Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Language/2012 April 30

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April 30[edit]


Hi, could anyone confirm the status of the following sentences in American English?

"Yesterday, I lay on the beach all day."
"Yesterday, I laid on the beach all day."

Thanks, (talk) 11:06, 30 April 2012 (UTC)

I confirm that they are both American English. You're welcome. :) ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 11:32, 30 April 2012 (UTC)
In case my question was unclear, I would like to know whether these sentences are viewed as equally acceptable in AmE, whether one is formally correct and the other tolerated, whether one is viewed as bad English (by people who care), and so on. (talk) 11:50, 30 April 2012 (UTC)
Here is Geoff Pullum on the matter. -- Hoary (talk) 12:20, 30 April 2012 (UTC)
Thanks, but I was after something that specifically and unambiguously refers to American English usage. I am aware that in British English the second sentence is incorrect, and would be viewed as substandard or uneducated, but I am less sure how it would be perceived in the US. (talk) 14:13, 30 April 2012 (UTC)
As in all other varieties of English, the second example is indisputably non-standard, but frequently heard. And yes, it's grating to those who know the difference. Dominus Vobisdu (talk) 12:23, 30 April 2012 (UTC)
I think this is an example where the informal rules have changed, even if the formal rules have not caught up. The first case would now sound odd, to the average American. StuRat (talk) 08:34, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
I'd go even further and say that the first is sometimes just wrong. I'm certain that's the case in my dialect (college-age, non-rural Midwest); I went and looked it up because intuition-wise I'd never have accepted the first as correct. Lsfreak (talk) 10:59, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
Here is an discussion of American usage. Lesgles (talk) 19:55, 30 April 2012 (UTC)
"An discussion ?" StuRat (talk) 08:31, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
You have to look at what he wrote in the edit box: Here is an [http:// [...], in other words "Here is an aitch tee tee pee...". Angr (talk) 10:33, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
So now we have a new category of grammar errors, those caused by hidden link text, HTML tags, etc. StuRat (talk) 23:05, 2 May 2012 (UTC)

Are you a chicken? --Dweller (talk) 18:14, 30 April 2012 (UTC) The leg was there, I just had to pullet.

That might earn you a pullet surprise. Fut.Perf. 18:39, 30 April 2012 (UTC)

The second form presumably has an understood direct object, not stated so as to protect her privacy. --Trovatore (talk) 21:19, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
Maybe works better with the word accidentally. As in "I accidentally by zero; is that bad?". --Trovatore (talk) 21:22, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
If you do that, you'll accidentally the whole thing. Adam Bishop (talk) 22:10, 1 May 2012 (UTC)

Sentence from an English test[edit]

In the sentence

The film, which will later be studied in detail, ... well provide important information about the region.

you have to fill in the right word. The intended solution is "could". But is "will" wrong, and if so, why? From my point of view it is a more optimistic interpretation of the sentence, but I don't see why it should be incorrect. --KnightMove (talk) 14:22, 30 April 2012 (UTC)

Actually, I would have used "may" rather than "could", but I see nothing wrong with "will". Mikenorton (talk) 14:32, 30 April 2012 (UTC)
(ec) It's wrong because the English idiom is "can well/could well/may well/might well ...", meaning "it is very possible that... ". The idiom doesn't exist in any other tenses. --ColinFine (talk) 14:33, 30 April 2012 (UTC)
I thought the question was about the use of "will" in the sentence, rather than as an alternative to fill the gap, but I see that I may be wrong. Mikenorton (talk) 14:38, 30 April 2012 (UTC)
"The film, which will later be studied in detail, will provide important information about the region." is correct, but has a different meaning. Falconusp t c 15:30, 30 April 2012 (UTC)

It would be a clumsy sentence with "will" if the word "well" was also left in. "will well provide . . ." doesn't work. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Gurumaister (talkcontribs) 15:40, 30 April 2012 (UTC)

Yeah, assuming this is from an FCE paper, they're almost certainly after the idiom. "Can" doesn't work but the other three Colin suggested do. - filelakeshoe 17:19, 30 April 2012 (UTC)
Thanks to all. --KnightMove (talk) 04:58, 1 May 2012 (UTC)

etymology of "come with"[edit]

"You're welcome to come with."

In Minnesota and surrounding areas, including, I think, Iowa, the locution that appears above is used. (In particular, that sentence is copied above from Neal Stephenson's novel Anathem, and Stephenson is from Iowa City.) It is said that most English-speaking people would say "You're welcome to come along", and consider the use of "with" in that way something of an oddity. My question is whether this might be a Germanism, used as a result of immigration of Germans into that region in the 19th century? (In German there is the verb "mitkommen", and "mit-" is a separable prefix. There's also "mitsingen", where in English one says "sing along". I doubt that even Minnesotans would say "sing with".) Or possibly also Scandinavians? Or did it somehow come about independently of North and West Germanic influences? Michael Hardy (talk) 18:27, 30 April 2012 (UTC)

German influence certainly sounds plausible. In German, "mit" ('with') is not only a preposition, but also one of the separable verbal prefixes, so the imperative of the verb "mitkommen" ('come along') would be "komm mit". Not sure if other Germanic languages also have the same structure, but they very well might. I'm not aware of a similar structure in native English varieties elsewhere, so a contact effect would be a plausible guess. Fut.Perf. 18:34, 30 April 2012 (UTC)
I have heard native English speakers (possibly from a Germanic mid-western background, can't be sure) use not only 'come with', but also 'bring (something) with', which also matches the German 'mitbringen'. AlexTiefling (talk) 18:44, 30 April 2012 (UTC)

I'm not sure I understand. In the context, "I've invited [your girlfriend] but you're welcome to come with", this makes perfect sense in BrEng. But I suspect you're suggesting it's used redundantly, when the speaker actually means "You're welcome to come", not referring to any third party. Can you clarify? --Dweller (talk) 19:10, 30 April 2012 (UTC)

Hmmm ... I am a BrE speaker, and "I've invited your girlfriend but you're welcome to come with" definitely sounds wrong to me. (talk) 19:54, 30 April 2012 (UTC)
I thought I had a reasonable grasp of BrEng, Dweller, but "I've invited [your girlfriend] but you're welcome to come with" makes little sense to me. I'd assume they meant "... you're welcome to come with her" but forgot to say the "her". -- ♬ Jack of Oz[your turn] 19:54, 30 April 2012 (UTC)
I am almost certain that these constructions are calques from German expressions using mit as a separable prefix. This kind of construction is common in the U.S. Midwest, which received very heavy German immigration during the 19th century, such that in some areas Germans were the predominant ethnic group. Marco polo (talk) 20:12, 30 April 2012 (UTC)
As a Norwegian speaker, I would say that expressions such as these, clearly, show the influence of Scandinavian languages on vernacular American English. In (modern) Norwegian, it is rare to use prepositions as prefixes to verbs (except in phrases or verbs that are seen as separate from the root, and there are a lot of those), mostly, the preposition trails the verb. So, the expression would be "bli med!" ("join!" "come!"). This is an idiom, where 'bli' means 'stay' or 'become', whereas 'bli med' means 'join' or 'come along. An (indirect) object could be placed at the end: "bli med oss!" ("join us!", "come along with us!").
Similarly for 'bring (smth) with', which has an exact correspondence to the Norwegian 'ta med' (lit. 'take with') which would be used when someone brought something along. 'John brought a bottle of wine to the party.' - 'John tok med en flaske vin til festen.' As an imperative, it would have the same form as 'bring (smth) with': 'ta det med' (take it with). V85 (talk) 20:34, 30 April 2012 (UTC)
I'll also vote for Scandinavian influence over German. As a speaker of both (although my Swedish is much better than my German) I can say that I noticed this construction much more in Swedish than in German. Also, in German (or, at least, in Hochdeutsch), you would have to say 'willst du mit mir kommen?', whereas the Swedes can (and indeed do) say 'vill du komma med?' - the same word order as the example. As an aside, as a UK English speaker, I most often hear this way of phrasing from Scottish people. - Cucumber Mike (talk) 21:05, 30 April 2012 (UTC)
But in German one can also say "Willst du mitkommen?". In other contexts, the prefix gets separated, as in "Du kommst mit." Michael Hardy (talk) 03:51, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
I doubt the influence is primarily Scandinavian, though it may have contributed. Constructions like "come with", "bring with", etc. are very common among communities of German ancestry (particularly "Pennsylvania Dutch", i.e., Amish and Mennonite), with no Scandinavians in sight. Even in Minnesota, the dominant ethnic background is German. -- Elphion (talk) 22:05, 30 April 2012 (UTC)
This then begs the question of what is meant by 'Germanic'. As Mike pointed out, Hochdeutsch seems to prefer a different construction. On the other hand, the Mennonite communities come from areas speaking other types of Germanic languages: Swiss German, Rhinish etc. In addition, there's the question of the class of people who emigrated: The popular image of the European emigré to America is a working class person, which will imply a certain type of idiom.
Furthermore, there is also the aspect of language evolution: My (educated?) guess is that this expression stems from the 19th century, and there will have been certain changes in the way that people talk, so that looking at the modern, standardised version of a language as spoken and written in Europe today might not be a meaningful exercise. Clearly we agree though, that the origin of this expression is Germanic (in a wide sense): Several language communities might have come up with and used such formulations independently of each other, and since it made sense in their native Germanic grammar (regardless of language), it was understood, and they carried on using it. V85 (talk) 22:54, 30 April 2012 (UTC)
But "Cucumber Mike"'s comment that "Hochdeutsch" "prefer[s] a different construction" is simply wrong, as I pointed out. Michael Hardy (talk) 16:13, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
"Come with", "Take with", etc., as used in the way the OP indicates are fairly common throughout the midwestern USA. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 23:52, 30 April 2012 (UTC)
The usage is especially common in northern Illinois, which saw substantial German settlement but relatively little Scandinavian settlement. Incidentally, I speak German, and the usage is very consistent with German and not like some of the Scandinavian examples. For example, people in the US Midwest do not say "John took with a bottle of wine" (as in "John tok med en flaske vin"). Instead they say "John took a bottle of wine with" (as in the (North) German "John nahm eine Flasche Wein mit"). That is, the "with" is placed after the direct object of the verb, as in German. Marco polo (talk) 20:04, 1 May 2012 (UTC)

Hm? Isn't this just a folksy abbreviation of "come with me," "come with us," etc.? --BDD (talk) 22:28, 1 May 2012 (UTC)

I hear it a lot in North Carolina. The trick is trying to remember whether I hear it from North Carolinians or from people who immigrated from other parts of the country (we have a lot). Falconusp t c 07:41, 2 May 2012 (UTC)
It is definitely Germanic in origin, but the source differs by region - in the Northeast US (particularly New york) it occurs as the result of Yiddish speakers using English - "I live by" someone, as opposed to "next to" or "By me, it's OK" (because of bei mir), and is a contributor to modern Yeshivish. I believe that Michael Wex has written on that aspect. However, it has also made its way into common UK usage ("you want to come with?") as well. MSJapan (talk) 05:41, 5 May 2012 (UTC)

Language Log question: (sharks & new yorkers)[edit]

I'm no linguist, but I enjoy reading about it so I subscribe to Language Log. I'm super confused about a posting today, and I was hoping one of you brilliant folks could help me out:

Basically I understand the weirdness of saying "More people have been to Russia than I have" that's like saying "More people have been to Russia than I have been to Russia" which is nonsense because "I have been to Russia" isn't a countable thing of which one could have more

But with the specific example he raises in this post, Stephen Fry's comment of: "It so happens that more people in the world are bitten by New Yorkers every year than they are by sharks."

I don't read that as similarly constructed nonsense! Isn't it saying "more people in the world are bitten by new yorkers than people in the world are bitten by sharks" to me that works because, "people in the world bitten by sharks" is a countable thing and so you could have more...I'm missing something, help! (talk) 19:08, 30 April 2012 (UTC)

Perhaps the fear of appearing incompetent prevents most people from pointing out the anomaly. (See The Emperor's New Clothes.)
Wavelength (talk) 19:33, 30 April 2012 (UTC)
I think he's pointing out (without actually pointing out, which seems a waste of a good blog to me) that the sentence should have been: "It so happens that more people in the world are bitten by New Yorkers every year than they (are bitten) by sharks".
The verb "are bitten" is common to both phrases and could validly be left out, but some might choose to leave it in. The word "they" is most definitely wrong, and Stephen Fry, of all people, should have known better. -- ♬ Jack of Oz[your turn] 19:48, 30 April 2012 (UTC)
ah, thanks Jack--could you perhaps explain why "they" is wrong and should be left out? I think it's possible that's the bit I'm missing. (talk) 19:52, 30 April 2012 (UTC)
The two elements on either side of than have to be both parallel and contrasting. In the sentence "More people have been to Russia than I have been to Russia", the problem is that than could compare either people with some other type of animate or inanimate object (e.g., "More people have been to Russia than robots have been to Russia" or "More people have been to Russia than lions have been to Russia."). The problem is the person saying I is a person and therefore cannot be contrasted with people. Alternatively, in that sentence, you could contrast Russia with some other destination (e.g., "More people have been to Russia than to Botswana.") In the pseudosentence "It so happens that more people in the world are bitten by New Yorkers every year than they are by sharks", the problem is that than needs to contrast either people with some other object that is bitten by New Yorkers or New Yorkers with some other thing that bites. The pseudosentence wants to contrast New Yorkers with other things that bite, namely sharks, but it inserts "they are" on the other side of than, where it makes the comparison ungrammatical. The correct sentence would be "It so happens that more people in the world are bitten by New Yorkers every year than by sharks". It would also be correct, but more wordy to state "It so happens that more people in the world are bitten by New Yorkers every year than are bitten by sharks." Marco polo (talk) 20:05, 30 April 2012 (UTC)
Another alternative is "It so happens that more people in the world are bitten by New Yorkers every year than sharks", but it's ambiguous as it could mean that more people than sharks are bitten by New Yorkers every year. Which may also be true, but not what SF was trying to say. The main difference between SF's "shark sentence" and GP's "Russia sentence" is that the shark sentence is at least interpretable; in More people have been to Russia than I have, I have no idea what the speaker is even intending to say. "More people than just I alone have been to Russia"? Well duh. Angr (talk) 20:33, 30 April 2012 (UTC)
This is one of those weird and wonderful things about language, in spoken form. When language is spoken, grammar, syntax and spelling (obviously we can't really notice how someone spells a word when they speak) do not matter as much as when it is written. So long as most of the elements are in the right place, we manage to understand what the person is attempting to say. Therefore, we easily understand what is said, because the mind fills in the blanks that are left out by the speaker. Consequently, Fry's comment about people being bitten by sharks, although somewhat awkward when seen written down, is easily understood aurally, as we get the point that more people are bitten by people from New York than by sharks. In a way, I suppose you could call it the blind spot of the ear.
As an aside, I actually understood the 'nonsensical' sentence about Russia perfectly: More people have been to Russia than I have. I.e. the speaker loves Russia, yet there are other people who have visited Russia more times than him. (My 'aural blind spot' completed the grammatical error by adding a 'more times', thereby creating sense out of nonsense. V85 (talk) 20:49, 30 April 2012 (UTC)
A pleasant aspect of Geoff Pullum's benign obsessionlets, as presented on the Log, is that he refers the reader back to their earlier installments. If you go back to "More people than you think will understand" (2009), and read and digest (comments too), all is likely to become clear. -- Hoary (talk) 02:14, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
For what it's worth, I think that Pullum is wrong: Fry's sentence is reasonably grammatical, if little unusual. The 'Russia sentence', whose origin I can't trace, looks to be a different order of nonsense - I can't make it mean anything without inserting words which cannot be inferred from those present. AlexTiefling (talk) 10:14, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
If it's not wrong, it's equivalent to talking about "the number of people who they are bitten by New Yorkers every year". The word "they" has no place there because the pronoun "who" is representing them. It is indeed quite ungrammatical. - ♬ Jack of Oz[your turn] 12:32, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
But that 'who' isn't in the original sentence at all - you introduced it. The original sentence is a form of zeugma, I think. 'They' stands for the restrictive phrase 'people in the world...each year', and a second use of 'are bitten' is implied. But I'm a descriptivist. I won't believe that a sentence's comprehensibility is dependent on its adherence to a set of abstract rules. The simple fact is that the meaning of Fry sentence is clear - "New Yorkers bite more people every year than sharks do" - whereas the meaning of the 'Russia sentence' is utterly opaque. AlexTiefling (talk) 13:07, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
No, it isn't clear what Mr Fry's sentence means as written. It so happens that more people in the world are bitten by New Yorkers every year than they are by sharks. parses to It so happens that more people in the world are bitten by New Yorkers every year than New Yorkers are bitten by sharks. If it's meant to mean what you say, then they needs removing. Bazza (talk) 15:15, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
Technically you may have a point, but I believe that in practice almost everyone would understand that sentence to mean that the number of people bitten by New Yorkers is greater than the number of people bitten by sharks (despite the fact that, as has been pointed out, the word "they" should not be there). (talk) 17:39, 1 May 2012 (UTC)

Rhymes with "maybe"[edit]

Aside from "baby", are there any English words that rhyme with "maybe"?

Thanks, CBHA (talk) 21:20, 30 April 2012 (UTC)

Not really. This rhyming dictionary lists 18 results, although 6 are baby and its derivatives (cry baby, bush baby etc.) and the others are very rarely used in English as it is commonly spoke. - Cucumber Mike (talk) 21:30, 30 April 2012 (UTC)
My old rhyming dictionary also includes Abey, a nickname for Abraham. Angr (talk) 21:33, 30 April 2012 (UTC)
Usually spelled "Abie" nowadays (also Abie's Irish Rose etc.). -- AnonMoos (talk) 01:22, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
If proper names are allowed then also Blaby. I think there will be more place names, but probably mostly obscure ones. (talk) 02:20, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
And Raby. -- ♬ Jack of Oz[your turn] 21:06, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
Welcome to the Scaby family. The word “scaby” seems to have a life as a description of an undesirable condition of trees – see [1], but it doesn’t appear in any dictionary I’ve come across. I went looking for it as a possible adjectival form of scabies, and I found a couple of hits, but they come from non-anglo sources. -- ♬ Jack of Oz[your turn] 04:51, 3 May 2012 (UTC)
Humpty Dumpty implies that "wabe" (and presumaby also "outgrabe") rhyme with "maybe".[2]Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 23:50, 30 April 2012 (UTC)
But outgrabe is the past tense of a verb whose gerund is outgribing. The verb must be outgribe [ˌaʊtˈɡraɪb] with a past tense outgrabe [ˌaʊtˈɡreɪb], so wabe must be [weɪb]. Angr (talk) 00:07, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
Well, I've never once outgribben anything. Michael Hardy (talk) 18:43, 2 May 2012 (UTC)
You're obviously not trying hard enough, you under-achiever.  :) -- ♬ Jack of Oz[your turn] 03:43, 6 May 2012 (UTC)
Bugs, I agree with Angr. I also don't see how Humpty Dumpty makes the implication you're claiming. Can you clarify, please? AlexTiefling (talk) 10:10, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
Humpty says "Of course it is. It's called "wabe," you know, because it goes a long way before it, and a long way behind it". This means that "wabe" is pronounced as in "way before" and "way behind", as in "WAY-bee". As an aside, I note that Bugs has found two threads to invoke the Jabberwocky. Very impressive. --Jayron32 16:38, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
We can safely infer that wabe is pronounced like some part of /weɪbɪfɔr/ and /weɪbɪhaɪnd/, not necessarily the greatest common part. The rhyme tells us how much to include. —Tamfang (talk) 19:26, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
I interpret it as rhyming with "maybe". But the author leaves that kind of ambiguous - and knowing Lewis Carroll, it wouldn't be surprising if he did it that way on purpose. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 00:47, 2 May 2012 (UTC)
If you look at the syllables in each line of verse, they are all eight syllables long (except for the last in the 8886 verse), so Dodgson clearly intended wabe to be a single syllable. Dbfirs 06:55, 2 May 2012 (UTC)
Jayron32 -- The first syllables of "before" and "behind" do not generally have an "ee" or [iː] vowel... AnonMoos (talk) 06:41, 2 May 2012 (UTC)
Miriam Websters for behind and before both list the [iː] vowel as the primary vowel sound, though there are alternates. It should be noted that not every dialect of English will use the [iː] vowel. But enough do for a major dictionary to consider it the predominant pronounciation. I understand you might personally use a different sound, which is fine. I do not count it against you as a person. I still love you. [citation needed] --Jayron32 02:21, 3 May 2012 (UTC)
I'm sorry, but I really don't believe that (not to mention that it contradicts other dictionaries, such as the American Heritage). If you pronounce the words emphatically in isolation, then they might take an [iː] vowel in the first syllable (though this would not necessarily be required) -- especially if "behind" as a noun is given a two-stressed-syllable "poe-lice" or "dee-fense" type of pronunciation). However, when the words "before" and "behind" are pronounced in an ordinary way as part of a complete sentence, as prepositions or adverbs (not nouns), then an [iː] would almost never be present... AnonMoos (talk) 16:55, 3 May 2012 (UTC)
If you allow for two word rhymes, there's "a bee" and others. StuRat (talk) 08:26, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
I disagree. Ordinarily, 'a bee' is pronounced with the first vowel as a schwa, and the stress on the second word. In those circumstances, it doesn't rhyme with 'maybe' at all. AlexTiefling (talk) 11:25, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
But I could consider other two-word pairs as rhymes (if not perfect) including "made me", "paid me", "shade tree". (talk) 15:35, 2 May 2012 (UTC)
Straying more than a little bit from English proper, but if Mushmouth were the one talking, there'd be many, OH-be-KAY-be, &c. --some jerk on the Internet (talk) 22:13, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
I saw "gaby" ['geɪbɪ], also some surnames may fit, like Toynbee. Brandmeistertalk 17:50, 2 May 2012 (UTC)
"Spoilt children, crying babies/All grow up as geese and gabies./Hated as their age increases/By their nephews and their nieces." Robert Louis Stephenson, A Child's Garden of Verses.Itsmejudith (talk) 20:30, 3 May 2012 (UTC)
In my neck of the woods there's a chain of electrical retailers called JB HiFi. I can imagine declaring that I bought something from JB. That would rhyme. But it won't help most people. HiLo48 (talk) 08:16, 3 May 2012 (UTC)