Miscellaneous language questions

For the discussion of language mechanics, grammar, vocabulary, trends, and other such linguistic topics, in english and other languages.

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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby chridd » Wed Aug 16, 2017 8:03 pm UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:None of this is as important as fixing the monstrosity that is "Adieu, adieu, to ya and ya and ya." It's like the writer intended it to be "Adyoo to you and you and you," but someone told him he was mispronouncing "adieu," so he got angry and went off the deep end with mispronouncing words for the sake of a rhyme.
Clarify? I'm not familiar with that (I've only heard the Do-Re-Me song, outside the context of the musical), but I looked it up and in this video it sounds like he is pronouncing it as "Adyoo to you and you and you" (which is also very close to how I'd pronounce adieu). Should it be pronounced differently, or have you heard it sung with a different pronunciation?

(The French pronunciation according to Wiktionary is /a.djø/, but obviously that's not possible in English (unless you use extra sounds in foreign words) since we don't have /ø/, and /ə.ˈdju/ seems like a reasonable approximation to me. Also, all English pronunciations Wiktionary gives for adieu end in /u/.)
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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby Soupspoon » Wed Aug 16, 2017 10:21 pm UTC

"Ya"? I thought it was (how I'd write it!) more like "Yeur". (Close enough to the French for "eyes", at least for me. I'd probably pronounce "Adieu" with the same ending as "Les yeux", though, and I'm sure any decent francophone would tell me that I was getting at least one of those wrong if that was the case...)

ETA, due to the page-topper post above that I didn't notice: Yes, ø (as in "øre", as was) fits closely.

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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby Eebster the Great » Wed Aug 16, 2017 10:33 pm UTC

However you want to spell it, the point is that "you" is mispronounced, not "adieu."

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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby Soupspoon » Wed Aug 16, 2017 10:59 pm UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:However you want to spell it, the point is that "you" is mispronounced, not "adieu."

Indeed. But these are "native Austrians" speaking, via magical translator microbes1, so I'm not sure what we can make of the (mostly) lack of accents leaking through (some 'Allo 'Allo accents, but mostly averted) and why this bit particularly goes off-piste.


My surprise was mostly that "ya" was your encoding of "yeur" (or that my encoding would be "yeur", for your perfectly reasonable "ya"). As I can think of various anglospheric treatments of vowels (never mind how non-anglospheric accents render their English, if not schooled enough in RP, Midwestern American, 'mid-Atlantic' or whatever to be near-as-damnit native), it was not a big surprise, but it was just a moment of "Hey! Separated by a common language!"...


(Also, it's been years since I last saw TSOM, so I had some small doubts over my aural recollection... I was planning on finding the inevitable Youtube clip once I'd gotten a more suitably-bandwidthed connection.)


1 That somehow have to deal with lyrics that may start as "So lange, Lebt wohl…" in the original germanic. (And then, with Tardis Logic, may continue onto "…Goodbye, Auf wiedersehen")

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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby Eebster the Great » Thu Aug 17, 2017 4:46 am UTC

There is no way to spell the word that would lead me to believe that was the correct pronunciation, but I concede that "yeur" is much closer than "ya." I didn't really think it through when posting, because I figured that everyone would know the reference. Maybe closer is simply "yeu" or even "ieu."

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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby Soupspoon » Tue Aug 22, 2017 1:45 pm UTC

There's a radio programme on tomorrow entitled "U and Non-U: Does Anyone Still Care?". For reasons I can't quite justify to myself, I want to s/Anyone/Anybody/ in this context, and I've not found much to justify this asynonimical sense of distinctiveness.

I know I've given my vague impressions of nuances like this to others' similar queries. So, does any… person… want to pick away at mine? For or against!

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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby measure » Tue Aug 22, 2017 6:43 pm UTC

Soupspoon wrote:There's a radio programme on tomorrow entitled "U and Non-U: Does Anyone Still Care?". For reasons I can't quite justify to myself, I want to s/Anyone/Anybody/ in this context, and I've not found much to justify this asynonimical sense of distinctiveness.

I know I've given my vague impressions of nuances like this to others' similar queries. So, does any… person… want to pick away at mine? For or against!

I use the two interchangeably, and I don't remember ever wanting to correct some[one/body] else's usage. As a reason to prefer one over the other perhaps it is a subconscious attempt to complete an iambic or trochaic stress pattern?

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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby Mega85 » Fri Aug 25, 2017 11:27 pm UTC

Do you dislike it when people write "yeah" as "yea"? I know someone who always writes "yea" in texts when they mean "yeah". "yea" is a different word with the same meaning, but a different pronunciation.

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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby Soupspoon » Sat Aug 26, 2017 2:38 am UTC

Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!

/rings bell, in support...

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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby Eebster the Great » Sat Aug 26, 2017 6:29 am UTC

Mega85 wrote:Do you dislike it when people write "yeah" as "yea"? I know someone who always writes "yea" in texts when they mean "yeah". "yea" is a different word with the same meaning, but a different pronunciation.

The meanings of "yeah" and "yea" are not really the same, in my opinion.

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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby Aiwendil » Sat Aug 26, 2017 5:25 pm UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:The meanings of "yeah" and "yea" are not really the same, in my opinion.


Agreed. I think of "yea" (pronounced like "yay") as the appropriate word only in parliamentary contexts and allusions thereto.

Soupspoon wrote:There's a radio programme on tomorrow entitled "U and Non-U: Does Anyone Still Care?". For reasons I can't quite justify to myself, I want to s/Anyone/Anybody/ in this context, and I've not found much to justify this asynonimical sense of distinctiveness.

I know I've given my vague impressions of nuances like this to others' similar queries. So, does any… person… want to pick away at mine? For or against!


I have introspected deeply, and the only possible -body/-one distinction I can come up with is a slight tendency for me to think of "-body" words as more informal than corresponding "-one" words. But I can't think of a situation where one or the other would feel wrong to me.

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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby Eebster the Great » Sat Aug 26, 2017 8:11 pm UTC

"Yea" has additional meanings, like "so," as in "my brother is yea tall" (while gesturing with hands). Wikipedia also lists an archaic usage essentially equivalent to the conjunction "nay," as in, "If the sun produces fusion, should not lightning produce it also? For is lightning not as hot as, yea, hotter than the sun?"

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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby Aiwendil » Sun Aug 27, 2017 4:10 am UTC

You're right, those usages had slipped my mind.

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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby Znirk » Mon Aug 28, 2017 7:26 pm UTC

Something from over in the Forum Games > Mafia section I've been wondering about: Do we know how vanilla came to mean "baseline", "bog-standard", "nothing unusual"? I guess it has to be food-related somehow; but to me, vanilla is one of the more unusual spices one might choose to use in any dish.

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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby flicky1991 » Mon Aug 28, 2017 7:31 pm UTC

Because it's the default flavour of ice cream. You have that if you're not having anything fancy.
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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby poxic » Mon Aug 28, 2017 7:36 pm UTC

There's a notion kicking around that we might think of vanilla as comforting because it has some flavour components in common with human breast milk.

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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby flicky1991 » Mon Aug 28, 2017 7:37 pm UTC

I like cream soda.
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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby Znirk » Mon Aug 28, 2017 7:45 pm UTC

flicky1991 wrote:Because it's the default flavour of ice cream. You have that if you're not having anything fancy.

Oooh, -kay. But what about the other two primary flavours, strawberry and chocolate? Are they less ordinary in the anglosphere?

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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby flicky1991 » Mon Aug 28, 2017 7:47 pm UTC

They are ordinary, but not the default. If something says "ice cream" without specifying, e.g. "cherry pie with ice cream" or "chocolate pudding with ice cream", then it's vanilla.
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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby Znirk » Mon Aug 28, 2017 7:49 pm UTC

Interesting. Today-I-10000d.

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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby Soupspoon » Mon Aug 28, 2017 7:59 pm UTC

Znirk wrote:
flicky1991 wrote:Because it's the default flavour of ice cream. You have that if you're not having anything fancy.

Oooh, -kay. But what about the other two primary flavours, strawberry and chocolate? Are they less ordinary in the anglosphere?

For those with cosmopolitan tastes, vanilla is the default, everything else is that little bit more special - assuming you like the flavours at all.
For those with neapolitan tastes, strawberry+vanilla+chocolate is the default, in stripes.

(But I bet they still mostly eat the vanilla stripe first, given the option, just to get it out of the way and leave the other two more flavoursome flavours to melt and mix a bit!)

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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby Angua » Mon Aug 28, 2017 8:23 pm UTC

poxic wrote:There's a notion kicking around that we might think of vanilla as comforting because it has some flavour components in common with human breast milk.

Have a nice day.

This is a bit strange, as there was a study in Germany where they gave ketchup to 20 year olds which either had vanilla in it or not. The ones who had been bottle fed normally preferred the vanilla one as almost all baby formula in Germany 20 years previously had been vanilla flavoured.
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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby poxic » Mon Aug 28, 2017 8:31 pm UTC

You got me looking for references. I can only find online blogs and articles referring to research by Rachel Herz at Brown University, but nothing from her directly about this topic.
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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby Eebster the Great » Mon Aug 28, 2017 11:25 pm UTC

Vanilla flavoring rarely conflicts with other desert items, which is why you see vanilla ice cream so commonly served with pie, cake, etc. Vanillin also shows up in all kinds of mass-produced desert items due to its wide appeal and simple flavor. It may be that people taking "vanilla" to mean "plain" are actually thinking more about the vanillin artificial flavor than natural vanilla, which has a rich and complex flavor. Regardless, in the special case of ice cream, clearly vanilla is the "default" flavor. I think people may see vanilla pudding* similarly.

*Pudding as defined by Americans. I can never figure out what Brits mean by the word.

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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby Angua » Tue Aug 29, 2017 12:01 am UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:
*Pudding as defined by Americans. I can never figure out what Brits mean by the word.

Mostly, they just mean dessert.
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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby Soupspoon » Tue Aug 29, 2017 1:25 am UTC


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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby Eebster the Great » Tue Aug 29, 2017 4:05 am UTC

Angua wrote:
Eebster the Great wrote:
*Pudding as defined by Americans. I can never figure out what Brits mean by the word.

Mostly, they just mean dessert.

"Dessert" as in the sort of pudding I imagine, or just dessert in general?

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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby flicky1991 » Tue Aug 29, 2017 5:44 am UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:
Angua wrote:
Eebster the Great wrote:
*Pudding as defined by Americans. I can never figure out what Brits mean by the word.

Mostly, they just mean dessert.

"Dessert" as in the sort of pudding I imagine, or just dessert in general?

"Pudding" can mean dessert in general, but it is also the name of several desserts.
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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby Eebster the Great » Tue Aug 29, 2017 7:24 am UTC

I have been told that haggis is the great chieftain o the puddin'-race. This does violence to my notion of pudding.

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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby eSOANEM » Tue Aug 29, 2017 12:02 pm UTC

If it's not further specified, "pudding" just means "dessert". In a few specific dishes it retains the earlier sense of a steamed stuffed bladder/intestine or similar which gives us black pudding and haggis. I'm assuming yorkshire pudding only retained the steamed part of that (in a similar way to how the usual sense generalised from the sweet puddings popular amongst the tudors)
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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby Liri » Tue Aug 29, 2017 12:26 pm UTC

The word "pie" seems to be similarly abused. In civilized counties, you have a crust on the bottom (mandatory!), filling, and any optional crust on top.


My dad enjoyed his black pudding till I told him what it was.
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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby flicky1991 » Tue Aug 29, 2017 12:27 pm UTC

Liri wrote:The word "pie" seems to be similarly abused. In civilized counties, you have a crust on the bottom (mandatory!), filling, and any optional crust on top.
Crust around the sides, too, or it's some kind of crusty sandwich. :P
Liri wrote:My dad enjoyed his black pudding till I told him what it was.
Black pudding is pretty nice. I've only had it twice, both from the same place.
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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby Soupspoon » Tue Aug 29, 2017 1:35 pm UTC

It actually seems more likely, from a brief research, that puddings were 'savoury encased animal product' long prior to the explosion of sweet puddings (and increasingly refined sweeteners in general and the accompanying dietary shifts). And share a common linguistic root with "botulism"... ;)

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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby eSOANEM » Tue Aug 29, 2017 4:43 pm UTC

I don't think that's contradictory with what I said?

The original sense was of steamed or boiled things encased in animal bits; naturally these were originally savoury. Then the tudors introduced sweet puddings (which wouldn't need refined sugars, berries or fruit would do); the UK sense then shifted to steamed sweet dishes and then desserts in general. There are a few specific dishes retaining the sense at pretty much every stage of this process (e.g. black pudding and sticky toffee pudding).
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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby Soupspoon » Tue Aug 29, 2017 4:58 pm UTC

Sorry, I did a little bit of pesky sentential reorganisation before posting, somehow losing my original agreement with you and actually inverting it slightly along the way.

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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby Derek » Thu Aug 31, 2017 4:57 am UTC

Does any language other than English use exactly the 26 letter Latin alphabet?

Of course this somewhat depends on how a language defines a letter. Like Spanish considers ll to be a single letter (wait, apparently this changed, but it used to be considered one letter), and some languages don't consider vowels with diacritics to be separate letters. Or maybe the idea of a 26 letter alphabet is Anglocentric in the first place, after all even Latin didn't use 26 letters, it only had 23 (no J, U, or W, and Y and Z were only used for Greek loanwords). But if it's possible to set those issues aside, are there any other examples?

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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby Soupspoon » Thu Aug 31, 2017 6:33 am UTC

A quick check of an online encyclopedic(/encyclopædic!) list of Latin-based alphabet lengths (with some judgement calls made by someone else over separation of digraphs, accents, etc) indicates that they come in lengths of 13 {Hawaiian}, 14, 18 (x2), 19, 23 (x3), 24, 25 (x3), 26 (x5), 27 (x4), 28 (x2), 29 (x7), 30 (x3), 31 (x2), 32 (x3), 33 (x2), 34 (x2), 35 (x2), 36 (x3), 38 (x2), 40, 46 (x3) and 52 {Nootka/Nuu-chah-nulth}.

Non-English 26ers include Dutch (Ij directly replacing Y, it seems, a detail to which I would clearly defer to any Dutch forumite who cared to comment) and Lojban (H, Q and W absent, three new characters added, seemingly).

Xhosa is given as 26 characters, but quite obviously ought to count its (IIRC, three basic types of?) click-characters, wherever they reside (aside from the obvious Xh) in the many digraphs, trigraphs and tetragraphs that are not in the official count but only listed as addenda! Zulu is similarly suspiciously outnumbered by Ngraphic combos. But I've included them in the tally anyway.

Unlike French/German/Italian/Portuguese and (relatively modern version of) Latin. They are listed as as-per-English (but with all the obvious accents, and ligatured Œ/ß etc, shown separately, and maybe some of the Anglospheric 26 noted as really only for loan-word use). Given that English-English has rare-but-official accents and ligatures that are left uncounted (never mind ignoring of "&"/"and per se And", at various times considered the 27th character), in these instances I also refrained from tallying them as distinct.

There's also "Glosa", which has no differences at all, and no further information (reminds me of an artificial/international lamguage), as with Ido and Interlingua (definitely a modern construct), also left untallied by me.

(Interesting that mid-Pacific's Hawaii and NE-Pacific's Nootka Island book-end the tally-list. Though I mostly blame inconsistencies of treatment of 'mere' accents, in my non-definitive source material, for substantial parts of the 'longer' alphabets.)

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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby ThirdParty » Thu Aug 31, 2017 9:00 am UTC

Derek wrote:Does any language other than English use exactly the 26 letter Latin alphabet?
A browsing of Wikipedia suggests that Portuguese and Catalan do.

French and Dutch are more arguable but also seem to be leaning that direction.

Derek wrote:Of course this somewhat depends on how a language defines a letter.
Indeed.

Even in English, I think it's debatable how many letters we have:
  • &, as in "AT&T". Some 19th-century textbooks listed it as the 27th letter. And I think I'd be inclined to alphabetize it after "Z"; none of the other possible options (alphabetize as "and", alphabetize as "et", skip over while alphabetizing) feel right.
  • ç, as in "façade". My understanding is that this character evolved from something like a zee or an ezh; it's not just a cee with a diacritical mark on it.
  • ñ, as in "jalapeño". If you asked me to spell "jalapeño" out loud, I would say "jay, a, ell, a, pee, e, eñe, o".
  • ö, as in "Gödel". I'd alphabetize it as though it were "oe", not as though it were just an "o" with a diacritical mark.
  • é, as in "résumé". This undeniably is just a letter with a diacritical mark on it, but the fact that "résumé" contrasts with "resume" should give pause to anyone trying to argue that the diacritic is an optional pronunciation guide and not an essential part of the spelling.
  • -, as in "co-op". Again, "co-op" contrasts with "coop", so the hyphen is not optional. (Well, I'd be happy to spell the word as "coöp" instead, but then we get the same case for ö that we had for é.) And it alters the pronunciation, as though it were a letter, rather than altering the timing the way we'd expect a genuine punctuation mark to do.
  • ', as in "can't" or "Bob's". Unlike the hyphen, the apostrophe doesn't affect pronunciation, but leaving it out still feels more like a spelling error than a punctuation error.

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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby jaap » Thu Aug 31, 2017 9:40 am UTC

Soupspoon wrote:Non-English 26ers include Dutch (Ij directly replacing Y, it seems, a detail to which I would clearly defer to any Dutch forumite who cared to comment)


I'm Dutch, so let me wade in here about the Dutch "IJ".

It represents a vowel sound, one of the many diphthongs spoken Dutch has.
It is normally typed and typeset as two letters, and when in a sorted alphabetised list like a dictionary it is also treated as two letters.

However if it is capitalised, at the start of sentence for example, then both letters are capitals, i.e. "IJsbreker" and not "Ijsbreker".
It is also considered a single letter when spelling a word out loud, or when doing crosswords or other word puzzles.

In word-searches and other letter-based puzzles it is sometimes typeset as Y, though strictly speaking that is incorrect. The actual letter Y (called i-grec) is rarely used in Dutch, except in relatively recent loan words or words with Greek roots.

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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby Eebster the Great » Thu Aug 31, 2017 10:22 am UTC

Diacritical marks, punctuation marks, and ligatures can be necessary but still not be letters of the alphabet. Periods may be necessary in some initialisms, but they are not letters. Apostrophes are necessary in most contractions, but they are not letters. Numerals are frequently necessary, but they are not letters. Even emoji are irreplaceable in some niche contexts (though no more niche than the words you erroneously claim "must" be spelled with accents, but in reality usually are not). Print simply requires more than letters.

It would be foolish to claim there was no difference between the 26 recognized letters of the English alphabet and the glyphs you listed. There is not one of the 26 letters that could be excluded by any reasonable, educated person, yet all of the ones you mentioned are tenuous and exceptional in multiple ways. Maybe you don't want to use "letters" to uniquely define these 26, but rather "main letters" or something, but I feel like no matter what you call them, you can't ignore the patently obvious features that make them special in English.


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