Wiktionary:Tea room/2008/April

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discussion rooms: Tea roomEtym. scr.Info deskBeer parlourGrease pit ← March 2008 · April 2008 · May 2008 → · (current)


April 2008


Is the noun sense really uncountable?

The form clumsies is clearly used, but not obviously with this meaning. It's informal, being used to describe being clumsy, as in "a case of the clumsies" often (but not exclusively) related to pregnancy "your 9-month case of the clumsies", "I've got the pregnancy clumsies" and children "my four year old has had an attack of the clumsies". I think we need a definition for this (there are plenty of groups sites, bgc is refusing to play at the moment so I can't check there), but I don't know how to phrase it. It should probably be shown (reciprocally) as a synonym of clumsiness, but it isn't just a misspelling of that word. Thryduulf 01:22, 1 April 2008 (UTC)

Unwarranted uncountability claims are a plague of epidemic proportions on Wiktionary. This is a particularly outrageous one. Good catch. DCDuring TALK 14:07, 1 April 2008 (UTC)

At all, at all

I remember self-proclaimed "guerrilla ontologist" Robert Anton Wilson often used to write this, and at one point I believe I thought I had it. But now I'm blank. What does this repeating effect? Does it warrant an entry? __meco 11:43, 1 April 2008 (UTC)

(Sounds very Irish). I think it is just for emphasis. Rather like "for ever and ever" and other similar repeating phrases. -- Algrif 13:59, 1 April 2008 (UTC)
I got the impression that there was a shift in meaning. __meco 11:31, 5 April 2008 (UTC)


The meaning of this word ("drought") suggests it should be countable, but I can't find anything online that gives a plural form. Thryduulf 23:36, 1 April 2008 (UTC)

Well, the Dictionary of Newfoundland English [1] glosses this as "dryness," which would explain the lack of an attested plural form (I mean, drynesses is a perfectly good word, but has less than .0005 as many Google hits, which would lead to zero hits in the case of a rare word like this). -- Visviva 04:55, 2 April 2008 (UTC)

The posture of MW on plurals is that they present how they would be formed without attesting to their usage. There is a lot to be said for not wasting time on purported semantic uncountability. I have dry skin on my elbows and behind my ears. I might well compare the two contrasting drynesses, but not often. Long ago, I might have compared the dryths. The suffix -able conveys impossibility, not rarity. DCDuring TALK 14:50, 2 April 2008 (UTC)

But our current {{en-noun}} setup doesn't really allow for agnosticism. Either a word is "countable," in which case the plural form gets a separate entry which must stand on its own merits (i.e. at least be capable of attestation), or it is "uncountable." It seems fairly clear that this is countable, it's not at all clear (to me)what the plural would be. "Dryths" and "drythes" both seem quite plausible, and "drythen" wouldn't be a great surprise either. -- Visviva 10:09, 5 April 2008 (UTC)
I think the plural could be argued to be likely "dryths" in parallel to "widths", "breadths", etc. I can't at the moment think of analogous words that would lead to the "drythes" form. I'm not sure that I have seen language in our policies that says that we must use {{en-noun}} in every instance (but I forget things). It would certainly be technically possible to use {{infl}} with a hand-made non-wikilinked plural, which would not draw the attention of existing bots. DCDuring TALK 10:35, 5 April 2008 (UTC)

I think it is usually just "dryness" (dry + -th), but "drought" is an obvious extension and it's definitely been used that way too. drought itself is etymologically pretty much the same word. Widsith 16:42, 2 April 2008 (UTC)

one thing led to another

Is one thing led to another at the right page? Officially, this should probably be at one thing to lead to another or one thing leads to another, right? Keene2 11:13, 2 April 2008 (UTC)

I'd have entries at one thing led to another and one thing leads to another as these are the two forms that get use - I've never heard one thing to lead to another. Thryduulf 11:22, 2 April 2008 (UTC)
This looks like a great example of the implausibility of our lemma forms for idioms. But trying to make a point about this makes me think and reverse my initial point. How interesting for one thing to lead to another like that. I'd still favor having the most common forms as entries, less common forms as redirects to the lemma. The lemma form would certainly need at least one usage example and probably a usage note. DCDuring TALK 14:38, 2 April 2008 (UTC)
I thought we'd decided that the entry for an idiom should be at the most common of its most general forms; but it's not a huge deal, since other forms just get redirects. In this case, all forms seem to be equally general, and the most common of the forms seems to be one thing led to another, so that would get the entry; but I for one would be perfectly happy with choosing a neutral-aspect present-tense form (where applicable), in which case we'd have the entry at one thing leads to another. I don't understand the argument for one thing to lead to another — even for standalone verbs we don't use the to-infinitive — but I'm all ears. —RuakhTALK 22:55, 2 April 2008 (UTC)
I am in favor of one thing led to another, it is almost exclusively the way I know it to be used. Another question is: is the sexual connotation a second sense? "I was out with this girl and, well, you know, one thing led to another." It might be just an extension but that usage clearly has distinct meaning that is not "From one event, a series of non-important steps resulted in another event", in fact I would say that that definition doesn't even come close to describing this usage. - [The]DaveRoss 00:04, 3 April 2008 (UTC)
Our policy is still WT:CFI#Idiomatic_phrases, which specifies the infinitive without the "to". I'm not sure it is worth trying to use b.g.c. or a websearch to find out the most common form if we put in redirects for the other 3 main forms or even include the other forms in usage examples, which the search engine would find. Does Google find redirects? DCDuring TALK 00:23, 3 April 2008 (UTC)
Re: "WT:CFI#Idiomatic_phrases […] specifies the infinitive without the 'to'": I don't believe it does. I mean, yes, it specifies that for some entries, but I don't think that applies to entries like this one. Certainly "lead to another" is not a plausible candidate here.   Re: "I'm not sure it is worth trying to use b.g.c. or a websearch to find out the most common form if we put in redirects for the other 3 main forms or even include the other forms in usage examples, which the search engine would find.": Yeah, me either, at least for a case like this one where the difference isn't huge (it's not like this idiom has a strong preference for a specific tense).   Re: "Does Google find redirects?": If we link to them it does. MediaWiki "redirects" aren't real HTTP redirects, and the original title shows up in the resulting page. —RuakhTALK 01:04, 3 April 2008 (UTC)

presentments waived

what is the meaning of "presentments waived" —This unsigned comment was added by Peeyem (talkcontribs) at 13:55, 2 April 2008 (UTC).

I never heard it before, but it might be presentiments waived: something like "my fears ignored" or "warning signs ignored". DCDuring TALK 14:28, 2 April 2008 (UTC)

Presentments, not presentiments. See [2]. More than that I don't know; perhaps someone who knows more law than I can explain this.—msh210 17:04, 2 April 2008 (UTC)
Glad I was tentative, since I proved to be wrong.
    An express waiver may be made in the instrument, by such words as "presentment waived," or "notwithstanding non-presentment", or other words to the effect.
It appears that presentment is a specific legal kind of presentation and demand which is normally required for a promissory note or bill of exchange to be paid, but which requirement can be waived. Presentment has numerous senses besides this one, but "waived" makes this the mostlikely meaning. DCDuring TALK 17:24, 2 April 2008 (UTC)
Means that you don't have to present the note to be paid. If you think of a cheque, it must be presented to the bank to be paid, so that they can cancel it; so it isn't used again. But in, for example, the US banking system now, a lot of check presentments are waived; if you pay American Express by check, they convert it to an EFT (and you never see the check again); they can do this because in the Amex charge card agreement, you explicitly waive presentments. Robert Ullmann 16:34, 6 April 2008 (UTC)

w00t def is not what I know it to be...

w00t - As I know the word, "w00t" was originally an trunicated expression common among players of Dungeons and Dragons tabletop role-playing game for "Wow, loot!" Thus the term passed into the net-culture where it thrived in video game communities and lost its original meaning and is used simply as a term of excitement.

Your def - Of uncertain origin, it seems to have been derived from the obsolete 'whoot' which essentially is another way to say 'hoot' which itself is a shout or derisive laugh. is in no way correct.

Gary LaFreniere
—This unsigned comment was added by (talk) at 19:22, 2 April 2008 (UTC).

Evidence would be welcome. In the meantime, this is interesting reading. Cheers, -- Visviva 08:17, 5 April 2008 (UTC)
As an avid fan of and longtime participant in the original D&D "paper and pencil with weird dice and a live Dungeon Master" game, I never once heard the terms "WOOT" or "Wow, Loot!", even at geographically-diverse D&D tournaments- it was a given that chests contained loot, slain enemies and monsters contained loot, etc. We might have exclaimed "Wow, a +20 Agility sword!" but never "Wow, loot"... that would be akin to driving down an Interstate highway for 12 hours and exclaiming "Wow! An exit sign!" every three minutes.
Now, as a hopelessly-addicted player of the amazing World of Warcraft MMORPG where WOOT and pwn reign supreme, I must concur with both the extant definition (and etymology) here and the exhaustive citation submitted by Visviva, which pretty thoroughly and objectively debunks more "origin myths" for "woot" than I knew existed. Clearly, based on carbon-dating of earliest documented occurrence, it came from the song, however it was originally spelled.
[Level 70 BM/MM Night Elf Hunter, Arygos] HoggyDog 17:08, 5 April 2008 (UTC)

First Nations

Hi. This (and a couple of other red links) are in Native American. I wonder if someone more competent than I could make this entry. I'm afraid my knowledge of the subject could lead me to make an erroneous entry. And it is one that needs to be right, from the start. Cheers -- Algrif 14:10, 4 April 2008 (UTC)

I have taken a stab at it. Dmcdevit·t 15:47, 4 April 2008 (UTC)
I've made some additions, as well as added an entry for the singular First Nation, ('an Indian band'). —Michael Z. 15:33, 5 April 2008 (UTC)


I am looking for advice on what to do the entry aebelskiver. There is no such Danish noun, but it also appears to me to have been intended to cover an English word for this specialty. There is a Danish specialty called æbleskive (in indefinite singular, æbleskiver in indefinite plural), a form of round pancake, but not a form of danish pastry (wikipedia entry at w:Æbleskiver). Is aebelskiver a valid English word for this round pancake (aebleskiver seems more plausible to me), or should the entry maybe be moved to cover the Danish word æbleskive? Hemmingsen 17:18, 4 April 2008 (UTC)


I'm looking for a word which is pronounced like you would the above. How it is actually pronounced I have no idea. __meco 01:05, 5 April 2008 (UTC)

synecdoche, I assume. :-) Dmcdevit·t 01:09, 5 April 2008 (UTC)
Ah.. perhaps. I thought that word was pronounced rhyming with choke. __meco 11:29, 5 April 2008 (UTC)


In a definition of disagreeable at here:

"Having a quarrelsome, bad-tempered manner."

But according to our definition, "quarrelsome" is a adjective. What's wrong? Cumeo89 07:47, 5 April 2008 (UTC)

Nothing. They are both adjectives. -- Visviva 08:09, 5 April 2008 (UTC)
I mean, "a quarrelsome". Cumeo89 08:22, 5 April 2008 (UTC)
"a quarrelsome, bad-tempered manner" = "a manner which is quarrelsome and bad-tempered" -- Visviva 09:20, 5 April 2008 (UTC)
Yeah, that's right :D. Cumeo89 15:23, 5 April 2008 (UTC)


What part of speech would C-2, C-1, K-1, K-2 and K-4 be? They are used to describe kayak/canoeing classes. I'd have thought simple abbreviations, but maybe even nouns or adjectives. Keene2 08:46, 5 April 2008 (UTC)

From your description I would expect them to be nouns with attributive use (as adjectives) (like most nouns). We accept "Abbreviation" as a PoS header. "C-1", for example, must almost certainly be thought of as an abbreviation of something like "Canoe-1" or "Canoe-First Class". How do folks pronounce it? Was there ever any "Canoe-1" or "Canoe-First Class" or were the class names used as is from the beginning? If there never were long forms, we really shouldn't call them abbreviations. DCDuring TALK 10:55, 5 April 2008 (UTC)

the media

What does "the media" mean here?

In addition, the media encourages aggressive conflict. Political discussions are very popular on radio, TV and the internet. On these shows (or blogs), you find the person holding one view tries to ridicule anyone who holds an opposing view.

Cumeo89 08:46, 5 April 2008 (UTC)

media#Noun_2, sense 2; journalists and other members of the masscom industry. -- Visviva 09:19, 5 April 2008 (UTC)
Interestingly, since media is the plural of medium, it would seem that the construction "the media encourages aggressive conflict" should properly be corrected to "the media encourage aggressive conflict" so that the verb agrees in number with the subject. This is a widely-misused word- I frequently see "published in several mediums" and "only the television media stoops so low" etc. I suspect that many Latin singular/plural errors are widespread, but medium/media "mediums"/"medias" are the ones I see the most. HoggyDog 16:08, 5 April 2008 (UTC)
Quote from media#Noun_2: "When referring to the media, as in the mass media, i.e., the mass-communication industry comprising journalism and entertainment, media is usually held to be a singular noun (because it is not the plural of medium. It is a term derived from the concept of an industry communicating through different media, e.g., newspapers, television, films, magazines). In all other cases, it is the plural of medium..." (emphasis mine).
Firstly, my sense of "the media" in this context is that it refers exclusively, or at least primarily, to journalistic and information "news and opinion" media, to the exclusion of music, gaming and entertainment media. Is this too narrow a view?
Secondly, irrespective of which specific sub-genres might or might not be included, are we sure that "the media" in this context is not still the plural of medium? My sense of this usage is that it is, in fact, still the plural form, used as a collective noun to mean (for example) "Newspapers (one medium), radio (another medium), television (medium #3), the Internet (#4) and... and... and all other widely-disseminated and publicly-available conduits for mass-communication and information (but not amusement or entertainment), collectively.
What I'm trying to say is that the collective singular usage of the plural noun media (in this context) does not invalidate its inherent number-case, i.e. plural. It's just a usage aberration, an idiom. Could the quoted note not be changed to state that media used in this sense is a plural noun in collective-singular usage? It seems somehow "yes=no" (i.e. inherently self-contradictory) to say that media is the plural of medium... but no, it isn't. <head-scratching begins> It really is, even in this context... it's just that it is widely used idiomatically as a collective singular noun in this particular context. HoggyDog 16:43, 5 April 2008 (UTC)
But then we also see terms like print media, media has evolved in the same way data has, where it has widespread use as a collective noun taking both singular and plural verb forms, depending on context. - [The]DaveRoss 16:48, 5 April 2008 (UTC)
Dave, yes, of course, my issue is not with the singular usage, it is with the verbiage of the cited note which unequivocally states that "media in this context is not the plural of medium." I'm humbly submitting that yes, it is in fact still what it is - the plural of medium - but in this context it is idiomatically used as a collective singular noun. Also, when I see constructions such as your example ("print media") I interpret that to mean all of the various (forgive me) print "mediums" such as magazines and newspapers.
My point about which conduits were inherently included when one says "the media" was primarily that I do not believe that "the media" in its most common usage and context includes the various entertainment media.
All I am suggesting is that we might consider changing the cited note to remove the "it isn't what it obviously, inherently IS, i.e. the plural of medium..." to a note that speaks to the idiomatic, singular usage of the inherently plural noun. I should think that using a plural noun as a singular noun would be no more distasteful than transmogrifying almost every noun in the lexicon into a verb... <ducks as Dave swings> HoggyDog 17:35, 5 April 2008 (UTC)


Is this word ancient or model? (to correct our English-Vietnamese Wiktionary). Cumeo89 08:57, 5 April 2008 (UTC)

Quite ancient, having come from Latin sponsus via Old French and Middle English, where it was in use by the 13th century. See [3]. -- Visviva 09:33, 5 April 2008 (UTC)
I'm not sure when it came to have its current meaning, though. It seems that it originally meant "husband" only. -- Visviva 09:36, 5 April 2008 (UTC)
I surmise that "spouse" to denote a marital partner of either, both or neither sex came to its present indeterminate, ambiguous and de rigeur usage thanks to the recent pestilences of asexuality and political correctness, in much the same way that "stewardess" and "actress" have become the abhorrently androgynous "flight attendant" and "actor." HoggyDog 16:01, 5 April 2008 (UTC)
Nope. The OED has cites meaning "wife" going back to circa 1200, cites meaning "husband" going back to circa 1200 and cites for various related figurative religious senses going back to circa 1200. (I kid you not: it's like the word simply jumped to existence circa 1200 and immediately filled every slot it could think of.) —RuakhTALK 16:48, 5 April 2008 (UTC)
I stand (sit, actually) corrected and thoroughly disabused of my wildly speculative surmise. Nowadays, though, it has more slots to fill, wouldn't you agree? They didn't have "domestic partners" in 1200, did they? HoggyDog 17:42, 5 April 2008 (UTC)
The word sponsus was inherently masculine, so it only referred to the husband. The feminine in Latin is sponsa. The LAtin therefore included both male and female senses, merely with different endings for gender. I suspect the "jumping" into records was the result of a switch from Latin to English as the preferred language in the keeping of offical records. --EncycloPetey 16:31, 6 April 2008 (UTC)

"Fewer" vs. "Less"

I came to the wikt in hope of validating my conviction that the word "less" is in widespread misuse to mean "fewer," and found a brilliant validation at fewer.

Then, I read with great dismay the author's disclaimer that the distinction between the two words "does not appy in some regions." Does not apply, as in "there is no distinction between the two words and it is perfectly OK to use 'less' when you mean 'fewer' as long as you live in a region whose inhabitants are utterly bereft of any clue regarding word definitions and/or correct usage?"

Heresy! Blasphemy!

Where can I find a discussion on the broader subject- the legitimacy and validity of "firm" (not entirely inflexible, but firm) rules and word definitions vs. the (apparent) acceptability of ignorant misuse morphing over very short timeframes into (apparently) acceptable usages? I am looking for a smoking gun here: WHO SAYS that "words mean things" is no longer accurate, relevant or even desirable? Why have definitions at all if they are essentially optional and subject to individual whims?

My conviction is that without rules and actual definitions of words, we can't have concise and accurate communication. Ample evidence of this exists today- we frequently have murky and muddled communication due to our failure to observe proper word definitions and usage. There are citable examples where using "less" when one means "fewer" actually changes the meaning of the sentence and fails to convey the speaker's intended meaning. How, therefore, can the actual definitions and appropriate (correct) usage of these words "not apply in some regions?"

Next, I'd like to start a page detailing my diligent search for any word in any regional variant of the English language which could possibly be pronounced "nucular." I'm coming after you, GW.

HoggyDog 09:26, 5 April 2008 (UTC)

Rules that people follow are a boon to communication; rules that people don't follow are simply an additional obstacle. Just as treating fewer and less as equivalent may lead to a failure of communication if one's interlocutor assumes they are different, so can treating them as different lead to a failure of communication if one's interlocutor assumes the opposite. In the end, we are here to document use, not to judge right and wrong. -- Visviva 09:56, 5 April 2008 (UTC)
I didn't mean to imply that "we" should judge anyone; that said, I think that the Wikt is doing a disservice to its readers to the extent that it "condones" blatant misuse or malaprops... like saying that the distinction between less and fewer "is not valid in some regions," which would translate, to someone who came here to try to gain an understanding of why some people cringed when he said "less people showed up today" as meaning "less = fewer, there's no difference in your region." The knowledge-seeker then leaves just as baffled as when he arrived. Why could "we" not say, for example, that less is frequently misused where fewer should have been used without the "your mileage may vary" disclaimer?? In what English-speaking "regions," exactly, does less = fewer? I've been to most of them, and have never perceived that the two are correctly considered to be interchangeable. Well-spoken people (and most credible published documents) in England, Ireland, Australia and the U.S. are in lockstep on this- no exceptions: Less <> Fewer. There is a distinction, and the same correct usage, everywhere. I can't find any citation for the "regional dispensation to err" statement. On what basis was it placed there? Rampant misuse? That doesn't constitute a "regional exception" to the fact that the words are NOT interchangeable. The fewer article would be great if that one disclaimer/statement were to be deleted, but I'm not about to do so without some consensus. HoggyDog 13:45, 5 April 2008 (UTC)
I agree that it doesn't seem to be a regional thing: my impression is that all regional variants draw roughly the same lessfewer distinction in formal registers. However, it's likewise my impression that all regional variants suppress this distinction in informal registers. At any rate, if you can somehow demonstrate that your words "misuse", "malaprop", "correct", and "err" are appropriate — i.e. that use of "less" where you use "fewer" is somehow objectively wrong — I'd be interested to see it. —RuakhTALK 14:06, 5 April 2008 (UTC)
OK, here are two citations validating that less and fewer have different meanings and usages: less & fewer. In other words, the Wiki clearly makes the distinction, were it not for the "waffle-words" disclaimer at fewer. As objective exemplars of the disparate meanings inherent in the two words, allow me to submit these deceptively similar-sounding statements:
1. "There were fewer bad storms in February than in January."
2. "There were less bad storms in February than in January."
In the former, the meaning is crystal-clear: the number of 'bad storms' was lower in February than in January. In the latter, it seems that there were some indeterminate number of storms of less severity.
Exemplar numero dos, within the context of three grades of gasoline sold in the U.S., one low octane and two high octane:
1. "The tanker brought us fewer high-octane fuels last week than it did the week before."
2. "The tanker brought us less high-octane fuels last week than it did the week before."
In the former, it would seem that the truck brought us only one grade of high octane fuel instead of the two grades it had brought the week before. In the latter, the number of grades received presumably (but not explicitly) remained the same (two) but the quantity of one, the other or both of the above-regular grades was diminished.
And finally, this one:
1. "My girlfriend has fewer breasts than your female Labrador Retriever."
2. "My girlfriend has less breasts than your female Labrador Retriever."
No explanation required- the first is an indisputable biological fact, whereas the second will probably get you slapped by your girlfriend, provided, of course, that she understands the distinction between fewer and less.  :>)
Clearly, objectively, the two words have similar but not identical meanings and usages (applications). And just as clearly, "the distinction is invalid in some regions" seems wildly speculative, not to mention bogus. HoggyDog 14:50, 5 April 2008 (UTC)
PS: The same exact case exists for much and many, and possibly other quantitative adjectives which will not re-inhabit my cerebellum until I have consumed another cup of coffee. HoggyDog 14:55, 5 April 2008 (UTC)
In the end the rightness or wrongness of usage rests in the hands of the user, I am pretty sure widespread usage of the two as equivalent is available for documentation. As much fun as it is to tell other people how to communicate, it is a failing effort, Hollywood is going to beat the OED any day of the week when it comes to the English language, not because they are more knowledgeable, but because they have a much larger audience and have a much greater effect on that audience. Prescriptivism is a losing battle as far as English is concerned, documenting usage is the best we can do, so that when one person "misuses" a term the next person may be able to discover what their intent was. - [The]DaveRoss 15:54, 5 April 2008 (UTC)
As to regional differences, I wonder whether grocery stores in the UK, Canada, Australia, NZ, India have signage saying "Ten Items or Less". In the US I don't remember ever seeing what ought to be standard: "Ten Items or Fewer". (I'm assuming that the practice of "express cash-register checkout lanes" is transnational. DCDuring TALK 16:17, 5 April 2008 (UTC)
I won't pretend that the formal-English fewer  less = Ø approach eliminates some ambiguity found with the normal-English fewer  less approach; but, language is ambiguous. That's life, and, unless you're replacing more with mucher and manier, then you've already accepted that even in formal English, fewer and less share an ambiguous opposite. But, all this is neither here nor there: the question isn't whether the world would be a better place if all forms of standard English drew this distinction, but whether the world is currently a place where all forms of standard English draw this distinction. And I think it's pretty obvious that it isn't. —RuakhTALK 16:34, 5 April 2008 (UTC)
Quote from DCDuring: "I don't remember ever seeing what ought to be standard: "Ten Items or Fewer"." In my admittedly mostly black-and-white world, the construction should be "Ten or Fewer Items."
Quote from TheDave: "In the end the rightness or wrongness of usage rests in the hands of the user" I think that this is emerging as my fundamental disagreement with you and others here- I would posit that the rightness or wrongness of usage rests in the hands of (for example) the latest edition of the OED or other credible, reputable, studied authority, irrespective of actual usage; and I would further posit that it is the responsibility of educators and other mentors (parents, etc.) to continually strive to lead by example and by direction, which has (obviously) not been done for years in the U.S. The reality of usage, inarguably, rests in the hands of the user, but that in no way validates that usage to the extent that it is in substantial conflict or disagreement with long-established rules, definitions and norms of educated and/or erudite usage. To use an overly-simplistic analogy, the fact that a poorly-educated or apathetic person may proclaim that 2+2=5 in no way invalidates the fact that their assertion is incorrect, nor should 2+2=5 somehow "become accepted" merely because millions of people are thus deluded. My feeling is that the fact that our President and many others who should know better pronounce nuclear as "nucular" in no way validates or excuses that aberrent and patently incorrect pronunciation. I'm sure that anyone who has come here to read this can extrapolate my repetitive argument to cover the less and fewer case without any further elaboration on my part. Yes, I "get" the message that this Wiki is here merely to document usage and not to try to maintain any standard whatsoever of logic or consistency, much less substantial agreement with established authorities such as the OED. But that laissez-faire credo in no way affects the "rightness" and/or "wrongness" of the usage being documented. Let's document the common misconception that 2+2=5 while at the same time gently suggesting that well-educated and/or thoughtful people whose entire professional careers have been dedicated to exploring each and every ramification of 2+2 are not in 100% agreement with "5" as the right answer. Just a thought.
Quote from TheDave: "I am pretty sure widespread usage of the two as equivalent is available for documentation." Actually, my (admittedly limited-scope) observation is that fewer is never used to mean less; in fact, fewer is hardly ever used at all any more in common parlance. The battle between the two words is being won, hands down, by less, which is used, unfortunately, in virtually all cases. So I would posit that the words are not being used interchangeably but rather that fewer is being entirely supplanted by less. I'm observing a moment of silence now. RIP, fewer. We who knew ye shall ne'er forget ye.
So I guess the consensus so far is against changing the "regional invalidity" blurb at fewer even though we agree that it is probably not accurate, or at least not demonstrably accurate, most "regions" being in substantial agreement, and the sole difference being between formal (correct) and common/informal (incorrect) usage of less. I find it disappointing that "we" wouldn't want to change an apparently spurious reference to unspecified and undocumented "regional" differences. Surely, we should, at minimum, remove the "regional" verbiage and simply state that less is (alas) in increasingly common usage to mean both less and fewer, which is the truth and the consensus (so far) here. But, I'm a noob and will no doubt come to understand the apparent recalcitrance to "be the best we can be" in time. HoggyDog 18:23, 5 April 2008 (UTC)
I think that we generally let this kind of thing age on this list a bit to see whether we can get opinion from native residents about apparent prevalence or some kind of "authoritative" third-party references. It is particularly important when we are referring to colloquial usage for which attestation is difficult. Looking at recent usage on books.google.com would probably show no great decline in usage of "fewer", but there might be declining usage in everyday speech (and supermarket signage). Once an item is open for discussion on these forums, "being the best we can be" almost certainly means getting the views of as many as folks as take an interest in 1 - 4 weeks.
Also, please remember that we, in principle, keep obsolete and archaic definitions to help folks read works written in a language as it may have been hundreds of years ago. DCDuring TALK 18:51, 5 April 2008 (UTC)
Thank you, DC. I totally agree that letting the discussion age a bit is a great idea, and consensus (the lack thereof on Day One of my upstart discussion) is the very reason that I didn't just indignantly edit out the "regionally invalid" blurb and hope that nobody reverted it. I was cross-posting, BTW, above, as you added your edit, kind of summarizing my feelings regarding the difference between correct and actual usage and how it might be approached in the instant case. Thanks again.
HoggyDog 19:14, 5 April 2008 (UTC)
Re: "So I guess the consensus so far is against changing the 'regional invalidity' blurb at fewer even though we agree that it is probably not accurate": I'm not sure where you're getting that from. There's consensus against turning fewer (or any other entry) into a prescriptivist screed that reflects how the language supposedly should be rather than how it actually is. However, there definitely is not consensus for making up linguistic facts, asserting regional variation where none exists, etc. (BTW, if you care: the OED does include this definition of less, noting its basis in Old English and giving cites from circa 888 onward, and includes the IMHO very helpful comment that it's "Freq. found but generally regarded as incorrect", leaving it to readers to decide whether they care about the opinions of the sort of people who decide something is "incorrect" without any basis in fact.) —RuakhTALK 19:36, 5 April 2008 (UTC)
My "Regional invalidity blurb is probably not accurate, or at least not demonstrably accurate" statement came from my inability to find any citations or references, here or elsewhere, relating to any regional differences in the distinctions between the two words at hand; from my personal experiences in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia; and from TheDave's concurrence that it probably isn't a Regional issue since the 4 "main" English-speaking "regions" seem to be in substantial agreement (notably absent: NZ, I have never been there or personally known anyone born there, so have no clue about their take on these two words; also from numerous anecdotal experiences with natives of India I question whether or not that society can be properly classified as a "(standard) English-speaking Region" within the context of this discussion, but I leave that to wiser and/or more experienced heads than mine.) So far, other than the "fewer/less distinction is regionally invalid" blurb itself at fewer, an assertion for which I can find no citation or reference, nor has any been offered here so far other than your recent assertion that it's "obvious" to you, I'm like you, only on the opposite side of the question- I'm not sure where the author of that statement is "getting it from." This is undoubtedly a result of my failure to know where to look, so all that is required is a citation, a link, a reference relating to this "regional difference."
Sorry, but you seem to have misread my comments. My very first comment agreed with you that this probably isn't a regional thing, and I've never wavered from that view. What I said is, I don't know where you're getting the idea that there's consensus against changing that claim — just consensus against changing it the way you seem to want, which is to claim that this use of less is "incorrect" in all regions. —RuakhTALK 01:41, 6 April 2008 (UTC)
Quote from Ruakh: "...turning fewer (or any other entry) into a prescriptivist screed that reflects how the language supposedly should be rather than how it actually is." I don't believe that I have advocated that extreme position (pls see above for my *actual* position) nor do I feel that I deserve sarcasm and/or ridicule while distorting and exaggerating my stated position.
Sorry, I wasn't trying to ridicule you. (I did mean to be a bit sarcastic, but I didn't mean it has harshly as you seem to have taken it, and I'm sorry.) —RuakhTALK 01:41, 6 April 2008 (UTC)
Quote from Ruakh: "language is ambiguous" Well, some of the strangeness of English does seem ambiguous, such as more being the antonym for both less and fewer as you pointed out. However, part of my point is that language doesn't have to be as ambiguous in meaning as it frequently is, due in part to using one word when there is a better, more precise word available for use (i.e. using less when fewer is the more precise choice, irrespective of "correctness" issues- pls. see exemplars above.)
I agree that there are plenty of cases where the language could in theory be improved, but … —RuakhTALK 01:41, 6 April 2008 (UTC)
Quote from Ruakh: "BTW, if you care: the OED..." again, undeserved sarcasm- my whole point, clearly stated above, is that I DO care about reputable, thoughtful, authentic, authoritative and studied references, specifically having said so, specifically having referenced the OED in this light.
Sorry, I wasn't trying to be sarcastic here. I just meant the "if you care" because the OED doesn't come down cleanly on either side (it doesn't give its own opinion of the sense's correctness, and doesn't comment overtly on the view that it's incorrect), so I wasn't sure if you'd care about the details of what it does say in this case. —RuakhTALK 01:41, 6 April 2008 (UTC)
Quote from Ruakh: "replacing more with mucher and manier" Good example, humorous, and of course you're right. Such seemingly-frivolous situations are why most of the non-English-speaking world says that English is one of the hardest languages to learn.
Quote from Ruakh: "the question [...is] whether the world is currently a place where all forms of standard English draw this distinction. And I think it's pretty obvious that it isn't." Well, I apologize for having (apparently) offended you, for such was not my intent. I'm not sure why you believe that all (or substantially all) English-speaking regions do not draw essentially the same distinctions between less and fewer, but it's not even credible (so far, lacking any citations or references) to me that they do not, much less "pretty obvious." Please explain on what basis it has become "pretty obvious" to you.
No worries; I wasn't offended. :-)   As I wrote above, I'm not saying that regional differences exist, only that differences of register do. Formal English draws this distinction the world over (so far as I'm aware); neutral-register English does not (at least, in the Upper Midwestern U.S., and I've seen no reason to think it's different elsewhere). —RuakhTALK 01:41, 6 April 2008 (UTC)
Please, let's discuss the issues without distorting positions we don't happen to agree with, or making unsupported assertions without labeling them as "my feeling is..." or "my sense is that..." etc. Thanks. HoggyDog 20:35, 5 April 2008 (UTC)

(clear indent) Let's leave off trying to interpret people's tone of voice in text - it doesn't work and can only be done safely by assuming good faith. The above has become quite convoluted, in a remarkable short space of time - so I'll try and give my opinion (though I'm not sure exactly what on):

Wiktionary cannot have a point of view, to do so alienates it from those who don't share the same opinions. Thus Wiktionary can only record other people's point of view - regardless of whether yet more other people think that this point of view is right or wrong. This means that Wiktionary, as a project, can only be a descriptive dictionary and cannot proscribe the best way forward - it can only present points of view and let the reader decide which course to follow. Incidentally if someone wants to rewrite our stolen NPOV policy and build a new one called Descriptive not proscriptive, I think it would benefit everyone both in being clearer and more relevant (it does of course cover the same issue, though from a different angle).

In terms of the usage notes at less and fewer, they need rewriting, the prose describing them is ugly and misleading (and, as above, wrong). It is a fact that many people (vocally) advocate the use of "fewer" and not "less" to mean 'a smaller number of', it is a fact that many people use "less" and not "fewer" to mean 'a smaller number of' (let's ignore the people who fall into both groups for the moment). This is all we can really say - though we need to word it better, and can of course give examples to clarify the situation. Conrad.Irwin 21:43, 5 April 2008 (UTC)

Conrad, hi and thank you. I can clearly see the value in the "descriptive, not proscriptive" philosophy, mainly for the reason you have so eloquently cited. At the end of the day, what you have suggested is all I have been trying to promote: either verify (citations) or delete the "regional variations" note, include the (already-existing) "opinion" (OED citation?) that fewer and less have slightly different meanings and usage guidelines, and what those meanings and usages are, along with a note that some usage treats the two synonymously, apparently in substantially ALL regions of the English-speaking world, although this point need not be included unless it can be somehow verified. This could easily be crafted to be non-judgmental and not proscriptive or prescriptive, i.e. the Wiki has no point of view. And I'll slap myself on the wrist and try to disremember that "screed" as used above is generally construed to be a pejorative word. It is of great encouragement to me in this disrememberment effort that the entire sense of "dogmatic rant" is, serendipitously, completely absent from screed. HoggyDog 23:32, 5 April 2008 (UTC)
Word. —RuakhTALK 01:41, 6 April 2008 (UTC)

It may also be worth pointing out that the common idea of usage writers that theoretically ambiguous words lead to confusion and imprecision is itself a POV opinion, and cannot be taken as the basis for Wiktionary comments or articles. (There is a great deal of theoretical ambiguity in language -- if you excerpt single sentences from any writing or speech you could find numerous examples of sentences that are ambiguous when taken alone but that are completely clear in the context of the writing or speech. So the fact that it is possible to create stand-alone ambiguous sentences with certain words does not mean that those words are inherently ambiguous and must be avoided or restricted in use.) I think the illogic in the prescriptivist position can be seen in that they are strident about the less/fewer distinction, but have no problem with "more" being used as the antonym to both. —This unsigned comment was added by 16:02, 6 April 2008 (UTC) (talkcontribs) at

As an (apparent- I didn't know there was an argument until I came here, always believed my English profs) adherent to a semi-prescriptivist viewpoint (while acknowledging the widespread difference between "correct" and actual usage) I must say that the existence of a single antonymic for both less and fewer does, in fact, seem illogical to me, yet in no way invalidates my conviction that "words mean things." I did not invent the English language. Had I done so, I probably would have either (a) eliminated the word fewer or (b) created Ruakh's suggested "manier." Nonetheless, both words, and their slightly different meanings and "correct" usages, do in fact exist in the language and have for hundreds of years. To me, saying "fewer really means less" is tantamount to saying "the carpenter's tool designed for the purpose of driving in and pulling out nails is called a hatchet" simply because a hatchet can be used to drive and pull nails. A hammer is obviously the preferred tool because, although it has some similarities with a hatchet, it exists expressly for the purpose of driving and removing nails and does a better job of it than does a hatchet. In my fevered mind, fewer is the preferred tool to mean "a lower number of" despite the fact that more means both a greater number and a larger quantity. The fact that many people may never have heard of hammers (or bothered to purchase one) and use hatchets instead to drive and remove nails in no way invalidates the hammer as the preferred tool. HoggyDog 14:12, 9 April 2008 (UTC)
The problem with that analogy is that it begs the question. You're starting with the assumption that less and fewer should be distinct and working from there, rather than observing usage itself. A better tool analogy would be people saying that only a razor blade can be used to cut something; using a knife is wrong because a knife is for eating. The fact that people actually use knives to cut things is irrelevant; they're wrong and should be using razor blades. People use "less" all the time where prescriptivists would want "fewer", and in most cases there are no communication problems. How could there be, unless people are constantly having trouble communicating with the word "more"? —This unsigned comment was added by (talk) at 02:44, 10 April 2008 (UTC).

A couple of comments from me too. Firstly, less = fewer has a very long pedigree and there is no sense in which it can be considered objectively wrong, coming as it does from the Old English usage lǣs + genitive. It has been used in English as long as the language has existed. Secondly though, it's important to inform users about how this usage will be seen in the wider world. Descriptivism is not about ignoring such things, but describing them. In my opinion this requires just a sentence or two in Usage Notes; the existing essay is badly-worded and more to the point untrue. Widsith 07:59, 7 April 2008 (UTC)

Not being a linguistics scholar, just an English major who fell in love with one of his profs who, astoundingly to me, recited Chaucer in the original Middle English and drove a 1957 round-window Thunderbird <sigh>, I had never heard of læs, so I immediately looked it up on this Wiki- and found it seemingly irrelevant and not applicable to the less / fewer discussion at hand. Disregarding its noun form, since neither less nor fewer has a noun form to speak of, its only other form was an adverb sense meaning less, as in "I slept less last night" or "Everyone on this board is wishing that HoggyDog would talk less and just go away." It is my understanding that both words under discussion here are adjectives, or at least it is the adjective sense under discussion: "Less time to think..." "Fewer people to see..." etc. So I respectfully challenge the assertion that the adverb sense of læs establishes a distinguished (or at least lengthy) history of the adjective less to mean "a smaller number of" as opposed to "a smaller quantity of." Just sayin'. If I've missed the relevance of your citation (I hate it when I do that), please feel free to disabuse me of my ignorance. Meanwhile, I should probably take my own suggestion above and just go away. I had thought that I might have something to contribute here, but I'm thinking now that I was mistaken, and I apologize for taking everyone's time with a discussion for which the conclusion is foregone: whatever anyone imagines a word means, and however anyone cares to misuse a word simply because they don't know any better, is absolutely correct and acceptable. I can't live with that, so I hereby re-dub my hammer a banana and I'm going to go pound nails with a banana. Adieu. HoggyDog 14:12, 9 April 2008 (UTC)
It's the adverb that's relevant here. We use an adjective in modern English, but it comes from an OE construction of adverb + genitive. In Ælfred's translation of Boethius for example, he writes: Swa mid læs worda swa mid mar, swæþer we hit gereccan magon ("either with less words or with more, however we may explain it."). In Middle and modern English we lost this so-called "partitive genitive", so instead of saying "less of words" people just said "less words". If Wiktionary had more quotations, you'd be able to see a clear line all the way back into Old English of this kind of construction (and you can see exactly that in the OED, sense A1c). Widsith 14:33, 9 April 2008 (UTC)
Widsith, I stand in awe of your scholarship and willingly bow to your assertion that the adverb sense of læs constitutes a precedent for less = fewer. As I mentioned above, I make no claims to being a linguistic scholar. My shame is that I don't "grok" one word of your erudite citation. Also, since I have already said goodbye, I am not writing this, nor are you reading it. HoggyDog 14:51, 9 April 2008 (UTC)


how can i translate a word in german?

Unclear whether you wish to translate a known German word into (presumably) English, or vice-versa. In either case, you would go to the source-word Wiki (English or German), look up the word and then scroll down to "Translations" and look there. Alternatively, you could go to [[4]] and input your word(s) there and select the appropriate translation in the drop-down box.

Be forewarned that non-idiomatic translations (i.e. translating a sentence one word at a time) end up being awkward at best, and garbled or incomprehensible at worst. Example, using a classic French phrase:

"La plume de ma tante est sur la table." Word-at-a-time translation comes out awkward in English: "The pen of my aunt is on the table."

The preferable English idiom would be "My aunt's pen is on the table." This unusual treatment of possessives in English is different than the possessive cases of most languages with which I have any familiarity, which follow the pattern of "the ___A___ of ___B____" to indicate B's ownership or possession of A.

HoggyDog 15:38, 5 April 2008 (UTC)

orient, orientation and orientate

Firstly, it seems to me that orientate is a neologism mistakenly derived as the verb form of orientation, when in fact the verb form of orientation is orient (verb transitive). Orientate and orient are listed as synonymous, yet the two articles are not now very well coordinated, and if they are truly synonymous then wouldn't one definitive article at orient with a link back to it from orientate be more efficient?

Secondly, I feel that the modern, virtually universally-familiar business orientation (familiarization activity for new employees or employees new to a particular location, branch, department or division, etc.) should be added as a separate definition for both orientation and orient since none of the definitions I see in either article directly covers this sense of the words. Normally, one does not conduct one's own orientation (if that were possible, there would be no need for an orientation in the first place); therefore, the new definition should convey that an orientation in this sense is normally conducted by an employee who is already familiar with the particular business entity and its physical plant and culture, or via self-help documentation, or via interactive electronic media, but never completely on one's own since that clearly defeats the purpose of (or renders moot) an orientation.

Citations: [[5]], [[6]], [[7]]

Also, shouldn't the meaning of orientation that deals with sexual / lifestyle preferences be added? Citations: [[8]], [[9]], [[10]], many more.

HoggyDog 22:53, 5 April 2008 (UTC)
First of all, orientate is not a "neologism"; if you take a look at books.google.com, you can see citations going back over a hundred years. As for whether or not the additional meanings should be added to orientation, it's possible that they should. The business sense is more or less covered by the "adjustment to a new environment" sense, although it's probably something more like "a session to introduce new members of an organization to its operations". The sexual sense is covered at sexual orientation; I've added a "Derived terms" section to orientation and added a link to the other definition, but I'm not sure whether that sense should also be noted at "orientation" itself. Mike Dillon 23:16, 5 April 2008 (UTC)
Hi Mike, and thank you. I did look for orientate at books.google.com but saw nothing that would definitively date any of the references I found. All I am "allowed" to see there are extremely brief (3 pages at most) "previews" of each book. I would be interested to know how I can modify my searches (or where to look within the results) in order to try to date the references returned- pub date? Also, it has been my anecdotal experience that the noun form orientation is much more familiar to (and used by) most business employees than either of the two verb forms, and I have heard the verb form orientate used much more often in the past 20 years than the only verb form I learned or ever heard or read in school (40+ years ago, in California), orient. Finally, I often hear orientation (without a prefacing sexual) in a context in which it is clearly referring to sexual orientation; the sexual is implied by the context and/or tone of voice, facial expression, wink, etc. So I would "vote" (I know, I know) in favor of adding at least a link back to sexual orientation from orientation. (Didn't I read somewhere here, today, that the Wiki strives to avoid separate articles on each of the "parts" plus, redundantly, on the "sum-of-the-parts" phrase as well?) HoggyDog 23:58, 5 April 2008 (UTC)
We avoid the duplicate entries if the proposed entry is merely sum of parts with no idiomatic sense. In the case of orientation, it carries a specific meaning of sexual orientation beyond its other senses. The term sexual orientation is more than sum of parts because it requires a specific sense of orientation that isn't obvious to a non-native speaker. A "sexual orientation" could be a class that introduces the act of sex to novices. Since it has inherent ambiguity, we prefer to have the entry. Other cases may be decided on different criteria, since not all entries have the same issues to consider. --EncycloPetey 00:08, 6 April 2008 (UTC)
What I did for the orientate search was to use the advanced bgc search with a date range of 1808 to 1908. There were a good number of hits that appeared from the snippets in the search results to be legitimate uses of the "orientate" from the mid-1800s. Mike Dillon 02:37, 6 April 2008 (UTC)
Thanks, Mike, I hadn't explored the Advanced options at bgc... using date brackets is brilliant, and I'll do that hereafter. HoggyDog 14:26, 9 April 2008 (UTC)
The word orientate is prefered in some countries over orient. I tend to hear the former word more often on British television, including older programs. --EncycloPetey 00:04, 6 April 2008 (UTC)
Okey-Dokey, I clearly see and accept your judgment that orientation is a special case with regard to sexual preference, although I suspect that this special case (unique sense of orientation when preceded by sexual) is not that much different than a couple of others, such as political orientation, religious orientation, maybe others, which seem to me to have similar if not identical meanings for this sense of orientation- "a preference, leaning, tendency, general direction, belief system or life choice." And your observation that occurrences of orientate outnumber those of orient in the U.K. jibes with my impressions here in the U.S., although I don't have the benefit of recent travel to the U.K. to compare their usage with ours. Unfortunately, I get only one of the BBC channels, and it's "BBC America," despite the obvious contradiction in that term. HoggyDog 01:25, 6 April 2008 (UTC)
Hi. Orientate tends to be preferred to orient in the UK. It is a more recent word, first recorded 1848. According to the OED, "Orientate is commonly regarded as an incorrect usage in American English". Widsith 07:45, 7 April 2008 (UTC)
I find myself in complete agreement (DUH!) with the OED, bless it's little prescriptivist-screedy soul. I consider use of orientate to be contrived, pretentious and grossly incorrect and grating to my ear when I hear it. It also completely prevents me from hearing the next 10 or so sentences from the speaker as I idly contemplate whether he/she dyslexically pronounces nuclear as "nucular," pretentiously pronounces processes as "processEEs," etc. etc. Hearing orientate completely blocks communication for a minute or so. I guess if I had studied in the UK I would have an opposite viewpoint, but I didn't. So I don't. Thanks for the uplifting citation. HoggyDog 14:26, 9 April 2008 (UTC)

Hi, everyone. I just drop in here. But I like to remind you of the orientation of orientation and orient. I like orientation to allow a direct link to orient rather than via orienting. So I just added orient under the "Related term" of the orientation page. Still I miss a better "Etymology" of the orient page as an associationist orientation. It looks akin to Greek oriri "to rise," oros "mountain," ornis "bird," and arguably English rise and horse akin to M. Dutch ors, Dutch ros and German Ross. This is just one little thing in itself. It would matter indeed, however, if Wiktionary especially in English were mis-oriented, I fear. I feel like Indo-European etymology being safeguarded in a/the nutshell, in such a way that it may some day turn out very ridiculous. I am not inviting any dispute but just advising the liberal to pay an exceptional attention to Korean as highly likely akin to Indo-European, which might have been oriented to the Orient! For example, Greek oriri may be akin to Korean 오르다 oreuda. Furthermore, mount is just mount; it appears no more, though a sense of heap or put together seems to underlie it. So it relates hard even to mound, not to mention meet, moot, moat, mouth, mute, mutual, montage, mud, etc. (No thanks right here for your attack on my originality.) But they might appear more akin to each other, if Korean 뫃다 mot-da "to gather or put together," moet "mount, mound," 무덤 mudeom "tomb," mut "land," 모두 modu "altogether," and many others were taken into account. Thanks. --KYPark 14:58, 28 April 2008 (UTC)

For an interesting treatment of this subject, see Paul Niquette's article. I am strongly against "orientate" and strongly for "orient", the former being a perversion of "orientation". Reinderientalk/contribs 21:03, 15 July 2008 (UTC)

de la

Listed as an adjective, which doesn't seem right. Determiner maybe? Keene2 08:23, 6 April 2008 (UTC)

It is in fact a determiner, but more specifically, it's an article. Since Wiktionary:Entry layout explained/POS headers#Headers in use lists "Article" as a standard header, I think that's probably the best choice. —RuakhTALK 15:03, 6 April 2008 (UTC)


I'm pretty sure that growing up, most of my teachers' yardsticks were actually a meter long (usually with centimeters on one side and inches on the other), but seeing as we were American, we still called them "yardsticks". wikipedia:Yardstick also mentions this, though claims that it only occurs in metricky countries. Either way, is this a separate sense, or should sense #1 just be expanded to cover it? —RuakhTALK 16:35, 6 April 2008 (UTC)

  • The sense is how I remember them (from the late 1940s) - divided first into three sections (a black and a red foot-long section), then a foot-long section divided into black and red inches. SemperBlotto 07:24, 7 April 2008 (UTC)
  • Growing up in the UK post metrication (well, to the extent the UK has metricated), I've only heard the figurative use. At school we had metre rule(r)s not yardsticks. Thryduulf 12:03, 7 April 2008 (UTC)
I remember at least some Canadian teachers saying "metre-stick", after metrification, but it's not in the CanOD. —Michael Z. 19:02, 7 April 2008 (UTC)

Old Woman - anus???

I was putting in some stuff for biddy, created a Wikisaurus:old woman, and in the process found a couple of references, inlcuding Wikipedia, that say "anus is Latin for "old woman"

Wikipedia - Anus (disambiguation)]
Anus Horribilis - Terrifying Old Woman

So I checked our entry for anus, and found the Latin entry does not have this meaning.

I get enough flack for putting in "body part" words, so I thought I'd leave it to someone else to check if this is really the case. And wonder why when the Latin entry was made this meaning was not added ? (Anon)

Indeed. Now added. See also English anile. Widsith 10:07, 7 April 2008 (UTC)

skidmark or skid mark

A redundant pairing. Which one goes? -- Algrif 14:48, 7 April 2008 (UTC)

Roughly equal on b.g.c. and news. Didn't check whether one is favored for one of the two senses. Goes means becomes "alt spelling", right ? DCDuring TALK 15:00, 7 April 2008 (UTC)
skidmark is less puerile in its wording (I mean, "tyres". Really!!!). The extra sense skid mark has might not be verifiable. DCDuring TALK 15:05, 7 April 2008 (UTC)
(after edit conflict) Some number crunching:
  skidmark "skid mark" ratio
Google books 695 674 1.03:1
Google groups 18,700 6,650 2.81:1
Google scholar 96 431 0.22:1
Google web 252,000 92,400 2.72:1
Google news 2 16 0.13:1
Google news archive 325 2,170 0.15:1
Total 271,818 102,241 2.66:1
The raw figures would suggest that the two-word version should become the alternative spelling of the single word form; however the more formal news and scholar corpuses show the opposite preference, with apparently no statistically significant favour in the bgc results. Perhaps a usage note explaining this observed frequency would be appropriate? There was no results for either term from en.wikisource.org and Project Gutenberg. Thryduulf 15:22, 7 April 2008 (UTC)
The third sense at skid mark looks like it will be verifiable from google groups (I'm only seeing mentions in bgc), but only with the two-word spelling. Thryduulf 15:29, 7 April 2008 (UTC)
The CanOD lists only skid mark.
Senses 2 and 3 are the same thing, "a mark or stain resembling a skid mark, e.g., on the back of dirty underpants". That is, unless we're prepared to add a dozen senses for skidmarks on the knees of your jeans, on the gymnasium floor, on the walls after moving day, etc. —Michael Z. 18:56, 7 April 2008 (UTC)

ax as a musical instrument

for example:- Ax men Bill Frisell and John Scofield. BY BILL KISLIUK ... jazz only because there’s no better word to describe instrumental music of such depth and soul. (which I copied from Google.) I'm having trouble trying to pin this definition down. Anyone out there who can help? -- Algrif 17:59, 7 April 2008 (UTC)

Ax(e) = guitar. Axe men are guitar players. Perhaps this comes from the guitar's general shape resembling an axe, or from Pete Townshend's habit of hewing amps with his instrument. —Michael Z. 03:14, 8 April 2008 (UTC)
Checked my paper dictionary. Slang, two sub-senses: a guitar in rock or jazz, or a saxophone in jazz. —Michael Z. 03:16, 8 April 2008 (UTC)
Updated axe#Noun. —Michael Z. 03:23, 8 April 2008 (UTC)

In general use as "A gigging musician's particular instrument". The current sense in the gig culture is "one's unique tool for creation; one's means of survival." From Etymology online: " Meaning "musical instrument" is 1955, originally jazz slang for the saxophone; rock slang for "guitar" dates to 1967." -- Thisis0 20:33, 8 April 2008 (UTC)

But it probably would never apply to a drum kit or congas. Brass, maybe? Piano or keyboard, I'd guess not. Probably only a one-piece portable instrument, anyway. —Michael Z. 22:32, 8 April 2008 (UTC)
As a pianist, folks have referred to my "axe", but only humorously. One-piece portables are the right idea though. Also, as I was attempting to shed light on above, there's a feeling of "unique personal creative tool I carry in my hands and work my unique brand of creation", so in that light axe refers best to those usually known as solo instruments (sax, cornet, etc. - and also electric guitar in rock) rather than to those in the rhythm section (piano, drums, etc.) -- Thisis0 23:18, 8 April 2008 (UTC)
Yes, something that can be used to really do some serious damage, in either a good or bad sense. —Michael Z. 04:48, 9 April 2008 (UTC)
Thanks all. You've more or less put down in b&w what I was thinking, but couldn't confirm. I would concur with the addition to the entry. :) -- Algrif 21:30, 9 April 2008 (UTC)

minimum as an adjective?

Does minimum act as an adjective? Vietnamese Wiktionary says "yes" but English Wiktionary says "no". Cumeo89 18:25, 7 April 2008 (UTC)

I'd call it a noun-modifier. There is a minimum and a maximum of many things (both nouns), and in the case of say a "minimum wage" you would be using a noun there.--Dmol 18:31, 7 April 2008 (UTC)

What about maximum? I see it's described as noun and adjective here. Cumeo89 20:18, 7 April 2008 (UTC)
Same on MW online, and on Dictionary.com . Still doesn't seem right, but I'm outvoted.--Dmol 21:09, 7 April 2008 (UTC)
Whether shown as an adjective or not, almost all English nouns can be used to modify other nouns in so-called attributive use. That is, in "The "Senate" term begins in September", "Senate" is being used to modify "term" as if it ("Senate") were an adjective. I cannot think of a legitimate use of "Senate" as an adjective in a sentence like 'X is "Senate"'.
If a noun:
  1. can be used "attributively", but doesn't have any meanings in such use not directly derivable from the noun meanings
  2. can't be used in 'X is "Senate"' sentences
  3. doesn't have any comparative ("more Senate" than) or superlative ("most Senate" of)
  4. can't be used with adverbs like "very", "too", "extremely", "hardly"
we would not be likely to show it as an adjective. At least one dictionary (Longman's Dictionary of Contemporary English) assumes that attributive use is the norm for nouns. Some dictionaries indicate frequent attributive use (Merriam Webster's unabridged 3rd ed. and Collegiate 9th "often attrib"). We are not (yet?) fully consistent in how these are presented. To some extent, if an editor feels that it would be beneficial to have an adjective shown, then there may be some good reason for it, even it would not be in accord with "rules" such as I have presented above. There might even be reason to treat maximum and minimum differently, even though they seem to "logically" demand parallel treatment.
As to minimum:
  1. I'm not sure that it has any meaning in adjectival use that is different from its noun meanings.
  2. I don't think there is any valid sentence 'X is "minimum"' in normal speech, but there may be in mathematics or elsewhere.
  3. It is itself a superlative and wouldn't be expected to form comparative in normal speech or writing. (But see awesomest.)
  4. The degree/amount adverbs don't go with it.
Furthermore minimal, a true adjective, is available for many adjectival senses needing similar meaning. So, I conclude that, except for special technical meanings, minimum is best not considered an adjective but can be used attributively, which conclusion will be much appreciated by terms like minimum wage which I have hereby deemed legal. (Actual linguists, grammarians, and language mavens might come to different conclusions.) DCDuring TALK 21:24, 7 April 2008 (UTC)
You've summed it up well. The word minimum is a noun, being used attributively here. --EncycloPetey 22:59, 7 April 2008 (UTC)
Not sure...
3. b.g.c. for "more minimum than"
4. noisy b.g.c. for "very minimum" "I think we have a very minimum defense budget." (As exemplified by that Reagan-era quote, this use of "minimum" seems to be most common in political/corporate doublespeak)
We might want to tag minimum#Adjective as {{nonstandard}} if not {{proscribed}} or even {{Republican}}, but it certainly seems to exist. -- Visviva 07:57, 8 April 2008 (UTC)
What the Sam Hill? You're letting the facts get in the way of an explanation. I'm less than 100% sure on the adjective senses. I reread definitions of the adjective from other dictionaries and can't really tell for sure whether the meaning is really "derived" from the noun. The whole edifice of argument is a little suspect. DCDuring TALK 12:12, 8 April 2008 (UTC)
I'm sure. One of those hits says "There is one more minimum than maximum", which is clearly a noun use. Another is "would be at a very, very minimum", which is also a noun use (very can be an adjective, as in "the very bottom"). There are only a small handful of misuses as an adjective where minimal was intended, or uses as an atrributive noun. --EncycloPetey 14:41, 8 April 2008 (UTC)
That's good, because I'm still not. I did mention that those were noisy b.g.c. results for #4. How would this account for phrases like "a very minimum cost," which are common enough to be something other than an error, and which don't seem to be covered by any normal very+noun structure? I think that "a very minimum cost" is chosen by speakers who want to avoid both the noun sense of minimum -- i.e. it's not necessarily the minimum cost -- and the connotations of smallness or marginality associated with minimal. Returning to my first example, the Reagan-era defense budget wasn't actually the minimum possible by any stretch, and it certainly wasn't minimal -- but it was nonetheless a "very minimum budget" in the eyes of its apologists. -- Visviva 15:06, 8 April 2008 (UTC)
a hanfuld of misuses and it certainly seems to exist probably mean the same, with different points of view. It may be irrelevant, but the French noun is minimum and the French adjective is minimal or minimum. Lmaltier 16:19, 8 April 2008 (UTC)
Facts is facts. Visviva reading of the nuances in the hits seems good. I hereby foreswear arguments from "principle" unless there are no facts. I'd be interested now in whether this is limited to "budget speak" which might warrant a context tag or if it is part of more general "sales speak" which would not, IMO. "Minimal" and some phrases seem to have kept it out of use as a predicate. DCDuring TALK 16:27, 8 April 2008 (UTC)
Fasts IS facts. The hits in this b.g.c. search seem to show predicate usage ("was-very-minimum"). I don't know that we can call the match yet, but it's not looking good for the no-adjective camp.
But interpretation of the facts will vary. I'd say this supports a new entry at very minimum rather than a new POS/sense at minimum. --EncycloPetey 18:12, 8 April 2008 (UTC)

off guard

Other online dictionaries say off guard is an adjective. - dougher 01:12, 8 April 2008 (UTC)

So does my paper dictionary, and I would agree. —Michael Z. 03:11, 8 April 2008 (UTC)
I think that off-guard, on guard, and off guard are all consistent on this now (template, header, and def.). DCDuring TALK 16:58, 8 April 2008 (UTC)


Is fr:coy accurate? If so, coy is missing that sense. —RuakhTALK 01:17, 8 April 2008 (UTC)

The page is pitifully empty, but I think that the only sense given is OK (I tried to google 1st coy). Lmaltier 16:21, 8 April 2008 (UTC)


I need help on the Level 3 header(s) for this. It seems to have several meanings:

  1. What did you say?
  2. What do you say? (unsure about this usage)
  3. What say ....? (as in "Whatsay you to a fat capon, Kate?" "Whatsay all?" "Whatsay she?")
  4. Lets say that ....
  5. What if ...?

DCDuring TALK 19:09, 8 April 2008 (UTC)

My paper dictionary spells this "what say", interjection and adverb. —Michael Z. 22:29, 8 April 2008 (UTC)
What meanings do they give? My MW3 doesn't have it at "whatsay", "what say", "what", or "say". DCDuring TALK 23:05, 8 April 2008 (UTC)
I'll paraphrase the Canadian Oxford.
Interjection: excuse me? What did you say? Adverb: indicating a proposal, as what say we go out for the evening?Michael Z. 04:45, 9 April 2008 (UTC)
Good. At least consistent with what I thought. Thanks. DCDuring TALK 10:03, 9 April 2008 (UTC)


I've added citations:shoot for the "drink" sense, but don't know whether it's the same etymology, so haven't added the sense.—msh210 19:58, 8 April 2008 (UTC)


The title for this Appendix:Sophies doesn't seem right to me. What's a sophie? Might be better even to move this to -sophy. Keene 22:13, 8 April 2008 (UTC)

Compounds formed with Greek -σοφία (-sophia, “wisdom”)?

Wiktionary Logo Pronunciation

There is quite a consensus that the pronunciation for "Wiktionary" in the logo of this site is not definitive. Why then is this contentious pronunciation displayed on every page of the site? A look through the archives of the discussion rooms, FAQ and entry discussion shows that the issue appears time after time without any resolution. This has caused me to lose faith in the process Wiktionary's Administration uses to agree on subjects. Since I cannot trust Wiktionary, I will not be using Wiktionary. For the betterment of all, I hope this issue is resolved. I will check back in 6 months. --Gadlen 22:58, 8 April 2008 (UTC)

It is probably still the way it is for one of these reasons:
  1. We are all lazy/incompetent, so we haven't/can't change it.
  2. We really like bugging people who this annoys, because the people who this annoys also annoy us.
  3. We aren't being paid enough.
  4. Your mom.
  5. That is what she said.
Sorry we wont be seeing you around, happy Fourth of July, Labor Day and...happy Halloween if you let it slip for a bit at the far end. - [The]DaveRoss 23:08, 8 April 2008 (UTC)
This made me laugh. Cheers. —Michael Z.
We have an Administration? Cool. -- Visviva 11:11, 9 April 2008 (UTC)
I KNOW that #2 above was directed at me. Now, I'll go see if the pronunciation under discussion actually annoys me or not, although I'm certain that it will. You people did it just to piss me off. I'm going to have to double the thickness of tinfoil wrapped around my head, since someone (or something) is obviously penetrating the single layer I've been using. HoggyDog 14:39, 9 April 2008 (UTC)
As usual TheDaveRoss has summed it up well. I asked on IRC if anyone was interested in running a new logo vote, but there seemed to be a general apathetic consensus that the current situation will do. If there is anyone else interested in running through the whole !VOTE process again (assuming that the other Wiktionaries feel the same way - see commons:Wiktionary for a block of current logos which is why I assume they do) then we can start the ball rolling. I note that Wikibooks is rerunning their logo vote too - though their logo is in better shape than ours ;). For interested parties, see meta:Wiktionary/logo for the last vote. Conrad.Irwin 15:29, 9 April 2008 (UTC)
There is no definitive pronunciation for Wiktionary (and there never will be) because Wiktionary is a multi-national, multi-lingual project. Pronunciation varies. People in west London, the Bronx, Perth, Johannesburg, and Bombay will all pronounce the word differently. However, feel free to convince the entire world's population to adopt and enforce a standardized pronunciation of the English language, as it would make our jobs much easier. I'm sure you can accomplish this in the 6 months you wanted for a resolution. --EncycloPetey 18:03, 9 April 2008 (UTC)
It would only make our jobs easier if we decided our jobs didn't include covering the newly-obsolete pronunciations. Personally, I do think we should try to include obsolete accents, where possible. (Also, call me a pessimist, but 6 months? More like 10–12. ;-) —RuakhTALK 23:02, 9 April 2008 (UTC)

sweet william

This word has three alternative spellings, all with full definitions and translations. Can one of them be used as the main entry and the other two as {alternative spelling of}? --Panda10 23:14, 8 April 2008 (UTC)

Yes. Personally I would go with sweet william as the canonical spelling (as a matter of general principle for common names). However Sweet William seems to be somewhat more common in botanical writings. In any case, the specific form chosen is less important than that there be only one main entry. -- Visviva 11:10, 9 April 2008 (UTC)


The Spanish section does not have a POS header. Can someone with Spanish knowledge add it? --Panda10 23:59, 8 April 2008 (UTC)

I added a bunch more senses and the POS. Nadando 00:05, 9 April 2008 (UTC)


Inuit says proper noun and the plural is Inuit. Is that correct? RJFJR 19:10, 9 April 2008 (UTC)

Plenty of hits for "Inuit are" (650 bgc) suggests so (cf. 104 "Iunits are"). Thryduulf 19:38, 9 April 2008 (UTC)
Sorta. The definition says "any of several peoples"; i.e., Inuit refers to the people as a whole, and, like any such word, is a plural: the Inuit are strikingly handsome. The definition line should instead say "a member of a any of several peoples", which would then have plural Inuit: the Inuit is/are strikingly handsome. The language sense is, I assume, singulare tantum.—msh210 19:48, 9 April 2008 (UTC)
The correct English word for an individual is Inuk, and its plural is Inuit. It seems to me that one could refer to a person as "an Inuit", but the Canadian Oxford does not support this usage. —Michael Z. 21:10, 9 April 2008 (UTC)
Msh, that's not correct. That definition (a member of any of several peoples) is the common noun definition. This is a separate definition that is a Proper noun. Inuit can refer to a specific sort of cultural group, or to the collection of all such groups. It's a bit like Saami in that regard; it can refer to all the cultural groups, or to a particular cultural subgroup. Both of these uses would typically be considered Proper nouns. --EncycloPetey 23:10, 10 April 2008 (UTC)

Inuit has definitely been used in the singular in English a lot. It entered the language 200 years before Inuk did, for one thing. So I would say either are fine, it just depends how etymologically/politically correct you want to be. Widsith 09:33, 10 April 2008 (UTC)

Here's the other half of the problem: Inuits. Inuits has 822,000 raw googles. What do we do with it? RJFJR 20:02, 10 April 2008 (UTC)

MW online shows both Inuit and Inuits as correct plurals of Inuit and they show Inuk as a valid singular in a separate entry. English is often very sloppy about inflections, spellings, pronunciation, and even meaning of borrowed words. If enough Canadian (and other) speakers try to respect the native language, that deserves treatment, but the contrary b.g.c., google, and other evidence can't be ignored even if it is annoying or insulting to members of the InuitFirst Nations. DCDuring TALK 20:18, 10 April 2008 (UTC)

Usage note?
Note that Google does includes results like "Les mythes et chansons inuits" and "the Inuits life was a hard one," but these are a small minority.
It seems that usage is changing. The definitions at dictionary.com only refer to inuk as an Inuktitut word in the etymology, and have no English definition for it (but they do have an otherwise comprehensive usage note).
The Canadian Oxford doesn't acknowledge Inuits as a plural (the also prefer capitalized "Aboriginal", so I think there is some weight placed on self-identity for names of peoples). I also would believe that the CanOD lexicographers would place more importance on Canadian vocabulary, and it is also possible that Inuits is more common outside of Canada, where most Inuit live and have cultural, social, and official representation. —Michael Z. 00:46, 11 April 2008 (UTC)
If you have a Mac, also see the usage notes in the built-in dictionary (NOAD) under Inuit and Eskimo – it differs a bit from the notes in Wikipedia as to whether Eskimo or Inuit is more encompassing. The CanOD has a note under Eskimo stating that the word has been superseded – in Canada – by Inuit for the people, and by Inuktitut for the language. Sounds like some of this can be qualified with "esp. in Canada."
I'll try to expand the notes at Inuit and Eskimo to integrate all of this. —Michael Z. 00:57, 11 April 2008 (UTC)
<rant>I didn't realize that we are selectively prescriptivist. I hope that we will at least leave the benighted usages like "Inuits" as a witness to the backwardness of our ancestors and our younger selves and to explain why the books are being burned.</rant> No reply to the rant is necessary: I'm sure this doesn't do justice to anyone's actual beliefs on this subject. I just don't like us to slip into prescriptivism in any way. Usage notes and "dated" tags could fully address most concerns. Users entering "Inuits" in the search box need to find the right information on what a user of "Inuits" meant and then be guided to the correct choice for their own usage. DCDuring TALK 01:22, 11 April 2008 (UTC)
Don't worry. Have a look at my overhaul of Eskimo. Inuit may wait for another day, unless someone else edits it. —Michael Z. 02:32, 11 April 2008 (UTC)
Nice job. I suppose that the long explanations are almost impossible to avoid for the issues involved. It's certainly vastly better than the alternative posture of avoidance, sweeping conflict and ugly human behavior and attitudes under the rug, and generally pussyfooting around some serious word issues. People use words as weapons; people's use of words reflect real-world conflicts. Now, if I could just live up to my stated principles. DCDuring TALK 03:27, 11 April 2008 (UTC)
Hey, thank you. You're welcome to keep tweaking the details.
Sometimes it just takes that many words to explain who is and isn't an Eskimo, and when, and where. And it's important to explain it all when it concerns people's identities, and all the more so if they are in the process of asserting them during our own lifetimes.
I'll try to tackle Inuit in the next couple of days. —Michael Z. 04:30, 11 April 2008 (UTC)

I've done some work on Inuit. Please have a look. I merged the noun and proper noun, which may be controversial, and shifted Inuits to a synonym, since the main headword is etymologically plural. Also went off the runners linking to the local synonyms for Inuit peoples and Inuit languages. —Michael Z. 06:17, 14 April 2008 (UTC)

Yes, we do not include Proper noun senses unser Noun headers for any English words (or for any languages). Doing so robs the reader of an important visual clue to differences in basic grammar between senses. The common and proper noun senses should remain separate. --EncycloPetey 13:52, 14 April 2008 (UTC)
But I don't think a single other similar entry (attributive noun for people without singular/plural forms) has separate noun and proper noun headings for the people, nor in most cases separate senses: Balinese, Bhutanese, Chinese, Guyanese, Japanese, Lebanese, Maltese, Nepalese, Portuguese, Sinhalese, Sudanese, Taiwanese (nor does my paper dictionary).
Treating them under separate headings would be awkward. Senses 1 and 2 (proper and common) overlap in etymology and meaning. The Synonyms, derived terms, and related terms are equally related to both of them. As I look at other examples, I'm starting to convince myself that senses 1 and 2 should be combined. Treating the mass noun for a people as a simple plural also explains why Inuits was treated as incorrect by many dictionaries, even before Inuk was widely used. —Michael Z. 16:41, 14 April 2008 (UTC)
The reason many of those articles do not make the distinction is because (1) they are very old and haven't been cleaned up (2) they were created prinarily by one user who did not make the distinction that we do now. Some of the articles have been cleaned up (like Afar), but you are correct that many more articles need cleanup.
Yes, there is overlap somewhat between the common and proper senses, but not really. Just as we separate the noun and adjective senses that overlap, and just as we separate the adjective and participial verb form in English, so we separate the common and proper noun senses. And senses 1 & 2 cannot be combined because they are functioning as different kinds of nouns. --EncycloPetey 22:00, 14 April 2008 (UTC)
But Afar doesn't have a separate common noun sense, either. Is a member of the Afar (proper) referred to as "an Afar" (common)? If not, then this is not a parallel example.
(I don't get adjective vs participial verb forms—can you link to an example?)
I've been thinking about this some, and I have a clearer picture of Inuit's usage, but I don't have any references which explicitly support the details (although it doesn't contradict them, either). Here's my proposed model:
Inuit is an attributive, like Chinese. "Inuit language", "the Inuit", "an Inuit", "two Inuit", corresponding to "Chinese language", "the Chinese", "a Chinese", "two Chinese". When referring to a people or a particular group of them it is always plural, e.g., "the Cambridge Bay Inuit are hardy people" (plural common noun?), "the Cambridge Bay Inuit are a hardy people" (plural proper noun?), "the Cambridge Bay Inuit are hardy" (common or proper undetermined). Is "Chinese" a proper noun, a common noun, or two different nouns?
But because it sounds like a singular in English, people have sometimes used the plural Inuits (like "Chineses"). Some dictionaries include this plural but others don't (is it necessarily prescriptive for a dictionary to omit a common mistake?), and Google search yields an Inuit/Inuits ratio of 10 or 20 to 1, depending on the search phrase. In recent years, the word's plural etymology has become clearer, because we now have the singular form Inuk (which is fairly new to me, although Inuits has never sounded right).
On the other hand, maybe it's the case that different lexicographers can't agree on how the word is used, because the word's users only have vague or contradictory models of its formation. If this is the case, then how can we definitively describe the ways it is used? The (American?) dictionaries at dictionary.com only have definitions which begin with "a member of...," and include the plural Inuits. My Canadian paper dictionary only has a definition beginning with "any of several Aboriginal peoples...," and says Inuit ... noun (pl. same).
And none of these dictionaries labels proper nouns at all. I'm starting to think that properness can be an aspect of a word's usage in a particular instance, not necessarily of its definition. —Michael Z. 22:57, 14 April 2008 (UTC)
German is a better example, then. --EncycloPetey 03:30, 15 April 2008 (UTC)
The difference between common noun and proper noun is reflected as a difference in definition, but is much deeper in terms of how the word is perceived when it is used. When a word is used as a proper noun instead of a common noun, the way it refers to the world fundamentally changes. It is not an easy thing to explain, because it is such a fundamental difference, but I have been working on an explanation and guide to English proper nouns at User:EncycloPetey/English proper nouns. The draft is far from complete, but the philosophical underpinnings are largely written at this point, and these apply to most languages. Most of what's missing in the article is the dtatil of how this affects grammar and usage of such nouns in English. The basic difference in this case is that if the word is used to refer to an individual as belonging to a class of similar items, then it is a common noun, just as door identifies an inividual object as belonging to a larger group of such objects. But if Inuit is used to name a specific and unique group to distinguish it from all other groups, then you are using a proper noun. That is, a common noun labels something as one of many such objects, but a proper noun is a label setting apart a unique object from all others. --EncycloPetey 03:29, 15 April 2008 (UTC)
I'm going to read your appendix right away, but in the meantime, a quick question: is "the Germans" a proper noun, or just "Germans" when it refers to "the German people"? —Michael Z. 04:47, 15 April 2008 (UTC)
When "the Germans" refers to the people as a whole, is a proper noun. But, in a sentence like "The Germans who live across the street have three children." it is simply a plural common noun. Notice that the meaning is also different, since the referent changes significantly from a whole people to specific individuals who belong to that people. --EncycloPetey 05:01, 15 April 2008 (UTC)
That makes perfect sense. I read over your draft—very clear, and I like the accompanying quotations.
Last question, and then I'm going to edit Inuit one more time. I notice that several dictionaries don't bother defining the proper noun for a people, simply the common noun for a member of the people. I guess it's parallel to defining the common name Thomas, but not having a biographical entry for Thomas Jefferson. They assume that we can know when we are referring to a particular Thomas or a particular Inuit people. Is that a fair interpretation, and is it a good strategy for defining peoples in Wiktionary?
Thanks for all of the patience. —Michael Z. 05:09, 15 April 2008 (UTC)


There's some talk on talk:bury about its pronunciation.20:14, 9 April 2008 (UTC)

Talking to someone who isn't there

Is there a word for talking to someone who isn't present, and if so, what is it? I've been wanting to know for years.

  • First sign of madness? -- Algrif 12:43, 10 April 2008 (UTC)
  • Do you mean apostrophe?—msh210 21:26, 10 April 2008 (UTC)
    Incidentally, its entries for apostrophe are among my favorite in the OED, for the smattering of odd prescriptivist quotations they include. If you have OED access, I recommend looking them up. (And we may want to borrow the gists for our own usage notes.) —RuakhTALK 00:14, 11 April 2008 (UTC)


w:Image:Rail-cross-section-amoswolfe.gif (not on Commons yet), shows that the middle section of a railway rail is called a web. We don't have anything immediately obvious at web that conveys this sense, but we do have "6. The interconnection between flanges in structural members, increasing the effective lever arm and so the load capacity of the member.".

This definition could stand improvement, but my real question is whether the web of a railway rail is an application of this sense (in which case reword it to be more inclusive) or a different sense. If it is a different sense, then is it unique to a railway rail or is it more generic? Thryduulf 09:25, 10 April 2008 (UTC)

Yes it is, although the OED gives the railway usage its own sub-sense: "The upright portion between the tread and the bottom flange of a rail. Formerly applied to the tread and the bottom flange (upper, lower web); also to the upright ridge of an edge-rail." We don't do subsenses (grumble, grumble) so you could probably make it a whole separate sense if you wanted to. Widsith 09:29, 10 April 2008 (UTC)


The French section contains only a Pronunciation header, no POS. --Panda10 20:51, 11 April 2008 (UTC)

Paraphrasing my little dictionnaire: substantive feminine 1a. word association, 1b. connection of electrical cells, 2a. association, company, society, 2b business partnership. —Michael Z. 23:43, 11 April 2008 (UTC)
Thanks Michael, I hope someone who speaks French will add it. --Panda10 00:06, 12 April 2008 (UTC)
In cases like these, where I don't feel confidant writing a definition, I use {{rfdef}} in place of a definition and/or one of the "xx-attention" templates (if it exists for that particular language). --EncycloPetey 00:19, 12 April 2008 (UTC)
I saw your changes, I will keep this in mind. Thanks for the advice. --Panda10 00:26, 12 April 2008 (UTC)


This term is getting a lot of recent press coverage due to its use in General Petraeus' and Ambassador Crocker's testimony before the US Congress on Iraq. I have also seen the erroneous assertion that it was even coined by one or the other, or the Bush administration in general, when it has clearly been in use in scholarly works at least for several decades and not only with reference to Iraq or the Middle East and Islam. However, I can't find it in any other dictionaries, and most of its uses seem a bit opaque for the uninitiated. I have given it some quotes (there are dozens easily found on just Google Books and JSTOR; 1977 was the earliest, but there were a couple others in '77 and '78 without the full text available) but I would appreciate if someone could take a look ay my tentative attempt at a definition and refine it as you see fit. Dmcdevit·t 08:20, 12 April 2008 (UTC)

Incidentally, it appears "ethno-sectarian" might be a more common spelling, if anyone wants to look into this. Dmcdevit·t 11:13, 12 April 2008 (UTC)

for all

This entry shows the phrase as a preposition. The idea seems to be that the "all" here doesn't exactly have a normal meaning of all. It is something like withal. Our impoverished 5-sense entry for for certainly doesn't contain an appropriate sense, but MW3's 10-sense/+18-subsense does. The one in question says it is "usually with all". Should we:

  1. enrich for to include a sense or subsense (something like despite) that would approach making for all SoP
  2. continue to omit that sense and rely on for all, which seems to cover most of that particular subsense.
  3. enrich for and keep for all.

This is not the only time this kind of thing will (has?) come up, but there's no point in making it a BP discussion until we have a few actual cases. DCDuring TALK 16:30, 12 April 2008 (UTC)

This is indeed a preposition (but as a phrasal one). It just doesn't look like a preposition because part of the complete phrase is normally dropped. It is (in full): "for all of", but the "of" is typically dropped. So, this is the same sort of construction as in spite of. --EncycloPetey 16:43, 12 April 2008 (UTC)
Good. Actually, I just looked at Longman's DCE, which has "for all" as a separate sense in their entry for "for". They are actually very good on basic words and idioms, quite possibly better than MW3. Our entry for is very weak. Longman's has 18 separate senses before they get into constructions using for. DCDuring TALK 00:38, 13 April 2008 (UTC)
Our entries for all English prepositions are rather weak. Prepositions are very tricky words, and certainly the hardest to define and tease out different senses of meaning. More than any other part of speech, they are idiosyncratic and idiomatic within the language. --EncycloPetey 14:27, 13 April 2008 (UTC)
The mathematics sense that has been added doesn't seem like a preposition in any useful sense. I understand the idea of putting in literal meanings to show a contrast with an idiomatic meaning, but I don't think we have an idiomatic meaning of the basic entry. The mathematics context will render it the new second sense of no value to most casual users. DCDuring TALK 21:17, 15 April 2008 (UTC)
Yes, the level of understanding of math has dropped to pretty scary levels isn't it? One wonders how long a technological society based on more an more math and computers can keep that up...

Jcwf 21:26, 15 April 2008 (UTC)


The definition we have seems very precise. Should there not be either a more general definition or a second, more general sense? Thryduulf 00:16, 13 April 2008 (UTC)

Meaning what? Widsith 07:42, 13 April 2008 (UTC)
Series of (man-made) underground caves/passages/grottos, perhaps. Thryduulf 09:16, 13 April 2008 (UTC)
So without the connotation of dead people? Yeah maybe, if you have some cites for it... Widsith 14:59, 13 April 2008 (UTC)


I'm not certain that the quote for the third sense is actually using the word "hinterland" in that sense. My understanding of the sense is that it relates to a physical, geographical, place. I read the quote's use as figurative - a sense that we don't have. Thryduulf 00:33, 13 April 2008 (UTC)

I think you are absolutely correct. DCDuring TALK 00:40, 13 April 2008 (UTC)
Agreed. I've attempted to add the figurative definition, but it needs work. —RuakhTALK 00:47, 13 April 2008 (UTC)

backchat and backtalk

According to some of the online dictionaries, backchat is used mostly in the UK and backtalk in the US. Is this correct? --Panda10 14:52, 13 April 2008 (UTC)

As a noun, quite likely: I (in the Upper Midwestern U.S.) have never heard backchat, whereas backtalk is quite common here. As a verb, neither sounds right to me (except for the form back-talking, which is really a noun-ing of to talk back). —RuakhTALK 15:13, 13 April 2008 (UTC)
talkback also exists as a noun, meaning a facility that allows communication in the opposite direction to a public address system. In rail transport use, I know it as allowing one-to-one communication between the guard/driver and a person operating an emergency help point. A quick look at bgc hits seems that it is used in a possibly slightly different sense in TV production, and in relation to audio mixing for concerts, etc. Thryduulf 15:27, 13 April 2008 (UTC)
(after edit conflict) I don't recall ever hearing backtalk in the UK. In contrast, backchat is used here as a noun and a verb. Thryduulf 15:19, 13 April 2008 (UTC)
Thank you all. I updated both words with context labels and See also sections, I hope it's correct. --Panda10 15:43, 13 April 2008 (UTC)


Our English-Vietnamese says that "leeway" also means "things that take a lot of time" with 2 idioms: "to make up leeway", "to have much leeway to make up". Is it correct?

Just to make sure.

Cumeo89 16:48, 13 April 2008 (UTC)

That doesn't sound quite right to me. Leeway can refer to time as a subsense of no. 2, as in a margin of extra time to complete a task. —Michael Z. 16:57, 13 April 2008 (UTC)
Well, sort of. To make up leeway meant originally to sail further than expected after being blown off course, but has come to mean to regain a lost position (in time as well as in space). "After the power failure we had to work twice as hard to make up leeway." SemperBlotto 16:58, 13 April 2008 (UTC)
The nautical sense that SB refers to does not support the "things that take a lot of time" sense. The idiom (really just one: "make up leeway") have existed and sound OK to my native ear (US), but the sense of "leeway" is something like "discrepancy" or "variance", also found in MW3. I am much more used to leeway in the sense of "tolerance", "allowance", or "slack". DCDuring TALK 20:30, 13 April 2008 (UTC)
I took a stab at a 3rd sense, but it might be UK as Longman's DCE indicates, but not MW3. Does the sense exist apart from make up leeway? DCDuring TALK 20:40, 13 April 2008 (UTC)

Multiple family homes (this is a need to know thing if you want to be a realtor and your client asks you what it is)

what are other multiple family homes like apartment triplex i need an answer asap this is very important know so please do as i ask and tell me what is a multiple family home ASAP

w:List of house types at Wikipedia. DCDuring TALK 17:20, 13 April 2008 (UTC)
It omits terms. I would expect that local names would be omitted and terms like railroad flat. DCDuring TALK 17:22, 13 April 2008 (UTC)

pull a Homer

This recently passed RfV. During its stay there it never occurred to me that it might be SoP. Well, we have a long-standing entry for the form pull a, into which an appropriately worded sense of Homer might fit. Having Homer Simpson on the same page as the other Homer might not be to everyone's taste, but it would be a different PoS, at least, this being a noun, though upper case. Wouldn't that be a better way to present this? It would also mean that a "Homer"-like sense could also fit with do a to make another phrase without further ado or attestation. DCDuring TALK 20:13, 13 April 2008 (UTC)

All of the attestation of "pull a Homer" should carry over to the not-yet-created common noun "Homer" with the appropriate def. Does "pull a Homer" really warrant an entry? DCDuring TALK 20:16, 13 April 2008 (UTC)

Insofar as this is understood and used outside a narrow community -- and I think it is -- this phrase probably merits inclusion in its own right. "Pull a Homer" is much more likely to be understood than "pull a Curly" or "pull a George Bush," although there are certain obvious types of action which those expressions might refer to as well. IMX it's actually quite rare for a "pull-a-John-Doe" type phrase to be citable with a coherent single meaning. -- Visviva 16:40, 16 April 2008 (UTC)
My issue is more that we don't have the right sense of Homer at Homer. That entry shows "pull a Homer", I think incorrectly, as a derived term. We have entries for pull a and do a. I'm sure that we could cite "do a Homer". Would we rather have every phrase that uses the sense of "Homer" than the appropriate sense itself? My friend Bill, from Ockham, and I would rather have a "do a", "pull a", "Homer" etc, in Wiktionary than each "pull a Homer"-type construction. Language does have rules of combination that reduce the need to remember every possible collocation. We use our memories for the atoms, rules, and for really common useful collocations that add something not found in the atoms. But that's just me.
Most comprehensive dictionaries seem to make sure that a word used in an idiom appears on a stand-alone basis with the appropriate sense. We don't do that with "Homer".
From a user perspective, if we had "pull a" show up in the search window when "pull a Homer" had been entered, I think we would have done half of our job. If "Homer", with the right sense, appeared in the same search, we would have done the whole job. DCDuring TALK 17:52, 16 April 2008 (UTC)


The definition claims the sports sense is "nonstandard"; what "standard" is this measuring? As far as I have seen, "winningest" is completely standard in sports reporting to describe someone (usually a coach) with the most wins. Google News has 3,500 hits for it.

My first response was to say that if not marked {{nonstandard}} it should just be marked {{wrong}}. But actually it seems this term is perfectly valid, and has been endorsed by various grammarians from 1909 ("Inflexional Comparison of such Adjectives may sometimes be used, as in — she has the winningest smile" -- [11]) to 2002 ([12]). So yes, the tag should be removed. Note, however, that *winninger is invalid by all accounts. A strange language, this. -- Visviva 08:37, 16 April 2008 (UTC)
Never having seen this most unusual word before, I came across it as the headline "Phelps winningest Olympian in history" on CNN Headline News, so I made a query here for it. Perhaps the Tea Room banner can be removed from this article now? __meco 09:52, 18 August 2008 (UTC)

Shouldn't we keep these TR discussions at the talk page for the associated entries? Is that our standard practice? I find them to be much less useful in archives. DCDuring TALK 12:15, 18 August 2008 (UTC)

Innocent eye

Please give me an definition or explanation of the phase' innocent eye' mentioned in literature.

Without an example, I would say this is probably an example of eye being used to mean the person, as in He cast a weary eye over the document. indicating that the person, rather than the eye as such, was feeling weary. -- Algrif 07:46, 15 April 2008 (UTC)
It refers to looking at something with no prior knowledge, expectations, or prejudice. SemperBlotto 08:29, 15 April 2008 (UTC)

wide as an adverb

In expressions such as wide open and wide awake and any others one might think of, isn't wide an adverb? My dictionaries do not support me in this, preferring to direct to the expressions, which does not seem to be correct to me, so I'm asking here. Surely, a door can be wide open or wider open, or the widest open? To me, it's an adverb. (I think). Opinions? -- Algrif 07:40, 15 April 2008 (UTC)

  • Yes, of course it is also an adverb, and not just to modify adjectives, but also to modify verbs. "He travelled far and wide". I've added some definitions, but it could do with some translations. SemperBlotto 08:21, 15 April 2008 (UTC)
  • Replace your dictionary? DCDuring TALK 09:31, 15 April 2008 (UTC)


Is aviatrix really a Latin word? If not, does it really belong in the Latin "Derived terms" section? —RuakhTALK 19:08, 15 April 2008 (UTC)

Most of the derived terms section at the entry would look to belong under the English L2 header, not the Latin one. I think we could start by moving the whole thing there, then moving back the relatively few that had attested Latin usage. Classical usage is the easiest to establish. Post classical usage is not in the most available sources. I'd really be surprised if there were any usage in English for many of the forms. A few might even be formed incorrectly so that another form with the same root might exist. DCDuring TALK 19:49, 15 April 2008 (UTC)

I'm not sure I'd say that most of those are English. A sizeable number are certainly Latin. Mosr of the ones I've examined look to be formed correctly using the usual -tor/-trix switch for Latin, though there are a few that look dubious to me. Hwever, the words aviatrix and autocratrix would surprise me in a Latin dictionary. --EncycloPetey 17:46, 17 April 2008 (UTC)
It is in part a problem of attestation. I'd love to see what the OED says about the etymologies of these. I've been in a betting mood and would bet on 18th and 19th century English attestation for a third or more of them, without earlier use in any form of Latin, though they may be derived from a French equivalent (using -rice), with the French not going back to Latin for the combination. Any takers? DCDuring TALK 18:29, 17 April 2008 (UTC)

A Boerseun and his Pa

Please can you comment on this joke which was sent to an Afrikaans speaking person who is now offened by its contents. How do I reply to this mail

The Joke

A Boerseun and his Pa

A Boer seun and his Pa were in a mall. As they were from out of town they were amazed by almost everything they saw, but especially by two shiny, silver walls that could move apart and then slide back together again.

The boy asked, "What is this Pa?" The father (never having seen an elevator/lift) responded, "Son, I have never seen anything like this in my life, I don't know what it is."

While the boy and his Pa were watching with amazement, a fat, old lady walkedup to the moving walls and pressed a button. The walls opened and the lady walked between them into a small room. The walls closed and the boy and his Pa watched the small circular numbers above the walls light up sequentially. They continued to watch until it reached the last number and then the numbers began to light in the reverse order.

Finally the walls opened up again and a gorgeous 24-year-old blonde stepped out.

The father said quietly to his son.

"Gaan haal jou Ma."

Comments from the Afrikaans person

Hi Mich

I take exception to this e-mail. Is it your opinion that we "boer seuns" are stupid like this.I must say seing that you are in a relationship with a "boer seun" i do not understand why you would do this.

I would not make jokes about you (soutie) or any other group.

Regards Your's in a good joke

Perhaps the joke doesn't specifically intend to portray Afrikaners as stupid, since it pointedly portrays its subjects as from the country, and simply unfamiliar with what they see. One could argue that race needn't be mentioned, although I do see the humour when I picture the dour farmer's command to his son in his native language (and it took a moment for me to figure out what that meant).
I am not familiar with the term Boerseun, so I have no way of knowing whether anyone might find it or its use in this context offensive.
One shouldn't make jokes which apply negative stereotypes to other ethnic groups, and be very cautious even when making fun of oneself. Many people hold their heritage dear, and the subject of race is sensitive, so it's easy to offend even unintentionally, especially in an impersonal digital medium like email. Self-deprecating humour is found world-wide, and sometimes takes advantage of its taboo quality, but a joker should know his audience, and the joke has failed if they have been offended.
Best to apologize without reservations for having caused offence, and honestly explain your own feelings. Michael Z. 2008-04-26 22:56 Z


When lordly is used as an adverb does it take a comparative and superlative form as it does when an adjective? (And can someone give me a quote using lordly as an adverb?) RJFJR 16:07, 16 April 2008 (UTC)

Added a quote for the adverbial use; but it's quite rare compared to the adjective, and I'm not finding any comparative use. Is there any reason to think that these wouldn't inflect the same way? I would certainly have expected that to be the case. -- Visviva 16:43, 16 April 2008 (UTC)
I would expect both "more lordly" and "lordlier" to be possible, just as it is for the adjective. Quotes for "more" with adjective sense:
  • 1849Charlotte Brontë, Shirley, chapter 27
    It had also its Hall, called the Priory - an older, a larger, a more lordly abode than any Briarfield or Whinbury owned;
  • 1897Bram Stoker, Dracula, chapter 27
    There was one great tomb more lordly than all the rest.
--EncycloPetey 17:44, 16 April 2008 (UTC)
I found lordlier as an adjective:
  • 1865Algernon Charles Swinburne, Atalanta in Calydon
    For silver nor bright snow nor feather of foam
    Was whiter, and no gold yellower than thine hair,
    O child, my child; and now thou art lordlier grown,
    Not lovelier, nor a new thing in mine eyes
--EncycloPetey 17:54, 16 April 2008 (UTC)
Adverb lordly is quite rare, as is adverb-suffix -er. (But both do meet CFI — google books:"went OR walked lordly" has enough independent cites, and the adverbs higher, lower, faster, slower, and better are all well attested, to name a few.) The combination seems to be almost nonexistent. —RuakhTALK 22:50, 16 April 2008 (UTC)


The fourth sense (regular customer of a drinking establishment) was added yesterday by an anon. I've rewritten it to be more Wiktionaric in style, but I'm not certain whether it is a separate sense to the previous one (customer, often used for the customer of a prostitute). Thryduulf 02:09, 17 April 2008 (UTC)

It is actually much broader than that. It means a client of any commercial establishment. Particularly used in S.W. UK. The fact is, you are most likely to hear it used in a pub, but its use is in reality very wide-spread. -- Algrif 15:39, 17 April 2008 (UTC)
I feel that it is redundant to sense 3 above. Conrad.Irwin 09:25, 20 April 2008 (UTC)
I think 3 and 4 should be combined.--Dmol 09:33, 20 April 2008 (UTC)


The POS is "Proper noun", but the entry is not capitalized. Should it be? I can create a capitalized entry and request deletion for the other, but I wanted to ask first. This reference [13] says, "Means "fair locks" in Irish Gaelic. This was the name of an Irish goddess of inspiration." --Panda10 17:07, 19 April 2008 (UTC)

Japanese word (I think) help

Tea room Recentlly, I have been browsing the word "ireta" for it's meaning(because i plan to use it as a name in a story). On my search, I have seen the word mentioned in various japanese songs and it's been driving me crazy because of the lack of translation. Could you please help me wikitionary?

The reason you are having trouble finding it in a dictionary is that it's a conjugated form. It's the perfective of "ireru", meaning "put in" or "insert".
AKA 入れる (いれる). See also perfective aspect. -- Visviva 13:27, 21 April 2008 (UTC)

mace as verb, US only?

Should mace as a verb (to spray with tear gas) be tagged as US? It's from a brand name but I don't know if that name is marketed in countries outside the US. RJFJR 17:21, 20 April 2008 (UTC)

Whether it is marketed as such in the UK I don't know, but it is known here what mace is, so the noun definition doesn't need a US only tag. However I don't recall hearing it used as a verb here, so I'd be tempted to mark the verb sense as you suggest. Thryduulf 21:03, 20 April 2008 (UTC)
Canadians know what it means to be maced. Michael Z. 2008-04-24 01:58 Z


Is this word ever used to refer to more than one golf course? One can find usage of both "The links is ...." and "The links are ...." but every case I've looked at seems to refer to a single course. Also, an etymology is that it is a shortening of "linksland". DCDuring TALK 03:31, 21 April 2008 (UTC)

Found usage: "links" (with either is or are) can refer to a single golf course. "Links are" can also refer to multiple courses. What is that called? DCDuring TALK 04:16, 21 April 2008 (UTC)
I don't know what name this phenomenon goes by, but it's the same as deer, where the singular and plural forms are identical. --EncycloPetey 04:23, 21 April 2008 (UTC)
Based on our Category:English invariant nouns, they are "invariant nouns". Thryduulf 18:17, 21 April 2008 (UTC)
Oh, yes. I've been to that page. Could someone clarify it? I'm having trouble understanding the distinction made there between invariant nouns and invariant use of non-invariant nouns. There is certainly too much "ink" spent on the second case without making it clear exactly what the difference is. I'm too simple-minded to take on that challenge myself. I also don't understand the relationship of that to plurale tantum. I'm beginning to suspect that it would be useful to have an article somewhere (Wiktionary Appendix or WP?) explaining the various non-standard plural phenomena: invariant nouns, plurale tantum, singulare tantum, uncountability, semantic singularity, invariant use of non-invariant nouns, pair-of nouns, and collective nouns with special focus on the simple usage questions of greatest potential interest to our anon and even not-so-anon users:
  1. How does a speaker/writer use each type of noun with respect to a single referent ? and
  2. Does it (always, sometimes, never) take a plural verb when referring to a single referent?
Consistent nomenclature and corresponding categories for the technically adept wouldn't hurt either to assist the flow of wisdom from adepts to contributors to lowest common denominator. There seem to be some bottlenecks in the flow. DCDuring TALK 19:43, 21 April 2008 (UTC)
  • Regular, non-invariant nouns can be either singular or plural with different forms, e.g. "one ship", "two ships"
  • Invariant nouns can be either singular or plural, but have the same form for both, e.g. "one sheep", "two sheep"
  • Invariant use of non invariant nouns is using one form, usually the singular form, of a noun that has different forms for singular and plural as both singular and plural. e.g. elephant is a non-invariant noun ("one elephant", "two elephants"), but the singular form can be used for the plural (i.e. invariantly), e.g. "I shot three elephant today"
  • Pluarlia tantum can only be plural, e.g. tongs - you can say "pass me the tongs please" but not *"pass me the tong please".
  • Singularia tantum can only be singular, e.g. crack of dawn.
Does this help? Thryduulf 21:17, 21 April 2008 (UTC)
It helps because it gives real cases. I seem to try to avoid using many of these expressions as do many of the folks I listen to, so my ear doesn't seem to have been getting much practice.
OK: "One sheep is"; "Two sheep are"
Help me here: "Three elephant are approaching" ?; "Three elephants are approaching". I'm not sure this comes up much in US. You must have more elephant in the UK.
OK: "Three cannon are firing", "Three cannons are firing", "The cannon are firing".
Help me here: "The cannon is firing" How many cannons may be involved? Only one?
If only one cannon can be involved, why would we bother calling this "invariant" rather than a noun with two plural forms?
OK for pairs-of words: "These tongs have rusted" (whether referring to one pair or more than one pair).
How does this work for p.t. nouns that are not pairs-of?
Help me here: Is it simply wrong to say "The experience of cracks of dawn differs by latitude and season"?
Confirm: "The fleet is passing through the channel". (US) "The fleet are passing through the channel". (UK)

DCDuring TALK 01:45, 23 April 2008 (UTC)

So links (golf sense) is an invariant noun, plural in form (by coincidence only), with the added quirk of being optionally used as a plural to refer to what is normally considered a single place (a golf course). Oof. Do any other words behave this way? -- Visviva 23:39, 22 April 2008 (UTC)
Come to think of it, I guess all pair-of words behave this way; glasses, scissors, jeans, etc. -- Visviva 11:04, 23 April 2008 (UTC)
I started an entry for linksland, but was struck that this term is used only in golf-related literature. On the other hand links/lynkis is a valid Scots word for rough open ground, so linksland seems like a pleonasm, perhaps invented after "links" had begun to refer to golf courses themselves. [14] -- Visviva 23:39, 22 April 2008 (UTC)

"Saussage and tang" ???

Hi !

I don't understand the other meaning of "saussage and tang". Background is "That 70s Show" , Season 5, Ep 15 "When The Levee Breaks". In the beginning, Kitty says to Red: "Red, don't get upset so early ; you won't enjoy your saussage and tang." Eric finds that funny.

W H Y ???

You can watch the scene at:


Thanks for helping !!!

See sausage, sense 3, and poontang. Not sure if "tang" is even attested in this sense, but it's certainly what he had in mind. -- Visviva 09:21, 21 April 2008 (UTC)
google books:"her tang" pulls up at least one relevant hit (at a lot of irrelevant ones). I'll add it. —RuakhTALK 16:43, 21 April 2008 (UTC)

this is a double entendre on the words sausage (breakfast meat -or- penis) and Tang (a brand of instant orange juice from the 70's -or- vagina)

Lewis Vs. Casey

In the case of Lewis vs. Casey i would like to know what the ruling was

Try Wikipedia (or Google ;). This is a dictionary. Conrad.Irwin 22:25, 21 April 2008 (UTC)


There seems to be considerable confusion in the Anglosphere as to whether this is an adjective or determiner. Specifically, I've recently had two clients (both British) "correct" my use of "said" without an article (i.e. "said party" -> "the said party"), which I suppose means that they consider "said" to be an adjective only. Is this a purely British thing, are there authorities on grammar or legal style which have considered this matter specifically, and how best should we address this in the entry? Certainly both "said party" (et al.) and "the said party" (et al.) are well attested ... I smell a usage note in this entry's future, but what form should it take? -- Visviva 13:27, 22 April 2008 (UTC)

MW3 which has no determiner PoS, has a terse entry (no usage example) as "Adjective" syn: aforementioned.
Longmans DCE, which does have determiner as PoS, calls it an adjective and indicates that "the" is optional. The usage example (legal in content) has "the". Neither shows any regional usage pattern. News might give us a clue as to regional usage pattern. DCDuring TALK 14:33, 22 April 2008 (UTC)
Sheesh. Who ever heard of an adjective for which "the" is optional? Black's also calls it an adjective and notes that it is often used without "the" -- but then I wouldn't really expect a lot of linguistic depth from Black's anyway. Interesting comments on usage in the Black's entry -- that this usage is dying out and that 'said' can be replaced with 'the,' "used properly." I'm rather skeptical on both counts, but what do I know? -- Visviva 23:44, 22 April 2008 (UTC)
A Google search of Wikisource turns up several historical uses of "said party" without the definite article, but only from American literature or documents. The few British examples all include the definite article. It's a small sample, but it looks as though it may be a US/UK difference. The definite article really ought to be included as a matter of normal grammar, but because the kind of noun it precedes normally has an article, and not because "said" is a determiner. Consider: you wouldn't say "We gave it to party", so you really shouldn't expect "We gave it to said party." Because the article is expected in the first example, it is expected in the second example as well. --EncycloPetey 00:00, 23 April 2008 (UTC)
I guess the Americans must be wrong then. ;-)) Interestingly, it is Longman's (UK), not MW3 (US) that makes the "said" out to be optional. MW3 says that it is synonymous with "aforementioned", which would have a "the" to my ear. (Though, to my ear, in "the said plaintiff", "the" and "said" seem utterly redundant.) DCDuring TALK 00:34, 23 April 2008 (UTC)
The case for analysis as adjective:
  • Most determiners are ungrammatical in conjunction with the articles. Even where folks like DCDuring find the said redundant, I don't think they would call it ungrammatical.
  • Most determiners can occur in the partitive construction, but said can't.
  • most of the people...
  • several of the people...
  • *said of the people...
  • In the British National Corpus, the overwhelming majority of instances of this said are preceded by the.
  • Usage in the BYU Corpus of American English includes numerous instances of the said.
  • It is therefore ordered and adjudged that the said, William Jefferson Clinton, be and he hereby is acquitted of the charges in the said articles.
By the way, Geoff Pullum on Language Log has discussed a situation in which it appears that the article is optional but the adjective is obligatory.
The case for analysis as determiner:
  • Usage in the BYU Corpus of American English seems to favor the-less said.
  • The resolution urging this day of supplication further stated that " it is recommended to Christians of all denominations to assemble for public worship, and to refrain from servile labor and recreation on said day.
  • Even in the BNC, there are instances of said followed by a singular count noun yet without the preceding the.
  • What is that condition? Payment of the sum of £150 in every half year, "until the whole of said sum of £2,090 19s."
  • Said doesn't do a lot of things that adjectives do. It won't appear predictively, refuses modification by adverbs including very, and is not gradeable.
Tough call, but I'd go for adjective.--Brett 13:51, 14 May 2008 (UTC)
I don't think the lack of a partitive construction actually says anything, since said is definite in sense. English's other definite determiners, such as the demonstratives, also forbid that. I think it's clear that the-less said is a determiner; I'm not sure whether it's still a determiner when it has a the. —RuakhTALK 01:43, 18 May 2008 (UTC)

FYI: Canadian Oxford says "preceded by the", while Noad only has an example with the. Noad also says "in legal language or humorously". Michael Z. 2008-05-15 17:52 z

Actually, I suppose there's no reason it can't be both. So, I'd say it's an adjective when preceded by a determiner and a determiner otherwise.--Brett 01:03, 18 May 2008 (UTC)

I asked w:Rodney Huddleston about it, and he replied that it was a determiner when used without an article and an adjective with.--Brett 12:19, 26 May 2008 (UTC)

In older English usage, might insensibly mean inevitibly?

I found the following in the 1759 edition of Adam Smith's, Theory of Moral Sentiments, page 159

  • Our continual observations upon the conduct of others, insensibly lead us to form to ourselves certain general rules concerning what is fit and proper either to be done or to be avoided.

This does not seem to fit any of the existing senses of insensibly or insensible. I am not enough of a wordsmith to figure this out myself. N2e 14:43, 22 April 2008 (UTC)

In your example it means "without our being aware of it" (and more strongly, "without it being possible for us to be aware of it"; it's the adverb corresponding to sense #1 at insensible). —RuakhTALK 15:04, 22 April 2008 (UTC)
Interesting. It would have been better to have the vacuous definition "in an insensible manner" than the superficially better longer definition that was there. What was there did not reflect all the senses of the adjective, any of which transfer to the adverb, and therefore misled a registered user. Would we be better off to substitute the "vacuous" definitions for the longer, misleading ones? DCDuring TALK 18:25, 22 April 2008 (UTC)
No, that was my bad. The definition was roughly "in an insensible manner" (albeit ill-formatted in a slightly confusing way); but it didn't seem to me that you could say that our continual observations lead us in an insensible manner to form these rules. I don't know why, but "in an insensible manner" sounded to me more intentional than "insensibly". So, I tried to fix it. Badly. Feel free to revert. :-P —RuakhTALK 21:55, 22 April 2008 (UTC)
I thought I had a theory that a bare definition would lead user back to adjective. This incident says previous definition didn't lead a user back to the senses of the underlying adjective. The practice of print dictionaries and most other on-line dictionaries AFAIK of having such derivatives in the very same entry may be better yet. No click required to get to the full range of senses. DCDuring TALK 00:19, 23 April 2008 (UTC)
I'm not sure it does say that; the above editor makes reference to the senses we have at insensible, suggesting that (s)he looked there. What happened here is that the editor came to a conclusion about what was meant, looked at our senses, and found that none of our senses matched that conclusion. Why the editor didn't then make the connection, I'm not sure; I suspect that it's in part because we're a wiki, which makes it easy for people to assume that we're simply incomplete. This is why we frequently have to mention popular spurious etymologies with the statement that they're spurious, which is something that other dictionaries don't do nearly so often. —RuakhTALK 10:55, 23 April 2008 (UTC)
You're right. We can get no design guidelines from this. It's pathetic having to try to read so much into isolated anecdotal episodes. I suppose at least the incidents help us generate hypotheses about user behavior and improvement opportunities. Expectations are tough to model, though. DCDuring TALK 14:51, 23 April 2008 (UTC)


Can someone take a look at classic? I am trying to rollback a disruptive edit and it doesn't seem to work. sewnmouthsecret 17:58, 22 April 2008 (UTC)

I fixed it. sewnmouthsecret 18:07, 22 April 2008 (UTC)

if pigs had wings

Two issues: (1) This is marked as an "Adverb", but it isn't. The entry is actually a clause unto itself, complete with it's own subject, verb, and object. (2) I'm wondering if this particular form is at all common, or if another form is more common. I certainly can't figure out how to use the given form of this clause to mean "never" (the stated definition) in anything but the past tense. --EncycloPetey 00:19, 23 April 2008 (UTC)

I also don't see how a conditional can become a time adverb. The clause "when pigs sprout/grow/have wings", though less common, is adverbial and seems to mean "never". The entire expression is "if pigs had wings, they could/would fly" (or "we'd all carry umbrellas" or "we'd have flying bacon"). To me it seems that the clause is short for the whole expression which looks like a proverb. if wishes were horses than beggars would ride DCDuring TALK 00:59, 23 April 2008 (UTC)
If it had the meaning given, I think it would be an adverb for our purposes, just like "when pigs fly." But actually, looking over b.g.c. I don't see any indication this is ever used to mean "never," or in any other way that is idiomatic enough to warrant inclusion. It appears only as part of a larger conditional, as noted by DCDuring above, and only with the literal meaning "if pigs had wings [and could fly]." Suggest RFD. -- Visviva 04:59, 24 April 2008 (UTC)
I took a stab at if pigs had wings they would fly and added a sense for if pigs had wings as shortened form thereof. I have called it a proverb, but it could be seen as a kind of interjection. I don't expect that the "never" sense is going to be attestable. DCDuring TALK 09:18, 24 April 2008 (UTC)


I added a sense to the verb, thinking of slogans like ‘featuring the new starlet X’ in the ads for a movie. A native speaker should have a look and improve the wording. H. (talk) 13:38, 23 April 2008 (UTC)

If a movie 'features' a particular actor or actress then it gives them great importance, which is sense one of the verb. It's a common usage of the word but I don't know how distinct from sense 1 it is. RJFJR 19:54, 23 April 2008 (UTC)
This sense of "feature" is a synonym of the verb sense of "star", which isn't generally used for verb sense 1 of "feature". For that reason I'd say it is a distinct sense, or at least a sub-sense if we decide to use them. Thryduulf 20:05, 23 April 2008 (UTC)
star and contain don't seem to fit in the same sense. We need more than one or two synonyms to have a good definition. DCDuring TALK 20:40, 23 April 2008 (UTC)

This user

Can someone review this user's edits to ensure they are correct? sewnmouthsecret 19:49, 23 April 2008 (UTC)

coorg and kodagu

Both are proper nouns and should be capitalized. Would someone please move these entries to a correctly spelled new entry? I could create brand new entries, but the history would be lost. Thanks. --Panda10 21:00, 23 April 2008 (UTC)

  • You can do it yourself. Use the "move" tab at near the top of the screen. SemperBlotto 09:39, 24 April 2008 (UTC)
Thanks. I moved them. I didn't know an editor could move entries. --Panda10 16:09, 24 April 2008 (UTC)


Everywhere I look, I see this word spelled as aequeosalinocalcalinoceraceoaluminosocupreovitriolic. It differs here:

  • aequeosalinocalcalinoceraceoaluminosocupreovitriolic
  • aequeosalinocalcalinosetaceoaluminosocupreovitriolic

According to Oxford and Wikipedia, it has the spelling that is not in Wiktionary. Can anyone shed any light on this? sewnmouthsecret 23:24, 23 April 2008 (UTC)

The differing bit makes the non-Wikt version look better: cēra (wax) or κήρος (kḗros, beeswax) seem much more in line with the ingredient focus than saeta (bristle, stiff hair), but since it was used in reference to baths, the latter would be possible, and even more realistic in my experience. DCDuring TALK 09:36, 24 April 2008 (UTC) Maybe setaceous (bristly, hairy) is what the coiner had in mind. DCDuring TALK 09:41, 24 April 2008 (UTC)

Can anyone indentify and get access to the source document? As with many medical things, even very dated ones, there seem to be only for-pay sources for Edward Strothers' {sp?) works. This is so often mentioned (very rarely used) that we ought to determine how to facilitate including such a term despite the likelihood it would not pass RfV.—This comment was unsigned.
Can anyone identify it, even? Then maybe someone else can get it.—msh210 17:56, 14 May 2008 (UTC)

In the interim, I added the additional spelling as a usage note into the article for anyone searching Wiktionary for the other spelling. sewnmouthsecret 17:45, 24 April 2008 (UTC)

don't come the X with me

Where have we got to with snowclone entries? I have lost track of the debate and don't know how to make this entry. -- Algrif 10:28, 24 April 2008 (UTC)

Most recent discussion has restarted at: WT:BP#Gaps_in_entry_titles DCDuring TALK 12:10, 24 April 2008 (UTC)
Thx. I've joined the discussion there. -- Algrif 14:02, 24 April 2008 (UTC)

epilepsy countable?

epilepsy lists the plural as epilepsies. Is it countable? RJFJR 14:16, 24 April 2008 (UTC)

It has some b.g.c. hits; I think it's OK. sewnmouthsecret 14:55, 24 April 2008 (UTC)
The Wikipedia article Epilepsy uses epilepsies a number of times. Michael Z. 2008-04-24 14:57 Z
Apparently epilepsy isn't a single disease but a group of them with similar symptoms. epilepsy says it is a "medical condition", so I guess that is how there can be more than one. Yhank you for checking. RJFJR 15:50, 24 April 2008 (UTC)


Surely this is not an abbreviation. It's a nickname. Or should we also list Pete, Joe and Mike as abbreviations? __meco 14:45, 24 April 2008 (UTC)

Yes, and possibly for more than one team. I just realized same was true for at least some of the athletic team short names that had been RfD'd whose sole prior def was in reference to one team. DCDuring TALK 17:03, 24 April 2008 (UTC)

newspaper as verb?

Does newspaper have a verb sense? To cover with newspaper? RJFJR 16:07, 24 April 2008 (UTC)

Yes. As in "She newspapered one end of the room before painting the bookcase." No idea if it would be attestable. Might be "widespread". Colloquial, US? DCDuring TALK 17:01, 24 April 2008 (UTC)
newspapering in this sense is also used in the UK, but I'm not certain whether its colloquial or not. Thryduulf 01:36, 25 April 2008 (UTC)
There also seems to be a sense that has to do with writing newspapers, although it's rather poorly attested in an actual verb form, and is mostly found in newspapering meaning something like "the business of journalism".
There are many trade or occupation gerunds like that which don't have most other verb forms. But you "might" see something like "He newspapered his way through the South on the sports beat, avoiding dry towms." DCDuring TALK 22:58, 24 April 2008 (UTC)
It also has an obsolete sense, indicating that someone was hounded by the Press: "he was newspapered out of public life" etc....satirists like Swift used to use it that way. Widsith 07:02, 25 April 2008 (UTC)


I have a feeling that the word parameter is military slang for area or grounds, as in “soldiers who were within the camp parameter”. It may also apply to prisons etc. and be in plural sometimes. I have heard this usage in American TV series. :) (Parameters is also the name of a U.S. army journal.) Is it an acceptable meaning to be included? Wipe 19:16, 24 April 2008 (UTC)

Are you sure it wasn't perimeter? I know that perimeter and parameter are sometimes confused but I don't know if that confusion extends to sourcable works that would make those definitions suitable for wiktionary.
Perhaps these will document the perceived extent of the confusion:
  • 2003, "Divorce court is now open for these troublesome couples.", Newsletter on Newsletters @ AccessMyLibrary.com, Dec 16, 2003
    Parameter, perimeter--I dislike both of these overused words so much I once wrote a headline, "Parameter, perimeter -- let's call the whole thing off." ...
  • 1986, "Parameter Breaks Out of Its Perimeter", Los Angeles Times, Aug 6, 1986
    I read in The Times a sentence saying, "The parameters of the study have not yet been defined." Then, a scant four sentences further on, ...
  • 1988, IT'S MEDIA-CULPA TIME AGAIN, Boston Globe, Dec 29, 1988
    Then there was the perennial parameter-perimeter problem. With my own little computer I wrote about a "country that is putting parameters around drinking. ...
The military distinguishes "mission parameters", its objectives, rules of engagement, SOPs etc., from "establishing a perimeter", securing or cordoning an area. I don't know of anyone purposely using the one word to mean the other. Michael Z. 2008-04-25 00:08 Z
I don't think we were saying that. I think that between the auditory confusion, visual confusion (dyslexia), and some cases where either term is, on its face, close to the intended sense, there is an above-normal chance for error, so that perhaps these terms should be labelled as common misspellings of each other -- or perhaps we need a usage note in each ("sometimes confused with ...."). DCDuring TALK 00:19, 25 April 2008 (UTC)
Specifically, the figurative use of "perimeter" for boundaries of a problem, issue, or situation could be confused with the "parameters" of a model (operational or theoretical) of the problem, issue, or situation. The "parameters" could be, say, the relevant "rules of engagement", which are limits on behavior, in other words a kind of boundary, or -- "perimeter". I don't think this is too far-fetched. DCDuring TALK 00:27, 25 April 2008 (UTC)
Well, I think that Wipe was saying that, so I replied to his query.
Are these a common source of misspellings? Unfortunately I can't read any of the cited pay articles. Three anecdotes since 1986 doesn't seem statistically significant to me (is the author of the first one known?). Are they cited as such in any dictionaries or writers' guides? Michael Z. 2008-04-25 04:22 Z
Thank you, my mistake, I confused the words. I found, with a Google search, several instances where the word parameter was used in the wrong sense and assumed it was correct. Must be my high fever. :) But yes, the words are apparently sometimes confused with eachother. [15] First hits:[16][17] Wipe 07:40, 25 April 2008 (UTC)

pure laine

I'd like to move the main entry to pure laine, which is the only spelling given in the Canadian Oxford, and reduce pur laine to a "misspelling of". See also w:pure laine, which refers to the latter as incorrect. Any objections? Michael Z. 2008-04-24 23:49 Z

Done. Michael Z. 2008-05-01 23:27 Z


(is today's WOTD.) paralipsis exists as an "alternative form" entry, but I propose that it should be the main entry. It gets more b.google hits (632 v. 563) and more google hits (10,400 v. 4,660), and more google scholar hits (307 v. 108). It's also the way it appears in all my dictionaries. Widsith 10:55, 25 April 2008 (UTC)

Then I assume you do not own MW3, which has the current spelling as the main header form. This may be a US/UK difference. --EncycloPetey 12:12, 25 April 2008 (UTC)
I don't. But I am really going on citation evidence, as provided by Google sites (which I presume include plenty from the US?). Widsith 12:27, 25 April 2008 (UTC)
Then you're assuming that there are an equal number of Google hits from the US and UK, or that the sources equally derive from US and UK editing. My point is that, short of doing a statistical analysis of the sites, we can't make those kinds of determinations from raw numbers of Google hits if there's any confounding variable, such as regionalism. The mathematics of statistics is very unforgiving in this regard. Since I've found that one of the leading US dictionaries has paraleipsis, we have the question of regionalism. Raw numbers of hits won't answer that issue. Notice that the b.google hits are nearly equal, so if there is regionalism, and if the sources are equally distributed between the countires, then the equal distribution results from regionalism. If that's the case, then we should not favor one spelling over the other. However, we don't know whether or not there's regionalism. --EncycloPetey 17:58, 25 April 2008 (UTC)
Sorry, but I disagree with your premise. If a certain spelling is significantly more common, we should go with it. If it's a regional difference, that means that (1) even the region that supposedly disfavors the more-common spelling doesn't really disfavor it, or (2) one of the regions is significantly less important, or (3) the word is more common in one region than another. In case of #1, there's no problem. In case of #2, that may be unfortunate; but I don't think that happens with U.S. vs. Commonwealth, and frankly, I think it would be kind of silly for us to have U.S. and Commonwealth spellings listed as alternatives of Indian English or Chinese English or Continental English spellings. In case of #3, it makes sense for the main entry to be at the spelling of the region that uses it more commonly. —RuakhTALK 00:28, 26 April 2008 (UTC)

to strike an agreement with someone

I come across this expression but don't know what it exactly means. --Cumeo89 12:45, 25 April 2008 (UTC)

"To make (or reach) an agreement". But watch the context because it might possibly mean to cancel an agreement. RJFJR 13:13, 25 April 2008 (UTC)
Are you sure about that? Can you give a full sentence where "strike an agreement" means cancel? The problem is the "an", I think, but even with "their" or something like that it doesn't sound natural to me to use "strike" to mean cancel in this respect. —This unsigned comment was added by (talk) at 15:53, 25 April 2008 (UTC).
Example sentence- While we thought the deal was good to go, the customer decided to strike the agreement instead. sewnmouthsecret 16:54, 25 April 2008 (UTC)
Judging from b.g.c., which is fairly rich in legal texts, contractees do not generally strike (cancel) agreements, but courts can and do. A b.g.c. search for "to strike the agreement" yields (amidst about 80% noise) a number of sentences like
"The court did not err in refusing to strike the agreement upon which the case was tried."
Usually this seems to be a shortened form of "strike the agreement from the record," or similar. -- Visviva 01:30, 26 April 2008 (UTC)


I just added this, but I'm not sure about Abbreviation or Symbol as heading. So,of course, it is now labelled as non-standard. ;-) OK What's the best, please? -- Algrif 16:58, 25 April 2008 (UTC)

As other units, like km, uses Abbreviation, I chose to change the header to that. \Mike 17:48, 25 April 2008 (UTC)
(edit conflict) It's an abbreviation, but I'm not sure it should be labelled as "English". Isn't this a standard abbreviation across Europe? --EncycloPetey 17:50, 25 April 2008 (UTC)
May be Translingual, yes, will change. Needed abbrev template. DCDuring TALK 18:16, 25 April 2008 (UTC)
I've just looked on a carton of chocolate milk my landlady brought back from Belgium (don't ask), and "kcal" is used for both the French and Dutch nutritional tables. Thryduulf 18:18, 25 April 2008 (UTC)
How consistent are we about the "Translingual"-ity of units of measure. Which ones are deemed Translingual? Does normal attestation apply or just the approval of or publication by an appropriate international body? DCDuring TALK 18:22, 25 April 2008 (UTC)
May be Translingual, yes, will change. Needed abbrev template. DCDuring TALK 18:16, 25 April 2008 (UTC)
Makes a lot more sense now. Thanks all. -- Algrif 06:43, 26 April 2008 (UTC)

Heinz 57

I've just added this entry, but even after much deliberation I'm not certain if its 1, 2 or 3 senses. I plumped for 2, one for things and one for people and animals. However they all mean roughly the same thing, but in slightly different ways.

Also, I'm not certain the use of the term for a person isn't exclusively (or at least primarily) American (where ethnic origin is generally a much bigger cultural thing than this side of the Atlantic), yet the use for a dog is in active use here in Blighty. Thryduulf 20:00, 25 April 2008 (UTC)

It looks good to me, esp. cites. IMHO, for a term like this it's not as necessary to draw attention to the broad scope. If there were restrictions on the scope of the word or a shift in meaning, then separate senses would be warranted. This term could apply wherever mixed "ancestry" was applicable. If there were more actual ethnic mixing in the UK, I doubt that there would be any problem in applying the sense in the way it is applied in the US. There may be a gap in prevalence and therefore the need or opportunity to use the word, but not in understanding, I think.
When dicussion here wraps up here, maybe archive on the talk page. Does the tooth fairy, I mean, TDR, archive these on talk pages in the normal course? Maybe you'll get more comments. DCDuring TALK 20:42, 25 April 2008 (UTC)


The definition looks certainly wrong to me. It says it is "placed over the second of two consecutive vowels" (vergüenza, nicaragüense? I understand that Portuguese and Catalan use it this way too, at least.) But I'm no expert. Does anyone want to give it a shot? Dmcdevit·t 22:22, 25 April 2008 (UTC)

French does the same thing, for that matter: ambiguë or ambigüe is the feminine singular of ambigu (ambiguous). (The former is the traditional spelling; the latter, the spelling now recommended by the Academy. Either way, it's pronounced /ɑ̃bigy/ invalid IPA characters (g), replace g with ɡ.) I've now attempted a fix, but it might be too long-winded. Also, any fixes need to be copied to dieresis, because someone decided at some point that each needed a full entry. —RuakhTALK 00:20, 26 April 2008 (UTC)

I think the two subsenses mentioned are actually one. I'll try condensing the definition. Michael Z. 2008-05-15 18:36 z

[following moved from user talk:Mzajac]

Your changes to diaeresis made the definition wrong; the diaeresis is not used to indicate a separate syllable in Spanish vergüenza, nor in French ambiguë. This is especially a problem since Spanish vergüenza is one of the examples we give. —RuakhTALK 23:03, 15 May 2008 (UTC)

Forming a separate syllable implies both that the letter doesn't form a diphthong, and that the letter is sounded, not silent. I couldn't find any pronunciation transcribed to confirm that this is what happens with the Spanish and French terms, but the older definition didn't contradict that either. (I had initially written "indicating that it is sounded separately from another", but then found the unusual example of Brontë.)
Can you better explain what the diaeresis does in these examples? Do the vowel combinations become diphthongs in vergüenza and ambiguë/ambigüe, or form two syllables? Michael Z. 2008-05-15 23:23 z
In both examples, the diaeresis indicates that the <u> is not silent; in the Spanish one it's a /w/, or maybe a /w/ (labialization of the /g/), and in the French it's an /y/. With French ambigüe the current definition is misleading but not inaccurate; but in French ambiguë the <e> is silent, and in Spanish vergüenza the <u> is part of a diphthong or part of a consonant, I'm not sure which. (It might depend on the analysis.) —RuakhTALK 23:45, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
Sorry for the confusion. I suppose it could mean several other things in other languages too. On the one hand, we could make a sense for what its function is in English, and how the meaning of the word is understood by English readers. On the other hand, its function in English comes from Latin and French, I think. Michael Z. 2008-05-15 23:52 z
I'm still confused (if the e is silent in ambiguë, then what is the diaeresis' function?). Is it getting closer if I write an exception:
A diacritic placed over a vowel letter indicating that it forms a separate syllable, as in naïve, Noël, Brontë, or indicating that a letter is not silent, as in Spanish vergüenza, or French ambiguë.
 Michael Z. 2008-05-16 00:01 z
I think that's accurate, though "forms a separate syllable" is a wee bit misleading; more properly it forms part of a separate syllable (which is a contradiction in terms, but there you have it). Regarding ambiguë: the diaeresis indicates that the <u> is not silent. You're not alone in being confused by it; there's a reason the Academy has tried to change it. :-)   —RuakhTALK 00:56, 16 May 2008 (UTC)
Updated, but willing to refine it further.
Well, the vowel doesn't constitute the entire syllable, but you form a syllable (whether you have any consonants or not) by adding a vowel, if you see what I mean. How do we say that simply and less ambiguously?
If ambigüë is the exceptional case even in French, then does our English definition have to account for it? Perhaps we should stick to conventional examples for the foreign languages. Michael Z. 2008-05-16 01:26 z

I finally read over w:Umlaut (diacritic). (I read w:diaeresis before, without realizing that it is not about the diacritic. Duh.).

The French ambiguë is a rare exception. It is the etymological remnant of a historical diaeresis. Even the French article w:fr:Tréma doesn't mention it. I suggest we don't cite it at all.

The Spanish diéresis still represents separation of the vowel, but in Spanish it always separates from a preceding letter. Spanish gu normally represents [g], so pinguino would be pronounced like /pingino/. The diaeresis is added to separate ü from g, so it can form a diphthong ui the way it would otherwise, and makes pingüino /ping.uino/.

I may report back shortly with another version of the definition. Michael Z. 2008-05-16 02:16 z

My next version backtracks a bit, but is better. It ignores the French exception, although that is still an etymological diaeresis. This version doesn't conflict with my interpretation of the Spanish diaeresis, but there's no need to bring the details of Spanish phonology into it either. English examples only, but it still applies to the Romantic diaeresis (Albanian and Cyrillic letters with diaeresis are also etymologically related, but far removed).
A diacritic placed over a vowel letter indicating that it is sounded separately, usually forming a distinct syllable, as in naïve, Noël, Brontë.
I'll revise the entry. Michael Z. 2008-05-16 02:28 z

bending arms

I heard a phrase on the radio today that I am pretty sure I have heard at least once or twice before. The phrase is something like "bend an arm" or "bending arms", meaning to drink beer. I think the phrasing was (talking about going to a bar to watch a baseball game) "there will be some bending of the arms" (I might be wrong...I didn't even think about it until an hour later when I figured out that I should have had Wiktionary on my mind rather than the turkey wrap I was eating at the time, I am sorry I failed you all :'(

Anyhow, has anyone else heard a phrase similar to this? I was unable to find usage examples, but the fact that the phrase is comprised of two of the most common words ever that isn't too surprising. - [The]DaveRoss 22:49, 25 April 2008 (UTC)

The idiom I recognize in US, but believe to be dated or archaic is bend an elbow or bend one's elbow. It seems to exactly match the usage situation. MW3 has it at "elbow" with "bend", "crook", and "lift". They do not have anything at "arm". DCDuring TALK 00:50, 26 April 2008 (UTC)
Perhaps that is it, and they just changed it around (or someone in their past did). Thanks for clearing that up. - [The]DaveRoss 03:11, 26 April 2008 (UTC)

When to use 'rent' and when to use 'hire'?

I'm confused: When should I use 'rent' and when shoudl I use 'hire'. In my home languae we just have only word for both 'rent' and 'hire'.

Apparantly I should say:

 'I hired a car, drove around and paid the rent' 

Is it correct then for the car rental agency (or should it be a car hiring agency) to say:

 'We rented the car and received the hire'?

WHat are the rules regarding when to use 'rent' and when to use 'hire' ?

In the US, to hire is to employ workers (or retain a service provider). "I decided to hire him in the first two minutes of the job interview."
In the US, both the landlord and the tenant can say of the very same transaction "I rented the apartment." In the US, the landlord would say "I rented the apartment to him." or "I rented him the apartment." The tenant could say "I rented the apartment from him." There are other uses, but rent goes both ways, transitively and intransitively. HTH. DCDuring TALK 01:17, 26 April 2008 (UTC)
All the same goes for Canada. I have heard "hire" used this way occasionally, but I have the impression that it's mainly a British idiom. Michael Z. 2008-04-26 01:38 Z
In the UK, you can say "I rented the car", but equally "I hired the car". For people, it's always "hire". I would always "rent" a house or flat. Basically, you "hire" objects in the short-term but "rent" them in the long term, as far as I know. Regards, —Celestianpower háblame 17:29, 30 April 2008 (UTC)

dictionary enteries?

what does it mean to strangle someone? what does it mean to eat quickly? what does it mean to jump rope?

--Glassfish 01:11, 26 April 2008 (UTC)

Have you tried looking up strangle, eat + quickly, and jump rope. DCDuring TALK 01:17, 26 April 2008 (UTC)

See new, improved jump rope! DCDuring TALK 01:52, 26 April 2008 (UTC)


Any problems with merging aboriginal into Aboriginal? They are interchangeable, although there are differing styles for capitalization, and the usage note explains the difference while having separate definitions does not (and the note could use some information about other dictionaries, style guides or contexts). Michael Z. 2008-04-26 04:43 Z

Done. May still require tweaking to capture all the nuances. Michael Z. 2008-05-02 01:35 Z
Wasn't that a bit hasty? Acc. to my understanding aboriginal is synonym to indigenous, but Aboriginal refers to people called Aborigines. Etymologically Aborigine is derivative aboriginal. Hekaheka 05:35, 2 May 2008 (UTC)
The adjective Aboriginal is derived from the noun Aborigine, specifically referring to Australians. Both used to be written in l.c., and the adjective later came to be applied generally to anything native to any place. These days, every style guide and dictionary recommends capitalizing Aboriginal either when referring to Australian Aborigines, or to any peoples, and some recommend capitalizing always.
The result is that every sense may be found capitalized or l.c. The two entries would have to be almost completely identical, including redundant usage notes. So I asked for comments here and merged them.
I capitalized the entry title because (although capitalization varies) the original sense would always be capitalized today. Also because some guides would consider using l.c. incorrect, none would consider capitalization incorrect. I'm also thinking about reordering the adjective senses to put the people first, but I'm not sure whether it makes sense to start with original or most general sense, and I don't know which is most commonly used. I've asked for some guidance regarding ordering at WT:ELEMichael Z. 2008-05-02 17:24 Z

But aboriginal has also a more general sense that does not refer to people, e.g. aboriginal forest. That should never be capitalized, I suppose, and therefore capitalized and decapitalized spellings are not totally interchangeable. Hekaheka 03:44, 6 May 2008 (UTC)

Actually, the Canadian Oxford Dictionary seems to feel strongly about following their own examples, and they pointedly capitalize it in every instance that I have found. Quoting from aborigine: "3 an Aboriginal plant or animal." I'm pretty sure that the government of Canada would follow this convention as well.[18]
This is etymologically sound, as the adjective stems from the name of a people: you wouldn't refer to a "nordic forest", an "asian temple" or "turkic literature" (compare Nordic combined). If it were coined today, we would never consider writing "aboriginal" in l.c. at all, but this was a long time ago—about 200 years before whites utterly wiped out the Aboriginal population of Tasmania. Michael Z. 2008-05-06 05:35 z
I might be confused, but that doesn't seem etymologically sound at all. I mean, sure, Aborigines was once the name of people, predating the modern lower-case adjective, but they were an Italian tribe, without any connection to Australia or Canada. AFAICS, in modern English the word has been pretty thoroughly lowercased outside of reference to certain specific indigenous peoples. -- Visviva 05:56, 6 May 2008 (UTC)
The Italian tribe has nothing to do with it. They were long gone by the time Aborigine entered English, and Aboriginal was coined from it, and the modern rules of English capitalization were formed.
Now that I look at it, it appears that "Aboriginal" was first coined about a century before it was applied to the Australians. Nevertheless, they are the first living peoples the terms were generally applied to in English, for over two centuries now. It is also associated with Aboriginal peoples in Canada and elsewhere, too. The "pretty thorough lowercasing" of their name was done by generations of whites, including ones who hunted them down and made souvenirs out of their body parts. For 14 years the Canadian government has specifically recommended that the adjective Aboriginal be capitalized, just as are the adjective cognates of the name of every other people in the world.[19] The Canadian Oxford is also capitalizing the word in their own usage, whether it be as a result of their studies of the Canadian corpus, or out of respect. The point isn't whether we agree with that.
The point is that every sense of the word Aboriginal can legitimately appear in use capitalized. Therefore, there is no point in having two entries. Every one of them has at some time been used in l.c., but some should not be. Therefore the logical title for the entry is capitalized. Michael Z. 2008-05-06 07:35 z
I'm really not seeing any evidence that "aboriginal" (as in "aboriginal forest," presumably originally from ab origine) arose from any of the peoples known as Aborigines today. If you have found some evidence, please share. As things stand, I find it difficult to imagine that W.M. Thackeray, writing in 1842 and describing the countryside of Limerick, meant "aboriginal forest" to refer to any indigenous people on the far side of the world. [20] I could well be wrong -- I am not actually familiar with the Irish Sketchbook -- but it seems far-fetched on first reading. -- Visviva 09:45, 6 May 2008 (UTC)
I neither wrote nor implied any such thing. But Aboriginal comes from the English Aborigine. We all know that the names of Aborigines or Aboriginal peoples are capitalized, and that as a rule, the names of peoples are capitalized when they are used otherwise (viz. Nordic skiing, Slavic princes, Inuit dog, Afghan rug, Carribean stud poker, Irish stew, Chinese checkers, Dutch oven, English muffins, etc ad infinitum). The uncapitalization of "aborigine" and "aboriginal" in every sense in Thackeray's time departed from the normal pattern of English usage—it is easy to see how favouring such dehumanizing language might offend Aboriginal people and others. Michael Z. 2008-05-06 16:35 z
But hardly anyone capitalizes "aboriginal forest," unless they are specifically referring to forests owned or managed by Aboriginal peoples. [21] This is also the case for "aboriginal wilderness" [22] and presumably for other collocations characteristic of this sense.
It seems to me that, while every sense occasionally appears in both uppercase and lowercase, some senses are very rare in u.c. just as some are very rare in l.c. I'm not sure how best to handle that, but think it needs to be handled sense-by-sense. -- Visviva 09:45, 6 May 2008 (UTC)
I haven't seen any lexicographical data supporting "hardly anyone", but I imagine that it is the minority. In Canada it is used by the government, therefore probably used by most agencies dealing with the government, and by the CanOD, which is followed by the Canadian Press and the CBC. This sounds potentially significant to me. After some research, it may turn out to be warranted to add a Canada context label for this capitalized usage.
Do you see any specific problems with the entry? Michael Z. 2008-05-06 16:35 z

What PoS for spoken punctuation marks

quantity (particle), unquote (now interjection, was noun), period (interjection), and various other words are used functionally in speech to duplicate the function of the printed symbol. What is/are the appropriate part of speech? DCDuring TALK 13:41, 26 April 2008 (UTC)

Interjection seems fine for most of these, but obviously wrong for quantity. But "particle" seems a bit far-fetched. Never having thought about this before, I'm inclined to call this an ill-behaved adjective -- specifically an adjective which can occur only as a postmodifier. Alternatively it may just be a noun that has lost its way; I wouldn't think twice about saying "the quantity x plus y, squared" in place of "x plus y quantity squared."-- Visviva 14:20, 26 April 2008 (UTC)
The mathematical sense of quantity is used as an appositive noun. In "x plus y, quantity squared", the word quantity simply refers to the unit "x plus y". --EncycloPetey 23:52, 26 April 2008 (UTC)
Very much so. (I was stumbling in that general direction...) -- Visviva 16:24, 1 May 2008 (UTC)


If an actor performs a part they have previously done, is it termed a reprisal of the role? (reprisal only defines it as retaliation). Is the sense they are reprising the role covered at reprise? RJFJR 21:08, 26 April 2008 (UTC)

B.g.c. hits for "reprisal of" indicate that this is (occasionally) used to mean "repetition," but AFAICT not specifically to mean "reprise." -- Visviva 15:18, 27 April 2008 (UTC)

This usage would be confusing outside of the phrase "reprisal of his/her role". Nearly idiomatic. Talking of an actor 'doing a reprisal' or 'having a reprisal' would not make any sense, or would not carry the same meaning. But, it's certainly in use -- 2230 hits for "reprisal of his role" and 775 for "reprisal of her role" -- Google Books shows considerably less, but some of this usage. "his" "her"
I think those in the know definitely avoid this usage, though, because of the negative connotations of the main sense of "reprisal". -- Thisis0 18:38, 27 April 2008 (UTC)


Are verb senses 1 and 2 really distinct? I ask because they don't really seem separate to me, and this word is slated to be WOTD on the 30th. --EncycloPetey 15:09, 27 April 2008 (UTC)

They don't really seem separate to me, either. —RuakhTALK 17:01, 27 April 2008 (UTC)
They seem distinguishable. One is earn by dint of effort; the other by mere accumulation. Think the difference between earning a sales commission vs a dole check. There is also an intransitive sense of "accumulate". It needs a little help on the etymology, ultimately descending from granarium, I believe. DCDuring TALK 17:33, 27 April 2008 (UTC)
The "media" reference in the usage example and in the sense seems gratuitous and, if we do nothing, will garner us (accumulate for us) unwanted negative reviews from those who look at WotD. Our efforts to improve the entry will garner (earn) us the worship of millions, well, scores anyway. DCDuring TALK 17:39, 27 April 2008 (UTC)

I think there's a requisite sense of "earning" or "gathering". Garner wouldn't apply to a case of "accumulation by no effort". If someone can give me an example of someone garnering a dole check or a rock wall garnering moss, you can prove me wrong. The non-grain senses are really only figurative and invoke reaping and harvesting. I do think there's two senses here -- the first figurative sense to "gather, amass, hoard, acquire", and a further extension to "earn; recieve in recognition of some effort" (leaving out any sense of 'passive accumulation'). So, the first extension is plain ("to gather as if harvesting grain"), and the second sense is a further metaphor with the thing one has accomplished metaphorically doing the harvesting. -- Thisis0 18:22, 27 April 2008 (UTC)

Even the media example does not imply effort. Failure to try can garner you the disapproval of the industrious. Longman's DCE has the sole sense as collect or store, not earn. MW3 includes both effortful and non-effortful accumulation. RfV it if you feel it is wrong. DCDuring TALK 18:49, 27 April 2008 (UTC)

Wait, wait. Don't you see? It's the same -- just confusing because it's a doubly-extended metaphor sense. It's still some achievement, action, (or inaction as an action itself) that is doing the garnering. The 'failure' is doing the garnering -- the 'failure' metaphorically reaps, amasses the disapproval. It's not a passive sense. Also, notice you used garner with an indirect object, illuminating the existence of the second sense. The 'failure to try' garners you the 'disapproval'. What is the quote from MW3 that you think implies non-effortful accumulation? -- Thisis0 19:05, 27 April 2008 (UTC)
Of course. But I note that dictionaries find it worthwhile to separate the senses. There are many words that have only an active sense and many that have only an inactive sense. This has both, which is worth knowing. Inaction as an action is not really a common-sense approach to defining words for ordinary people. Mathematicians and logicians think that way, not normal folks during an average day. I am reminded of the economists who refer to interest earnings as the reward from the sweat of waiting. Not very many non-economists find that apt. DCDuring TALK 19:31, 27 April 2008 (UTC)
No. I think the inaction as an action argument is important. For example, it is the basis to distinguish between don't have to and mustn't, or between didn't need to and needn't have. It is an essential part of meaning in English. Thisis0 is correct when he defines failure to do as an activity. Even the grammar of the present perfect insists that I haven't (done) s/t for years. means the activity of not doing continues from the past to the present time. -- Algrif 12:03, 28 April 2008 (UTC)
That's true. What is the implication for deleting the given sense of garner?
"Win", for example, has a sense of earn, but does not have a sense of inactive accumulation. I would think that we would not want to fail to make it clear that "garner" can be used in this way that "win" cannot. DCDuring TALK 13:27, 28 April 2008 (UTC)
That sounds more like an important usage note to me than a definition. --EncycloPetey 13:32, 28 April 2008 (UTC)
Why are we economizing on senses in words that have few? We are far short of the unabridgeds in showing nuances of meaning. And yet we tout the advantages of our limitless capacity. If we put meaning distinctions in a usage note, then they are not available for translations, synonyms, antonyms, etc. DCDuring TALK 14:24, 28 April 2008 (UTC)

Ok. let's slow down a minute. I don't want to remove the second sense. I have no idea how you thought I did 5 comments up. If anything, I want to explain it properly (and simply). I realize that it seems passive in some rare cases, but it's always making a choice like inaction that can garner you disapproval or anything else. There's a difference between that and "a rock garnering moss" or "someone garnering a welfare check", both of which uses I think would not apply. One could say "School! Dropping out of high school garnered me a steady stream of dole checks." -BUT- I am saying garner would not apply in: "I sat around garnering dole checks". There is a grammatical/etymological necessity of an action. Something has to do the garnering, which always has a root sense of "actively gather, amass, store away", metaphorical or not. I'll lay out what I think the multiple verb senses are.

  1. (literal) reap, harvest, store grain in a granary.
  2. (extension) gather, amass, hoard.
    "...its fleet went out to garner in the elusive but highly succulent fish.
    I walked enormous distances...garnering thoughts even from the heather.
    He garnered the fruit of his studies in seven volumes.
  3. (figurative) get, acquire, earn.
    He garnered a reputation as a language expert.
    Her new book garnered high praise from the critics.
    This country will never forget nor fail to honor those who have so courageously garnered our highest regard.
    President Roosevelt garnered the support of our working men and women... (notice implication of "gather" as well as "acquire, earn")
  4. (figurative) (of an achievement, object, event, choice, etc.) to earn, reap (for someone).
    Failure to try can garner you the disapproval of the industrious.
    His poor choices garnered him a steady stream of welfare checks.
    The new book garnered the author high praise from the critics.

Certainly some of this could be economized/merged, but in light of this conversation, I think we should fill it out. I have some doubt about how to properly address my sense #4 (the metaphorical that takes a indirect object). If anyone has thoughts, spit 'em. Primarily, I don't want to use the word accumulate that is currently in the entry, because of it's sometimes passive connotation. Again, I hold that this verb is never truly passive in the way accumulate sometimes is. -- Thisis0 17:16, 28 April 2008 (UTC)

The presence of an indirect object in sense "4" simply result for the fact that the verb is not acting reflexively. In the examples for sense "3", one could add himself or itself as an indirect object without changing the meaning, so sense "3" simply has the I.O. implied rather than explicitly given. It is not really different from "He earned a paycheck." and "Steady work earned him a paycheck." It's close to being an active/passive difference, but not quite. If this were a discussion about a Classical language, I'd say this was the difference between the active and middle voice. --EncycloPetey 17:53, 28 April 2008 (UTC)
Ok, so you're saying ditching the 4th sense? Any way you want to separate/recognize it as the figurative/metaphorical of inanimate things doing the garnering? -- Thisis0 18:00, 28 April 2008 (UTC)
I'm not saying ditch or keep at this point, because I'm not sure how often we make this sort of distinction in English entries. Another verb that does this is fry: "He fried some chips." versus "The chips fried in the oil." The difference is that in this case there is a transitive/intransitive distinction based on the presence or absence of a direct object, whereas garner is transitive in both cases and has the presence or absence of an indirect object. That's because this is not an active/passive difference, but rather an active/middle difference. This is an unusual situation, and I've not made up my mind how I think it ought to be handled. --EncycloPetey 18:07, 28 April 2008 (UTC)
I was focused on the original two comments and the merger of senses. I agree with almost all of what you say. I am not yet 100% convinced on the very last point. Dictionaries present accumulate as a synonym. Even accumulate and amass imply a level of activity, albeit at the same level of intensity as clipping coupons.
This still being April, I am drawn to think of the IRS "garnering" checks from voluntary compliance by US taxpayers. The separation in time between what it is that earns what is garnered and the actual garnering itself is what I would like to draw your attention to. Also there is a potential for what is garnered to be the result of luck, genetic endowment, trust fund, etc. Perhaps in all of these cases, there is an element of irony, like the "sweat of waiting". I need to find some citations for the usage I have in mind.
Also, MW3 shows an intransitive sense "to become stored", citing Tennyson. DCDuring TALK 18:19, 28 April 2008 (UTC)
Citations:garner has a few illustrations of fairly passive "garnering". DCDuring TALK 19:01, 28 April 2008 (UTC)
EP's example of fry works that way because it is an ergative verb and is categorised as such. I'm not sure that garner would fit that category though. -- Algrif 10:10, 29 April 2008 (UTC)
If we can take seriously Tennyson's "wrath that garners in my heart", then "garner"'s intransitive sense of accumulate would meet the requirements for being ergative. DCDuring TALK 10:45, 29 April 2008 (UTC)
(The OED mark this sense as {{rare}}, and Tennyson is their only citation. Widsith 13:54, 29 April 2008 (UTC))

Latin translation

Hi I am trying to find out the Latin translation for 'No regrets'. Can anyone help me? Thanks from Lynne —This unsigned comment was added by Lynne (talkcontribs).

I left a welcome and a note that should be placed at transaltion requests. RJFJR 17:37, 28 April 2008 (UTC)

Missing sense of face

We're missing the sense that means respect or reputation, as in "His failure caused him to lose face." I'm not sure if it goes under the same etymology and I can't define it as well as I'd like. Anyone feel ready to face this sense? RJFJR 17:32, 28 April 2008 (UTC)

and...done. -- Thisis0 17:56, 28 April 2008 (UTC)

Where did this sense of "face" come from? lose face is apparently a late 19th century calque from Chinese via Hong Kong. Was there a previous sense of face as reputation? Classical Latin facies (face, outward appearance, character, pretence) doesn't get all the way to "reputation", for which they had such words as honor, fama, opinio, existimatio, nomen.
In diplomacy there is/was a sense of "prestige" or "dignity" that is close, which makes me wonder about a French etymology for that sense. DCDuring TALK 23:43, 28 April 2008 (UTC)
face = "reputation" is just a sort of back-formation from the phrase lose face, which as you say is a translation of the Chinese phrase. Widsith 04:56, 29 April 2008 (UTC)
I'd always thought it was original (as a free-standing word) with w:Erving Goffman, specifically his Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Might be older than that, though. -- Visviva 08:28, 1 May 2008 (UTC)
Wikipedia currently distinguishes w:face (social concept) (East Asian cultural concept) from w:face (self image) (Goffman et seq). Is this a real distinction, or just an encyclopedically convenient one? -- Visviva 08:34, 1 May 2008 (UTC)

Naptholine Poisoning

I think that I may be misspelling Defining Word, "Naptholine Poisoning", but I have the definition as follows - A gas emitted by termites as a defense mechanism to protect their nests. The serious problem occurs during infestation. After humans inhale the poison, it is stored in human fat cells. When the fat cells are motabolized, the poison is released. The poison destroys cells and organs.

I believe that I may be misspelling the defining word, "Naptholine Poisoning," but I have a definition as follows - A gas emitted by termites as a defense mechanism in order to protect their nests during infestation. After humans inhale the poison, it is stored in fat cells. When the fat cells are motabolized, the poison is released. It then overwhelms and destroys the cells and organs.

It's naphthalene. --EncycloPetey 03:14, 29 April 2008 (UTC)


Someone has just added a second definition, which looks to me no different from the original. Opinions please. -- Algrif 11:00, 29 April 2008 (UTC)

It seems reasonable to distinguish the "persistence" meaning from the specific "persevering" meaning, as WordNet does [23], but in the current entry I can't tell which is which. -- Visviva 11:09, 29 April 2008 (UTC)

Windows XP - word-formation

Can the term 'Windows XP' be classified as a compound from the linguistic point of view? —This unsigned comment was added by Shah al (talkcontribs) at 12:05, 29 April 2008 (UTC).

That's a good question. It's a proper noun, of the very common <more-general name> <more-specific name> form (compare Homo sapiens, Toyota Camry, HTTP 1.1, and so on, or even Honda Civic LX if you want to take it to the next level). I'm not sure if that can be considered a compound, but I'm guessing not. —RuakhTALK 20:02, 30 April 2008 (UTC)

goat cheese

Is this normal US usage? In the UK, we would only ever say goat's cheese. Widsith 12:29, 29 April 2008 (UTC)

As far as I know; it's the form I would have expected to see in the US. --EncycloPetey 13:09, 29 April 2008 (UTC)
yep. never goat's cheese here. -- Thisis0 16:59, 30 April 2008 (UTC)

OK cheers. Widsith 13:39, 29 April 2008 (UTC)

Normal in Canada too. Michael Z. 2008-05-01 23:58 Z


Just started an entry on cyesis (pregnancy). Wiktionary UNhelpfully added that the plural is "cyesiss" (which it is not: it is cyeses). How do I fix this? --Gak 08:01, 30 April 2008 (UTC)

The {{en-noun}} template taxes an optional parameter for when the plural is not simply -s
  • If the plural is -es then the format is {{en-noun|es}}
  • If there is no plural the the format is {{en-noun|-}}
  • If the plural is anything else then add the plural as the parameter, in this example {{en-noun|cyeses}}
I've SemperBlotto fixed this entry for you, but see also template talk:en-noun for the full documentation. Thryduulf 11:15, 30 April 2008 (UTC)

I plead the fifth

Could someone please have a look at this? I’m not that good at defining words. H. (talk) 11:04, 30 April 2008 (UTC)

I've moved this to plead the fifth, tweaked it somewhat, and added the literal sense (to the best of my knowledge). Widsith 11:58, 30 April 2008 (UTC)


I've just formatted this word, but I'm not certain whether it is singular or plural, or what the corresponding form (if there is one) is. Thryduulf 16:02, 30 April 2008 (UTC)

I think it's right as shown in the entry, judging by b.g.c. usage.
I'm not in love with the wording of the senses. The instant noodle sense seems unnecessary, like having different senses of "coffee" for percolated, drip, and instant. Saying that ramen consists of wheat and ingredients is a different usage of ingredient meaning "additives". In most common use ingredient would include the wheat. DCDuring TALK 16:27, 30 April 2008 (UTC)
Well, if there were an English-speaking country where "coffee" was used exclusively to denote the instant kind, such that no one would ever think of associating the term with anything involving ground beans, IMO that would probably merit a separate sense line as well. -- Visviva 16:41, 30 April 2008 (UTC)
I think I may be wrong about the "instant" point. DCDuring TALK 17:33, 30 April 2008 (UTC)
Seems {{uncountable}} to me, at least in normal usage; cf. soup. The handful of uses of "ramen are"[24] on b.g.c. seem to be referring to different types of ramen, in the same way that one can refer to cheeses and milks. I can't find a single actual use of "a ramen." -- Visviva 16:41, 30 April 2008 (UTC)
One can find "ramen is" and "ramen are". Is the verb agreement more or less determinative than the use with "a" in determining presentation? If there a few written discussions of types of ramen, then one would expect few uses of "a ramen". But if there are types of ramen then there is not reason to exclude "a ramen" as a possibility, is there? DCDuring TALK 17:33, 30 April 2008 (UTC)

I also don't think instant ramen needs a separate definition. However, the main sense include something like "noodles, a kind of soup made with noodles, or an individual portion of noodles in soup."

I can envision "ramen are" referring to packaged dry noodles, to a single dish of noodle soup (like "we're having beans and brussels sprouts tonight"), or types of soup, as in "neither A nor B-branded ramen are as good as my mum's." I haven't looked for any attestations to support this. Michael Z. 2008-04-30 18:47 Z

Well, when I looked I only found support for the third type. I can easily imagine someone using "a ramen" to refer to a dish or package of ramen, but it seems that people normally say "a bowl (etc.) of ramen" in this situation, just as they say "a cup (etc.) of coffee." Hence, usually {{uncountable}}. -- Visviva 13:06, 1 May 2008 (UTC)
It's countable, but the plural is ramen. Applied to a serving (a prepared dish or a package): "we'll have three ramen and one soba, please;" "a ramen for me, too." Or to a type: "the X-brand is a longer-cooking ramen than the two Chinese ramen." Michael Z. 2008-05-01 16:31 Z
I agree that it's plausible that this would be used (countably) to denote a serving of ramen, but can you find any CFI-valid citations for that? I wasn't able to find any. -- Visviva 16:57, 1 May 2008 (UTC)
Is it necessary to specifically attest this? I'm sure it happens a hundred times a day in restaurants, but such a trivial thing isn't likely to show up in much fiction or non-fiction. Can we try to attest or cite "a [dish]" as being a ubiquitous construction in spoken restaurant clientese? (I have heard people asking for "a water" (sense 13) countless times.) Michael Z. 2008-05-01 17:11 Z
I would agree that it is widespread use, perhaps not as common as "some ramen", "the ramen", "an order of ramen", but widespread nonetheless. Would anyone know the number of "ramen" in Japanese? DCDuring TALK 21:51, 1 May 2008 (UTC)
Japanese doesn't do the whole singular/plural thing. You can think of all Japanese nouns as being invariable (like English aircraft or sheep), or as being mass nouns (like English coffee or soap). I find the former easier to wrap my head around, but the latter seems to be more accurate, in that different Japanese nouns have different "counters", somewhat like how in English we say "a cup of coffee", "a bar of soap", "a head of cattle", "a piece of furniture", "an article of clothing", "a loaf of bread", etc. Except that in Japanese I think the counters aren't themselves nouns, since Japanese doesn't have any count nouns, so it would find itself with the problem of how to count the counters. :-P   —RuakhTALK 00:07, 2 May 2008 (UTC)
Well, in general, I don't think that we should be trying to provide information that can't be verified. But you're probably right that the "a soup and a water" rule is general enough not to require separate attestation. Looking back, I don't think I've ever been to a Japanese restaurant outside of East Asia, so it seems odd to think of the waitstaff speaking English -- but I suppose they must. ;-) -- Visviva 10:07, 6 May 2008 (UTC)