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Author Topic: English is weird  (Read 209595 times)

Morituri

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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1100 on: 07 Dec 2020, 12:37 »

It is tempting to think of the reading direction, or whether people drive on the right or the left - but I was actually thinking of all the people who are red/green color blind and thinking how completely unfair and unforgiving this contrast is for anyone who wants to drive in both places.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1101 on: 07 Dec 2020, 12:42 »

It is tempting to think of the reading direction, or whether people drive on the right or the left - but I was actually thinking of all the people who are red/green color blind and thinking how completely unfair and unforgiving this contrast is for anyone who wants to drive in both places.
That’s a very good point. With vertical traffic lights, there’s an international standard that the red should be on top. So if you’re red/green colorblind, you can tell which light is which by their positions. There doesn’t seem to be any such international standard for horizontal traffic lights.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1102 on: 09 Dec 2020, 14:07 »

Curious: One sees it as a their own affectation, while another considers it (slightly more than) a spelling error---really (according to Wiktionary) it's a longstanding (since 16th century) nonstandard form, that's recently (popularized 2012) been made homographic with a slur:
I wouldn't ordinarily call out a simple spelling error, but.
'Thot' has a meaning, as a noun, so I am not sure that's something we should keep flying around.
It's a personal affectation I've done for many years, probably predating the usage you refer to.
One more thought: it's a noun, too.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1103 on: 09 Dec 2020, 14:57 »

It is tempting to think of the reading direction, or whether people drive on the right or the left - but I was actually thinking of all the people who are red/green color blind and thinking how completely unfair and unforgiving this contrast is for anyone who wants to drive in both places.
That’s a very good point. With vertical traffic lights, there’s an international standard that the red should be on top. So if you’re red/green colorblind, you can tell which light is which by their positions. There doesn’t seem to be any such international standard for horizontal traffic lights.

I can faintly remember someone telling me that the red-yellow-green sequence is either top down or left to right, as per international agreement for both variants (to help colorblind people). But if in Japan the hue of green is going towards blue, it might be better distinguishable for people with red/green colorblindness.


Curious: One sees it as a their own affectation, while another considers it (slightly more than) a spelling error---really (according to Wiktionary) it's a longstanding (since 16th century) nonstandard form, that's recently (popularized 2012) been made homographic with a slur:
I wouldn't ordinarily call out a simple spelling error, but.
'Thot' has a meaning, as a noun, so I am not sure that's something we should keep flying around.
It's a personal affectation I've done for many years, probably predating the usage you refer to.
One more thought: it's a noun, too.

Begone, spelling error!

Anyway, my brain just wondered what the difference between "error" and "mistake" is, because until now I always thought they were basically synonymous.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1104 on: 20 Dec 2020, 20:50 »

It is tempting to think of the reading direction, or whether people drive on the right or the left - but I was actually thinking of all the people who are red/green color blind and thinking how completely unfair and unforgiving this contrast is for anyone who wants to drive in both places.
That’s a very good point. With vertical traffic lights, there’s an international standard that the red should be on top. So if you’re red/green colorblind, you can tell which light is which by their positions. There doesn’t seem to be any such international standard for horizontal traffic lights.

I can faintly remember someone telling me that the red-yellow-green sequence is either top down or left to right, as per international agreement for both variants (to help colorblind people). But if in Japan the hue of green is going towards blue, it might be better distinguishable for people with red/green colorblindness.


Curious: One sees it as a their own affectation, while another considers it (slightly more than) a spelling error---really (according to Wiktionary) it's a longstanding (since 16th century) nonstandard form, that's recently (popularized 2012) been made homographic with a slur:
I wouldn't ordinarily call out a simple spelling error, but.
'Thot' has a meaning, as a noun, so I am not sure that's something we should keep flying around.
It's a personal affectation I've done for many years, probably predating the usage you refer to.
One more thought: it's a noun, too.

Begone, spelling error!

Anyway, my brain just wondered what the difference between "error" and "mistake" is, because until now I always thought they were basically synonymous.
Believe it or not, I saw a joke about the difference a few weeks ago. I don't recall it well enough to recount it, but it was a marriage joke about when a husband screws up.

Personally, I figure that 'error' specifically applies to logic chains and computational processes. 'Logic error', 'computing error', 'mathematical error', etc.
'Mistake' feels a bit more generalized.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1105 on: 20 Dec 2020, 21:21 »

I worked on avionics once and there was a box on a diagram labeled "error amplifier".

It's not as funny as it sounds. "Error" is in that context the technical term for the difference between where a control surface is commanded to be and where it currently is. Every time it has to move, there is an "error" measured.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1106 on: 21 Dec 2020, 02:36 »

The difference (or lack thereof) between "error" and "mistake" can vary wildly depending on context and how casual the use is.

But! I'm competent to explain the difference in one particular context, that is in linguistics.

A linguistic mistake is a slip-up that is one-time and holds no significance. It may be a careless misspelling, a slip of the tongue, generally - using language wrong that is no indication of actual language competence. One may or may not notice it, but when shown the mistake, the person who made it will be able to clearly see it.

A linguistic error is systematic - it's not an incidental imperfection, it's due to actually using language wrong. It's a repeatable mistake. The general assumption in linguistics is that language errors is what learners of a language do, due to imperfect grasp of the language's grammar - a native speaker doesn't make language errors by definition. As in - if you use language a certain way, that's your particular idiolect of that language, and is by definition correct (at least in the approach I've been taught in college - I don't know if mainstream consensus has shifted since I studied at university, but I doubt it did). If you use a foreign language, you're a non-native user, so your language intuition is based on learning the language and not acquiring it naturally, so you're reproducing a language that isn't natural for you. Therefore, you can make systematic errors.

I'm sure the mistake-error distinction can mean something else outside that specific context, and even when talking about language, it's probably not how it works when not using precise linguistic terminology (I think in casual speech, the two are pretty much interchangeable?). But thought giving that extra piece of info might possibly be useful.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1107 on: 21 Dec 2020, 04:12 »

Sounds like it's a function application.

So it seems like errors occur while working within some sort of system. Whether it's a foreign language, a positioning system, mathematics, etc.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1108 on: 21 Dec 2020, 17:25 »

I think "error" is the more general one, and "mistake" is when it's done by someone. You can make a mistake, but your computer can't - those are errors. (I've also read that "bug" and "glitch" have a similar difference. I think it's that "glitch" is the symptom, and "bug" is the cause - but the first computer "bug" was a literal bug mucking up the works, so it would really be a glitch?) That's the way I use it, at least. I think then, when "mistake" is applicable, it's a different connotation if you just say "error" - I think "error" would then focus on the consequences, as they differ from how it should be, while "mistake" makes it more personal. I think in the specific case of a spelling error, unless I'm familiar with the process of how the text came to be, I can't really know if it was the author or the "printer" that caused the error. Actually, I first typed "made the error" for the previous sentence, but that looked wrong, so I think it's really that "error" denotes the effect, while "mistake" is the glitch in the human that is erroneous.
I also agree with oddtail's example. I'm starting to get the impression that "error" is also more abstract, while "mistake" is more tangible. Back with the spelling error - if I caused the spelling error, I use the word "mistake" in my mind, but if I see that something else caused it, like a glitch in the computer, then I use "error". Similarly, I don't know about how the error happened in the case of seeing someone else's writing having poor spelling, so I use "error" for that.

IICIH? I think the avionics one is because "err" originally meant "wander" so the "error" would be how much the flight has strayed from the precise course, which I understand is expected and natural in flight.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1109 on: 22 Dec 2020, 06:45 »

Is it possible "error" is more quantifiable? Since it's called "margin of error". Something in the likes of hair vs hairs (not singular vs plural, but the quantifiable amount of single hairs vs. the thing as a whole)
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1110 on: 24 Dec 2020, 06:22 »

Is it possible "error" is more quantifiable? Since it's called "margin of error". Something in the likes of hair vs hairs (not singular vs plural, but the quantifiable amount of single hairs vs. the thing as a whole)

That's partly why I said errors happen when working within a system. Errors are more science-y related.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1111 on: 24 Dec 2020, 07:18 »

I worked on avionics once and there was a box on a diagram labeled "error amplifier".

It's not as funny as it sounds. "Error" is in that context the technical term for the difference between where a control surface is commanded to be and where it currently is. Every time it has to move, there is an "error" measured.
And for those not versed in analog systems, the error amplifier exists to make the apparent error larger so the remainder of the analog computer 1) knows it exists and 2) can then use the resulting value in the next calculations and movement.  The goal is to drive the error value to zero, which will never happen in a physical system, but when the system is relatively stable, zero can be approached pretty closely, which means sensing the error can be difficult and then responding to it properly is similarly difficult.  Digital systems avoid this problem but at the expense of having "dead bands", places in between where a particular sensor can take a meaningful reading.  If the dead band is small enough, that is designed properly, it's not an issue.  Example: if your flight surface can be positioned between +90 and -90 and an analog sensor can read this to within one decimal place (+/- 0.1) and the system commands the surface to move to 5.0, after the movement is complete the surface might be anywhere between 5.2 and 4.8.  Let's assume it's at 5.2; the error between the actual and the command is 5.2-5=0.2.  That error will then be fed back into the next command to the flight surface to hopefully get smaller.  And as the error gets smaller, down to the sensor limit, the more important it is to amplify so the system will be able to compute an appropriate adjusted result.  However, if the system is digital and the sensor is accurate to 1.0, then the actual error of 0.2 would be read as an error of 1.0 (the sensor limit) or 0, depending.  Now the digital system would feed either 0 or 1 back into the next movement and the cycle repeats.  Notice that there is finer control in the analogue system, but that may not be important to the overall stability of the aircraft - it would depend on many other design factors.  And that's why you hire top engineers who know their stuff.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1112 on: 02 Jan 2021, 06:49 »

So, 'foyer' and 'lobby' are interchangeable, but what's the difference between those and a 'vestibule'?

According to wiktionary, a vestibule is an 'entrance court', but the space between the two sets of doors at any grocery store or W*lm*rt or T*rget are also referred to as a vestibule. And I've seen some pretty dinky vestibules.

[IDK why I used asterisks. It just seemed appropriate.]
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1113 on: 02 Jan 2021, 07:14 »

I have only experience vestibule being used to refer the space between two sets of entry doors, vaguely akin to the airlock in a spaceship. I've never heard anyone use it to refer to a courtyard.

Also, in my area of the country, "lobby" and "foyer" are typically used for different things. Lobby is used for the central public area near the entrance of business, apartment complex, or government building while a foyer is generally the area just inside the front entrance of a house.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1114 on: 04 Jan 2021, 09:16 »

Is there an adverb form of "friendly?" Like a single word for "in a friendly manner?"
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1115 on: 04 Jan 2021, 09:37 »

Friendlily is possible, but rare.  Reasonable alternatives are: warmly, amicably, cordially, kindly, sincerely, genially.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1116 on: 05 Jan 2021, 15:26 »

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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1117 on: 05 Jan 2021, 16:42 »

English - a language with half a grammar and three vocabularies.

What could possibly go wrong?
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1118 on: 06 Jan 2021, 09:14 »

English - a language with half a grammar and three vocabularies.

What could possibly go wrong?
And at least 4 major, separate, regions where it's actively spoken (and therefore morphing).  I find it amazing Aussies, Brits, Indians, and USnians can even understand each other, let alone as well as they do.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1119 on: 06 Jan 2021, 11:15 »

Hell, even within those different regions are mutually unintelligible dialects.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1120 on: 07 Jan 2021, 23:32 »

I have only experience vestibule being used to refer the space between two sets of entry doors, vaguely akin to the airlock in a spaceship. I've never heard anyone use it to refer to a courtyard.

Also, in my area of the country, "lobby" and "foyer" are typically used for different things. Lobby is used for the central public area near the entrance of business, apartment complex, or government building while a foyer is generally the area just inside the front entrance of a house.

I only know the bit about courtyards due to the definition I looked up.

As for foyer, the church I grew up in called the large entry space a foyer.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1121 on: 08 Jan 2021, 01:43 »

Hell, even within those different regions are mutually unintelligible dialects.
And at least two of them have regions of snoots who insist anyone who doesn't talk like them must be stupid.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1122 on: 08 Jan 2021, 07:04 »

English - a language with half a grammar and three vocabularies.

What could possibly go wrong?
And at least 4 major, separate, regions where it's actively spoken (and therefore morphing).  I find it amazing Aussies, Brits, Indians, and USnians can even understand each other, let alone as well as they do.
So can Germans, French, Spanish, Italian, ..., Arab, Iranian, Iraqi, ... Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, ... etc etc etc

Its the global village and we ALL communicate over the internet now. In english.

Thats why everybody can understand everybody else ... there is no chance of the language drifting without everybody noticing anymore.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1123 on: 08 Jan 2021, 07:40 »

Hell, even within those different regions are mutually unintelligible dialects.
And at least two of them have regions of snoots who insist anyone who doesn't talk like them must be stupid.
And regions where if you don't talk like them, they think you must be a uppity, snobbish wanker.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1124 on: 11 Jan 2021, 04:02 »

Thats why everybody can understand everybody else ... there is no chance of the language drifting without everybody noticing anymore.
English drifts constantly, and everyone does notice, but thinks everyone outside their dialect group is doing English wrongly. The price native English-speakers pay for not having to bother to learn anyone else's language is that English does not belong to them any more.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1125 on: 11 Jan 2021, 13:56 »

Hell, even within those different regions are mutually unintelligible dialects.
And at least two of them have regions of snoots who insist anyone who doesn't talk like them must be stupid.
And regions where if you don't talk like them, they think you must be a uppity, snobbish wanker.

I've been on both ends of both of these.

Part of the fun of being from the central part of the nation, and thusly being northern to the southerners and southern to the northerners.

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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1126 on: 11 Jan 2021, 20:45 »

Hell, even within those different regions are mutually unintelligible dialects.
And at least two of them have regions of snoots who insist anyone who doesn't talk like them must be stupid.
And regions where if you don't talk like them, they think you must be a uppity, snobbish wanker.

I've been on both ends of both of these.

Part of the fun of being from the central part of the nation, and thusly being northern to the southerners and southern to the northerners.
Hell, there's parts of the far west that consider us 'Southern' despite having the contiguous center in our state.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1127 on: 12 Jan 2021, 08:24 »

Stolen from another forum:
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1128 on: 12 Jan 2021, 11:05 »

So, this depends on what you mean by weird...
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1129 on: 12 Jan 2021, 12:04 »

<snip>

I've been on both ends of both of these.

Part of the fun of being from the central part of the nation, and thusly being northern to the southerners and southern to the northerners.

Liar. The Midlands don't exist.

Also:

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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1130 on: 12 Jan 2021, 12:14 »

So, this depends on what you mean by weird...
On a global scale, the non-weird thing is to have no articles at all.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1131 on: 12 Jan 2021, 13:14 »

<snip>

I've been on both ends of both of these.

Part of the fun of being from the central part of the nation, and thusly being northern to the southerners and southern to the northerners.

Liar. The Midlands don't exist.

Also:


Funnily enough I have seen this, and was delighted they did some new episodes this year!

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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1132 on: 14 Jan 2021, 16:15 »

So, this depends on what you mean by weird...
On a global scale, the non-weird thing is to have no articles at all.

And yet you used "the" in your sentence. #irony
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1133 on: 14 Jan 2021, 16:17 »

So, this depends on what you mean by weird...
On a global scale, the non-weird thing is to have no articles at all.

And yet you used "the" in your sentence. #irony
On global scale, non-weird thing is to have no articles at all, and in Soviet Russia, party finds you.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1134 on: 11 Feb 2021, 16:02 »

In communist China, party find you.

Not only does Chinese dispense with articles, it does without verb tenses and conjugations as well.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1135 on: 26 Mar 2021, 08:53 »

I've been thinking about the way English uses prepositions.  Or, alternatively, I could have said I've been thinking it over.  There is the obvious use denoting something's actual position relative to something else - between, behind, before, below, et cetera.  But in English prepositions also do a strange array of seemingly unrelated semantic functions.

We mean different things when we say a politician is on the right or in the right.  The same politician can be behind an idea or over it.  We say that we believe in things or that we know of things or that we are working on things or that we have been worked over.  But when we say that we have been worked over, we mean a different thing than we mean when we say that we are doing something over.  We talk about one idea being built on several others, or that we choose this over that.  When we want to know what reasoning supports a peculiar idea or how a peculiar situation came to be, we ask what's behind it. We can be so distraught that we are beside ourselves.  And then someone will tell us to just get over it. Maybe by going and spending some time on a hobby that we're into.

And so on.  Coming from a language like Russian that completely lacks prepositions it must be incredibly difficult to learn all the ways we English speakers use them. None of these are really inherently obvious. They just seem that way because we're used to them.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1136 on: 26 Mar 2021, 15:20 »

There's no understanding prepositional idioms. They are just a bunch of things you have to memorise.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1137 on: 26 Mar 2021, 16:43 »

Join the argument - different from or different to;)
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1138 on: 26 Mar 2021, 18:47 »

I am not taking that bait.  :-D
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1139 on: 27 Mar 2021, 04:27 »

And so on.  Coming from a language like Russian that completely lacks prepositions it must be incredibly difficult to learn all the ways we English speakers use them. None of these are really inherently obvious. They just seem that way because we're used to them.
Idiomatic prepositionalities rarely affect otherwise clear writing---any preposition, vaguely, works. By that synthetic language, where all grammar is by affixes, coming by this analytic one, having separate words carrying grammar, they are perceived by space-separated affixes.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1140 on: 28 Mar 2021, 03:44 »

Prepositions are tricky, and I remember when I was in school, other students often had trouble with some of their uses in English.

But since the grammatical alternative is to inflect words, and that can get very complicated, fast, I still consider English to be a very simple language. I've known people for whom Polish is a foreign language, who have been immersed in it for many, meany years, and they still get conjugation or grammatical cases wrong.

Heck, when learning German, I struggled with noun cases - and there are only 4 in German, as opposed to 7 in Polish (and I... think they're roughly analogous? Still a nightmare to learn and I ultimately didn't). I'll take having to learn/memorise plenty of idiomatic prepositional phrases over inflection-based grammar any day.

(and after a while, you develop a feeling for what preposition "feels" right in certain phrases. It's arbitrary to an extent, but I don't think it's completely arbitrary, even when it seems to be)
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1141 on: 28 Mar 2021, 09:38 »

English is about the only language out there that you have to speak to understand.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1142 on: 28 Mar 2021, 19:16 »

My wife made her living for years analyzing and classifying the use of prepositions in English.

Russian does have prepositions: https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Russian/Prepositions
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1143 on: 28 Mar 2021, 21:10 »

Huh.  If it does, then clearly I must have missed another part of the story, namely 'why would he have said that in that case....?' 

It's something I heard from a Russian immigrant who was a coworker a few years ago...  and I always just assumed it was true.  But, consulting a proper source, clearly it's not.

I guess we learn something every day.  Thanks for calling it out.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1144 on: 29 Mar 2021, 05:01 »

If Russian is anything like Polish wrt prepositions, it's that they strictly refer to things in relation to other things. In Polish at least, it's very straightforward and there is less variation and usage that, to a Slavic speaker, would seem weird in English (which can't rely on inflection).

Plus, I don't know about Russian, but Polish just has fewer choices to increase confusion. For instance, Polish doesn't distinguish between "of" and "from" (in the sense that it has one preposition that roughly covers both concepts in most contexts). I suspect Russian is similar in that regard.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1145 on: 29 Mar 2021, 09:06 »

Hmm. My knowledge is limited and long decayed, but I do remember there's a metaphorical use of a preposition in Russian. Where an English speaker would talk of "laughing at" someone, a Russian would say "laughing over".

I do not know how common this is.

Guessing what someone else means is usually foolish, but I could speculate that your co-worker was thinking of how Russian can switch a word to genitive case instead of using an "of" prefix and over-generalizing.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1146 on: 30 Mar 2021, 02:58 »

You can use "laugh over" in English, for a situation but not a person.

"We had a good laugh over the way that went".
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1147 on: 30 Mar 2021, 10:03 »

That's true.  For a person it's always "laugh at." 
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1148 on: 30 Mar 2021, 10:49 »

Unless they're on the ground and you're standing over them.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1149 on: 30 Mar 2021, 18:58 »

Yes, but in that instance you are literally over them.
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