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December 15, 2008

A conclusion reached in consideration of the various translations of the Dutch verb uitmaken
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 05:47 PM *

Language is a mystery, in the sense that you can think and talk about it endlessly without coming to its essence, only to understand in an instant what all that verbiage was driving at. Fluency is like enlightenment, when the painstaking study of vocabulary and grammar translates into having the right form of the right word at the right moment. And that enlightenment cannot be transmitted except by leading the student through the process of contemplation and realization until the indescribable skill manifests itself.

Under what more rational model can a single word mean to extinguish (as in a cigarette), to matter, to constitute and to conclude? There is an essential concept in there which cannot be described in another language, but must simply be grasped in its primal, inchoate form.

(You may say that I am at an interesting point in my language studies.)

Comments on A conclusion reached in consideration of the various translations of the Dutch verb uitmaken :
#1 ::: Daniel Klein ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2008, 06:24 PM:

As far as I can tell, the German word ausmachen covers all those meanings, except for conclude, and even there I'm not sure. Of course there are two slightly different concepts at work in German, at least that's my intuition. There's the quite literal "aus" "machen", which comes closest to extinguish (where "machen" is used as "cause to be" and "out" is the state a fire is after you've extinguished it) and a second concept where the "aus" is more... uhm... abstract. Abi is absolutely right in saying that this kind of stuff is impossible to explain.

I can think of a few more meanings for the German "ausmachen": to agree on (especially with contracts, but also things like "agree on a date"), to spot something ("etwas in der Ferne ausmachen"), or to amount to something (close to constitute, I guess).

Language is fun.

#2 ::: Rozasharn ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2008, 06:48 PM:

Reminds me of the layers of meanings of the phrase "the fifth elephant" in the book of the same name.

#3 ::: El ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2008, 06:53 PM:

Attempting to work this out....

uitmaken - extinguish, matter, constitute, conclude

concepts--essence, wholeness, fulfillment/completion?

So, extinguished--cycle has ended, essence, wholeness were fulfilled; matter (I'm assuming this is as in "It matters" not "It's made of matter"), constitute, conclude--all have essence, fulfillment?

Or something. I'm getting dizzy.

#4 ::: Mark C. Chu-Carroll ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2008, 06:54 PM:

My favorite example of this is from Hebrew, where there's a word "Tzedakah".

Tzedakah can mean "charity"; it can mean "justice";
it can mean "the right thing"; and it can mean something close to "saintly".

#5 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2008, 06:55 PM:

If you agree on a date, you could be agreeing to make out.

#6 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2008, 06:57 PM:

So, extinguished--cycle has ended, essence, wholeness were fulfilled; matter (I'm assuming this is as in "It matters" not "It's made of matter"), constitute, conclude--all have essence, fulfillment?

I do not grok.

#7 ::: Melle ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2008, 07:03 PM:

And just to add to the potential confusion, paired with 'it' ("het uitmaken), it also meaks breaking up with someone. :D

#8 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2008, 07:06 PM:

Melle, that works with the "extinguish" sense. "Put it out" sounds like a pretty good description of a breakup, especially if the person you're breaking up with doesn't expect it!

#9 ::: Dave Trowbridge ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2008, 07:31 PM:

#4: The constellation of meanings around the word "tzedakah" makes me think there's a basically sane worldview built into Hebrew. (My wife is currently studying Hebrew, and just came home with this example last week.)

#3: Reminds me of the I Ching, how I read Tarot, or Sufi word-root change-ringing.

#10 ::: Zander ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2008, 08:02 PM:

Would the literal Latin rendering of "ausmachen/uitmaken" as "ex+facio"="efficio, effeci, effectum" (as in effect, efficiency, effectuate, and also efface) be relevant here?

#11 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2008, 08:04 PM:

Mark @4, toss out the dictionary you're using, it's leading you astray.

The word "tzdaka" means "righteously given charity" or "alms". It uses the same three-letter stem as "tzedek", which is "justice" or "the ethical thing" (not "the right thing" except in the sense that "ethical" means "right" - it refers to moral/ethical rightness rather than factual rightness or emotional rightness).

The same three-letter stem also is used to form the word "tzadiq", which is not a saint (which has its own specific meanings) but a "righteous person".

Other words from the same stem (in masculine form):
"tzodek" - he or she is factually correct;
"hitztadek" - he made excuses (to justify his bad behavior or other lapses);
"hutzdak" - it was justified (as in an expense).

Each of these is its own individual word, and trying to see them as belonging to one general concept (justification? justice? ethics? rightness?) will lead to some pretty odd Hebrew.

#12 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2008, 08:06 PM:

He had slyly inveigled her up to his flat
To view his collection of stamps,
And he said as he hastened to put out the cat,
The wine, his cigar and the lamps:

'Have some Madeira, m'dear! ...'

#13 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2008, 08:08 PM:

Abby, the Dutch sources I am married to said that it's quite similar to the various phrasal verbs of English: put out, make out (as in observe details on a blurry view), put up with, make up to, make into, etc.

(And then the sources walked out, so I could inquire no further.)

#14 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2008, 09:46 PM:

I'm reminded of the ESL lesson from somewhere or other (Nat Lamp maybe?):

Jack turns on the light.
Jack turns on 39th Street.
Jack turns on Susan.
Jack turns on a dime.
Jack turns on his former friends.
Jack turns on to life.
Jack turns on frequently.

#15 ::: Mary ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2008, 10:29 PM:

It sounds like it would translate literally as "out-making."

We say in English that something which constituted of certain ingrediants is "made out of" those ingrediants.

We might also say "I can't make out what you're saying." Or "what I'm seeing."

And all though we don't make out cigarettes, we do put them out, which is close.

The question is, can "uitmaken" mean to kiss sloppily?

#16 ::: Mad Latinist ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2008, 11:12 PM:

OK, well consider that English synonym for "extinguish": "put out"

It also means "publish," "suggest," "let out [a pet] for the night," "irreparably damage [someone's eye with that thing]," "inconvenience," "offend," "have sex on a date," and so on.

#17 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2008, 11:37 PM:

When I look at it out of the corner of my brain (the way you look at the Pleides to see all seven stars) I get a glimmer of something which seems to refer to being burned to ash- all of the fuel and flame gone and something entirely unlike them left behind.

#18 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2008, 11:47 PM:

There is a russian verb which means, "to frame", which is used in the sense of framing a wall, a picture and (to stretch the analogy) a scene (in that context it is limited to actually filming, it doesn't apply to staging in a play).

It also means to disrobe.

But hey, this is a language which has a plural form of the number one, and that makes perfect sense to me; it's needful and the world will fall apart without it.

#19 ::: Nicole TWN ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 12:38 AM:

French has achever, "to complete"/"to kill".

Either intense cynicism in coining a euphemism for killing, or interesting warning about how important it is to strive and seek and never give up: "he that is not busy being born is busy dying". Or, more bittersweetly, that the joy of achieving a goal is tempered with the sadness of no longer having a goal that's just within sight, and you've got to find a new goal to strive for.

Since it's French, I vote for cynicism.

#20 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 12:49 AM:

Terry, Russian is not the only language that has a plural form of the number one. I can think of other ones.

Nicole, the etymology of the English verb "achieve" is given by the Random House/Webster 1999 as "1275–1325; ME acheven

#21 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 12:56 AM:

I have a vague memory of reading some SF (I think Heinlein) in my youth in which there's a passing reference to how the adoption of symbolic logic in all business and legal documents has produced perfect clarity. Yeah, right.

#22 ::: SeanH ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 01:46 AM:

janetl, #21: I remember that too, it was either Heinlein or Asimov. I definitely remember some issue of contracts being signed which, when "translated into symbolic logic", were in fact contentless. This impression of logic actually persisted in my mind right into some quite advanced studies in the subject. I was sorely disappointed.

#23 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 06:58 AM:

SeanH @22: I definitely remember some issue of contracts being signed which, when "translated into symbolic logic", were in fact contentless.

That sounds familiar. I remember something similar in one of the Foundation books; a discussion among diplomats of the Foundation (first Foundation).

#24 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 07:26 AM:

I think I can make out something of it...which could be either to distinguish from the background, or by analogy, to conclude.

I think you could just about use it in the sense of "to matter" in northern England, although it would be a stretch.

German has some fantastic examples of this, especially verbs that are formed with a stammwort and a modifier. For example, handeln means "to act", but also "to trade", and the derived noun der Handel means "commerce", but its other derived noun die Handlung means action.

Verhandeln is "to negotiate", which is clear enough. But behandeln is "to treat" a disease or patient. eine Abhandlung is an account of events.

Or what about treten, "to tread" or "to kick"? Zertreten is to trample. Betreten is to walk over something, hence Betreten verboten! means keep off the grass. Ertreten would probably mean kick to death but I've never seen it in the wild.

But vertreten is "to represent", and zurücktreten is literally "to kick or step back" but actually means "to resign". And auftreten is to appear on stage.

The ver- prefix is weird; it means either that you got the verb wrong (sich verlaufen/verfahren - to get lost) or else that there is some sort of different metaphorical meaning, like verhandeln. Er- is to do the verb action to completion - erschießen is to shoot dead. Zer- is to do something to pieces; zerreißen, to tear to pieces, zerstören, to destroy, or literally to disturb (stören) to pieces.

#25 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 07:47 AM:

Nicole TWN @ 19... Since it's French, I vote for cynicism.

Humph.

'achever quelqu'un' means to give someone who is severely wounded the 'coup de grâce' - an expression sometimes mispronounced in a way that would have a French-speaking person wonder why they're being told about the cost of fat.

#26 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 08:35 AM:

French has achever, "to complete"/"to kill".

Either intense cynicism in coining a euphemism for killing, or interesting warning about how important it is to strive and seek and never give up: "he that is not busy being born is busy dying".

Which reminds me of Cicero's announcement concerning the Catilinarian conspirators: Vixerunt = they have lived = they have been executed (on account of the perfect tense connoting a completed action in the past). To kill someone is in a sense to complete their life.

The efficere comment is spot on, I think, as are the comments about "put out". I also vaguely remember a piece of comic writing which pointed out that the English verb "to get" (with various prepositions) could replace every verb in the English language. No doubt someone can remind me or correct me.

#27 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 09:23 AM:

Actually, "uitmaken" sounds very much like the evolution of the English verb "to perfect"--"to make complete, to finish", though not perfectly so.

#28 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 10:07 AM:

What can you say about a language in which "cleave" means both "split apart" and "cling together"?

#29 ::: ingvar ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 10:49 AM:

Alex @ #24

You have essentially the same in Swedish (not really surprising, being the most German-, Frech- and English-influenced of the Nordic languages; no kicking though), only with "träda" instead of 'treten' (and a possible, stretched, pun about treeing or wooding things, though that would require having a sufficiently broken mind).

As for the "handeln" (sv: "handla"), you have the same thing

#30 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 11:00 AM:

Many clues in British-style cryptic crossword puzzles depend on the answer being the least likely, most counterintuitive, meaning of some word. We seem to have a lot of words in English that can also mean something like their exact opposites. (I won't go rummaging in my puzzle books for examples, but other fans of cryptics will know what I'm talking about -- even if this post seems a bit muddled!)

#31 ::: ingvar ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 11:08 AM:

Just to add one treacherous Swedish word, "vår". It can mean either "spring" (as in the season) or "ours" (as in possessive).

#32 ::: Jurie ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 12:10 PM:

Tiny side fact: 'uitmaken' also means to end a relationship.

#33 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 12:56 PM:

Jurie #32: Thus becoming the exact opposite of one of its English cognates.

#34 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 01:22 PM:

SeanH @ 22: I definitely remember some issue of contracts being signed which, when "translated into symbolic logic", were in fact contentless.

Robin: On Saturday I disinherited my only son.

Sir Roderic: But you haven't got a son.

Robin: No - not yet. I disinherited him in advance, to save time. You see - by this arrangement - he'll be born ready disinherited.

Sir Roderic: I see. But I don't think you can do that.

Robin: My good sir, if I can't disinherit my own unborn son, whose unborn son can I disinherit?

Sir Roderic: Humph! These arguments sound very well, but I can't help thinking that, if they were reduced to syllogistic form, they wouldn't hold water.

-- Ruddigore, Gilbert & Sullivan

#35 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 01:54 PM:

French has achever, "to complete"/"to kill".

And English slang has the phrase "to give sb the good news"... which certainly puts a new spin on a lot of Christmas carols.

I also vaguely remember a piece of comic writing which pointed out that the English verb "to get" (with various prepositions) could replace every verb in the English language.

Which reminds me of the classic Onion article, "National Funk Congress Deadlocked On Get Up/Get Down Issue"
(http://www.theonion.com/content/node/29205)
which seems to come from a similar universe to The Blues Brothers - in which there is a single street with a church run by James Brown, a music shop run by Ray Charles and a soul food restaurant run by Aretha Franklin.

#36 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 01:57 PM:

Joel 34: I find the logic at the conclusion of that show amusing as well. I will grumblingly ROT-13 it: Ebova cbvagf bhg gung ershfvat gb pbzzvg n pevzr n qnl vf "gnagnzbhag gb fhvpvqr," naq gung fhvpvqr vf vgfrys n pevzr, fb gur phefr vf zrnavatyrff. Bar bs gur tubfgf qrgrpgf n snyynpl, ohg pna'g chg uvf svatre ba vg; gurl npprcg uvf nethzrag, naq rirelbar YURN.

Rousing finale, full of words and music, signifying nothing.

#37 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 02:21 PM:

Sanction. Ravel.

Xopher, 36: On my old blog some years ago, I discussed how the Bush administration based its foreign policy in Comic Opera Logic. It makes sense of a sort out of a lot of things.

#38 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 02:47 PM:

Chris, #37: I think "ravel" is in a different class -- the group of words whose putative opposite (in this case, "unravel") is a synonym. I remember being very confused by "flammable" and "inflammable" at age 6 or thereabouts!

#39 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 02:56 PM:

My wife-to-be confused me regularly for probably the first year of our relationship with the question "Would you care to [do x]," which I've always used to mean "Would you like to"; eventually I caught on that she meant care to mean mind. (This is, I take it, a use particular to certain strains of Appalachian and Southern suburban/country culture; it wasn't universal even in the small WV city where we both lived.)

#40 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 02:57 PM:

I tend to think unable-to-be-on-fire inflammable has a short a, and to think of capable-of-being-set-on-fire as inflame-able. Does anyone else make this pronunciation distinction?

#41 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 04:07 PM:

I don't think so, Nancy. And as far as I know you're the only one who uses a word spelled 'inflammable' that means 'not capable of being set on fire'. AFAIK it always means the opposite. 'Flammable' and 'inflammable' are synonyms, completely.

Fortunately we have the word 'fireproof' for the purpose you have in mind.

#42 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 04:27 PM:

Of course, the versatility of the verb uitmkane is no longer a minor miracle once you realise that the whole of Dutch language can be reduced to just four words: leuk, echt, lekker and mooi, or so my English partner concludes having been here for five years.

Anything else is just a variation on a theme...

#43 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 05:10 PM:

Xopher @ 36: You'll also be amused, if you haven't been already, at Asimov's short story reinterpreting "The Sorceror," in which he posited a much more G&S-logical ending than the one that appears in the original. Asimov's sorceror ernyvmrf gung juvyr xvyyvat uvzfrys jbhyq or ragveryl varssrpghny, gur "rapunagzrag" bayl jbexf ba fvatyr crbcyr, fb npghnyyl yrggvat gur pbhcyrf trg zneevrq jvyy oernx gur rssrpg. Gur fzvggra pbhcyrf nyy trg zneevrq, ner serrq bs gur rssrpg, trg dhvpxvr nahyyzragf naq YU(vs pbashfrqyl)RN.

#44 ::: modallist ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 05:25 PM:

Theophylact @ 28: I assume you mean the words "klieven" (to split apart) and "kleven" (to cling together): different words, differently pronounced, although I can see where an Anglophone would consider them (almost) identical.

#45 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 05:29 PM:

Theophylact (#28), Or, indeed, where to 'sanction' something is either to forbid or a;llow it?

Whereas 'raise' versus 'raze' is more an aural confusion, but there are many people whose spelling is shaky — oh deer, we're in the raindeer/reigndeer (a rarer beast) season now — and it can be hard to tell what they mean quickly.

#46 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 05:42 PM:

modallist, #44: I assumed that Theophylact was referring to English, where one cleaves rocks by splitting them apart, but a couple getting married is advised to "cleave together". Admittedly, that latter usage is archaic and survives pretty much entirely by virtue of the traditional marriage ceremony, but still.

#47 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 06:01 PM:

modallist (#44), in English one can grab one's kitchen cleaver and cleave, say, a Norse invader's head (strictly in self-defence, of course).
Alternatively, one can cleave to one's love in marriage, or a companion in blood brotherhood.

From your information, I assume older English had a very similar two to that too, and the spelling has settled as the same. This sort of thing is part of why I'm dubious how useful phonetic spelling wood bee.

#48 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 06:30 PM:

D'oh, I just figured out Yvirq Unccvyl Rire Nsgre, which turns out not to have anything to do with DMSO after all....

#49 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 10:26 PM:

Xopher at 41,

ummm... [[is embarrassed, and slinks away to contemplate what led to that particular conclusion/confusion]]

#50 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 11:26 PM:

There's also "non-flammable", of course.

#51 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2008, 12:43 AM:

Fragano Ledgister @33: Jurie #32: Thus becoming the exact opposite of one of its English cognates.

I guess if the Dutch break up with people whenever they make out with them, it's no wonder that they got this whole reputation for promiscuity.

#52 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2008, 03:32 AM:

Martin @42:

A language that boiks down to "nice", "really", "delicious" and "beautiful" can't be all bad. Though I would have found a way to work gezellig into that list.

Generally, but Martin will correct me:

One of my favorite word collisions in Dutch is voorkomen. With the accent on the first syllable, it means "to occur". With the accent on the second, it means "to prevent".

They are separate words grammatically. In Dutch, there is a large class of verbs called "separable verbs", where the prefix (pretty much always a preposition) gets cast adrift from the root verb in many contexts. They are marked by an emphasis on the prefix.

Thus:

Hij voorkomt een ongeluk. He prevents an accident.
De ongeluk komt in het centrum voor. The accident occurs in the city center.

But, ambiguously:

Ik wil het voorkomen. I want to prevent it, or I want it to occur. One distinguishes these two cases by accenting the vowels of the stressed syllable (vóókomen vs voorkómen).

#53 ::: modallist ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2008, 04:54 AM:

Abi @ 52:
Ik wil het voorkomen unambiguously means 'I want to prevent it.' You cannot use this construction to mean you want something to happen. Instead, you'd say Ik wil dat het voorkomt, but this sounds somewhat awkward even in Dutch.

And as long as I'm here: het ongeluk, not de ongeluk.

#54 ::: Wirelizard ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2008, 12:29 AM:

In South African English (I believe it's a loan from Afrikaans) there's the phrase "just now", as in "I'll go make dinner just now".

It does NOT, in fact, mean "right now"; it's meaning is closer to "eventually" - this has caused my (South African expat) father some difficulty over the years, especially with my stepmother. :)

#55 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2008, 01:35 AM:

Wirelizard, #54: This sounds like the canonical description of the difficulties Anglos have with the Mexican-Spanish term "mañana". The literal translation is "tomorrow"... but the idiomatic usage is "not today".

#56 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2008, 05:22 AM:

Abi@52: German also has seperable verbs. I fondly remember a quiz in my German class where we were supposed to change the verb to another with a similar meaning...and the trap was that we had to remember to delete the separated prefix from the sentence's end as well. I got it, most of the class didn't.

#57 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2008, 06:27 AM:

Separables are nice, too...

German can also completely change the meaning of the verb according to whether or not it's reflexive. Sich verlaufen is to get lost (specifically, to get lost on foot); literally, that should be get *yourself* lost, which is arguably as it should be.

But if you drop the sich, verlaufen means "to run" as in "the front line runs along the river Hypothetical as far as Example".

As regards cleaving, I assume there are two separate Old English sources; one for cleave/cleft/cloven, and one for cleave as in together. German has die Kluft which is a cleft or gap, and the verb kleben which means "to stick" or "to glue".

Interestingly, the verb from Kluft, whatever it was, went out of use while kleben was preserved, exactly the opposite of the development of English. In terms of West Germanic linguistics, it doesn't seem at all surprising that one-and-a-half of the two survives in English and High German, but a different one in each, and both survive in Dutch. I bet the source is early medieval Low German.

Hmm, I wonder how Platt Deutsch deals with cleavers, clefts, cleaving and the cloven?

#58 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2008, 06:41 AM:

Relatedly, I've just learned that the Dutch for sysadmin is "systembeheerder", which gives a lovely image of someone watching over routers peacefully grazing.

#59 ::: Andrew M ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2008, 08:02 AM:

54 and 55: I believe 'anon' at one time meant 'right now', but more recently has tended to mean 'eventually'.

Another term which can cause similar trouble is 'later'. In the dialect of English I was brought up to speak, this normally meant 'later today'. (This probably varied a bit with context; it might sometimes mean 'later this week', etc. But if someone said 'I'll do it later' this would imply that it would be done within a specifiable period.) Nowadays, though, I often meet people who just use it to mean 'at some time in the future'.

#60 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2008, 09:37 AM:

OED -

stick together cleave: [OE. had two verbs; clífan str. (*cláf, pl. clifon, clifen), and clifian, cleofian weak (clifode, -od). (1) The former was a Com. Teut. strong vb....

split apart cleave: [Common Teut.: OE. clíofan, cléofan, pa. tense cléaf, pl. clufon, pa. pple. clofen...

#61 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2008, 10:51 AM:

Alex @58, or "system bee herder", where one wears significant protective equipment and yet still gets stung once in a while. And, in spite of the notable rewards of honey, one can disastrously end up covered in bees, screaming, and diving into a lake.

#62 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2008, 11:40 AM:

60: Interesting. In German, the weak verb was conserved; in English the strong one.

#63 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2008, 12:01 PM:

Alex @ 57.

Well, the Reimer Plautdietsch NT renders Matthew 19:5 (For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they twain shall be one flesh) as "Doaromm woat en Maun sien Foda en siene Mutta felote, en woat sikj aun siene Fru hoole, en dee twee woare een Fleesch senne."

While I have friends for whom Plaut (Russian Mennonite, not the current German version if there is one) is their mother tongue, I do not speak it. I can't find an NT reference to cleave meaning split in English.

#64 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2008, 03:01 PM:

Alex @59:

Relatedly, I've just learned that the Dutch for sysadmin is "systembeheerder", which gives a lovely image of someone watching over routers peacefully grazing.

Two words: server farms.

More generally:

I actually don't tend to think of separable verbs as separable verbs. I became fascinated early on with the way that Dutch uses prepositional prefixes to alter the meanings of verbs*. Having those prepositions wander off of the stem from time to time is just part of the fun.

Geven is to give. Aangeven is to report. Overgeven is either to give over or to throw up.

Sometimes you can work these things out by knowing the preposition and the verb. Othertimes it's just idiomatic and you have to learn it.

-----
* It uses other prefixes as well: her- means re-; ver- means something I can't translate but have a gut feel for.

#65 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2008, 07:18 PM:

Angeben in German means boasting. Angaben are details.

Sich übergeben is "to vomit".

#66 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2008, 07:32 PM:

Andrew @ 59:

"Presently," which depending on when and by whom used, means either "now" or "later."

The present is one of those times when the word is too ambiguous for me to find it useful.

#67 ::: Adrian ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2008, 12:41 AM:

Nancy (49), the confusion about "inflammable" is very common, and totally not your fault. Because the prefix "in-" so often reverses the meaning of the rest of the word, a great many people were misunderstanding it, creating terrible fire hazards. (It doesn't matter how you pronounce it. Consider a bottle in a lab marked "sample 117," and "inflammable liquid.") Some of my older professors remembered the change to putting "flammable" on official warning signs. I think it was after WWII, and it was explicitly done for safety reasons.

#68 ::: ingvar ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2008, 04:54 AM:

Abi @ #64, Alex @ #65:

And again Dutch and German parallels Swedish.

"ge" is 'give', "ange" is 'to accuse', "överge" is 'abandon' and "ge" is the present form of "giva" (and "gift" means either 'poison' or 'married', but "gåva" means something that has been given).

#69 ::: modallist ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2008, 05:33 AM:

#68:

Indeed. In Dutch gift means gift (as in: a present), or poison. gif also means poison. And then there's gave, which means gift (as in: a talent).

opgeven: to give up.
weggeven: to give away
etc.

#70 ::: modallist ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2008, 06:31 AM:

Tangential to the subject of separating prepositions from verb roots, which is a function of grammar, there is an ungrammatical phenomenon called Engelse ziekte (yes, 'English disease': sorry, no en.wikipedia article:), also called 'Deppenleerzeichen' in German, in which compounds are broken up cloven apart into separate words. E.g. webpagina (web page) becomes web pagina.

This also occurs in North Germanic languages. The increasing influence of English is usually seen as the culprit.

#71 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2008, 05:44 PM:

abi: Dutch uses prepositional prefixes to alter the meanings of verbs

Russian does this too. With generic verbs it can be less intuitive than with verbs of motion. With verbs of motion the nature of the prepositional prefix tells you what's happning (approaching, entering, passing by, going around/over/under/through, etc.).

With verbs which aren't of motion it gets more amusing, because addition of prefixes changes the temporal aspect (from imperfective to perfective). Somtimes this creates a need to make an imperfective aspect of a perfective concept (e.g., "to win" which is a perfective aspect of the verb, "to play". Since winning is a thing which did, or will, happen at a specific moment in time, it's perfective. But the state of winning, during play is ongoing (or fleeting) it can't be perfective. To correct this they add an, "in-fix". An extra-syllable gets put into the middle to move it out of the perfective aspect.

If one can get the hang of how Russian deals with time, all the rest is, almost, trivial.

#72 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2008, 04:08 PM:

I've always liked the German word 'Auflauf' which can mean both a souffle and a riotous assembly (which, according to a number of German's I've spoken to 'isn't counterintuitive at all'.)

There's also the separable/inseparable pair umfahren/umfahren. One means to drive round someone; the other to run them over.

#73 ::: R.M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2008, 06:40 PM:

#72 -

Don't you have to be fairly riotous with the eggwhites to get a souffle? Somehow, it does seems related to me. I like it!

#74 ::: geekosaur ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2008, 01:47 AM:

Dens Shunra @11:

Each of these is its own individual word, and trying to see them as belonging to one general concept (justification? justice? ethics? rightness?) will lead to some pretty odd Hebrew.
This is only true of modern Hebrew; in Biblical and Mishnaic Hebrew it is often helpful to look to the core meaning of a root, and occasionally of "nearby" roots (as, for example, כל vs. חל). Modern Hebrew has generally dropped this in the interests of turning a primarily religious language into a modern secularly useful language. (In fact, in modern Hebrew it seems to me that it's best to ignore binyanim completely and treat them as separate words.)

#75 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2008, 06:29 AM:

'If one can get the hang of how Russian deals with time, all the rest is, almost, trivial'

except the numbers, I think...

#76 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2008, 11:04 PM:

Numbers are a special case.

Ilya was once asked how he would decline 1,572 in the instrumental.

After a brief cognitive pause he said, "I wouldn't."

He meant it too. He explained he would see it coming and recast the sentence to avoid the need (or include a каторый clause, and so reset the declension).

And every time I find myself staring some complex declension of a number, I curse myself for not seeing it coming in time to do that.

#77 ::: ingvar ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 05:54 AM:

modallist @ #70:

Indeed, Swedish is starting to see more and more "säskrivna" (apart-written) words, where normally they would be "sammanskrivna" (together-written). It is to the point that one occasionally sees "sär skriv(en/na)" to illustrate the point further (that being the apart-written form, as it were).

Of course, it doesn't help that there are compound nouns that come apart-written in their base forms (though, curciously, the only one that springs to mind is "varm korv" (lit: 'warm sausage', more commonly translated as 'hot dog').

#78 ::: Serge Broom sees SPAM ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2013, 09:31 AM:

My bust of Julius Caesar is fine, thank you very much.

#79 ::: Stephen Sample ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2013, 10:10 AM:

Oh, I missed the opportunity in the last thread to riff off the pallid bust of Pallas. Darn.

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