Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Language/2010 May 12

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May 12[edit]

Language disorders[edit]

Im not sure if this goes here or somewhere esle so bear with me here. My friend told me that Chinese speakers have a lower incidence of certain kinds of dyslexia because Chinese does not use an alphabet. Are there any languages that people with certain language disabilities would be better off with? (talk) 00:33, 12 May 2010 (UTC)

One with no "r" or "w" sounds would suit me. DuncanHill (talk) 00:47, 12 May 2010 (UTC)
This Straight Dope article: [1] implies that dyslexia occurs in Chinese, too, but the nature of the dyslexia is different, because of the logographic nature of Chinese versus the alphabetic nature of English. It cites an article in Nature, and a study on a bilingual Japanese/English speaker, who has trouble with English, but not Japanese. It sits pretty well to my background knowledge that this is correct. Steewi (talk) 03:25, 12 May 2010 (UTC)
Yes, dyslexia definitely occurs with Chinese speakers. It just doesn't look the same since, when reading Chinese, they're not dealing with the same kind of writing system as what we are. But saying that dyslexia doesn't occur in China because they have a different writing system is like saying housecats don't get sick because you never see them going to the pharmacy—they still do get sick, the result just doesn't look the same. rʨanaɢ (talk) 03:34, 12 May 2010 (UTC)
That would be a good analogy if other cats do go to the pharmacy, Rjanag. But do they? I can't say I've ever seen any sort of cat getting a prescription filled or asking a pharmacist for something for the weekend. -- Jack of Oz ... speak! ... 08:04, 12 May 2010 (UTC)
Some must do, or at least have someone go for them..... --KägeTorä - (影虎) (TALK) 08:56, 12 May 2010 (UTC)
A question on a similar vein, specific to stuttering. (talk) 09:55, 12 May 2010 (UTC)

I can't find a reference just now, but as far as I know there are more people suffering from dyslexia in english speaking countries compared to finnish and italian speaking countries, because in finnish and italian spelling is more "what you see is what you get", whereas in english the relationship between how the word sounds and what is written is much weaker. For example the sound u can be written both as you and as hugh (at least as a foreigner I can't hear the difference between these two.) Lova Falk 13:38, 13 May 2010 (UTC)
That's interesting. I've never heard "Hugh" pronounced without an aspirated 'h' sound at the start, which makes it clearly different from "you". But "ewe" or "yew", ah, now you're talking homophones with "you". -- Jack of Oz ... speak! ... 18:43, 13 May 2010 (UTC)
This reminds me of an anecdote one of our high school teachers liked to tell us about another teacher at our school. The teacher in question was from the south of England, and when he came up north, he was surprised to hear all the kids constantly saying, 'Hey, Hughes!!!', and he wondered if Hughes may be a very very common name up here - not realizing, of course, that the kids were actually saying, 'Hey, youse!' (and 'youse' is the plural of 'you' where I come from). Basically here, the 'h' is very rarely pronounced, and, just as an example, the name Howard Hughes sounds exactly like 'How are Jews'. --KägeTorä - (影虎) (TALK) 23:56, 13 May 2010 (UTC)
When I learned English, my teacher assigned us a story we should read. In this story there was a man called Hugh, and in my "inner speech" I pronounced this as hug-h, but it was terribly tiresome to think the h behind hug, and I never finished the assignment... Lova Falk 07:25, 14 May 2010 (UTC)

Son House[edit]

In the Steven King novel The Stand, the phrase "Son House" is used to mean "hatchet". (This occurs on pages 499-500 of The Stand (The Complete and Uncut Edition), 1990, New York, Doubleday: "Just inside the woodshed door, she found Billy Richardson's Son House hanging on a couple of pegs..." and "She put the birds into the towsack and then hung Billy Richardson's Son House hatchet back up.")

According to this, Son House was American southern black slang for hatchet, based on the weapon that musician Son House supposedly used to kill a main (I think he actually shot the man, but whatever).

I wrote a Wiktionary entry for this, but I can't find any other references to this. A writer of King's stature wouldn't have just made this up, would he have? Does anyone know of any other references to this, or how to find them? Thanks. Herostratus (talk) 04:49, 12 May 2010 (UTC)

He might have. I read lots of Stephen King and often come across expressions that I've never heard before, and when I try to research them I can't find any non-King uses of them. Another example is the boogeymen called "Tommyknockers". +Angr 06:03, 12 May 2010 (UTC)
But then is this (scroll down to the last comment, by Drumbo) just trollery? If so, it's awfully good trollery, and Drumbo, a senior member of that discussion board, seems an awfully unlikely troll. I have not been able to contact him, though. Herostratus (talk) 16:03, 12 May 2010 (UTC)
(Edit Conflict) The Tommyknockers (more usual name in the US) or Knockers (more usual name in the UK) were spirits said to inhabit mines, especially Cornish tin mines (hence the Cornish Knocker beer brewed by Skinner's brewery in Cornwall), who made knocking noises in the darkness. Belief in them was/is centuries old. (talk) 16:10, 12 May 2010 (UTC)
Herostratus, the world isn't divided into verifiably correct answers and trollery. He might be 100% correct, or he might be making a good-faith but unfounded assumption. 87.81, thanks for that info re (tommy)knockers. But what about Langoliers? Any folklore about them outside of Stephen King's imagination? Or the expression "Good enough for government work" - has anyone other than a King character ever said that? +Angr 21:56, 12 May 2010 (UTC)
A work colleague of mine (from the UK) used "Good enough for government work" on a regular basis, he said that he picked it up from his dad. Mikenorton (talk) 22:20, 12 May 2010 (UTC)
I know several people who say "close enough for government work" all the time. Don't know if people got it from King or vice versa. rʨanaɢ (talk) 22:27, 12 May 2010 (UTC)
According to Wiktionary, the expression has been around for a while. Mikenorton (talk) 22:41, 12 May 2010 (UTC)
Okay, okay, but we're getting off topic now, and it's my fault. So back to the issue at hand: can anyone verify the use of Son House as a slang term for "hatchet", apart from its use in The Stand? +Angr 08:34, 13 May 2010 (UTC)
According to our article, Son House was the name of a seminal Delta blues guitarist (real name: Eddie House, Jr.). Since guitarists have called their instruments "axes" for quite a long time, I wonder if the use of "Son House" to mean "axe" is based on this relationship - no murder required. Anyway, my Google checks seem to indicate that the issue may be discussed in The Complete Stephen King Encyclopedia by Stephen J. Spignesi, though the book seems to be out of print and no previews are available through Google Books. Maybe your local library has a copy. Matt Deres (talk) 02:46, 14 May 2010 (UTC)



Found this change in the article from a troublesome source.
It was "philos" (φίλος) (love, attraction)" now "philos" (φίλος) (friend)". Can't judge if it is correct or not.
To be a bit more specific, should "philos" be translated as "love, attraction" or as "friend" ? Feel free to correct the article! (talk) 14:34, 12 May 2010 (UTC)

See wikt:φιλία, wikt:φίλος, wikt:ξένος. wikt:-xeny, (hospitality, el:φιλοξενία,, -- Wavelength (talk) 15:15, 12 May 2010 (UTC)
It doesn't really matter all that much, because both the Greek words are closely-related forms derived from the same root or stem phil-, but technically the second half of "Xenophily" most closely corresponds to ancient Greek φιλία... AnonMoos (talk) 15:36, 12 May 2010 (UTC)
Which is what I've already edited the article to indicate. +Angr 15:39, 12 May 2010 (UTC)

Thank you all!-- (talk) 00:16, 14 May 2010 (UTC)

Merging of expressions into single words[edit]

For some years I've been noticing a trend developing whereby certain two-word expressions are being merged into a single word. Some examples I’ve noticed are:

  • a hold > ahold
  • a lot > alot
  • as well > aswell
  • at all > atall
  • at least > atleast
  • a while > awhile ('awhile' does have its place, but it means something different from 'a while')
  • in case > incase
  • in store > instore
  • no one > noone
  • under age > underage.

There are doubtless many others. What has caused millions of people to suddenly start doing this, and where will it end?

Why do the same people go against their own trend by:

  • separating the single word 'cannot' into two words (I recognise that there's a place for 'can not', but it's used in the positive sense: I can not only play the ocarina, but also …, whereas 'cannot' is the negation of 'can'); and
  • dehyphenating many words that are better left hyphenated (e.g. the single word 'great-uncle' is often seen as the two-word expression 'great uncle', which means something rather different)? -- Jack of Oz ... speak! ... 21:46, 12 May 2010 (UTC)
I wonder whether pedants a hundred years ago lamented the modern trend of writing "today", "tonight", and "tomorrow" together as single words instead of hyphenated "to-day", "to-night", and "to-morrow". At any rate, those examples show that the habit of making single words out of phrases that used to be written separately isn't really new, and people didn't "suddenly start doing this" a few years ago. Anyway, the reason it happens is surely that these phrases are perceived as being single words at the semantic level. In the case of noone, the single-word spelling is backed up by its synonym nobody as well as its cousins nothing, nowhere, everyone, and someone; indeed I suspect the two adjacent o's are the only reason this word isn't usually spelled noone. Underage is very convenient as an attributive adjective, as in "underage drinkers", because writing it as two words ("under age drinkers") is potentially confusing. Cannot, on the other hand, is reasonably felt to be two words, just like must not, may not, will not, etc., so it gets spelled that way. +Angr 22:16, 12 May 2010 (UTC)
Only 50 years ago, I was taught to write "to-day", and being a pedant, I still do sometimes. I can remember seeing "today" and reading "toady" because I was unfamiliar with the unhyphenated form. Dbfirs 18:21, 13 May 2010 (UTC)
So, are you saying English to some degree has a similarity with German in this propensity to concatenate 2 words to make a new single word? Are there other examples where this occurs in English? I'm aware of cases like handshake, toothache etc, but doing this with articles and prepositions seems a different ballpark. I mean, will there ever come atime when aman will go towork eating anapple and awoman will come home fromwork eating anorange? -- (talk) 00:40, 13 May 2010 (UTC)
Don't forget "&", aka "and per se and." Curiously, "as well" ("also") in Spanish did likewise: tan bien evolved into tambien. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 00:50, 13 May 2010 (UTC)
I don't think this is a trend to merge words at all.
  • "ahold" is something different from "a hold" (take a look a few questions above where it says: "they look like they might be hard to get ahold of.—eric 19:39, 11 May 2010 (UTC)" I could not imagine eric's comment would make sense if you were to separate "ahold"),
  • "awhile" is something different from "a while" (as the OP points out),
  • "alot" looks like a misspelling of "allot",
  • "instore" and "underage" seem to have always been like that when referring to "instore promotions" or "underage drinkers", but saying to a friend "have we got a party in store for you when we get home" would be very odd with "instore",
As for the rest, only "noone" seems like a genuine merging and I have never seen the others without assuming it was a typo. Astronaut (talk) 01:20, 13 May 2010 (UTC)
  • Re 'get ahold of' vs. 'get a hold of' vs 'get hold of': see this, this, and this.
  • 'alot' does indeed look like a misspelling of 'allot': but many, many people nowadays quite deliberately write 'alot' to mean what was traditionally spelt 'a lot'. My strong impression is that it's hardly ever a typo as such, but the way this word is normally spelt by a significant proportion of the population. I'm sure one could find citations going back many decades, but it seems to have taken off in a big way only in the past 10-15 years. That's what I mean by "they suddenly started doing this". —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:09, 13 May 2010 (UTC)
In my case, Jack, pure laziness. I'm able and willing to provide more examples of poor grammar—no need to even ask.—eric 04:22, 13 May 2010 (UTC)
Not answering the question, but I'm sure you'll appreciate this link: [2]. Aaadddaaammm (talk) 13:52, 13 May 2010 (UTC)
Yes, very chortleworthy, thanks -- Jack of Oz ... speak! ... 21:43, 14 May 2010 (UTC)
If I may add, I, being a teenager (also note compound word there), am noticing that many people my age are actually choosing to write with such contractions or minisculisations or even misspellings depending on with whom they are speaking and the context of the situation, ex. "i love u jill" when texting informally to a close friend vs. "I love you, Jill." when writing formal correspondence. I'll frequently find myself going back and uncapitalising "I" or removing punctuation etc. to make my text, IM, or facebook wall post either match the other person's typographical style or come across a certain way. Another example, as a man, saying "i love u jack" comes across as friendly whereas "I love you, Jack." would come across as potentially homosexual. Many people, even my age, don't realise it, but there is a plethora of subtle nuances of tone based on the formality of writing. Sorry for the rant, but inquiry reminded me of this. (By the way, I hate the contraction "noone", because it simply cannot be pronounced like "no one" no matter how you look at it. That, and I know someone with the surname Noone, which is pronounced like "noon".) CharonM72 (talk) 09:40, 18 May 2010 (UTC)