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August 26[edit]

Linguistic history of China[edit]

Here are quite decent maps that cover the political and cultural history of China. But I could not find maps that deal with the linguistic history of China. I read some articles but still have some (or rather many) questions:
1) As I understand Old Chinese was originally located in the Xia state. Later during the Shan and Zhou dynasties this state expanded. What were the languages outside of the original Xia state? Was the expansion an assimilation of non-Sinitic languages into Old Chinese or rather a unification and amalgamation of closely related Sinitic languages?
2) What was the linguistic situation in Southern China during the Xian-Shan-Zhou period? I suppose in (Far) Northern China there were Mongolic, Turkic and Tungusic-Manchu speakers, in Western China - Tibetan speakers.
3a) Are the southern Chinese "dialects" the result of the later migration from the Xian-Shan-Zhou area and assimilation of the local non-Chinise languages (akin to the expansion of Latin and the development of the Romance languages)?
3b) Or did the southern Chinese "dialects" already exist in the Xian-Shan-Zhou period of Northern China?
4a) If (3a) is true how did the substrata affect the southern Chinese "dialects"?
4b) If (3b) is true how did the Sinitic languages appear in their current locations?
5) Where was the Proto-Sinitic Urheimat and how was the linguistic landscape changing anyway?--Lüboslóv Yęzýkin (talk) 15:03, 26 August 2015 (UTC)

  • History of the Chinese language has some information, and cites a few scholars. You may use that as a start of your research. --Jayron32 15:24, 26 August 2015 (UTC)
    • Obviously, I read that and some other things, but it hardly helps. They are either very vague or even contradict themselves.--Lüboslóv Yęzýkin (talk) 16:16, 26 August 2015 (UTC)
I'll take a stab at this, but it isn't really possible to offer definitive or authoritative answers to most of your questions.
1) We don't know the geographic extent of Old Chinese. In any case, Old Chinese is defined as the ancestor of the modern Chinese languages spoken between 1200 BCE and the unification of China in 221 BCE. During this period, the language underwent considerable change, both linguistically and very likely in its geographic extent. The earliest specimens of Old Chinese date from the Shang Dynasty, not the Xia Dynasty. The language spoken by the prehistoric Xia Dynasty and its precursors was probably a precursor of Old Chinese. We do not know what languages were spoken by peoples surrounding the Shang state. Some very likely spoke dialects related to what we might call standard (Shang) Old Chinese, while others probably spoke unrelated languages. A major problem here is that, because written Chinese does not preserve the phonology of older versions of the language and because of a series of stages of phoneme collapse over the history of Chinese, it is impossible to reconstruct with certainty the Old Chinese pronunciation of many characters. In any case, foreign words were probably adapted to Old Chinese phonology. So it is almost impossible to use evidence such as place names and personal names from ancient Chinese in the way that those have been used to hypothesize about the linguistic affiliations of ancient peoples whose names are recorded in the phonetic scripts of ancient Greek or Latin, for example. However, the geographic area in which Chinese inscriptions occur did expand from early Shang times to the 3rd century BCE, and it is likely that the geographic area in which Old Chinese was spoken expanded with it. We don't know to what extent this expansion involved an "assimilation" as opposed to a replacement. Usually an expanding language does pick up some vocabulary from the languages it supplants, and this probably happened, but there are also cases such as Old English in which a language largely supplants its predecessor. Again, there is no evidence to indicate which process took place.
2) Scholars usually suppose that languages spoken in southern China before the 3rd century BCE belonged to the Austroasiatic, Tai-Kadai, Hmong-Mien, and Tibeto-Burman language families. There may also have been now-lost members of the Sinitic language family.
3 and 4) Most of the present-day Chinese languages are believed to descend from Middle Chinese, which probably spread beginning during the Southern and Northern Dynasties and continuing through the Tang Dynasty and supplanted (or to some extent assimilated) both other descendants of Old Chinese and languages not descended from Old Chinese that were still spoken especially in the South. Most of the present-day southern dialects did not exist as such before the first millennium CE. There was a significant migration at the beginning of the Sixteen Kingdoms period that brought speakers of early Middle Chinese from the ancient Chinese heartland along the Huang He to the heartland of the Eastern Jin Dynasty along the Chang Jiang (Yangzi). (See Jin dynasty (265–420).) A further migration south of the Yangzi into southern China took place during the Southern and Northern Dynasties, though the language probably spread not just through migration but also by adoption by speakers of other languages. There is an important exception to this pattern, Min Chinese, which seems to be descended independently from a form of Old Chinese, possibly brought to Fujian during the Han Dynasty, but also showing Middle Chinese influence. Again, because of the non-phonetic nature of the Chinese script and the process of phonemic collapse, it is difficult to know what forms derive from the internal evolution of the language and what forms, if any, are derived from other substrates.
5) We do not know the location of the proto-Sinitic Urheimat, partly because the membership of non-Chinese languages in the Sinitic family is disputed, and partly because the probable ancient diversity of Sinitic languages, which should have been greatest around the Urheimat, was probably later wiped out by the spread of, first, Old Chinese and, later, Middle Chinese. There is a pattern of cultural continuity between Yangshao culture and Shang culture that suggests that the cultural ancestors of the speakers of Old Chinese were centered in Shaanxi and Shanxi. Meanwhile, some scholars see the Bai language group as distant members of the Sinitic family. If this is true, it might suggest an Urheimat in the Sichuan Basin, bordering on the present-day area of the Tibetan languages. However, the evidence is inconclusive, so we can only speculate.
Marco polo (talk) 18:35, 26 August 2015 (UTC)
Slightly tangentially, the OP might be interesting in today's post on the Language Log blog which discusses the origins of certain Chinese words and links to a lengthy paper examining the alleged linguistic and other evidence of whether the Xia dynasty actually existed, or was a myth invented for political reasons around a millennium later.
Some of the regular posters on Language Log are quite knowledgeable about the Chinese languages' relationships and histories. (Which is not to deny that Marco polo's own summary above is extremely interesting and useful.) {The poster formerly known as} (talk) 14:29, 27 August 2015 (UTC)
I agree that, as our article on the Xia Dynasty points out, the existence of that dynasty is disputed. Still, most scholars believe that there was a predecessor state to Shang, centered at Erlitou, that largely corresponds to later descriptions of the Xia. So a majority of scholars of ancient China accept that there is a factual basis for the accounts of the Xia, even if not all of those accounts are factual in every detail. Marco polo (talk) 18:41, 27 August 2015 (UTC)
The Chinese historiography, either in the past or in the present, has had a tendency to overage their history as a result of their ethnocentric mythology (a Chinese: "We are the greatest and most ancient civilization with the 5,000-years continuous history!" - a Western barbarian: "Ehm... OK" ☺). So I do not expect that everything said in Chinese manuscripts actually happened. Though we have at least a relative chronology (plus-munus 100-500 years - it's not too important for "the most ancient civilization" ☺).
Your answer was quite interesting. I thought myself if I could not find something clear then there is indeed little or no linguistic evidence (due to the absence of a Chinese phonetic writing in the first place). Anyway, my allusion with Latin and the Romance languages seems quite legit. The Yellow-Yangtze "Mesopotamia" might be like Italy where might be a proto-Chinese core somewhere (like Latium), and that core might be surrounded by Sinitic (like Italic) and non-Sinitic languages (like Etruscan, Celtic or Greek). The Middle Chinese expansion was like Romanization of the non-Italic tribes in the Roman empire (either by migration or assimilation), they were even close chronologically.--Lüboslóv Yęzýkin (talk) 07:41, 28 August 2015 (UTC)
The expansion of Chinese was like the expansion of Latin in some ways but different in others. Unlike Latin, which spread once, between about 200 BCE and 200 CE, Chinese spread twice. There was the Old Chinese expansion, from about 1000 BCE to about 100 BCE, which left a variety of divergent dialects. Then there was a second expansion of Middle Chinese, from about 400 CE to about 700 CE, which supplanted all other dialects descended from Old Chinese with the exception of Min Chinese. So, in terms of chronological depth, Min Chinese is most distant from, for example, Mandarin. Since the divergence of Old Chinese dialects was roughly contemporaneous with the divergence of Germanic languages from Proto-Germanic, the relationship of Min Chinese to Mandarin is analogous to the relationship of Swedish to English. The divergence of Middle Chinese dialects is more recent than the divergence of Romance dialects from Vulgar Latin. Chronologically, it is more comparable to the divergence of the Slavic languages. So the non-Min southern Chinese languages have a relationship to Mandarin analogous to the relationship between, say, Czech and Russian. Marco polo (talk) 14:56, 28 August 2015 (UTC)


Do you mean the Old Chinese expansion was in the Yellow-Yangtze Mesopotamia? I think the origin of Min may be a little different: some archaic peripheral dialects (periphery always tends to be more archaic) moved southward as a result of the fall of the Yue state. The migration might be not so massive, but still proto-Min Old Chinese could assimilate the local population. The later conquest of the Min state forced that assimilation.
I don't think that the expansion of Latin happened once in the short span of time. There were rather several waves (the first one was during the conquest of the Italic peninsula) into several directions (Hispania, Gallia, Africa, the Balkans). The spread and the dissolution of the Slavic languages was also much durable, the last stages are thought to be as late as the 12th century. What confuses me is the modern Slavs still somewhat can understand each other, but as I know understanding between the speakers of the Sinitic languages is close to zero. They may be quite recent (not much than 2000 years) but these Chinese "dialects" are rather like the groups of the Indo-European family. Probably the first waves were during the Qin-Han period. And due their nature the changes and differences are more prominent than in other language families.
By the way I found in ABC Etymological Dictionary of Old Chinese a very good overview of the history of the language[1]. And I also found some interesting maps [2][3][4] (I cannot say where they are from, don't you know?).--Lüboslóv Yęzýkin (talk) 08:00, 29 August 2015 (UTC)
The first two maps are from The Cambridge History of China, V. 1, pp. 241, 242.[5]--Lüboslóv Yęzýkin (talk) 10:36, 31 August 2015 (UTC)

August 29[edit]


Wiktionary:out-and-out tells me that "out-and-out" means "complete, utter". I already knew that, but both examples they give refer to negative things: an out-and-out idiot and an out-and-out lie. The Douglas Adams' quote refers to "an out-and-out atheist", almost as if that were akin to being a criminal.

Is this ever used of positive things, eg. "He is an out-and-out champion", or "I have spoken the out-and-out truth"?

Where did this expression come from, and is there a corresponding opposite, such as "in-and-in"? Thanks. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 19:52, 29 August 2015 (UTC)

By searching Google News, I found "five out and out world-class players" here and "out-and-out champion" here.
Wavelength (talk) 20:18, 29 August 2015 (UTC)
Dictionary definitions are indexed at ( has (at the definition "complete and without restriction or qualification; sometimes used informally as intensifiers" and the synonyms "absolute, downright, rank, right-down, sheer, complete". A plumb line (with a plumb bob) indicates a completely vertical line, so "downright" is equivalent to "plumb": "a downright winner, a plumb winner, an out-and-out winner". Another synonym is "outright", alluding to a completely horizontal line like that indicated by a spirit level.
Wavelength (talk) 00:45, 30 August 2015 (UTC)
Halsbury's Laws (title "Gaming") reports a nineteenth - century case on the clause in the 1845 Gaming Act which prohibits bringing legal proceedings to recover any money paid to any person to abide the result of a wager. The judge ruled that the clause meant "paid out and out" and did not operate to prevent the litigant recovering his own stake. However, before you all rush off to the betting shop to reclaim all those losing bets you've had over the years please note that although the statute makes betting contracts unenforceable they are not illegal so the bets stand. (talk) 14:13, 30 August 2015 (UTC)
The Gambling Act 2005 makes gambling contracts enforceable. See here for some info. DuncanHill (talk) 14:39, 30 August 2015 (UTC)
I'd like to correct the impression some readers may get that gambling contracts were unenforceable before 2005. That's not the case. Casinos can and did sue customers for the amount paid for chips where the customer's cheque bounced or was stopped. Bets with totalisators or their agents have always been recoverable in the courts because one party (the tote) cannot lose so it's not a gambling contract. The same with football pools. In one case involving Vernons Pools a client sued for a dividend not received (I would guess that either the agent pocketed the money or the coupon got lost). The court held that the provision in the rules that the transaction is a "gentlemen's agreement not intended to create legal obligations" and that the agent is the agent of the customer meant the client could not recover.
The plaintiff's lawyer argued that the agent is quite obviously the agent of the pool promoter (he hands out the coupons, collects the money, sends the coupons to the promoter, gets paid commission etc.) and then invoked the maxim "notice to the agent is notice to the principal".
However, it is true that for a legally binding contract to come into being there must be an intention to create legal obligations. So for example if two scrabble players agree that whoever loses the game will go out and buy kebabs for both at the local takeaway that is not legally enforceable. The judge agreed that the agent was acting for the promoter. As he put it, "You can say in the contract that black is white but that doesn't make it true". Nevertheless, the client had signed away his legal rights and could not claim.
The National Lottery has been sued by players for winnings in cases where either the ticket was lost or the claim under the lost ticket rule was made outside the 180 - day deadline for claims. The lottery started in 1994 and whether any cases pre - date 2005 I cannot say. (talk) 15:20, 30 August 2015 (UTC)
Well, let's say that two drinkers are playing cards in a pub and are betting on the outcome of the hands. By closing time one player is ten thousand pounds down. Do you think his opponent can recover his winnings by issuing a writ in the High Court? The courts have always regarded gambling suits as void as being an abuse of process. Do you know of any cases which have actually been brought? (talk) 15:35, 30 August 2015 (UTC)
The verse of the old music-hall My Old Dutch begins with the lines "I've got a pal, A reg'lar out an' outer", where "out an' outer" is clearly meant positively. AndrewWTaylor (talk) 16:16, 30 August 2015 (UTC)
Other gambling cases you might come across are where a friend contributes to the cost of a ticket but the player keeps all the money. That is why the National Lottery recommends that syndicate agreements be reduced to writing. Sometimes the syndicate leader doesn't tell the members they've won, or says they won less than they actually did, or misrepresents the bet which was placed or the results in cases where the members have a record of the selections and check them against the results. Another variation on the theme is where the player hands in the ticket to the shop for checking and the proprietor tells him it is a loser after verifying it is a winner, retains the ticket and claims for himself. That requires the National Lottery to be pretty proactive and note that a National Lottery outlet is claiming a jackpot. All this is peanuts compared to the people who simply do not claim even multi - million pound wins, on a par with the billions which the banks have in dormant accounts and life insurance companies have in policies which have matured but are unclaimed. (talk) 10:54, 31 August 2015 (UTC)

Transliteration of French into Hebrew[edit]

I need some help with something that I should really be asking about at the Hebrew equivalent of the reference desk, but I don't speak Hebrew. So I was hoping somebody could get this information for me from Hebrew-speaking Wikipedians.

I would like to find detailed instructions for transliterating French names into Modern Hebrew in a standard way, if there is such a thing. For example, this could be some agreed upon system used in Israeli newspapers or library catalogues. I would obviously prefer it if the instructions were in a Western language, but I understand such a thing may only be available in Hebrew, in which case I will make do with the Hebrew text. But first I need to find it.

Thanks for any help you can give me. (talk) 20:34, 29 August 2015 (UTC)

Here is a a page of instructions for transcribing French names into Hebrew (it's in Hebrew, unfortunately).
At the Hebrew Wikipedia's Language reference desk, requests for transcriptions from various languages are a pretty usual thing, and many of the users know English, so it wouldn't be much a of a problem if you use English to post any questions you may have.
You could also ask me if you'd like to have (suggestions for) Hebrew renditions of some specific names - although I'm not really a Hebrew speaker, I'd say I do have some idea of how transcription works. --Theurgist (talk) 00:23, 30 August 2015 (UTC)
Thanks a lot. That Hebrew Wikipedia page looks like it will do perfectly. I'll start with that and ask again if I have trouble with specific issues. (talk) 01:44, 30 August 2015 (UTC)

August 30[edit]

Life hack?[edit]

When did an idea, a suggestion, a tip or a handy hint become a "life hack"? Who dreamt up that stupid, stupid expression? -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 01:44, 30 August 2015 (UTC)

You left out one "stupid". Bus stop (talk) 02:06, 30 August 2015 (UTC)
Danny O'Brien did, in 2004, according to the article on life hacking. ---Sluzzelin talk 06:49, 30 August 2015 (UTC)
Thanks. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 08:40, 30 August 2015 (UTC)
Sheesh, Jack, you just gave it a whole lot more publicity. Reminds me of the way the Bible says to blot out the remembrance of the Amalekites because of what they did, thus guaranteeing that their name would live on for the next few thousand years to the present day, lol. Deuteronomy 25:19 for anyone interested. Akld guy (talk) 07:24, 30 August 2015 (UTC)
Very interested. Thanks. That book (which English has the Greeks to blame for misreading) is full of spiritual Gameshark codes. There. Now they're both public. May the least stupid sounding make it (loosely translated, at least) into the history books, and may the other join what's-his-name. InedibleHulk (talk) 08:59, August 30, 2015 (UTC)
I've only ever seen it on, Jack. It basically means a way to fix something in your life. Hacking into a computer can be used for benevolent means, too. KägeTorä - () (もしもし!) 07:40, 30 August 2015 (UTC)
I see it on social media all.the.time. I know what it means (see my question). I was just questioning the need for such a neologism; despite claims of it being the second most useful word of 2005, I still say there's no need for it. Anyone who doesn't see things my way is wrong, and all intolerant people should be shot. The end. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 08:40, 30 August 2015 (UTC)
And then there are food hacks, such as how to dice an onion[6]. Bus stop (talk) 09:49, 30 August 2015 (UTC)
It's not clear to me that our article really addresses Jack's question. O'Brien still seemed to be using the term to describe computer programming techniques. The transition to mean "tips and tricks for everyday life" comes with a big ol' [citation needed] tag on it. (talk) 20:54, 30 August 2015 (UTC)
The 5 Least Effective Life Hacks People Apparently Use touches on the "cottage industry" it has become. And here are 12 'Life Hacks' by People With No Idea What Life Hacks Are. Also, 8 Stupid Kitchen Hacks (Tested for Usefulness). Cracked has more, but things work best in threes. InedibleHulk (talk) 00:10, August 31, 2015 (UTC)
Believe it or not there is a Life hack: Slice and cut a watermelon in seconds. Bus stop (talk) 06:07, 31 August 2015 (UTC)
It's the same with those "instant karma" (aka "justice p**n") videos. Most of them are just videos of generic fails and clearly show that the person has no idea what karma is. Asmrulz (talk) 12:03, 31 August 2015 (UTC)
Instant gratification is a mind trap; revenge is a dish best served cold. Quickly rushing to burn a witch for the sake of parental panic can come back to haunt those precious, stupid children. Troubled by nightmare disorder? Use a common household razor to slice and cut your eyelids off in seconds! Problems with invasive pests? Ultra-high sound waves will make them scream their antennas off, guaranteed!
This justice porn manages to grasp the idea of rapid-fire karma, while also solving the First World problem of not enough chair legs: Simply raise yourself, you spoiled brats! InedibleHulk (talk) 01:58, September 1, 2015 (UTC)

I don't know whether this is relevant or not, but 'life' may have been used as an acronym by O'Brien in the same way that LIFO and FIFO are used in computer terminology to mean 'Last In, First Out' and 'First In, First Out' respectively. I'm wracking my brains to think what 'LIFE' might mean, though. Akld guy (talk) 02:50, 1 September 2015 (UTC)

Used to be a hard philosophical question, till Google made it easy. There are only so many seconds in the day, whether you're using them to code software or save the princess ASAP. There are two sorts of players in LIFE. InedibleHulk (talk) 05:54, September 1, 2015 (UTC)
"The object of the game of life is to see clearly one's good and to obliterate all mental pictures of evil. This must be done by impressing the subconscious mind with a realization of good. A very brilliant man, who has attained great success, told me he had suddenly erased all fear from his consciousness by reading a sign which hung in a room."
Life hack from 1925. I wonder if it still works. InedibleHulk (talk) 06:09, September 1, 2015 (UTC)
One weird thing to remember about all manner of tricks, tips, techniques, textbooks and training is that different strokes work for different folks. A great idea in the wrong hands is a waste of time and potential. And what those lucky few make do with what they have may itself work for some and not others. InedibleHulk (talk) 07:19, September 1, 2015 (UTC)

August 31[edit]

Antiquated Superlatives for Victorian-style poster.[edit]

Sorry - this is going to be a rather vague request - but you guys have done well for me in the past, so here we go!

I'm trying to compose a poster of the kind that were around in Victorian times where a product was ridiculously over-hyped using flowery words and a dozen different fonts.

I'm having a hard time finding enough superlatives and other similar words that feel sufficiently outdated for modern speakers - yet are still comprehensible to those who are reasonably literate. So I have phrases like "Replete with sundry alchemical substances" and "An avuncular event with luminaries and sages of all kinds"...but I'm running dry on similar sounding stuff.

I guess I'm really looking for a pile of those dusty and overly flowery words to play with. Whatever you have would be good!

TIA SteveBaker (talk) 15:16, 31 August 2015 (UTC)

Does this help at all? -Jayron32 16:42, 31 August 2015 (UTC)
The electric corset looks interesting. It might be an early attempt at a Sauna Belt. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 18:02, 31 August 2015 (UTC)
Here's a list of old-fashioned compliments [7] that might work for products. the Language of flowers might also have some inspiration, either in visually including certain flowers or just using their names. The posters for Medicine_shows and patent medicine seem especially ripe for mining, e.g. [8]. Girl Genius [9] often uses this kind of language, but it might take a while to find the appropriate pages, and you wouldn't want to directly plagiarize. SemanticMantis (talk) 18:18, 31 August 2015 (UTC)
Calling an event 'avuncular' doesn't sound right to me. Unless it's some kind of uncle-centric society. :) (talk) 20:18, 31 August 2015 (UTC)
Wiktionary offers two meanings:
  1. In the manner of an uncle, pertaining to an uncle.
  2. (by extension) Kind, genial, benevolent, or tolerant.
...I kinda meant the second one...but I guess you're right. This is why I need help! SteveBaker (talk) 23:17, 31 August 2015 (UTC)

How to write a numerical expression in words[edit]

I would like to know exactly how to write a numerical expression in words. As an example, let's use the number 542,879 for illustration. I know that there is, obviously, "five hundred forty two thousand" and "eight hundred seventy nine". My question is in the details. Where do hyphens go (if at all); where do commas go (if at all), where does the word "and" go (if at all). Stuff like that. Also, capitalization versus lower case letters. This is if it were to be written in a formal paper, where the words (not numerals) are required. Thanks. Joseph A. Spadaro (talk) 20:28, 31 August 2015 (UTC)

It would be "five hundred and forty-two thousand, eight hundred and seventy-nine" in British English, and "five hundred forty-two thousand, eight hundred seventy-nine" in American English. Dbfirs 20:43, 31 August 2015 (UTC)
I'd add a couple of additional points. (1) There would be no capitals, unless beginning a sentence or proper noun. (1a) I'm American. In writing a check/cheque/draft on my account, I will normally capitalize the first letter of the amount on the check itself. (2) In the United States, you will often hear the ands in speech. But they are not "standard" in US English, so one would not write them. (3) Truthfully, in Standard English, at least in the US, most style guides will tell you that only numbers through "ten" are written out as words. So while I presume you have some reason to want to write this out in words, in normal standard written copy you should use numerals for a number like that. StevenJ81 (talk) 21:14, 31 August 2015 (UTC)
Thanks. By the way, I am American. So, I am concerned with the USA way of doing things. The purpose is to write them in a formal paper, in the following manner, as an example. This is to verify that twelve (12) widgets were received by the client last Wednesday. For example, when one has to write out the actual words and also numerals in parentheses. That type of thing. Back to the question (and the reply above by Dbfirs). Why are some numbers (e.g., forty-two thousand; also, seventy-nine) hyphenated, and some (e.g., five hundred; also, eight hundred) not? Thanks. Joseph A. Spadaro (talk) 01:04, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
Exactly the numbers from 21 to 99 (twenty-one to ninety-nine) are hyphenated, and no others (obviously, this includes the "twenty-one" in "twenty-one thousand" or "twenty-one million" as well.) Why? I have no idea. That's the rule, though. --Ashenai (talk) 02:18, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
  • Except 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90. —Tamfang (talk) 06:38, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
  • Not a reason but a difference: forty-two is addition, five hundred is multiplication. Five hundred bottles is five times {hundred bottles}, and I imagine that in some languages it's analyzed that way: five hundred-batches of bottles. (In French this is true of millions.) But forty-two bottles is not forty times {two bottles}; the forty and the two belong to the same level of structure. —Tamfang (talk) 06:38, 1 September 2015 (UTC)

Follow up[edit]

What's the correct way to write a decimal point number in words? Let's say that 5.8 is the number. I recently saw "five point eight". But, that just doesn't seem right. Before that, I had never seen the word "point" as part of the verbal expression of a numeral. Joseph A. Spadaro (talk) 02:46, 2 September 2015 (UTC)

"Five point eight" is how I would write it, if for some reason I couldn't use numbers. I suppose if you wanted to describe something heard over the phone you might write it out that way. "Five and eight tenths" would be another way, or even "five and four fifths", if you wanted to simplify the fraction. StuRat (talk) 03:52, 2 September 2015 (UTC)
Five point eight is the most common way, but in cases where intelligibility is crucial, such as in military or aeronautical communications by radio, 'five decimal eight' is usually mandated. Akld guy (talk) 05:05, 2 September 2015 (UTC)
Which country is Joseph in? "Five point eight" is the only way of saying "5.8" in Britain. I don't know how the continentals would say it, because it's written "5,8" there. On the other hand, they don't use the comma to separate digits - 1,000 is 1 000. Germans use the full stop more than we do - "6. Yahrhundert" for "sixth century" or "6th century", "6. Januar" for "6 January" or "6th January". Indians count in something called a crore - this is why you see constructions such as "20,00,000". (talk) 10:11, 2 September 2015 (UTC)
I am in the USA. I had mentioned this above, in an earlier post. I have never in my life seen "five point eight", which is why I had asked about it. I had only seen something along the lines of "five and eight tenths", or such. Thanks. Joseph A. Spadaro (talk) 16:05, 2 September 2015 (UTC)
You've never heard about body temperature being "98 point 6 degrees", or a "clean that's real as Ivory, 99 point 44 percent pure"? ... Or have you just not seen it written? As to not being written, it may be that writing things out in words tends to be more "formal", while using "point" is more colloquial. For that reason, in writing "ninety-eight and six tenths degrees" or "ninety-nine and forty-four hundredths percent pure" might be more common, as if you're bothering to write it out, you might as well be hi-falutin' about it. -- (talk) 17:19, 2 September 2015 (UTC)
Yes, I have (obviously) heard it in spoken English. I have never seen it in written English. Hence, my question. And, as my question stated, this is for a formal (written) paper. Again, hence, the question. Thanks. Joseph A. Spadaro (talk) 19:21, 2 September 2015 (UTC)
Whoa. InedibleHulk (talk) 10:24, September 2, 2015 (UTC)
In French we write 5,8 and in words "cinq virgule huit", just like in English you would write 5.8 "five point eight". One convenient way to see how it's written anywhere in the world, is to explore your computer's keyboard and language settings. Akseli9 (talk) 11:41, 2 September 2015 (UTC)
  • Note though, I was taught to say 2,34 in French as deux virgule trente-quatre (thirty-four) rather than deux virgule trois quatre (three four). —Tamfang (talk) 04:13, 3 September 2015 (UTC)
Do you really say "two point three four" in English? And for 2,345 "two point three four five"? I didn't know that, thank you for this knowledge. If so, well French doesn't work like English after all, since in French it is "deux virgule trente-quatre" and 2,345 is "deux virgule trois-cent quarante-cinq". Akseli9 (talk) 04:26, 3 September 2015 (UTC)
Why not to say "five and eight tenth"?[10]--Lüboslóv Yęzýkin (talk) 13:55, 2 September 2015 (UTC)
I'm pretty sure it would be "five and eight tenths in American English. --Jayron32 14:49, 2 September 2015 (UTC)
Let's take a step back here ...
First, to answer Joseph's specific question for US, and leaving out the question of reducing fractions to lowest terms:
  • In general settings, trying for Standard English, if the number is truly by itself, it would be "five and eight tenths". But if the number is counting something (like 5.8 gallons of gasoline), then I'm pretty sure the final fraction will get hyphenated as an attributive: "five and eight-tenths gallons". If the number is only the fraction, and not a mixed number, then you're more likely to see a construction like "eight tenths of a gallon" (not hyphenated). "Five point eight" is not Standard English.
  • For money, it would always be "five dollars [,/and] eighty cents". The fraction is always converted, when using words, into a whole number of cents. If it's a currency where you don't know the name of the fractional currency unit, you'd probably go with "five euros [,/and] eighty". (I know what it is, that's just an example if one doesn't know.)
Writing a check, the fraction is written out as xx/00 or xx/100, even in the "words" section.
Second, that period is used as the ordinal in German.
StevenJ81 (talk) 15:09, 2 September 2015 (UTC)
Thanks. Exactly correct when you say that: "Five point eight" is not Standard English. I understand that money and dollar values would use the "xx/100" notation. So I might be referring to a formal document that says the following, for example. This is to verify that twelve (12) widgets were received by the client last Wednesday. So, what do we do if the client received 5.8 widgets? This is to verify that __________ (5.8) widgets were received by the client last Wednesday. Thanks. Joseph A. Spadaro (talk) 16:13, 2 September 2015 (UTC)
I'd go with "five and eight-tenths (5.8) widgets". If the fraction is 0.5, I would unquestionably use "... and one-half". I'd probably simplify on fourths, also, though I'll leave it to others whether "fourth" or "quarter" is better.
I'll be honest with you, though: if your decimal is any more complicated than tenths, I'd probably shift to a numerical approach anyway. If your client received _____________ (5.73) widgets, "five and seventy-three [one-]hundredths widgets" is just going to be too complicated for most people to follow. In that case, unless you can prove to me that there is a very good reason to stick with a pure word approach, I'd probably stay with "five and 73/100 widgets". StevenJ81 (talk) 17:14, 2 September 2015 (UTC)
Thanks. Once again, I need an "approach" that has both (a) words in written format; (b) with the same exact value in parenthetical with numerals. (As in my examples with widgets.) Practically speaking, I doubt the decimals would go much further than one or two points after the decimal. Thanks. Joseph A. Spadaro (talk) 19:25, 2 September 2015 (UTC)
No, I understand that. Use the example above, even for 5.73, if you absolutely must. I'm just saying that unless this is a pure exercise, doing this at two decimal places in most any kind of document, even a legal one, is going to be awkward, and at three decimals ("five and four hundred seventy-three one-thousandths [5.473]") almost incomprehensible. There is a real reason that Standard English allows/encourages/requires such to be written as numerals rather than words. StevenJ81 (talk) 02:32, 3 September 2015 (UTC)
Thanks for the helpful replies. Some points I'd like to add, however. (1) A legal document and standard English are certainly two different things, I am sure you would agree. (2) You stated: "... doing this at two decimal places in most any kind of document, even a legal one, is going to be awkward ...". Legal documents are filled with all sorts of awkward language, no? Hence, the need for a lawyer (and/or judge) to parse them. Joseph A. Spadaro (talk) 02:52, 3 September 2015 (UTC)
Ouch. (Smile) StevenJ81 (talk) 03:50, 3 September 2015 (UTC)
Just picking an Act of Parliament at random, I came on this: [11]. (talk) 12:26, 3 September 2015 (UTC)

September 1[edit]

Translation from Low German[edit]

Can anyone please help me translate a poem by Klaus Groth into English or into Standard German?

This one: [12]

I tried asking a couple of friends from other German regions, but they could only understand bits of it. --My another account (talk) 12:24, 1 September 2015 (UTC)

Do you have any friends from the Netherlands you could ask? Dialects of Low German are also spoken there, so a speaker of one of them might find Groth's dialect more accessible. {The poster formerly known as} (talk) 14:01, 1 September 2015 (UTC)

Rough translation:

Let me go, my mother's asleep!
Let me go, the watchman is calling!
Listen, how quiet and beautiful it sounds!
Go, and leave me nicely here.

Look how the church towers there so large.
By its walls the dead are asleep.
You too sleep well and think of me!
I will dream of you all night.

Mother's awake, she will sure hear us!
Enough now! Good-bye, good-bye!
Next night, when she'll be asleep,
I'll stay here until the watchman calls.

Fut.Perf. 14:33, 1 September 2015 (UTC)

(I am from the wrong part of Germany to really comment, but) I am curious why you translate "dar slöppt de Dod" as "the dead are asleep". It does not look plural to me (but it makes a lot more sense than the "there sleeps Death" that I would have guessed). Is "de Dod" commonly used for "the Dead"? —Kusma (t·c) 14:40, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
I was wondering about that too, and I'm not a speaker of the dialect either. There are plural verbal forms in -t in Low German, although according to conjugation tables on several websites I just checked, the plural form would be "slaapt", not "slöppt", so it does seem rather more like a singular form here. Fut.Perf. 14:48, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
Last not least: the title "At the Door". --Pp.paul.4 (talk) 00:27, 2 September 2015 (UTC)

Another Slovenian question[edit]

Slovene text in Metelkova.jpg

I took this photograph of Slovene text in the Metelkova district of central Ljubljana, Slovenia. What does it say? JIP | Talk 19:43, 1 September 2015 (UTC)

Policemen, inspectors, dealers, get the fuck out of Metelkova -- (talk) 20:47, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
Thanks. JIP | Talk 20:51, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
I wonder what the story is behind that banner. StuRat (talk) 03:53, 2 September 2015 (UTC)
WHAAOE: Metelkova is an alternative district, with history of squatting and occasional police raids in the past.No such user (talk) 18:33, 2 September 2015 (UTC)

September 2[edit]

Zero Copula in Slavic Languages[edit]

Zero copula#Russian discusses Zero Copula in Russian. Is this present in other Slavic languages, or particular to Russian? I have a Serbocroat textbook that suggests kuća je mala.

  • The zero copula is typical of East Slavic. In the Rusyn language which is usually described as the westernmost of the East Slavic dialects it is archaic and optional. It is used in the Lord's Prayer, for example, which is influenced by Church Slavonic. In Slovak and Slovene the present tense copula is normally used, in Polish it is optional. The third person present copula (jest') is indeed actually found in Russian, with the restricted meaning of "there is".
    • Medeis, jest’ is not restricted to "there is", it has some additional usage including "is".--Lüboslóv Yęzýkin (talk) 13:19, 2 September 2015 (UTC)

Help translating a sentence of Korean[edit]

I'm watching a secretly-filmed video about life in North Korea, but I can't find an English transcription of it anywhere. In this video:

what does the reporter say at 1:57 about the dead (?) people lying on the ground, and at 2:06 about the girl on the railroad track?

Many thanks! -- (talk) 03:55, 2 September 2015 (UTC)

Turkic countries and places with "-stan" in their name[edit]

Why do so many countries and places with Turkic populations have a name that uses the Indo-European "stan" suffix? The -stan article says it is used in "areas where significant amounts of Persian culture were spread or adopted", but many of these places have not been under Persian control for hundreds of years, or at all. (talk) 12:41, 2 September 2015 (UTC)

But either a) they were when they were first named or b) the areas had significant contact with Persian peoples or c) the modern name has entered the lexicon through the Persian language. Merely because they are not, at the current moment, populated by Persian or related peoples doesn't mean the name is not correct or true. We have many words in English which have word origins that may no longer connect to the cultures that originated the word. Swiss chocolate can still be called chocolate even if it isn't actually made by Nahuatl speakers. You don't have to be arabic to use algebra. And your country can be called -stan even if it is not populated by Persian speakers. Ain't language great! --Jayron32 12:44, 2 September 2015 (UTC)
There is no need of political control for cultural influence. Korea and Vietnam has not been under China for a long time and Japan has been never, but still the Chinese language and culture have had a great impact on these countries. Persian was de facto a lingua franca in the Middle East and in the Indian subcontinent (the language of the court, the elite and the army in the Mughal Empire was in fact Persian). Arabic was a rather language of religion and books than of streets and bazaars, while Persian was a language of both refined literature and everyday communication. Ottoman Turkish was not only heavily Arabicized but also heavily Persianized. Afghanistan and Tajikistan in fact use variations of Persian. I cannot assure when the Turkic countries of Central Asia began to use -stan (in their language there is the native word el~il for "country"), but it seems to be since quite a long time ago.--Lüboslóv Yęzýkin (talk) 13:49, 2 September 2015 (UTC)
Most Turkic languages borrowed heavily from Persian during the time of the Seljuk Empire, beginning in the 11th century. Marco polo (talk) 16:19, 2 September 2015 (UTC)
I very doubt that the Seljuks had anything to do with Persianization. Such peoples as Tatars, Bashkirs, Kyrgyzes, Uyghurs have close to zero connections with the Seljuks. That was rather cultural.--Lüboslóv Yęzýkin (talk) 18:33, 2 September 2015 (UTC)
  • One might consider that Greece (in English) is named for the province of Hellas closest to Roma, that America is a Latinized spelling of an Italian name and that France is named for a Germanic tribe. μηδείς (talk) 17:27, 2 September 2015 (UTC)
    More: Indianapolis is not in Greece. Moscow, Idaho and St. Petersburg, Florida speak little Russian, and there aren't any Pharaohs in Memphis, Tennessee. A name is just a random collection of grunts and squeaks we all agree refers to some thing or concept. It doesn't have any meaning on its own, and there's no immutable law of the universe that a place with the name -stan has to be populated exclusively by modern Persian speakers merely because the -stan suffix comes from ancient Persian. --Jayron32 17:39, 2 September 2015 (UTC)
Well, Jayron, at one level that`s true. That other St. Petersburg was called St. Petersburg, Petrograd, Leningrad, and then St. Petersburg again, but it was still the same place. On the other hand, sometimes names give you insights into history or choices. There are still Dutch and Swedish place names in the Hudson and Delaware River valleys because of the colonies those countries built there during the European exploration of the American east coast. A name like Rome or Moscow could be because some vista reminded an early settler of Rome or Moscow ... or because early settlers were of Italian or Russian origin, and wanted a name that reminded them of home.
Also, do the local language names end in -stan, too, or only/mainly the English names? If the former, then what Lüboslóv Yęzýkin said above is accurate. If the latter, the Persian influence may have been more on British explorers and Colonial Office bureaucrats than on the local culture. StevenJ81 (talk) 19:13, 2 September 2015 (UTC)
You can figure that out easily; just use the interlanguage links on the left side of the article page for each country name. For example, Here is the Kazakh-language article on Kazakhstan. The name is Қазақстан in the local language. My Cyrillic is rusty, but I'm pretty sure стан = stan. --Jayron32 19:36, 2 September 2015 (UTC)
Touché. All the local names end in something recognizably -stan. StevenJ81 (talk) 20:08, 2 September 2015 (UTC)
The snappy word for "the name that inhabitants of a place call it" is endonym. Also, in the vein of what StevenJ81 noted about etymological history, much of Central Asia (and other parts of the world for that matter) was not divided into nation-states until the late 19th century at the earliest. Nationalism is a much younger concept than a lot of people today seem to intuitively realize. Before that, in a lot of regions you just had fuzzily-defined areas where different peoples lived. So when nation-states were carved out, it seems people in that region tended to go with the really practical naming. "Oh yeah, that's the land of the Kazakhs over there." -- (talk) 07:35, 3 September 2015 (UTC)
Though I cannot confirm if they used -stan in their languages, because there were not any -stans as such in the past, but various political entities (usually called khanates). In the Russian Empire Central Asia was called collectively as one Turkestan (which was divided into Western or "Russian" Turkestan and Eastern that is the modern Xinjiang-Uyghur region). I suppose this entered into Russian from a local usage. In the Soviet times, when the Central Asian republics were created they were called as -stans (though unofficially, officially they were called the Uzbek SSR, Turkmen SSR etc., no -stan). In 1991 they all became -stans officially.--Lüboslóv Yęzýkin (talk) 22:47, 3 September 2015 (UTC)

Up the spout[edit]

Is the expression "up the spout" commonly used in the US or only in the UK? In Britain it seems to have two meanings distinct meanings - one "gone to waste" or "ruined" (similar to the expression "gone down the tubes" - presumably down the drain?), and another meaning "pregnant" (as in "up the duff" - not sure where this is from, but often this is for an unmarried/ unwanted pregnancy). Does anyone know where this phrase originates? Is it suitable for use in polite conversation -in, say, the genteel drawing rooms of middle-class Surrey? Or is it a nasty Northern thing? (talk) 21:47, 2 September 2015 (UTC)

wikt:up the spout doesn't say anything about it being UK-only or Northern only, but I must admit I've never heard it here in East Anglia -- (talk) 22:13, 2 September 2015 (UTC)
You might find this useful. But no mention of US. It seems to have originated from pawnbroking. Martinevans123 (talk) 22:21, 2 September 2015 (UTC)
WP:OR this USian (lived in several states for several years each, midwest, west, and south) has never heard the expression. We do sing itsy bitsy spider to kids, but that's "up the waterspout", and rather literal. SemanticMantis (talk) 23:49, 2 September 2015 (UTC)
WP:OR I'm old enough to remember 'gone up the spout' being used by people of my father's generation and older when I was a boy in the 1950s and 1960s. It was always used to refer to an item or appliance that was broken, malfunctioning, or ruined, eg. "What's wrong with your car?" "The distributor's gone up the spout", and also to a proposal that had been cancelled, eg. "The mayor's bridge project has gone up the spout. He's been turned down by the finances committee." I don't recall the expression being used in any of the other ways listed at wikt:up the spout, and certainly not in the sense of 'pregnant'. Akld guy (talk) 00:45, 3 September 2015 (UTC)
PS the maternal and paternal sides of my father's family emigrated to NZ from Reading, UK (in 1872 and circa 1910 respectively). Akld guy (talk) 01:00, 3 September 2015 (UTC)
US here (Detroit), and never heard that expression. StuRat (talk) 01:34, 3 September 2015 (UTC)
Me neither (sic) (NJ). StevenJ81 (talk) 02:25, 3 September 2015 (UTC)
I remember hearing it used in both meanings in the UK pre-1974 (that's when I left) but I couldn't say from where. It would have had to have been around London, in the Midlands or the west coast of Scotland. CambridgeBayWeather, Uqaqtuq (talk), Sunasuttuq 12:15, 3 September 2015 (UTC)
Another ageing Brit in whose idiolect this resides in both of the OP's senses. I can't shed any light on a regional origin, as I'm an army brat and thus inherit from my father both London-centric and Army-adopted terms, often without knowing which is which. With regard to politeness level, this definitely falls into the informal/working-class register and would impact in a genteel drawing room somewhat like Eliza Doolittle's "Not bloody likely." {The poster formerly known as} — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:07, 3 September 2015 (UTC)
Yes, the expression was common here in northern England years ago, but I haven't heard it recently. The OED records both senses, with cites starting in 1829 for the "ruined" sense, and from 1937 (Eric Partridge's Dictionary of Slang) for the pregnant sense. Dbfirs 13:41, 3 September 2015 (UTC)
Certainly understood in both senses in London, but you'd expect an older person to be saying it. This page says it originally meant that something had been pawned without hope of redemption, from the chute used in pawnbroker's shops to bring items back down from an upstairs store room. The same meaning appears in The City in Slang: New York Life and Popular Speech so I can only assume that it has passed into obscurity on the other side of the pond. Alansplodge (talk) 16:47, 3 September 2015 (UTC)
Just to confirm my last remarks, Slang: a Dictionary of the Turf, the Ring, the Chase, the Pit, of Bon-Ton and the Varieties of Life published in London in 1823 says: "Put it up the spout' — pawn the articles. ' Knight of the spout,' a pawnbroker, or his man. 'Tom is up the spout' — he is imprisoned, — at the hospital, — or otherwise reduced in life". Alansplodge (talk) 16:56, 3 September 2015 (UTC)
Definitely not current in the United States. I've lived in various places in the Northeast, as well as Chicago and California, for more than half a century and have never heard the expression. Marco polo (talk) 17:59, 3 September 2015 (UTC)
This is surprising, given the long history of pawn-brokers in the US. Martinevans123 (talk) 18:56, 3 September 2015 (UTC)

September 3[edit]

is there a word that means unpleasant but necessary[edit]

We have the phrases "a bitter pill to swallow" [13] and "a necessary evil" that both fit, but I can't think of a single word. SemanticMantis (talk) 13:50, 3 September 2015 (UTC)
Nothing beats a bit of plane speaking. Martinevans123 (talk) 14:16, 3 September 2015 (UTC)
As stated above, "necessary evil" is what first came to my mind. Joseph A. Spadaro (talk) 16:57, 3 September 2015 (UTC)
There are quite a few words meaning "unpleasant but necessary task" - chore, bind (2), grind (4), fag (2:1) - but not an obvious adjective with that meaning. There's wheady (which I've shamelessly nicked from Mark Forsyth), but that's hardly a common word. Tevildo (talk) 18:48, 3 September 2015 (UTC)