Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Language/2013 May 6

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May 6[edit]

Pronunciation of the indefinite article 'a'[edit]

Is the pronunciation of the indefinite article 'a' always short (like in 'bar'), or are there cases where it is appropriate to use the diphthong (like in 'say')? If so, when would you use either? Gil_mo (talk) 04:55, 6 May 2013 (UTC)

There are two pronunciations of the article, but the most usual one is not the vowel of bar, but rather a schwa, /ə/, like the a in about. If you want to emphasize the article for whatever reason, you can use /eɪ/ (as in say), but in general, I recommend you use the schwa. A parallel situation exists with the two pronunciations of the, /ðə/ and /ðiː/ ("thee"). Lesgles (talk) 05:10, 6 May 2013 (UTC)
Thanks, is there an official (i.e. academic) reference to these pronunciations? Gil_mo (talk) 05:15, 6 May 2013 (UTC)
Any good dictionary, e.g. Oxford Dictionaries (see the note at the bottom). Or for more comprehensive pronunciation guidance, you can try the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary or the Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary. Lesgles (talk) 05:24, 6 May 2013 (UTC)
In most American accents, the difference between "/ə/" and "/eɪ/" for the indefinite article "a" and between "/ðə/" and "/ðiː/" for the definite article "the" is one of emphasis. If one is particularly emphasizing something, you use the stressed vowel "/eɪ/" or "/ðiː/". If one is speaking normally, without putting emphasis on the term, you use the reduced "schwa" forms "/ə/" and "/ðə/". Thus, if you say "I want a hot dog for lunch", you'd probably use "/ə/". If someone asks you "Do you want two hot dogs for lunch?" and you want to emphasize that no, you only want one, you might say "I only want a hot dog for lunch" and use the "/eɪ/" pronunciation. --Jayron32 15:04, 6 May 2013 (UTC)
Traditionally, unstressed "the" was [ðə] before words beginning with consonants and [ðɪ] before words beginning with vowels. This pattern has been disrupted in many types of American English, because the old system of two clearly-distinguished unstressed vowels, [ə] vs. [ɪ] (which survives in many British dialects) has changed. In most types of American English, unstressed [ɪ] has become [iː] at the end of a word, before noun and verb inflectional endings, and before vowels. Where [ɪ] did not become [iː], it became something like [ɨ], not always clearly distinguished from [ə]... AnonMoos (talk) 16:12, 6 May 2013 (UTC)

In English, What is the word with the most synonyms?[edit] (talk) 06:20, 6 May 2013 (UTC)

This is rather difficult to answer exactly, since you can debate which words are actually synonyms. For instance, 'bad' could be a synonym of 'good' ("He's a baaaad mutha") or an antonym ("She's a bad mother"). Still, I found a couple of possibilities: 'good', which is said to have either 308 synonyms or 'about 380', or 'drunk', which apparently has 380. That kinda says something, doesn't it? Eskimos have 50 words for snow, we have 380 words for waking up in a wheelie bin with our pants on our head. - Cucumber Mike (talk) 07:27, 6 May 2013 (UTC)
I would have thought it would be "sex". Clarityfiend (talk) 10:47, 6 May 2013 (UTC)
Or a four-letter variant. ☯ Bonkers The Clown \(^_^)/ Nonsensical Babble ☯ 11:18, 6 May 2013 (UTC)
Wavelength (talk) 15:53, 6 May 2013 (UTC)

Spanish translation jigger[edit]

this kind

How do you say jigger in Spanish? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:52, 6 May 2013 (UTC)

The English word "jigger" can mean a number of different things, see [1] and [2]. Which sense of the word do you want translated? Gabbe (talk) 08:25, 6 May 2013 (UTC)
  • The kind you use to measure a shot or a double shot in the making of cocktails. All I can think of saying is medidor or ésa cosa para medir los cóctels y chupitos but those are vague and verbose respectively. (talk) 20:52, 6 May 2013 (UTC)

It's a copa de medida, and it contains a trago. See shot glass. μηδείς (talk) 04:36, 7 May 2013 (UTC)

Chinese transliteration[edit]

I was wondering if someone familiar with Chinese script could provide me a transliteration of the characters on this plaque. It's the name of the gravesite which I'd like to add on the Wikipedia article I've created on it: Chinese cemetery, Gilgit. Mar4d (talk) 09:18, 6 May 2013 (UTC)

It's a bit hard to read. I see "work", "grandfather", and "country". The rest are a bit too muffled to see. If only it were clearer and less slanted. ☯ Bonkers The Clown \(^_^)/ Nonsensical Babble ☯ 11:20, 6 May 2013 (UTC)
The characters are pretty impossible to see at that angle and at that resolution. (Why would "grandfather" be on the foundation stone of a cemetary for Chinese workers who died in the line of duty?) OP, do you just want the name of the cemetary? In the Chinese press it is referred to as the "吉尔吉特中国烈士陵园", "Gilgit Chinese martyrs' cemetary". A plaque at the cemetary itself calls it the "Pakistan Chinese martyrs' cemetary" "巴基斯坦中国烈士陵园". Googling these terms will bring up more pictures. --PalaceGuard008 (Talk) 17:53, 7 May 2013 (UTC)
Thanks, that's what I was looking for. The Chinese translation above seems correct as I remember (while looking up sources) a source that was calling it the 'Chinese martyrs cemetery.' Thanks again! Much appreciated. Cheers, Mar4d (talk) 09:35, 9 May 2013 (UTC)

Nick needs Polishing[edit]

I've tidied up Nicholas the Small as best I could. However, the cash amount in the Polish article (1000 grzywien srebra okręgu Sobótki) isn't cooperating with translation. Help. Clarityfiend (talk) 10:45, 6 May 2013 (UTC)

He sold the Sobótka district (okręg) to Bolko II the Small for 1000 grzywnas of silver (I don't think there's any mention of silver mines). According to our article on that unit of measurement, that would be about 200 kg or 430 lb of silver. Interestingly, Ukraine now uses the hryvnia as currency, though at current prices one of those could only buy you 0.16 g of silver (if I calculated that right). I guess old Nick did well to sell when he did. Lesgles (talk) 17:54, 6 May 2013 (UTC)
Thank you. Clarityfiend (talk) 21:40, 6 May 2013 (UTC)

Cream of Leek Soup[edit]

In the name "cream of leek soup", what is the word 'of' doing there? There's no cream from a leek involved? What's going on? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:35, 6 May 2013 (UTC)

There's a vaguely enlightening snippet at Creaming_(food)#In_cooking. The name implies that it is a leek soup made into a culinary cream, rather than a soup made from the (nonexistent) cream extracted from leeks. The same naming convention is applied to cream of tomato, cream of chicken and cream of mushroom soup. Sure, it's a little odd, but that's language for you. - Karenjc 17:07, 6 May 2013 (UTC)
I see it now; thanks a lot! xx (talk) 18:41, 6 May 2013 (UTC)
It is an odd construction, though. I feel better about it if I parse it as cream of (leek soup) rather than (cream of leek) soup, if that makes sense to you. Whatever you do, avoid the "leak of cream" soup, though. :-P (talk) 19:48, 6 May 2013 (UTC)
Pity the chicken is not a mammal. They have breasts but no boobies. Otherwise, we could have Cream of Chicken Soup made with cream from chicken milk. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 22:34, 6 May 2013 (UTC)
Just hope it's not a Welshman cooking for you.... KägeTorä - (影虎) (TALK) 00:46, 7 May 2013 (UTC)
Cream of mushroom, cream of tomato, cream of broccoli, etc. Not at all unusual terminology for various soups. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 02:28, 7 May 2013 (UTC)
Would not the correct grammar be to hyphenate the latter words to produce 'leek-soup'? I was taught such in 'Communication in the the Sciences'. Plasmic Physics (talk) 02:46, 7 May 2013 (UTC)
That would be "the-the".  :) -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 05:46, 7 May 2013 (UTC)
"Creamed [whatever] soup" would make better sense, as with creamed corn. But this is not science, it's English - where we drive on the parkway, and park on the driveway; and where "cleave" means both to separate and to bring together. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 03:05, 7 May 2013 (UTC)
'Communication in the Sciences' is no different to Communication (English), besides that it specialises in the scientific domain. It does not use distinct grammar. Which means that, if it is correct according to CS to hyphenate as I propose, then it is correct according to general english grammar. Example, if Texas and the USA both use the same alphabet, and Texas asserts that 'b' follows 'a', then the USA must logically also assert that 'b' follows 'a'. Plasmic Physics (talk) 03:31, 7 May 2013 (UTC)
Product manufacturers are not bound by anyone's idea of what is "correct" English usage. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 03:53, 7 May 2013 (UTC)
I'm speaking in a general sense, with no regard to manufacturers. Plasmic Physics (talk) 04:31, 7 May 2013 (UTC)
Regardless of its name, one particular course you may have undertaken somewhere at some time cannot purport to represent the immutable rules of English for any particular target group even in one country, let alone world wide. Good luck with convincing anyone to write "chicken-soup". -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 05:46, 7 May 2013 (UTC)
Hyphenation depends strongly on the context, egro, it may be 'chicken soup' on one occassion, and 'chicken-soup' on another.
2.9 The Hyphen
This small punctuation mark can be very useful to tie together two words and avoid confusion.
  • A Dutch-cheese importer is anyone who imports Dutch cheese; a Dutch cheese-importer is a Dutch person who imports any sort of cheese.
  • A small-arms retailer will sell you a handgun; a small arms-retailer is a short person who sells a wide range of guns. I can give the reference if requested. Plasmic Physics (talk) 05:58, 7 May 2013 (UTC)
Thanks for that, but I don't see how it's relevant to Cream of Chicken Soup. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 06:23, 7 May 2013 (UTC)
Back to my original post: this would be an example of when hyphenation is appropriate. Plasmic Physics (talk) 06:44, 7 May 2013 (UTC)
Or not. One's own language has to be squeaky clean before one can hope to pontificate about how others should use it and have any credibility. Enough said. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 07:39, 7 May 2013 (UTC)
In reponse, I prompt you to read Samuel Johnson's quote on hypocrisy (a practice which I avoid like the plague), found in the lede. Plasmic Physics (talk) 07:49, 7 May 2013 (UTC)
Be that as it may. The fact remains that saying how everybody should operate is futile if virtually nobody does. That's why descriptive grammars exist alongside prescriptive ones. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 08:16, 7 May 2013 (UTC)
I would think "cream-of-[whatever] soup" would make more sense, if hyphenation even does make sense for this. There's no cream coming from the [whatever], but rather the creamy stuff is added to the [whatever]. It's just a different way of saying "creamy or creamed" [whatever] soup. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Baseball Bugs (talkcontribs) 07:40, 7 May 2013 (UTC)
I googled [crème de champignons], which is French for "cream of mushroom(s)" and found many references. Maybe this idiom makes a bit more grammatical sense in French and was imported into English as a direct translation. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 04:14, 7 May 2013 (UTC)
I have to agree the construction is a calque on the French. μηδείς (talk) 04:30, 7 May 2013 (UTC)
Oughta be cream soup of leek. Gzuckier (talk) 06:13, 7 May 2013 (UTC)
Correcting names of recipes is silly. Chicken Kiev can't be called that unless it's actually from Kiev? Chicken Maryland? Quiche Florentine? Bombe Alaska? C'mon. Shut up and eat. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 06:28, 7 May 2013 (UTC)
More to the point, this is the "Reference desk" not the "I have better ideas about how English should work and so I'm going to try to change the entire language to my own ideas desk". --Jayron32 06:33, 7 May 2013 (UTC)
(then of course there's the popular chinese dish - cream of sum yum gi - Adambrowne666 (talk) 08:24, 7 May 2013 (UTC))

So, what you need now is an expert on history of cookery in England. Which is me, enough for RefDesk, anyway. It's ((cream of leek) soup). Cream of leek can stand alone. English cookery is very strong on creams; my 1615 cookery book has pages of them. This one is a cream, eaten (drunk?) hot as a soup. I don't think calques come into it because the grammar is the same in both languages. French and English cookery are a continuum if you go back to the early modern period. Itsmejudith (talk) 12:20, 7 May 2013 (UTC)

And it's not just soup. Cream of Wheat, Cream of Rice, and the apparently unexplainable cream of tartar. - Nunh-huh 23:22, 8 May 2013 (UTC)