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June 17, 2007

Also, “stuff it” doesn’t mean exactly the same thing as “get stuffed”
Posted by Patrick at 12:07 PM * 313 comments

First, the verbs “to whine” and “to whinge” don’t connote exactly the same kind of behavior, any more than do the verbs “to whine” and “to bitch.” There are no true synonyms, language isn’t a code, and most common verbs refer to a range of actions, rather than something precise. Meaning emerges from usage; language is a negotiation, not a set of rules and definitions handed down from on high.

Second, there’s a repeated claim in the thread below that Americans who pick up Briticisms like “whinge” or “wanker” do so only in order to be “pretentious.” This is ridiculous. It’s 2007. British people—at least, British people who aren’t in a coma—are immersed in American vocubulary, slang, and idioms; and, increasingly, Americans are constantly exposed to British English. Unsurprisingly, this means that lots of Brits and Americans are picking up one another’s language quirks in a process of linguistic cross-fertilization exactly like the way language has always been transmitted throughout the entire history of the world. If you really want to insist that this makes those people “pretentious,” you’re a pinhead.

Comments on Also, "stuff it" doesn't mean exactly the same thing as "get stuffed":
#1 ::: Smashed ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 12:44 PM:

I agree completely. Sometimes the adoptions are of words with connotations no single American word has.

There are some Englishisms that I wish hadn't crossed the pond, like "row" for "argument". Our local NPR station uses it, and I find it annoying.

Also, I wonder if "waiting on" (as in "waiting on line", rather than "waiting in line") is from British English - or has been in America for some time. When I was growing up, the only thing that was waited on was tables...

Thanks for the venue - I've needed to get this off my chest for some time.

#2 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 12:47 PM:

Yay! I'm not pretentious! Patrick says so.

(Side query: Should we still standardise our spelling and whatnot when we submit manuscripts to publishers? I have received the advice that I should standardise my spellings to American English, and cut out the colloquialisms. No "faery", no "grey", none of that. Please advise.)

#3 ::: josh jasper ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 12:53 PM:

As an expat who grew up in a crown commonwealth, I have a "get of of being accused of being pretentious free" card. Britishisms *are* something I can claim as part of my heritage.

But yeah. Anyone claiming an American using "whinge" is pretentious needs to get over themselves.

#4 ::: Rachel Heslin ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 12:54 PM:

"Grey" is a colloquialism?

#5 ::: Laurie D. T. Mann ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 12:54 PM:

Until I read yesterday's posting, I always thought "whinge" was FANNISH not BRITISH. I didn't think I was being pretentious...it's not like I say "colour" or anything like that...

#6 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 12:59 PM:

#2: "Faery" isn't the British spelling of "fairy." "Faery" and "fairy" are both legitimate spellings, save than in the last few decades, the former has tended to be used as an adjective denoting things that have a fairy-ish quality. (And of course "Faerie" is a place.)

#7 ::: alice ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 01:00 PM:

In response to #1, "waiting on line" (as opposed to "in line") has long been a feature of English in the New York metropolitan area. I didn't know that most of the rest of the country waited IN line until I started grad school in Texas and my classmates (in a Linguistics program, no less) commented on my usage. They, of course, had read that people in New York waited ON line, but didn't believe it until they actually heard someone use the collocation.

#8 ::: wychwood ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 01:02 PM:

I've only ever heard "waiting on line" from Americans; I don't think it's a Britishism at all.

And I've picked up all sorts of Americanisms from fandom and US friends; it's only fair that you lot should pick up our slang too! *g*

#9 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 01:05 PM:

Smashed @ #1

As a Brit with a few decades of residence in the UK, I can say that I've never heard "waiting on line" used in the UK. In fact, your posting was my first exposure to the phrase...

#10 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 01:07 PM:

In fact, waiting 'on line' instead of 'in line' is so ingrained in New York usage that I once saw a sign advertising 'on line skates'.

#11 ::: Smashed ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 01:13 PM:

Thanks for the clarification. My boss is originally from NY, which is probably why I've been noticing it lately. Glad to know that I don't have to blame the Brits.

#12 ::: Ian Ireland ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 01:16 PM:

#s 1, 7 - 10:

I think the Britishism might be "waiting in queue"?

#13 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 01:20 PM:

Wait. "Row", as to (v) engage in petty conflict, or (n) a petty conflict, is a Briticism? I've heard it all my life, from the lips of some old and not-at-all-British people.

I think that's pretty much a generalized, standard, usage.

#14 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 01:24 PM:

Patrick,

If you really want to insist that this makes those people “pretentious,” you’re a pinhead.

Didn't you mean 'you're a wanker'?

#15 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 01:24 PM:

No, I believe that the British simply queue. New Yorkers wait on line. Everyone one else in the US waits in line.

At least in my experience. Canadians also queue.

#16 ::: jane ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 01:26 PM:

As a part-time Caledonian, I find myself using crossover phrases all the time without realizing it.
Not putting it on, just bleed-through, I suppose.

And I have yet to find an American equivalent of gobsmacked.

Jane

#17 ::: sharon ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 01:28 PM:

FWIW, Brits would usually say 'queueing'.

#18 ::: sharon ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 01:29 PM:

Or should that be 'queuing'? Either looks very weird to me today.

#19 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 01:33 PM:

(16): And I have yet to find an American equivalent of gobsmacked.

Flabbergasted? Dumbfounded?

#20 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 01:38 PM:

#16 Jane: Gobsmacked isn't American? I've heard it all my life. "Shut yer gob" and "gobstoppers" always seemed really American, too. (As is "shut yer piehole" which is quite fun.)

#21 ::: jmmcdermott ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 01:39 PM:

National identity tied to spelling and grammar? Ick.

A strong tendency among grammarians is to value the rule of grammar over the spirit of language. I tend to favor the spirit of the laws of grammar. namely, I prefer to focus on clarity, not correctness. In a perfect world the two are one and the same. but in this world, often we must choose to favor clarity or the structures of grammar in tiny ways that irk me now and then.

I'm still up in arms about the insistence that "alright" isn't a word just because strunk and white didn't like the slang spelling of something that wasn't quite a word yet in 1911.

in common usage - dialog especially - "alright" ought to be an acceptable word.

I am sick and tired of seeing the jarringly incorrect meaning of "all right" used everywhere in dialog instead of the correct word that people are actually saying: "alright".

in 1911, "alright" was a misspelling of "all right" meaning "all correct". In 2007 the word "alright" means something similar to "okay". "Alright" often sounds smoother without the harsh "k" sound in softer dialog. But, because of the prejudices of the professors of 1911, writers are often still disallowed using this young word.

If this brief mini-rant is any indication, I'm all for allowing the continents to bleed all of our languages together into one gorgeous, delirious cousin of Esperanto. I'd call it Esperanza, except that at the wonderful juncture of tongues, I don't think anyone will need a name for the way people speak anymore. They certainly wouldn't need a language name imposed externally by the likes of me.

#22 ::: sdn ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 01:40 PM:

::sharpens head::

hmm.

maybe i should qualify this.

i have a problem with affected language use of all sorts -- i.e., someone who consciously lards his or her speech with mannerisms in an attempt to be something he or she is not.

how's that? can i blunt my head again?

#23 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 01:41 PM:

jane @ 14

And I have yet to find an American equivalent of gobsmacked.

AFAIK there isn't one, which is why I've taken it up. It expresses something that in American requires a circumlocution like "so astonished as to strike one's forehead and drop one's jaw" to express it.

#24 ::: jmmcdermott ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 01:43 PM:

Oh, and re-reading, it sounds like i'm needlessly attacking the original post. That would be silly, since I'm actually agreeing with it, heartily.

So, if I could edit posts, I'd put this line at the beginning:

"I agree with the author of this post about how foolish it is to fight the bleeding of languages across continents."

Then, commence with "National Identity tied to..."

Sorry, folks. With practice, I may improve.

#25 ::: Nomie ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 01:50 PM:

I actually got in a linguistic tussle with a UK English-speaking friend yesterday; apparently, according to her and a recipe on the BBC website, the Southwestern US dish of meat, optional beans, and spicy peppers is "chilli," not "chili." I am a US English-speaker and have never seen the double-L spelling in my life until now.

Sharon 17/18, I believe it's queueing. But I could be wrong.

#26 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 01:52 PM:

Mary Aileen @ 19

I think of 'gobsmacked' as a combination of 'flabbergasted' and 'dumfounded' with a twist of 'awestruck by the implications'. I get the sense that it's not simple astonishment about a single event or proposition, but also amazement at what that implies about related events, or the worldview of the proposer.

For instance, it's not just the crazyness of the things that the current US administration does that gobsmack me, but what those things say about the things they believe about the way the world works.

#27 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 01:56 PM:

Is the golden age of proper English the same as the golden age of science fiction--fourteen?

If someone is speaking today, using language that is used today should not come as a surprise. I only quibble with dialogue in historical fiction, and even there, if the point is to translate the time for the reader, I suppose an atrocity like "impact" used as a verb should be accepted.

Yes, I'm a traditionalist, though I fight it. If a new choice is clearer and shorter, either in spelling or pronunciation, I'll embrace it. That's practical. Pretentious people prefer the longer choice.

And the longer choice isn't the whole test of pretention. Sometimes we're just the people who are typing too quickly.

#28 ::: Piers Cawley ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 02:01 PM:

I'm pretty certain that "stuff it" doesn't mean remotely the same thing as "get stuffed", but what do I know?

Personally, I'd be more likely to say "soddit" than the former anyway.

I'm not sure if it's an Englishism, but, although I've never come across "waiting on line" before this thread, I've certainly used "I'm waiting on a phone call/Joe Bloggs" to mean I'm waiting for the event/person. If I'm waiting until the pubs open, then I'm waiting while they open. But I'm from Yorkshire and we're contrary buggers in that county.

#29 ::: sdn ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 02:03 PM:

i have been hauled into the headsharpener privately.

so i guess i will rephrase again:

my own personal past experience has gifted me with a truckload of pompous, affected, and/or condescending people who were and are prone to all sorts of linguistic adoption and abuse.

so this is a hot button for me. please still like me!

#30 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 02:09 PM:

I think of the Atlantic as having four shores, not the two we normally think of when we look at the different Englishes. There's the American shore, fer shore, the Canadian shore,eh, the British shore, surely, and the Caribbean shore, where old pirates, yes, they rob I. In all these places there are different standard Englishes operating by subtly (or not so subtly) different rules of orthography, grammar and usage. And all of them interact (in ways that might leave trustafarian wankers well and truly gobsmacked).

#31 ::: DoonboggleFrog ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 02:10 PM:

I am amazed by the posters who are saying that "waiting on line" is a "New York-ism" rather than a Britishism. I use it all the time along with a long list of other (what I've always assumed were) Britishisms (grey, whinge, etc.). I've always assumed that I picked these all up from the same sources: Adams, Pratchett, Monty Python, BtVS, that many of the other Americans on this list are quoting.

I do enjoy the occasional Woody Allen movie -- can we blame him for this particular New York-ism spreading from its homeland?

BTW: Rewatching the series premier of Buffy as I type. Willow: "Do you have Mr. Chomsky for history?" The geek-culture references come a mile a minute if you are paying attention, don't they?

#32 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 02:12 PM:

Sharyn! I like you fine!

Really, I'm a pinhead several times a day. I mean, come on, perspective.

#33 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 02:12 PM:

sdn, 29: I will forgive you nearly anything just because of the "Firebirds" anthologies. Where were they when I was a teenager?* And from my point of view, your comment at 22 made perfect sense.

*and when is the next one coming out?

#34 ::: DoonboggleFrog ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 02:13 PM:

..."blame" for certain non-judgemental values of the term.

I think that Malcolm Reynolds uses "whinge" several times in Firefly.

#35 ::: mk ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 02:22 PM:

For 'gobsmacked' I think of 'whop yo' jaw'. I think regard that as Hawaiian Creole but Deep South friends found it recognizable as being part of the 'slap ya mama' family, although 'wyj' and 'sym' tend to refer to food being especially tasty and I don't know that one could be gobsmacked by a dead good pudding, even a Nigella Lawson receipt.

My brother has spent a fair amount of time surfing in places like Australia, Tahiti, Indonesia, France, and So. Cal, and we grew up in Hawai'i (Linkmeister, 96792 - and sometimes *I* can't understand what he's saying). His language use can get really interesting depending on who he is speaking to. I wonder if any linguists have done work on the global subcultural lexicon of surfing...

#36 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 02:24 PM:

>And I have yet to find an American equivalent of gobsmacked.

AFAIK there isn't one, which is why I've taken it up.

Molly used to say whomperjawed. I'm more likely to use gobsmacked if I use anything, but whomperjawed is a great word.

#37 ::: sdn ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 02:25 PM:

pnh: Sharyn! I like you fine!

Really, I'm a pinhead several times a day. I mean, come on, perspective.

I LIKE YOU
YOU ARE NICE

texanne: thank you! summer 2008. in the meantime you can buy the special novellas commissioned for the fifth anniversary. there will be three. the first one is out right now. it is by diana wynne jones, who can use all of the britishisms she wants as far as i am concerned.

::cracks up laughing::

#38 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 02:30 PM:

sharon #18: The reason both look wrong is that they are; the correct spelling is "queueueueueueueing."

#39 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 02:31 PM:

jmmcdermott @21: I confess to being one of those comp. teachers who marks "alright" as a spelling error--once upon a time, I'd have been quite willing to accept it in informal writing or dialogue, moving towards accepting it formally one day, but over the years it has become one of those embarrassing ticks that I just can't tolerate. One of my personal fingernails-on-the-blackboard grammatical error-constructions (we all have them; we all need to relax and not obsess so much over them; but they still drive us all nuts . . . and we've all got different ones, on top of that). How did this happen to me, personally? I think it came about because of the lack of distinction my students were making between "all right" and "alright" . . . and because of the existence of the "allright" spelling. In a world where language development were logical, "all right" and "alright" ought to have clearly distinct meanings already, much like, well, "all ready" and "already," and I wouldn't need to worry about "allright."

I do think that "alright" is getting here, though, and even such ancient pedants as I am will accept it One Of These Days. Then I can go back to screaming hysterically about "its," "it's," and (heaven help me) "its' " . . .

#40 ::: mk ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 02:33 PM:

I thought about it a little more, and now think that one could be gobsmacked by a food, not because it tasted good, but because there was something else astonishing and surprising about it. Therefore, 'whop yo' jaw' and 'slap ya mama', while committing a similar act of violence upon a mandible, are not in the same spirit of 'gobsmacked'. Ah, English.

#41 ::: DoonboggleFrog ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 02:38 PM:

Ethan @ 38 the correct number of eu's depends on the length of the line, of course. Unless the line is about four feet long and made of maple. Then it is spelled a different way altogether.

#42 ::: Laurie D. T. Mann ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 02:40 PM:

And here I thought "gobsmacked" was geek...

#43 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 02:42 PM:

will shetterly @ 27

"If a new choice is clearer and shorter, either in spelling or pronunciation, I'll embrace it. That's practical. Pretentious people prefer the longer choice."

Or prefer/use the longer choice because it's what they grew up with and it's the standard/correct spelling/pronunciation where they come from.

#44 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 02:47 PM:

obSF:

English is the result of Norman men-at-arms attempting to pick up Saxon barmaids and is no more legitimate than any of the other results. - H. Beam Piper

#45 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 02:48 PM:

While I know people who contest that there are distinct meanings between alright and all right, it is a distinction which doesn't exist in any of the dialects I speak, and one which confuses me when people try to explain the distinction. Which indicates to me that it is a dialectical marker on a structural and not vocabulary level.

I accrete vocabulary: whinge and gobsmacked are recent, tsuris dates back to the seventies and The Joys of Yiddish when dicovering its existance freed me of many circomlocutory or obscene descriptors (the closest my native dialect got was "rain of shit"). Words which fail to stick, like "unie" instead of college or school, I perceive as affected or, like sdn, pretentious but what I mean by that, I think, is that there is not a gap between vocabulary and experience where the word fills a need.

#47 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 02:57 PM:

I may not fully understand "gobsmacked", but it seems to me quite equivalent to "croggled" (to the extent that any two words are ever equivalent).

My father's side of the family is English, he was born in England, so I've had more exposure than most Americans to that influence, and no doubt there are strange bits floating around my speech. But my usage of "grey" is a personal affectation, not based on any knowledge of regional usages; it's just that I prefer colder-toned versions of light black, and the "e" spelling somehow conveys that to me.


#48 ::: Chris Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 02:58 PM:

#43 dcb

will shetterly @ 27

"If a new choice is clearer and shorter, either in spelling or pronunciation, I'll embrace it. That's practical. Pretentious people prefer the longer choice."

Or prefer/use the longer choice because it's what they grew up with and it's the standard/correct spelling/pronunciation where they come from.

Or because the form, intent, or mood of the writing makes the shades of difference (inevitable among synonyms) important. Or because the writer is making a conscious choice to demote simple clarity in her objectives for that writing. Or because the notion that a specific shorter word is clearer than a longer synonym is one with which the writer does not agree.

#49 ::: Chris Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 02:59 PM:

Blockquote tags failed to operate as anticipated. Apologies.

#50 ::: Kip Manley ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 03:05 PM:

Mr. Shetterly, no. 27:

...I suppose an atrocity like "impact" used as a verb should be accepted.

Never! That use of "impact" is something I'll go to the dam' ramparts over. —Some things must be ruthlessly stomped out, or else in the future we'll still be ramparting over them.

Also, in general: "gray" is a distinctly different color than "grey." (Though I'm not sure which is the color of all cats after midnight.)

#51 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 03:10 PM:

Isn't "flabbergasted" a reasonable equivalent to "gobsmacked?"

(And I would suspect that "gobsmacked" is a bowdlerization -- not sure that's the right term in this context, but close enough for commentwork -- of "God smacked", i.e, given a headringing, eye-crossing smack in the head by God. Same mechanism that turned "God's hooks!" -- semi-revelant aside; read the Waldrop story by the same title* -- into "Gadzooks!")

Last minute add: I checked to see if the Waldrop story was anywhere online, and found I could still link to the SCI FICTION archive, despite the recent announcement that it was supposed to go bye-bye several days ago. "God's Hooks" was one of the "Classic" stories Ellen Datlow reprinted there. Find the story here.

#52 ::: DoonboggleFrog ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 03:12 PM:

The dam ramparts will eventually be breached, especially when impacted by hurricanes.

#53 ::: Pete Newell ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 03:13 PM:

sdn #22

The most affected person I have ever met was a wedding photographer who interrupted himself in mid-spiel to test several pronunciations of the word "judge", settled on the most pretentious* and out-of-area, and proceeded with his pitch.

We took our business elsewhere.

*He settled on pronouncing the u as in "good". Pompous git.

#54 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 03:14 PM:

David Dryer Bennet @ 47: I too prefer "grey" as well as any number of non-American spellings, but that dates back to fifth grade and Mrs. MacGreggor, who wore tartan suits, spoke with a tiny remnant of Perth (the northern hemisphere one) in her voice and was a great, gifted, giving teacher but with no patience for American spelling.

#55 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 03:16 PM:

Kip, 50: That would be "gris."

#56 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 03:23 PM:

TexAnne #55: Wouldn't that mean that two cats at midnight would possess some magical fetish or gris-gris?

#57 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 03:24 PM:

mk @ #35, "whop yo' jaw" doesn't ring true as Hawai'ian Creole (which out here is called pidgin) to me, but I didn't grow up here. I've heard "whopperjawed" off and on since I was in junior high in Virginia. I think it has to do with big fish, myself.

#58 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 03:26 PM:

Working in a vet's office, as I have for the past two months, I've noticed that, on new patient forms, people with gray cats will inevitably write "grey" for the color of their pet. It's made me wonder whether "gray" might be on its way out, or if it's a particularly cat-related thing (you don't get too many gray dogs, so there's less of a sample to compare to), or what. Anyway, I find it interesting. Alright?

#59 ::: DoonboggleFrog ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 03:28 PM:

"Voodoo Cats at Midnight" sounds like the title of a *b-grade horror flick from the 50s.

(*if that good)

#60 ::: DoonboggleFrog ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 03:30 PM:

...either that or the plot of a Buffy episode.

#61 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 03:30 PM:

"Impact" as verb annoys the fire out of me, but the other one that appeared at roughly the same time (Gulf War 1, I think) was that awful contraction of "attrition" into the verb "attrit." I heard that by a few generals doing briefings on CNN and wanted to throw things at the screen.

#62 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 03:30 PM:

DoonboggleFrog #59: To me it sounds more like a low-rent jazz group.

#63 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 03:34 PM:

The one that makes me nuts (probably because I hear it from personnel people who I prefer not to antagonize by protesting their grammar) is referring to what you do at an orientation as "orientating"

#64 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 03:37 PM:

Fragano Ledgister @ 30

*applause*

A point your post brings out that we haven't talked about is rhythm and tone. It's obviously different between British English and Caribbean English, but there are subtler distinctions between Canadian and standard US: Canadians tend to uptalk in a manner similar to (but thankfully less intense than) ValleySpeak. It's most obvious on the terminal "eh?" but present in other cases too.

#65 ::: DoonboggleFrog ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 03:37 PM:

My brother's cat, Malcolm, is definitely grey.

Grey(ish) dogs are usually called "blue", as in: blue heelors/Australian Cattle Dogs/Queensland Heelers.

#66 ::: DoonboggleFrog ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 03:48 PM:

Perhaps the gris-cats are using voodoo to attrit the low-rent jazz bands?

What do cats have against jazz?

#67 ::: jane ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 04:00 PM:

Writers who do not know the difference between anxious and eager drive me up the proverbial.

Back in the '90s my husband and I agonized over
"operationalize."

And I am on the side of grey in the grey vs gray scale. It's just a different color (or perhaps colour). The Scottish stone houses are definitely grey. So is Goshen stone--from Western Mass.

Jane

#68 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 04:02 PM:

Linkmeister #61:

They were impact verb-ing in the very early 80s, to my certain knowledge. You couldn't have a software project meeting without someone who'd use it.

(Not to mention that long-time dental favorite, the impacted wisdom tooth.)

#69 ::: DoonboggleFrog ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 04:05 PM:

Jane #69: Is the Proverbial a tributary of the Avon? Because that would explain a lot about a certain Stratfordian.

#70 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 04:12 PM:

JESR @ 45

""unie" instead of college or school"

Ah, another British/American thing. On this side of the pond, I went to "school" when you went to "high school". After that I went to University (not "college" or "school") to get my degree. "Uni" (pronounced "yew-nie") is a sensible contaction over here, because neither "school" nor "college*" means the same as "university".

It's one of the few Americanisms I always find sounds wrong to me, saying "school" for "university". The other one is "math" rather than "maths". Dunno why.

*Although some colleges are what you go to after you are through with what you would call high school.
- And others are "Sixth Form Colleges" which are for the equivalent of the last two years of high school.
- And some universities, like my own Alma Mater, Cambridge, are Collegiate universities containing a number of colleges. But if you've been to Cambridge (UK, original) you say you went to Uni, not to college...

#71 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 04:18 PM:

There's some quite difficult-to-express difference between cheerfully using a Britishism as part of the ancient, unavoidable, and in fact desirable exchange of dialects, and someone who uses them constantly in an apparent attempt to seem clever. That the former happens and is lovely and wonderful and just like kittens and apple pie doesn't stop the latter from also being an accurate description of certain people who, lacking compensating wit or charms, are quite irritating.

I can't quite tell how being a British person in the US affects this, lacking a basis for comparison. I suspect my own cringe reaction is enhanced by my learned aversion to using certain hot-button Britishisms. I don't say "wanker", or "whinge", or "mum", or "arse", because any time I do use one of them I risk a five-minute diversion onto the subject of how interesting it is how British people talk, how your interlocutor once went to London, where are good places to stay in London (I have no idea because I'm not from London), isn't fish and chips lovely (no), what exactly some completely other British word means (I usually have no idea), how much funnier and wittier British television is than American television (it isn't), and on and on. Which is a fascinating & charming conversation for about the first five hundred times you have it.

The other problem is that, just like the US, there are dozens of regional or class-based differences in usage, and when someone who uses a lot of Britishisms throws together words from different regions or social strata the effect is something like a British person attempting an American accent by combining odds and ends from the deep South, New York, and California, that is to say, horrific. In fact when I look at a list of Britishisms I'd probably only use about 1/3 of them myself.

There are some irreplaceable words from both sides. I wouldn't use it myself, but gobsmacked is one; I also like "jobsworth" for which I haven't found an American alternative. And of course from here, the invaluable "dude" which reduces all of English vocabulary to one word (really, answering "dude" to every question should get you a passing grade on an English-language immigration test in California), and "y'all" which I can usually only bring myself to say as "you all", but still very useful.

#72 ::: sara ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 04:19 PM:

I still recall proofreading my dissertation book (the subject is an international field, with a long temporal tail) and finding that my bibliography was full of traditional British punctuation.

E.g. 'single quotation marks' instead of "double quotes" and 'final periods after quotation mark'.

I had transcribed the titles of British articles verbatim, and the New York publisher preferred American punctuation. However, I'd also picked up British punctuation habits randomly in the text. Clearing it out was much harder than spell-checking for "colour" vs. "color." The publishers had required author-date notation in the notes, which weren't affected.

#73 ::: tom ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 04:20 PM:

Never heard "whop yo jaw," but I did know "broke da mouth" (mouth rhyming with "out"), which seems to be of similar spirit. (Big Island, 1990s)

I love the grey/gray distinction. About 80% of people I have asked agree that they are different colors, with most people agreeing with my perception (selection bias?) that gray is more mechanical (computers, dystopian futures) and grey more organic (mice, cloth). This is rarely reversed. About 1/3 feel it is a difference of color temperature, mostly with gray being warmer.

#74 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 04:23 PM:

mk @ 35:

I think you're confusing "Whop yo' jaw" with "Brok' da mout'" which is the pidgin for "unbelievably good food". "Whop yo' jaw" doesn't seem local to me. "Whop yo' face" maybe, but I'm not sure on that.

#75 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 04:26 PM:

I find that such cross cultural exchanges give people new words to explain complex ideas that we used to use a sentence for. Schadenfreude, besides being a fun word to sound out in your head has a very nuanced meaning that "guilty pleasure" just doesn't cover.

Same with hedge, verge or your more precise British garden nouns. "He dived over the hedge and rolled about the verge trying to rid himself of the marauding bees," is a lot more interesting than just "He jumped on the lawn and rolled in the grass to escape the bees."

Also, I prefer mobile phone rather than cell phone. A cell phone sounds like something a monk would have used in the fifteenth century to relieve himself of sinful urges.

#76 ::: Nathan ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 04:31 PM:

See item 93 on this list. (The rest is fun, too)

http://cfprod01.imt.uwm.edu/Dept/FLL/linguistics/dialect/maps.html

#77 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 04:35 PM:

Keith @ #75, "A cell phone sounds like something a monk would have used in the fifteenth century to relieve himself of sinful urges."

Like calling out for pizza?

Clifton and tom, yeah, I'd forgotten "broke da mout."

#78 ::: DoonboggleFrog ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 04:37 PM:

Nathan #76: those maps would be a lot more useful if they were somehow weighted by population density. Many of them less seem to show the distribution of a dialect than the distribution of the US population.

#79 ::: Dorothy Rothschild ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 04:39 PM:

I consider myself to be pretty good about separating American and British English (I live in the UK now, 5.5 years and counting, and I usually remember to call my mom on her cell but phone my boyfriend on his mobile), but I was amazed when I spell-checked thesis chapters and found just how many American spellings crept in when I wasn't consciously thinking about them. I don't know what the the uni's [nods to dcb @70] official position was, but I figured that as I was getting a degree at a British university, I ought to be spelling it in British. (And I made sure to use 'outwith' at least once - a brilliant Scottish word that I can't believe hasn't been taken up elsewhere, as it fits a small language gap so nicely.)

#80 ::: Nathan ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 04:43 PM:

DoonboggleFrog,

That's exactly what it is...distribution of dialects in America.

It's results of a study that Burt Vaux did when he was teaching at Harvard. I just thought some of the info was fairly cool.

#81 ::: PurpleGirl ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 04:43 PM:

My use of British slang and idioms is directly proportional to the amount of British television I watch.

#82 ::: DoonboggleFrog ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 04:56 PM:

I understand that it is the distribution of dialects. But (at least on the 10 or so I randomly looked at) all it really shows is the relative common-ness of each option across the continent. The extreme variations in population density are washing out the useful info in the study.

For the majority of examples, no matter what answer is picked, the highest concentration is the Northeast corridor.

Obviously we all know that there are genuine regional dialects in this country, so I assume that the maps would show them better if they were weighted to compensate for the difference between New York and Mississippi in population density.

This could be done with a regression analysis, but I am not enough of a statistician to know how one would go about mapping the data that came out of the regression. (Only 1 graduate-level course in stats, and that one was for non-math majors)

#83 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 05:06 PM:

Keith @75:

It's normally 'cellphone' round these parts though 'mobile' is also common. On business cards, it's normally, 'Mob: xxx-xxx-xxxx'. Was caught out in Malaysia where the normal term is 'handphone', which on business cards is 'HP: xxx-xxx-xxxx', thus leading it all neatly back to J.K. Rowling.

#84 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 05:08 PM:

#30, Fragano Ledgister: In all these places there are different standard Englishes operating by subtly (or not so subtly) different rules of orthography, grammar and usage. And all of them interact (in ways that might leave trustafarian wankers well and truly gobsmacked).

Yup. It's been said that American and Brits are separated by a common language, but we all are.

#43, dcb: "If a new choice is clearer and shorter, either in spelling or pronunciation, I'll embrace it. That's practical. Pretentious people prefer the longer choice."

Or prefer/use the longer choice because it's what they grew up with and it's the standard/correct spelling/pronunciation where they come from.

Agreed! There's nothing pretentious in a Brit's use of "colour."

#48, Chris Clarke: Or because the form, intent, or mood of the writing makes the shades of difference (inevitable among synonyms) important. Or because the writer is making a conscious choice to demote simple clarity in her objectives for that writing. Or because the notion that a specific shorter word is clearer than a longer synonym is one with which the writer does not agree.

Apologies for not making it explicit: when longer is clearer, longer is better. But when longer wins because it's longer, the speaker's a git.

#50, Kip Manley: Never! That use of "impact" is something I'll go to the dam' ramparts over. —Some things must be ruthlessly stomped out, or else in the future we'll still be ramparting over them.

I do hate that one: it's neither shorter nor clearer. But it does save the writer from having to remember the difference between "affect" and "effect."

Also, in general: "gray" is a distinctly different color than "grey." (Though I'm not sure which is the color of all cats after midnight.)

I'm always surprised by people who think that. "Grey" is simply the older spelling. Have you ever heard someone describe something as "gray and grey"?

#85 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 05:14 PM:

I think that, in this community of persnickety language users especially, that we'll go searching for ways to differentiate words that most folks would use as exact synonyms. We don't need more words that mean the same thing after all, we need more ways to express small shades of meaning. So we get to differentiate whinge from whine and be quite happy about it.
I'm curious if the folks above who differentiate gray from grey as being different shades agree on how they are different -- it was hard for me to tell from where I sit since some folks were in essence pointing to objects that I can't see from here.

#86 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 05:16 PM:

sara @ #72

For some reason this reminds me of when my mother proofread my Phd thesis for me:

The title of one paper included "the red kangaroo, Megalia rufa". The title of the next paper talked about "red kangaroo, Macropus rufus". She wanted to know WHICH? I had to explain that both were correct - the genus name changed and the ending of the specific name was changed to fit...

And yes, you have to be careful when spellchecking because you don't want to change the spellings of the paper titles or the quotes...!

#87 ::: Avedon ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 05:17 PM:

Never mind all this. I want people to stop saying things like, "He requested me to bring it."

And I want the British to learn that not all pants are underpants.

#88 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 05:22 PM:

tom @ 73

grey vs gray: It feels to me like they're different, and 'gray' is warmer, even when they're the same color.

Keith @ 75

Well, you could go over (or through) the fence into the bar ditch. In some places, anyway. (It's West Texas usage, I know.)

#89 ::: DoonboggleFrog ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 05:23 PM:

Historically, American English has absorbed words from the countries that we have, er, mugged, to use Mr. Nicoll's apt analogy. It will be interesting to see how much Arabic the troops bring home and the extent that it is incorporated into our vocabulary.

#90 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 05:31 PM:

beth meacham @ 15 - Canadians may queue, but they've also been known to exclaim, "What a line-up!" if the line is particularly long.

#91 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 05:40 PM:

Bruce @ 64 - Thank you. I've been wondering if I was imagining Canadians uptalking. It's really noticeable in one of my colleagues who's originally from Nova Scotia and I wasn't sure if she had adopted it to sound less Canadian.

#92 ::: Howard Weaver ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 05:40 PM:

Patrick: Yes, but.

The fact that language migrates naturally, that it's a negotiation, etc etc is all true enough. Self evident, even.

But my experience some (honestly, most) people who adopt British usage are nonetheless doing so both consciously and pretentiously.

Both can be true without being connected. As Leonard Shlain says in The Alphabet Versus the Goddess, "The disappearance of the stars at dawn does not cause the sun to rise."

#93 ::: Jennifer Barber ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 05:45 PM:

dcb @ 70:

because neither "school" nor "college*" means the same as "university".

Which is why, for clarity's sake, I tend to use "university" when talking to people from outside NorAm. If it's all native English speakers, I might forget and say "college" anyway, but given the prevalence of variations on "university" in other European languages, I figure it's a pretty simple way for me to make things easier for non-native speakers. Particularly since I tend to speak very quickly (I've got relatives who're constantly asking me to slow down)--though I do also try to speak more slowly when there might be a language barrier issue, altering my vocabulary is far easier to remember, somehow.

#94 ::: DoonboggleFrog ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 05:47 PM:

But the sun rising does cause the stars to disappear.

#95 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 06:00 PM:

I picked up a weird one - I'll spell color as an American, but watercolour with the u. I think it's because I spent a decade or two using Winsor Newton watercolours & watercolour brushes. I'm not invariably consistent about it - it's a tendency more than anything else.

It is, of course, possible that I'm just a pretentious git, too.

#96 ::: DoonboggleFrog ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 06:04 PM:

Pretentious gits of the fluorosphere amalgamate!

#97 ::: Sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 06:05 PM:

Beth @ 15: I use "queue" every day- the set of files waiting in the folder is collectively the "upload queue". It's not a line and I can't think of another good word for it.

JESR @ 46: "Uni" is an aquisition from German for me, in both long and short form. "I've been at university" is my default response to what I've been doing for the past few years v. the american "I've been at college", and it's a distinction I learned from German classes.

I grew up learning about things such as y'all and all y'all from the pulpit*, even though St. Louis only qualifies as southern because of the food and the music. Now that I live much further north, I have to explain the difference regularly, and people think I must be joking.

*"y'all" is singular or small plural, as many as a "few". "All y'all" is generally used when speaking to four or more people. Really. From the pulpit.

#98 ::: Martyn Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 06:09 PM:

But what, exactly, does 'gobsmacked' mean? To me, its that sort of sudden surprise that means you clap your hands to your cheeks - gob (mouth)and smacked. I get the impression that's not what it means to you guys.

Wait on line British? Never. As for the Canadian line up, over here it means an identity parade (think the poster for Usual Suspects) or the manager's selection for your team or the grid arrangement for a Grand Prix (that's Lewis Hamilton at the front these days...) or arranging your purchases on the counter or...

What we really want are national equivalents of L'Academie Francaise to decide what words we can and cannot use. Then again, anarchy has worked for several centuries now and we all know nobody's going to stop it.

Definition of pretentious. Janet Street Porter being down wi' da' kids.

#99 ::: DoonboggleFrog ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 06:13 PM:

My parents grew up in Southern California, and they both insist that y'all is the only second-person plural in the English language, and therefore, not even slang, but a perfectly acceptable word even in formal usage.
(I suppose in a very formal format, i.e., academic paper, one might write "you all" to avoid the apparent informallity of a contraction.)

I also suspect that New Jersey-ans would argue that "youse" also fills this role, but my parents would be appalled if they ever heard me say something like, "youse guys" non-ironically.

#100 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 06:17 PM:

Forgot the footnote:

"The River" is the Thames river, London, UK.

Londoners pretty much always just call it "the river" not "the Thames". I knew I'd been living here too long when I said "south of the river" one day.

I'm not a Londoner, I'm a Mancunian*! I just live in London...

Um. Footnote for the footnotes, as it were: "Mancunian" = comes from/lives in Manchester (UK).

#101 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 06:17 PM:

Forgot the footnote:

"The River" is the Thames river, London, UK.

Londoners pretty much always just call it "the river" not "the Thames". I knew I'd been living here too long when I said "south of the river" one day.

I'm not a Londoner, I'm a Mancunian*! I just live in London...

Um. Footnote for the footnotes, as it were: "Mancunian" = comes from/lives in Manchester (UK).

#102 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 06:23 PM:

I swear I only hit "Post" once.

Posting the footnote to the wrong thread, however... - Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

Should be in "Yes, a little fermented curd would do the trick"

#103 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 06:28 PM:

About "waiting on line"--the first time I ever heard it was in one of the Godfather movies, when the sister complains about having to wait on line with everyone else.

And being from Texas, I still catch myself saying "I'm fixin' to" do something, instead of "I'm about to."

#104 ::: Vian ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 06:39 PM:

On using "impact" (or, indeed, "author") as a verb:

Do not verb nouns. It wierds the language.

OBDoggerel:
I know that this dam will eventually break
for all that is mortal shall fail.
But if it should hold for the rest of my days
then I've no cause to whinge or to wail.

Don't author your software, transition your plans
or leverage your synergies fine
Don't talk of how policy imapacts a man
or your eardrums I'll bust with my whine.


#105 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 06:44 PM:

Howard Weaver, #92: "But my experience some (honestly, most) people who adopt British usage are nonetheless doing so both consciously and pretentiously."

I really want to get to the bottom of what people mean by "pretentious." If I use a useful British idiom like "gobsmacked" or "twee", what is it that you think I'm "pretending"? That I'm British? Why on earth would I do that?

This is silly. Both American and British English are full of robustly useful phrases and idioms. And increasing numbers of people in both countries spend lots of time exposing themselves to vigorous speech and text from the other. What's "pretentious" or "affected" about vigorous language leaping the Atlantic Ocean?

Yes, there are silly people in the world who put on airs. I don't avoid using multisyllabic words just because there are MENSA twits who use them. And neither should anyone else.

#106 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 06:44 PM:

Doonbogglefrog (#89): American English has absorbed words from the countries that we have, er, mugged, to use Mr. Nicoll's apt analogy.

And not just American English - there are any number of words in British English and English generally that date from the occupation of India ('pukka' comes immediately to mind).

Bruce (#64), Larry Brennan (#91): I feel compelled to point out that Canada is a pretty big place and not all Canadians talk the same way, just like all Americans don't talk the same way. Your colleague from Nova Scotia probably sounds pretty different from me (from Toronto; I've heard the accent described as an 'educated Midwestern drawl,' but I can't hear it, of course). And I was watching Knocked Up and about ten minutes in, I thought, 'Wow, this guy,' - the lead actor, Seth Rogen - 'sounds exactly like my friend Ian.' Well, it turns out that Rogen is also from Vancouver, and I discovered that there is apparently a Vancouver accent (or at least a peri-Vancouver accent).


And Josh Jasper (#3) - as an expat Commonwealther living in the States, I love the idea of having a 'get out of pretension free' card. Of course, that doesn't help me when I go home and say things like 'when I was in college' (I wasn't; I went to university) and 'soda.'

#107 ::: Barbara Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 06:49 PM:

The edition of Partridge I have handy (7th) lists 'gob' as meaning mouth (C16-20), spittle, and portion (-1887), and 'gob' v. meaning to gulp down or to spit copiously, but alas, doesn't list 'gobsmacked'.
My impression has been that it means something so astounding that one feels slapped in the mouth, and is stunned and mute.
Boxing cant for 'bleeding at the mouth' by the way, is 'gob-full of claret' (ca. 1820-90).
-Barbara

#108 ::: Emil ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 06:58 PM:

@Barbara - this came up on the TV last night: "When he brought out the food, I was gobsmacked. I was totally smacked across the gob." It's exactly the 'stunned' thing you suggest, like someone's slapped you across the face with a wet fish. The Cassell Dictionary of Slang dates it from the '80s, which is later than I'd have thought.

#109 ::: DoonboggleFrog ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 07:01 PM:

debcha #106: Yes, I almost acknowledged that both languages have done that, in fact, most of the examples that I could think of when I was writing it were British Imperial-era neologisms that have since crossed the pond.

Thinking about it now, I wonder if the British troops will bring more Arabic back to Britain than the US troops will here, just because Britain is more open to Islamic culture in general, and the troops have tended to have closer relations with the "average Iraqi on the street" than American forces have.

#110 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 07:20 PM:

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) #64: Thanks. Of course, as soon as I wrote that I realized that I had left out Southern Hemisphere English (or Englishes, the South Africans can be very distinct from the Australians and the New Zealanders). I grew up in environments in which British and Caribbean norms were standard, and the differences between the two of them are very clear to me.

#111 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 07:26 PM:

Will Shetterly #84 wrote: 'There's nothing pretentious in a Brit's use of "colour."'

Nor in a Bajan's, or a Belizean's, or a Kiwi's.

#112 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 07:40 PM:

In London, I queue for theater tickets.

In Connecticut, I get in line.

In New York City, I ignore all the tourists forming lines outside Broadway shows and simply crowd up to the doors like we used to do back before Broadway became such a theme park.

#113 ::: Janet Kegg ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 07:48 PM:

David Crystal's The Stories of English (which I recently read) is an engaging, rather detailed account of how English has evolved and changed, with a bit about where it may be headed. Most users of English in the world are not native speakers. The mishmash that is English may well become even more delightfully different.

Crystal relates how he noticed that he switches without thinking between pronouncing schedule with an initial sk/sh depending on context. His children have adopted the sh pronunciation.

#114 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 07:54 PM:

Patrick: You go, boy.

#115 ::: Kip Manley ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 07:58 PM:

Mr. Shetterly (again!), No. 84:

Have you ever heard someone describe something as "gray and grey"?

Nor have I ever heard someone describe something as "crimson and incarnadine."

Grey and gray have been differentiated as organic and artificial in this thread; I, perhaps, would be less charitable, and describe them respectively as romantic and drab. —Grey has more color in it? More depth? Is where gray becomes glas, which my handy Cornish dictionary defines as "blue, green, grey, glaucous, pale, wan, (of fruit) unripe"? —Pencils write in gray, but if you shade a block thickly with a soft pencil, the gray lines shift and shine and combine as grey.

#116 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 07:59 PM:

dcb@ 70, I needed to be more specific about when I feel "unie" is a pretentious usage; I accept it as a part of British English, but when it's used by my daughter's fellow college freshmen, it strikes me as affected and very much one of those generational gloves thrown down to the oldsters. As far as I can tell with the whippersnappers I am in 3D contact with, they all picked it up in the Harry Potter fandom, starting about the time they were seventh graders.

#117 ::: Janet Kegg ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 08:01 PM:

Er, me at #113, correction: His children have adopted the sk pronunciation (of schedule).

#118 ::: Kip Manley ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 08:06 PM:

—An aside, prompted by Janet Kegg, nos. 113/117: was Jean-Luc Picard, Frenchman, unbearably pretentious for adopting the British "shedule"? Or was he terribly déclassé?

#119 ::: Will Entrekin ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 08:21 PM:

I picked up all my Britishisms from Eddie Izzard's "Dressed to Kill." I watched all his specials just after college. I ended up accidentally slipping into spontaneous British accents at times, which bugged the hell out of most of the people I worked with.

But then, there's a theory of linguistics both physical and verbal that we unconsciously adopt those of people to whom we speak or in whom we are interested. When on a date with a person in whom we are interested, i.e., most of us will not only subconsciously (all right: sometimes very consciously) angle our bodies toward theirs, emphasize punchlines with brushing fingertips, etc. I know I tend to do it; though I didn't all together drop my Jersey-based accent when I first moved to California, I did accidentally (and much to my chagrin) begin to end sentences with "so."

I very often say "No worries." I have never been to Australia, and can count off the top of my head the number of Aussies I know at one.

My favorite book on the subject of cross cultural language is Mother Tongue: English and How it Got that Way, by Bill Bryson, and, circularly, my favorite documentary on it was Mongrel Nation, hosted by Eddie Izzard and linked to, not so long ago (I remember, because I subsequently YouTubed the whole thing in my blog), by Teresa.

#120 ::: Will Entrekin ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 08:23 PM:

PS- Up until I heard Izzard pronounce it, I had always thought "queue" was pronounced "qway-way." My only previous exposure to the word was via Corel Word Perfect, when it told me I had several jobs waiting in the printing qway-way.

#121 ::: Will Entrekin ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 08:23 PM:

PS- Up until I heard Izzard pronounce it, I had always thought "queue" was pronounced "qway-way." My only previous exposure to the word was via Corel Word Perfect, when it told me I had several jobs waiting in the printing qway-way.

I'm relatively certain it guaranteed I never sounded pretentious.

#122 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 08:33 PM:

dcb at #70 writes:

> It's one of the few Americanisms I always find sounds wrong to me, saying "school" for "university". The other one is "math" rather than "maths". Dunno why.

Big yes to both - for me going to college is a lower level thing than going to uni - a less prestigious and more trade oriented alternative.

'Math' has the same effect on me as on you.

And a message to all of America: The plural of 'Lego' is 'Lego'. Every time you say 'Legos' I twitch with pain. And you wouldn't want that, would you?

#123 ::: Eleanor ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 08:35 PM:

"Uni" never felt right to me when I was there, and "university" seemed too long for everyday use, so I used to say "college". If called on it, I would point out that I was at an Oxford college.

My sister's at medical school and she calls it "school", which sounds very odd to me. Technically her school is a college of the University of London, just to make life more interesting.

#124 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 08:39 PM:

will shetterly at #84 writes:

> But when longer wins because it's longer, the speaker's a git.

indubitably!

#125 ::: jmmcdermott ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 08:46 PM:

will, don't forget the Greek God "Zee-Us".

I know for a fact I'm not the only guy who was reading the mythology before he was talking about it and sounded like a twit for a while until someone explained why everyone was snickering.

Seriously, though, the pretension exists only of one is pretending. Thus, if someone is embiggening their language with words they barely comprehend (like, for instance, me with "embiggening"), then that is pretension.

It isn't pretension if one came about the language naturally.

Unfortunately, delineating between the two is not always an easy task. The natural cynicism inherent to life on earth among hairless apes has caused the initial reaction around such verbage to include raised eyebrows and cringing. Twinging, even.

However, I suspect connoisseur of culture will always sound like twaddle to people who are outside of the groupspeak.

I know I can squeeze one more silver dollar word into this post if I try. I must exacerbate my instinct towards the ironic to do so. Yes, "exacerbate" does it.

Hm. I seem to be nearly out of silver dollar words. My language skills are tatterdamalion indeed...

(the people that make me curl my nose at pretensiousness are the ones that pretend to be bi-lingual when they clearly only know a few phrases. Remember when George W answered a question with a Spanish expression during an early Republican primary debate back in '98 and Alan Keyes commenced to rattle off some serious Spanish language, and George got that horrified look on his face like someone had just slapped him? Yeah. I didn't think Alan Keyes was pretensious, just George.)

#126 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 08:46 PM:

Steve Taylor @122: If one insists on being pedantic, Lego is a company, and there is only one of it. The singular of the little plastic bits is "Lego brick", and the plural of them is thus "Lego bricks".

If one is not being pedantic ... well there were quite a lot of Legos at the club meeting I went to earlier this afternoon. (Including a three-foot-diameter Roman colosseum built entirely out of Lego.)

#127 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 08:47 PM:

PNH @ 105 - I wholeheartedly support the adoption of useful words and phrases, but when an American starts talking about lorries or waiting for the lift to other Americans, or insists on spellings such as "colour", "labour" and "centre" when writing for other Americans, it does feel silly and pretentious. At least it does to me.

#128 ::: Annalee Flower Horne ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 08:48 PM:

I started using 'Uni' and 'University' (as in "I'm in my penultimate year at Uni(versity)") while I was studying in N. Ireland, because I didn't want people mistaking me for the 11-18 year-old students I was working with.

I'm generally in the 'if it's easier to say or spell, I'm using it' crowd. Except arguably with 'petrol,' which for some reason is just impossible to shake now that I've picked it up.

#129 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 08:51 PM:

Sisuile at #97 writes:

> "y'all" is singular or small plural, as many as a "few". "All y'all" is generally used when speaking to four or more people. Really. From the pulpit.

I've never heard "All y'all" before, but I like it!

My old boss was from Lousiana/South Carolina/Texas and a bunch of other southern places, and he used to say "yall's" for both plural and posessive. I was never sure if he was just [britishism]taking the piss[/britishism] though. He was definitely a bit of a [australianism]shit stirrer[/australianism].

#130 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 08:54 PM:

Does this bug anyone else: I say Thank you" and the thankee says "No problem!"

H'rumph!

#131 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 09:03 PM:

#127: "I wholeheartedly support the adoption of useful words and phrases, but when an American starts talking about lorries or waiting for the lift to other Americans, or insists on spellings such as 'colour', 'labour' and 'centre' when writing for other Americans, it does feel silly and pretentious. At least it does to me."

Sure, and when a colleague at work decides that the demands of dignity require that he attend all departmental meetings dressed in white tie and tails, I think that's pretty silly.

Wait, that's never actually happened to me. Come to think of it, I've never met anyone who does what you describe, either. Just people who pick up the occasional useful British idiom like "wanker" or "full stop."

#132 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 09:09 PM:

Brooks Moses at #126 writes:

> If one is not being pedantic ... well there were quite a lot of Legos at the club meeting I went to earlier this afternoon.

Every time you say 'Legos' a fairy dies.

> (Including a three-foot-diameter Roman colosseum built entirely out of Lego.)

Very nice!

We recently had an art installation at our local gallery(*) which consisted of a zillion white lego bricks strong encouragement for gallery patrons to build their own lego skyscraper. Made for a very nice skyline.

(*) Since we're talking linguistic oddities, it's the 'National Gallery of Victoria'. Victoria is the state I live in. The 'National Gallery of Australia' is in Canberra, the nation's capital. Perhaps an ambit claim by the founders?

#133 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 09:31 PM:

Y'all is not singular!

!!!!!!

North Carolina born and bred here, and again, it grates on my nerves when people use "y'all" to mean a singular "you." Native NCers do not do this. People on TV trying to imitate a Southern accent do this. Y'all is certainly a small-group plural, and all y'all is a large-group plural.

It also grates on my nerves when people spell it "ya'll."

Aw, hell. It'll probably just get me called a pinhead again.

But "whinge" still grates on my nerves because I have never seen it used to connote anything but "whine." I don't know where y'all are seeing this, although I'm sure it's true, and it makes a lot more sense why there would be a separate word if it means something different.

(I would like to note that I am usually arguing the descriptivist side of the grammar debates, rather than the prescriptivist, but so far these threads have managed to touch on the very few pet peeves I have.)

#134 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 09:42 PM:

Caroline, in re "y'all" and "all y'all"--TESTIFY, SISTER!!!!!!

I think that perhaps the people who think it's singular are witnessing something like the following:

A to B: Hey sugar! Y'all comin' to the barbecue tomorrow?
B: Yep, wouldn't miss it!

where A is asking B about B's family as a whole, and B is omitting the "we" from his/her answer. But an outsider (i.e. a non-native speaker of Southern American English) would see one person speaking to another one person.

Which leads to the difference between "y'all" and "all y'all"--or "y'all all," which is also common.

"Y'all comin' to the party?"
"Yep."
"Y'all all better bring beer, then. You know Betty Lou always uses too much salt in her mustard greens."
"OK. See all y'all tomorrow!"

#135 ::: mk ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 09:45 PM:

Linkmeister, Clifton, I grew up on the West Side of O'ahu and currently live here. It's possible that 'whop yo' jaw' is microregional and/or generational - in my experience it's older folks who use it, and is not always in reference to food; sometimes it's a oneupsmanship thing. I agree that 'broke da mout' could be more like 'slap ya mama' than 'wyj'...I'll check in with the people at dinner tonight; we'll be representative of multiple generations and regions and will also have a Southerner present for an additional opinion on 'sym'.

Linkmeister, the officially accepted spelling is 'Hawaiian' without the glottal stop, and 'Hawaiian Creole' is the correct term for what is commonly called 'pidgin'. Dealing with a linguist got me off using 'pidgin' - if I'm remembering this right, Hawaiian Creole is a full dialect that grew out of the very limited pidgin developed during the early plantation years. Say, does this make me an overedumacated pretentious git?

#136 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 09:55 PM:

Growing up in the northern midwest, in the '30s, in a middle/working-class environment, I was indoctrinated with the idea that people with British (and Boston) accents were trying to demonstrate their cultural superiority and status as arbiters of Proper Usage and Culture. (Besides, the British had fought two wars against us -- though it wasn't patriotic to mention that we'd initiated both of them.)

The point about "pretentiousness" is that it was a matter of intent, or of perceived intent, and I think it still is. Moving to California as a (barely) pre-teen, I was exposed to people with many different regional accents and usages, and quickly came to realize that many people just talk differently (& that these differences are often interesting and useful). Pretentiousness and affectation still exist, certainly, and perhaps are to be scorned, but linguistic usage is not at all adequate to identify them.

#137 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 10:00 PM:

Caroline, TexAnne@133, 134: Yes!!!!

I might say to a sales person, "Do y'all have any left-handed frammistats?" if I were addressing him or her as a representative of the store as a whole, in an attempt to find out if the store had left-handed frammistats in stock. If I then went on to write out a check for the purchase a dozen or so left-handed frammistats, and said to the sales person, "Do you have a pen I could borrow?", I would be asking if he or she personally had a lendable pen in his or her possession.

It's a fairly subtle distinction, and I'm not surprised that non-natives don't always hear it. But the improper use of "y'all" is one of the dead giveaways of a badly-done fake Southern dialect.

#138 ::: Tim May ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 10:03 PM:

Look, about "Lego"... Which of the following would you find acceptable, from someone giving you a handful of the little plastic bricks?:

a) "Here are some Legos."
b) "Here are some Lego."
c) "Here's some Lego."

If a), you treat "Lego" as a count noun with a regular plural "Legos". If b) you treat "Lego" as a count noun with an invariant plural "Lego". If c) [but not b) or a)] you treat it as a mass noun, like "water" or "rice" or "clay", and it doesn't have a plural*.

I'm in category c), and it's my suspicion that most people who say things like "the plural of Lego is Lego" actually are too, but lack the terminology to describe their own usage. Does anyone here really prefer b)? I'd be interested to know.

(The Lego company will tell you that LEGO is an adjective. This is a common and linguistically questionable gambit intended to prevent dilution of a trademark, and should probably be ignored.)

It's possible that you might accept c) in addition to either a) or b), allowing both mass and count uses of "Lego", like "brick". But in this case you probably prefer the count reading in the example above.

* OK, you might, in principle, be able to use a plural "Legos" to refer to different varieties of Lego.

#139 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 10:06 PM:

I had a little mental debate about removing the Canadianisms from my spelling ('labour,' 'centre,' 'cheque' and their ilk). I make sure I use American spellings for formal documents (at least when I recognise that I'm not; I recently let 'enrol' pass and one of my colleagues commented on it). But I decided that I wouldn't make any particular effort to eradicate Canadian spellings in my personal/informal writing. I think of them as the written equivalent of having an accent; I don't think I'd consciously change my (verbal) accent to fit in better with my environment (and we tend to think of Americans as pretentious when they do so). But my voice and writing certainly evolve in response to the environment around me, and I have made some conscious changes in the interest of clarity (like saying 'soda' instead of 'pop'). I did give up on trying to say 'zee,' instead of 'zed,' which makes my students giggle, since I just couldn't stop stumbling over it, and I've just resorted to writing 'zed = zee' on a corner of my whiteboard when I'm teaching.

#140 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 10:11 PM:

Having distinguished between practical and pretentious adoption of language, I'd like to add some support for pretension: There're at least two kinds, the pompous and the playful. I loves me the second kind.

133, Caroline: Tell it! I was born in South Carolina and spent most of the first fourteen years of my life in north-central Florida; there may be places where "y'all" is singular, but I ain't been there.

#141 ::: Anticorium ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 10:14 PM:

For what it's worth, I've lived in four different Canadian provinces so far, and 100% of the time people have said they waited in line, not that they queued. Can someone who's tagged this as a Canadianism give a region where they heard it?

#142 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 10:22 PM:

I don't recall people in Texas saying "all y'all", but I could have missed it, being as I was already aware that "y'all" wasn't normally singular. (What can you say about a state with roadsigns that say "Drive Friendly"?)

#143 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 10:24 PM:

Tim May at #138 writes:

> c) "Here's some Lego."

That's the one.

> I'm in category c), and it's my suspicion that most people who say things like "the plural of Lego is Lego" actually are too, but lack the terminology to describe their own usage.

I absolutely treat Lego as a mass noun. I also say the plural of Lego is Lego, but I'm willing to agree I'm probably just being sloppy there. I'd never really thought of mass nouns as not having a plural - just a different form of plural construction.

> (The Lego company will tell you that LEGO is an adjective. This is a common and linguistically questionable gambit intended to prevent dilution of a trademark, and should probably be ignored.)

Yeah, them and Kleenex brand tissues.

And thinking of trademark dilution,I keep waiting for the day when email sues everyone on earth.

#144 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 10:35 PM:

PJ: I refer you to my username and my comment at 134. Also, you shouldn't say that "y'all" isn't normally singular--because "y'all" isn't EVER singular, at all, unless the speaker's a pretentious git trying to mock Southerners.

#145 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 10:39 PM:

Smashed@1: "row" may be archaic, but it's old enough that it couldn't have floated the way modern uses do; I remember it from a poem by Bret Harte. (1839-1902, says the link; deductions from a contemporary preface in Google suggest this was published between 1864 and 1868.)

jane@16: There are a lot of possibilities, but nothing quite as colorful, vigorous, and contemporary. ("Floored" and "flabbergasted" bracket for color, but I haven't heard either used recently.)

jane@67: what about "flaunt" vs "flout"? I suppose that's less inexcusable because the latter is uncommon, but I was still appalled that someone as experienced as McCrumb would swap them in her latest work (discussing what happens to stock car teams that "flaunt" the rules). (I'm guessing this wasn't the copyeditor's fault because there were other signs that the book hadn't \been/ properly copyedited, e.g. spellings that were just wrong (especially typos), not plausibly from confusion.)

Fragano@110: SAfrican English also has some odd overlaps with UKEnglish; I was amused to note that the Massachusetts Supreme Court's Chief Justice (raised in SA) has what I thought of as an upper-class-twit lisp ('w' for 'r' -- cf Lord Raglan in the first Flashman) until I heard Pratchett. \Very/ strange to hear in a video welcoming jurors, especially since none of her other pronunciations struck me as English.

#146 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 10:39 PM:

Tracie@130 Does this bug anyone else: I say Thank you" and the thankee says "No problem!"

H'rumph!

I'm sorry it bugs you. If I ever say it to you, please cut me whatever slack you are moved to cut if knowing it is a heartfelt, absolutely sincere phrase meaning, where I come from anyway, that you are entirely welcome and that I was glad to do whatever it was that you were thanking me for.

If you get bugged at me, I will be likely to be bewildered at the very least, and possibly have hurt feelings until I figure out that it was a translation/cultural-exchange problem.

Seriously. It's what people say where I am from. It's a sincere good thing. What bugs you about it?

#147 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 10:46 PM:

mk, I think I picked up the glottal stop in Hawai'ian from the Honolulu Advertiser or the Star-Bulletin, not sure which (or maybe both). Lord knows I didn't do it unconsciously, as it's a nuisance to remember to put that blasted apostrophe in there when typing. It's hard-wired into my head now, though.

I agree that Hawai'ian Creole is accurate, but to the average citizen of the state it's pidgin, no?

#148 ::: Nathan ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 10:49 PM:

TexAnne 144,

I grew up in Jacksonville, Fl (spitting distance from Georgia), and I can't tell you how many times I had a waitress say, "Y'all come back now"...when I was dining alone.

"Y'all" is a wonderful word that defies parsing. delightfully so!

#149 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 10:54 PM:

Tracie at #130 writes:

> Does this bug anyone else: I say Thank you" and the thankee says "No problem!"

I'd say 'no worries' myself.

What *does* irk me is "Have a nice day", harmless sentiment though it is.

#150 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 11:03 PM:

TexAnne

Well, not being a Texan myself, I learned all that either late or more-or-less second hand. (My parents called it Baja Oklahoma, which tells you probably more than you want to know. My father was an Okie ....)

#151 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 11:06 PM:

I dunno, Patrick. I sometimes worry about the future of the Queens English. I mean, look at these kids today, with their "gay this" and "gay that". When I was their age, "gay" meant homosexual, and everyone knew it. That's how we all knew Fred and Barney were taking it up the old dabba-doo. (Well, that and all the references to rocks and stones.) Slash fic was implicit in those days. But now it's all ruined, you can't call someone "gay" without people thinking it's an insult, and there's no word with the exact same connotations. Slash today lacks all subtlety, and authors turn the sub against the dom.

#152 ::: xaaronx ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 11:07 PM:

#97

Caroline is right; "y'all" is NEVER singular. Using it thus marks one as an outsider immediately--and quite possibly one mocking the Southern dialect(s). I say this as an ostensible DC native who has now lived in North Carolina for the majority of his life. You are absolutely correct on the usage of "all y'all" as a large-group plural; I --as an almost native--was actually surprised that needed explaining. The use of "y'all all" on the other hand, connotes to me a backwoods/Piedmont origin. I have lived, it should be pointed out, my whole Southern existence in Wilmington, a town that--depending on your social group--seems as much "beach" as "Southern". I know quite a few people who are natives from a couple generations back and still don't consider themselves "really Southern". We also have a huge cultural influence from NY, NJ, and PA natives that has only increased in the two decades I've been here. For example, when I was ickle, the use of "you guys" as a second person plural was notable and sometimes derided. Today, it's common among lifelong residents and not at all remarkable. Has that one grown more common in other area outside NY/NJ that have not experienced as large a wave of immigration, or is it a product of all the incoming Northerners (you rarely hear "yankee" anymore; a related phenomenon?).

Also, "at college" has an odd ring to my ear, unless one is describing a physical place: "Shannon is off at college". "In college" seems much more natural.

#153 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 11:10 PM:

Kip 115: Glas is also Irish Gaelic. My eyes are glas.

Steve 122: Every time you say 'Legos' I twitch with pain. And you wouldn't want that, would you?

Um...yes. Yes, we would. I would, anyway. Come to that, I can think of creative uses for legos, besides. But I'll stop there, lest I offend your delicate sensibilities! I propose that we call one of them a "legos" and more than one "legoi."

jmmcdermott 125: I understand that "ZAY-oos" wouldn't be too inaccurate. Classicists please correct/inform?

Tracie 130: I get this in work chat all the time.

Me: Thanks!
Them: np

Sometimes it's even

Them: ty
Me: npaa

--because I've picked it up too. But when I'm talking to them on the phone I tend to say "You're quite welcome." (Hey, I hear that UK usage of 'quite' is a little different. As far as my usage goes, it means "very" or "completely." What's in mean in UKE?)

Caroline 133: You're allowed to be annoyed by linguistic change when it happens in your lifetime, just as you're allowed to be annoyed by the weather.

And by the way, 'youse' is used pretty much as you describe "y'all" (sb single quotes...but there's an apostrophe there). Spider Robinson, among others, gets this wrong. He seems to think people who say 'youse' say it instead of 'you'. He has a complete tin ear for dialect, as far as I can tell. This grated on me even when I lived in Michigan, and since I've moved to where people actually SAY 'youse' it drives me crazy.

Nathan 148: She either thought you had multiple personalities, or wanted you to bring a friend.

#154 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 11:13 PM:

Drat. I should have said I have glassy eyes! Gorram esprit d'escalier.

#155 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 11:24 PM:

Will @ 119: Is "no worries" supposed to be Australian? I had no idea. I just picked it up from somewhere because it was handy to tell folks who over-apologised for little things. (Like the lady in the store who very worriedly shepherded her kids out of "the nice lady's way" and apologised to me for her kids, even though they weren't in my way. A "no worries" and a smile and we were all good.)

After my three year stint in Canada, I found it easy to adopt zed. My real name has a zed in it, and when spelling it and other words with zeds over the phone, it's been handy, because customer service reps don't get it mixed up with cee. (Zee and cee sound too alike over long distance phone lines.)

#156 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 11:41 PM:

"Y'all" as singular drives me nuts. It always brings to mind Bugs Bunny in drag, fluttering his lashes and calling Elmer Fudd "y'all." Probably because everyone who does it puts on the same drippy-sweet fake drawl, and comes off looking just as cartoonish.

#157 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 12:06 AM:

By the rules of some on this thread, I am very affected and pretentious indeed.

I speak English with a midwestern overlay over a cuban accent. I have picked up German expressions from my best friend, whose family hails from the Black Forest; Yiddishisms from living ten years in Long Island (North Merrick, to be exact); and British expressions from television, reading, and travel. I also throw in French and Italian if the situation seems to call for it.

My sister is even worse in that she automatically and without conscious intent adopts the accent of any place she is in for more than a couple of days-- which usually leads to her explaining to people that this will happen and is NOT mockery.

#158 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 12:18 AM:

#89 DoonboggleFrog: the last several military contacts with Arabic produced lasting Army vocabulary here, some of which made it into civilian use. I think the most durable of these was "shoofti" (to look), used entirely as a gerund "to have a shoofti". There was also "mufti" (civilian clothes), but this remained entirely within the Army, as one might expect. "Wadi" (a steep-sided gully, usually dry) is sometimes used here in its original sense. "Baksheesh" (gift, but also donation, alms) and "bint" (girl, in the sense of 'silly young thing'), are still used occasionally, always in a pejorative sense. Of course items of Middle-Eastern cuisine or attire that have no English names at all are used for them.

I don't expect much to come into English as a result of our collective, um, presence (?!) in Iraq. The numbers concerned are simply too small, as a proportion of the whole population. The last crop seems to have entered as a result of WW2, when very large numbers, by comparison, served in Arabic-speaking areas. Very little Korean came into English as a result of the Korean conflict, for instance.

#159 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 12:32 AM:

Keith at #75 writes:

> Same with hedge, verge or your more precise British garden nouns. "He dived over the hedge and rolled about the verge trying to rid himself of the marauding bees," is a lot more interesting than just "He jumped on the lawn and rolled in the grass to escape the bees."

Just as long as he didn't fall into the ha-ha.

#160 ::: Jeremy Hornik ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 12:57 AM:

#39 Mary Frances:

I cringe at 'alright,' even though it expresses something specific in dialogue that sounds more (to me) like "Arright." That's something I'm actually more likely to say than "all right," which sounds to me like it should be followed as such:

"All right, chaps, who's been whingeing for a cup of 'twee?'"

But I have a soft spot in my heart for 'aight.' Even though, when I see it written out, I have to remind that it doesn't rhyme with 'eight.' I think it's because I believe 'aight' is a choice about how the speaker sounds, and 'alright' could possibly be just poor spelling.

Aight?

#161 ::: John A ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 12:57 AM:

#158 - Interesting, 'mufti' is alive and well in the general population - at least in NZ (and probably Australia too). It is most commonly used in the context of a 'mufti day' which typically is a day when school uniforms (no laughing) don't have to be worn. The kids wear normal clothes and make a donation - usually for fundraising or sometimes charity. It is also used in the general context of someone you might normally expect to be in a uniform or special clothes - 'Sorry, I didn't recogise you in mufti, Vicar'.

#159 - should be ok as long it was a mini ha-ha.

#162 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 01:04 AM:

Xopher at #153 writes:

> Steve 122: Every time you say 'Legos' I twitch with pain. And you wouldn't want that, would you?

> Um...yes. Yes, we would. I would, anyway. Come to that, I can think of creative uses for legos, besides. But I'll stop there, lest I offend your delicate sensibilities! I propose that we call one of them a "legos" and more than one "legoi."

twitch! twitch!

Legoi sounds like a group of Lego Roman Centurions - which is not a bad thing at all.

#163 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 01:14 AM:

In fact... legoi!

#164 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 01:31 AM:

Jeremy Hornik @ 160: "aight" is a version of "all right" (or "alright")? "aight" is a word? Goodness. The things I learn on Making Light . . .

Seriously, I'd never run across that form, personally or in a student essay--either my students all know it's colloquial and not appropriate, or the differing pronunciation prevents them from writing it. Anyway, it's an interesting variation.

Also, in the course of checking it out, I discovered (via the OED) there there is an obsolete 12th-century adverb, "alrihtes," meaning "just" or "exactly." Who knew?

JESR @ 45: I've never really "heard" a distinction in meaning between "all right" and "alright," either--which may be the real reason, or part of the real reason, that it's become one of my personal grammatical bugaboos. I suspect you're right about it being a dialectal marker, though I've never run across any research that indicates how, or to what extent. Have you?

#165 ::: Elizabeth ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 01:42 AM:

Well, being from New Orleans originally, I have to admit that I use y'all in a singular sense - or do when I'm working retail. I think it's habitual, because most of the time I'm greeting a group, I say "How are y'all doing" and "Y'all have a good day" and so even when a person comes in by themselves, I still use the same stock phrases. Although, a person who considers themselves southern might be offended by my use of "y'all" at all, since I don't actually have a discernible southern accent. I've moved back and forth between New Orleans and central Illinois all my life, with a year in the UK in college, and have spent the last 5 years in Oregon. I think it's worn off all of my accent, and just left the vocabulary.

I have also picked up any number of Britishisms from my husband, and am doing my best to spread them around. Thus, I use "rubbish" regularly to describe something bad, especially when I can't use stronger language because I'm at work. Strangely, I never use it as a synonym for garbage, just as "Oh, that movie was complete rubbish."

I agree that grey and gray are not the same color, and agree that gray is warmer, but in a sickly, yellow way. Grey is silvery and delicate.

Oh! Regarding people describing their cats as grey, Ethan, sometimes cats are blue as well. Hence the Russian Blue. Lots of people won't realize that the lovely dark silver grey with a sheen to it is actually blue for cats. Think Weimeraners for the color if you're not familiar with the cat breed - grey (or gray, for that matter) just doesn't seem to fully capture the sheen.

Back to lurking now.

#166 ::: Vian ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 02:00 AM:

--because I've picked it up too. But when I'm talking to them on the phone I tend to say "You're quite welcome." (Hey, I hear that UK usage of 'quite' is a little different. As far as my usage goes, it means "very" or "completely." What's in mean in UKE?)

I speak AusEnglish, victorian subdialect.

Idiomatically "quite welcome," like "quite dead" means "very" or "utterly" (welcome or dead).

That said, as an adverb, on-US English usually defines "quite" as 'somewhat' or 'a bit' in a nothing-you'd-write-home-about-but-not-offensive sense, like this:

"Was it a good party?"
"Quite good, until Felix started channelling Idi Amin."

"Is it hot out?"
"Quite warm, yes, but you might still need a jacket."

#167 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 02:03 AM:

Mary Frances, I haven't seen any research supporting that contention, but the people I most often see defending the usage are younger than me and often British or Antipodian; I've gotten involved in a couple of heated discussions with fic writers about using that construction in stories. I should, perhaps, have used the word idiolect, instead, since that's the level at which I'm sure of the distinction.

Speaking of which (heated discussions with fic writers): "lounge" is a word which, I believe most US English speakers would agree, indicates, in the US, a public space meant for sitting about (and drinking, if "cocktail lounge"). I've always been under the impression that the use of "lounge" instead of "sitting room" is a strong class indicator in the UK, or has been until relatively recently. In Australia and New Zealand, at least, it just means what an American would call the living room.

I once read a BtVS fic where Xander Harris called his living room a "lounge," went to the Sunnydale Walmart ( thrilled that it was late closing day) and used a shopping trolley, and thought of distances in meters. The writer reacted badly when I advised her to get an American beta.

#168 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 02:07 AM:

Frangano @ 30...

You were forgetting the Irish shore (to be sure, to be sure).

Meanwhile, the Pacific tends to be delimited in part by the Australian shore (yair, no worries).

Bruce @ 64

This sounds rather like the difference between Australian and New Zealand speech (which people from outside these countries cannot pick to save their lives, but which is very noticeable to people from either of them). Basically, it comes down to the pronunciation of the vowels - to an Australian, the Kiwis are shifting things around a bit - they say "fish and chips" to sound like "fush ind chups". Australians, however, tend to put an upward intonation at the end of their sentences, which can result in a conversation sounding like a string of poorly phrased questions.

It's interesting - as far as I'm concerned, the Aussies have the best accent to use the word "wanker" in, simply because the nasalised vowels add an extra touch of scorn to the pronunciation. To me, someone from the US would probably sound as though they were putting far too much emphasis on the final syllable, and in particular the final "r" sound - the Australian pronunciation is much more along the lines of "wan-kah", thus losing the final "r", and with the emphasis on the first syllable. The Brits tend to lose a lot of the impact through having slightly softer vowel sounds, although I'll pay the Northern English and Glasgow Scots pronunciations as being equally good as the Aussie one. Canadians would fall under the same heading as people from the US (I realise this marks me as one who should be shot by most Canadians, but all I can say is that it's very similar to the difference between an Aussie and a Kiwi - you guys may notice it, but I don't). The Sarth Effrikans would pronounce it more along the lines of "wenker" and that just kills it as far as I'm concerned.

Nah, for me the good old Aussie drawl of "ya wanker" is the ultimate version of the description.

#169 ::: Piers Cawley ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 03:34 AM:

#160 Jeremy: One may whine for (or after, meaning the same) a cup of tea, but one would never whinge for it.

#170 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 03:36 AM:

I first heard "whinge" in an Australian sitcom that I saw on PBS sometime in the 1980s. The word was completely unfamiliar to me then. I don't even think of it as particularly foreign any more, and I think it's entirely because of the Internet.

Somewhere years ago I saw somebody insist vehemently and at great length that any American who spells "aesthetic" with an a at the beginning is a pretentious, culturally-cringing Anglophile who probably paints himself with woad, and I was terribly embarrassed because that was the spelling I had always used after seeing it in books--I never even thought of "aesthetic" as a British spelling. If you actually use the ligature, maybe.

#171 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 03:49 AM:

Eleanor @123

"My sister's at medical school and she calls it "school", which sounds very odd to me. Technically her school is a college of the University of London, just to make life more interesting."

And I was at veterinary school (in full, Cambridge University Veterinary School), Girton College, and Cambridge University all at the same time (and did I have fun trying to explain that to some Americans). And I would talk about being "at the vet school" - but never that I was "at school" - I was "at university".

#172 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 05:26 AM:

DoonboggleFrog #99 writes: My parents grew up in Southern California, and they both insist that y'all is the only second-person plural in the English language

There are two different second person plurals just in Irish English: the rural "ye" and the Dublin "yiz".

On a showery day in the country, it'd be "Maybe ye should bring yir coats", while in Dublin it'd be "Maybe yiz should bring yizzer coats." I've even heard the form "yizzerselves", which is a lovely word.

#173 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 05:34 AM:

Tim May @ 138

I can go along with 'Lego' being a mass noun. There are great precedents for that; I figure if 'cerebral cortex', the seat* of human ideation, can be a mass noun, then any other word ought to be able to do so, if it wants.

Matt McIrvin @ 170

I've always found 'esthetic' to be rather unaesthetic. Interestingly, my US English spell checker agrees with me.

* OK, maybe it's only the ottoman.

#174 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 05:42 AM:

Steve Taylor @ 162,163

'Legoi'? Nice word, but that's a Greek inflection, not Latin. None of those uncivilized Romans allowed in this outfit!

#175 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 05:52 AM:

Tim May @ 138: Another good test might be whether or not you consider "I have four Lego" acceptable. If yes, then you are b).

"I'm in category c), and it's my suspicion that most people who say things like "the plural of Lego is Lego" actually are too, but lack the terminology to describe their own usage."

Does anyone really use Lego as a mass noun--do you really say "I have twenty bricks of Lego"? That sounds intensely weird to me.

Personally, I am firmly in the a) camp. I've been playing with Legos since I was a child. If you don't like it, tough--go verb your noun.

#176 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 06:16 AM:

Elizabeth @ 165:
I agree that grey and gray are not the same color, and agree that gray is warmer, but in a sickly, yellow way. Grey is silvery and delicate.

This is, for me, quite the strangest bit of language use to come up in this discussion, since I would never ascribe different meanings to what is (to me) a regional spelling difference. (E.g., "center" and "centre" are just different spellings of the same word.)

I can half imagine where it's coming from, though, in that for me the spelling "grey" is associated with reading Tolkien, so it takes on a certain Tolkienesque aura, which tends to agree with your "silvery and delicate" characterization, as well as Kip Manley's "romantic" vs "drab" contrast.

Even without the Tolkien association, the spelling probably comes across (to Americans, anyway) as slightly exotic -- "ay" is, I suspect, by far the more common way of spelling that particular sound (bay, day, fray, gay, hay, jay, lay, ...) -- and so could acquire "romantic" connotations just from that.

#177 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 07:02 AM:

PiscusFiche @ 155:
Will @ 119: Is "no worries" supposed to be Australian? I had no idea.

My main acquaintance with that phrase is from Terry Pratchett's The Last Continent, where just about every single local in Fourecks (the titular continent) says that. Since Fourecks is very clearly a parody version of Australia, I gathered that either: a) "no worries" is a characteristic Australian thing to say; or b) it's at least a British stereotype about characteristic Australian things to say...

#178 ::: John A ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 07:10 AM:

#175 Well, the most natural to me would be 'twenty Lego bricks' - an adjective!

So maybe the 'bricks' can be assumed to be silent, then Lego is an adjective - the company's happy, the assumed 'brick' can be plural or singular - everyone else is happy!


#179 ::: Juliet E McKenna ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 07:10 AM:

Can I just ask, when did 'crap' somehow become an acceptable and inoffensive word for children to use over in the US?

Because here in the UK, it really wasn't a word I wanted my sons using at the age of eight or so, anymore than I'd want them using 'shit'.

But according to them, 'Bart Simpson says it'. And lo, he does. And it still grates, these five years later.

(In case any other parents are curious, I dealt with that one by asking if they were bright yellow with three fingers on each hand. No? Then you don't get to say it...)

Oh and yes, legos grates horribly on me. That's just the way it is.

And 'pissed' for 'angry' still sounds plain wrong. 'Pissed off' is angry. 'Pissed' is drunk.

But other than that, I find the differences in English as it is spoken around the world mostly just fascinating.

#180 ::: John A ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 07:15 AM:

Eleanor @123 - I was used to hearing about 'varsity' which is the other half of 'uni', when I was younger. This was the shortened version my Mother and her friends used.

#181 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 07:18 AM:

About the phrase "no worries" (e.g. #119, #155, #177).

One of the DC-area stations used to run repeats of the Australian show "Water Rats" (drama about the Sydney Water Police). I recall the characters frequently using the phrase "no worries".

#182 ::: Steve Downey ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 07:18 AM:

Bruce Arthurs @ 51
Since gob is mouth (e.g. "Shut your gob."), I think it has more to do with being as surprised as if you'd just been struck in the face.

#183 ::: Naomi Parkhurst ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 07:22 AM:

Just wanted to share another American dialect's version of the second-person plural: you-uns or yuns or yins. Some of my growing up was in southern Indiana, and I fairly frequently heard older locals say the first of those.

#184 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 07:27 AM:

Cortex a mass noun? I don't think so--one cortex, two cortices, etc.

#185 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 07:39 AM:

Speaking as a former Texan - y'all isn't singular and doesn't need to be, since we have an adequate second person singular already. It's the all-important (and officially missing nowadays) second person plural.

(Volume One of The Illustrated Texas Dictionary of the English Language Houston, 1967: yawl - the pronoun of the second person plural. "Good to see yawl." It's the very first entry.)

Emma @ #157: I pick up accents too. It's worst in the south, since I regress back to my old accent, but it happens a little in the U.K. as well. I have hopes that if I spend enough time with jennie (Power Twin), I'll pick up her beautiful, precise manner of speech and pronunciation. Listening to her speak makes me more than usually conscious of (and irritated by) my own accent.

#186 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 08:38 AM:

Stuff It

Meg Thornton @168

As a Brit, I'll admit that I cannot reliably distinguish between US and Canadian pronunciation or between Australian and New Zealand pronunciation (broad Australian is distinctive, I think, and so are some American accents such as broad Texan, so I can with some certainty pick out some Americans and some Australians, but cannot be sure to separate out the Canadians from most Americans or the Kiwis from most Australians).

However, when I was in South Africa as part of a multi-national team helping with 20,000 oiled penguins (that's another story) and we had people there from every continent except Antarctica, I had an American ask me, with all seriousness, whether to me the South Africans sounded any different from the British - because they sounded the same to him... I was so stunned I'm afraid I simply gaped for a moment before answering that yes, they did!

#187 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 09:26 AM:

CHip #145: I've always thought that the lisping of r was a speech impediment rather than an affectation. The late Frank Muir was hardly an upper-class twit, but he certainly turned his rs into ws.

#188 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 09:33 AM:

Meg Thornton #168: You're after being right.

#189 ::: vjstewart ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 09:40 AM:

"W(h)ockerjawed" is apparently the WV equivalent of whomperjawed (which I'd never heard before). Not sure of the spelling since I've never seen, only heard it. And mostly people stare when I use it, though they understand what it means at once.
In 6th grade I got marked incorrect for spelling "honour' and 'colour' in the British fashion, but smartass that I was, I brought in a Webster's and got her to change my marks since it was an accepted alternate spelling.
My favorite Britishism is 'bob's your uncle'. I had an uncle Bob, so I liked the double meaning. I used it for years, before I finally heard it on British tv--I had and still have no idea where I picked it up as a kid.
I've always used 'grey' instead of 'gray', but am not sure why. Perhaps the Tolkien influence. I agree it seems more textured and organic. When I see the word 'gray' I think of computers and plastics. Too close to 'gravy' and gray gravy is definitely gray not grey.

#190 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 09:45 AM:

Peter Irwin (#176): This is, for me, quite the strangest bit of language use to come up in this discussion, since I would never ascribe different meanings to what is (to me) a regional spelling difference. (E.g., "center" and "centre" are just different spellings of the same word.)

Actually, I think that 'theater' and 'theatre' might have a similar sort of distinction in the US; I definitely think of 'theater' as involving movies or TV (eg 'home theater') and 'theatre' as being the live-on-stage kind. I don't think it's a hard and fast distinction. If you Google 'theatre company,' the first hit is the Steppenwolf, and they use both forms in their heading.

#191 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 09:47 AM:

Chip (145): I use 'flabbergasted' all the time, because it's a fun word.

#192 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 09:51 AM:

Fragano @ 187
CHip #145: I've always thought that the lisping of r was a speech impediment rather than an affectation. The late Frank Muir was hardly an upper-class twit, but he certainly turned his rs into ws.

I nonetheless have the impression that it's a peculiarly English impediment. I don't believe I've ever heard it from an American speaker[*], but I have heard it from several (educated) English speakers (Frank Muir being one of them; the string theorist Michael Greene[**] being another).

[*] The exception (of a sort) being Elmer Fudd. But I have no idea what sort of 1930s/40s linguistic milieu that (mock) accent/speech pattern comes out of.

[**] Possible upper class, for all I know, but not a twit.

#193 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 09:54 AM:

Juliet, #179: "Crap" has always been a borderline word. Some Americans consider it a marquee obscenity right up there with "fuck," whereas others seem to regard it as only half-improper--more potent than "crud," but not as momentous as "shit."

My parents have always been willing to let fly with a four-letter word when appropriate, and I distinctly remember being coached, before going to school for the first time, on which words were and weren't to be used outside the home. "Crap" was the one they forgot, with utterly predictable results...

#194 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 10:07 AM:

Peter Irwin #192: You're right, I've never heard an American with that particularly impediment, though there are non-rhotic dialects in America (most famously in New England).

#195 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 10:12 AM:

debcha @ 190:
Actually, I think that 'theater' and 'theatre' might have a similar sort of distinction in the US; I definitely think of 'theater' as involving movies or TV (eg 'home theater') and 'theatre' as being the live-on-stage kind. I don't think it's a hard and fast distinction. If you Google 'theatre company,' the first hit is the Steppenwolf, and they use both forms in their heading.

Youre right, they do; that's interesting. But if you Google for "movie theatre", the first thing that shows up is "AMC Theatres", and apparently the relevant US trade association is the "National Association of Theatre Owners"[*], so it works for movies as well.

I suspect there may be a bit of the "Olde Towne Shoppe" phenomenon at work -- British[**] spellings being perceived by Americans as somehow more sophisticated, refined, cultured, etc., so you spell it the British way to imply that yours is a classier operation.

[*] which actually calls itself "NATO"...

[*] or pseudo-British, as the case may be

#196 ::: Tim May ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 10:13 AM:

Heresiarch @ #175

I think the most natural equivalent in my speech would be "I have twenty pieces of Lego". (I mean, they're not all bricks; some of them are plates, or struts, or little cylindrical thingies.) If I wanted to include "bricks" and "Lego" in the same noun phrase, I'd more likely say "twenty Lego bricks", but that would be less common.

As far as I know, the mass reading is normal in Britain and the count one in America. But online discussions of the matter I've seen before suffered from people not knowing terms like "mass noun", or trying to appeal to the official version.

#197 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 10:17 AM:

Heresiarch @ 184

I've seen the phrase "in cerbral cortex" without the definite article used in quite a few papers and books on neuroanatomy and brain architecture. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen it used with an article in a technical context. I've alse heard this construct said by several neurosurgeons. It's never been in a context where I could stop them and ask about it, though.

It seems to me that that usage is either a collective noun, or a unique construct similar to the Britishism "in hospital", which also somehow makes the noun more abstract than it would be with a definite article. I've assumed the former explanation because it better satisfies my sense that the central nervous system is something quite different from most of the rest of the universe in terms of complexity.

#198 ::: Shannon ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 10:31 AM:

I'm going to graduate school (does anyone say graduate university?) at Oxford, and have met lots of different people from around the world. I've become quite familiar with the guess-the-accent game, when you can't quite remember where someone is from.

In terms of Kiwis and Aussies sounding different, I can tell that they sound slightly different. But then, the two Aussies I know come from opposite sides of the continent, so they have different accents from each other as well.

As for Canadian/American, I'm American and I can't distinguish between the general, broad, midwest/Northeast American accident and the Canadian one besides the "ehs?" But maybe that's because I'm from relatively close to the border in the US.

The first time I heard the South African accent, I was really confused because it sounded British, but not quite right. When I found out that my friend was from SA it all made sense.

In terms of British words, I think there are a few that sum up entire phrases brilliantly that I think I might continue to use back home - queueing, posh, twee, alcopop, busking, dodgy (which I use in the same way as "sketchy" with the use of both them probably being wrong). And I use the verb mail/post interchangeably now for some reason. I also think it's funny that "muppet" became a widely-used insult in Britain, even though the show originated in America.

#199 ::: kouredios ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 11:14 AM:

Let's see:

I got a paper back recently with a lot of corrections along the lines of "use American, not British standard." The things she marked were the "grey" spelling and comma usage. I honestly didn't know there was that much of a distinction, and I'm inclined to say it was her preference, not a hard standard, but I am but an egg in the world of academic publishing.

I also say "Legos," "no problem" and "cell." But not "y'all," "whinge" or "gobsmacked."

I'll just go muse over the difference between langue and parole, now...

#200 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 11:16 AM:

Juliet, #179: In most places over here, "pissed" is ruder than "crap." "Crap" has become a term for all the things that bore or disgust or disappoint you; feces is only a subset of crap. But "piss" is exclusively urine. When someone says they're pissed or pissed off (you hear both), you know they mean it because they're being a bit rude.

#201 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 11:50 AM:

debcha @ 139:
But my voice and writing certainly evolve in response to the environment around me, and I have made some conscious changes in the interest of clarity (like saying 'soda' instead of 'pop')

It sounds like you just ended up in the wrong part of the US, since there are places in the US where people say "pop". (See dialectical map here.)

(From my perspective, "soda" is slightly strange, since I grew up in LA saying "soft drink". I noticed the difference when I moved to Wisconsin for grad school; in fact, "soda" was one of the words where I could sometimes hear the faintly Scandinavian quality of the upper Midwest accents.)

#202 ::: Juliet E McKenna ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 11:50 AM:

Patrick @193, Will @200, thanks for the feedback, duly noted.

Apropos coaching children as to what usage is appropriate where, Patrick, one couple we know did something similar as their young son's vocabulary expanded. The categories were:

words we don't want to hear you saying
words your teachers won't want to hear you saying
words grandma would be upset to hear you saying

That apparently worked quite well.

#203 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 12:03 PM:

dcb (#186): Gee, I just saw those oiled penguins on PBS last night. Aside from the oil spill, the regular South African scenes made me think those ads for the cartoon movie about the surfing penguins weren't as totally incongruous as I'd thought. (Interesting use of music in that nature show, too.)

Richard Thompson has worked a bunch of soldier-in-Iraq slang into his new song "Dad's Gonna Kill Me" (where Dad = Baghdad) -- there's even a little glossary in the CD.

I'm as sensitive as anyone to language mistakes, but I've come to think some of them are really part of language drift. "Comprise" has been misused so often, it's lost the link to its roots, and "different than" seems to be replacing "different from" altogether. When I was a kid, one of my teachers frowned upon "stuff", but now it crops up everywhere except really formal usages. "Crap" was another no-no back then, but the meaning *has* broadened into quasi-respectability.

The saddest thing about language drift is when useful old meanings are lost, as with both "gay" and "queer" (which used to mean "cheeful" and "peculiar"). But for every word/meaning we lose, something else seems to appear. Without double or triple meanings (and pronunciations), that great passtime the Cryptic Crossword puzzle wouldn't be nearly as much fun!

#204 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 12:10 PM:

Peter Irwin (#195):) ...British spellings being perceived by Americans as somehow more sophisticated, refined, cultured, etc., so you spell it the British way to imply that yours is a classier operation.

That's certainly how I've always interpreted it (for example, particularly because 'we request the honour of your presence' is the preference for wedding invitations, to say nothing of the 'pretension' theme on this thread). I'm looking at a copy of the official journal of the (American) Orthopaedic Research Society on my desk; I'm pretty sure their name doesn't antedate Webster's reforms.

#205 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 12:25 PM:

vjstewart @ 189

My favorite Britishism is 'bob's your uncle'. I had an uncle Bob, so I liked the double meaning. I used it for years, before I finally heard it on British tv--I had and still have no idea where I picked it up as a kid.

I can never hear that phrase without thinking of the games kids used to play on Hallowe'en (at least where I grew up). One of them was called "Bobbing for apples". It involved having your hands tied behind your back and trying to pick an apple floating in a tub of water up by grabbing the stem with your teeth. So just what would "Bobbing for uncles" look like?

#206 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 12:29 PM:

Well, I've pointed to individual maps a couple of times (once in this thread, once in the Fermented Curd thread), but I thought I'd make a general recommendation for the Dialect Survey, since it turns out to have quite a few interesting maps for the US, including one for "in line" vs "on line" (and "on line" is very definitely concentrated around New York). In a lot of cases, the distributions are mixed without any clear regional trends, but you can still see that different variants exist.

#207 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 12:33 PM:

Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers @ #205

You had stems on the apples to grab???

When we played apple bobbing as kids, grabbing the apple required sinking your teeth into it - which invariably meant having to stick your whole face into the bowl of water in order to pin an apple on the bottom of the bowl sufficiently to get purchase for your teeth (you hoped).

Can't quite remember what occasions we played this. Won't have been Halloween, this side of the pond.

#208 ::: mimi ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 12:40 PM:

I was born and grew up in Atlanta, which is really only pseudo-Southern (it's a city of carpetbaggers, after all; even now, as a native Atlantan, I'm a rarity here). For most of my life, I refused to use "y'all," because I thought it would make me sound uneducated. It wasn't until grad school (in Connecticut!) that I finally gave in to how useful it is. Now I use it all the time, and "all y'all" as well. And it makes me happy, and even Northerners don't make fun of me.

On the other hand, since I've only ever had the barest trace of a Southern accent, I hope other Southerners don't think I'm being pretentious...

#209 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 01:05 PM:

#206, Peter: Thanks! Now I know where I picked up "on line." I only lived in New York for three years, but I may've waited on line more in that city than anywhere else. (Hours for a play in the park? No problem.)

I would think that sense of "on line" would fade as the sense of "on the internet" grows, but so long as the meaning's clear in context, the old meaning will hang on.

#210 ::: chris y ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 01:44 PM:

189: I read somewhere that "Bob's your uncle" refers to Robert Cecil, Marquis of Salisbury, who was British Prime Minister in the late c19, and whose government at one point included no fewer than four other members of his family. So that, if true, would certainly make it a British expression.

#211 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 01:54 PM:

In high school I wrote "colour" and "favour", "cheque" and so on. I used to write "connexion" after reading too much Austen.

Reason being, my best friend hailed from Canada and her spelling was quite British, and I thought she was the coolest person ever and wanted to be like her in every possible way. Also, we liked Douglas Adams and Monty Python and British rock'n'roll.

It was an affectation, but a relatively cute and harmless one.

I still envy her European aesthetic (I've mentioned her before, surely -- she and her family are Polish). Her furniture and linens are just nicer, and her idea of brunch is heavenly, and the amount of quality tea she keeps in the house is amazing, not to mention her fashion sense. But we've both switched to standard American spellings as we've gone through college and grad school.

Southern accents: I only have a noticeable one when talking to Southerners. It gets thicker the more I need to assert myself. For example, when arguing with a store clerk or a plumber who has a Southern accent, my vowels get all twangy and I start saying "y'all" and "ain't" and "[x object is] broke."

I do, however, say "might could" nearly all the time, usually not in a Southern accent. It's shorter than "might be able to" and gets the point across quite succinctly. People mock me for it, but gently (and one of my co-workers, from Ohio, looked thoughtful when I pointed out that it was shorter, and said "Huh, I guess it is").

#212 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 02:20 PM:

Caroline @ #211: "Southern accents: I only have a noticeable one when talking to Southerners."

That's me. Six years in Northern Virginia (which I'd call Mid-Atlantic geographically) left me using y'all whenever I speak to someone who's markedly from the South, even 40 years on. It even happens on the phone.

#213 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 02:25 PM:

mimi (208): I, too, was born and grew up in Atlanta. If I had a dime for every time someone said to me, "funny, you don't have a Southern accent," I could probably retire tomorrow. I do find myself using various Southern-isms, though. 'Y'all' and 'might could' are both very useful.

#214 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 02:51 PM:

Or 'mought' as the past tense of 'might'?

#215 ::: mimi ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 03:11 PM:

#213 Mary Aileen: Oh, yes, we'd both be rolling in the dough! Though I now get extra-funny looks on occasion: after a year-long stint in London, I didn't develop an accent, but all my consonants got much sharper, resulting in a former high school classmate telling me, "You don't say Adlanna like you're from Adlanna." (Which is true--almost a decade later, I still say Adlanta.)

I'm sure I say "might could" on occasion, but I don't notice myself saying it the same way I notice "y'all." Now, of course, I'm sure I'll discover I say it all the time...

It's not a Southernism, really, but I did notice back in high school/college that I would respond to the question "How are you?" with "Prihgud." That one took a while to eradicate.

#216 ::: vjstewart ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 04:05 PM:

Re: #205, 207

In Ohio, we were at a fair where they hung the apples. They apples were spiked (literally a railroad spike) which was tied to a string suspended from a wooden frame. You had to catch them in mid-air. Later we adapted this as a children's game at our kids' school's fall festival, substituting popsicle sticks for the railroad spikes. It is almost impossible to catch the things, but fun to try. Later we found out this was an Irish tradition called 'sparking' for apples. Since it's easier to catch the things if two people, um, work together, I'm thinking it may have been a courtship ritual/game/thing.
Sadly, we had to get away from the water-bobbing due to irrational fear of shared spit among the kidlets.

#217 ::: JHomes ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 04:49 PM:

A brief delurk on the subject of "crap" (#179, #193, #202). This used to be an innocent little agricultural term, referring to the dirt and debris from threshing and winniowing grain prior to milling. Its use to refer to human excrement was thus a euphemism.

But now the original meaning has been forgotton by y'all city slickers, and it is regarded as just another slang term for excrement, and as rude when used for any other rubbish.

JHomes

#218 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 05:04 PM:

#217, JHomes: Always good to learn more about crap! Wikipedia backs you up: crap.

#219 ::: Dave Hutchinson ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 05:39 PM:

I'm probably too late to this party, but back in the 80s I was on an exchange programme to a college in the Midwest, where shortly after first meeting my American room-mate I told him that I was popping out to get some fags and did he want me to pick up anything for him while I was out.

#220 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 05:53 PM:

Well, Dave, even in America, popping out might be a good way to get some fags...depending on which parts of you popped out.

#221 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 06:04 PM:

mimi #215: Those of us who live here know that we're in Etlanna, the capital of Jawjuh.

#222 ::: Dave Hutchinson ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 06:10 PM:

Xopher@220 - :-)

#223 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 06:32 PM:

PNH: "Wait, that's never actually happened to me. Come to think of it, I've never met anyone who does what you describe, either."

I had a roommate in the academy who did this. He was born and raised in Sacramento to 2nd or 3rd generation Americans. I don't think he was putting on airs or being pretentious. I think he was just plain weird. He had a highly developed negative attitude about spelling reform. Could rant about Noah Webster for hours (or so it seemed) and seemed to enjoy bickering with his composition professor over the acceptability of British English in American usage.

I'm with PNH's side on this, of course— and no, not because he's PNH, but because he's right. If the Brits don't want us Yanks to appropriate their dialect, they should quit whinging. We're here. We're queer. Get over it.

#224 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 06:57 PM:

Peter Erwin @201 and debcha @139:

Definitely people say "pop" in the US. I grew up in one of those regions, and then moved away to a place where they said "soda". That took me a decade or so to adjust to, and then I recently moved back to "pop"-land. It's left me utterly confused as to which to use. I tend to ask for "diet whatever".

Re the Hawaiian pidgen/creole note: I think the locals do still call it pidgen, though I've heard "talk local" quite a bit, too. On our visits back to Hawaii, it's actually quite amusing to hear my husband slip into "talk local" with the locals (especially with people in service jobs), and then back into "educated general American" when he talks to me again.

#225 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 07:23 PM:

Heresiarch at #175 says:

> Does anyone really use Lego as a mass noun--do you really say "I have twenty bricks of Lego"? That sounds intensely weird to me.

And to me - but a brick is not a container for a quantitiy of a mass noun. I'd certainly say "twenty buckets of Lego", as opposed to "twenty buckets of Legos".

#226 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 07:51 PM:

Elise, I will certainly cut you (or anyone else) slack. I've accepted that "no problem" is a courteous and sincere response. It doesn't offend me, it just bugs me. And I feel particularly stuffy (but not stuffed) when it does bug me, probably because a lot of it is generational; hence, "h'rumph!"

Why am I bugged? Because "no problem" has almost completely replaced "you're welcome." Just about everyone younger than I says it everywhere these days. (AARP membership comes with authorization to say "these days.") It can bring me up short and inspire me to think "did he actually think that I think what I'm thanking him for was a problem? Was it a problem? Would he have done it for me if it actually were a problem? Am I overanalyzing this?" (Yes. Get a grip!) "No problem" does not mean the same thing to me as "you're welcome," and I sometimes need to consciously translate.

It's not as if I never use the phrase myself, but it's rarely, less automatically, and usually in response to more effusive thanks. "Oh, you shouldn't have gone to the trouble!" "Honestly, it was no problem [or trouble] at all."

Many of us spent parts of our childhoods learning to say "you're welcome" before Mom prompted "now, what do you say..." I'd hate to think all those golden hours were wasted. Besides, I find "you're welcome" physically easier to say with a smile than "no problem."

#227 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 08:01 PM:

Tracie #226: For me, saying "no problem!" rather than "you're welcome" isn't a generational thing (though I am a whippersnapper*, I suppose).

For two long, terrible years, I was a bank teller at a bank that VALUED CUSTOMER SERVICE!!!!, and they insisted that saying "you're welcome" was rude. Believe it or not. They claimed that it implied that you thought they owed you something, and that the bank wasn't grateful for their patronage, or something along those lines.

The only acceptable response to a customer saying "thank you" was to say "thank you" back. Even if you just, say, held a door open for them. So after two years I find myself completely incapable of saying "you're welcome" in a work environment, and it's either "no problem," "my pleasure," or awkward silence.

*Crazy! Camino's annoying spellchecker knows the word whippersnapper! (And apparently doesn't know Camino's.)

#228 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 08:25 PM:

Larry Brennan, #127, I occasionally wait for the lift. You see, the commuter rail steps are steep and start much higher than I can step, so I stand under the wheelchair symbol and the conductor gets the lift so I can get in. Or out. There are lots of things called lifts that are not elevators.

Texanne, #144, I had a server ask me last week "How are we today?"

Peter Erwin, #195, I live in a small rural city and the old part of the city is called "Old Town" officially. You wouldn't believe the number of shops that call themselves Olde Towne Somethinge.

#229 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 08:52 PM:

Lego is a building material like concrete or cement. I have concrete blocks. I have buckets of cement. I have shiteloads of Lego.

Well, the Lego belongs to my kids now, except for the Empire Strikes Back AT-AT my brother gave me for my 40th birthday, which is ALL MINE!

#230 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 09:02 PM:

On grey vs gray: Back when I was an egg and first noticed that there were two alternative spellings, I decided that grey was a colour and Gray was a surname. Sometime later I realised I was reading gray in some US novels, so I decided it was just one of those cross-Atlantic differences. I'm now inclined to regard them as alternative spellings of the same word with no particular geographical localisation.

As to them refering to different colours, I can't see it. Or more precisely, I can't hear it; what's the point of having two similar colours that sound exactly the same?

#231 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 09:15 PM:

I recall that my college Chinese textbook listed meiyou guanxi ("no problem") as one of the common/acceptable responses to xie xie ("thanks"). I wonder how widespread that actually is among native Chinese speakers, and how old.

(Apologies for being too damn lazy to code for the proper tones in the Pinyin.)

#232 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 10:07 PM:

Dan 231: How DO you code for tones in the Pinyin? Are you just talking about le4 se4 and ni5 hau3 ma5 and so on, or is there a better way? I mean, I could code lè sè and use the acutes for 2nd tone, but how do you do 1st, 3rd, and 5th?

#233 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 10:14 PM:

Dunno. I've seen it done using the actual marks, but I can't remember if I saw how it was accomplished.

#234 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 10:35 PM:

My vote is for Legos. I've actually never heard anyone refer to the things as Lego, collective noun, and it sounds very weird and foreign to my ears. Is this a regional thing?

(As a child I was always stepping on my brother's Legos. They were definitely plural, all over the carpet.)

#235 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 10:41 PM:

I also pronounced it LEE-go. Because there was only one 'g', and no dash. If they'd spelled it Leg-o, I'd've pronounced it just like everyone else does. But I learned my spelling and pronunciation rules, and I knew how it should be pronounced.

#236 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 11:54 PM:

Steve Taylor @132, re "National Gallery of Victoria", &c.
Until a few years back what is now called "The Art Gallery of New South Wales" was named the National Gallery of New South Wales. I have heard that it goes back to the pre-Federation foundation of the older galleries; up to 1st January 1901 what are now the different States were different nations, with border controls, separate overseas representation, &c.
The Australian Museum, however, is in Sydney (currently College St, behind Hyde Park — never heard it called 'Uni St' <g>), and has been for well over a century, but the Australian National Museum was only founded relatively recently, and has only had a publically-visitable building this century.
The Australian National Maritime Museum is presumably in Sydney (at Darling Harbour) because of the good access to a maritime environment there compared to Canberra. It would be interesting, for instance, to seen them transporting the odd tall sailing ship, naval destroyer or submarine up the Woronora River into Lake Burley Griffen, or shipping it <g> down the highway on a 'Long Wide Load' transporter. Rather like the recent movement of Goulburn's Big Merino [2Mb PDF] over to the new highway bypass.

#237 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 12:24 AM:

Tracie@226: Is it still a generational thing if I'm going to turn 47 in a couple of months? I was under the impression it was more of an Upper Midwestern Scandosotan thing.

"Thank you!"
"Oh, hey, no problem, ya know?"

Though that's a good point about not wanting to lose "you're welcome."

#238 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 12:25 AM:

Lego my Ego!

#239 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 12:51 AM:

Caroline at #234 writes:

> My vote is for Legos. I've actually never heard anyone refer to the things as Lego, collective noun, and it sounds very weird and foreign to my ears. Is this a regional thing?

Big regions, yes. Americans say 'Legos', and Australian and Britons say anything other than 'Lego'. As for the rest of the world - not sure.

#240 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 01:21 AM:

ethan: You beat me to it. I hate being told, "thank you" instead of "you're welcome" in response.

It's a quirk, but when someone does something for me, they ought not be thanking me for it, and rejecting my thanks feels, oddly, rude.

#241 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 02:05 AM:

I'm glad other people have chimed in on the "Y'all is NOT singular" issue. That one makes my blood pressure rise.

I have a Southern accent when I have been talking with Southerners and/or am really drunk. I grew up in Florida (but the part inhabited by refugees from Ohio) the child of a native Floridian (back before the Ohioans arrived) and a Georgia boy, both of whom had Southern accents. I was never self-conscious of my speech until a friend of mine at my college kept going on about how cute it was that I used the phrase "crack the window" to mean open it a little bit, and that I pronounced "insurance" funny. I pretty much lost whatever trace of an accent I had after that.

It's always amusing to go back east and see my family go on about my eldest son's accent, which is pure California (he sounds like something out of a surfer movie).

My current language bugaboo is the use of the word "gift" as a verb.

#242 ::: Zeborah ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 03:59 AM:

Having read the whole thread I've lost track of which numbers go with which of the things I wanted to comment on. So...

all right / alright - Say someone's just sat an exam with multiple questions: "He got them all right" means 100% whereas "He did alright" means anywhere from 50% to 80% or so depending on the speaker. I can't give exact minimal pairs of sentences because it's not just that the two don't mean the same but they're not even quite the same part of speech.

New Zealand, like Australia, has upwards intonation at the end of sentences. It's more common in women, which is the sort of thing that makes armchair language commentators speculate that women are more tentative about what they're saying; but it's far more likely in fact that, as per usual, women are leading the linguistic way. I can't remember whether it was that feature or another which the armchair commentators thought was used by the lower-status person in a conversation with unequal power, but it turned out it was actually used by the higher-status: it wasn't being used as a sign of meekness, but as a kind of placatory/persuasive "You agree with me, don't you? And therefore you're going to do things my way, aren't you?"

Mufti days are definitely used in New Zealand, though I haven't used it in the 'vicar' context given above. Uni. Maths. Queue (up), whose gerund should be avoided if at all possible.

No worries means the same as You're welcome, No problem, Not a problem, and Cheers. Cheers also means Thank you and I've heard it pronounced Chiz (which the Aussies would hear as Chuz). Excuse lack of quote marks, it's hard typing with a cat competing with the laptop for space to snooze on.

#243 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 04:30 AM:

Serious Lego fans even in America would never call them Legos though. They're sometimes, collectively, "Lego", but more often just "bricks" or "pieces" or "parts", with "Lego" reserved for something like "the Lego building system", meaning the geometry and the range of available parts. Calling them "Legos" is a mark of a total noob, but luckily it's swiftly beaten out of new recruits to the cause.

(I say this as a fairly serious Lego fan, though not to the level of some.)

#244 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 05:07 AM:

Perhaps the gob in gobsmacked came from the same place as Mr. Ken Shabby's memorable quote: "I'm sorry squire, I've gobbed on your carpet", although the "God smacked" theory is compelling as well.

#245 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 05:56 AM:

Re "gobsmacked":
A Google search on "etymology gobsmacked" seems to suggest that the origin is something like "gob" = mouth[*] + "smack" = clap your hand over your mouth.

[*] as in "shut yer gob", as Madeleine pointed out up in #20; probably related to "gobble"...

#246 ::: Andy Wilton ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 06:33 AM:

Peter@244:
Yes, that's what the Shorter OED says. I'd always taken it to mean outside events figuratively smacking *you* in the gob, which would perhaps suggest a higher level of surprise. (To me, if you've still got the presence of mind to clap your hand over your mouth, the events in question might be appalling but they can't have been truly mindbogglingly unexpected.)

Earl@243:
The "gob" of "gobbed on the carpet" means "spit" rather than "mouth", as in the old Spike Milligan sketch:

OUTRAGED HOUSEHOLDER: Oy! You can't come in here and gob on the floor!
DIPLOMAT: Is diplomatic immunity.
O.H.: No it's not, it's gob!

As for "wanker" (aeons ago upthread), for my money it only *really* works as an insult when delivered in a S.E. England style, with a glottal stop in place of the K. (I've been trying to track down a YouTube of the "Call me Wanker" sketch from the old Harry Enfield show, but to no avail.)

#247 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 06:37 AM:

will shetterly @200
In most places over here, "pissed" is ruder than "crap." "Crap" has become a term for all the things that bore or disgust or disappoint you; feces is only a subset of crap. But "piss" is exclusively urine. When someone says they're pissed or pissed off (you hear both), you know they mean it because they're being a bit rude.

In the UK, being "pissed" is being drunk*. To be angry, one must be "pissed off".

-----
* thus the phrase "nissed as a pewt"

#248 ::: Sica ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 07:07 AM:

Yay one of my favourite topics being discussed on ML.

I'm not a native English speaker although I'm effectively bilingual now.

I absorbed English originally from mostly American TV and was taught rather americanised English at school, then I got hooked on Monty Python and got much better at understanding spoken English from watching it all without subtitles and from there I started enjoying loads of British comedy and books in general and now I've been living in Scotland for four years.

So basically I mostly have no idea which bits of my vocabulary come from where. I know some are UK specific while others are Scottish and others are American.

Like I know centre and center, grey and gray etc. are different spellings from each side of the pond but it's just recently that I'm starting to remember that the 're' endings are the UK ones.

Needless to say I need to spellcheck everything carefully where I'm in an environment where that sort of consistency matters.

btw In my non English native language lego is used as an adjective and often dropped completely. I.e it'd be hand me a blue brick and aww I'm all out of the green bricks. Although the connotations of the 'brick' word used is more a rather cute, small cube so it suits quite well.

#249 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 08:51 AM:

Jen 237: Exactly so!

Sica 247: The change from 're' to 'er' at the end of certain words was Noah Webster's "contribution" to American letters. He had some very peculiar ideas (i.e. he was a pedantic revisionist shithead), but now we're kind of stuck with some of his spellings.

Btw, to me 'theatre' is an art form, and 'theater' is a building. If I'm going to the theatre, it's always to see a play (or other theatrical event, but always live); if I'm going to the theater, it could be to see a movie, or build a set etc. I suspect this usage may be idiolectal. Also, Firefox's spellchecker is warning me on the 're' spelling (but also on 'spellchecker' and 'idiolectal', so a grain of salt may be called for).

#250 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 10:11 AM:

Another bit of presumed dialect that puzzles me is "How do" -- my husband's response to "Hello". He's from Maine (as I've noted elsewhere, his Mom has the full Offshore Flo accent), but I just found another "How do" that seems to mean the same thing amidst the thick dialect of a Nalo Hopkinson story. What gives?

#251 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 10:30 AM:

Pat Greene (#240): The verb form of 'gift' has been around since the 17th century, as in this quote from 1619: If they object, that tithes, being gifted to Levi, in official inheritance, can stand no longer than Levi... (I presume that's the verb form that irritates you, rather than the transitive). Or is there a specific context in which you find 'to gift' annoying?

[can you tell how much I love having oed.com access at work?]

#252 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 11:27 AM:

I'm no linguist, but I'd guess that "how do" is right there with "howdy" as a contraction of "how do you do?" I've also heard "howdy do" from older folks a lot. The one I'll ask about is "hidey ho!"
Where'd that come from?

#253 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 11:30 AM:

Faren Miller #249: 'How do?' and 'How deh do?' are both found in rural Jamaica (and in other Western Caribbean Creole Englishes). My favourite West Indian term, though, is the Guyanese 'dayclean' for 'sunrise'.

#254 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 11:40 AM:

Tim May @ 196: 'I think the most natural equivalent in my speech would be "I have twenty pieces of Lego".'

Well, that sounds like a mass noun to me. Wow, regional differences on whether it's a count or mass noun. Funny language this is we speak.

It's weird how Lego escaped the usual fate of brands and achieved mass noun status. F'rex, if I'm talking about the kind of shoes I'm wearing, I'm going to say Pumas, or Nikes. Lego must have an unusually zealous PR branch. (I am correct in assuming that the mass noun usage is the official company position?)

Xopher @ 232: That question intrigued me, and I did a little investigating. In Windows, you can find them using the soft keyboard in the Language bar. Open the language bar, select Chinese, click the little down-pointing arrow on the right-hand side, and check "Soft keyboard." It ought to make a new key labeled "Soft keyboard" appear. Then go to the button "Context menu," and go to the drop-down menu labeled (gasp!) "Soft keyboard." Select the option labeled "pinyin letters." Then click the soft keyboard button. It will pop up a little keyboard with pinyin letters on the screen, and if you either click the key on the screen, or press the corresponding key, you'll get the properly marked vowel. Ex: áāǎàōōóǒêēéěèīíǐìūúǔùǖǘǚǜ

#255 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 11:59 AM:

Fragano@252: "dayclean" is also found in Gullah in South Carolina.

#256 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 12:07 PM:

Elise #254: Nice! It's a lovely word.

#257 ::: mimi ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 12:43 PM:

Fragano #221: Hee!

It's difficult to convey that softened "t" in written English, isn't it? Nobody I know (well, no one from around here) would use a hard "t" in "Atlanta" at all, but that doesn't mean it's quite missing. And how much of that is Southern and how much is just lazy 'Murrican?

#258 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 01:04 PM:

Mimi #256: About 50 percent each. Of course, my students refer to the place as 'The A-T-L'.

#259 ::: mimi ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 01:09 PM:

Fragano #257: Ah, but are they ITP or OTP?

#260 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 01:14 PM:

Fragano @ 252 - Dayclean is a lovely word, although without context I would have taken it for a contraction of "same day dry cleaning". I guess I spent too many years wearing suits every day.

#261 ::: Jennifer Barber ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 01:42 PM:

Btw, to me 'theatre' is an art form, and 'theater' is a building.[...] I suspect this usage may be idiolectal.

It's not; there used to be (and presumably still is) a large contingent of regulars on the rec.arts.theatre.* newsgroups who have the same definitions. It used to come up a lot, particularly when it was time for the original r.a.t to split--should it be "theatre" or "theater" in the new groups' names? Some make the building/art form distinction, some like me have a live/movies distinction, and others use the same spelling for everything and call everyone in the first two groups pretentious. (Imagine that!)

****

Add me to the list of people who grew up in Atlanta and are constantly being accused of not having a Southern accent. I do pick up a North Carolina accent when talking to/visiting my father's family, but unconsciously; if I try at any other time, I can't do that accent any better than a "Southern" one. I have never used "y'all", but I very much agree that it's never a singular. (I do, however, find myself occasionally using "might could".)

Another sign I'm a Southerner: it's all coke. People from other regions always seem dumbfounded when I tell them that you really can have a conversation along the lines of:

"I'm going to get a coke. Anyone want one?"
"Sure."
"What kind?"
"Sprite."

To me, "grey" is the pretty shades on the bluer side of the spectrum, and "gray" are the brown-based ones.

#262 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 02:34 PM:

Jennifer 260:

In my family, I have had people who used "coke," "soda," "sody" (probably spelled soda but pronounced so-DEE), and "pop." My grandmother always referred to Sprite or 7up as "a white coke."

"What kind of so-DEE do you want, gramma?"

"Just get me a white coke, dear."

#263 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 02:40 PM:

mimi #258: Mostly ITP (almost all students live on campus). I've been both ITP (Buckhead and Brookhaven) and OTP (Norcross and Sandtown).

#264 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 03:21 PM:

The Lego/Legos question appears to split according to whether the speaker is a pretentious purist serious Lego construction fancier or the parent of one or more small children who has spent entirely too many years stepping on small square sharp-cornered plastic bricks.

I have heard it said -- and personal experience is bearing this out -- that it takes at least ten years after the last Lego-using child has grown up and left home for stray bricks to stop turning up underfoot.

#265 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 03:35 PM:

Along the same lines as 'might could', does anyone else here use 'used to could'?

#266 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 04:06 PM:

Debra Doyle @ 263

I can vouch that it takes at least 8 years; then we moved. That may be the only permanent solution.

Mary Aileen @ 264

I've loved 'used to could' since I first encountered it (in the Army, my first exposure to the Deep South). I'd use it myself, except then I'd be a pretentious git.

#267 ::: R.M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 04:53 PM:

Mary Aileen @ 264: I suspect I use "used to could" more often than "might could," though it's possible that I notice it more.

Count me as another stealth southerner. I once was asked by a New Yorker living in Atlanta if I was from New York, because I talked so fast. (He usually saw me well-caffeinated.)

All it takes to bring out my accent, though, is a conversation with someone who has a home-town accent. My husband says he can always tell when my family calls, because I say, "Hello? Oh, hi! How yew doin'?" (Anyone have any suggestions about a good way to denote a two-syllable "I" sound for "Hi"?)

One of my co-workers reacts to "ain't" as if it were the F-bomb, complete with an admonishing "Did you just say ain't?" Usually I don't know the answer to that question. It's such a non-issue to me I can't remember whether I used it or not, and I take her word for it.

#268 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 04:56 PM:

ethan @ 227: exactly. I've worked a number of retail jobs in my time, and they've ALL frowned upon answering a customer's thanks with "you're welcome."

It took enough work to suppress the childhood-instilled reflex that I find it MUCH easier to say "no problem" than "you're welcome" now.

#269 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 05:18 PM:

I had been brought up to say "you're welcome" in response to "thank you", but it always struck me as awkward. "Welcome" seems to me something you say to the guest at the door. Why would it be the response to "thanks"? "No problem" or "not a problem" suggests that the task which earned the "thanks" was not much of an imposition.

Or, more often than not, I'll response to "thanks" with a small nod of the head.

#270 ::: Errol ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 06:10 PM:

#241 Zeborah
Mufti days are definitely used in New Zealand, though I haven't used it in the 'vicar' context given above. Uni.

I'm down with the vicar in mufti, although I think I picked it up in the last 10-15 years.
We used 'varsity' in Auckland in the late '80s. It seems that the rest of NZ used 'uni'.

#271 ::: xaaronx ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 06:30 PM:

I also use "used to could" on occasion, but never "might could". And fizzy liquids when I was younger were "drinks", implicitly short for "soft drinks", which I rarely drink now but refer to as "soda". And I prefer outside punctuation for quotes; it just makes sense.

#272 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 06:40 PM:

It's all coke in west Texas too. Unless it's iced tea (which is served unsweetened in restaurants).

#273 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 07:21 PM:

Working at the library, I tend to treat a phrase such as 'I really appreciate your help' as 'thank you' and respond 'you're welcome'. If they then follow up with an actual 'thank you' (as they often do), another 'you're welcome' sounds really awkward, so I'm left not knowing what to say.

#274 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 07:31 PM:

Mary Aileen: In those situations, I say, "It was my pleasure," or, "Think nothing of it."

#275 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 08:22 PM:

Terry Karney #239: It's a quirk, but when someone does something for me, they ought not be thanking me for it, and rejecting my thanks feels, oddly, rude. (Also Rikibeth #267.)

I don't think it's odd or a quirk at all, and rejecting the thanks is exactly what it is: person A says "Thank you" and person B says "(No,) thank you." Saying "You're welcome" is accepting the thanks. At the bank I wasn't even allowed to pull a "You're welcome. Thank you," which I felt was a good solution that acknowledged both the thanks and the patronage. Miss Manners would have none of this thanks-rejecting nonsense, of course, but there's no talking to corporate types.

Reason number nine million and seven that customer service jobs suck.

#276 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 08:58 PM:

Although it sounds rather 'Stoogish', another reply to "Thank you" I use frequently is "Certainly". To me it suggests "I'm happy to have been helpful". I don't know how the other person takes it, but I say it cheerfully, and I think that has helped carry the sense I intend.

#277 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 09:08 PM:

Just watching Foyle's War on PBS. An American officer, rebuking one of his men for wolf-whistling at a pretty woman, says "Knock it off! We're meant to be guests here."

Nope. 'Meant to be' just isn't used that way in America, anywhere I've been or heard, and certainly not in the accent that officer was using. 'Supposed to be' would be American dialect (pronounced roughly "sposta be").

#278 ::: Clark E. Myers ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 09:54 PM:

#158 and others - I'd guess the numbers are too small for local usage in Iraq to have much global usage. I'd think the usage would first have to spread within the service then to the general population. Not a lot of folks living on the economy.

I'd be curious how many have ever heard or used a phrase traceable to American involvement in Vietnam? I've heard a fair number of songs, but only in context, and some related words as in flew a Jolly Green and of course Dustoff. The only loan word I've heard used in conversation that comes to mind is: let's didi as used by a manager at then Morrison Knudson to convey a sense of: all together now let's move

#279 ::: Vian ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 11:43 PM:

The informal response to "thank you" in my family is "pleasure, treasure" (read "my" in front of it, if you must.)

The really informal response is "plesh, tresh."

I gather that this would not be suitable in customer service jobs? :)

What about "no wukkers" or "no drama" - I've had both. And as a bona fide customer, occasionally tough, I haven't minded.

#280 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 12:04 AM:

Guy I worked for at my first job got me in the habit of responding to thanks with "Absolutely!" It's still stuck, a full dozen years later. (He was so well-known for it that a previous workplace had it put on a t-shirt for him, exclamation point and all.)

Xopher, 276: I'm sure I've heard "meant to be" used in that sense all my life by USians; it seems every bit as natural to me as "supposed."

#281 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 02:18 AM:

Clark E Myers: Sky out. Hump. Grunt. "The Bush"
"outside the wire" "the world"

Rock and roll, but that's more service related, and not something I've heard on the outside.

#282 ::: Vian ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 03:35 AM:

To any UKanians - How strong is the word "muppet" as an insult? Is it closer to 'duffer' or to 'fnckwit' on the scale of general offensiveness?

Inquiring minds, and all that ...

#283 ::: Juliet E McKenna ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 04:03 AM:

Vian @281, in my experience, 'muppet' is a pretty mild term, usually for someone who's done something a bit dumb. Which isn't to say it can't be used contemptuously. But it certainly doesn't have the dislike/disdain of F***wit.

Do wonder if it's a modern manifestation of 'clothhead'...

And re earlier comments, here in the Cotswolds, you will occasionally hear 'how do?' as a greeting or response to same. And you'll certainly here that a lot in more northerly climes like Yorkshire, certainly among older generations.

Apropos Debra Doyle @263, as parent to two teenish sons who own inordinate quantities of lego and play with it frequently, I am really looking forward to the day when hoovering* their rooms need not be preceded by me supervising them doing something akin to one of those finger-tip searches you see on CSI.

But treading on lego is as nothing to unexpectedly treading on an incautiously dropped four-sided die - such dice are now known as caltrops in this house.

* where I actually use a Dyson vacuum cleaner rather than anything made by Hoover - another brand that became an eponym, like Lego, ref Heresiarch@253

#284 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 09:36 AM:

Apropos of the original questions concerning words entering English due to military involvement (e.g., Arabic words/phrases entering English due to UK or American involvement in Iraq): are there examples of Vietnamese words entering English (or at least American English) due to US involvement in Vietnam?

#285 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 09:42 AM:

#282: I expect my husband's "How do?" did migrate to Maine from England's"northerly climes". "How dee doo?" (let alone the evil being Howdy Doody) feels quite different to me.

Most common greetings seem to have mutated a long way from their sources ("Hi" being the most shrunken form of "How do ye do?"), and ditto for some curses, e.g. "By our Lady!" turning into "Bloody". Recently heard that the Spanish "hola" might have come from Moorish "Allah", too.

Oh dear yes, I am another language wonk. At least I'm among friends here.

#286 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 11:27 AM:

Terry (273): Those are good phrases, but I don't often remember to use them in the right place. Sometimes I'll haul one out instead of a second 'you're welcome' in a row.

#287 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 11:34 AM:

Faren @ #284:
"By our Lady!" turning into "Bloody"

Huh. I always assumed it somehow mutated from "s'blood" / "God's blood" or somesuch (on the basis of exactly no knowledge whatosever about the etymology.)

#288 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 11:52 AM:

In UK English: military English has a lot of borrowed words. Your shelter is your basha (Burmese: hut). The countryside, what an American would call the bush or the boondocks (Tagalog: wooded place), is the ulu (Malay: far away). Your laundry is your dhobi (Hindi: laundry).

#289 ::: Tim May ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 12:46 PM:

Heresiarch @ #253:

I am correct in assuming that the mass noun usage is the official company position?
No – as I understand it, the official position of the LEGO Group is that you're not supposed to use it as a noun at all, only as an "adjective". I.e., they prefer something like "LEGO bricks". (This is apparently a common practice – see this Language Log post – though only in rare cases like this does it come to the attention of anyone other than lawyers & marketers.)

Faren Miller @ #284:

"By our Lady!" turning into "Bloody"
It appears that's a folk etymology. The New Oxford Dictionary of English has this to say (rather more detailed than the equivalent in the complete OED):
–ORIGIN mid 17th cent.: from BLOODY¹. The use of bloody to add emphasis to an expression is of uncertain origin, but is thought to have a connection with the 'bloods' (aristocratic rowdies) of the late 17th and early 18th centuries; hence the phrase bloody drunk (= as drunk as a blood) meant 'very drunk indeed'. After the mid 18th cent. until quite recently bloody used as a swear word was regarded as unprintable, probably from the mistaken belief that it implied a blasphemous reference to the blood of Christ, or that the word was an alteration of 'by Our Lady'; hence a widespread caution in using the term even in phrases such as bloody battle merely referring to bloodshed.

#290 ::: Clark E. Myers ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 01:35 PM:

#280 - quite right though I think some of the examples either predated or spread amazingly fast - I suspect an age difference here on association my generation (over 60) considers the usage common when it is really a generational marker - I'd put hump into colloquial verging on standard English - fills a need for a short expression beyond carry - and the world as well. I've heard rock and roll as disparaging in the Mattie Mattel context and approvingly among the rooney rifle set - add mad minute to the adapted terms.

I'd be curious about ruck and Bergen today both of which I've heard for a very long time and also fairly recently as being insider terms in the US (presumably from the UK) or general use among forces.

#283 - didi bop and didi mau had some currency among people who would know the words but I doubt there is any general knowledge. One of the Morrison Knudson female secretaries picked up on the usage from context but had no idea of the origin although everybody else around knew. Dinky dau and other such have had a limited currency - leading me to wonder how much loan words distort between a tonal language and a flat southern drawl.

Obs SF - a great deal of David Drake is direct as he frequently notes - the classic as you know Bob is the choice of white mice for field police but I can't think of anything that isn't translated and generalized. A close read might find some Vietnamese but I think it would have been edited out and replaced.

#291 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 04:00 PM:

Clark E. Myers @ 289

I don't think there are any direct Vietnamese references in Drake's stories except for 2 or 3 that actually occur in Vietnam during the war; I was looking for them.

Dinky dau popped up on my radar a few times in the first couple of years after I returned to the world, but then it disappeared. I get the impression a lot of vets decided to drop any vocabulary that might label them as having been in Vietnam; maybe people didn't spit on us, but there was a distinct tone in conversation after they found out.

#292 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 04:14 PM:

Juliet E McKenna @ 282

Yes, my mother-in-law uses "how do" as well - and she's originally from Yorkshire.

My uncle's from Yorkshire as well. He's been living in the USA for more than 40 years and still has a Yorkshire accent. That's what I call persistent!

D4s as caltrops - ouch! My feet winced just from me reading about it.

I too talk about hoovering (with the Dyson). I did have a perfectly good old-fashioned upright Hoover until a temporary lodger changed the bag, coudn't find a new one so put - wait for it - a plastic bag (airtight, of course) on it. That killed the motor pretty quickly.

#293 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 05:23 PM:

Clark, Bruce: didi is still around.

Ruck, so far as I know, came to the US Army from the Germans (ruck = back, and rucksack = backpacking) though turning it into a verb is Army.

Hooch, chopper, grease, frag/fragging.

"The Box" has a strange etymology, it refers to a specific part of the NTC (Ft. Irwin, Calif.).

From there is spread to the exercise space at any post (Ft. Polk being notorious for having a nasty one. Urban, with horrendous weather. Jungle warfare in a city... yipee).

For all that the press/war supporters refer to, "The Sandbox," no one I know, in any of the services, calls it that... it's "The box", "crunching sand" "downrange", but not, the sandbox.

I think part of the reason that lesser conflicts (Korea, Viet-nam, the present unpleasantness) aren't as effective at adding things to the language) is that so few people take part in them.

There were millions under arms, for a long chunk of time, in both World Wars, so "no mans' land", "shell shock", "ace", etc. had a lot more people for whom they were daily terms.

Add that they were civilians before the war, and went back to it after, (instead of long service soldiers, for whom it was an argot), and the vector is more likely.

Things like, 10 level, PMCS, 4th point of contact, six, DFAC, dress and cover, front leaning rest, as you were, trooping the line, GI parties, and a host of other things, which are part of everyday existence in the forces, and have been for decades, aren't part of the general language.

It's not because there aren't a lot of people who know them, but (I think) rather because they are part of how the people in the Army mark themselves as a culture apart, as well (as a friend of mine was saying in her Lj yesterday) as how they compartmentalise the separate aspects (mil/civ) of their lives.

#294 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 05:26 PM:

I'm erudite
You're articulate
She's well spoken
They're pretentious

#295 ::: Clark E. Myers ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 06:05 PM:

#290 ::: Bruce Cohen,I don't think there are any direct Vietnamese references in Drake's stories except for 2 or 3 that actually occur in Vietnam during the war;

Granted you were there in aviation. Maybe we disagree on the weight and meaning of direct - many references are as direct as an English cryptic crossword - obvious to some and not to others. Incidentally Arclight and Contact are actually in Cambodia. The White Mice - the common example - are based on ARVN field police who wore white - Mickey Mouse style - gloves to direct traffic and so acquired the Mouse connection.

The Butcher's Bill is pure autobiography with an established time and place of record and the numbers filed off - not even Supertanks yet.

... this compilation is probably the most grim and depressing book I've published. ... Though it occurs to me that as a former 96C2L94 (Interrogator, Vietnamese Language) any collection that includes The Interrogation Team is going to strike me that way.

ROLLING HOT--the title is from military aviation, meaning the aircraft is moving to the attack with ordnance ready to fire--is based very loosely on Tet of '68. That's an event I'm glad to have missed, but a number of the folks I served with in 1970 had stories and even photographs of what the Blackhorse had been doing then.....The Blackhorse was tasked to recover the huge Bien Hoa airbase, and that's just what happened. One platoon sergeant showed me his snapshots of VC bodies in windrows on the concrete runways where cal fifties and canister rounds from tank main guns had laid them.

Sure it is loosely rather than directly. Like Voyage (the Argosy) and Cross the Stars (the Odyssey) once the overall scheme is there a myriad of little details can be picked out.

The Far Side of the Stars Communications protocols are very roughly based on those of the 2nd Squadron, 11th ACR, during the period it was—I was—under the command of LTC Grayle Brookshier. There were a lot of stories about squadron and regimental commanding officers. The stories about Battle Six were all positive.

It's not Vietnam - exactly - but Fortress gets some things right by my lights as well: Fortress and Skyripper have many virtues, including great car chases, gunfights, and an examination of class structures and intraservice hostility within the US intelligence community (which last went right over the heads of some British reviewers, I found to my amusement; Brits are unused to thinking of class outside their own national terms)....

Dr. Pournelle uses Korea much the same way and his ubiquitous First Sergeant is fluent in Tex-Mex although that doesn't appear in the space opera. The only Korean apart from Koreans I've encountered that could be traced to that event were dogs and other pets with Korean names.

#296 ::: Clark E. Myers ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 06:17 PM:

Oh, cross purposes - no, so far as I know and as I said supra there are translations from Vietnamese and translations from colloquial expressions - it would perhaps be amusing to do a global search and replace and put them back to the source - but I see no use of Vietnamese, nor French nor any other usage that would risk localizing the story. If anything the stories are explicitly and deliberately sanitized in that respect.

#297 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2007, 10:22 AM:

I stand corrected on "bloody"! Nice legend, but I should have checked my now-ancient Joseph Shipley Dictionary of Word Origins for at least part of the real story. (It's hard to believe that a 430-page trade paperback *ever* cost just $1.95, and I may have picked up a slightly-used copy of this [argh] 1959 reprint a few years later.)

#298 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2007, 10:50 PM:

What's the name of the dialect that pronounces "think" as "fink" and "thing" as "fing"?

#299 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2007, 05:25 AM:

That sounds like part of the new-fangled "Estuary English", based on an older lower-class London speech, but a UK-based person will probably know more than this Antipodean Little Black Duck.

#300 ::: Dave Hemming ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2007, 12:01 PM:

will @#120:

PS- Up until I heard Izzard pronounce it, I had always thought "queue" was pronounced "qway-way."

jmm @#125:

will, don't forget the Greek God "Zee-Us".

Ah, the curse of the voracious reader. I recall explaining to my parents that my attempt to clean my room had gone a little awry, and pronouncing it AWW-ree.

*cringe*

#301 ::: Jennifer Barber ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2007, 12:31 PM:

I recall explaining to my parents that my attempt to clean my room had gone a little awry, and pronouncing it AWW-ree.

Don't feel bad. I once had an English teacher who pronounced it that way. Repeatedly. Worse, it was one of our vocabulary words! If you're going to deliberately teach kids a word, you really ought to know how to pronounce it.

#302 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2007, 03:25 PM:

My family had a joke (don't know where it came from) about putting the accent on the wrong syl-LAH-ble. All too easy to do with words we've read but never heard anyone say.

#303 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2007, 04:18 PM:

Faren (302): My mother had the same joke, except she expanded it: emPHAsis on the wrong sylLAble.

#304 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2007, 11:36 AM:

We'd just bring up "MICE-uld" and "mel-ANK-oh-lee" anytime pronunciation faux pas were committed, those two being particularly embarrassing examples of our (read "my") own.

#305 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2007, 11:40 AM:

joann, 304: Silly person! Everybody knows it's MIZE-uld.

#306 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2007, 11:59 AM:

TexAnne #305:

The possibilities for mispronounced mispronunciations are *end*less. Whole new field, oh boy!

#307 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2007, 12:09 PM:

#302, 303

We put the acCENT on the wrong sylLAHble, ourselves. (Always fun: I'm likely to slide into 'Pogo' without warning, talking about things like Scienterrific Armenian and Natural Geegronchic.)

#308 ::: kouredios ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2007, 12:36 PM:

We have a family story about two hysterical mispronunciations one of my uncles made when young: a dog foreign to Buffalo in the 60s, "chih-hoo-ah-hoo-ah" (I think he stressed both hoos) and "see-me-glooz" (from a sale circular for paint).

#309 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2007, 01:16 PM:

And then of course there are deliberate mispronunciations stemming from accidental misspellings. My absolute favorite was during the whole 1981-82 medfly panic in California. If you went up into The City via 280, there was a large sign reading "Quarantine: no Vegeatables Beyond This Point". Which gave rise to a favored pronunciation for non-fruity flora that persists among us to this day, as well as to fevered speculation about what would happen to Greens (vegetarian restaurant in Fort Mason).

#310 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2007, 02:00 PM:

I amused a roomful of my friends by saying "shrap-NEL," which I'd never heard spoken aloud. One of them consoled me by saying he used to say "sha-PELL" (a small religious space).

Another friend insisted to his high school English teacher that there were two different words, "ang-ZIGH-uh-tea," which he couldn't spell, and this other word "ANKS-ih-ty" which he'd just encountered in a book for the first time.

Another said "BED raggled" for years. Well, that's ONE way of getting bedraggled!

#311 ::: Rob Kerr ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2007, 11:41 AM:

@Xopher, 232: To code Pinyin characters in a page, the page must be served as UTF-8, and then you can use the literal characters you need directly in the code.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/chinese/real_chinese/start/transcript.shtml

Is an example of a page using this method.

#312 ::: Teka Lynn ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2007, 04:12 AM:

Steve Taylor @#149: "Have a nice day" isn't intended as an order. It's a benediction: "I hope that you have a nice day."

One variation that I haven't used yet is "May you have as nice a day as I would wish for you." I'm keeping that in reserve for a really horrible customer.

I see "gray" as referring to a harder color and "grey" as softer. "Iron gray" but "grey clouds".

#313 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2007, 05:36 AM:

When I'm at work the one thing I don't say to departing customers is "Have a nice day." It's "Have a good/pleasant day/afternoon/[after 5 or so]evening". I mean, okay, it's still faux amicability (though I do try to say it sincerely) but at least it's not the massive cliché.

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