Wikipedia:Reference desk/Language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


The Wikipedia Reference Desk covering the topic of language.

Welcome to the language reference desk.
Want a faster answer?

Main page: Help searching Wikipedia

How can I get my question answered?

  • Provide a short header that gives the general topic of the question.
  • Type '~~~~' (that is, four tilde characters) at the end – this signs and dates your contribution so we know who wrote what and when.
  • Post your question to only one desk.
  • Don't post personal contact information – it will be removed. All answers will be provided here.
  • Specific questions, that are likely to produce reliable sources, will tend to get clearer answers,
  • Note:
    • We don't answer (and may remove) questions that require medical diagnosis or legal advice.
    • We don't answer requests for opinions, predictions or debate.
    • We don't do your homework for you, though we’ll help you past the stuck point.
    • We are not a substitute for actually doing any original research required, or as a free source of ideas.



How do I answer a question?

Main page: Wikipedia:Reference desk/Guidelines

  • The best answers address the question directly, and back up facts with wikilinks and links to sources. Do not edit others' comments and do not give any medical or legal advice.
 
Choose a topic:
 
See also:
Help desk
Village pump
Help manual


January 8

January 11

Is "engagement" just the modern term of the archaic "betrothal"?

I hardly hear anyone use the term "betrothal" nowadays. Most of the time, people use the term "betrothal" in stories that take place in earlier times, which I conveniently replace with "engagement". How did "betrothal" fall into disuse? Most of the time, in modern English, people would say, "I'm going to get married," or "I'm engaged," or even "I'm going to tie the knot." SSS (talk) 06:29, 11 January 2018 (UTC)

Based on our article, it seems that betrothal was/is more "official", and often organized/arranged by the couple's families. Iapetus (talk) 09:33, 11 January 2018 (UTC)
SuperSuperSmarty -- Engagement is the modern equivalent of betrothal, but in many cultures betrothal was a binding agreement which had far more consequences than a modern engagement. In Old Testament times, from what appears in the Bible, most of the heavy lifting (negotiations between the two families) was done at the time of the betrothal, and if a betrothed woman had sex with someone other than the man she was betrothed to, then she was already guilty of adultery. In fact there seems to be more emphasis on betrothals than weddings; probably in some cases if the betrothed man and woman had sex, and the betrothed woman went to live with the husband's family, and they accepted her, then that was the wedding (the Hebrew word כלה which is conventionally translated "bride" also meant "daughter-in-law", with the implication of one who has recently come to live with her husband's family, and "young married woman"). There may have been some kind of wedding ceremony, but it wasn't really described in the Old Testament (though there is the "royal wedding psalm", Psalm 45)... AnonMoos (talk) 09:44, 11 January 2018 (UTC)
Hence also the term Breach of promise. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 10:14, 11 January 2018 (UTC)
  • No. If I need to splain beyond what WP, Wiktionary, Google, Webster's, EO, and Oxford all give, don't bother to ping me--I'll just ignore it. μηδείς (talk) 13:44, 11 January 2018 (UTC)
  • I did type that, but it may have been a cut and paste error, it doesn't seem to belong here. μηδείς (talk) 19:41, 11 January 2018 (UTC)

Los Tres Calaveras

In the comments section to this 1960s Mexican movie "Los Tres Calaveras" someone wrote: "¡Ah cabrón, que chingones le salen los corridos a Javier Solís!" Can someone translate? Is it that Javier Solís is not known for singing corridos? Were they referring to something in the movie? (I haven't watched it yet but Javier Solís seems to only appear in the very beginning and the very end of the movie). Thanks. Basemetal 17:10, 11 January 2018 (UTC)

"Cabrón" is an expletive, like "shithead" or "asshole". "Chingones" is a more virulent expletive like "fuckers", but used in a positive way. My spanish is a bit rusty, but I'm pretty up on my swearwords (being a U.S. schoolteacher). My best shot (and this is with my less-than-perfect spanish that someone will be along to correct) is that in English this would be "Ah, shit! What fucking genius brought out the Javier Solis songs!" --Jayron32 19:25, 11 January 2018 (UTC)
I can't come up with a literal translation, but this reads to me as, "Dude, his shit is da bomb!" The impersonal use of the verb is pretty much untranslatable, but it is more at "what incredible songs come out of Javier" Le and a Javier refer to the singer as if he were the object, and salen, being plural, refers to the songs as the plural subject.
You run into very weird things like "Se me rompio el brazo." Literally that would be "The arm broke me itself" but the sense is I got my arm broken (passively, not by a third party, and not on purpose), or better "My arm broke on me." Another analogy would be, What fuckin eggs come out of that chicken, which is a bit easier to grok in English. μηδείς (talk) 02:31, 12 January 2018 (UTC)
So "chingones" is here actually an adjective meaning "incredibly good" and refers to the "corridos", and is not a noun that would be the subject of "salen" (the subject of "salen" actually being the "corridos"): is that correct? Could you also say "los corridos le salen chingones a Javier", meaning "Javier comes up with incredibly good corridos"? Basemetal 02:49, 12 January 2018 (UTC)
Sort of. The best English translation in terms of sense would be "fucking brilliant" in the British sense. Chingon and related words are vulgar, and lack a direct English translation, but their use usually indicates a positive attitude. --Jayron32 05:19, 12 January 2018 (UTC)
Ah cabrón, ¡qué chingones! (Oh man, what badasses!) —Stephen (talk) 23:05, 12 January 2018 (UTC)
A slight nitpick. chingon (literally "big fuck") is not an adjective here, but a predicate nominative. The looser word order confuses the English speaker. We would say his ballads come out such masterpieces. The Spanish order ignoring the vulgarity is "what masterpieces they come out the ballads of Solis. μηδείς (talk) 17:20, 14 January 2018 (UTC)
  • BTW, I did run this past my English-speaking native Spanish informant, who agreed entirely with my analysis. μηδείς (talk) 17:20, 15 January 2018 (UTC)
See informant (linguistics). μηδείς (talk) 02:08, 16 January 2018 (UTC)

January 14

Apostrophe in "girl's basketball"

When referring to a sports league composed entirely of girls, is it "girls basketball", "girls' basketball", or "girl's basketball"? The page I am working on has it as "girl's". Google turns up a lot of "girls basketball", but that doesn't seem right, and I notice that, when referring to adults, it's "women's basketball". Braincricket (talk) 02:59, 14 January 2018 (UTC)

It should properly be girls' basketball, which is the possessive plural. You see girls basketball a lot, but it is not really correct.
The difference with women's is that "women", although plural, does not end in an s. The apostrophe for plural possessives applies only when the plural ends in s. --Trovatore (talk) 03:04, 14 January 2018 (UTC)

(edit conflict)Girl is better used to refer to females who are not yet adults. If they are adults, women should be used.
Girl's basketball best refers to a basketball possessed by a single girl. Possessive plural is girls', with the apostrophe after the s.
Women's basketball could be used to describe a basketball shared by a group of women or the sport as played by women.
Girls/Womens basketball can only be used as to refer to the game as played by females. Some prescriptivists would say that it's "wrong," but descriptivism would point out that, in this case, girls/women is a Noun adjunct modifying the main noun "basketball" and attribute confusion to assuming that girls/women is intended to be a possessive noun phrase modified by "basketball," even though girls/womens is not marked with a possessive.
From this, it would seem temptingly economical to say that women's basketball should refer to a ball shared by a group of women (as womens basketball covers the sport), and that in turn girls' basketball should likewise refer to the ball shared by females.
Ian.thomson (talk) 03:37, 14 January 2018 (UTC)
Noun adjuncts are generally used in the singular. I'm sorry, but the prescriptivists are right here. The usage is wrong. --Trovatore (talk) 03:52, 14 January 2018 (UTC)
COCA has 4 tokens of "woman's basketball", 817 of "women's basketball". Of course, some may be irrelevant: in "The women's basketball flew over the fence", "women's" is an attributive genitive and thus part of a specifier, not a modifier (or "adjunct"). Et cetera. Still, the numbers are worth a thought. Unless perhaps one is a hardcore prescriptivist, in which case I suppose such numbers aren't worth a thought. (Incidentally, I notice that the article "noun adjunct" isn't equipped with a single reference to a robust descriptive grammar: Compr GEL, Cambr GEL or similar.) -- Hoary (talk) 08:52, 14 January 2018 (UTC)
FIBA [1] uses "Women's Basketball" - and as they are the international governing body for the sport their choice should carry some weight. Wymspen (talk) 16:07, 14 January 2018 (UTC)
"Women's basketball" does not have a noun adjunct. "Women's" is a perfectly ordinary possessive. "Woman basketball", or "women basketball", would be a use of a noun adjunct. "Girls basketball" could also be treated as a use of a noun adjunct, but at least in American English, noun adjuncts are generally singular, so it would more naturally be "girl basketball", which is rarely encountered.
Admittedly it's a little different in British English (e.g. the Brits speak of "drugs traffickers", which we would call "drug traffickers"). However, the fact that you don't see "woman basketball" or "women basketball" also militates against reading this construction as a noun adjunct.
Womens basketball is just an error; there is no such English word as "womens", neither singular nor plural, neither genitive nor any other case. --Trovatore (talk) 23:18, 14 January 2018 (UTC)
For whole team sports, either girls or girls' makes sense, but in solo title competition, it's balderdash. One woman currently possesses the UFC Women's Flyweight Championship, and only one woman ever has. One man is in the exact same boat, except he can call himself the flyweight champion, being both a generic flyweight and a generic champion. Gets to title himself what he is instead of after the collective division, 99% of whom will never hold the belt. It's partially sexist, and partially just wrong. Totally acceptable in all belt sports, though. A girl doesn't have to worry about this when chasing her very own gold medals. In that regard, taekwondo is sort of cool. InedibleHulk (talk) 18:05, January 14, 2018 (UTC)

Achoo in Japanese

The English word achoo is a very natural onomatopoeia, being (to my ears) the exact sound of sneezing, and I've been quite sure that a very similar (if not identical) sound must exist in all natural languages. However, today I was surprised to hear the corresponding Japanese word: ハクション (read: Hakushon. See here the exact transcription). Does that mean that Japanese people do not sneeze the same way Westerners do? Alternatively, do they really hear Hakushon when hearing a sneeze? HOTmag (talk) 19:27, 14 January 2018 (UTC)

Here's an example.[2] Judge for yourself. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 20:46, 14 January 2018 (UTC)
The Lithuanian for "thank you" is Ačiū (pronounced AH-choo), [3] so I think your opening premise is mistaken. Alansplodge (talk) 22:55, 14 January 2018 (UTC)
Are you talking to ME? If you are, then...not only should you fix the indentation, but you should also tell me what "opening premise" you're talking about. Please notice that the English word [spelled] achoo is really an onomatopoeia, even though the Lithuanian word [spelled] Ačiū is not. HOTmag (talk) 23:13, 14 January 2018 (UTC)
Japanese people sneeze in the same way that Westerners do. They "hear hakushon when hearing a sneeze" in about the same way that anglophones "hear achoo when hearing a sneeze". (Whether I hear either depends on hard I listen and how seriously I consider the question, and I imagine that this is true for many people.) The two onomatopœas are pretty similar, actually: assuming that "achoo" actually starts with [ʔ] (as I guess it does for most people), then both start with a glottal sound; and each has a stop in the middle (though in English, it's part of an affricate). The Japanese one is of course rather more complex. -- Hoary (talk) 23:54, 14 January 2018 (UTC)
You may find this interesting: Cross-linguistic onomatopoeias#Bodily functions and involuntary sounds.--William Thweatt TalkContribs 11:49, 15 January 2018 (UTC)
In Croatian we write apćiha [aptɕixa] which to my ears sounds far closer to the sound of sneezing than achoo or hakushon ever could. Different people sneeze in different ways, though. 93.136.7.174 (talk) 03:46, 17 January 2018 (UTC)
It's a cultural thing, just like how the alleged sound made by cocks at morn differs greatly from culture to culture: cock a doodle doo in English, kukareku in Russian, kikeriki in German, gaggala gaggala gu in Icelandic, cocorico in French .... Here's a list. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 04:28, 17 January 2018 (UTC)

January 15

Japan elaborate manhole covers

There's a featured video on bbc.com about elaborate manhole covers in some cities/towns in Japan. The cover image of the video shows a Hello Kitty-themed manhole cover with two words in hiragana: たまし above and うすい below. I figure うすい in this case means "rain water", so it's a rain gutter cover I guess (although I only knew うすい means "weak"). But what does たまし mean??? I know "tamashi" means soul, but it's written たましい as far as I know. What's たまし ??? Thanks in advance, Dr Dima (talk) 03:59, 15 January 2018 (UTC)

, perhaps? -- Hoary (talk) 11:09, 15 January 2018 (UTC)

Nevermind, I figured it out. It's Tama-shi, a city west of Tokyo. Thanks anyways! Dr Dima (talk) 20:58, 16 January 2018 (UTC)

Is "latter" an adjective or a noun??

Compare these sentences:

Wikipedia and Wikinews are both wikis, but the latter site is for news only.

Wikipedia and Wikinews are both wikis, but the latter is for news only.

For the former of these sentences, it's clear that "latter" is an adjective that modifies the noun site. But for the latter of these sentences, "latter" is technically being used as a noun (specifically it's the subject of the clause "is for news only".) But dictionaries all say that "latter" is an adjective regardless of which of these sentences it is being used in. (Check different dictionaries you know and find what part of speech they say "latter" is.) Georgia guy (talk) 15:30, 15 January 2018 (UTC)

Adjective.[4]Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 15:34, 15 January 2018 (UTC)
(edit conflict)The dictionaries are right. "Latter" cannot take a plural form, and as it's not a collective noun it must be an adjective.

cf "There are good wines and bad" - the noun is supplied mentally. 195.147.104.148 (talk) 15:37, 15 January 2018 (UTC)

"Latter" cannot take a plural form, but this is because something can't have more than one latter. Any group of 2 items has a former and a latter. Nothing can have "2 latters". Georgia guy (talk) 15:45, 15 January 2018 (UTC)

"Latter" is the comparative form of "late" and applies to two of something. "Last" is the superlative form of "late." Many adjectives are used with an "understood noun" sense (see substantive adjective) - "He looked at a red apple and a green apple - and chose the red." makes sense. The example given - "The latter is for news" has an implicit noun ("wiki") in it. If your example used three or more examples, "latter" would be incorrect. Collect (talk) 16:00, 15 January 2018 (UTC)

Although latter and last have the forms of comparative and superlative adjectives, they are not (nor are first and former). That is clear if you ask yourself what adjective they are the comparative and superlative of? There is no simple adjective: given the meanings, there can't be - you may need to use first or last for three or more, and former or latter for two - but there is nothing equivalent for just one. Wymspen (talk) 21:51, 15 January 2018 (UTC)
I thought the comparative form of the adjective "late" was "later", which is the opposite of "earlier". Georgia guy (talk) 16:03, 15 January 2018 (UTC)
Georgia_guy -- "Latter" and "Last" were the comparative and superlative of "late" at an earlier stage of the language, but now they've become somewhat dissociated from "late", and new regular comparative and superlative forms have been created. Kind of like how "brethren" was the plural of "brother" at an earlier stage of the language, but now "brethren" has a special meaning, while a regular plural "brothers" has been created... AnonMoos (talk) 04:03, 16 January 2018 (UTC)
"Later" is an adjective or adverb, not a noun.[5]Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 16:55, 15 January 2018 (UTC)
See also Nominalized adjective. Loraof (talk) 16:57, 15 January 2018 (UTC)
The article "Nominalized adjective" is about averagely screwy for a WP article about the grammar of English. (And much of it is about the grammar of English.) It doesn't cite any source for the term "nominalized adjective", and seems to treat this as a synonym of "adjectival noun" -- another term for which it cites no source.
There's a variety of ways of looking at the grammar of English, of course. And they use different and sometimes incompatible nomenclature. "Determiner", for example, is a category in a framework that usually calls its primary function "specifier"; the latter function is called "determiner" in The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, which calls the category "determinative". But whatever their preferred approach and terminology, I think most syntacticians would agree that category and function are separate and shouldn't be confused. Both "nominalized adjective" and "adjectival noun" seem to me to do just that: "Category X type category Y" (they're rather like "mammalian reptile" and "reptilian mammal").
The term that The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language uses for "latter" in "Wikipedia and Wikinews are both wikis, but the latter is for news only" is fused modifier-head. That is, "the latter" in that example is a noun phrase, headed by "latter", which remains an adjective. "Website", or something similar, is only inferred pragmatically, so it's a special fused head. The "modifier" part of "modifier-head" is because within "the latter website", "latter" functions as a modifier. By contrast, in "I'll take these bananas and you take those", "those" is a fused determiner-head as "those" stands for "those bananas" and within this "those" functions as determiner (in CGEL terminology). "Bananas" can be copied in from earlier in the sentence, so it's a simple fused head. -- Hoary (talk) 00:14, 17 January 2018 (UTC)

In "the latter is for news only", Merriam-Webster says "latter" is a noun, American Heritage says it's a noun, Cambridge says it's a noun, and Collins says it's a pronoun.Oxford (in the dictionary accessed from onelook.com) doesn't list that usage specifically, leaving the implication that it's an adjective modifying an understood noun. Personally I would have said it's a noun, but now that I've seen the opinion that it's really a pronoun, I think it makes the most sense. --70.29.13.251 (talk) 04:31, 17 January 2018 (UTC)

The judgments by dictionaries, even otherwise respectable dictionaries, of which categories words belong to constitute an enormous joke. See "Lexical categorization in English dictionaries and traditional grammars". -- Hoary (talk) 08:57, 17 January 2018 (UTC)
Like said User:Collect, in the sentence "Wikipedia and Wikinews are both wikis, but the latter is for news only", "latter" is still an adjective, the noun is implicit. As when you say "I went to the cinema, and enjoyed myself" in the second part the subject is still "I", in the sentence "but the latter is for news only" the subject is still "wiki". A noun has an autonomous meaning even outside a phrase, thus is a noun. "Home" is the building where you live. "The latter" what should be? The second one of two things... ? According to this theory, in the sentence "Mine has been a long journey", "Mine" is a noun that means "something that belongs to me of which I am speaking elsewhere in the phrase". "Home" is a complete sentence. "Mine" and "The latter" not--Pierpao (talk) 10:12, 17 January 2018 (UTC)

January 18

Paczki in Canadian Oxford Dictionary

While I'm waiting for my Oxford Reference access to be renew through Wikipedia Library, could someone please provide me the full entry for "paczki" from Canadian Oxford Dictionary? Dbfirs was previously kind enough to help me out with a similar request.
Bonus question: if you can find the same word in other English dictionaries, I'd be grateful for the entries as well. — Kpalion(talk) 10:36, 18 January 2018 (UTC)

The term does not yet have an entry in the Third Edition of the OED, but the Canadian Oxford has "paczki /ˈpʊnʃki/ noun a round doughnut with a filling of jam, prunes, lemon, custard, etc., traditionally eaten by Poles on Shrove Tuesday." The American heritage Dictionary has: "n. pl. paczki A round Polish pastry similar to a doughnut, usually filled with fruit and topped with sugar or icing." Dbfirs 10:51, 18 January 2018 (UTC)
Thanks, Dbfirs! That was quick. — Kpalion(talk) 11:12, 18 January 2018 (UTC)
@Kpalion: BTW see images at pl:Pączek ('pączki' is plural of 'pączek'). --CiaPan (talk) 11:33, 18 January 2018 (UTC)
Retrieved from "https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Wikipedia:Reference_desk/Language&oldid=821102231"
This content was retrieved from Wikipedia : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Reference_desk/Language
This page is based on the copyrighted Wikipedia article "Wikipedia:Reference desk/Language"; it is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA). You may redistribute it, verbatim or modified, providing that you comply with the terms of the CC-BY-SA