Wiktionary:Tea room/2011/July

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July 2011

drink - uncountable

I propose adding an uncountable sense "Any liquid substance that can be consumed by living beings, by drinking." to the entry drink.

The reason is: We have a category named Category:Food and drink. --Daniel 09:31, 1 July 2011 (UTC)

That's not evidence. That's a reason to look for evidence of usage or authority to support a sense. DCDuring TALK 11:23, 1 July 2011 (UTC)
I think this is already covered by the existing senses, since they are marked "countable and uncountable". What you have said is the uncountable version of "beverage". Equinox 11:24, 1 July 2011 (UTC)
"Beverage" is used with "much" even more rarely (relative to "beverage"'s total use) than "drink" is. The sense wordings at [[drink#Noun]] that begin with "a" are hard to reconcile with uncountability, especially if we treat substitutability as an essential for a gloss-type definition. I am not sure how many of the existing senses have corresponding uncountable senses. Nor am I certain how to word the senses to support both countability and mass-noun senses in one definition. We could see how other dictionaries have resolved this. DCDuring TALK 12:34, 1 July 2011 (UTC)


Is the sense "a shortened form of nickname" used only for Internet nicknames/handles? In fact I've only heard it on IRC and never in any other chat or messaging system. (Page should be split by etymology too.) Equinox 11:19, 1 July 2011 (UTC)

google groups:"my OR your OR his OR her nick" -"nick name" generates 150K+ hits, many of which seem to fit the sense. Some also mention IRC, but the usage context seems much broader than IRC. "Nick" seems to refer to any screen name/screenname. It would seem to require a separate etymology, whatever the scope of use. DCDuring TALK 11:38, 1 July 2011 (UTC)
Beware that the hit numbers reported by Google on the first page of results may be meaningless and vastly inflated random numbers. For me, your linked search reports "about 167,000" hits, but, paging through, the list stops at 531. The maximum number of hits Google will ever display is 1000 (as evidenced by searching for obviously extremely common words), so presumably it really has run out of matches at 531. This is very typical behaviour. I don't think Google realise how these stats get bandied about in forums such as this one, and how many people seem to take them at face value. I wish they would fix what seems to be a ridiculous bug, but of course it is impossible to contact them other than via a feedback system which they can't possibly manually monitor. 01:29, 10 July 2011 (UTC)
Thanks for the reminder. Sometimes I know that there are gross problems with the count at Google, but I often forget. Does Google NGram have the same problem or have they done something to suck up to a more serious research audience with that product? DCDuring TALK 02:19, 10 July 2011 (UTC)


I was wondering if the pronunciation of the word bulletin in English is the same as the French one or is it different? In the article there is no mention of it... Arny 22:40, 1 July 2011 (UTC)

It is not identical. The French -in sounds like /ɛ̃/, for one thing. The French pronunciation is (very approximately) something like "bool-tan". Equinox 22:46, 1 July 2011 (UTC)
Thanks, but I know the French pronunciation (also written in IPA in article), but don't know the English one ;) So, if someone would be so kind to write it in the article; I (not a native English speaker) for example, have no idea how should it be pronounced... Arny 02:09, 2 July 2011 (UTC)
Something like /ˈbʊlətɪn/ in the US; I can't speak for other parts of the world. — lexicógrafa | háblame — 02:42, 2 July 2011 (UTC)
Anyway, the sounds /y/ and /ɛ̃/ don't exist in English... Lmaltier 20:36, 2 July 2011 (UTC)
I agree with Lexicografía and Lmaltier. Mglovesfun (talk) 21:46, 3 July 2011 (UTC)


I think the sense #1 of yakuza "A Japanese organized crime gang" is a proper noun that should be defined on Yakuza. --Daniel 02:43, 2 July 2011 (UTC)

If you take a quick look on Google books, it's easy to find many citations that use the lowercase yakuza in that sense: "This group was the yakuza, sometimes called the Japanese mafia.", etc.--Prosfilaes 02:51, 2 July 2011 (UTC)
Then that's an alternative lowercase proper noun sense. --Daniel 03:10, 2 July 2011 (UTC)


Shouldn't this be Category:English onomatopoeia? Mglovesfun (talk) 21:42, 3 July 2011 (UTC)

Yes, it should. --Daniel 02:32, 4 July 2011 (UTC)
I've never understood why {{onomatopoeia}} is used as (and is designed to be used as and is categorized as) a grammar context template. It should be an etymology template (my preference) or there should be another template for use in etymology sections. DCDuring TALK 03:02, 4 July 2011 (UTC)
In my opinion, the sense should mention "onomatopoeia" without resorting to parenthesized contexts. Example:
"An onomatopoeia representing the sound of a door being knocked."
--Daniel 03:42, 4 July 2011 (UTC)
That seems to confound the etymology and the use. See woof#Etymology 2. DCDuring TALK 04:59, 4 July 2011 (UTC)
FYI, Daniel, any context template can be made to display without parenthesis and italics and to categorize by typing, e.g., {{context|mathematics|sub=labelcat}}.​—msh210 (talk) 18:23, 5 July 2011 (UTC)
I second both DCDuring's posts. The word "onomatopoeia" should not appear as part of a definition, and I am inclined to think there should not even be a context tag for "onomatopoedia" on the definition line, as this information belongs to etymology. --Dan Polansky 18:43, 12 July 2011 (UTC)


Aren't we missing the verb sense? You hear it all the time when nerds speak on American TV shows. ---> Tooironic 04:17, 4 July 2011 (UTC)

Do you mean route#Verb? Rl 12:25, 4 July 2011 (UTC)
I spose so. However there are apparent hits on Google Books for routering and routered. ---> Tooironic 13:30, 5 July 2011 (UTC)
In woodworking, when you use a router bit on a piece of wood, you are routering it. —Stephen (Talk) 21:54, 5 July 2011 (UTC)
I would have said you were routing it (pronounced rowting as opposed to rooting), but usage might vary by region, and the OED has the verb to router in this sense, dating back to 1890. I've added a verb entry. Please improve as necessary, and add the network sense, but would this go under the first etymology? Dbfirs 12:15, 7 July 2011 (UTC)


Primary sense: "A female fictional character who has a cat's ears, tail or other feline characteristics on an otherwise humanoid body." Daniel added "A female cosplayer whose garments include a fake cat's ears, tail other feline characteristics." I feel this isn't really a distinct sense. It's like having senses of fireman and nurse saying "a man who comes dressed as a fireman to a party", "a woman who dresses in a nurse outfit" ("The fireman won the 'best costume' prize, and the nurse came second, but I thought the catgirl was the best"). How can we justify the cosplayer sense? Equinox 19:08, 5 July 2011 (UTC)

To me it seems like a distinct sense. See this comic, and click "next comic" several times to see how it's used. —RuakhTALK 17:21, 6 July 2011 (UTC)
I don't see how that's distinct (except perhaps in the fictional universe of the one comic): they just seem like people dressed as catgirls, like the fireman and nurse. Another analogy IMO would be having an entry at tree saying "any plastic, metal, etc. replica of a tree", as in "my toy zoo came with five trees". Using a word to mean something-that-looks-like-the-thing is just universal. Equinox 20:16, 8 July 2011 (UTC)
They're different because the partiers are not dressed like catgirls, they're dressed like cats. But I don't think this is specific to cosplay. DAVilla 19:20, 9 July 2011 (UTC)
I disagree, because a good, complete cat costume would not make a girl look like a catgirl, but like a sort of pantomime cat. Equinox 19:24, 9 July 2011 (UTC)
@Equinox: I believe that the characters in the comic are using the word in the same way that people in the real world use the word. (Obviously the comic portrays the catgirls in a mock-horror-movie way, but that's an encyclopedic attribute of the term's referents, not relevant to the term's dictionary definition.) —RuakhTALK 18:10, 11 July 2011 (UTC)
I can find Google matches for e.g. "I went as a catgirl". I doubt a catgirl would say she went to a convention as a cat. (And before someone jumps on me saying "you just used catgirl in the sense you are objecting to", yes, I'd call the guy in a fireman costume a fireman, too, while he was in costume, just as I'd call the plastic trees "trees".) Equinox 19:07, 11 July 2011 (UTC)
Wait, is that reply directed at me? (It seems more like a continuation of your reply to DAVilla?) —RuakhTALK 22:05, 11 July 2011 (UTC)
To me the comic appears to be using it just to refer to girls in catgirl costume. What am I missing? (I also don't really trust quirky Web comics as representations of reality.) Equinox 13:22, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
The comic is indeed using it to refer to girls in catgirl costume, but what on Earth does that have to do with "doubt[ing] a catgirl would say she went to a convention as a cat"? —RuakhTALK 13:30, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
From what I said above: "a good, complete cat costume would not make a girl look like a catgirl, but like a ... cat" — i.e. cat costume and catgirl costume are not the same thing, i.e. the disputed sense is "a girl in a catgirl costume" not "a girl in a cat costume", and so that sense 2 is as redundant as "woman dressed as a nurse" at nurse. Equinox 13:01, 1 August 2011 (UTC)
To me, the question seems to be whether people in the second sense ("A female cosplayer etc. ... ") actually are catgirls, or whether catgirls are only fictional and these real girls are just dressing up as them. I don't know the answer to that one! 21:00, 9 July 2011 (UTC)

I've modified the costume definition to broaden it outside of cosplay. DAVilla 05:09, 13 July 2011 (UTC)

"in ballast"/"in ballast condition"

Hi. These two synonymous terms are widely used on en.wikipedia but not defined there. I think they are better candidates for a dictionary entry than an encyclopedia article. In simplest terms, a ship is "in ballast" or "in ballast condition" if it is carrying no cargo. To make the empty ship heavier and more stable, water is pumped into ballast tanks. It is possible that there are regional preferences in usage - my guess is that the "in ballast" form is more widely used in Commonwealth countries and those with close historical ties to the UK. Perhaps someone more clueful than I am on wiktionary could add these terms in the appropriate places? Many thanks. Haus 19:52, 5 July 2011 (UTC)

Thanks. DCDuring TALK 17:52, 6 July 2011 (UTC)
I wonder whether it is ballast condition rather than in ballast condition that is meritorious of an entry. To me, in ballast seems a bit more like a true idiom than either. For now, I have made in ballast condition an alternative form of in ballast. DCDuring TALK 18:00, 6 July 2011 (UTC)

Category:English acronyms

In reviewing the appropriateness of the categorization of abbreviations, I noticed three problems or issues:

  1. Many items classified as acronyms are initialisms as I have heard them.
  2. It is hard to tell whether some vowel-less acronyms might actually be pronounced as acronyms or initialisms.
  3. Some items classified as acronyms seem likely to be pronounced as neither pure acronyms nor pure initialisms, but rather as a hybrid of both. For example, I would expect DDoS to be pronounced "dee-doss".

How can this be cleaned up? We need contributors who have heard these used in conversation to make decisions about pronunciation. But we also cannot rely on "initialism" and "acronym" alone to communicate pronunciation in the case of the hybrids. Furthermore, relying on the pseudo-PoS headers "acronym" and "initialism" to convey pronunciation information prevents contributors from adding true PoS information that complies with WT:ELE.

Probably this will eventually need to go to BP and/or GP, but someone may have useful ideas about improvements that are fully consistent with existing policy and tools. DCDuring TALK 17:02, 6 July 2011 (UTC)

I don't think the categories should be used as a way to distinguish different ways of pronunciation. Like you said, some are pronounced in both ways. I think it would be better to merge them. —CodeCat 17:13, 6 July 2011 (UTC)

tough row to hoe

Is it worthwhile to have usage notes such as in this entry for idioms that display a similar level of variation? Would this eliminate the need for entries for the variations? Should the most common variations appear as alternative forms or be redirects? If the alternative forms are to appear in the entry, should they appear where WT:ELE requires, at the top of the L2 section ? DCDuring TALK 02:01, 8 July 2011 (UTC)

I certainly find the usage notes worthwhile. I don't have an opinion on the other questions (I'd say it depends on other circumstances), except that the usage notes should be easy to find even when looking up a variation. Rl 07:37, 12 July 2011 (UTC)

up for

The entry calls its headword a preposition with two senses. Semantically, the first sense ("Are you up for pizza?") seems to be up (eager, ready) + for. Grammatically, the collocation can be preceded by adverbs which usually seem to modify "up" rather than an entire prepositional phrase headed by up for. Similarly the second sense ("the proposal up for election") seems to be up (presented for or undergoing consideration) + for. But I am not so sure about the validity of the required adjective sense, so this second one might be valid. DCDuring TALK 02:56, 8 July 2011 (UTC)

In both cases I think up is using the preposition for to construe its complement. Something like “I’m up for pizza, or for Chinese, but not for Mexican”, or “Is it up for discussion, or just for a vote?” sounds O.K. to me. In the past we've occasionally kept combinations of [word] + [preposition used to construe word], under the part of speech of [word], but personally I don't think we should. —RuakhTALK 10:44, 8 July 2011 (UTC)
I am of the opinion that all senses should be kept (though the second definition is too narrow and is phrased incorrectly). Even if we can theoretically piece the meanings out of "up" and "for", I think the combination "up for" in the senses illustrated is sufficiently idiomatic to warrant its own entry. Certainly, when I say "I'm up for that", for example, I don't imagine that I'm saying "I'm up", and then explaining what it is that I'm up for. 11:17, 8 July 2011 (UTC)
I think you are more up for this entry as a whole than I am. Personally, I believe that our neglect of grammatical evidence should be more up for reconsideration than it is. DCDuring TALK 11:39, 8 July 2011 (UTC)
But that's true of any sequence of words. When you say "I want to talk to him", do you imagine that you're saying, "I want", and then explaining what it is that you want to do? —RuakhTALK 11:39, 8 July 2011 (UTC)
Exactly. "I want" is a chunk of meaning, and then I say what it is that I want, which is to talk to him. Contrast "I'm up for a night out", where I do not perceive that I'm "up", and, in addition, it's "for" something. Instead, I'm "up for" (something), and then I say what it is that I'm up for. Similarly with "my car is up for sale": my car is not "up" and additionally "for" something". 14:02, 8 July 2011 (UTC)
Your point seems to be that the "for ____" phrase is a mandatory complement; but regardless, it's still "up {for ____}", not "{up for} ____". —RuakhTALK 15:17, 8 July 2011 (UTC)
But want also has a mandatory complement (in other words, it's transitive), yet is claiming that he perceives it differently. Nonetheless, I tend to agree with Ruakh and DCDuring about this: this seems to be th sum of its parts, up and for, and should be redirected to up.​—msh210 (talk) 15:33, 8 July 2011 (UTC)
Well, "want" has a mandatory complement in the same way that "up for" does, rather than (quite) in the same way that "up" does. Bringing up "want" was probably a bad idea on my part. —RuakhTALK 18:09, 8 July 2011 (UTC)
I agree that theoretically one might -- just about -- be able to obtain the meanings of "up for" out of "up" and "for", but in practice "up for" is a single unit of meaning in the senses under discussion, in my opinion. I think the meanings under discussion are sufficiently idiomatic, and sufficiently difficult to figure out from "up" and "for", to warrant a separate entry. Contrast "What were you doing upstairs? / I went up for my coat" which is clearly sum-of-parts. 19:16, 8 July 2011 (UTC)
I think the reason you can't separate the meanings in "I'm up for pizza" is that all of the meaning is provided by "up". "For" just serves a grammatical role: it introduces the complement (sense #11 at [[for#Preposition]]). And yes, "I went up for my coat" is sum-of-parts, because there "for my coat" is modifying "I went up". —RuakhTALK 18:18, 11 July 2011 (UTC)


When you say, "he's being held ransom" what part of speech is "ransom"? It seems to be acting unpredictably to me. ---> Tooironic 05:41, 8 July 2011 (UTC)

  • It's a noun – normally you'd say "held TO ransom", but sometimes the to gets elided. Ƿidsiþ 05:46, 8 July 2011 (UTC)
    • Yes, I suspected it might have been a case of ellipsis, but thought "held (as) random" was more likely. ---> Tooironic 10:26, 8 July 2011 (UTC)
I always thought it was "for ransom". "For" precedes "ransom" 137 times out of the 209 times a preposition precedes "ransom" at COCA. DCDuring TALK 10:36, 8 July 2011 (UTC)
I also say "for ransom", but Widsith (talkcontribs) is transpondian; and the British National Corpus has maybe three times as many relevant instances of "to ransom" (59 total, as against 15 total, but more of the former than of the latter are irrelevant). —RuakhTALK 10:51, 8 July 2011 (UTC)
For me (BrE), "to" and "for" have different meanings here. If someone threatens something bad if I don't do what they demand, then I'm being "held to ransom". If I'm "held for ransom", it would be like someone kidnaps me and demands money for my release. 00:19, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
Oh! In the U.S. "held for ransom" means exactly what it does for you, but the "held to ransom" sense doesn't exist at all. Could you edit [[ransom#Noun]] to add a sense explaining what "ransom" means in that case? —RuakhTALK 01:49, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
The phrases "held prisoner" and "held captive" appear to be the same construction, right? Although it is not so clear that "captive" is a noun rather than an "adjective" in that phrase. --Dan Polansky 18:36, 12 July 2011 (UTC)


Something I always wondered about is why you say 'they were told to come' in English. If you look at 'the stories were told', you notice there is something different. The story is the thing being told to someone, but 'they' are not being told to someone. Instead, something is being told to them. There are other verbs like this as well, like 'they were asked to come'. This is very strange from the perspective of other languages, because grammatically, it's actually an indirect object and not a subject. For example in Dutch you say 'hun was verteld' (them was told) which uses the object pronoun and a singular verb form. I think this difference warrants at least a usage note of some sort because it's not intuitive to people who haven't already learned this idiom. —CodeCat 14:19, 8 July 2011 (UTC)

It's not an idiom: it's a general rule of English grammar that an active-clause indirect object can be promoted to the subject of an passive clause. (In fact, direct-objects tend not to be so promoted when an indirect object is present: "the story was told them" is grammatical, but unusual: most speakers prefer "the story was told to them".) [[w:English passive voice#Promotion of other objects]] touches on this. —RuakhTALK 15:10, 8 July 2011 (UTC)
Tell takes the listener of the story as a second direct object (tell me a story). Is that why the passive construction can be either they were told the story or the story was told them? (Compare the pen was given him and he was given the pen.) Would a verb that allows only a single direct and a single indirect object (like put, put the pen on the table) allow only the the direct object to be the subject of the passive (the pen was put on the table, not *the table was put the pen)? (Note: I seem to be using the terms direct object and indirect object differently from the way Ruakh does just above. By direct object I here mean an object that follows the verb without a preposition, and there can be more than one of them for a given verb. By indirect object I here mean an object following a preposition. This follows the use at [[w:indirect object]], though I don't know whether it follows general use. If you don't like my wording, ignore it and my question is still, I think, valid.)​—msh210 (talk) 15:44, 8 July 2011 (UTC)
I wouldn't consider 'on the table' an indirect object, I would call it a prepositional phrase whose part of speech is a locative adverb (since it can be replaced with 'there'). Such a replacement is not possible with indirect objects. I can't think of anything you could replace 'to him' with in 'give it to him'... except for just 'him'. That's what distinguishes object cases from adverbs, I think. —CodeCat 15:49, 8 July 2011 (UTC)
I agree — but it's a bit tricky, because "give it to me" ≈ "give it here". Determining grammar by what-can-be-replaced-with-what is a good start, but imperfect. —RuakhTALK 18:07, 8 July 2011 (UTC)
@msh210: I think you're misreading [[w:Indirect object]]. It applies the term the same way that I do; its only nod to other uses is in that it has "non-prepositional indirect object" in few places for extra clarity. (Which is actually a problem with that article, since the way that I'm using the term is how it's applied to some languages, including English, but not how it's applied to some other languages, such as French and Spanish. When applied to those languages it refers to certain types of preposition-introduced objects, or to clitic pronouns that correspond to such. That's a bit more similar to your usage, but even for those languages sur la table or en la mesa would be considered an adverbial rather than an object.)
But to address your actual point — prepositional passives are much more restricted. Generally they can only be used when there's no direct object and when the prepositional object has in some way been affected by the action. (One example I've come across is, "this bed has been slept in" vs. *"this bed has been slept above". I think that's in CGEL, but don't quote me on that.)
RuakhTALK 18:07, 8 July 2011 (UTC)
I don't really consider "this bed has been slept above" to be incorrect, though. I could say something like that and not think twice about it... —CodeCat 18:11, 8 July 2011 (UTC)


See [[w:Wikipedia:Reference desk/Language#Knockabout]].​—msh210 (talk) 17:19, 8 July 2011 (UTC) linkfix — lexicógrafa | háblame — 17:57, 8 July 2011 (UTC)

I took a run at this. See, especially knockabout#Noun. DCDuring TALK 22:57, 8 July 2011 (UTC)


Not all dictionaries show a "collective noun" sense for this. If they show a semantically distinct sense, they show it as "plural in construction". I find it hard to find instances of use that show a distinction. Can anyone point to instance of a collective noun sense that is clearly distinct from the plural of statistic? (BTW, I am not talking about the field of study or knowledge.) DCDuring TALK 21:55, 8 July 2011 (UTC)

Yeah, it's interesting that dictionaries (e.g. Collins and M-W) show "statistics" in the "collection of numerical data" sense as a separate entry, just as Wiktionary does. To me it seems nothing more than the plural of "statistic". 02:47, 9 July 2011 (UTC)


The entry great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather is attestable through Google Books, I checked.

My question is: It is SOP? --Daniel 13:02, 9 July 2011 (UTC)

To me it seems that after great-great-great grandfather usage of all of them is more likely to be serial recoinage than lexical lookup. It's as if it were the principal of mathematical induction applied to language. If "great-grandfather" refer to a grandfather's father and "great-great-grandfather" refers his father, then "great" applied to one of a certain set of words characterizing ancestors refers to the immediate parent. DCDuring TALK 13:30, 9 July 2011 (UTC)
That seems to make such things compositional after the basis for the induction has been established. DCDuring TALK 13:51, 9 July 2011 (UTC)
It has a hyphen, so it wouldn't be a single term by our rules I think. -- Liliana 23:19, 11 July 2011 (UTC)

line up

Noun should be lineup or line-up. Yeah I know we're descriptive, but almost all published books support this. A pity that the noun entry seems to be based there with the others as alternatives. Equinox 20:15, 9 July 2011 (UTC)

The noun definitely should be "lineup" or "line-up". Unfortunately very many people get this (and similar combinations) wrong. If we can't say it's "wrong" then some politically correct weasel words are presumably in order. 23:17, 11 July 2011 (UTC)

play it

We have play it safe, play it cool, play it by ear. One can also play it "cooler", "smart(er)", "cute", "innocent", "cautious", "big", "close(r) to the vest", "straight", and otherwise.

We have senses at play#Verb that capture most of these senses if "it" is anaphoric or means "the situation", or "one's role in a situation". But "it" does not If we have the three entries "safe"/"cool"/"by ear", should we have all attestable collocations of the form "play it X"? Do we need an expansion of "it"? Do we need an entry for play it? This is not readily dismissed as a catchphrase-derived snowclone. DCDuring TALK 04:22, 10 July 2011 (UTC)

My two cents. These "play it ..." combinations seem open-ended, and I don't see how it's feasible to have separate entries for all of them. To me, it does not feel like "play it" is the relevant unit of meaning here. I think the meaning is in "play", but that the relevant sense of "play" should be marked as "often with it", or similar, or a new sense should be crafted specifically for this "play it ..." usage, and a couple of typical examples given. 23:27, 11 July 2011 (UTC)

sooner or later

This expression is in Category:English set phrases. Many lexicographers find worth including the expression in their lexicons and the meaning "eventually" or "with a delay" is not really compositional. But is it a set phrase? There are lots of minor, not too common, variations on it, such as sooner rather than later, later or sooner, sooner if not later. Shouldn't the tag {{set phrase}} be reserved for expressions that allow for variation either not at all or perhaps with no attestable variation and no productive variation? (I include variation to include inflection.)

There are almost certainly more set phrases than are now in the category, but properly populating it requires some thought about criteria or at least our working definition of set phrase. DCDuring TALK 13:21, 10 July 2011 (UTC)

The general question no doubt has troublesome grey areas, but in my view "sooner or later" is unequivocally a "set phrase". 23:14, 11 July 2011 (UTC)
How do you feel about now and then? Equinox 23:25, 11 July 2011 (UTC)
As I think about it, any pair linked by "or" or "and" seems likely to be used sometimes in reverse order or with the other conjunction. For example, by hook or by crook can be varied as "by hook or crook", "by hook and crook", "by crook and by hook", "by hooks and by crooks", etc. I would expect to find more among adverbs and among phrases borrowed whole from other languages. It helps if the expression doesn't have grammar that a speaker of current English can understand or uses an archaic sense of at least one of its components. That is part of what makes a non-English phrase likely to be set for English speakers. Looking at Category:English adverbs A-C:
  1. at bay (what does bay mean that makes sense with at?). (*at loud bay, *at howl, *at bark)
  2. by and large (*large and by, *by or large)
all in all was already so tagged.
IOW, I don't think there are very many. To weaken criteria to make a quantitative relative-frequency standard seems to provide no particular benefit, except backward compatibility with the prior lists of set phrases that never faced testing against very large corpora. DCDuring TALK 01:18, 12 July 2011 (UTC)

clear as a preposition

Sense 2 of the adverb lemma for clear (i.e., not near or touching something) is, I propose, a preposition. It is unlike adverbs in that it can appear as a complement of be, it can be modified by right, and it can stand as the complement of put, dart, and head (e.g., The would put them clear of town, both he and Luke had darted clear of the rampaging Wookie, and You need to be headed clear of the pass by 0630 and setting up 10-15 min later or you risk being too late.) These behaviours are limited to prepositions (or prepositional phrases).--Brett 02:00, 12 July 2011 (UTC)

Does this sense require complementation by a PP headed by of? DCDuring TALK 02:49, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
It seems to.--Brett 11:02, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
There are a lot of instances of "very clear of weeds/books/rocks/faults/etc." also of "become|becomes|becoming|became clear of ice/snow/encumbrances". Would you be claiming that the PP is what is behaving as an adjective? If so, "clearer" (of "bush/ice/jungle") would also have to be a preposition. DCDuring TALK 13:09, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
@DCDuring: The complement is at least somewhat optional; consider “Cape Horn is the dividing line between the world’s two biggest oceans, the Atlantic and the Pacific. Once we get clear we’ll go booming up the Pacific.” (That's one of four hits, all of them relevant, at google books:"once we get clear we"; and that was the first search I tried, so I'm sure that plenty more examples could be found.) —RuakhTALK 13:14, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
I think Brett would argue that such usage is of the zero preposition, which we would call an adverb. I was using "of" mostly to make it easier to find the sense. My native-English word-sense detector, aka English language intuition, has trouble locating other complements for this sense of "clear". i'll try COCA and BNC later. The assistance of other detectors/intuitions would be useful to generate more data and testable hypotheses. DCDuring TALK 13:35, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
Right, right. I was just replying to your question above ("Does this sense require complementation by a PP headed by of?"), not commenting on your later searches. (By the way, "clear from" seems to have once been in widespread use as well, at least in nautical contexts, as in this quotation from 1902: “About this time it became so dark that we found it necessary to start up the electric lights, and it was not until after we got clear from the fog that we turned the current off.” [link] I'm not sure if that's still current; it doesn't sound wrong to me, but I would certainly never say it. And perhaps the sense was a bit different from how I am reading it.) —RuakhTALK 13:48, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
Though the putative preposition would typically take an of PP complement, not all strings beginning with clear of are caught up in this. If an area is clear of weeds, or the air is clear of smoke, I think these are clearly adjectives. It is the sense of not near that I'm suggesting is relevant. In the area clear of weeds example, the target is the syntactical subject and the things that are now out of it are the object of of. In the sense I'm looking at, the things that were in the area are the subject and the target is the object of of. Sorry if that's kind of obtuse.--Brett 14:06, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
I'm having trouble grasping the narrow specification that you are suggesting. It seems to include both intransitive senses of verbs ("head", "dart") and transitive ones ("put") (or is it only reflexive uses of transitive verbs?). Can the verbs be stative ("stand", "stay", "keep")? DCDuring TALK 15:11, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
It depends on the verb. "Keep" can take an object plus almost any predicative complement ("keep him happy", "keep him talking", "keep him in the room"), but without an object it's more restricted in its predicative complements (*"keep happy", "keep talking", *"keep in the room", though interestingly a few adjectives work, like "they stayed in the house to keep warm"). —RuakhTALK 15:47, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
I brought up dart and head only because they require a PP complements (in their sense related to moving). The word put too, in the sense of placing something somewhere, requires a locative complement, which is almost always a PP. I would say that stand/stay/keep clear of the area is the same word. I realize that you can turn up examples of keep very clear of the area, but personally I find them questionable. Likely clear is in process of becoming a preposition, and has done so for some folks, but not for others.--Brett 17:07, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
If that is the case, then some positive evidence that some speakers use it with an NP and not just a PP headed by "of" would be suggestive. DCDuring TALK 17:20, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
@Brett 02:00, 12 July 2011: To me, the sense of clear with the def of "Not near something or touching it" and exemplified in "Stand clear of the rails, a train is coming" looks like an adverb. The characteristics or behaviors listed as non-adverb ones--"It is unlike adverbs in that it can appear as a complement of be, it can be modified by right, and it can stand as the complement of put, dart, and head (e.g., The would put them clear of town, both he and Luke had darted clear of the rampaging Wookie, and You need to be headed clear of the pass by 0630 and setting up 10-15 min later or you risk being too late.)"--do not appear as non-adverb ones to me: an adverb can appear as a complement of "be", "put", "head" etc. In "it is there", "there" is a complement of "be", right? In "Put it away", "away" is an adverb and a complement of "put", right? In "he headed west from the junction", "west" is an adverb, right? Modification by "right" is seen in "he stood right there", where "there" is an adverb, right? --Dan Polansky 18:23, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
Yes, Dan, the same arguments apply to all those. They are prepositions, not adjectives. Try to find a prototypical -ly adverb that fits those positions. The consensus here seems to be to reject prepositions that don't take NP complements, but I thought that the of PP complement for clear might qualify along the lines of out of.--Brett 19:59, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
I thought that CGEL didn't favor "phrasal prepositions", instead positing PPs as object of simple prepositions and treating all prep-NP-prep expressions as "fossilized" idioms, whose fossilized structure they nevertheless analyze. I enjoy their syntactical analysis and categorization, but find it hard to justify imposing it on users here. In this case, there is evidence of "clear" retaining its adjectivity (for some speakers/writers) and not much evidence yet that it is a prototypical preposition for any speaker/writer.
Whether we should have a sense of clear#Adjective showing "of" as heading a mandatory complement or a separate clear of#Preposition I don't know, but "clear" seems to retain enough of its adjectivity for us to keep it there and improve the sense line for it. DCDuring TALK 20:58, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
* You are not really saying that "there" in "it is there" is a preposition, are you? As that is what I find implausible.
The part-of-speech of adverbs is a heterogeneous group of words, of which -ly adverbs are only one homogeneous subgroup. Specifications of location are another group of words and phrases classed as adverbs and adverbial phrases, including "here", "there", "at home", and "under the tree".
The analogy of "out of" being classed as preposition (prepositional phrase, but Wiktionary does not make this distinction) would lead to "clear of" (rather than "clear") being classed as preposition.
You seem to be saying that "clear"--in the discussed sense and use--could be a preposition that takes prepositional phrase complement ("PP complement"). Thus, "stand clear of the rails" would be parsed as "stand" + "clear" (preposition) + "of the rails" (PP complement); "stay away from school" would be parsed as "steer" + "away" (preposition) + "from school" (PP complement). This seems rather unusual or original to me. OneLook dictionaries have neither "clear" nor "away" as prepositions. Nor does it fit my intuition about prepositions. I am not saying that this way of parsing and the corresponding notions of "adverb" and "preposition" are wrong, but they seem to be different from those notions of "adverb" and "preposition" that are used in most dictionaries. --Dan Polansky 22:10, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
· You have correctly understood the system that Brett is working in. So far as I'm aware, no dictionary other than the Simple English Wiktionary uses that system, but I believe it's the mainstream view among experts in English syntax. The idea is that, just as different verbs take different complement patterns (or no complement at all) while still being "verbs", different prepositions take different complement patterns (or no complement at all) while still being prepositions. The common factor is that they head phrases that functional syntactically as prepositional phrases. (In the case of there, "there" itself is the entire prepositional phrase.) It's a very compelling and elegant analysis, but has the disadvantage of diverging significantly from the traditional grammar assumed by most dictionaries.
· That said, other dictionaries do have a slightly more nuanced view of prepositions than simply requiring that they always take a noun or noun-like complement. For example, one of the OED's senses for the preposition from is “Used in certain of the above senses (esp. 1, 2, 3, 9, 10) with an adverb or a phrase (prep. + n. or pron.) as object”, with some subsenses; but in the obsolete use whereby it has no complement at all, the OED considers it an adverb, and in the obsolete use whereby its complement is an entire finite clause, the OED considers it a conjunction. Both of those would still be preposition uses under the classification that Brett espouses.
RuakhTALK 22:39, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
By the way, a minor terminological quibble: even by traditional grammar, out of is not a "prepositional phrase", but rather a "compound preposition" (or "phrasal preposition"). A prepositional phrase would be something like out of the woods: a phrase consisting of a preposition together with its complement (its object). —RuakhTALK 01:04, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
So the question is not whether "clear" is really a preposition but rather whether Wiktionary should switch to a system of classification and parsing that classes as prepositions "clear", "away", "west" and some other words traditionally classed as adverbs. It is unclear to me what part of speech the system assigns to "there"--is "prepositional phrase" a part of speech in that framework? It would be good to have a hyperlink or two to scholarly expositions of that system, so it can be critically discussed. If we have an exposition to which we can refer, we can verify that the system allows prepositions to take prepositional phrase complements, that it really ranks "clear", "away", "west", etc. as prepositions, and that it really requires of adverbs that they never complement the copula "be".
My mistake: "out of" is not a "prepositional phrase". I make this mistake again and again, by unconsciously drawing a false analogy between "prepositional phrase" and "noun phrase": "prepositional phrase" is not a phrase that takes places of prepositions, while "noun phrase" is a phrase that takes places of nouns. --Dan Polansky 08:04, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
Re: there: It's a preposition, and since it takes no complement, it's also a complete 'preposition phrase' (i.e. prepositional phrase). A phrase like "in Europe" is also a complete 'preposition phrase', headed by "in". Much of what makes this analysis so compelling is that 'preposition phrases' really do behave like each other, and unlike normal adjectives and adverbs; so a preposition is any word that heads preposition phrases, even if its complement is a clause or another preposition phrase or if it has no complement at all — and even if it actually follows its complement, as in "three days ago". Another thing that makes it so compelling is that most 'prepositions' can take multiple different complement patterns (just as how most transitive verbs can also be intransitive); traditional grammar is forced to say that most prepositions double as adjectives, adverbs, and/or conjunctions, even though they differ from normal adjectives, adverbs, and conjunctions in various ways. —RuakhTALK 11:57, 13 July 2011 (UTC)


The conjugation table is messed up. Could someone knowledgeable fix that up? Thanks. Wyverald 04:42, 12 July 2011 (UTC)

ler, reler, treler, tresler, rer, arrer are irregular Portuguese verbs and no template has been made for them yet. Can’t use any of the existing templates. They are almost the same as crer, but the crer template won’t work for ler. —Stephen (Talk) 08:10, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
I think I've set up a correct template for Portuguese ler, but it needs to be double-checked. I had to guess at the imperatives. I didn't see any ending differences between crer and ler, which would be the same situation as in Galiain and wouldn't surprise me, but it was less work to start a new template. The two tempates still could be combined with only a little more effort, if indeed the endings all match between the two verbs. --EncycloPetey 05:30, 14 July 2011 (UTC)


How do we define "publicly" in "publicly-owned"? Is it really being used as an adverb here? If so, the first sense currently at publicly does not cover it, since the meaning is more like "owned by the public/the state". ---> Tooironic 05:14, 12 July 2011 (UTC)

  • I've made a stab at it. SemperBlotto 06:56, 12 July 2011 (UTC)


Hi guys ! Do you think this word exists in english ? --ArséniureDeGallium 23:36, 12 July 2011 (UTC)

Yes, it's apparently a heraldry term: see http://books.google.com/books?id=-tFsAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA45&dq=lioncelle. (That's an out-of-copyright dictionary, so we can just take its definition verbatim if we want.) T.H. White's The Once and Future King seems to treat it as the feminine of lioncel, which gives it the same general sense but with a slight twist. I'll see about creating an entry. —RuakhTALK 23:55, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
Thanks, I created the word on fr: just after you did it here (but I didn't find a french equivalent for heraldry term - sad). --ArséniureDeGallium 21:52, 14 July 2011 (UTC)

ye gods and little fishes

Meets CFI? - Amgine/talk 05:09, 14 July 2011 (UTC)


What are the Cantonese romanizations for this word? Jyutping could be nice here since I'm trying to straightening things up with the Cantonese nouns category. (It might be off-topic and optional, but here's one romanization system that I found interesting here [1]; I don't know if it's for Hong Kong Cantonese or Guangdong Cantonese.) --Lo Ximiendo 05:13, 14 July 2011 (UTC)


Are we missing the sense, as in, someone asks you at a bar what you want to drink and you reply, "the usual". Is that a noun usage or something else? ---> Tooironic 15:27, 14 July 2011 (UTC)

Or "I'll have my usual." or "My usual is whatever is on tap." or "I'll have a glass of my usual."

I was completely convinced that this was merely an example of a fused-modifier-head construction until I found usuals (raw bgc count 1300+), even itself modified by determiners. I am not certain, however, that pluralization is a sufficient warrant to make it a noun. DCDuring TALK 16:37, 14 July 2011 (UTC)

Any evidence it's not one?​—msh210 (talk) 18:05, 14 July 2011 (UTC)
I just have never thought about this in general nor dealt with the facts about what fusible adjectives can do. Nor does CGEL have specific criteria for this. DCDuring TALK 19:26, 14 July 2011 (UTC)
Other dictionaries have a noun sense (our wonderful "lemming test"). - -sche (discuss) 06:18, 21 July 2011 (UTC)
We include much worse than this. I just wish I understood the principle behind this. A similar entry is [[fallen#Noun]]. DCDuring TALK 13:13, 21 July 2011 (UTC)

brotherly love

Does anyone know what sense of agape is being referred to here? There are so many different meanings. ---> Tooironic 06:27, 15 July 2011 (UTC)

It’s ἀγάπη (agápē), etymology 2. —Stephen (Talk) 06:40, 15 July 2011 (UTC)


Within living memory US TV policemen referred to white people as Caucasian - so dated rather than archaic would be more appropriate? —Saltmarshtalk-συζήτηση 10:44, 15 July 2011 (UTC)

  • I've heard this usage recently - so not even dated. SemperBlotto 10:52, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
It might be worth a usage note, as context tags don't capture it. Some of the current usage in books seems more mentiony or historical, but there is plenty that seems current. If we had a tag, it would be "politically incorrect", which also wouldn't capture it, besides being a stirrer of controversy itself. DCDuring TALK 11:15, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
I've added a link to w:Historical race concepts, but a usage note seems necessary. DCDuring TALK 11:19, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
  • Fixed: I've added the current sense. (We already had both senses in the ===Noun=== section, but for some reason the ===Adjective=== section only had the archaic anthropology sense.) —RuakhTALK 11:27, 15 July 2011 (UTC)

oque (French)

Someone has added oques as the plural of the French noun oque. There is such a word defined on French Wiktionary, but I can't figure out the English translation. Any ideas? SemperBlotto 21:22, 17 July 2011 (UTC)

It's not one of these, is it? The "1250 grammes" says probably not. [2] Equinox 21:27, 17 July 2011 (UTC)
The TLFi entry is a bit more helpful in some respects than fr.wikt's; using info from there, it's easy to track down [[w:Oka (mass)]] (which, I should mention, we do have an entry for: [[oka#English]]). —RuakhTALK 21:41, 17 July 2011 (UTC)


A loan from German, but still capitalised in every source I can find. [3] Should it be moved to the capitalised form? Equinox 23:11, 17 July 2011 (UTC)

Funnily enough, the only lowercase hits on b.g.c. seem to be in century-old German (e.g. here). Were German nouns not capitalized back then? —RuakhTALK 00:10, 18 July 2011 (UTC)
I think it was the opposite. Not just German but many other languages capitalized nouns once. I think English did too at one stage. —CodeCat 00:12, 18 July 2011 (UTC)
People say that, but I don't think it's true. If you look at old English documents — say, from the 1500s, 1600, and 1700s — you'll find lots of nouns that are capitalized for no apparent reason; but you'll also find tons of nouns that aren't capitalized. Opening a facsimile edition of Shakespeare's First Folio (1623) on b.g.c., and scrolling to a random page (page 167, in The Merchant of Venice, as it turns out), I find stuff like this: “A pound of mans fleſh taken from a man, / Is not ſo eſtimable,profitable neither / As fleſh of Muttons,Beefes,or Goates,I ſay / To buy his fauour,I extend this friendſhip, / [] ” To English-speakers today, of course, the capitalization in “Muttons,Beefes,or Goates” stands out much more than the non-capitalization in “pound of mans fleſh taken from a man”; but a German-speaker would not find the First Folio's capitalization familiar. And likewise for other documents; personally, I have never seen don't remember ever seeing an English document, be it manuscript or printed, that capitalized even a large majority of nouns. —RuakhTALK 00:37, 18 July 2011 (UTC)
I think that practice only really started much later, in the 18th and 19th centuries. Wikipedia mentions: This was also the practice in Danish before a spelling reform in 1948. It was also done in 18th century English (as with Gulliver's Travels and most of the original 1787 United States Constitution). —CodeCat 00:45, 18 July 2011 (UTC)
The Constitution actually still leaves a lot of nouns in lowercase, but re-looking at it now, yeah, it capitalizes a lot more than I had remembered. The first editions of Gulliver's Travels seem to be more consistent; it takes some looking to find any uncapitalized nouns in them (though there are some). Thanks for the correction on that point. But regardless, it wasn't a general convention in 18th-century English: choose a noun and search Google Books for instances of it from that time period, and you'll find plenty of works that don't capitalize it. Which is really the point: when I wrote "Were German nouns not capitalized back then?", I obviously didn't mean "Were German nouns never capitalized back then?", but rather "Were German nouns not always capitalized back then?" Because nowadays, German works are really quite consistent in capitalizing nouns, and my understanding is that it would be very strange to find a book published in 2011 that didn't capitalize all nouns; but I was thinking that this consistency might be a relatively new thing, with it having been normal in 1908 to find works that used more English-like capitalization. —RuakhTALK 17:15, 18 July 2011 (UTC)
Capitalisation of nouns (w:de:Großschreibung) has been the standard in German since the Baroque era. I would venture a guess that works — particularly recent ones, and 1908 is recent — that use lowercase nouns (w:de:Kleinschreibung) almost always do so as a conscious expression of the (quasi-)political position that capitalisation is undesirable; the Brothers Grimm and the Wiener Gruppe, for example, held this position, the brothers calling it pedantry and the group asserting that it made nouns improperly superior to verbs. Before the Baroque era there was the same haphazard capitalisation as in the U.S. Constitution. - -sche (discuss) 06:13, 21 July 2011 (UTC)


Hello, The meaning given here is false. Anaullaut means bat but the second sense that is to say a club used in several sports and games. Not at all the animal. One ref. here :[[4]] The animal is normally ᐅᓐᓄᐊᕐᓯᐅᑦ/unnuarsiut (that is found at night) but as I can't find a serious reference I prefer forget it for the moment. If somebody could make the change since I am not used of this wiki. Thanks a lot. Unsui 14:52, 18 July 2011 (UTC)

Thanks! I've edited the def to make that clear. —RuakhTALK 17:01, 18 July 2011 (UTC)


This is related to #oque above: our values for the oka are very different from those given by Wikipedia (at w:Oka (mass)), various English dictionaries (at http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/oka, and at http://www.oed.com/viewdictionaryentry/Entry/130926) and the TLFi (for French oque, at http://www.cnrtl.fr/lexicographie/oque). TLFi's etymology gives a hint as to what is going on:

> Empr. au turc oka, mesure de poids valant environ 1,280 kg, lui-même empr. à l'ar. uqqa, même sens (et non à l'ar. ūqiyya, qui désigne un poids six fois moindre), lequel est []

> Borrowed from Turkish oka, measure of weight equaling approximately 1.280 kg, itself borrowed from Arabic uqqa, same sense (and not from Arabic ūqiyya, which denoted a weight six times smaller), which is []

(and the OED has a somewhat similar comment, but phrased less boldly); so our definitions for oka are apparently based on that Arabic ūqiyya. But I don't know if this is an error on our part, or what. I could well believe that French oque and English oka are both used in both ways, and we're simply missing some senses; but I don't actually see any evidence of that. We seem to be the only ones giving such low values for the oka. Anyone have any thoughts?

RuakhTALK 17:44, 18 July 2011 (UTC)

Never mind, it's been clarified now. —RuakhTALK 02:22, 19 July 2011 (UTC)


Isn't this missing a sense? When you get really angry, and someone teases you, you also explode, but this doesn't mean you burst into thousands of pieces. -- Liliana 01:47, 19 July 2011 (UTC)

on a regular basis, on an irregular basis

How idiomatic are these, really? Equally or more common are on a daily basis, on a weekly basis, on a monthly basis, on a yearly basis, on a part-time basis, on a full-time basis. Equinox 18:48, 19 July 2011 (UTC)

From a decoding perspective, which I think is the only practical one, they seem wholly NISoP, given a good unabridged dictionary's definition of basis.
From an encoding perspective, which might apply to, say, a phrasebook, they are simply wordier substitutes for regularly and irregularly, so little is missed if they are not shown. OTOH, on a regular basis appears in WordNet, the most inclusive of collocations among OneLook lexicographic references, and those who copy from it. "On a regular" and "basis" have a mutual information score of more than 13, though there are individual words with a higher MI score than "basis" with "regular" alone. DCDuring TALK 19:26, 19 July 2011 (UTC)
"on a regular basis" is probably just about acceptable. However, I can honestly say that I have never heard anybody use the phrase "on an irregular basis" and can't understand why anyone ever would. BigDom 20:52, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
I don't think either is idiomatic as a phrase. Consider:
  • on a daily basis, on a weekly basis, ...
  • on a regular schedule, at a regular time, in a regular fashion, ...
Given these close variants with different vocabulary, I don't see that idiomaticity can be supported. --EncycloPetey 20:58, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
I don't see any reason for either of these entries. To me, they just seem like phrases constructed out of words that have their usual individual meanings. 02:03, 2 August 2011 (UTC)

stand (to)

Are we missing the sense, as in, "you wouldn't be answering the question and you stand to lose marks"? ---> Tooironic 04:37, 20 July 2011 (UTC)


Sense: "(transitive, medicine) To emit from the bowels." But one can pass a kidney stone (in his urine). I assume that's the same sense; does anyone know for certain? If so, how would we reword this?​—msh210 (talk) 16:35, 20 July 2011 (UTC)

One can even pass urine (not just kidney stones in urine). Perhaps "to emit from the excretory system"? Also, note "(intransitive) To go through the intestines. (John Arbuthnot)", which I've just moved to be beside the related sense we're discussing. - -sche (discuss) 05:41, 21 July 2011 (UTC)
I think we want to keep specifics about the mechanism out of our definition, if we can. Could "pass" be applied to elimination from the body by perspiration or respiration? Why exclude such unnecessarily? How about: "(intransitive) To be voided from the body."; "(transitive) To void from the body."? I know that using "void" in the definition is not ideal, but "pass" is the most basic word for the phenomenon. Would "eliminate" be better than "void"? Should "by natural processes" be added? DCDuring TALK 11:51, 21 July 2011 (UTC)
"To excrete"? Ƿidsiþ 12:08, 21 July 2011 (UTC)
Does "passing gas" count as excretion? —RuakhTALK 15:05, 21 July 2011 (UTC)
Well to me "excrete" means simply that it's coming out of the body -- but maybe I'm in a minority there. Ƿidsiþ 15:08, 21 July 2011 (UTC)
You're probably right. I'd thought it specifically referred to fecal matter and urine and such, but some other dictionaries explicitly mention sweat and carbon dioxide as possible excretions. (Hey, does that mean I can refer to exhaled breath as "excrement"?) The only common factor seems to be that it's some sort of waste product or non-useful material; so I guess we don't "excrete" blood from a wound, but aside from that . . . —RuakhTALK 15:16, 21 July 2011 (UTC)
In Shakespeare, beards and other kinds of hair are referred to as "excrement". Classic English-class snigger material. Ƿidsiþ 15:21, 21 July 2011 (UTC)
Though writers rarely have "pass sweat", here are some quotes suggesting that "pass" has been used for what is excreted in sweat:
1844, John Elliotson; Nathaniel Rogers, Alexander Cooper Lee, Thomas Stewardson, The principles and practice of medicine:
When the urine has been suppressed in this way, it has occasionally escaped from some other p. rt of the body; I saw a case where it passed from the skin—particularly of the palms of the hand. Others have passed it in the form of perspiration. There can be no doubt of the truth of these cases.
  • 1887, John Milner Fothergill, The Practitioner's handbook of treatment, page 73:
    Holding the breath in summer quickly induces perspiration in many persons. In fact, when the exhalation of carbonic acid by the lungs is interfered with the skin passes it off.
I took a run at replacement wording and usexes. DCDuring TALK 17:19, 21 July 2011 (UTC)
It now reads "(transitive, medicine) To eliminate from the body by natural processes.". I've now deleted the sense (still worded as it was when I started this discussion) that's now duplicated by that new one. Also, we should drop the (medicine) tag, no? It's used in everyday language, not only in medicine.​—msh210 (talk) 17:24, 21 July 2011 (UTC)
I don't know. I think "pass water/gas/a fart/wind/stool(?)" are euphemisms in general use, whereas "pass X" in some excretum or with none specified seems more medical. OTOH, the usexes certainly don't seem technical or hard to understand by normal folks. On a third hand, a review of "[have] blood in * stool" vs. "[pass] blood in * stool" yields mostly medical books for the latter, a broader selection of works for the former. DCDuring TALK 18:03, 21 July 2011 (UTC)

reverse definition request: door that opens both ways

What's a door that opens both into the area it affords access to on one side and into the area it affords access to on the other called, please? (I thought it was swinging door, but Google implies that that means a door that operates on hinges, as contrasted with, say, a sliding door.)​—msh210 (talk) 18:30, 20 July 2011 (UTC)

I don't really understand, how can a sliding door open both ways, or even any way but 'sideways'? Or do you mean that you can slide the door either to the left or the right? —CodeCat 18:39, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
I meant a door on hinges, not a sliding one.​—msh210 (talk) 21:07, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
I would say it was a swing door. I have never head of swinging door. SemperBlotto 18:42, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
Some other dictionaries have swing door and swinging door, usually both. Apparently the interior design/construction trade sometimes call this a pivot door also. This may be limited to one type of door-hanging (ie, a pivot). There are also double hinges that achieve the same basic result. The vocabulary also seems to include double-action, as in double-action door (which seems NISoP to me). DCDuring TALK 19:33, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
swinging door seems NISoP, but the Pawley we-call-it-an-X/they-call-it-a-Y principle and the lemming principle would suggest both should be included. double-hinged door is also to be found. DCDuring TALK 19:41, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
Swing door also seems to mean just a door on hinges (as contrasted with, say, a sliding door). Thank you both for your replies.​—msh210 (talk) 21:07, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
I see what you mean. It seems as if there are all sorts of combinations of meaning. In commercial and institutional buildings and public spaces (including lobbies) the universe of possibilities seems to include revolving doors and air-curtain doors that have little application in residences, as well as sliding doors. In those cases "swing door", meaning a door that swings open, seems to be a meaningful contrast. OTOH, in my home all doors (except the garage door) are swing doors in that sense, but to me they are all just doors, with the single exception of the "swinging door" (a "pivot door") between the kitchen and the dining room. I think we don't know enough to nail this down beyond the definitions that other dictionaries have and we can also verify. DCDuring TALK 00:55, 21 July 2011 (UTC)
Some images of swinging doors: swinging doors —Stephen (Talk) 01:30, 21 July 2011 (UTC)
Interesting. If seems that, when a double-swing door is the main topic, it is called a swinging door. But when another type of door, say, a pocket door, is the subject, then "swinging door" could refer to a conventional hinged door without a double swing. Also, they are sometimes called two-way doors. DCDuring TALK 03:03, 21 July 2011 (UTC)

pay TV

US English? It's commonly used in Australia, at least. ---> Tooironic 08:42, 22 July 2011 (UTC)

Doubt it's US only, I've heard it a lot in continental Europe. -- Liliana 00:48, 23 July 2011 (UTC)
They don't speak English in continental Europe. Ƿidsiþ 11:16, 24 July 2011 (UTC)
Well anyway, I'm removing the US English tag. ---> Tooironic 00:34, 25 July 2011 (UTC)

hello, herro

I've occasionally heard the response "He-llo!" or "He-rro!" (first syllable distinctly higher pitched) to certain kinds of joke, possibly bad puns or something of the kind. Does anyone know about the origin of, and reasons for, this? Equinox 11:19, 22 July 2011 (UTC)

extra pair of hands

I feel this is an unnecessarily specific entry, and we should have instead pair of hands to indicate a person who can do work. Consider "it would at any rate be another pair of hands in the rectory" (1863), "they needed a second pair of hands" (1997). Equinox 02:52, 23 July 2011 (UTC)

I think the main question is whether this kind of synecdochy merits any entry at all.
But, to the question at hand: At COCA, pair of hands occurs 127 times and extra pair of hands 16 times. "A pair of hands" occurs 56 times. Of the 56, only 6 or so clearly show synecdochy. Many of the other instances refer to the parts of a person that merits attention, which seems to me different ("Suddenly a pair of hands grasped my neck."). The six are instances like "I am just a pair of hands to him.". Of the 16 instances of "extra pair of hands", perhaps half are synecdochy. "Another pair of hands" is similar. There are many instances of "[det|art] pair(s) of [adj] hands" (eg, "pair of skilled hands") and "[det|art] [adj] pair(s) of hands" (eg, "skilled pair of hands"). If this is to be included at all, pair of hands allows better for the variety of forms, but itself has a low frequency of synecdochic use.
What struck me in reviewing the instances are the multiplicity and ambiguity of the referent, even when the synechochy is clear. Sometimes the expression refers to any kind help afforded by another person; sometimes limited to dogsbody-type help; sometimes to something specific like assistance in holding something. Often it is ambiguous which kind of help is referred to. Further, the synecdochy itself is often ambiguous. The obvious fact is that hands not attached to a normal adult human are not useful. Sometimes the imagery seems to be that a given human is to simply grow an additional pair of hands. All of this makes it seem to me that we are dealing with a live metaphor, not the kind of dead one that makes for an entry in the lexicon. DCDuring TALK 09:51, 23 July 2011 (UTC)
I'd agree with pair of hands with suitable redirects, then explaining the common collocations using usage notes or perhaps even citations, then a reader who follows a redirect will understand why the redirect is there. Mglovesfun (talk) 11:12, 24 July 2011 (UTC)

sign on

Sense: To sign on for the dole.

What does this mean: apply for? Is it UK usage? Dated? Transitive? Is it justified in being distinct from other senses? Usage examples? DCDuring TALK 16:57, 25 July 2011 (UTC)

It's UK usage, I first came across this strange expression in a British TV show. I've fixed it now. It's definitely a distinct sense. ---> Tooironic 23:09, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
Yes, you have to sign to confirm that you are actively looking for employment before you can receive unemployment benefit (been there, done that). SemperBlotto 06:52, 26 July 2011 (UTC)

cost (verb)

We have the 3rd person singular present tense of this verb as cost. This sounds wrong to me (it should be costs). Is this an Americanism? SemperBlotto 08:07, 26 July 2011 (UTC)

Not any more for this than any other verb. In some AAVE and other dialectal speech, the inflectional "s" gets dropped. "How much dis cost?" DCDuring TALK 12:20, 26 July 2011 (UTC)
I see. The contributor is confused on the difference between nouns and verbs and further that the past and base are the same for "cost". DCDuring TALK 12:28, 26 July 2011 (UTC)


Definition #1 could be improved - limber is not a common word and is probably irrelevant. I would suggest "A piece of fabric attached along one edge to a garment" or similar? —Saltmarshtalk-συζήτηση 19:32, 26 July 2011 (UTC)

Not irrelevant: "flexible" (nearly 25 times more common than "limber"). The difference, IMO, between sense 1 and 2 is principally the inflexibility in 2. Also, rigid wings don't flap and rigid flaps don't make flapping noises. DCDuring TALK 20:12, 26 July 2011 (UTC)

Britain and Ireland

I was directed here from Lilian's talk page (where there is some detail on the back story).

The entry, "Britain and Ireland", was deleted a few days ago. The entry was as a synonym to British Isles and it was deleted mainly on the basis that it was a sum of parts. Ironically, some opposition to the term - including some voiced during the RFD here - is precicely because it is not a sum of parts i.e. that the British Isles contain places that are not Britian or Ireland (and that are not part of the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland).

I don't simply want to re-create the article. However, below are some examples of use that explicitly cite it as synonym to Brtish Isles and even creede it as "the more favoured expression" nowadays:

"Some of the Irish dislike the 'British' in 'British Isles', while a minority of the Welsh and Scottish are not keen on 'Great Britain'. … In response to these difficulties, 'Britain and Ireland' is becoming preferred official usage if not in the vernacular, although there is a growing trend amongst some critics to refer to Britain and Ireland as 'the archipelago'." (Davies, Alistair; Sinfield, Alan (2000), British Culture of the Postwar: An Introduction to Literature and Society, 1945-1999, Routledge, p. 9, ISBN 0415128110)

"At the outset, it should be stated that while the expression 'The British Isles' is evidently still commonly employed, its intermittent use throughout this work is only in the geographic sense, in so far as that is acceptable. Since the early twentieth century, that nomenclature has been regarded by some as increasingly less usable. It has been perceived as cloaking the idea of a 'greater England', or an extended south-eastern English imperium, under a common Crown since 1603 onwards. … Nowadays, however, 'Britain and Ireland' is the more favoured expression, though there are problems with that too. … There is no consensus on the matter, inevitably. It is unlikely that the ultimate in non-partisanship that has recently appeared the (East) 'Atlantic Archipelago' will have any appeal beyond captious scholars." (Hazlett, Ian (2003). The Reformation in Britain and Ireland: an introduction. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 17. ISBN 9780567082800.)

More citations are possible, if desired. Are these sufficient to re-create the article? --Rannpháirtí anaithnid 07:54, 27 July 2011 (UTC)

We prefer citations in which the term is used naturally, not talked about (we say "used, not mentioned"). Typically that means it should not be within quotation marks. SemperBlotto 15:44, 27 July 2011 (UTC)
Use of the term is very common. However, since the islands of Britain and Ireland dominate the archipelago, if the sources are to use the term "naturally", but avoid accusation of "sum of arms", it is necessary to cite sources that give places that are not part of Britain or Ireland as part of 'Britain and Ireland' (if you follow).
The sources below refer to the Isle of Man and/or the Channel Islands as being part of 'Britain and Ireland'. Neither the Isle of Man nor the Channel Islands are part of Britain or Ireland (or part of the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland). Similarly, the Orkneys and Shetland are not part of island of Britain (though they are a part of the United Kingdom).

"In this system, Britain and Ireland are divided into numbered vice-counties (usually abbreviated 'v.c.'s'), of which there are 113 for England, Wales, Scotland and the Channel Islands, and 40 for Ireland. The vice-counties are based on present or former county divisions of Britain and Ireland.
The base-map used retains all parts of Britain and Ireland covered in this book (including Ireland, Orkney, Shetland and the Channel Islands) in their correct relative geographic positions." (Christopher Nigel Page, The Ferns of Britain and Ireland, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 19 and page 29)

"A remarkable range of Precambrain rocks forms the basement geology to Britain and Ireland. This basement is exposed widely from the Shetland Isles to the Channel Islands and from central England to the west coat of Ireland (Figs. 1 & 2). The best and most extensive exposed outcrops occur across the highlands of Scotland, with other notable occurrences in north and west Ireland, northwest Wales, and the Channel islands." (Anthony Leonard Harris, Wes Gibbons (ed.s), A revised correlation of Precambrian rocks in the British Isles, Special Report No. 22, , The Geological Society, 1994, page 1)

"Great Britain and Ireland ('the British Isles' or 'Britain and Ireland') lie at the wester edge of the Palearctic, roughly between 50° and 62°N and between 10°W and 4°E. There are over 6,000 islands in the archipelago … Other significant large islands include the Isle of Man and Anglesey in the Irish Sea …
Politically, there are three main administrative units. In order of size, these are the United Kingdom of Great Britain Northern Ireland; the Republic of Ireland; and the Isle of Man. … The human population of Britain and Ireland is approximately 65 million, most heavily concentrated in urban areas in the south and east of England.
… The Channel Islands lie near the shores of France and their zoological and ornithological affinities are closer to that country; they are not considered here." (David T. Parkin and Alan G. Knox, The Status of Birds in Britain and Ireland, Bloomsbury, 2010, page 8)

Personally, I would suggest giving at least one cite that describes use of the term in the entry (as well as a one that shows "natural" use of it). I can give other examples (of both natural use and discussion of the term), if the ones above are insufficient. --Rannpháirtí anaithnid 17:49, 27 July 2011 (UTC)

For anyone unaware, this is spill-over of a very long-running and quite amazingly bitter and vicious dispute on Wikipedia. I sincerely hope that this does not become yet another front in this war. Dingo1729 18:20, 27 July 2011 (UTC)

We have different criteria than Wikipedia. The term doesn't have to be preferred, established, or even "correct", but it does have to be in use and, in this case especially, in use in an idiomatic sense. DAVilla 04:55, 31 July 2011 (UTC)
I haven't seen any evidence that this exists to mean British Isles. This failed RFD, occasionally RFD results get overturned in the face of evidence, but in this case I'm not aware of any evidence. Perhaps other editors disagree with me. If they do, let them say so here. Mglovesfun (talk) 18:29, 27 July 2011 (UTC)
As far as I can tell, the above quotations in which the term is not in quotation marks are simple "sum of parts". We could find similar quotes for "France and Italy". SemperBlotto 18:58, 27 July 2011 (UTC)
@Dingo1729, unfortunately you're correct. I gave some of the background on Lilian's talk page.
@Mglovesfun, citations above explicitly state that the term exists and means British Isles. What kind of evidence do you need? Here are further cites to demonstrate the point:

"European integration has made it possible to consider the question of sovereignty in other than zero-sum terms, in which a gain for one community automatically constitutes a loss for the other. That is reflected in the Good Friday Agreement's promotion of both closer ties within the British Isles (or Britain and Ireland, in nationalist language) and between the two parts of Ireland." (Adrian Guelke, Global Disorder: Political Violence in the Contemporary World, 2006, page 238 (Taurus))

"The term 'British Isles' is controversial, especially to many people in Ireland. The Irish government actually discourages the use of the term. The preferred description is 'Britain and Ireland', which is more politically correct." (George Morg, How to Do Everything Genealogy, 2009, page 130 (McGraw Hill Professional))

@SemperBlotto, the quotations above, where the term is not used in quotations, are more than a "sum of parts" (i.e. the term is used to include places that are neither Britain or Ireland). In particular the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, Orkneys and the Shetlands are described as being part of Britain and Ireland. These places, in particular Mann and the Channel Islands, are not part of Britain or Ireland (indeed the Channel Islands are closer to France). Ironically, others who oppose the term do so because (they say) it cannot include these places for this reason and so cannot mean the same as British Isles.
On a general point, what kind of evidence (quotes, etc.) would be suitable? The term is in such widespread use that I'm confident I can provide what ever evidence is necessary. --Rannpháirtí anaithnid 21:12, 27 July 2011 (UTC)

To put it another way, the matter is what is meant by the expression. What the sources above demonstrate is a sense is in which the expression is idiomatic (per the CFI). Whereas Britain and Ireland as separate words simply mean Britain and Ireland, in the sense given in the sources above it means Britain, Ireland, the Orkneys, Shetland, the Isle of Man and (according to some uses) the Channel Islands i.e. the British Isles. This is also exactly what the sources that "talk about" the expression say it can mean. Additionally, the matter of attestation (per the CFI) for this use is met and further examples can be provided. --Rannpháirtí anaithnid 23:26, 27 July 2011 (UTC)


Wiktionary and Wikipedia both have articles on this word. The OED does not. The word is not used by mathematicians (they would call it a star heptagon), though it is included in Mathworld. There is usage on the web in the context of New Age or occult symbols. The word is an obvious parallel construction similar to pentagram, but what is the Wiktionary policy on a word like this, which certainly has some recent usage, but is not an established word in the sense of being in use in books or by scholars? Is this the correct forum to ask this question or should I have posted somewhere else? Dingo1729 18:11, 27 July 2011 (UTC)

This is absolutely the correct forum. See WT:CFI#Attestation. It could perhaps be glossed as {{nonstandard}} or just indicated under usage notes that other names are more common. Mglovesfun (talk) 18:31, 27 July 2011 (UTC)
Looking through the Google Books hits from 2001–2011, it's true that there are a lot of magicky/mystical/New-Agey hits, but there are also plenty of hits in pop-math books and even not-so-pop math books. And even among the mystical hits, a fair number are by people who don't actually seem to buy into the mysticism, but are just using it as a neutral term for the mystical symbol (just like how you don't have to be a Taoist to use the term "yin-yang"). —RuakhTALK 01:15, 31 July 2011 (UTC)
Yes, I think I was too negative when I looked at the word first. I now see references back to Aleister Crowley in the early part of the 20th century. I suspect, though I'm not sure, that he invented the word. He, of course claimed occult and magic significance for the heptagram. After that it seems to have spread in occult circles and gradually came to be used without the occult connotation and is now appearing in subjects like "How to fold a paper heptagram". I've seen claims of it being an ancient christian symbol, but I'm very suspicious of that. Did you find anything before the 20th century for either the word or the symbol? I think that finding it wasn't in the big OED made me think it wasn't a real word. Dingo1729 03:50, 31 July 2011 (UTC)
I guess you don't have the entry watchlisted? Before I added my comment here, I had added a few quotations that answer several of your questions. As for its being an ancient Christian symbol — well, I think that's somewhat outside of scope for a dictionary (we generally deal in words rather than symbols), but I think you're right to be suspicious. A search on b.g.c. for relatively early uses of the phrase "seven-pointed star" turns up this hit — a Freemason, writing in May 1844, complaining about the use of a seven-pointed star as though it were an ancient symbol (which, he maintains, it is not; kind of an odd thing to argue over, since that a great deal of Masonic symbolism is modernity dressed up as antiquity, but there you have it). In view of Crowley's quasi-Masonic connections, I think it may be more than coincidence that the symbol found its way into his legacy. —RuakhTALK 12:02, 31 July 2011 (UTC)
Incidentally, this 1883 book also seems to imply that the seven-pointed star was an ancient symbol, and the basis for the order of the days in the Roman week (as our 1995 cite seems to claim), but this 1880 article, which actually bothers to cite an ancient source, gives a much more sensible explanation for the pattern. I'm not sure if the author of the 1883 book actually believed that the star was the origin of the order of days (as opposed to giving it as a way that one could construct the order of days), but some people today apparently do. —RuakhTALK 15:15, 31 July 2011 (UTC)


This is listed as a Mandarin adverb, but is translated into English as an adjective. While not impossible, this is unusual. Is it correct? --EncycloPetey 23:26, 28 July 2011 (UTC)

The definition has been amended. 04:26, 31 July 2011 (UTC)


We have what seem like an arbitrary subset of seven of the verb senses that correspond to the senses of deep#Adjective. There is no limit AFAICT on the number of senses of deep to which a verb sense might not correspond. Why do we need to maintain the match of senses? Most dictionaries have two lines (trans & intrans) or one. Some learners dictionaries, COBUILD and Macmillan, have a limited number of senses, 4 and 7, respectively. If we had the 24 senses of deep#Adjective that MWOnline has or whatever number the OED has, the foolishness of our current approach would be obvious. Is this really the best way to help learners? Why not just have usage examples (which we do not, but Macmillan and COBUILD do)? DCDuring TALK 18:20, 30 July 2011 (UTC)

I agree, there's no need to rehash all the possible meanings of "deep". Essentially all that's needed is "make/become deep(er)" plus some examples. 23:49, 30 July 2011 (UTC)
I'm always torn about words like this. Clearly the meaning of "deepen" in "his voice deepened" is not the same as the meaning of "deepen" in "the water deepened as she waded further"; both can (and should!) be glossed as "to become deeper", but how are synonyms, antonyms, translations, etc. supposed to work? I think a good approach might be to have two main senses, “(intransitive) To become deeper” and “(transitive) to make (something) deeper”, and a relatively small group of important specific uses could be given either as subsenses, or else as their own senses but tagged with {{context|specifically}}. —RuakhTALK 00:02, 31 July 2011 (UTC)
But the non-English words that link to [[deepen]] seem to have just the one-word gloss "deepen". Are such metaphors universals that translate perfectly to many languages? I suppose we won't know that a priori. If we are to keep all the senses, then we should get about the business of adding {{rfdef}} to get the senses that MWOnline has for "deep#Adjective" that we lack so we can add all the missing senses to deepen. This "all words in all languages" business has a lot of costs to it. DCDuring TALK 00:39, 31 July 2011 (UTC)
Just as we do not decide RFD matters this basis, the granularity of meaning should not rely on concepts and translations in other languages. We know that these senses as Ruakh has laid out are distinct because they are distinguished at deep. In my opinion they should be enumerated at deepen as well. I do not take into account how precise or imprecise the translations would be. In my experience the foreign language entries here are much more generalized than those in English anyway, and not nearly as complete as dictionaries in that language illustrate the subtleties to be. DAVilla 04:44, 31 July 2011 (UTC)
Let's actually implement this, then, for this one entry. We can put in some trreqs to test out the whole concept. Unless there already is some adjective/verb pairing that illustrates a high degree of completeness relative to competing dictionaries. DCDuring TALK 11:20, 31 July 2011 (UTC)
My 2c. One of the problems is that this is an ergative verb, so some definitions are repeated (lines 4 and 7, for example). What I see with this verb are 6 distinct meanings/uses. 1. (measurement) be made, or become more profound. 2. (emotion) become more intense. 3. become more knowledgeable. 4. be made, or become darker. 5. be made, or become lower in tone. 6. deep breathing (somewhat an odd one out). There could be more, of course. -- ALGRIF talk 11:07, 15 August 2011 (UTC)


Do Polari and UK with similar senses require different sense lines? Same ety for both? DCDuring TALK 19:58, 30 July 2011 (UTC)

Is there an intentional point being made that in Polari it can also mean a non-alcoholic beverage, or is that just accidental? AFAIAA the normal UK sense is always of an alcoholic beverage, and I've never heard it used any other way. Without that distinction I don't see any point in having separate two definitions. 00:16, 31 July 2011 (UTC)
I can confirm that in the UK it always refers to booze. Why is this term in category "en:Polari"? SemperBlotto 07:49, 31 July 2011 (UTC)
Not an answer to your question, but: we also have Category:Polari and Category:Polari language, which seems... messy (in that, if it's a "Polari language" word, it would seem to need its own language section, like Scots). - -sche (discuss) 01:55, 2 August 2011 (UTC)
I think it's very doubtful that Polari can be considered a fully-fledged language deserving its own section. It seems more appropriate to treat the words as English and put such information in the etymology section. 02:15, 2 August 2011 (UTC)
I tend to agree with, although I would be swayed if our general practice was to treat argots/cants as separate languages. - -sche (discuss) 02:42, 2 August 2011 (UTC)

Bad Boy as slang

When did "Bad Boy' for something impressive enter the slang world? —This comment was unsigned.

See bad boy. DCDuring TALK 18:35, 31 July 2011 (UTC)