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The Strange Case of the English Language

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  • abacusabacus Member Posts: 1,308
    deltago said:

    Fun fact: every one pronounces oxymoron wrong.

    Explain... I'm intrigued.

  • bob_vengbob_veng Member Posts: 2,307
    decimate...
    originally it meant taking or eliminating one tenth of something *of yours* (historically, killing every 10th soldier in a unit as mean of instigating discipline in the case of desertion; also, kinda similarly, taking 10% in taxes from your subjects)

    it also meant to inflict a similar loss *on the enemy*, to weaken the enemy

    then it meant to inflict a relatively great loss on the enemy (decimated the army = inflicting heavy losses on an army)

    and today in english it's on the same level as devastate, destroy, raze (decimated the army = completely shattering the army)

    i like the first two meanings and the third is okay...but the last one, that is the most common in media and conversation, really irritates me because the original meaning (reduce by 1/10) doesn't have anything to do with PULVERIZE.

    lolienSmilingSword
  • iKrivetkoiKrivetko Member Posts: 934
    edited October 2015
    "Black" shares its root with french "blanc" (white). They both come from the PIE *bhel, which was used in words describing shiny/bright things. Old English had "blæc" which meant "dark", "blac" which meant "bright" or "pale", and the verb "blæcen" which meant, you guessed it, "to bleach".

    bob_vengatcDaveBelgarathMTHJuliusBorisov
  • GreenWarlockGreenWarlock Member Posts: 1,354
    Talking of TLAs, it took me almost two decades but I finally found the word I was looking for to describe this! Finding words where you know the meaning, but don't yet know the word, can surprisingly difficult!

    Onomatopoeia describes a word that sounds like what it means. TLA is a word (or phrase/abbreviation in this case, not an acronym as it is not pronouncable as a word) that says was it means, like 'word', 'noun', and "This sentence is six words long." Finally, a friend and fellow word collector pointed me to 'tautology', so I now have the word that describes my favorite linguistic phenomenon.

    Sadly, my favorite word in the English language has fallen out of the concise dictionaries (I found it in the 1966 edition of the Oxford English Dictionary my parent had when I was in high school). 'pagurian' has a wonderful, mellifluous tone to it, and really sounds like it should be worked into more conversations. Sadly, the only use I can find for it is letting people know that is is my favorite word, and sadly assigned a poor meaning. If anyone has inspiration for how I can work the adjective for hermit crabs (specifically hermit crabs, not crabs in general) into casual conversations, I am open for ideas!

    (I am happy the that aquaria in our office do have some pagurian residents though :))

    atcDavelolien
  • GreenWarlockGreenWarlock Member Posts: 1,354
    abacus said:
    Number 13 suggests more people need to be dangled from a parapet.

  • MathsorcererMathsorcerer Member Posts: 3,009

    If anyone has inspiration for how I can work the adjective for hermit crabs (specifically hermit crabs, not crabs in general) into casual conversations, I am open for ideas!

    You could loosely approximate that for anyone who is hiking and has their camping gear on their back.

  • AnduinAnduin Member Posts: 5,745
    I propose that the English language has more words for trees than any other.

    Belt
    Bolt
    Burns
    Coppice
    Dell
    Dingle
    Fall
    Forest
    Hollins
    Ley
    Wood

    Sure there are more...

    wubble
  • the_spyderthe_spyder Member Posts: 5,018
    Come on. The world needs synonyms, because some of us are REALLY bad spellers. We need multiple options to choose from in case we don't know how to spell a word properly.

    wubbleSmilingSword
  • wubblewubble Member Posts: 3,156
    Anduin said:

    I propose that the English language has more words for trees than any other.

    Belt
    Bolt
    Burns
    Coppice
    Dell
    Dingle
    Fall
    Forest
    Hollins
    Ley
    Wood

    Sure there are more...

    copse
    weald
    jungle
    grove
    orchard
    stand

    SmilingSword
  • abacusabacus Member Posts: 1,308
    xkcd on the "quotative like" and frumpy language traditionalists: http://xkcd.com/1483/

    atcDaveJuliusBorisov
  • BelgarathMTHBelgarathMTH Member Posts: 5,649
    @abacus , You taught me something, there, a new linguistic term. So, the "quotative like" does serve a grammatical function as a verbal quote marker.

    However, I think it will always be considered a stylistic error to overuse it in a paragraph, just as it is a stylistic error to overuse any word in a paragraph.

    Also, there is still a *very* strong association of the excessive use of the "quotative like" with low intelligence and lack of education. I don't see that pejorative association going away any time soon.

    the_spyderatcDaveJuliusBorisovabacus
  • atcDaveatcDave Member Posts: 1,933
    Seems sort of funny to "like" this...

    JuliusBorisovBelgarathMTHtbone1
  • deltagodeltago Member Posts: 7,810
    deltago said:

    Fun fact: every one pronounces oxymoron wrong.

    Explain... I'm intrigued.

    Alegedely it use to be pronounced with an i sound OXYMIRIM. Plural for it is Oxymora.

    Talking about plurals:

    Why are pants plural when there is only one (and why call it a pair). You can call it a pant leg, but where else are you going to put a single pant, so it is redundant to say that.

    Fish, Sheep and Moose do not have a plural form (although fishes is starting to catch on).

    And dont put a S on the end of Penne, or you may be eating something else.

    NimranJuliusBorisovSmilingSwordtbone1
  • BelgarathMTHBelgarathMTH Member Posts: 5,649
    I've always pronounced "oxymoron" the same as the guy does at this pronunciation website:

    https://www.howtopronounce.com/oxymoron/

    JuliusBorisov
  • bob_vengbob_veng Member Posts: 2,307
    some people accent the second syllable (instead of the third): oXYmoron, like rePLEnishment

    maybe that's what deltago meant

    i don't believe taht the o sounds in -moron were ever pronounced as i

  • the_spyderthe_spyder Member Posts: 5,018
    I have another one to add to the pot.

    Wind.

    1. The wind blew in from the east.

    2. He had to wind up the toy before it would run.

    WHT? Same word. Same spelling. To completely different pronunciations and meanings.

    JuliusBorisovBelgarathMTHlolien
  • the_spyderthe_spyder Member Posts: 5,018
    How about inflammable?

    It literally means the opposite of what it should mean. and if you look it up in websters, it actually has a synonym of Flammable. WTH? Can you set fire to it or not?

    JuliusBorisovSmilingSword
  • NimranNimran Member Posts: 4,877
  • the_spyderthe_spyder Member Posts: 5,018
    edited October 2015
    @Mathsorcerer - and yet Websters.com lists 'flammable' as a synonym of 'Inflammable', and vice versa.

    inflammable
    [in-flam-uh-buh l]
    Spell Syllables
    Synonyms Word Origin
    adjective
    1. capable of being set on fire; combustible; flammable.

    2. easily aroused or excited, as to passion or anger; irascible:
    an inflammable disposition.
    noun
    3. something inflammable.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------

    flammable
    [flam-uh-buh l]
    Spell Syllables
    Examples Word Origin
    adjective
    1. easily set on fire; combustible; inflammable.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Did they get it wrong?

    atcDaveJuliusBorisov
  • bob_vengbob_veng Member Posts: 2,307
    i don't find inflammable strange because it obviously comes from inflame which is a very common verb

    also, it's like habitable = inhabitable

    atcDaveSethDavis
  • the_spyderthe_spyder Member Posts: 5,018
    Yes, but the prefix "In" more normally means anti or not. If something is inedible, it isn't the same as if something is edible (unless it is my Ex-wife's cooking). They are opposites. Hence the peculiarity with Flammable and inflammable meaning (more or less) the same thing.

    lolien
  • MathsorcererMathsorcerer Member Posts: 3,009
    @the_spyder No, they aren't getting the definitions wrong, both words really do mean the same thing--the ability of a substance to be ignited. The two words come from different sources but both meant the same thing. You had different chemists in the early decades of chemistry in different countries using different words for the same things, which made things confusing; it is merely unfortunate that both words stuck.

    There are also different degrees of flammability but we'll pick that up in another thread some other day.

    abacusthe_spyderlolien
  • bob_vengbob_veng Member Posts: 2,307
    inflammable is older. flammable is much newer and is a sort of a back formation. remember that the original verb is inflame and the adjective is formed from that verb (like most other -able adjectives are formed from verbs), not from the noun flame

    abacus
  • BelgarathMTHBelgarathMTH Member Posts: 5,649
    @bob_veng , What amazes me most about all those uses of the word "set" is that native English speakers use all those expressions naturally and automatically, without thinking.

    The fields of linguistics and neuroscience of language development are quite fascinating to me.

    JuliusBorisovatcDavelolien
  • the_spyderthe_spyder Member Posts: 5,018
    Actually, the original derivation of the word Panic was actually 'fear of the great god Pan'. So remember to go see that movie this weekend with Hugh Jackman and really Panic!

    lolien
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