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    Default Re: Musings on Language #2

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    good - better - best is not a language mix, this is straight from German. But we don't have anything like "well".
    That reminded me of a scene in Tom Stoppard's Professional Foul. At a language conference a lecturer is describing the different meanings and connotations of "well" in English, ending with a sentence that turns out to be completely untranslatable.
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    Default Re: Musings on Language #2

    Quote Originally Posted by Aedilred View Post
    That reminded me of a scene in Tom Stoppard's Professional Foul. At a language conference a lecturer is describing the different meanings and connotations of "well" in English, ending with a sentence that turns out to be completely untranslatable.
    Did he include, "The place you get water from"?

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    Default Re: Musings on Language #2

    Quote Originally Posted by SaintRidley View Post
    Given the nature of assimilating words, I can believe that there isn't quite consensus on how to handle plurals in some cases, especially with the number of new loanwords English is exporting at this time.
    Plurals of imported words are weird in German, too.

    The common ending for plurals in German is -en, -er, -ern, or -e.
    But for new word, it seems almost universally to be -s.

    But now that I think of it... To all German speakers here: Are the any plurals in German that end with -s, in which the singular form does not end in a vowl?
    I can't think of any.
    And I think German nouns never end in vowls and and the english names of modern devices always end in -er.

    Autos (cars) is from latin ends with -o.
    And Flamingos, Radios, Zebras, Diskos.
    Computer already ends in -er.
    So does mixer, shredder, poster, container, ...

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    Default Re: Musings on Language #2

    There is a trend in Swiss German that seems to be growing amongst kids and young people, to use -s for words where the plural is the same as the singular.

    Äs Fänschter, zwee Fänschters. (Ein Fenster, zwei Fenster, One window, two windows).

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    Default Re: Musings on Language #2

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    So does mixer, shredder, poster, container, ...
    How is a container a "modern device"? The word itself has been in use for six hundred years or thereabouts, and it's always had the same meaning (e.g. an object that contains things). In the case of "mixer", "shredder" and "computer" they're all derived from the thing that the device does--a mixer mixes, a shredder shreds and a computer computes. Poster is similar, except it comes from the job title of the person who posts stuff up on walls. I suspect nearly all of the "-er" terms you're thinking of come from similar roots.

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    Default Re: Musings on Language #2

    True, but those expressions are all used in German for the devices.

    In German, they are all quite specialized, as far as I can tell.

    Shredder we only use for that thing that transforms documents into tiny paper strips. Not anything else that shreds.
    Containers are those giant metal shipping containers you put on trucks or container ships. Nothing else that contains something.

    And so on.
    Last edited by Eldan; 2012-08-07 at 10:33 AM.

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    Default Re: Musings on Language #2

    Wood chippers are also Shredder. (Notice the identical plural ending on -er.)

    And I think in German, this is the only thing called Container.
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    Last edited by Yora; 2012-08-07 at 10:38 AM.

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    In English it's perfectly correct to call a woman's handbag, a cardboard box, a jam jar, and a drinks bottle a "container". The proper name for the big metal thing in English is a "shipping container", and that term is often used in normal speech to avoid confusion with all the other things that we'd call containers!

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    Default Re: Musings on Language #2

    Quote Originally Posted by factotum View Post
    In English it's perfectly correct to call a woman's handbag, a cardboard box, a jam jar, and a drinks bottle a "container". The proper name for the big metal thing in English is a "shipping container", and that term is often used in normal speech to avoid confusion with all the other things that we'd call containers!
    When words are borrowed into another language, they often gain a very specific meaning, or a meaning similar to but not exactly like the original. Compare shirt and skirt, black and negro, katana and sword, and amir and admiral, all of which are English (or at least, recognized in English) but have different meanings.
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    Default Re: Musings on Language #2

    I always thought this was a Shredder:
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    I was at the dentist today (and yesterday, and sunday, and again next friday, but that's a different story) and I remembered what funny names we have for chemical elements in German.

    Hydrogen is "Water-stuff". Maybe more like "water substance" or "water fabric", but I think stuff fits best, as the German term is Stoff.
    Carbon is "Coal-stuff", for obvious reasons.
    Nitrogen is "Suffocation-stuff", as it doesn't do anything when you breath it and you simply become dizzy and fall over when you breath it and there is no or few oxygen, but you don't experience any difficulty breathing.
    Oxygen is "Sour stuff" is "Acidic-stuff", but I have no idea why.
    Silicon is "Silicium", which isn't funny by itself, but gets mistranslated to silicone all the time.
    I don't know about chemistry labs, but usually Mercury is never translated to Merkurium but but the German analog for Quicksilver.
    Tungsten is "Wolfram", which happens also to be a not terribly common but not particularly unusual given name. I had to look it up, but apparently it's an archaic form of "wolves ash" because it devours tin and leaves behind fine black powdery stuff. Tungsten is actually Swedish and means "heavy stone".

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    Default Re: Musings on Language #2

    Many of those are really translations of the Latin names.

    Hydro genes: Water maker. Interestingly, they first called it "flammable air" and thought it was Phlogiston.

    Similarly, Nitrogen first got the English name "Noxious air" by Rutherford. Nitrogen, however, is of course the Nitre maker. No idea where the word Nitre actually comes from. First, it was also called azote air, or lifeless air, together with living air, or oxygen.

    Oxygen was another candidate for Phlogiston, at first. Oxys, similarly, is the Greek word for "sharp" or "acid", so Oxygenes is the acid maker. Lavoisier was the first one who postulated that in combustion an element out of the air is combined with the residue left behind, explaining why the residues can be heavier than what was there first (an interesting earlier theory was actually that Phlogiston, which escapes from burning materials, has negative mass.). He thought that Oxygen was a part of all known acids (mistakenly), hence the name.

    I have indeed never heard any variation Mercurium. It's always Quecksilber.


    Fun fact: my memory is 90% trivia like that. It's what I remember from chemistry lessons six years ago. The actual chemical attributes of, say, Mercury? No chance. But I do remember tons of stuff about outdated , but interesting science like Phlogiston theory, Luminiferous Aether or Animalculi.
    Last edited by Eldan; 2012-08-14 at 07:07 AM.

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    Default Re: Musings on Language #2

    The symbol for Tungsten is "W", because of the German word for the element - so at least most chemists know what to call it there.

    It's kinda like Lead, who's symbol is PB from the Latin "plumbum", I believe. Also where we get "plumbing" - they were originally made of lead in Rome (which may have contributed to the massive amounts of crazy found in Rome)
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    Default Re: Musings on Language #2

    The story of lead makes me wonder if in a hundred years' time we'll discover that plastic or some other apparently innocuous substance is killing us all in horrible ways. I think there's still a reasonable amount of lead piping in London (although most of the drinking water supplies have been replaced).
    But I do remember tons of stuff about outdated , but interesting science like Phlogiston theory, Luminiferous Aether or Animalculi.
    That sort of thing always sounds more interesting than the "real" science. I suppose it's because I'm a fantasist at heart. Knowing that it's archaic - and wrong - makes me think it would be cool if things really did work like that.

    I have a friend who calls himself an alchemist.
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    Default Re: Musings on Language #2

    Quote Originally Posted by Aedilred View Post
    The story of lead makes me wonder if in a hundred years' time we'll discover that plastic or some other apparently innocuous substance is killing us all in horrible ways. I think there's still a reasonable amount of lead piping in London (although most of the drinking water supplies have been replaced).

    That sort of thing always sounds more interesting than the "real" science. I suppose it's because I'm a fantasist at heart. Knowing that it's archaic - and wrong - makes me think it would be cool if things really did work like that.

    I have a friend who calls himself an alchemist.
    I do love me some luminiferous æther.

    Primitive theories do indeed have their beautiful points. Ptolemaic epicycles always fascinate and Recapitulation theory just feels right even though it's so wrong.
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    Fantasy literature is ONLY worthwhile for what it can tell us about the real world; everything else is petty escapism.
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    No author should have to take the time to say, "This little girl ISN'T evil, folks!" in order for the reader to understand that. It should be assumed that no first graders are irredeemably Evil unless the text tells you they are.
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    Default Re: Musings on Language #2

    Oh yes. Also, as a biologist, I'm very convinced that flies must have four legs. Aristotle was right on that. Sperm cells are basically submarines for tiny humans that then grow to full size inside women. Phlogiston with negative mass should totally be a thing.


    I make a point of building as many old theories into D&D as I possibly can. Like the fact that there are water, fire, air and water atoms that are all different platonic solids in shape.
    Last edited by Eldan; 2012-08-14 at 01:14 PM.

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    Default Re: Musings on Language #2

    Quote Originally Posted by Eldan View Post
    Oh yes. Also, as a biologist, I'm very convinced that flies must have four legs. Aristotle was right on that. Sperm cells are basically submarines for tiny humans that then grow to full size inside women. Phlogiston with negative mass should totally be a thing.


    I make a point of building as many old theories into D&D as I possibly can. Like the fact that there are water, fire, air and water atoms that are all different platonic solids in shape.
    Likewise, my favorite bird is the bat and of the animals with undivided hooves, I think the hare is just the most adorable of them all.

    And disease as malicious curses totally works for D&D. Should totally work that in.
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant
    No author should have to take the time to say, "This little girl ISN'T evil, folks!" in order for the reader to understand that. It should be assumed that no first graders are irredeemably Evil unless the text tells you they are.
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    Default Re: Musings on Language #2

    Ah, no. Since the church actually proved that witches and black magic don't actually exist, the evil eye has been discredited as the origin of diseases.

    Diseases come from noxious vapours that unbalance the humours. The best way to protect against them is to wear a mask filled with odorous herbs and to throw all your waste into the water, so it can't create any vapours.

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    Default Re: Musings on Language #2

    Quote Originally Posted by Eldan View Post
    Ah, no. Since the church actually proved that witches and black magic don't actually exist, the evil eye has been discredited as the origin of diseases.

    Diseases come from noxious vapours that unbalance the humours. The best way to protect against them is to wear a mask filled with odorous herbs and to throw all your waste into the water, so it can't create any vapours.
    Who ever said that the curses originated from witches? It's clearly demons, my good chap. Why else would there remain exorcists?

    This talk of humours is nothing but newfangled hokum.
    Last edited by SaintRidley; 2012-08-14 at 01:58 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant
    Fantasy literature is ONLY worthwhile for what it can tell us about the real world; everything else is petty escapism.
    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant
    No author should have to take the time to say, "This little girl ISN'T evil, folks!" in order for the reader to understand that. It should be assumed that no first graders are irredeemably Evil unless the text tells you they are.
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    Today I found a documentary series on youtube "The Adventure of English", which goes through the entire history of the English language. It's really quite good.

    But I think the greatest part is a quote from a translator from the 15th century.
    He starts with "Certainly, it is hard ...", but a few sentences later he says "it has been leichter". Leicht is the German pronounciation of "light" and in modern German, the words for Hard and Easy are Heavy and Light.
    I had no idea that this was also in Old English and it's facinating to have one original quote that clearly is right in the middle of the shift.
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    It is a beautiful thing, really, the example of English as a model of language change. There's just so much going on, and the change has been quite dramatic over the past ten centuries when compared to several other languages.
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    Default Re: Musings on Language #2

    Also, since each of it's major influences are in different language trees, it makes tracking the changes that much easier - If your looking at a word that's clearly from a romance language, you know that probably originated post 1066, while german words would probably be older (it's the minor influences that get hard, like "cookie" and "boss" from Dutch. You might know where they're from, but it's more difficult to guess when they appeared in the language)
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    Default Re: Musings on Language #2

    Quote Originally Posted by ForzaFiori View Post
    (it's the minor influences that get hard, like "cookie" and "boss" from Dutch. You might know where they're from, but it's more difficult to guess when they appeared in the language)
    And in some cases, where they dropped out of use as well--you'll hardly ever hear "cookie" used in British English unless someone is deliberately aping American English (e.g. you can buy "cookies" in the supermarket, but that's a shorthand for saying "These are American-style biscuits, guys").

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    Default Re: Musings on Language #2

    Quote Originally Posted by SaintRidley View Post
    It is a beautiful thing, really, the example of English as a model of language change. There's just so much going on, and the change has been quite dramatic over the past ten centuries when compared to several other languages.
    The only downside is the horrible spelling.

    It's a great language for anyone. But we really have to do something about the spelling.

    This fact greatly improved my oppinion on American English.
    Last edited by Yora; 2012-08-25 at 04:21 AM.
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    Default Re: Musings on Language #2

    I've never found (British) English difficult to spell, but I grew up with it.

    Even so, if there's going to be a mass spelling reform, I think starting with the Celtic languages would be wise.
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    ah..spelling.. that's another thing that I really don't get about english: spelling bees
    how is being capable of spelling a word correctly worthy of a prize? and what is the big problem with spelling anyway?.. I mean.. you went to school, right? you read stuff, right? then you must have encountered words before.. how do you not learn how they're supposed to be written when you encounter them? people who suffer from dyslexia, I understand.. but everybody else should be able to spell at least the words they encounter normally, don't they? it seems to be a difficulty peculiar to english language, as is the pride connected to knowing your spelling (or conversely the heap of insults that rain on whoever fails at spelling)
    in any other language I know off or speak a little, when you're past 10 you're supposed to know how to write words.
    I don't think I've ever read anywhere on the web, the equivalent of "learn to spell" in any other language..
    I genuinely don't get it.
    Last edited by dehro; 2012-08-25 at 05:32 AM.
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    Default Re: Musings on Language #2

    Quote Originally Posted by dehro View Post
    ah..spelling.. that's another thing that I really don't get about english: spelling bees
    how is being capable of spelling a word correctly worthy of a prize? and what is the big problem with spelling anyway?.. I mean.. you went to school, right? you read stuff, right? then you must have encountered words before.. how do you not learn how they're supposed to be written when you encounter them? people who suffer from dyslexia, I understand.. but everybody else should be able to spell at least the words they encounter normally, don't they? it seems to be a difficulty peculiar to english language, as is the pride connected to knowing your spelling (or conversely the heap of insults that rain on whoever fails at spelling)
    in any other language I know off or speak a little, when you're past 10 you're supposed to know how to write words.
    I don't think I've ever read anywhere on the web, the equivalent of "learn to spell" in any other language..
    I genuinely don't get it.
    I don't know about natives, but as a foreigner learning English, trying to spell each and every new word helped me a lot when I was in the beginnings.

    Also, you guys might be interested to hear Stephen Fry talking about intonation.
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    Default Re: Musings on Language #2

    Quote Originally Posted by Aedilred View Post
    I've never found (British) English difficult to spell, but I grew up with it.

    Even so, if there's going to be a mass spelling reform, I think starting with the Celtic languages would be wise.
    I hate trying to spell British English, but that's cause I"m used to my easier, mostly "U"-less American English.

    "Manoeuvre", in particular, makes me wanna punch people when I see it. Just such an ugly spelling.
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    Default Re: Musings on Language #2

    Quote Originally Posted by ForzaFiori View Post
    I hate trying to spell British English, but that's cause I"m used to my easier, mostly "U"-less American English.

    "Manoeuvre", in particular, makes me wanna punch people when I see it. Just such an ugly spelling.
    I find that spelling much more faithful to its origin from French, which in turn has it from Latin.

    Though the Turkish loanword "manevra" seems quite unrelated to it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wind4air View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Andmcmuffin2 View Post
    Any reason the Positive Energy Plane isn't a flavor you like? You do die of overhealing there.
    lol so they go something like this?

    "omg i'm so HEALTHY! RWARRRR!" <kursplode>

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    Default Re: Musings on Language #2

    It's mostly because in English, there's barely any connection between what sound a word makes and what letters it uses.

    The vowels a,e,i,o,u make one and only one sound in most languages. Rarely, they make a few, depending on what other letters are around them.

    In English? No chance. Every vowel makes somewhere between 2 and who knows how many different sounds, with no real pattern that I can see.

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