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Author Topic: English is weird  (Read 132125 times)

Tova

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Re: English is weird
« Reply #900 on: 19 Mar 2019, 16:09 »

Does it bother anyone else when someone says or writes "All of a sudden" instead of "Suddenly" when conveying a story?

Not really. You are generally better off conveying a sudden event implicitly through your prose than by explicitly saying so via either of the expressions above.
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JoeCovenant

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Re: English is weird
« Reply #901 on: 20 Mar 2019, 01:22 »

Does it bother anyone else when someone says or writes "All of a sudden" instead of "Suddenly" when conveying a story?

If it's being used as dialogue, then nit a problem.
But if part of the prose/narration, then editors HATE that word...
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #902 on: 20 Mar 2019, 02:13 »

I'm confused. I was under the impression that "all of a sudden" is correct. What's wrong with the expression?
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #903 on: 20 Mar 2019, 02:27 »

Agreed - it's a perfectly natural idiom to me, expressing more surprise and drama than a simple suddenly.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #904 on: 20 Mar 2019, 02:40 »

Grammatically, it's perfectly fine.

Then there's "all of the sudden." TIL.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #905 on: 20 Mar 2019, 13:03 »

I'm just going to take a moment here to mourn the loss of the word "elite" - which used to designate those distinguished by their great capability - as opposed to "privileged" which used to designate those distinguished by their position in society. 

Now that it has been co-opted as part of a narrative about privileged people abusing their positions, we have a diminished capacity for talking about the great athletes, the geniuses, the autodidacts and original thinkers, the disciplined students, the insightful and enlightened, and those of great spirit, generosity, and character.  Or at least for talking about them in a way that doesn't begin with casting them in suspicion of having and abusing undeserved social standing.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #906 on: 22 Mar 2019, 20:05 »

Momentarily means for a moment, not in a moment, you barbarians. Try presently.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #907 on: 29 Mar 2019, 19:21 »

Momentarily means for a moment, not in a moment, you barbarians. Try presently.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we will be landing momentarily, so please prepare to unboard the plane as quickly as possible. We will not be coming to a full stop."

I'm just going to take a moment here to mourn the loss of the word "elite" - which used to designate those distinguished by their great capability - as opposed to "privileged" which used to designate those distinguished by their position in society. 

Now that it has been co-opted as part of a narrative about privileged people abusing their positions, we have a diminished capacity for talking about the great athletes, the geniuses, the autodidacts and original thinkers, the disciplined students, the insightful and enlightened, and those of great spirit, generosity, and character.  Or at least for talking about them in a way that doesn't begin with casting them in suspicion of having and abusing undeserved social standing.

As adjectives, we still have "exemplary", "exceptional", "foremost", "preeminent" and "supreme". and for the noun we have "exemplar", "elect", "choice", "cream" and "top". English is replete with words to say very nearly the same thing.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #908 on: 30 Mar 2019, 14:09 »

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Case

Re: English is weird
« Reply #909 on: 23 Apr 2019, 10:37 »

Linguists find that English is actually rather weird  (but, of course, German is weirder - ranked 33rd and 10th out of 239, respectively)
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #910 on: 24 Apr 2019, 00:36 »

It's interesting, but looking into the full list, there's a couple of surprises. I think some languages might need some more work. And perhaps based off of the efforts that have been made to exhaustively list all features (descriptively), rather than on a 1958 introduction to the language.

Then again, the image might skew a bit, as the database does take into account some, but not all, different variants for some languages, begging the question, which variant did this list take into account or not?
« Last Edit: 24 Apr 2019, 00:42 by Cornelius »
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #911 on: 24 Apr 2019, 01:16 »

Well, that list seems a bit weird. Hungarian among the ten least weird languages? Admittedly, I don't know that language, but AFAIK the closest relative language to Hungarian is Finnish. OK, being that far down the tree, and basically being the only one left doesn't make a language weird necessarily, but I also heard it's hard to learn (but again that could be attributed to its uniqueness).

The weirdest part about English IMHO is the spelling. AFAIK the spelling didn't undergo the changes the spoken language did, thus weirdness ensued.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #912 on: 24 Apr 2019, 01:23 »

Then again, they only picked 21 out of 192 language features to compare against. Pick another 21, and you'll have a completely different image.
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Case

Re: English is weird
« Reply #913 on: 24 Apr 2019, 05:51 »

The weirdest part about English IMHO is the spelling. AFAIK the spelling didn't undergo the changes the spoken language did, thus weirdness ensued.

They mention that in another article - that English has five vowel-letters, but uses eleven vowel-phonemes.

To me, the weirdest thing about English is the word-order - not because it's complicated, but because it's not. It's rigidly Subject-Verb-Object. I just found out that German is alternating between SVO and SOV (with other possible combinations). Now I know why my brain insists on trying out 'perfectly logical' ways of constructing English sentences that end up sounding weirdAF.

Then again, they only picked 21 out of 192 language features to compare against. Pick another 21, and you'll have a completely different image.

IIRC, in another article, the authors acknowledge that their acculturation may skew their choice of features in ways they can neither recognize, nor compensate for. That African linguists e.g. might choose a completely different set of features.
« Last Edit: 24 Apr 2019, 06:00 by Case »
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #914 on: 24 Apr 2019, 06:29 »

IIRC, in another article, the authors acknowledge that their acculturation may skew their choice of features in ways they can neither recognize, nor compensate for. That African linguists e.g. might choose a completely different set of features.

Which is rather hard. In trying to be less Anglo-centric, they may have selected, subconsciously, for the features that will prove it to be an outlier.

And then again, it's also a question of which features do they have data for. Much though I like the concept of the atlas, I dare say, looking at the entries for Dutch, it's not complete, and I'm not convinced the sources they quote in the entries are necessarily the most up to date or even correct. But that's going by a sample of one, and only means that there's room for improvement. Like, for instance, including all major variants of a language. I'm not saying they should have every dialect, though. While  massively interesting, that's another level of detail entirely.

Then again, the fact that it is incomplete, does have its own implications for the data of this list.

To me, the weirdest thing about English is the word-order - not because it's complicated, but because it's not. It's rigidly Subject-Verb-Object. I just found out that German is alternating between SVO and SOV (with other possible combinations). Now I know why my brain insists on trying out 'perfectly logical' ways of constructing English sentences that end up sounding weirdAF.

That would be part of it.
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Case

Re: English is weird
« Reply #915 on: 24 Apr 2019, 07:49 »

To me, the weirdest thing about English is the word-order - not because it's complicated, but because it's not. It's rigidly Subject-Verb-Object. I just found out that German is alternating between SVO and SOV (with other possible combinations). Now I know why my brain insists on trying out 'perfectly logical' ways of constructing English sentences that end up sounding weirdAF.

That would be part of it.


Well, yes - obviously, my brain being weird as f**k is a contributing factor. We can take that as a given.  :-D
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #916 on: 02 May 2019, 21:21 »

It's interesting that most (if not all) forms of non-rhotic English are viewed as sounding uneducated in the USA. Examples; any form of Southern or rural drawl, Jersey, Bostonian (non-Harvard), African-American Vernacular, Valley Talk, and that one little island off the coast of Maine.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #917 on: 02 May 2019, 22:12 »

It would be interesting to construct some sort of metric combining how weird a language is with how many speakers it has. English might not win.
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Case

Re: English is weird
« Reply #918 on: 03 May 2019, 04:13 »

It would be interesting to construct some sort of metric combining how weird a language is with how many speakers it has. English might not win.

I think that was one of the points of the article - that the 'main' Euro-languages are actually pretty weird (i.e. they share few features with other languages). The least weird language is apparently Hindi.

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Part of this is to say that some of the languages you take for granted as being normal (like English, Spanish, or German) consistently do things differently than most of the other languages in the world.

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Re: English is weird
« Reply #919 on: 03 May 2019, 08:55 »

Out of curiosity, I've taken the list from the article, and for the languages with data for 14 or more of their selected features, filled in the number of native speakers (based off of wikipedia, but then numbers of native speakers for a lot of languages are only estimates anyway.)

That gives an average weirdindex between 0.48 and 0.60, except for the languages with between 100 M and 1000M speakers, which average at 0.788.

Those are:
  • Spanish: 0,7897
  • Mandarin: 0,7884
  • English: 0,7562
  • Japanese: 0,7356
  • Russian: 0,4006
  • Hindi: 0,0872

The least weird group is, surprisingly, the languages that no longer have any native speakers, averaging at 0.4801

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Re: English is weird
« Reply #920 on: 02 Sep 2019, 16:33 »

German-speakers adopting English words, and pronouncing them (to my ears, at least) in a very "English" way. I was intrigued that German didn't have "native" words for whiteboard or whiteboard-marker, but apparently the German translation of blackboard is "Tafel", which doesn't have a colour-word incorporated in it, so I suppose the obvious route of swapping the colour didn't apply.
Plainly the Germans are confident enough to feel no special need to invent new "native" words for new things. Compare and contrast l'Académie Français and l'aéroglisseur vs. l’hovercraft.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #921 on: 02 Sep 2019, 23:28 »

L'Académie Française just doesn't want to admit defeat, in acknowledging French isn't the lingua franca anymore. Unless you want to get technical about the term.

You know, way back when I first started learning English in school, the black in blackboard was surprising. For one, in Dutch, it's just the bord, also without colour, and second, most blackboards are actually green, except some of the very oldest I've seen.
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cybersmurf

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Re: English is weird
« Reply #922 on: 04 Sep 2019, 12:14 »

German even gets weirder - the colloquial term for mobile phone is "Handy" - and that's pronounced English, like in "that comes in handy". I honestly have no idea where the term comes from, and there are a few urban legends - but none I know incorporates English.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #923 on: 04 Sep 2019, 12:23 »

German even gets weirder - the colloquial term for mobile phone is "Handy" - and that's pronounced English, like in "that comes in handy". I honestly have no idea where the term comes from, and there are a few urban legends - but none I know incorporates English.

That reminds me of a weird thing in French, extra-remarkable since the language doesn't really borrow from English usually.

Apparently shampoo in French is, for reasons that escape me, "shampooing". The random -ing comes right out of nowhere, makes no sense, and means nothing in French. My best guess is that it sounded vaguely English to French people or something?

(kinda like I've met Americans who think a word sounds more Polish, and is apparently hilarious, if you add a random "-ski" to an English word?)
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #924 on: 04 Sep 2019, 12:34 »

(kinda like I've met Americans who think a word sounds more Polish, and is apparently hilarious, if you add a random "-ski" to an English word?)

To make things worse, my brain just made this french-polish-fake "le shampooski"
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #925 on: 04 Sep 2019, 12:53 »

For the record, "-ski" does mean something in Polish. It's a suffix that makes an adjective out of a word. Many (possibly most) adjectives end with it.

So Polish for "sky/heaven" is "niebo", and the word we have for "blue" is "niebieski". "Poland" <--> "Polska" and "Polish" <--> "polski" (the word "Polska" is itself an adjectival form of a word for "field/plain"). And the like.

Also, a LOT of surnames, often surnames of people whose ancestors were nobility, end with "-ski". The most common Polish surname is "Kowalski", and "kowal" is a word for a smith, usually a blacksmith (yes, the most common Polish surname is basically Smith, kinda like in UK/USA. Go figure).

I'll shut up now, because this is getting way off-topic for the thread ;)
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #927 on: 05 Sep 2019, 03:53 »

German-speakers adopting English words, and pronouncing them (to my ears, at least) in a very "English" way. I was intrigued that German didn't have "native" words for whiteboard or whiteboard-marker, but apparently the German translation of blackboard is "Tafel", which doesn't have a colour-word incorporated in it, so I suppose the obvious route of swapping the colour didn't apply.
[...]
Plainly the Germans are confident enough to feel no special need to invent new "native" words for new things. Compare and contrast l'Académie Français and l'aéroglisseur vs. l’hovercraft.

'Tafel' simply means 'board' - from the Latin 'tabula'. Same word-root as 'table'.

Sometimes we do 'invent' new words instead of using loanwords - e.g. 'Computer' and 'Rechner' (the German word for 'Computer') are used interchangeably. But nothing like the zeal of l'Académie Français, that's true.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #928 on: 05 Sep 2019, 07:18 »

[
'Tafel' simply means 'board' - from the Latin 'tabula'. Same word-root as 'table'.

Sometimes we do 'invent' new words instead of using loanwords - e.g. 'Computer' and 'Rechner' (the German word for 'Computer') are used interchangeably. But nothing like the zeal of l'Académie Français, that's true.

TBH, out of context "Rechner" means calculator. But let's face it - so does computer, in a way.


it gets weird if foreign words get Germanized and bent to German grammar.
I wonder how often English bastardises words like that.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #929 on: 01 Feb 2020, 20:58 »

I was thinking today, that there ought to be a word, for the kind of nostalgia I feel when I realize the future isn't what it used to be.

There used to be optimism, as everyone seemed to expect that the future would be better than the past.  I miss that.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #930 on: 01 Feb 2020, 21:10 »

"The future will be better tomorrow." -- Dan Quayle
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #931 on: 20 Feb 2020, 03:23 »

German even gets weirder - the colloquial term for mobile phone is "Handy" - and that's pronounced English, like in "that comes in handy". I honestly have no idea where the term comes from, and there are a few urban legends - but none I know incorporates English.
Yep.

And many germans, including me, mistake that for an adoption of an english word, and have to remind ourselves the english word is actually cellphone or smartphone.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #932 on: 20 Feb 2020, 03:28 »

TBH, out of context "Rechner" means calculator.
No.

"Rechner" means computer.

Calculator is called "Taschenrechner" (translated word by word: pocket computer).

Never heard anyone shortening "Taschenrechner" to just "Rechner".
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #933 on: 20 Feb 2020, 04:11 »

Afrikaans follows the same logic, and has rekenaar and sakrekenaar for computer and calculator.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #934 on: 20 Feb 2020, 04:21 »

Never heard anyone shortening "Taschenrechner" to just "Rechner".

Well, must be a regional thing then. Colloquial shortening.


Point is, German has no differentiation of "compute" and "calculate", whatever the difference may actually be.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #935 on: 20 Feb 2020, 23:01 »

TBH, out of context "Rechner" means calculator.
No.

"Rechner" means computer.

Calculator is called "Taschenrechner" (translated word by word: pocket computer).

Never heard anyone shortening "Taschenrechner" to just "Rechner".

Neither have I, but I'd hesitate to lecture a fellow Germanophone (cybersmurf is Austrian) about our shared mother-tongue.

As to Computer and Calculator: I struggle to remember what the difference even is - the explanation of this site here seems dubious (I doubt that anyone used electronic calculators before the 20th century, and the main functional difference they cite appears to be akin to parallel vs. sequential operation).  IIRC 'computer' was once a bona-fide job performed by humans. Persistent human errors lead to the invention of Babbage's Difference engine via a requirement by the Royal Navy, methinks - after a RN Destroyer was shipwrecked due to a tiny error in a logarithm table complied by humans.

it gets weird if foreign words get Germanized and bent to German grammar.
I wonder how often English bastardises words like that.

According to my former boss, this is actually a thing in English, too - as well as being a bona-fide research-subject in linguistics (His wife is also a professor at the local Uni, and the resident star-linguist). IIRC, he cited an example that originated with American Football-jargon, where a neologism used by football fans became widely used - but strikingly, the usage of the neologism followed grammar-rules that the original root-word did not.

Afrikaans follows the same logic, and has rekenaar and sakrekenaar for computer and calculator.

Do you understand spoken Afrikaans? My Dutch is very rusty, but I can usually follow the gist of a Dutch conversation - not so with Afrikaans.
« Last Edit: 20 Feb 2020, 23:15 by Case »
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #936 on: 20 Feb 2020, 23:53 »

FWIW, 'compute' vs 'calculate' in English is the difference between doing algebra (or higher) where you're working with symbols and figuring out how to rearrange equations so you can get the answer you need, and doing the straightforward addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication to transform the equation you computed into an actual numeric answer.

Or maybe, the difference between math that requires some understanding and insight about how to find the answer, and math that is just straightforward work that doesn't require you to think about anything beyond the elementary operations.

That said, the words get used interchangeably a lot - and now that computers are machines, people increasingly don't think of solving the more complex problems as 'computing' a solution any more.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #937 on: 21 Feb 2020, 02:27 »

Neither have I, but I'd hesitate to lecture a fellow Germanophone (cybersmurf is Austrian) about our shared mother-tongue.


The biggest difference between Germany and Austria is the common language.
What throws off a lot of people, including Germans, is the difference in intonation.

it gets weird if foreign words get Germanized and bent to German grammar.
I wonder how often English bastardises words like that.

According to my former boss, this is actually a thing in English, too - as well as being a bona-fide research-subject in linguistics (His wife is also a professor at the local Uni, and the resident star-linguist). IIRC, he cited an example that originated with American Football-jargon, where a neologism used by football fans became widely used - but strikingly, the usage of the neologism followed grammar-rules that the original root-word did not.


But every now and then, English follows the other language's grammar, like fiancé/e
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #938 on: 21 Feb 2020, 02:35 »

And blond(e).
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #939 on: 21 Feb 2020, 03:45 »

it gets weird if foreign words get Germanized and bent to German grammar.
I wonder how often English bastardises words like that.

According to my former boss, this is actually a thing in English, too - as well as being a bona-fide research-subject in linguistics (His wife is also a professor at the local Uni, and the resident star-linguist). IIRC, he cited an example that originated with American Football-jargon, where a neologism used by football fans became widely used - but strikingly, the usage of the neologism followed grammar-rules that the original root-word did not.

Afrikaans follows the same logic, and has rekenaar and sakrekenaar for computer and calculator.

Do you understand spoken Afrikaans? My Dutch is very rusty, but I can usually follow the gist of a Dutch conversation - not so with Afrikaans.

It is a very interesting subject. I should probably dive back into it, one of these days.

Generally, I understand spoken Afrikaans better than some northern Dutch dialects, or Friesian. But then, some of those are obscure to anyone but the people of that region.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #940 on: 21 Feb 2020, 04:06 »

Neither have I, but I'd hesitate to lecture a fellow Germanophone (cybersmurf is Austrian) about our shared mother-tongue.

The biggest difference between Germany and Austria is the common language.

And here I was thinking it was Johann Gottfried Piefke ... :wink:
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #941 on: 02 Apr 2020, 07:24 »

Today while putting on my bathrobe, I had a moment of difficulty trying to find the belt loops. 

A moment later, it occurred to me to wonder, why do we say "inside out" instead of "outside in?"

On an unrelated note, I have decided that "Schwa" would be a good name for a cat.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #942 on: 17 Apr 2020, 12:00 »

L'Académie Française just doesn't want to admit defeat, in acknowledging French isn't the lingua franca anymore. Unless you want to get technical about the term.

You know, way back when I first started learning English in school, the black in blackboard was surprising. For one, in Dutch, it's just the bord, also without colour, and second, most blackboards are actually green, except some of the very oldest I've seen.
Is 'blackboard' more a regional or generational term?

I've almost exclusively heard it called 'chalkboard' throughout my schooling. And pretty only ever came across 'blacboard' in books and short stories.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #943 on: 17 Apr 2020, 12:05 »

Neither have I, but I'd hesitate to lecture a fellow Germanophone (cybersmurf is Austrian) about our shared mother-tongue.


The biggest difference between Germany and Austria is the common language.
What throws off a lot of people, including Germans, is the difference in intonation.

it gets weird if foreign words get Germanized and bent to German grammar.
I wonder how often English bastardises words like that.

According to my former boss, this is actually a thing in English, too - as well as being a bona-fide research-subject in linguistics (His wife is also a professor at the local Uni, and the resident star-linguist). IIRC, he cited an example that originated with American Football-jargon, where a neologism used by football fans became widely used - but strikingly, the usage of the neologism followed grammar-rules that the original root-word did not.


But every now and then, English follows the other language's grammar, like fiancé/e

Blame the French :wink:
More specifically, the Normans who invaded and occupied England.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #944 on: 17 Apr 2020, 16:45 »

1960s Appalachia, I seem to remember "blackboard".
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #945 on: 17 Apr 2020, 18:56 »

When I started elementary school (1945) the blackboards at school were actually black, and were called blackboards.  When they built a new school (1952) the new blackboards were green, but were still called blackboards, out of habit, probably.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #946 on: 17 Apr 2020, 19:37 »

When I started elementary school (1945) the blackboards at school were actually black, and were called blackboards.  When they built a new school (1952) the new blackboards were green, but were still called blackboards, out of habit, probably.
Sounds like it's a generational holderover, then.
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