Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Language/2012 September 5

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Language desk
< September 4 << Aug | September | Oct >> September 6 >
Welcome to the Wikipedia Language Reference Desk Archives
The page you are currently viewing is a transcluded archive page. While you can leave answers for any questions shown below, please ask new questions on one of the current reference desk pages.

September 5[edit]

Dr King writings[edit]

Hello everyone. I have been reading Dr Martin Luther King (Jr)'s writings and in his essay "Nonviolence and Racial Justice," about a third of the way through, he writes: 'His religion revealed to him that God loves all his children and that the important thing about a man is "not his specificity but his fundamentum"', with the double quotes "" in the original text. I assume this is an allusion to something but googling has only turned up references to Dr King's essay, all also containing the double quotes around "not his specificity but his fundamentum". Any idea what this is in reference to? Thanks. (talk) 02:46, 5 September 2012 (UTC)

In I Have A Dream (1963), he said "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." (q:Martin Luther King, Jr.#I Have A Dream (1963), point 10)
Wavelength (talk) 04:39, 5 September 2012 (UTC)
I read "specificty" to mean "that which makes us distinct" and "fundementum" as "that which is at the core, base, or fundemental". That is, I would translate the phrase " the important thing about a man is "not his specificity but his fundamentum"' is "what is important about a person is not what sets him apart from other people, but what is common to all people". Not exactly what the I Have a Dream speech says, but of the same sort of sentiment. --Jayron32 04:43, 5 September 2012 (UTC)
Yes, this sounds like the difference between Accident (philosophy) and Essence. μηδείς (talk) 17:23, 5 September 2012 (UTC)

No, you have misunderstood, I'm sorry I should have been more clear. I understand what the quote means; my question is, why are there quotes in the original text, i.e., what other work (if any) is it an allusion to? (talk) 01:13, 6 September 2012 (UTC)

He uses the same phrase in a 1966 speech at Wesleyan University. He may simply have been quoting his own phrase. μηδείς (talk) 02:17, 6 September 2012 (UTC)


Why is the letter a sometimes used to write [ɛ]? (e.g. yuan [ɥɛ̌n]) Why don't they use e? -- (talk) 05:22, 5 September 2012 (UTC)

Because 'e' in Pinyin represents a completely different vowel [ɯ̯ʌ], or even [ə] in some cases. 'A' before a final 'n' is always pronounced [ɛ] when after a palatalised consonant or 'y'. KägeTorä - (影虎) (TALK) 09:19, 5 September 2012 (UTC)
I italicized the OP's "a" because I had to read the question three times to realize he didn't mean to use it as the indefinite article. μηδείς (talk) 20:18, 5 September 2012 (UTC)

More Chinese questions[edit]

What are the Chinese characters in this image?

  • File:Willis_Tower_Chinatown.jpg
    • On the building to the left, the Pui Tak Center
      • 培徳中心
    • On the paifang in front
    • On the "Cantonesia" restaurant label
      • 宋酒 (unlikely?) or 家酒 (read right to left) Cantonesia 華嘉
    • Between Pui Tak and the paifang -- the "Pacific Furniture" sign
      • 太平
      • 豊品公
(Grey: obscured, but obvious from context)--Shirt58 (talk) 10:41, 5 September 2012 (UTC)

Thanks WhisperToMe (talk) 06:13, 5 September 2012 (UTC)

On the paifang[edit]

The hanzi on the paifang appear to be in the tradition horizontal reading direction, right to left, and include classical forms I can't find.

  • Top: ?會華中 ("中華會館" would appear to a standard version, read left to right)
  • Middle: ??義禮 ("耻廉義禮" appears to be a Confucian "Chengyu", - see here - tho from what I've looked up, it may possibly have been attributed to Mencius)
  • Bottom: ??樓埠

Leaving it to the experts now, but hope this is in some way useful.--Shirt58 (talk) 15:12, 5 September 2012 (UTC)

Thank you very much! Google Street view shows that the one unknown character is "家" so the actual words would be 嘉華酒家, correct? WhisperToMe (talk) 14:31, 5 September 2012 (UTC)

Correct? How on google earth am I supposed to know? I don't speak a word of Chinese. Face-smile.svg--Shirt58 (talk) 15:31, 5 September 2012 (UTC)
It's correct. 酒家 means restaurant in Chinese, literally it's 酒/wine 家/house. According to this page, the address is 204 W. Cermak Road. The second and the third character of the bottom look 迎歓 to me and the actual words would be 歓迎/welcome. Oda Mari (talk) 18:34, 5 September 2012 (UTC)
Thank you, Mari! As for a few more: In File:Chinatown2.JPG What is the Chinese for "Southwest Heart Clinic"? And would one be able to tell the characters for "Lucky Pot" from that distance? On the door of Suite 150 (next to the "老地方") there are some more Chinese characters. What are those characters? Thanks WhisperToMe (talk) 21:03, 5 September 2012 (UTC)

On the bottom of the Paifang in the Chicago image, are the characters "埠歓迎您"? WhisperToMe (talk) 04:00, 6 September 2012 (UTC)

After looking at the characters I concluded that it is so, so I added the characters "埠歓迎您" WhisperToMe (talk) 18:09, 6 September 2012 (UTC)
黄金心脏(?)中心. 黄金/gold or golden, 心脏(?)/心臓/heart, and 中心/Center. I cannot tell whether the fourth character is simplified or traditional. I cannot read "Lucky Pot". It's 麺館 on the door of Suite 150, meaning 麺/noodle 館/house. Oda Mari (talk) 19:29, 6 September 2012 (UTC)
I found this and the page uses traditional character. But the character in the image looks like simplified to me. Oda Mari (talk) 19:44, 6 September 2012 (UTC)
And I found this! It's 京津小館. But the Chinese name does not have the meaning "Lucky Pot" like the clinic. 京津 is Beijing-related something and 小館 might be small house. Oda Mari (talk) 20:26, 6 September 2012 (UTC)

Oda Mari, thank you very much for answering the questions! What we need to do with Chinatown pictures/etc is to make sure that background Chinese characters are translated into English, and background English translated into Chinese, so people understand the signs in the streets in both languages. WhisperToMe (talk) 07:05, 7 September 2012 (UTC)


How can I say this? "If [XXX] program times-out..." That sounds strange to me. Is there an official way to express 'timeout' as a verb in the third person singular? KägeTorä - (影虎) (TALK) 07:28, 5 September 2012 (UTC)

I would say "times out" (without the hyphen) is fine for this. --Viennese Waltz 07:30, 5 September 2012 (UTC)
Cheers. KägeTorä - (影虎) (TALK) 07:35, 5 September 2012 (UTC)
Same here, although, being American, I would insert "the" in front of the program name. StuRat (talk) 02:08, 7 September 2012 (UTC)
Sorry, Stu, I should have said "If [XXX Program] times out...." KägeTorä - (影虎) (TALK) 05:09, 7 September 2012 (UTC)


The page says that the surname of one of the restaurant's founders is named Einarssson. Is this name really spelled with three consecutive "s"'s? I know that triple consonants are possible in some languages, such as a word I once read in a German Donald Duck pocket book: Sauerstoffflasche ("oxygen bottle"). Such words are always compound words, where two of the consonants belong to one part and one belongs to another part. But it always strikes me as weird, because such a thing is impossible in Finnish, as Finnish words can't end or start with two consecutive consonants. (Two consecutive consonants in the middle of a word is OK, though.) JIP | Talk 19:22, 5 September 2012 (UTC)

I think it can happen in German where the ß is followed by an "s". That is, many forms of German have taken to changing ß as "ss" in modern times, so a word that had ßs in it can sometimes be become sss. --Jayron32 19:26, 5 September 2012 (UTC)
Just checked. Triple letters are allowed in German, see German_orthography_reform_of_1996#Sounds_and_letters. --Jayron32 19:30, 5 September 2012 (UTC)
But where would the third S come from here? It's just "Einars" and "son" stuck together. (It's also Norwegian, not German.) Adam Bishop (talk) 19:35, 5 September 2012 (UTC)
Modern Norwegian orthography does not allow triple consonants in compound words, so that 'bus stop' would be 'busstopp', although it is a compound of 'buss' and 'stopp', and so should have had three s's. The exception is when a hyphen is used (either due to line break or because the writer considers the compound word to be so rare (or simply too long) for people to be able to read it as one word), in which case it would be 'buss-stopp'. Older Norwegian orthography did not allow any word to end in a double consonant, thereby eliminating the whole problem of potential triple consonants in compound words. V85 (talk) 18:56, 7 September 2012 (UTC)
The son of Einar would be Einarsson, the son of Einars would be Einarssson. DuncanHill (talk) 19:43, 5 September 2012 (UTC)
(edit conflict) Do Norwegian patronymics end in -sson or -son? Are there any Scandavian languages which use -sson as an ending? I can find names like Ólafsson where the root name doesn't end obviously in s but still has a -sson at the end. Einarsson notes that the root name is Einar- and not Einars-. If the root name had an -s at the end, like Einars- or Magnus-, perhaps some people would use a triple s in those cases. Google confirms that people genuinely have the name "Magnussson", per this search, and it isn't a typo. --Jayron32 19:45, 5 September 2012 (UTC)
There is no such njoiningame in Scandinavia as "Einars", though. "Einars" would be the genitive case of Einar, but it is not an individual name. --Saddhiyama (talk) 23:23, 5 September 2012 (UTC)
Norwegian uses a genitive s, like English (but without the apostrophe). DuncanHill (talk) 19:52, 5 September 2012 (UTC)
Right, sorry, I should have been clearer above. It's "Einar+genitive+son". Adam Bishop (talk) 20:07, 5 September 2012 (UTC)
And such a construction is not a real name. --Saddhiyama (talk) 23:24, 5 September 2012 (UTC)

What's the phonetic transcription expected here? If it were the son of Einars in English, we would expect people to say something like /"'eɪnarzɪzˌsʌn/. (I.e.,m Einnars's-son.) Are we going to hear three sibilants in the Nordic pronunciation? μηδείς (talk) 21:37, 5 September 2012 (UTCare used )

Most Icelandic speakers would geminate the S, rendering something like /ˈeinarsːɔːn/, though in fast speech, this might be less audible.  dalahäst (let's talk!) 23:06, 5 September 2012 (UTC)

It's a name. Names are sometimes "atraditionally misspelled." 11,000 google hits for "einarssson". Choyoołʼįįhí:Seb az86556 > haneʼ 22:06, 5 September 2012 (UTC)

It seems most of those hits are individual instances of misspellings of the name "Einarsson", and not people actually named "Einarssson". --Saddhiyama (talk) 23:29, 5 September 2012 (UTC)
Yes, but that isn't the same as Magnussson cited above, which does show up in legitimate names, not just typos and misspellings. --Jayron32 02:29, 6 September 2012 (UTC)
Ummm, the infobox on the Einar article says that Einars is a related name. This suggests to me that the "sss" in question is possible. However, that was added pretty recently to the Einar article. Considering the variation in spelling various surnames in English - "Brown"/"Browne" or "White"/"Whyte" - I'm not unwilling consider that the same could happen in Icelandic. Astronaut (talk) 17:46, 6 September 2012 (UTC)
As others have stated, "Einars" is not a Norwegian first name. Furthermore, if it were, the combination "Einars"+genitive s+"son" would still be spelled with two esses, not three, because the general rule is that if joined words result in a triple consonant, it is reduced to a double consonant, as in "topp"+"punkt"="toppunkt" (although you do get quite a few ghits for the three-consonant version). "Einars" is a first name in Latvian, though, as in Einars Repše. Whether genitive s and "son" are used in Latvian, I don't know. Another fact which makes the three consonant-version ungrammatical is that nouns that end in "s" are unchanged in the genitive, at least in formal writing. This can lead to ambiguities, as in "Hans bil" (i.e. the car that belongs to Hans, homophonous to "hans bil" his car). In spoken Norwegian you might say "Hans sin bil" to distinguish, a form which is increasingly used, whether the owner ends in "s" or not, and which is frowned upon by more conservative speakers. --NorwegianBlue talk 19:35, 6 September 2012 (UTC)
My "Hans" example above, made me think about the surname "Hanssen", or "Hansen" as it usually is spelled, which according to the first-name+"s"+"son" logic should be spelled "Hansssen". Googling for the triple-s version restricted to gets quite a few ghits, but if we turn to official statistics:
  • There are 3,2,1 or 0 persons in Norway with the surname "Hansssen",
  • There are 5944 persons in Norway with the surname "Hanssen",
  • There are 54823 persons in Norway with the surname "Hansen".
The 3,2,1 or 0 thing is a privacy concern, I think. Any search with 3 or fewer hits is returned this way. And in case anyone should wonder: There are 3,2,1 or 0 persons in Norway with the surname "Einarssson". --NorwegianBlue talk 21:04, 6 September 2012 (UTC)
Why do they include a "or 0" option? By that logic, I could search for "Magniafazzula" and get "There are 3, 2, 1 or 0 persons in Norway with the surname "Magniafazzula"" as a result. JIP | Talk 21:10, 6 September 2012 (UTC)
And cor blimey, it does return that. Even if instead of "Magniafazzula", I enter something just by banging my keyboard at random. I would figure the system would need to make a distinction between names at most 3 people in Norway have and names no one in Norway could possibly ever have. JIP | Talk 21:13, 6 September 2012 (UTC)
And there should also be world peace... Sadly, things don't always work out the way we want. :-) V85 (talk) 18:48, 7 September 2012 (UTC)
See Latvian declension. If I understand right, it's usual in Latvian (and Lithuanian?) to fit foreign names into one of the standard declensions, and all masculines apparently have –s in the nominative case (what would appear in lists). So I'd expect Einar to be Latvized as Einars (nominative), Einara (genitive), and so on; the translation of "Einar's son" would have Einara, not Einars– with some further suffix. —Tamfang (talk) 02:05, 7 September 2012 (UTC)
I did a google search for 'Einarssson' and most of the hits I got referred to people from Iceland, it seems that 'Einarssson' with three s's is an Icelandic thing. V85 (talk) 18:48, 7 September 2012 (UTC)
If so, we're talking about deliberate misspellings, or people choosing a 'cute', though unofficial spelling of their surname. Google hits weren't helpful, nor were phone directory entries, when I searched for Norwegian Einar(triple-s)ons. There was no way to prevent the available online Norwegian phone directories from correcting the triple-s version to names that actually existed.
There is an Icelandic webpage that corresponds to the Norwegian one I linked to: Statistics Iceland, names. We there have to deal with the particular Icelandic custom that there really isn't such a thing as a surname. Your surname only reflects your father's first name, as in Finnbogadóttir, Eiriksson. You will find that "Einar" is a quite common first name, and you will find no-one that has "Einars" as his first name. Therefore, there will be no grammatical basis for forming a triple-s version of the surname. You can also check our List of Icelanders. There are exactly zero persons on that list with a triple-s "ssson" surname. --NorwegianBlue talk 21:39, 7 September 2012 (UTC)