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August 7

Singular or plural verb form

I just read this sentence in the Wikipedia article Murder of Dennis Jurgens: "In the 1960s, the term child abuse had not yet been coined and no one, not even medical professionals and teachers, were required to report suspicions." (bold-face added by me to text). Is the bold-face word "were" correct? Or should it be "was"? Thanks. Joseph A. Spadaro (talk) 04:57, 7 August 2018 (UTC)

The first and biggest problem is that the assertion that the term had not been coined by the 1960s is totally false. I'm seeing it in broad use in various entries in at least as far back as the 1880s. As to the grammar part, "was" is probably better. But the fact is false. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 05:34, 7 August 2018 (UTC)
"Was" is correct. The writer has been confused by the proximity of the plural nouns "professionals" and "teachers", but they're not the subject of the verb. HenryFlower 08:45, 7 August 2018 (UTC)
I've put [citation needed] tags on those false or misleading statements. Before the 1960s, California was the only state requiring reporting. Before this kid's murder, quite a few other states had enacted such laws. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 16:47, 7 August 2018 (UTC)
  • I've corrected one of those tags to "dubious", since there is clear evidence that the statement about the age of the phrase is wrong. I don't want to just delete it because it's possible there is a weaker statement that could be substituted. -- (talk) 04:06, 9 August 2018 (UTC)
Thanks. I have no idea. But perhaps the author of that language was referring specifically to the State of Minnesota? Namely: In the State of Minnesota (where this murder had occurred), no one – not even medical professionals and teachers – was required to report suspicions. Perhaps that was the author's intent? As to the truth or falsity of the statements, I am wondering if that information – accurate or not – was perhaps found in the seminal book about the case, A Death in White Bear Lake? Thanks. Joseph A. Spadaro (talk) 17:01, 7 August 2018 (UTC)
That claim was made by GrimGrinningGuest (talk · contribs) when they created the article in 2005. The user has only made one edit in the last three years, so the possibility of getting them to clarify or explain is not strong. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 17:21, 7 August 2018 (UTC)
Thanks. I wasn't suggesting that someone here at Wikipedia "track down" that editor for an explanation. My suggestion was more along the lines of this: perhaps someone can "track down" the laws of Minnesota or "track down" that famous book, to verify or refute the claims. Probably all of that is online and on the Internet, I would guess. Thanks. Joseph A. Spadaro (talk) 17:31, 7 August 2018 (UTC)
At the time the article was written, Wikipedia sourcing standards probably weren't so stringent, and an article with probably a relatively low volume of viewer traffic could get away with unsourced assertions. As for Minnesota, it appears to have enacted its child abuse law in 1975, putting it significantly behind the curve, as many states had enacted such laws by the early-to-mid 1960s, following California's lead in the 1950s. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 17:36, 7 August 2018 (UTC)
Yes, exactly my suspicion: that a state like Minnesota would be behind the curve in this matter. Thanks. Joseph A. Spadaro (talk) 18:28, 7 August 2018 (UTC)
And yet California was ahead of the curve. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 00:46, 8 August 2018 (UTC)
On the purely linguistic question, the correct word is "was"; the subject of the verb is "no one", which is considered singular. It doesn't matter how many qualifiers, modifiers, or other words appear between the subject and the verb, the verb should always show agreement with the subject. --Jayron32 18:21, 7 August 2018 (UTC)

Thanks, all! I changed the verb to "was". Joseph A. Spadaro (talk) 21:02, 7 August 2018 (UTC)


Joseph A. Spadaro (talk) 21:03, 7 August 2018 (UTC)

"cesoie da tosatore" in english

what is the english for "cesoie da tosatore"(italian)?-- (talk) 09:31, 7 August 2018 (UTC)

Going out on a limb here... wikt:cesoie are "shears" and a wikt:tosatore is "shearer", so you may be looking for blade shears. --Wrongfilter (talk) 09:42, 7 August 2018 (UTC)
This seems to agree. Bazza (talk) 09:57, 7 August 2018 (UTC)

August 9

Probability that a word is known

Are there statistics about how probable it is that an educated/native/competent speaker knows word x or structure y (which is outside his professional field)? I see how this would be useful for producing, for example, instruction manuals. Otherwise, it would be more of a guessing game for the copywriter trying to write understandable material. --Doroletho (talk) 14:04, 9 August 2018 (UTC)

The best analogue I can think of would be analysis of word usage, this statistic is well known in statistical linguistics and is called an ngram. Google even has a nice utility here that lets you analyze the frequency of any word or phrase in the entire corpus of Google's digitally scanned English books. --Jayron32 14:22, 9 August 2018 (UTC)
It occurs to me that instruction manuals are unlikely to need to use any language that is outside of that which is known to an educated/native/competent speaker, and if the use of such language is being contemplated it may be best to err on the side of using alternative, more likely to be understood language. An instruction manual should be easily understood by a relatively broad range of people. Maybe I am being unfair but I can't even imagine an instance in which it is necessary to use any language that might not be understood. I think in most instances the language needed for an instruction manual can be limited to that which is in common use. Bus stop (talk) 14:49, 9 August 2018 (UTC)
Meanwhile, I found Flesch–Kincaid readability tests, which seems a good approximation to an empirical analysis of reading difficulty. It's even included in MS-Word, under statistics. Doroletho (talk) 18:20, 9 August 2018 (UTC)
"And who are most likely to fall prey to hypercognition? Experts. Experts who are confined by their own expertise. Experts who overuse the constricted set of concepts salient in their own profession while neglecting a broader array of equally valid concepts. Given a patient, a heart specialist is more likely to diagnose heart disease than an infectious disease expert, who is more likely to see the work of a virus. The bias towards what is known may lead to wrong or delayed diagnoses that bring harmful consequences."[1]
"But let’s give credit where credit is due. The human mind is an amazing organic hard drive of information. The typical English speaker will know the equivalent of 48,000 dictionary entries by age 60."
"Nevertheless, even with that capacity, hypocognition is unavoidable. The vocabularies we gain in a lifetime pale against the 600,000 entries contained in the Oxford English Dictionary, and that is even before we turn to the myriad of concepts residing in other languages."
The above is off-topic but I thought it might be of interest in relation to the question raised. Bus stop (talk) 17:42, 12 August 2018 (UTC)
I don't have a clue why Bus stop is posting this here. Doroletho (talk) 17:06, 14 August 2018 (UTC)
Well, given the information he posted, the answer to your original question would seem to be a probability of 1 in 10. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 20:26, 14 August 2018 (UTC)

August 10

Rail fail

Overheard on the railway station this morning:

The 10:58 service to London Liverpool Street has been cancelled . This is due to tress-passers on the railway ["pass" rhyming with "farce" but without the "r" sound].

Is this something new or does the announcer simply not know what the word "trespassers" means? The service on this line is not good. When I used it two weeks ago there were no trains at all because of "a problem with the overhead wires". Last week it was "a failed train up ahead", leading the driver to remark "If you know of an alternative method of travel I would advise you to use it." (talk) 10:29, 10 August 2018 (UTC)

That sounds fine to me. But I'm not from London. What is your concern? The pronunciation? Or simply the use of the word trespassers? HiLo48 (talk) 10:34, 10 August 2018 (UTC)
See Trap-bath split. Some dialects of English pronounce the "a" in "pass" with a broad "a" as in "father", rather than the short "a" of "ant". --Jayron32 10:40, 10 August 2018 (UTC)
I know about this. The south generally uses broad "a" in some words, the north not at all. I'm in the south and I never heard the broad "a" in "trespass" before. I've never heard the word pronounced other than with the stress on the first syllable. (talk) 10:47, 10 August 2018 (UTC)
I don't know what to say about that except that there are 400 million native English language speakers on Earth, and your singular, personal prior experience is unlikely to have encountered all of them. "I've never experienced it before" is not a synonym for "It doesn't exist". --Jayron32 11:06, 10 August 2018 (UTC)
Well, I'm from a long way south, Australia, and I'd say that maybe your announcer was an Aussie. We all say it that way. HiLo48 (talk) 10:52, 10 August 2018 (UTC)
Believe me, I can tell an Australian accent when I hear one. (talk) 10:55, 10 August 2018 (UTC)
British English: I've never heard it pronounced otherwise than /ˈtrɛspəs/, /ˈtrɛspəsər/ Bazza (talk) 11:08, 10 August 2018 (UTC)
I'm not familiar with IPA, but the "Oxford English Dictionary" doesn't record it as being stressed other than on the first syllable, and it marks the "a" as short. (talk) 11:14, 10 August 2018 (UTC)
(That's Wikipedia's friendly IPA — hover over the symbols for an approximation.) Bazza (talk) 11:18, 10 August 2018 (UTC)
I would expect to hear a Brit pronounce "pass" as "pahss" as the OP says (as in the Black Knight, "none shall "pahss") but I would expect "trespass" to be pronounced as "tressp'ss", as if the "a" weren't there. It's also said kind of that way in parts of America, as in "forgive us our tressp'sses". But for "trespasser" we would need to rely on how a native Brit such as Bazza says it. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 11:21, 10 August 2018 (UTC)
Also [2] [3] Bazza (talk) 11:27, 10 August 2018 (UTC)
Could we be sure that the message was actually spoken by a human? Couldn't it simply be computer generated? Computer generated speech is getting so close to human speech that some people could be fooled by it. Doroletho (talk) 12:49, 10 August 2018 (UTC)
It may be a recorded message, but it's not an automated message because there are none of the artificial pauses which occur when train operating company names, destinations and times are included. (talk) 16:50, 10 August 2018 (UTC)
"Tress-passers" is the usual pronunciation for us Londoners I'm afraid - like this bloke. Like it or lump it. Alansplodge (talk) 14:32, 12 August 2018 (UTC)
He doesn't sound like a Londoner, and that single (and slightly bizarre) Youtube video can't really be used to confirm "usual". (Amusingly, the voice reading the text in the video says /ˈtrɛspəsəs/. I still go with [4]. Bazza (talk) 15:09, 12 August 2018 (UTC)
Point taken that he doesn't really sound like a Londoner, but it's somewhere south of the Watford Gap - it was the only video I could find in a quick search. However, "tress-passers" is how I and most people I know say it. Documentary proof is proving troublesome. I'm not saying that it's the correct pronunciation, just a common one in London and thereabouts. Alansplodge (talk) 21:15, 12 August 2018 (UTC)
I once got lost in London and was approached by a landowner who told me I was "'trespassing". He didn't say I was "tress'passing". On one occasion I was walking past the back of Buckingham Palace. I came to a long, empty street with entrance doors which were wide open. Lucky I didn't walk down - it was during the bombings and it's the Royal Mews (the place where the Queen keeps her horses). Down the side of the Palace there is (or was) a door anyone could walk through. It's the tradesmen's entrance leading to a police office where deliveries are made. I was there one summer evening for some (lawful) purpose when some drinks which had been ordered were brought in. The officer commented "Her Royal Highness will be very pleased to receive these". (talk) 09:52, 13 August 2018 (UTC)
"...approached by a landowner who told me I was "'trespassing". He didn't say I was "tress'passing". " Huh? What's the difference? HiLo48 (talk) 10:00, 13 August 2018 (UTC)
... just the stress. (Not passing tresses.) Dbfirs 10:27, 13 August 2018 (UTC)
And I have no idea what you're talking about. You see, I would pronounce both those words the same way. Not you? HiLo48 (talk) 10:53, 13 August 2018 (UTC)
All the forms of "trespass" I can think of stress the "tres" part. To say it as tres-PASS would sound rather odd, but maybe some dialects do that. Or maybe for some sort of emphasis. Like saying de-CADE instead of DE-cade, or al-SO instead of AL-so. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 11:11, 13 August 2018 (UTC)
How about equal emphasis on both syllables? HiLo48 (talk) 11:13, 13 August 2018 (UTC)
Maybe somewhere. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 11:18, 13 August 2018 (UTC)
That's my impression of what happens in Australian English pronunciation. HiLo48 (talk) 11:28, 13 August 2018 (UTC)
Perhaps someone has access to a Macquarie Dictionary to check whether this is common throughout Australia? Dbfirs 11:43, 13 August 2018 (UTC)
If it was a recording the seemingly odd pronunciation may be of mechanical origin. Bus stop (talk) 12:25, 13 August 2018 (UTC)
The first comment on the video says "tell them section 61 of the magnacarta the the right to bare arms..." Very useful in the hot weather. Reminds me of the gentleman proposing for motor insurance who entered his occupation as "Widow Cleaner". In Britain, decade and decade are equally acceptable. As I understand it, there are stress languages and tonal languages. In a stress language the primary stress will fall on a particular syllable, and Australian English is no different from any other variety of English. (talk) 17:45, 13 August 2018 (UTC)
I agree that the stress is often "wrongly" placed in "decade". According to the OED, stress on the second syllable is used only for the obsolete verb. The noun has traditionally always had stress on the first syllable. It's possible that the Third Edition (when they get round to updating the entry) might record the current fashion for shifting the stress. Dbfirs 07:17, 14 August 2018 (UTC)
A bit off-track, but speaking of occupations, Henny Youngman used to say that his brother-in-law listed his occupation as "diamond cutter". He mowed the lawn at Yankee Stadium. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 19:44, 13 August 2018 (UTC)
The term you're looking for describing how a language spaces out its stresses is called Isochrony. --Jayron32 18:00, 13 August 2018 (UTC)

The use of articles in establishing alphabetical order

For this question, I will just use hypothetical book titles, to make the examples easier. If the first word of a book title is an article (such as the word "the" or "a" or "an"), then that first word is ignored, and we move on to the next word, in order to alphabetize the title. My question: does this rule only apply when the article word is the first word in the title? Or does it apply to any occurrence of an article word? Just to make up an example: The Murder would get alphabetized before Poison (because the word "the" is ignored). What about when the article word is not the first word? For example: Singing in the Rain and Singing in Spain. Does the word "the" get ignored (or not) when alphabetizing these two titles? Are we alphabetizing Singing in the Rain or just Singing in Rain, when comparing the letters to Singing in Spain? Thanks. Joseph A. Spadaro (talk) 19:38, 10 August 2018 (UTC)

There's no "rule": who would set it or enforce it? How you sort items depends on your own criteria. No doubt specific instances have their own policies on how to sort. For example, my own media server has a list of initial words to ignore when sorting audio titles: it's currently set to "The El La Los Las Le Les". I'm not sure about the value in ignoring such words when they are not the first in the title, but there's no proscription in adopting such a tactic. Referring to your example, I (personally) would expect "Singing in the Rain" to appear before "Singing in Spain", but that's not to say other people might like the reverse. Bazza (talk) 20:03, 10 August 2018 (UTC)
Thanks. But, I am quite sure that there are "rules" out there somewhere, regardless of whether or not they are enforced. No? Why do we alphabetize "apple" before "banana"? I am sure there is some "rule" that says so. So, I was asking about a more nuanced application of those same "rules". Joseph A. Spadaro (talk) 20:50, 10 August 2018 (UTC)
I was referring to your proposal that omitting leading articles (a, an, the, etc) from items when sorting counts as a "rule" which everyone is meant to follow. If it is, then who maintains it? Doroletho's comment about style guides below is pertinent. One might ask the same questions (and I would make the same comment about there being no specific rule) for sorting names such as O'Brien, McDonald, van der Waals, de Finetti, etc. Bazza (talk) 09:55, 11 August 2018 (UTC)
In English, the order in which we place letters of the alphabet (a before b) is a centuries old convention. For book titles and author's names, various institutions set rules for ordering. In the libraries where I have worked, the rules specified ignoring "a", "an", and "the" at the beginning of a title or name, but also how to order "O" and "O'" and "Mac" "Mc" and "M'". There used to be filing dividers that included a divider for "Mac/Mc", so that "McArthur" came before "Madden". Machine (computer) sorting of names has marginalized idiosyncrasies like that. - Donald Albury 22:09, 11 August 2018 (UTC)
(edit conflict) If you refer to the English Wikipedia when you say "we" then I have never heard of the idea that articles after the first non-ignored word should be ignored. Wikipedia:Categorization#Sort keys only mentions leading articles and says "transfer the leading article to the end of the key, as in {{DEFAULTSORT:Lady, The}}. Transferring to the end would make no sense for non-leading articles. But if words at the start are ignored then an article may "move to the lead" and then transfer to the end. See for example Category:Star Wars films where Star Wars: The Force Awakens is sorted as "Force Awakens, The", but it's not sorted as "Star Wars: Force Awakens, The" in any category. PrimeHunter (talk) 20:52, 10 August 2018 (UTC)
Rules are defined in the respective manual of style of whatever organization you are writing for. Normally titles are ordered by author first.
You could also check what sorting algorithms are configured to do.
Normally they ignore the leading 'The', 'A' and so on, but not those inbetween.
The problem of not ignoring the leading 'The' is that you would get loads of titles (of books, movies, TV series, bands) lumped together under the 'A' and 'The'. Ignoring these solves this problem. Ignoring articles in the middle of titles doesn't offer any benefit (as far as I'm concerned). We don't ignore articles just for the sake of it.

Doroletho (talk) 21:36, 10 August 2018 (UTC)

We have an article Collation... AnonMoos (talk) 16:29, 11 August 2018 (UTC)

Do most professional publication also ignore the leading "Of" when sorting? e.g. "Of Mice and Men".
Btw, I was looking at [List_of_books_by_title |], we need a bot to go through Wikipedia and we could grow this significantly. --Lgriot (talk) 13:40, 13 August 2018 (UTC)

August 12

Whack up a ginger

What does “whack up a ginger” (if I’m hearing it correctly) mean? In context it seems to be “screw up one’s courage” but it’s such an odd phrase I’d like to know more. See: Jeeves and Wooster, E01, 28 minutes in. Temerarius (talk) 16:33, 12 August 2018 (UTC)

@Temerarius: I think the relevant article is Gingering. › Mortee talk 16:35, 12 August 2018 (UTC)
The phrase used is "whack up the ginger"; entering that on a popular web search engine will give you plenty of results. In particular, this site says summon up the courage or spirit; originally American slang. As late as 1909 an OED citation from Britain calls “ginger” an Americanism. HenryFlower 20:38, 12 August 2018 (UTC)
EO dates the use of ginger to mean "spirit, spunk, temper" to 1843.[5]Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 22:58, 12 August 2018 (UTC)

August 13

Incorrect correction?

The following "correction" was made (here)

From: ... it was launched with only 12 aboard, the least number of occupants to escape in a boat that night.
To: ... it was launched with only 12 aboard, the fewest occupants to escape in a boat that night.

Edit summary: (grammar/usage - 'occupants' is a countable noun)

Although I am 83.7% certain the original text was correct, I don't want to undo the "correction" without a proper explanation in the edit summary -- or, am I wrong? —2606:A000:1126:4CA:0:98F2:CFF6:1782 (talk) 06:58, 13 August 2018 (UTC)

Clarity is key. Either one seems grammatically correct, but the second one sounds better, being less wordy. I might also say "the fewest occupants to escape in any one boat that night." ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 07:28, 13 August 2018 (UTC)
  • I've made it something like that. In both places where the sentence occurs. -- (talk) 14:21, 13 August 2018 (UTC)
Wiktionary does a fair job of explaining why, in traditional prescriptive grammar, you and Bugs are wrong. HenryFlower 09:28, 13 August 2018 (UTC)
As a compromise, why not say "the smallest number of occupants to escape in any one boat"? Dbfirs 09:38, 13 August 2018 (UTC)
Least number of, smallest number of, and fewest are all saying the same thing. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 11:12, 13 August 2018 (UTC)
I agree, but we are looking for the clearest expression that maintains old grammar rules. Dbfirs 11:38, 13 August 2018 (UTC)
In any case the original edit summary is silly: if a noun is countable, you can use "the number of" in front of it. "Bananas" -- "The number of bananas". That is not a good enough explanation for removing "number of". I think it is just a matter of preference. --Lgriot (talk) 13:25, 13 August 2018 (UTC)


Lets say I know a particular language. I am not an expert in that language, but I can speak and understand enough, so that I am able to survive in the country where that language is spoken. What is the word that can be used to describe my knowledge of that language?

Similarly I don't know how to repair computers, cars but I know little bit to fix some general problems, then I don't have to take the help of repair service to fix minor problems. I will take professional help, when I know I can't repair some major problem. The same word can be used to describe my knowledge of repairing.

Basic. (talk) 16:45, 13 August 2018 (UTC)
Working knowledge (see also here for a better one) is a word I would use. --Jayron32 17:58, 13 August 2018 (UTC)

August 14

Could someone translate the Japanese language in this link in this anime picture? (talk) 02:16, 14 August 2018 (UTC)

No, because it's asking us to log in to an email account none of us have. Ian.thomson (talk) 02:19, 14 August 2018 (UTC)
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