ... 10:11, 28 August 2010 (UTC)
That's OK, I didn't really take it personally! Please don't be offended by my occasional criticism of your posts. Most of the time I fully agree with your comments even though we are half a world apart. May I join the club? Dbfirs 20:17, 28 August 2010 (UTC)
No, find your own damn cave.  :) -- Jack of Oz ... speak! ... 22:13, 28 August 2010 (UTC)

"Usual suspects" - meaning, origin of the term, Swedish translation[edit]

I have a number of questions about the term "the usual suspects". Can it be used to mean "the standard set of features", "the expected offerings", "nothing beyond the ordinary" or similar? If yes, are there any other idioms that states this? Who coined this term? And is there any good Swedish translation of it? (talk) 09:31, 27 August 2010 (UTC)

As far as I know, it was first used in the film Casablanca, by Claude Rains character Captain Louis Renault to the gendarmes that appear after Rick (Humphrey Bogart) shoots Major Strasser saying "round up the usual suspects". Mikenorton (talk) 10:16, 27 August 2010 (UTC)
Most sources (such as this) seem to suggest that the line was written by screenwriter Julius J. Epstein and/or his twin brother, Philip G. Epstein. Ghmyrtle (talk) 10:35, 27 August 2010 (UTC)
I don't think it's ever used to mean "the standard set of features" or "the expected offerings", as it usually refers only to people. Maybe "nothing beyond the ordinary" as in the exchange "Who was at the pub last night?" "Oh, the usual suspects" (i.e. the people you would expect). The film of the same name is called De misstänkta in Swedish, but I have no idea if that's a suitable translation. AndrewWTaylor (talk) 10:31, 27 August 2010 (UTC)
The literal translation, "de vanliga misstänkta", seems to be used in the exact same manner as its English counterpart. "De misstänkta" fails to convey the meaning of the original film's title. It simply means "The suspects". decltype (talk) 10:44, 27 August 2010 (UTC)
So this isn't a correct usage? "What do they serve in that restaurant?" "Hamburgers, pizza, sandwiches and such - the usual suspects". (talk) 11:33, 27 August 2010 (UTC)
That's an acceptable use as long as the person reading or listening understands that you're being droll. In the example you give, "the usual suspects" is a lighthearted way of saying "about what you'd expect." --- OtherDave (talk) 12:39, 27 August 2010 (UTC)

Voices & morphosyntax[edit]

Hi everybody! I'm looking for a reading list (especially on the Internet but books as well) about morphosyntax and grammatical voices. I've been unable to find anything from Wikipedia's "References" sections except pages about buying/ordering the books in question, and that very interesting paper by Dixon & Aikhenvald (article "anticausative verb"), of which we unfortunately only have the first chapter.
I'm looking forward to reading your suggestions...
Many thanks :-) JaneStillman (talk) 19:01, 27 August 2010 (UTC)

How do the french...[edit]

...write notes to themselves? This seems like a random question but I need to know because our homework is to create a typical French student's weekly-planner, written in French. For example, how would you write something like, "stay after school for soccer practice" to yourself? There's no first person imperative in French. (talk) 22:16, 27 August 2010 (UTC)

I don't think there's a first-person imperative in English either. I would suggest you use the infinitive. -- (talk) 22:32, 27 August 2010 (UTC)
Yes, that's a good idea. You might consider titling it Choses à faire, create a table with the days of the week, and a couple of verb clauses for each day, like samedi: aller au cinema avec mes amis ... --el Aprel (facta-facienda) 22:37, 27 August 2010 (UTC)
Is there a first person imperative in English? Let me see. Marnanel (talk) 22:55, 27 August 2010 (UTC)
There isn't indeed such thing as first person [EDIT: singular] imperative in French, and I would be interested to know if any language has it. Also, what one would never do is include any references to the first person when writing orders to oneself. The verb would be in the infinitive, or better left out if evident. Thus:
"À faire:"
"sam.: cinéma avec " (more probably the name of the friends in question than "amis")
"lun.: entraînement foot après l'école"
Hope it helps... JaneStillman (talk) 09:10, 28 August 2010 (UTC)
(According to the article on imperative mood: "Irish has imperative forms in all three persons and both numbers, although the first person singular is most commonly found in the negative (e.g. ná cloisim sin arís "let me not hear that again").") ---Sluzzelin talk 09:23, 28 August 2010 (UTC)
Was Marnanel's post too subtle for ordinary mortals? -- Jack of Oz ... speak! ... 10:06, 28 August 2010 (UTC)
Isn't "let me see" actually second-person? You're asking someone to let you see. It's like saying let me go :D Rimush (talk) 10:50, 28 August 2010 (UTC)
No it isn't, in this case. In "Please let me see!" it would be, but in the sense that Marnanel meant, it functions as an (invariable) auxiliary marking the mood: something like jussive, or optative. I would hesitate to call it imperative, but the equivalent in some languages is so classified, for example the Russian "пойдём", "let's go!" --ColinFine (talk) 14:24, 28 August 2010 (UTC)
That's right. "Let me/us" is not, generally speaking, asking for anyone's permission. Does anyone respond "Oh, OK then" when they hear Queen or Robbie Williams singing "Let Me Entertain You"? Nor was Elizabeth Barrett Browning seeking permission when she wrote "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways ...". -- Jack of Oz ... speak! ... 19:56, 28 August 2010 (UTC)
In many contexts, "let us" cannot be substituted for "let's" without changing the meaning... AnonMoos (talk) 12:55, 29 August 2010 (UTC)