Fraggle Q2

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Xotica, Mar 15, 2012.

  1. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Yes, I know American dictionaries list "firstly," just as they list "ain't" and "snuck." They record "dove" as an alternative for "dived," "buffalo" as a popular but unscientific word for the American bison, and "lay" as a synonym for "lie." They register the increasingly common enunciation of the silent T in "often" and the silent C in "arctic." English is a democratic language, not an authoritarian one.

    The purpose of a German or French dictionary is to tell the user how to speak and write German or French properly. The purpose of an English dictionary is to help the user understand the chaotic variations of the language that they are likely to encounter in the absence of any authority.

    Nonetheless, "firstly" is regarded by most editors as bad English and "secondly" is regarded by virtually all editors as utterly wretched English.

    The distinction you point out between "lastly" and "finally" is accurate, but the same distinction holds if you use the preferred word "last," which, like "first" and "second," functions as both adjective and adverb in proper English.

    John and Mary live within walking distance of the theater so they arrived first. I had to drive in from the suburbs and there was an accident on the freeway, so I arrived last and was almost late.

    No one would think of using "firstly" and "lastly" in those sentences. So why use them ever?
  2. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.
  3. rcscwc Registered Senior Member

    But I arrived late, because, firstly, I live 50 km away. Secondly, my car had broken down. Thirdly, a cab was hard to find. Lastly, I came to know of it very late.

    You are quite democratic with Americans, but are nearly a linguist taliban towards me. Why? After all, if a word is listed in a dictionary, how can you object to its usage? Even if if a word is listed ONLY in an India dictionary, you should show a democratic spirit. If it is not listed anywhere, even then you must respect my democratic right to use it, as long as you get the import, WHICH you did.

    Your puritanism shall get a severe jolt if you overhear two Indians talking. They would be mixing Indian language words with English so much that it would sound as not pure English!!

    PS: On a forum, not here, a member wondered if I knew English, as I use colour, honour, defence etc. Surely, I cannot pander to whims and fancies of everyone.

    PPS 1: We have an Indian version of English, and are quite OK with it. It is also, sometimes snidely, called Hinglish, the most popular version.

    Come on yaar, compared to our languages, English has a primitive grammar. That maybe its strength too, as everyone free to customise it. [yaar is a persian term, adopted by Hindi, and means a friend. Might mean lover if of opposite sex. Not persians, but we use it as an abuse word too.]

    Note : Spell check suggested customize, but thank you, I am ok with my spellings.
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2012
  4. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.
  5. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    That's not the same syntactical use of the words. My example was, "They arrived firstly and I arrived lastly." No one anywhere would use those words that way. It's, "They arrived first and I arrived last."
    I'm just as hard on Americans who use substandard English in writing.
    As I already explained, American dictionaries are authorities on use rather propriety. They do, after all, define "ain't," a word which should never be used at all except in insulting jokes about uneducated people.
    You have a right to use it. As I said, English is a democratic language. There is no Academy, as in Spain, no government department, as in Germany, to track you down and issue a fine for using a foreign word or bad grammar. However, those of us who are the de facto caretakers of the written language also have the right to attempt to uphold standards so that our language does not fragment into myriad dialects which thwart understanding and solidarity, nor lose its precision so that Chinese becomes a more suitable language for science, diplomacy and scholarship.
    As I also mentioned, I am surrounded by Indians in my office. Indian English is a recognized standard dialect, like American English and British English. It's not clear whether Australian and South African are different enough to qualify, nor whether New Zealand is different enough from Australian to merit its own identify.
    Well then he's a moron, isn't he?
    I have no authority or even desire to demand that you "pander" to the rules of American English--which BTW are neither "whims" nor "fancies". I'm just explaining why standardization is important, in particular why there is absolutely no reason to coin words like "firstly" and "lastly."
    One could just as easily argue that languages with more complex grammatical rules are the "primitive" ones, since those rules hinder the creation and adoption of new words and stifle the absorption of new ways of thinking. Just read a technical description of a product in Spanish! It's twice as long. Chinese has the simplest grammatical paradigm of any language I've studied, and its adaptability is amazing.
    You must have a black-market copy of an American word processor, rather than the British or Indian edition which one would expect to be standard in your country.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

  6. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.
  7. rcscwc Registered Senior Member

    You defend Americans' right of usage, but are intolerant of our extentions.

    That reference to a black market copy is a personal slur on me. No need to be personal, even if you your demoractic credentials are absent in my case. Btw, what immoral about my usage. Which propriety rules are broken? Why should anyone be offended, after all I did not use swear words, did I?

    You studied Chinese? Then go for Sanskrit. Many Buddhist texts in Sanskrit and Pali are extant in China, not to talk of translations thereof. Could Chinese have been immune from Sanskrit influence, at least in scholarly literature? A nice research topic for you.

    Out of spite, if you wish to call Sanskrit a primitive language because it has the most logical and sceintific grammar, then it is your prerogative.
  8. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Hey, I'm not intolerant. I'm just mouthing off. If I call English a "democratic language," then I have to treat it as one, right? But that doesn't mean I have to be happy when I see things that look more like sloppiness and laziness, than like true creativity in response to a need.
    Its a joke, dude. Lighten up! Everybody's got black market software! It's the scourge of the online economy: a product can be duplicated at the touch of a button.
    I'm sure I didn't use the word "immoral."
    The word "propriety" means something else; it's not quite the same as simply a noun formed by Latin inflection from the adjective "proper." "Impropriety" actually does imply a lesser form of immorality, including something as minor as failing to offer to shake a man's hand on being introduced, because you're holding a very full cup of coffee and are afraid of spilling it if you try to put it down. Whereas the word "proper" simply means "correct" in virtually any sense of the word, from correct morality, to the correct way to attach an antenna to a receiver, to the correct way to conjugate a verb.
    Well once again, please forgive me if I implied that anyone would be offended. The reason I attempt to teach people to use proper English is that it expedites communication. The use of non-standard grammar, slang words not widely known, or the dialect of one anglophone community in a group in which everyone else is a member of another community, can cause misunderstanding.

    A misunderstanding is far more easily forgiven than an offense, but paradoxically it may be considerably more difficult to solve.

    My Indian friends frequently pronounce words in ways that we Americans simply cannot understand. (It's somewhat easier for the British, since Indian English is an offshoot of their dialect, not ours.) We are not offended and we automatically forgive the error. But that doesn't help us figure out what they're trying to say!
    I'm not interested in learning a language to read. I want to speak it. There are millions of Mandarin-speaking people in the USA. Like Spanish, I could carry on a conversation in Mandarin every day if I wanted to.

    In addition, as a linguist, I find Chinese very interesting because it is not an Indo-European language so it is completely unrelated to English. (Sanskrit is Indo-European, closely related to Farsi, more distantly to Russian and Lithuanian, and still more distantly to Latin, Greek and English.) When you study a foreign language you learn a new way of thinking. The more different it is from your own language, the more different the thinking. Being able to think in two much different ways has simply got to be an advantage in the modern world: you can reality-test your own thoughts!
    Chinese has largely resisted the influence of most other languages because its grammatical and phonetic structure is incompatible with them. There are some modern words which were formed in the same way as the European equivalents, such as qi you for "petroleum"--they both literally mean "stone oil." On the other hand, their word for "telephone" is not "distant sound" like ours; it is dian hua, "electric speech." An an "automobile" is not a "self mover"; it is a "motor wagon," qi che.

    I have no idea how the Chinese acolytes coined words to express the concepts of Buddhism.
    I did not "call" Sanskrit a primitive language. I merely made the point that if one is going to demean a language because of its structure, the most honored languages, like Sanskrit, Latin and Greek, are not immune to the charge.

    And there's no good way to determine which language has the "most" logical and scientific grammar. All that matters is whether it is a good tool for its speakers to express themselves. Sanskrit has evolved over the centuries into the modern Indic languages, just as Latin has evolved into French, Spanish, Italian, Romanian, etc. Both ancient languages have been kept alive by scholars, since they both have a rich trove of literature and as we all (hopefully) know, it is better to read literature in the original language than a translation. But neither Latin nor Sanskrit would be the best tool for communicating in the 21st century. Just look at the Pope's speeches; they are full of awkward constructions as he struggles to accommodate 1500 years of changes in culture, politics, human relations, science, etc., into the language of Ovid. I'm sure the specialized scholars who make it their business to be fluent speakers of Sanskrit have a similar problem, although I've been told that it's not nearly as awkward to use in today's world as Latin is.
  9. rcscwc Registered Senior Member


    1. Your joke was black and not appreciated.

    2. This is a forum for discussing linguistics, not teaching of English language.

    3. As further "explained" by you, there is a very thin line between improper and immoral. No, it not like that. To call a blind man a blind man, is improper, but being the truth [harsh], it is not immoral. Again, we consider it improper to offer shake hand of a woman, but if she initiates it then it is OK. No immorality involved. Last, in India it is not necessary to shake hands even. A namaste with joined palms is much more prevalent, and it is for all occasions. Try that, it is much more mutually satisfactory.

    4. Your Indian friends pronounce words which are hard to understand by you. But it is the other way round too. Ever thought?
  10. Chipz Banned Banned

    Your right to offense does not translate as an obligation for others to act, deal with it.

    This is a linguistic subfora which is inexorably linked to customs and nuanced interpretation. Instead of applying your local interpretation of the link between improper and immoral why not accept his words which described intent explicitly?

    I speak two languages, one was learned later in life. I find myself absent the colloquialisms, abbreviations, and implicit relationships between cultural concepts. I work with a man from India currently, he speaks rather well. However, he often fails to grasp Americanism's, because in truth their literal translation is nonsensical.
  11. Xotica Everyday I’m Shufflin Registered Senior Member

    I daresay, your cultural views of gender etiquette are not universal.
  12. rcscwc Registered Senior Member

    Maybe so, but you can hardly fault them.

    From Wiki

    In the Muslim World, to shake hands with somebody is a welcome sign and the practice of the Prophet Mohammed. The social behavior of the Companions also included handshaking along with saying, "As-Salamu `Alaikum." This Hadith by Abu Dawud shows that the custom of handshaking was prevalent in Yemen before Islam. When some Yemenites came to see the Prophet, they displayed their practice of handshake. He approved of it and made it a part of his sunnah.

    In some Muslim countries (such as Turkey or the Arabic-speaking Middle East), handshakes aren't as firm as in North America and Europe. Consequently, a grip which is too firm will be considered as rude. In Turkey, outside business situations, shaking hands is not the standard greeting among men. In casual non-business situations, men will less likely shake hands and among women hardly at all. Kissing each other on the cheek twice is a more common practice.[9]

    In Sudan, people who know each other a good pat on the shoulder of the other before shaking hands.

    In China, where a weak handshake is also preferred, people shaking hands will often hold on to each other's hands for an extended period after the initial handshake.[9]

    In Japan, it is appropriate to let the Japanese initiate the handshake, and a weak handshake is preferred.[9]

    In South Korea, a senior person will initiate a handshake, where it is preferred to be weak. It is a sign of respect to grasp the right arm with the left hand when shaking hands.

    Last edited: Mar 25, 2012
  13. Xotica Everyday I’m Shufflin Registered Senior Member


    Stay on target. You pointedly and specifically referenced a handshake between a man and woman...

    As I replied, what you consider improper is not a universal viewpoint.
  14. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    This is a cultural issue. In America we joke about black market software all the time. (We actually use the word "bootleg" rather often, but I assumed that you might not understand it.) No offense was intended so I apologize, but I also urge you to "get with the program," to use an American colloquialism. Most Americans will not understand why you consider that an insult, so very few of them will bother apologizing.
    Actually quite a bit of teaching occurs on the Linguistics board. Saint started a question-and-answer thread a long time ago and it now has 20 pages. I'm the most experienced teacher here (I've taught technical and business writing and English-as-a-second-language as well as other subjects such as software measurement) and I'm also the most knowledgeable about linguistics, so I answer more of the questions than the other members do. Nonetheless the other members do chime in.

    Any forum in which people ask questions about the use of language is a teaching forum. And this is true whether they are native speakers of a single dialect (most of us are Americans); native speakers of another dialect (we have plenty of Indians here as well as Aussies and Kiwis, all of whom speak dialects other than American English); or speakers of another language (we have members who speak Chinese, Russian and several others).
    In America when you say namaste to an Indian man he bows and returns it. But if you say it to an Indian woman she just giggles and thinks you're silly. A friend finally explained to me that when a foreigner says namaste to an Indian woman, she thinks he is just flirting. It would really be bad to say that to her if she's with her husband!
    Of course! Although these people have lived in America for so many years that they now understand our accent. It's easier to learn to understand someone else's accent than it is to learn to mimic it. I know people who have lived here for fifty years and their pronunciation is still so bad that we have trouble understanding them. (I'm not talking about Indians; I would say that Russians and Chinese have the biggest problem with English phonetics.)
    Of course it's not an obligation, especially in America where manners are not a high priority. We are regarded as the rudest people on earth by many foreigners. Nonetheless, I don't see any reason to be proud of that reputation. Civilization is, after all, built on the premise that we are civil to each other. This means that we should try not to casually hurt each other for no reason or very little reason. Obviously that includes not hurting each other with words, which are not too difficult to correct.

    English is like Spanish: There is a huge international community consisting of many different countries in which people speak the same language. But unlike Spanish, the differences in culture and customs between the various English-speaking countries is much greater. A Nicaraguan can fairly easily avoid being casually rude to an Argentine; even in Spain the customs are familiar enough that Latin Americans can be polite with only a little bit of thoughtfulness.

    But on the other hand it's easy for Americans and Englishmen to insult each other without thinking, despite our shared language. Fortunately we have been watching each other's movies and TV shows and listening to each other's music for so long that we're used to it and we usually just laugh instead of taking offense.

    And the difference between America and India is much greater. Indians are a different culture; they're not just the great-grandchildren of English immigrants like we Americans are (spiritually if not by DNA). India has a separate history going all the way back to its origin: It's one of the world's six independently-founded civilizations, not an offshoot of Mesopotamian civilization as all of Europe, the Middle East and Americas are. [The other four are China, Egypt, Olmec and Inca.] On top of that it was overrun by the Persian empire; so it has roots in both Hindu and Muslim culture, unlike our roots in Christianity. This makes it really different.
    Indeed. I understand that in some contexts "immoral" and "improper" have similar meanings; nonetheless to be accused of doing something immoral is much harsher than to be accused of doing something improper. In other contexts there is no comparison. To tell someone that the reason his TV isn't working is that he connected the components improperly is no moral judgment at all: it's just a helpful technical comment. If you say he did it "immorally," at the very least that means something like having bootlegged his neighbor's cable or satellite service and getting it without paying for it. Even so, in America it's a national pastime to cheat corporations so this immorality is of a very minor kind, unless you happen to be talking to the police.
    The idioms of any dialect of any language are often inscrutable. That's what makes them idioms!
    It's commonly asserted that the practice of shaking hands evolved in the Bronze Age as a means of demonstrating to a person from another tribe or city that you are not concealing a weapon. Apparently everybody was right-handed in those days.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    Yes, over the past few decades handshaking has become a sport and men try to fracture each other's metacarpals to show which one is stronger.
    That is still practiced is some European cultures but never in America. It carries a hint of homosexuality, an issue with which our culture has been struggling for half a century. We've made a lot of progress but heterosexual men are still not ready to kiss each other.
    In those countries bowing is the traditional greeting and it comes with a whole catalog of nuances. The person of lower social status bows first and bows lowest, one always bows deeply to a foreign guest, etc. Handshaking is strictly a Western practice. They have adopted it in order to integrate with the Western economies, but it still feels foreign to them.

    In America, since the feminist movement began in the 1960s, it has become almost standard for women to shake hands with men or with each other, at least in business relationships.

    Lately, hugging has become common practice, although not in business. When you meet a person you know socially, even if one of you is male and one female, the greeting is often a hug. It's very unusual for Americans to shake hands outside of the business environment. In some social groups men and women will kiss each other, even if they're just friends without any romantic involvement.

    Many of the Indian women I work with are so Americanized that they practice hugging too (even men). I understand that in the old country this might be considered scandalous in public.
  15. Walter L. Wagner Cosmic Truth Seeker Valued Senior Member

    Fraggle, what do you know about the custom of bowing and curtsey?

    When I was in Germany circa 1970, one family 'forced' the daughter, on meeting me, to curtsey. She was obviously uncomfortable in doing so, but did so very well on prompting from her father. I gathered it was a dying custom at that time. I'd only seen it in movies before that.

    Likewise, bowing is not common in the US (virtually unheard of, other than in movies), but very common in Japan. Of course, President Obama bowed to the King of Saudi Arabia, for reasons of his own.

    Any insight to these customs?
  16. rcscwc Registered Senior Member

    Also, what you consider "proper" may not be universal viewpoint. Universal viewpoints do include VPs of non westren cultures. Deny it?

    I am on target. In fact I seem to have have scored a bull's eye.

    Frankly, Fraggle's knowledge of India and its culture, languages, customs is bound by what appears on the web. Reason he committed so many sanfus about Sanskrit. He knows every language and culture on this earth, but not Hindu/Indian.

    My general advice: If you ever visit some non westren land, please aquaint yourself about what NOT to do. If you do not, thec reaction can be voilent in muslim countries, but a general derisive giggles in India.
  17. rcscwc Registered Senior Member

    Fraggle Rocker;2919366

    Black market. Might be joke for you, but is a serious slur on me. It has the potential of ruining my reputation, only THIS forum is not so UNIVERSAL. Black market hereabouts means paying more than the legitimate legal prices [why should I have a BM SW?]

    Hugging: Please do not try to hug an Indian woman in India, unless you are a woman. It might invite a stinging slap. might not SHALL.

    Teaching linguistics. Pal, you strut about too tall. Are you the really "most" expirienced teacher? Maybe in a school, but I do not need head mastering.

    Ask questions: Please do ask questions, any question about our language and culture. But you can not question them. Like I do not question yours.

    Namaste: Women giggled? Sure they did. You never were sincere. Women can see much more than you think.

    Have you Indian women in your office? Say namaste to them as a routine. Attitide shall change. Right now, they do not believe you.

    Evolution of handshake in bronze age: Maybe it did evolve in the west. But did it evolve in the EAST?

    Kissing each other on the cheek : Sorry again. In general, please do attempt i9n India. Of course, I do kiss my g'lovies on their cheeks whenever they get up. Lols, my g'daughter might demand it multiple times. OK by me. In India it has no sexual connotation.
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2012
  18. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Or just add the nationality in brackets, after the person's name.

    Similarly as US politicans are referred to, for example
    Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.)

    (And please, keep politics out of this, I simply clicked on the list of US senators by alphabetical order of states, and Alabama comes first there.)
  19. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Prepare for a bloodbath!

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

  20. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Nothing. I'm a musician and a linguist, not very visually-oriented. My wife says that if I went blind it would take me a couple of days to notice.
    Even I know that curtseying is a sexist custom. It was considered scandalous for a woman to bow, bending at the waist and accentuating her derriere. So she had to bend at the knees. I'm sure any Western woman born after WWII would consider the abolition of curtseying to be an example of what feminism and the Sexual Revolution were all about, rather than promiscuity and single motherhood.
    Have men in the West ever bowed to anyone but royalty? Tipping our hats was a more common gesture of respect, and a democratic one because both parties would do it.
    And once in China and Korea too, although it's dying out in the "classless" communist societies.

    Bowing has more dynamics than a handshake. One fellow can bow deeper and longer than the other.
    And he wonders why the retards think he's a Muslim! Still, he's got nothing on Backward Baby Bush, who was photographed holding hands with the guy!
    Well I'm terribly sorry and I've already apologized. But as I said, this place is basically an American place. We use American English, American idioms, and American cultural references. We even have occasional misunderstandings with our British members.
    Here the primary meaning is to buy something illegally, either because: 1) It is actually illegal to buy it at all, like recreational drugs; or 2) Because the thing you are buying is legal but this one was stolen and you're buying it from a thief.

    In the former case you're paying much more than a fair price. For example, marijuana is a weed that grows wild anywhere in acidic soil, from the equator to Alaska, yet an ounce of it sells for $600 in the USA.

    In the latter case you're paying less than a fair price because it's stolen and the thief got it for free. Since software is so easy to copy, black market software is always cheaper than a legitimate product. So I don't understand why it costs more in India. Don't you have "software pirates" like we do, who make a career of copying software and selling it privately?
    I know not to touch a woman in India at all, unless we are very good friends. It seems that in America, some Indian women are going through the same cycle of liberation that our own women went through fifty years ago. Apparently some of them resented not being able to touch their friends back home, so they're delighted to be able to do it here.
    I'm not a headmaster. Just a tutor.
    Actually I was trying to be friendly, not amorous. I don't say it to strangers, but to women I have known for a long time, like my doctor or my manager.
    There are many Indian women in my office. One of them even told me to say namaste. But she's Americanized and is just as happy to say "Hi."
    They didn't leave us any videos so we will probably never know.
    We don't kiss each other on the cheek. We kiss each other on the lips. It doesn't take much cultural sensitivity to realize that it would be a stupid mistake to do that in India.

    Even here, you let the lady initiate it the first time. They don't all do it so you don't know who would appreciate it and who would be angry, or at least embarrassed.
  21. rcscwc Registered Senior Member


    Namaste has no amorous angle to it. It can be used safely for complete strangers too. Namste is ok with or without joined palm, but nobody bows with it, not in India.

    Of course, hi too is used a lot by the younsters. Mostly for their friends.

    So, the reference is infructutous.

    Actually, greetings are more personalised in India. With friends, immidiately after namaste is exchanged, next step would be to enquire: Bal Gopals happy?

    Bal is child, Gopal is a name of Krishna. So you are enquiring about the kids' welfare.
  22. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    That seems to be an Indian English word ...
  23. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member


    Posted by Sunil Jose on November 14, 2007

    “Infructuous” is a word that is not used very often by native speakers of English, it is however quite popular among newspaper reporters in India.

    The word means “unprofitable, unfruitful, and ineffective”.

    Here are a few examples. *After several infructuous interviews to find a job, Ashwini turned to crime. *Gauri made an infructuous appeal to the Chairman to retain the services of Arun. *Sashidhar made several infructuous attempts to steal the Nizam’s diamonds.

    The Hindu – KYE, Tuesday, October 16, 2001​
    It comes from fructus, the Latin word for "fruit."

    It's not in (with an 11-year head start), which means that it does not occur in American or British English.

    Notice the distinctly non-American punctuation. We bracket the word "however" with commas.

Share This Page