Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Language/2011 February 25

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February 25[edit]

w.r.t. or i.r.o.[edit]

"With respect to" or "in respect of"? Which one is more grammatically correct and why? I've always had a pet hate for one but would like to see a few responses before disclosing which... Sandman30s (talk) 11:08, 25 February 2011 (UTC)

I've never had a problem with either of them, as long as they don't get mixed up to "In respect to" etc, or get overused. Fowler doesn't like either of them, asking they be used as little as possible. He gives the example: Rules for making provision with respect to any matter with respect to which the Council thinks that provision should be made - and asks "Why was about not good enough?". Hear, hear. -- Jack of Oz [your turn] 11:36, 25 February 2011 (UTC)
Yes, they both have potential to be grammatically correct; there's nothing innately wrong with either phrase. However, they probably can mean different things. Consider "In respect of the recent death in your family, you can have the day off". Substituting "with respect to" for "in respect of" would change the semantics. "With respect to" is very common in formal and scientific writing; "in respect of" not so much. Re: Fowler: 'About' is not good enough for saying things like "Differentiate a function f with respect to y", or "{foo} must be measured with respect to {bar}". Personally, I use w.r.t. often, and never i.r.o. The preference for w.r.t. in math is substantiated by our redirect on With_respect_to. SemanticMantis (talk) 20:17, 25 February 2011 (UTC)
Also, for what it's worth, my copy of NOAD has entries for "with respect to" and "in respect that", but not "in respect of". SemanticMantis (talk) 20:26, 25 February 2011 (UTC)
... but the OED has "in respect of" with a long pedigree. (I share your dislike though, especially the abbreviation!) The question was asked recently in Wiktionary Tea Room. Dbfirs 22:01, 25 February 2011 (UTC)
Interesting. Because i.r.o. has an entry in ODE but not NOAD, can we conclude i.r.o. is contra-indicated for common usage in American English? SemanticMantis (talk) 22:24, 25 February 2011 (UTC)
In respect that? I have never in my life seen or heard that expression. How would it be used? -- Jack of Oz [your turn] 22:48, 25 February 2011 (UTC)
I'd never seen or heard it either. NOAD says, under phrases in the 'respect' entry, "in respect that: because." --Googling turns up mostly Shakespeare quotes: "In respect that it is solitary, I like it very well; but in respect that it is private, it is a very vile life." SemanticMantis (talk) 03:58, 26 February 2011 (UTC)
Bah, Shakespeare, what did he know about English!  :) -- Jack of Oz [your turn] 04:10, 26 February 2011 (UTC)
<drumroll> As Dr. Seuss would have said, I much much muchly prefer "w.r.t."... Sandman30s (talk) 06:14, 28 February 2011 (UTC)

What letter of the alphabet is this?[edit]

On page 48 of this pdf file, we see a letter of the Greek alphabet between epsilon and zeta. What is it?

In TeX one can write

 \alpha\beta\gamma\delta\epsilon\zeta\eta\theta\iota\kappa\lambda\mu\nu\xi\omicron\pi\rho\sigma\tau\upsilon\varphi\chi\psi\omega. \,

How does one code this letter I'm inquiring about in TeX? Michael Hardy (talk) 16:56, 25 February 2011 (UTC)

Then on pages 55 and 56 we seem to see a letter between pi and rho. What is that? Michael Hardy (talk) 17:00, 25 February 2011 (UTC)
The Greek alphabet in ancient times included stigma and qoppa, which were used as Greek numerals.
Wavelength (talk) 17:17, 25 February 2011 (UTC)
Thank you. The one between epsilon and zeta does look like Stigma (letter). Michael Hardy (talk) 19:10, 25 February 2011 (UTC)
.....and the later one looks like qoppa. Michael Hardy (talk) 19:12, 25 February 2011 (UTC)
I don't seem to be able to download that pdf file, and the question is hard to answer without it. Looie496 (talk) 18:18, 25 February 2011 (UTC)
I just had this exact same question. ---— Gadget850 (Ed) talk 19:15, 25 February 2011 (UTC)
On page 37 at, you can see the following characters.
Wavelength (talk) 19:17, 25 February 2011 (UTC)
From my Google search for tex greek numerals, the first result is, which has, on page 3, instructions for encoding Greek numerals. My attempts to display qoppa and sampi and stigma by encoding in TeX have been unsuccessful.
Wavelength (talk) 20:43, 25 February 2011 (UTC)
[Oddly, the pages mentioned in the original post have lines numbered in sets of five (with Arabic numerals familiar to us), but grouped in sets of three.
Wavelength (talk) 22:38, 25 February 2011 (UTC)]
It was Heiberg's edition of Ptolemy's writings. Apparently Heiberg decided to do it that way. Michael Hardy (talk) 02:32, 26 February 2011 (UTC)
Historically, the letter that belongs between epsilon and zeta is digamma. The Greek alphabet was taken over from the Phoenician alphabet, which has the same letters in the same order as the Hebrew alphabet: where Hebrew has he - waw - zayin, Greek has epsilon - digamma - zeta. When digamma was dropped from the alphabet, stigma took its place as a number so that the rest of the alphabet wouldn't be off by one. Similarly, when the Phoenician alphabet was taken over in Italy, these letters were E - F - Z, but later Z was dropped and G (which was a modification of C) took its place. Later, Z was re-borrowed from the Greek alphabet, but had to go to the end because it had gotten out of line. (I couldn't open the PDF directly in my browser either, because it's too big; but I could download it and then open it locally from my hard drive.) —Angr (talk) 02:16, 26 February 2011 (UTC)
If you want the encoding of these characters on Wikipedia to be explained or enabled, you can ask at Wikipedia:Village pump (technical), with a link to the archive of this discussion.
Wavelength (talk) 05:06, 26 February 2011 (UTC)
It would be nice to be able to type these in Wikipedia's limited version of TeX, since one could use them in accounts of the use of ancient Greek numerals in books written 2000 years ago. Michael Hardy (talk) 22:50, 26 February 2011 (UTC)
Would you really need TeX encoding for that? As long as they are not part of more intricate mathematical formulae, why not just use standard text encoding? Fut.Perf. 11:19, 27 February 2011 (UTC)
Yes, you would need TeX if you do it in a context in which not using TeX would mean mixing TeX with non-TeX notation. On Wikipedia, mixing TeX with text usually produces horrible results in which sizes and alignments don't match. Michael Hardy (talk) 17:00, 27 February 2011 (UTC)

Our articles on digamma and koppa (letter) have some info about typographical variants. The forms shown in your document should be encoded as U+03DB "Greek small letter stigma" (ϛ) and U+03DF "Greek small letter koppa" (ϟ) respectively, although the results may look rather different depending on what fonts you have. This LaTeX style doc also has some info about LaTeX encodings. Apparently, "\stigma" and "\koppa" are defined in some packages, but I couldn't tell you if there are any that have them in a style compatible with  \alpha\beta\gamma etc. Fut.Perf. 18:20, 26 February 2011 (UTC)

Why is “\omicron” not a valid LaTeX entity? -- (talk) 08:18, 27 February 2011 (UTC)

Because, in LaTex, it's exactly the same as the roman 'o'. See [1]. Nanonic (talk) 09:28, 27 February 2011 (UTC)
I used \omicron in my initial posting that started this thread, and as you see above, it worked. So \omicron seems to be perfectly valid. Michael Hardy (talk) 17:02, 27 February 2011 (UTC)
Wikipedia doesn't use vanilla LaTex, it uses AMS-LaTeX which contains additional packages and functionality and plugs this into texvc for rendering which also introduces its own functionality. Nanonic (talk) 17:20, 27 February 2011 (UTC)

What about “\Alpha”, “\Beta”, “\Epsilon”, “\Eta”, “\Iota”, “\Kappa”, “\Mu”, “\Nu”, “\Omicron”, “\Rho”, “\Tau”, “\Chi”, and “\Zeta”? -- (talk) 10:07, 27 February 2011 (UTC)

(I'm pretty sure this is the usual why-isn't-X-valid-in-Y person. Probably better to ignore.) -- BenRG (talk) 02:25, 28 February 2011 (UTC)

French profanity[edit]

What are the French profanities ordered by impact/effect (in terms of the English profanities)? For my purposes I ask that racial slurs not be included unless they are very widely used (for example, if I were making an equivalent list for English, I would include a word like "nigger" but not a word like "Mick"). Thanks. (talk) 23:30, 25 February 2011 (UTC)

FYI, we have an article on Quebec French profanity, but not one on Standard French profanity, as far. The number of profanities in French is, like in most languages, very large and new ones are always being added, so finding a list online somewhere would be more useful than asking a couple people to rattle off whichever ones they can think of. rʨanaɢ (talk) 23:39, 25 February 2011 (UTC)
Harrap's Slang Dictionary: Anglais-Français/Français-Anglais (Harrap, London, 1984. ISBN 0-245-54047-4) is useful for finding specific terms (it includes the likes of "M*th*rf*ck*r"), but includes no "impact-ranking" data. (talk) 02:13, 26 February 2011 (UTC)
I found The Complete Merde: The Real French You Were Never Taught at School (ISBN: 978-0002557689) useful in this respect. Astronaut (talk) 02:41, 26 February 2011 (UTC)
French has several words which often get translated into English as "fuck"; in increasing order of offensiveness, there's
  • Baiser = To fuck (literally "to kiss"). Baiser can mean both kiss, as in the varients "bise" or "bissou", or to fuck, so its a word with a bit of a double standard. A "petit baiser" is the little air kisses you give on the cheek, but you can also tell someone "Baisez mon cul" which directly translated means "kiss my ass" but idiomatically means "fuck my ass".
  • Foutre = To fuck (literally "to fuck"). Often used reflexively, the phrase "va te faire foutre" means literally and idiomatically "go fuck yourself".
  • Enculer = To fuck (literally "to enter the asshole") cul = ass or arse in French, so "enculer" means literally "to do the act of entering the ass" or "to assfuck". Thus, "Va te faire enculer" means "Go fuck yourself in the ass". This is probably more offensive than mere "foutre" or "baiser".
As an aside, my personal favorite french swear is "merde ambulante", literally a "walking shit", used in places where you might call someone an "asshole" in English. --Jayron32 03:37, 26 February 2011 (UTC)
In my high-school French class, we were told that "donner un baiser" with "baiser" as a noun was fine, but never ever under any circumstances to try to use baiser as a verb... AnonMoos (talk) 15:41, 26 February 2011 (UTC)
There are lists of these words at wikt:fr:Catégorie:Insultes en français and wikt:fr:Catégorie:Termes vulgaires en français, though they're not ordered by offensiveness. Any such ordering would in any case be a matter of personal opinion. --Antiquary (talk) 12:43, 26 February 2011 (UTC)
Shakespeare has a quick crash course in Henry V (play), in the scene where the maid is teaching the French princess some English words... SFriendly.gif -- AnonMoos (talk) 15:37, 26 February 2011 (UTC)

"Le Foot, & le Count: O Seignieur Dieu, ils sont le mots de son mauvais, corruptible grosse & impudique, & non pour les Dames de Honeur d'vser: Je ne voudray prononcer ces mots deuant les Seigneurs de France, pour tout le monde."

I believe that "Nick tou" means "Fuck you" (I'm not sure of the French spelling however). Flamarande (talk) 19:09, 27 February 2011 (UTC)