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Author Topic: English is weird  (Read 109371 times)

Akima

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Re: English is weird
« Reply #100 on: 28 May 2012, 07:43 »

How do you pronounce China's capital?
Correctly...  :angel:
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #101 on: 28 May 2012, 08:16 »

I find bay-JING, with bay as in bay, jing as in jingle, bay in lower tone, jing in a neutral tone. I wonder if that latter is sort of the tonal equivalent of a schwa.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #102 on: 28 May 2012, 11:35 »

How do you pronounce China's capital?
"see"

Jumping into the thread late and only skimmed a few pages, but the first couple of posts reminded me - when my sister was little, she was afraid of firemen. Why? Because they put out fires. She thought that putting out fires worked like putting out a newsletter - they had fires, and they distributed them.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #103 on: 28 May 2012, 11:39 »

That reminds me of a rather humorous hypnotist session at our senior lock-in. The hypnotist told the subjects that their underwear had a stranglehold on them, and the vast majority acted as though they had the worst wedgie known to existence. One kid, however, took it quite literally, and thought that his underwear was literally strangling him.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #104 on: 28 May 2012, 22:09 »

On steam locomotives, firemen fed fires.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #105 on: 28 May 2012, 23:25 »

As in "borough"?  Because that's a very unusual way to pronounce it... pretty sure it's not considered proper anywhere, and the only place I can remember hearing anything similar is that Scissor Sisters song, "I Can't Decide," where it rhymed with "furry."

I've heard a lot of people here in the South pronounce it that way.
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Akima

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Re: English is weird
« Reply #106 on: 28 May 2012, 23:29 »

I find bay-JING, with bay as in bay, jing as in jingle, bay in lower tone, jing in a neutral tone. I wonder if that latter is sort of the tonal equivalent of a schwa.
OK, if you really want to get into it... :wink:  Everything beyond this point assumes we're talking about 普通话 or Standard Chinese (Mandarin), and not one of the many regional dialects.

Beijing is written like this: 北京. Two characters, so two syllables. The first character is romanized as běi ​and as the tone-mark over the e indicates, it is 3rd tone (the dip-rise tone), but for reasons too technical to get into here, the 3rd tone is not fully voiced and simply dips. The second character is romanized as jīng, and it is 1st tone (the high-held tone) not the neutral tone, and emphatically not a schwa. Listen to this CCTV news-reader and the field reporter, as they say "Beijing" repeatedly in the linked clip.

Having said all that, the tones of Chinese are for Chinese-speakers and CSL students. For English-speakers speaking English, I don't think it is at all necessary to achieve "authentic" native pronunciation, and "Bay-jing" in a normal conversational tone is fine. If you pitch your voice down a little on the first syllable, and up a bit on the second, and say "Bay-jeeng", you'll really be getting close.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #107 on: 29 May 2012, 15:58 »

Quote
The first character is romanized as běi ​and as the tone-mark over the e indicates, it is 3rd tone (the dip-rise tone), but for reasons too technical to get into here, the 3rd tone is not fully voiced and simply dips.
And it sounds phonetically like...'bay'?  'Bee'? 'Beh' as in 'Beth'?
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #108 on: 29 May 2012, 16:14 »

Listening to the clip that Akima linked :wink: I'd say "bay" (as I'd say it) is the closest.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #109 on: 29 May 2012, 16:38 »

Ok so I didn't click the link  :-P

I pronounce it as bay as well, so I'm good, lol.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #110 on: 29 May 2012, 18:07 »

Yay, I seem to get it pretty much right.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #111 on: 29 May 2012, 18:27 »

I have to say the word flew past me every time it was uttered, but often enough I began to catch it as it flew. I knew that Chinese, like Japanese, I think, was dependent on tone, but it hadn't occurred to me that the tones would have labels.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #112 on: 30 May 2012, 15:49 »

How do forum readers use the most common words for the human posterior: butt, bottom, bum, ass.

I'll use each of them in a sentence the way I'd normally use them.

"Stub it out and put the butt in the ash tray"
"The bottom of my shoe"
"Yer a fuckin bum, get a job"
"I'm gonna kick yer ass"
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #113 on: 30 May 2012, 15:57 »

Another term for that part of the body is used here:

Quote
"Pisky, Pisky, bend and boo,
Up and down all service through."
"Presby, Presby, dinna bend;
Sit ye down on man’s chief end."

another version:

Quote
Pisky, pisky lood "Amen"
Doon on yer knees an' up again.
Presby, presby dinna ben'
Jist sit doon on Man's chief en'.

(Pisky = Episcopalian; Presby = Prebyterian.  The two main churches in Scotland. 
The Episcopalian catechism started:
Q: "What is the chief end of man?"
A: "To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.")
« Last Edit: 30 May 2012, 16:05 by pwhodges »
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #114 on: 14 Jun 2012, 14:18 »

Someone told me that ESL speakers have to work hard to determine when to use "a" versus "the", and my instant reaction was that it was trivial, but then I began to think about it. How can a distinction that's almost impossible even to describe contribute to accurate communication?
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #115 on: 14 Jun 2012, 14:32 »

By Is It Cold In Here amended by Redball
Quote
Someone told me that an ESL speaker has to work hard to determine when to use an "a" versus a "the". My instant reaction was that it was a most trivial matter. But then I began to think about it. How can a distinction that's almost impossible even to describe contribute to an accurate communication?

Someone told me that the ESL speaker has to work hard to determine when to use the "a" versus the "the". My instant reaction was that it was the most trivial matter. But then I began to think about it. How can the distinction that's almost impossible even to describe contribute to the accurate communication?

Notice that I haven't answered the question.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #116 on: 14 Jun 2012, 14:58 »

"The" refers to a specific instance of the noun that follows, while "a" refers to a general, nonspecific singular. That's how I'd say it. It probably doesn't help that in some languages (Latin-descended, at least, I don't know about others), a noun always has an article, while in English it's sometimes dropped - "I like music" vs. "J'aime la musique" in French. If you're describing a specific in English you add the article, in French you use a different article - "I like this music" vs. "J'aime cette musique"
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #117 on: 14 Jun 2012, 14:59 »

One is the definite article and the other is the indefinite.  A/an refers to a non specific object, a tomato or a flower, but not one in particular.  The refers to an actual instance of a tomato or flower, whether hypothetical (referred to earlier by the speaker) or physically (an object known to the speaker and listener) This concept exists in other languages too, unless I am missing what you mean.  "el tomate" v "un tomate" (spanish) "eine Blume" v. "die Blume" (german)
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #118 on: 14 Jun 2012, 15:04 »

Yeah, definite/indefinite. It's been a while since French class - aka the only place we learned technical grammar, much to Mme's dismay. I meant - I would have expected the occasional omission of the article altogether would cause people more trouble than trying to decide between definite and indefinite would.
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TinPenguin

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Re: English is weird
« Reply #119 on: 14 Jun 2012, 15:22 »

One is the definite article and the other is the indefinite.  A/an refers to a non specific object, a tomato or a flower, but not one in particular.  The refers to an actual instance of a tomato or flower, whether hypothetical (referred to earlier by the speaker) or physically (an object known to the speaker and listener) This concept exists in other languages too, unless I am missing what you mean.  "el tomate" v "un tomate" (spanish) "eine Blume" v. "die Blume" (german)

It must be confusing for Hungarians learning English, because in Magyar, a/az is actually the definite article.
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jwhouk

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Re: English is weird
« Reply #120 on: 15 Jun 2012, 12:21 »

And, of course, there's the grammatical use of "a" versus "an", which even some native English speakers don't get.

You would use "a" if you are referring to something that does not begin with a vowel sound - for example, "a banana" or "a hammer".

But if you are referring to something that does begin with a vowel sound, it's "an": "an orange" or "an apple". Or "an hors d'oeuvre."
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #121 on: 15 Jun 2012, 12:38 »

Some speakers might get tripped up by what starts with a vowel sound and what doesn't. An honor. An m-dash (em). But not an history, although I think that's been in common usage in the past. If I'm right, is it because the h was silent at some point or by some speakers?
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #122 on: 15 Jun 2012, 12:46 »

My mother (an English teacher) would have written: "an hotel", for instance, but I would never have done; however, I might well speak it like that.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #123 on: 15 Jun 2012, 13:08 »

Is that saying that British speakers internalize the a/an rule and adapt it to the pronunciation, to whether or not the h is dropped?
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #124 on: 15 Jun 2012, 16:42 »

"The" refers to a specific instance of the noun that follows, while "a" refers to a general, nonspecific singular. That's how I'd say it. It probably doesn't help that in some languages (Latin-descended, at least, I don't know about others), a noun always has an article, while in English it's sometimes dropped - "I like music" vs. "J'aime la musique" in French. If you're describing a specific in English you add the article, in French you use a different article - "I like this music" vs. "J'aime cette musique"

The average native speaker thinks so. <== exception

EDIT:
http://www.superseventies.com/sl_brandy.html
Brandy's braided chain and locket in the song are particular single instances, but are referred to with "a", and replacing "a" with "the" in the lyrics would sound completely foreign to me. Why do we refer to the locket and chain that way? I don't know, especially since I just said "the locket and chain".

Then it goes on with "a man that Brandy loves", even though there's no hint that she's polyamorous.
« Last Edit: 15 Jun 2012, 21:37 by Is it cold in here? »
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Akima

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Re: English is weird
« Reply #125 on: 16 Jun 2012, 05:56 »

How do forum readers use the most common words for the human posterior: butt, bottom, bum, ass.
To me a butt is part of a rifle, spear etc., not a human being, though I understand the American usage of course. I sit on my bottom, but might worry that my bum looks big in a skirt I'm trying on (not likely...  :wink:), and ride an ass along a rocky trail.

Is that saying that British speakers internalize the a/an rule and adapt it to the pronunciation, to whether or not the h is dropped?
I certainly do that. I say "a hospital", but "an honour". I say "an egg", but "a euphemism". It's entirely a matter of ease of pronunciation. To me "an hotel" sounds like Agatha Christie or something.

For Chinese-speakers, both definite and indefinite articles are foreign, and take practice to remember to use them at all...



 
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Omega Entity

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Re: English is weird
« Reply #126 on: 16 Jun 2012, 06:40 »

Is that saying that British speakers internalize the a/an rule and adapt it to the pronunciation, to whether or not the h is dropped?
I certainly do that. I say "a hospital", but "an honour". I say "an egg", but "a euphemism". It's entirely a matter of ease of pronunciation. To me "an hotel" sounds like Agatha Christie or something.

All the examples you cited there are all ways that I'd say those, so I'm not entirely sure it's entirely a British thing.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #127 on: 16 Jun 2012, 06:53 »

If some British speakers drop the h sound in hotel, pronouncng oh-tell, then preceding with an would sound natural. There are some usages where an preceded other words starting with h where I'd voice the h sound, making me wonder if British speakers dropped the h for them as well. And Akima nailed it: Using an before a word starting with a vowel sound is simply easier to say.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #128 on: 16 Jun 2012, 07:03 »

My mother would have pronounced hotel without the h sound, like honour.  I wouldn't find it unnatural to simply elide the h of hotel in speech, replacing it with n; though I really can't be sure what I now do when not thinking about it!

Wikipedia is quite good on the subject, pointing out that we use a rather than an in front of vowels that are pronounced with a distinct leading consonantal "y" sound, like euphemism, which someone mentioned.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #129 on: 16 Jun 2012, 21:47 »

EDIT:
http://www.superseventies.com/sl_brandy.html
Brandy's braided chain and locket in the song are particular single instances, but are referred to with "a", and replacing "a" with "the" in the lyrics would sound completely foreign to me. Why do we refer to the locket and chain that way? I don't know, especially since I just said "the locket and chain".

Then it goes on with "a man that Brandy loves", even though there's no hint that she's polyamorous.

Because the would be wrong, or at least you would have to change the sentences.  Brandy wears a braided chain and a locket.  The singer clearly knows this, but there is not reason the audience would until we hear the lyric.  This sentence is about Brandy and is describing what she wears The items are general non specific items because they are not known to the listener and they are not previously referred to by the singer. 
 

To use "the" we would need to make the sentence about the jewelry, and not about Brandy.  Right now the sentence is (simplified) "Brandy wears a chain that is silver and a locket that is engraved."  The jewlery are indirect objects, and so they get 'a'.  The singer could not just say "Brandy wears the silver braided chain from Spain" because that implies that the chain is a singular item that is known to the listener.  Either there is only one of those in the world, or there is a collection of chains know to the singer and the listener from which Brandy chose and that is the one she chose. You could change the subject of the sentence and make it "The chain Brandy wears is silver and the locket she wears is engraved."  'The' signifies that the singer is speaking about one specific chain, the one that brandy wears, the direct object of the sentence. 



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Re: English is weird
« Reply #130 on: 17 Jun 2012, 11:12 »

Kat has nailed it, and thank you to everyone for this discussion because it will make it easier for me to write the explanation I need to do for tomorrow's lesson! We have talked about definite vs indefinite articles, and he does sort of get them - and he understands a and an, but I've never come up with a clear and concise explanation.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #131 on: 17 Jun 2012, 12:11 »

To me a butt is part of a rifle, spear etc., not a human being

My Shorter Oxford Dictionary has no less than ten separate entries for "butt [n]"; and the rifle and bottom meanings are sub-parts of the same entry (being the thick end of something).
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #132 on: 17 Jun 2012, 15:15 »

Someone told me that ESL speakers have to work hard to determine when to use "a" versus "the", and my instant reaction was that it was trivial, but then I began to think about it. How can a distinction that's almost impossible even to describe contribute to accurate communication?

Fun fact: Albanian has no direct equivalent for articles like "a" or "the". The closest thing would be modifying a noun ending, since all infinitive nouns end in consonants. There's three possible ways they do it. A feminine noun (which never ends in k) would end in -a, like "piramida" for "the pyramid". A masculine noun ending in any letter other than K ends in -i, like "plazhi" to mean "the beach". Masc. nouns ending in K end in -u, so my name (which in Albanian spelling is required to drop the C; it's phonetically incorrect) would be Patrik, and referring to specifically one guy (in this case, someone I know talking about me) it would be Patriku.

Fucking languages, man.
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LTK

Re: English is weird
« Reply #133 on: 17 Jun 2012, 15:36 »

Some languages, including Dutch and German, have multiple forms of the definite article. German has a masculine (der Mensch), feminine (die Sonne) and neutral (das Wort) article, while Dutch uses one article for masculine and feminine (de grond, translate to 'the ground') and one for neutral (het boek, translate to 'it book'). The indefinite article is the same everywhere and is translated simply as 'one'.

You don't even want to know about how German conjugates their indefinite articles.

Fucking languages, man.
How does the meaning change if you drop the u? Is it proper to refer to someone as 'the Patrik' instead of just 'Patrik'? Do you modify name endings for celebrities too?
« Last Edit: 17 Jun 2012, 15:42 by LTK »
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #134 on: 06 Jul 2012, 05:41 »

How does the meaning change if you drop the u? Is it proper to refer to someone as 'the Patrik' instead of just 'Patrik'? Do you modify name endings for celebrities too?

In a word, yes to all, but it's worth noting that it's only done when no surname is involved. I figure that it only really works because it's a pretty small society (the entire Albanian diaspora is probably 5 million strong). There's a lot of variety in given names, and both given and family names are unique usually to either Albanian or Turkish (Albania was part of the Ottoman Empire til 1912).

I dunno for sure, but experience suggests that names that can be translated (ex.: Patrick = Patrik/Patriku, George = Gjergj/Gjergji, John = Xhon/Xhoni) all get the article suffix treatment, whereas names with no translation, such as Beyonce, don't (but they definitely get mispronounced in Mrs. Knowles's case; I never heard an Albanian that didn't silence the second e).
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LTK

Re: English is weird
« Reply #135 on: 16 Jul 2012, 15:51 »

Doesn't the word 'heteronormative' have exactly the opposite meaning when you parse it etymologically? (Hetero, Greek Heteros, "other, another, different"; normative, "pertaining to a norm")
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Quote from: snalin
I just got the image of a midwife and a woman giving birth swinging towards each other on a trapeze - when they meet, the midwife pulls the baby out. The knife juggler is standing on the floor and cuts the umbilical cord with a a knifethrow.

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Re: English is weird
« Reply #136 on: 16 Jul 2012, 23:41 »

What do you expect it to mean?  It refers to the idea that having relations with the other sex is normal.
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LTK

Re: English is weird
« Reply #137 on: 17 Jul 2012, 00:45 »

That'd be heterosexual normativity, but without the 'sex' part I'd expect it to mean "different than pertaining to the norm".
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Quote from: snalin
I just got the image of a midwife and a woman giving birth swinging towards each other on a trapeze - when they meet, the midwife pulls the baby out. The knife juggler is standing on the floor and cuts the umbilical cord with a a knifethrow.

pwhodges

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Re: English is weird
« Reply #138 on: 17 Jul 2012, 00:53 »

I suppose there is a possible conflict between the combination of the terms meaning "other is normal" and "other than normal"; but such conflicts in the use of negative terms (which do survive in real language, though an example doesn't immediately come to mind) are resolved by usage, which in this case is clear-cut.  And the use of the abbreviated term in the sexual context is normal, too, as the OED records.
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"As long as we're all living, and as long as we're all having fun, that should do it, right?"  (from: The Eccentric Family )

Zingoleb

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Re: English is weird
« Reply #139 on: 17 Jul 2012, 00:56 »

But etymologically speaking, they would still be correct in their original deconstruction, no?
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #140 on: 17 Jul 2012, 01:01 »

In language "correct" is a matter of usage alone; deviating from established usage is possible, to widen expressive possibilities, but also leads to the danger of misunderstanding or simple incomprehension which weakens language.  You can see both these possibilities happening with attempts to add gender-neutral pronouns to English.
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"Being human, having your health; that's what's important."  (from: Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi )
"As long as we're all living, and as long as we're all having fun, that should do it, right?"  (from: The Eccentric Family )

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Re: English is weird
« Reply #141 on: 17 Jul 2012, 05:14 »

For some reason, this reminds me of the usage of flammable and inflammable, where the prefix in- usually negates the meaning of the word.  In this case, flammable = able to be "flamed" (burnt), and inflammable = able to be inflamed (burnt). 

So in this case, they mean the same thing.  As a result, the term non-flammable came into use for clarity. 
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #142 on: 18 Jul 2012, 11:39 »

I was about to say exactly that. Weird hive mind.
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There's this really handy "other thing" I'm going to write as a footnote to my abstract that I can probably explore these issues in. I think I'll call it my "dissertation."

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Re: English is weird
« Reply #143 on: 18 Jul 2012, 12:15 »

for unrelated reasons i googled the phrase "inflamable means flamable? what a country!" today and the first hit on google is a funny blog about psychiatry and such things.
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Is it cold in here?

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Re: English is weird
« Reply #144 on: 13 Sep 2012, 17:06 »

Quote from: a book about home inspections
All chimneys in recent construction must be lined with an inflammable material.
Quote from: recent headline
Chicagoans support striking teachers
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LTK

Re: English is weird
« Reply #145 on: 15 Sep 2012, 13:38 »

Which was named first? The color orange or the fruit?
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Quote from: snalin
I just got the image of a midwife and a woman giving birth swinging towards each other on a trapeze - when they meet, the midwife pulls the baby out. The knife juggler is standing on the floor and cuts the umbilical cord with a a knifethrow.

Carl-E

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Re: English is weird
« Reply #146 on: 16 Sep 2012, 01:01 »

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When people try to speak a gut reaction, they end up talking out their ass.

LTK

Re: English is weird
« Reply #147 on: 16 Sep 2012, 02:52 »

Then what did the English use for the color before discovering India?
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Quote from: snalin
I just got the image of a midwife and a woman giving birth swinging towards each other on a trapeze - when they meet, the midwife pulls the baby out. The knife juggler is standing on the floor and cuts the umbilical cord with a a knifethrow.

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Re: English is weird
« Reply #148 on: 16 Sep 2012, 03:48 »

Then what did the English use for the color before discovering India?

It was previously known as geoluread (that is, 'yellow-red').
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LTK

Re: English is weird
« Reply #149 on: 16 Sep 2012, 08:36 »

Okay, now you're bullshitting me.

*wiktionary*

Wait... you're not?!
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Quote from: snalin
I just got the image of a midwife and a woman giving birth swinging towards each other on a trapeze - when they meet, the midwife pulls the baby out. The knife juggler is standing on the floor and cuts the umbilical cord with a a knifethrow.
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