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Author Topic: English is weird  (Read 109611 times)

jwhouk

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Re: English is weird
« Reply #250 on: 17 Jul 2013, 18:30 »

I thought a cutter was what Mariano Rivera threw.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #251 on: 17 Jul 2013, 20:53 »

Nope, it's a boat.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #252 on: 18 Jul 2013, 03:32 »

That's not a cutter, this is a cutter.

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Re: English is weird
« Reply #253 on: 13 Aug 2013, 12:17 »

Prepositions work mischief:

"Nurse Suspected of Killing Up to 46 Kids to Get Out of Prison"

"The National Rifle Association has launched a website defending the use of lead ammunition against scientists and environmental organizations who argue that lead bullets are poisoning the environment and tainting game meat with a known neurotoxin"
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #254 on: 13 Aug 2013, 18:20 »

Yeah but that's just the NRA.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #255 on: 13 Aug 2013, 19:24 »

"Will Will Smith smith?"
"Smith Will Smith will."
"Will Smith will smith."
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #256 on: 14 Aug 2013, 00:47 »

It is possible to make a grammatical English sentence of any length longer than one word consisting only of repetitions of the word "buffalo".
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #257 on: 14 Aug 2013, 01:24 »

It is possible to make a grammatical English sentence of any length longer than one word consisting only of repetitions of the word "buffalo".
I would have posted, but I assumed everyone heard that one before.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #258 on: 14 Aug 2013, 01:40 »

I haven't heard it in the "not upper bounded" variation before.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #259 on: 14 Aug 2013, 14:23 »

How much wood could a Woodchuck chuck if a Woodchuck could chuck wood?
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #260 on: 14 Aug 2013, 15:04 »

Right now I feel reminded of a story/joke, with a theme very typical of Hamburg. It's a joke of the "Klein Erna" variant. "Klein Erna" (Lil Erna) is a girl who is very naive, her mother being a big, hard working woman who is not too bright. They often feature very dry, laconic humor (which is often considered to be typical of us northern Germans) and the people are usually talking with a strong "Missingsch" dialect (Missingsch is a mixture of Low German (Plattdüütsch) and ordinary German, which was supposedly created by people who were not educated in ordinary "High German", but still tried to speak it.).

Anyway, here it is:

Klein Erna beobachtet ein Kind, welches mit Matsch spielt und fragt die Mutter.
„Darf dat dat?“ - „Dat darf dat.“ - „Dat dat dat darf!“

Lil Erna is watching a child play with mud and asks her mother:
"Is it allowed to do that?" "It is allowed to do that" "{Unbelievable, }that it is allowed to do that!"

The German word "Das" can mean many things. Most commonly it's an article, more specifically the article for non-gendered things (direct translation: it). At the same time it can also be a pronoun, more specifically a demonstrative, for the same thing. And it can be a subordinating conjunction. In that case it's written "dass" instead of "das" though. Colloquially you can leave away the first part of the sentence when using "dass" and combine it with a intonation which displays indignation. That's why I added the "unbelievable" in the last sentence. It can mean various things, unbelievable is just one possibility.

"darf" is a conjugated form of "dürfen", which translates to "being allowed". In German this word is used in it's active form instead of it's passive form. As a passive construction you would use the more formal "erlaubt sein".

In ordinary German these sentences would have been:
„Darf das (the child) das (the playing with mud)?“ „Das (the child) darf das (the playing).“ „Dass (subordinating conjunction) das (the child) das (the playing) darf!“

Sorry for killing this joke…
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #261 on: 14 Aug 2013, 15:29 »

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Re: English is weird
« Reply #262 on: 14 Aug 2013, 15:34 »

Presumably, part of the joke is referring to the baby as "it"? I confess that I do that sometimes. I used to have a bigger problem, because the Chinese words for "he", "she" and "it" have identical pronunciation (written they are 他, 她 & 它 respectively), and would occasionally refer inappropriately to people as "it".
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #263 on: 14 Aug 2013, 15:51 »

But am I allowed to do this?

Of course you are - but then we have to kill you.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #264 on: 14 Aug 2013, 15:54 »

Well, the German term for child is actually in the third grammatical gender, neuter. (from the latin word neuter, which means "neither of both"). Referring to the child as "it" is correct. It's more a joke about how sentence structure can give a sentence multiple meanings.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #265 on: 14 Aug 2013, 17:49 »

Addition: "the girl" is also neuter, but I use female pronouns with it out of principle. If I remember, that is.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #266 on: 14 Aug 2013, 18:15 »

I haven't heard it in the "not upper bounded" variation before.

The key is that any occurrence of "buffalo" as a noun can be replaced by "buffalo buffalo buffalo".
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #267 on: 15 Aug 2013, 01:47 »

„Darf dat dat?“ - „Dat darf dat.“ - „Dat dat dat darf!“


D, R, and V in Morse code. 


And you thought you killed the joke!   :-D
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #268 on: 31 Aug 2013, 23:09 »

Why is there so much difference between a speeding bullet and a speeding ticket?
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #269 on: 01 Sep 2013, 02:46 »

I was reading an article in The Economist today in which "maths" was treated as a plural, as in "Dr. Wetterich is a well-respected physicist and his maths are not obviously wrong." I treat math(ematic)s as a singular, just like physics, and would have written "his maths is not obviously wrong". Is that incorrect?
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #270 on: 01 Sep 2013, 04:01 »

I always treat it as a singular.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #271 on: 01 Sep 2013, 04:02 »

"Maths" is a relatively new use of the term. I haven't got a clue, but then again, I speak 'merican, with a side of Cheesehead dere hey.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #272 on: 01 Sep 2013, 04:11 »

It's been "maths" in British English forever, to my knowledge, so not really new!
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #273 on: 01 Sep 2013, 07:06 »

Maths is the British UK usage, math is the American usage.  But Akima and Barmy is are correct in that its use is singular in both cases.  They're just different abbreviations for mathematics. 
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #274 on: 01 Sep 2013, 07:40 »

Could 'maths' be a plural when used to emphasize the inclusion of more than one type of math?  I have never heard it used that way, and I'm not sure it makes sense, semantically, because I don't think you can divide math like that.  (Even though there are types of math (calculus, statistics, geometry...) I'm not sure they really separate into different things in the way that say "breads" or "fishes" can.)  But, if you could conceive of the fields within math as discrete than to me "his maths are" would be emphasizing all the various types of math that he is not wrong about. 
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #275 on: 01 Sep 2013, 07:43 »

People would just say (as you wound up doing) "fields of math(ematic)s".  The fields are what's plural. 
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #276 on: 01 Sep 2013, 14:38 »

Even the Economist has ignorant sub-editors, it would seem; maths is (see!*) treated as a singular noun, just as the full word mathematics is.

* Well, I realise it's not really the same, as here it is the word, not the field, which is the subject.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #277 on: 01 Sep 2013, 15:31 »

Why is 'quenching' a word we use in the context of both fire and thirst?

And it's not English, but I just realised that the literal translation of the Dutch word for french toast is turningbitches.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #278 on: 01 Sep 2013, 15:43 »

Quench is also used in electricity (quench a spark) and electronics (quench an oscillation).  It's about the ending of the previous state, not wetness or hotness.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #279 on: 08 Sep 2013, 16:47 »

I asked a friend to proofread my report and he claims that every time I use the phrase "on the other hand" I should have prefaced that with "on the one hand" before, but I only rarely do that. I usually use "on the other hand" synonymously with "however", in this manner:

"Electrode A showed these results. Electrode B, on the other hand, showed different results."

Is this generally acceptable use or should I change it?
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #280 on: 08 Sep 2013, 20:43 »

I think he's wrong. He's insisting on an almost visual use of the two phrases, holding out your left hand, looking down at it, "On the one hand...." and holding out the right, "On the other hand."
To my editing sense, "On the other hand" conveys the sense of "however,"
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #281 on: 08 Sep 2013, 20:47 »

Strunk and White would tell you to drop "on the other hand" entirely, but I dislike their advice.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #282 on: 08 Sep 2013, 20:51 »

Then again ..........
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #283 on: 09 Sep 2013, 04:13 »

Thanks for the advice, I'm just going to leave it in then.
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LTK

Re: English is weird
« Reply #284 on: 29 Sep 2013, 05:30 »

If 'to discount' is to reduce the price of something, then why is, for example, 'discount pizza' pizza that was cheap to begin with, rather than pizza that has been reduced in price?
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #285 on: 29 Sep 2013, 06:31 »

I suppose because companies wanted people to see "discount" and associate it with "cheap" and therefore "good value for money". Having managed to achieve this to quite a large extent, such that people will buy things "on special offer" which are actually cheaper in a different combination or brand on the same shelf, they are now simply using the word as a "buy me, I'm cheap" emotional trigger.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #286 on: 29 Sep 2013, 13:50 »

Why do we say "at sea" but not "at land"?
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #287 on: 29 Sep 2013, 13:51 »

Because you cannot walk on sea?
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #288 on: 29 Sep 2013, 14:08 »

But you are on the surface of the sea.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #289 on: 29 Sep 2013, 14:32 »

"At sea" is a euphemism for being lost, that is, not within sight of any discernible landmarks to guide you.  I used to sail on Lake Erie (larger than many of the world's seas), and once you're out of sight of land (which happens surprisingly quickly), you better have either a compass or a damned good sense of direction if you ever want to find land again! 
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #290 on: 29 Sep 2013, 14:45 »

But you are on the surface of the sea.
I would sooner say you are on the surface of a ship when you are at sea.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #291 on: 29 Sep 2013, 15:33 »

Why do we say "at sea" but not "at land"?

While I don't know the reasons for the usage as a proud member of the maritime services of these United States it is my pleasure to inform you all that you're a bunch of filthy landlubbers for spending all your time a shore. You see this is the really fun part of English! Dialects! I have had full conversations with fellow Marines and sailors (using nothing out of the ordinary for us and no acronyms) and had girlfriends ask me after what the hell we were discussing because she couldn't understand more then a word or two.



Ugh just thinking about it makes me land sick. I need to get out on the water again.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #292 on: 29 Sep 2013, 16:28 »

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Re: English is weird
« Reply #293 on: 18 Oct 2013, 03:48 »

What does "if not" mean in the context of "mostly, if not entirely"? I've seen that construction a lot and I can never tell if it's synonymous with "mostly, possibly entirely" or "mostly, but not entirely".

Just now, I read this in an article: "He has documented serious flaws in the ways that many – if not the [majority of – studies]..."
« Last Edit: 18 Oct 2013, 03:56 by LTK »
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #294 on: 18 Oct 2013, 04:01 »

I would say it depends where the "if not" comes. So for example you might say "Well if not Friday, how about Saturday?" and mean "Friday isn't possible, so let's go for Saturday". It's less clear in the later position - in the example you give, it could mean both. In speech you can tell from the tone but that doesn't help with writing so you have to figure it out from the context I'm afraid. I'd assume "mostly, possibly entirely" because a clearer way to say "mostly, but not entirely" would be "many, although not all".
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #295 on: 18 Oct 2013, 04:05 »

I normally read the expression as meaning mostly, probably entirely: "I think Tony Abbott's character is mostly, if not entirely, comprised of the moral equivalent of toxic waste."
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #296 on: 19 Oct 2013, 10:10 »

 "The rat king is mostly, if not entirely, made of rats" = "If the rat king is not made entirely of rats, than it is mostly rats."
I think it is entirely rats, but I am not sure enough to claim it as truth, but even if the absolute is not true, the next step down is. 

As far as the shades of meaning/rhetorical reasons one would use this construction, the "if not" construction allows one to push their meaning towards something stronger than they are prepared to defend. This construction suggests that the stronger position is true, but keeps the speaker from having to defend it.  "I know many studies are X, and I think it is most of them, but I am not prepared to back that up by having counted."  "I think Abbott is moral toxic waste, but I don't want the the burden of the absolute by saying there definitely isn't even one small good part left." your reader/listener can't unread/hear the suggestion so it can strengthen your position, but you haven't actually claimed it, so you only have to defend the weaker claim.  It is frequently used with the second statement which is an absolute (all, every, entirely, etc.) Absolutes are easy to disprove, you only need to find one good moral position Abbot has, or one mouse in the rat king... In the case of "many, if not most" it is the same idea.  "many" is a vague claim but "most" has a fixed meaning (>50%) and so is easier to disprove.  There is no clear way to disprove "many" and so it is a safer position to take.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #297 on: 19 Oct 2013, 10:46 »

your reader/listener can't unread/hear the suggestion so it can strengthen your position, but you haven't actually claimed it, so you only have to defend the weaker claim.

This stylistic device is called apophasis.

(I didn't remember the name, but that the term existed.)
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #298 on: 02 Nov 2013, 23:01 »

If a bread knife is used for cutting bread,
and a steak knife is used for cutting steak,
and a butter knife is used for cutting butter,
what is a chef knife for?
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #299 on: 02 Nov 2013, 23:24 »

Gordon Ramsey
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