Do you know woteva?

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by S.A.M., Nov 17, 2007.

  1. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

    A billion in America is different from a billion in Great Britain. An American billion is a thousand million (1,000,000,000), but a British billion is a million million (1,000,000,000,000).

    In Old English, the word with meant "against", a meaning still preserved in phrases such as "to fight with".

    "Journal" does not contain a single letter of the Latin word from which it is derived: dies, "day." Among the intermediate steps in its development were the Latin diurnus, the Italian giorno, and the French jour.

    A group of magpies is called a tiding, one of ravens an unkindness, one of turtledoves a pitying, one of starlings a murmuration, one of swans a lamentation, one of ponies a string, one of rattlesnakes a rhumba, one of crows a murder, one of cobras a quiver, one of foxes a skulk, one of emus a mob, one of elks a gang, one of cats a clowder, one of flamingoes a pat, and one of bears a sleuth. Groups of geese are named in a peculiar manner; when they are on the ground they are called a "gaggle", but in the air they are called a "skein".

    The verb "cleave" has two opposite meanings. It can mean to adhere or to separate.

    Until the seventeenth century the word "upset" meant to set up (i.e. erect) something. Now it means the opposite: "to capsize".

    The word "kindergarten" is German for "children's garden". Friedrich Froebel, who coined the term, originally was planning to use the term "Kleinkinderbeschaftigungsanstalt" instead.

    The word slave comes from Slav, the name of a group of Eastern European peoples. In antiquity, Germanic tribes captured Slavs and sold them to the Romans as slaves

    There are 20 valid words with no vowels

    HM intj. expressing thought (hmm)
    MM intj. expressing satisfaction
    SH intj. used to urge silence (shh)
    BRR intj. used to indicate coldness (brrr)
    CWM circular basin with steep walls (cirque)
    HMM intj. expressing thought
    NTH pert. to item number n
    PHT intj. expressing mild anger or annoyance
    SHH intj. used to urge silence (sh)
    TSK to utter a scolding exclamation
    BRRR intj. used to indicate coldness
    CWMS [cwm] (circular basin with steep walls)
    PFFT intj. expressing an abrupt ending
    PSST intj. used to attract someone's attention
    TSKS [tsk] (to utter a scolding exclamation)
    CRWTH ancient stringed musical instrument
    PHPFT intj. expressing mild anger or annoyance (pht)
    CRWTHS [crwth] (ancient stringed musical instrument
    TSKTSK to utter a scolding exclamation (tsk)
    TSKTSKS [tsktsk] (to utter a scolding exclamation)

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  3. jlocke Registered Senior Member

    That hasn't been true for a very long time....
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  5. redarmy11 Registered Senior Member

    Shakespeare's Neologisms

    a. Successful (they caught on)


    cloud-capped (towers)
    heaven-kissing (hill)
    lacklustre (eye)

    b. Unsuccessful (they didn't)

    c. By other authors
    Other English authors followed in Shakespeare's word-making footsteps.

    MORE: Sir Thomas (1478-1535)
    ELYOT: Sir Thomas (1490-1546)
    JOHNSON: Ben (1573-1637)
    HOBBES: Thomas (1588-1679)
    his deathbed words were:
    'a great leap into the dark'.
    BROWNE: Sir Thomas (1605-82)
    MILTON: John (1608-74)
    PHRASES: darkness visible
    dim religious light
    fresh woods and pastures new (perhaps misquoted). "For all poetic and literary purposes, English reached perfection with Milton". Some see Milton's writing as a Pinnacle of Perfection.
    GRAY: Thomas (1716-71)
    (Elegy) knell
    BURKE: Edmund (1729-97)
    BENTHAM: Jeramy (1748-1832)
    international (he apologized for its inelegance)
    SCOTT: Sir Walter (1771-1832)
    passage of arms
    COLERIDGE: Samuel Taylor (1772-1834) homesick (translated from German)
    SHELLEY: Percy Bysshe (1792-1822)
    (Ode to a Skylark) blithe, hail,
    CARLYLE: Thomas (1795-1881)
    feckless (from Scotland)
    a bolt from the blue
    MACAULEY: Thomas Babington 1st. Baron (1800-1859)
    SPENCER: Herbert (1820-1903)
    elfin (maybe?)
    rosy-fingered (dawn)
    HUXLEY: Thomas Henry (1825-95)
    GALTON: Francis (1822-1911)
    SHAW: George Bernard (1856-1950) superman
    ORWELL: George (1903-50)
    Big Brother
    double think
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  7. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    The word for that is "contranym". There are many contranyms, but, strangely, cleave is the only one I can think of at 10:30 in the morning. I'll look around and see if I can find the radio spot I heard at random sometime in the last few months. (I'm not accustomed to being awake at this hour unless I'm seeing it from the other side. Thought comes slowly.)
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2007
  8. invert_nexus Ze do caixao Valued Senior Member

    I would suspect that 'cleave' initially referred to the divide between two things. Thus, it could be used to refer to either things separating (the cleave growing wider) or adhering (the cleave lessening or remaining small.)

    Just a guess.
    It's logical.
  9. redarmy11 Registered Senior Member

  10. greenberg until the end of the world Registered Senior Member

  11. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    This is true academically but not in practice. Since the number 10^9 has become common in financial discussions, the British press has picked up the American usage. Newspapers are always eager to save space and "thousand million" is too cumbersome. Not to mention the fact that there are now a great number of "billionaires" on the planet and "thousand-millionaires" is not a word that would roll off the tongue of anyone except an Oxbridge pedant.

    Our definition of trillion will be next. The cost of the Iraq war, as you pointed out in a post on another board, has now topped $1,000,000,000,000. The Brits can hardly call that a "billion," since they already acknowledge Warren Buffett and Bill Gates as "billionaires."

    We went over the nomenclature for powers of ten on the math board a couple of years ago. I think the thread was titled something like, "Thousand, Million, Billion, What's Next?" There is an elegant logical consistency to the British paradigm. The prefixes "mono-", "bi-", "tri-", etc., signfy multiples of 10^6. A centillion in their paradigm is 10^(100*6).

    In ours a centillion is 10^((100*3)+3), about what you'd expect from a people who still doggedly measure the world in twelve-inch feet, sixteen-ounce pounds, eight-pint gallons, 1/640th-of-a-square-mile acres, and a 180-degree span between the freezing and boiling points of water.

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    The English berate us for not speaking their language correctly, but only we have preserved their nostaligic measuring system. Don't we get credit for that?

    Our paradigm for powers of ten is actually French, not our own invention. The German word for a thousand million is Milliard, but for some reason the Brits refuse to use it. Many other countries use the British system and also avoid the German names for the intermediate numbers. This makes for some terribly awkward numerals in languages with complex grammar. It's bad enough that in England the diameter of our galaxy is six hundred thousand billion miles, instead of our six hundred quadrillion. But in Spanish it's cuatrocientos mil billones de kilómetros. "Four-hundreds thousand billions of kilometers." Studying astronomy that way must be about like doing it with Roman numerals.

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  12. invert_nexus Ze do caixao Valued Senior Member

    Many words that contain silent letters originated in a time in the history of the English language when scholars were trying to interject some of the history of a word into its written form.

    Island come from latin 'insula'. Thus the silent 's'.

    In old and middle english, there were letters derived from germanic runes which have since faded out of the alphabet. One of these was 'thorn'. The sound associated with thorn was a 'th' sound (oddly enough there were some three separate letters connoting a 'th' sound. They must have had subtle differences in inflection or something.) Anyway, the thorn character survives in the modern day in odd manner.

    Ye Old Curiousity Shop.

    The 'ye' comes from the fact that the thorn character could be seen as similar to 'y' if written quickly or sloppily.

    Old english for 'ask' was 'aks' and was transposed in a process labeled metathesis (this is also what occurs when children call spaghetti 'psghetti'). Interestingly, this transposition is occurring in reverse form among modern day african Americans "Let me aks you a question."
  13. MetaKron Registered Senior Member

    So when the Doctor says a trillion trillion years, does he mean 10^24 or 10^30 years?
  14. Enmos Registered Senior Member

    10^36 if you live in Europe
    10^24 if you live in the US
  15. Till Eulenspiegel Registered Member

    If you clip a clothes to a line you are attaching them. If you clip a coupon from a newspaper you are detaching it.

    If you continue doing something you don't stop doing it but in a court of law a continuence means to stop for awhile and start again later.

    Fast can mean moving quickly, that boy can run fast, or it can mean to not move. The board was nailed fast to the wall.

    Left can mean no longer here or something that remains. He left an hour ago but he left his keys on the table.
  16. tablariddim forexU2 Valued Senior Member

    The English language, like every foreign language student knows, is well fucked up.
  17. Till Eulenspiegel Registered Member

    Some more strange ane little used terms for gatherings of animals.

    Shrewdness of apes

    Cete of badgers

    Battery of barracuda

    Sedge of bitterns

    Sounder of boar

    Wake of buzzards

    Kindle of kittens

    Coalition of cheetahs

    Intrusion of cockroaches

    Business of ferrets

    Flamboyance of flamingoes

    Implausabity of gnus

    Troubling of goldfish

    Bloat of hippopotami

    Cackle of hyenas

    Husk of jackrabbits

    Smuck of jellyfish

    Parliament of owls
  18. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Looks like America has won this battle. I remember when I was a kid when it was still up for debate.

    The British system makes a lot more sense, of course. For example, consider the number:


    Under the "old" British system this would be.

    "One thousand, seven hundred and twenty-seven billion, five hundred and thirty-three thousand five hundred million, three hundred thousand, one hundred and twenty-one."

    The number is parsed as 1727,533500,300121. A longer number would be parsed in the form:


    where each set of numbers to the left is twice as many digits as the previous set. Sets are labelled from right to left as "units", millions, billions and trillions.

    In the US the same number would be


    "One quintillion, seven hundred and twenty-seven trillion, five-hundred and thirty-three billion, five hundred million, three hundred thousand, one hundred and twenty-one."

    The same, longer number above would be parsed as:


    In the British system, the "highest" order required for this number is trillion. In the US system, the highest order required would be whatever corresponds to the 14th order of "million". I'm not sure it even has a name.
  19. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    They were also slavishly copying the French spelling of words that had been borrowed from Norman French. French was already overdue for spelling reform in the Middle Ages and was rife with silent letters, like the H in honor and the C in arctic. French and English are still long overdue for spelling reforms. French and English have been allowed to get so bad that it's something of a joke to say we have a phonetic alphabet.
    Actually that's a false etymology. "Island" comes from Anglo-Saxon ig-land, an intensification of ig, which meant "island" all by itself, and is a cognate of the Latin word for water, aqua. The S was inserted in "island" because lexicographers thought it was related to the word "isle," which it is not. "Isle" is a French word which is indeed descended from Latin "insula," and the S is one of the myriad silent letters that make French spelling so hard to learn.
    As you know, there are two TH sounds in Modern English as there were in Anglo-Saxon. I only know of two TH letters in Anglo-Saxon, which were borrowed from the Norse alphabet. The letters and sounds are still present in Icelandic: thorn, which looks like one half of the Greek letter phi, and is pronounced like the soft TH in "lithe" or "there"; and eth, which looks like a lower-case D with a bar across the staff, and is pronounced like the hard TH in "bath" or "think". In Anglo-Saxon the letters were not used quite as rigorously as in Icelandic and sometimes either letter could designate either phoneme.
    All the sources I've reviewed insist that "ask" is the authentic ancient form, which is corroborated phonetically by cognates in other Indo-European languages. "Aks" is considered "dialect" and is not limited to the black American community. I've heard white Southerners talk that way.

    Metathesis typically occurs when a relatively rare sound combination can be swapped for a much more familiar one. SK is not found at the end of very many English words, whereas KS is common, so it's easy to make the substitution. (Very much the way certain poorly educated Americans replace the uncommon sound combination in "nuclear" with the more familiar combination from "spectacular.") I would expect this particular metathesis to fall out of vogue now that the computer era has made "disk" a household word and every modern manager uses the word "task" throughout the workday.
  20. MetaKron Registered Senior Member

    I don't even care to use anything but scientific notation for any number after a billion. I learned it in high school, it works, there is no ambiguity.
  21. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    You're going to have to raise your threshhold by three orders of magnitude. 10^12 is entering popular culture and popular culture isn't going to embrace scientific notation. It's impractical. Newscasters are not going to get the attention they crave by proclaiming: "The cost of the Iraq war has now exceeded ten to the twelfth dollars!" Any more than newspaper headlines are going to write it as $1,000,000,000,000--or with superscripts that the majority of their readers won't understand.

    The ambiguity will vanish. The rest of the world will fall in line with the American system just as the British are doing, because "thousand million" is awkward enough in English and even more so in many other languages.

    I agree that it would be elegant if we had all adopted the German paradigm: thousand, million, milliard, billion, billiard, trillion, trilliard, etc. But we didn't, for reasons I have never discovered.

    In Chinese, orders of magnitude are parsed by 10^4 rather than 10^3 or 10^6. They have a unique word for ten-thousand. I've never talked to a Chinese scientist to see how they cope with the Western system.

    BTW, "woteva" is soooo British. In America we pronounce it "whuddever," with our flapped-R for the intervocalic T. Same as in "Whudda ya wanna dooddanight? Gohdda the movies?" It's arguably the most recognizable, unique and universal attribute of all American dialects that makes our pronunciation instantly identifiable to all other anglophones.
  22. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

    I've never thought as deeply about Indian English, but we have some strange antiquated anomalies of our own.

    e.g. in official letters, we still use "please do the needful", which perhaps only PG Wodehouse would recognise as British English.

    Many of us have our own differences in pronounciation, saying tax which sounds like tex and themselves which sounds like damsels.

    There are also regional differences with Northerners likely to say jero for zero and iskool for school.

    Some more vagaries

    A number of distinctive features of Indian English are due to "the vagaries of English spelling".[10] In most Indian languages, unlike English, the spelling of a word is a highly reliable guide to its modern pronunciation.

    * In words where the digraph gh represents a voiced velar plosive (/g/) in other accents, some Indian English speakers supply an aspirated version [gʱ], for example ghost [gʱoːst]. No other accent of English admits this cluster.[8]
    * Similarly, the digraph wh may be aspirated as [ʋʱ] or [wʱ], resulting in realizations such as which [ʋʱɪʧ] found in no other English accent.[11]
    * The word "of" is usually pronounced with a /f/ instead of a /v/ as in most other accents.[9]
    * Use of [d] instead of [t] for the "-ed" ending of the past tense after voiceless consonants, for example "developed" may be [dɛʋləpd] instead of RP /dɪvɛləpt/.[8]
    * Use of instead of [z] for the "-s" ending of the plural after voiced consonants, for example "dogs" may be [dɒgs] instead of [dɒgz].[9]
    * In RP [Received Pronounciation], /r/ occurs only before a vowel. But much of General Indian English uses some sort of /r/ in almost all positions in words as dictated by the spellings.[9] Indian speakers do not typically use the retroflex approximant /ɻ/ for r, which is common for American English speakers.
    * All consonants are distinctly doubled in General Indian English wherever the spelling suggests so. e.g., drilling /dril.liŋg/.
    * English words borrowed from French are often given a French-influenced pronunciation, but in India, such words are sometimes pronounced according to the rules of English pronunciation. e.g., bouquet /bu.kɛt/ or /bau kwɛt/.
  23. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    I'm surprised to read that, since it has always seemed to me that Indians are very conscious of language. The diaspora Indians I've met in America (and there must be millions of you here) seem to very quickly adapt to American speech patterns. The Wikipedia article points to Peter Sellers's Indian immigrant in the 1968 movie "The Party" as a good portrayal of "Indian English." My wife and I missed that movie when it first came out and we happened to see it for the first time on the millennial New Year's Eve. (Nice nostalgic experience, BTW.

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    ) We both remarked, "Wow, it's been just about 32 years since we've heard an Indian talk like that!"

    I would say that today there are only a couple of features of the "Indian accent" that really stand out in the Melting Pot. One is the overuse of unaspirated plosives. The initial consonants in "tick" and "pot" are supposed to be followed by a puff of air, but Indians tend to pronounce them as in "stick" and "spot." The other is just cadence, which is generally the hardest aspect of a foreign language to adopt. Rising and falling tones, length of syllables, pauses between words, these things are as difficult to teach as they are to learn. People whose native languages have more syllables than English and are used to firing them out more quickly (Italian and Japanese being extreme cases) usually have an easier time mastering the cadence of English because they have time to think about it. When I hear Indic languages spoken they don't sound especially fast, so it's probably not as easy for their speakers to master our cadence. This is a huge problem for the Chinese, because not only is theirs one of the few languages that's spoken more slowly than American English, but they're accustomed to tone being phonemic.
    Over here you'll be in luck because we'll just assume that's quaint "proper" British English. We're not nearly as fussy about dialects in America, or even foreign accents. Even when we joke about them, it's pretty good-natured fun.
    English surely has one of the largest paradigms of vowels of any language. The Anglo-Saxons started out with the rather generous set of old Germanic vowels, which included a few umlauts. And then when the Normans came the English helped themselves to several of their vowels without really giving up very many of their own. To make matters worse, the English and Americans don't use the same paradigm. I'd say a good half of the vowels in either dialect do not exist in the other.

    But as I said, after a year or two in America, Indians seem to lose almost all of the "Indian accent." Only the cadence and the unaspirated consonants give you away.
    That's just an unconscious carryover of the aspirated voiced consonant paradigm in the Indic languages. Just like Greeks pronouncing the P in "psychology" as well as making the CH a fricative. I have had Indians sit patiently with me for ten minutes trying to teach me to say DH, GH or BH, and I just can't do it. It is so frustrating! You make it sound so easy!
    When I was young, only going back to the middle of the last century, I heard snobbish people from both England and New England aspirate the W in words like "which" and "what." They came out as "hwich" and "hwat." This is in fact the ancient pronunciation of those words, although I believe that as early as Shakespeare's day the H had fallen silent. Remember that in accordance with Verner's Law, the common sound KW in Indo-European became HW in proto-Germanic. All the question words that begin with QU in Latin begin with HV in the Scandinavian languages and WH in English, althought the H has not been pronounced in centuries. The Germans just spell it W and the Dutch just spell it V.
    We could not possibly pronounce those combination of sounds, any more than we can pronounce DH.
    I had to read up on retroflex consonants to even understand this, and it's still not clear. But there are a few rhotic dialects in England, and some of them pronounce R the way we do. Wikipedia says that Indian English sounds more like Scots dialect than the language of England, so I suppose that means you use the flapped R of Scotland.
    So how do you pronounce "drill" without the participial suffix?

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    We're pretty bad about French words over here, you're likely to hear bouquet pronounced BO-kay. We completely mangle lingerie into lon-zhe-RAY instead of lan-zhe-REE. We're better with Spanish. We say te-KEE-la, the Brits say ta-QUILL-ah. In the West we even say ro-DAY-oh instead of ROW-dee-oh.

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