Wiktionary:Tea room/2010/November

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discussion rooms: Tea roomEtym. scr.Info deskBeer parlourGrease pit ← October 2010 · November 2010 · December 2010 → · (current)

November 2010


"Fear of heterosexuals". Does anyone use the word like this? Though phobia may derive from the Ancient Greek for "fear", a lot of phobias don't refer to actual fear, but more like disgust or disdain. Thoughts? Mglovesfun (talk) 09:30, 1 November 2010 (UTC)


In Australia we commonly say "shit as!", "wicked as!", etc, the function of "as" being to intensify the adjective. What part of speech is that and how to word it I wonder? Is anyone else aware of this colloquialism? ---> Tooironic 00:40, 2 November 2010 (UTC)

It is sometimes used here (UK) too, and I remember making a post about it either here or in the Beer Parlour some months ago. Nothing much came of that. Equinox 00:43, 2 November 2010 (UTC)
Quite some: Wiktionary:Tea room/2009/July#as. —RuakhTALK 00:53, 2 November 2010 (UTC)
Are we all saying that all of the examples (above + end of) are some kind of clipping of an unspecified longer expression? If so, then in the imagined full expression "as" would be a preposition. Until it no longer "feels" like a clipped comparison, I'd think it remains a preposition. :::Is it ever used to modify a verb without an adjective or adverb to modify a verb directly, something like "He just strutted in as." ? That might be interpretable as a clipping, but it would be omitting a following adverb/adjective and PP ("(as) naked as a jaybird") or a clause ("(as) if he owned the place"). In that full phrase it would be an adverb or conjunction. Wouldn't that be stronger evidence of an emerging/emerged new sense? DCDuring TALK 02:26, 2 November 2010 (UTC)

In the US we say stuff like "As if!" Not sure what it's cutting off, but it feels like it's cutting something off. Would that be related? "Wicked as!" sounds like it's short of something like "Wicked as [can be]!" But "Shit as!" doesn't seem to fit that, Seems like shit is given the same meaning as in the sentence, "That is the shit." Like "shit" has. If it's meaning is like this, then it seems like it'd be "Shit as [can be]!"

Mofuggin bob


Alternative spelling of programming So not a misspelling or nonstandard? It ought to be pronounced differently from programming. Mglovesfun (talk) 12:04, 4 November 2010 (UTC)

I have never seen it spelled like that without it being considered a misspelling. Ever. US-Central Ohio English. Mofuggin bob

It's like traveling etc. I haven't seen this one myself, but I have seen programer. As we all know, English pronunciation often fails to be what one would expect. Equinox 22:20, 16 February 2011 (UTC)


Instantly is, of course, an adverb: "he knew her voice instantly" = he knew her voice at once ≈ as soon as he heard her voice, he knew it was her(s). According to some other dictionaries (e.g. Merriam-Webster), though, it can also be a conjunction: "he knew her voice instantly he heard it", meaning "he knew her voice as soon as he heard it". I haven't heard it used that way before, but one of the dictionaries gives the clue that it's a British usage. I'm curious: is that purely a colloquialism, or is it used that way even in formal settings? — Beobach972 17:41, 4 November 2010 (UTC)

This doesn't answer your question, but fwiw the BYU corpora give many hits for immediately as an conjunction (though many of these are false positives), but none for instantly. (And none for either word as a preposition.) Amazingly, we lack the preposition/conjunction sense of immediately.​—msh210 (talk) 18:28, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
Looking in Category:English conjunctions (I forget how to link to Categories), I see that we have just one "-ly" adverb's conjunction-sense: I would add others myself, only I've only ever heard "only", as far as I can recall. I haven't heard "immediately" used as a conjunction, either... might I say "I was confused immediately I heard it"? Heh. Fascinating! I'll expand my question: are these adverbs-as-conjunctions all colloquialisms, or are they acceptable even in formal settings? Are they all British, or are some American, too? — Beobach972 19:05, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
I am not familiar with either of them in American English, though I have heard immediately from UK and Australian speakers. BYU-BNC shows "immediately", but not "instantly", used as a conjunction. Much of the usage was in printed works, not necessarily in dialogue. I looked at the first 100 of the 1500+ uses at BYU and found only adverbial usage of "instantly". DCDuring TALK 20:17, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
It's funny you should mention that: I just came across such a use the other day in a book I'm reading (Jude the Obscure). That one was "immediately". I was all set to ask here about it, and then a few pages later I came across "directly" used the same way, and decided it was surprising grammar rather than surprising vocabulary. (And now I see from b.g.c. that "directly" is also used that way earlier in the book, though at the time I misparsed it: I took "she had written directly she had reached her friend's house" to be the same as "she had written directly to say that she had reached her friend's house".) —RuakhTALK 21:01, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
Directly and immediately are still commonly used this way, in certain contexts (it makes me think of business letters). "Instantly" sounds unusual though. Ƿidsiþ 21:24, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
That makes sense, since "instantly" can be replaced by "the instant", whereas "directly" and "immediately" would require a bit more rewriting ("directly on reaching her friend's house" or whatnot). Not that language always makes sense, or that the ability replace a word means that people will — but it wouldn't shock me if "the instant" sort of "blocks" this use of "instantly". —RuakhTALK 22:06, 4 November 2010 (UTC)


I don't think our swatch matches our def: I wouldn't consider  this background  to be "pale". I think that both are correct, and that "coffee" simply spans a range of palenesses. What do y'all think? I wonder if we can change {{colour panel}} to support multiple swatches … —RuakhTALK 20:43, 5 November 2010 (UTC)

Personally I don't think we should have swatches for subtle shades of colour ("red" and "yellow" should be okay). There's too much variation between monitors. Equinox 21:35, 5 November 2010 (UTC)
I've always wondered how we could attest to color definitions. This seems like a realm of standards, ie, prescriptiveness, especially after the first dozen color names. We could decide, just this once, to take a prescriptive posture on color definitions, enshrining some computer-based standard or some ISO-type standard. If there were a large amount of generally available research on how folks of different languages and cultures assigned swatches to color names, we could report it. But such research seems quote spotty, even for the equivalents of "red", "orange", "yellow", "green", "grue", "blue", "violet", "black", "gray", and "white". DCDuring TALK 00:52, 6 November 2010 (UTC)
You could do like Merriam-Webster and go with "a moderate brown that is yellower and duller than bay, auburn, or toast brown, darker and slightly yellower than chestnut brown, and yellower, less strong, and slightly lighter than tobacco"... — lexicógrafa | háblame — 02:24, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
I wonder how many word-capable folks are also good with colors. "Bay"? I know that "auburn" is often used to describe a brownish hair color, but it beats me what shade that might be. And, how would one attest such a wordy definition. "Brown" and "moderate" would probably follow from almost any set of other attestations. But we attest that "coffee" was both "yellower" and "duller" than each of "bay", "auburn", and "toast brown", etc? Wouldn't we need, in principle, three cites for each challenged attribute (perhaps with some cites serving for more than one attribute). in the case of the MW definition, I would not believe the "yellower" comparisons, for example. Our attestation mechanism is cumbersome for wordy color descriptions. Should we report instead standard color names (preferrably from multiple standard naming systems, preferably non-commercial) for all color names, while encouraging attestation and alternative definitions as well? Do we need so say that "coffee" is often used to mean "the color of coffee, sometimes as whitened as with milk or cream"? Colors like "brown" clearly have a large number of hyponyms. From where do we get some credibility for any hyponym lists? DCDuring TALK 13:18, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
Isn't auburn a reddish color? I thought "auburn hair" was a polite way to say "red hair" in times when red hair proper was considered ugly (because the English associated it with Jews, Scots, and the Irish), and is an exotic way to say "brown hair, but I swear, there's totally some red in there if you look close" now that brown hair is considered boring. (And that Merriam-Webster seems like a total joke to me. With color words that really have no other meaning besides color, I can believe that they might have a fairly specific denotation, but when a color word is named after an everyday substance, I'm certain that different people will associate it with somewhat different exemplars of that substance.) —RuakhTALK 01:00, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
Auburn is definitely a reddish brown, to me someone with auburn hair is just a shade or two darker than plain red hair. It's also a little more PC if you wish. And Merriam-Webster is ridiculous in their treatment of colors; every word that can be considered a color is labeled and set in a specific little box like that. I was intending that comment as a sort of joke on going too far - I think it would totally be fine to just say "a lightish brown color, like that of coffee". — lexicógrafa | háblame — 02:30, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
We've had discussions about color names before, eg, Wiktionary:Beer_parlour/2009/August#Attesting_color_names, a continuation of a discussion about a color called outer space (See Talk:outer space.). We also had some discussion about whether computer-standard color terms were in attestable use. No one seems sufficiently interested to push this through to a proposal to amend CFI to allow standards to be a sufficient basis for including prescriptively defined color names. Occasionally some color-name entry strikes someone as objectionable and it comes up of RfV.
Color names, more than most noun entries, really benefit from ostensive definitions (images). We don't really have any systematic means of ensuring that our images really match the headword (eg, vernacular species names).
I personally don't see why we couldn't use some standard sets of color names and associated screen representations of the color as a start for such entries. How many and which other color swatches might also be actually referred to by the same name by some people are interesting questions that may be addressed when more info is available. DCDuring TALK 02:49, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
I don't oppose having some sort of definition (prescriptive or an attempt at descriptive) for colors - but having one area of a self-described descriptive dictionary be intentionally prescriptive sounds a little funny. — lexicógrafa | háblame — 02:56, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
I just remembered the xkcd color survey. According to it,  This color is officially coffee.  [1][2]RuakhTALK 15:09, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
Right, so that's coffee according to a bunch of humourless nerds. And for humans? Equinox 22:38, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
His sample was from site visitors, so, IMHO judging from the content of the site, "humorless" is not accurate. "Nerds" are at least a subset of humans.
Sadly, I don't see how we can accept the site as a reference.
I think we would just need to find an open-source set of color names matched with standard color codes for monitor display as a base set of color characterizations. I don't see how we can reliably provide any color swatches without some "authoritative" or at least standard source. Possibly we could also try to display all the standard monitor display codes that are labeled with a given color name and footnote the source. But there may well be some copyright barriers to doing that as so many of the systems are proprietary. Judging from the WP articles, the information we might want seems proprietary. DCDuring TALK 00:02, 9 November 2010 (UTC)
But what makes you think that any given proprietary named-colour set (for convenience of representation) corresponds accurately to the usage of those colour words in text, other than program source code? Equinox 00:05, 9 November 2010 (UTC)
I don't. However, text very rarely provides any clue about the appropriate color swatch. And color words beg for such information.
I think that standards provide an objective basis for including color swatches. Using such a standard is likely to net out as being more helpful than an absence of such swatches. Print dictionaries agree. For example, my Webster's 2nd had 2 (of 28) color plates devoted to 152 color names (no longer reliable due to chemical changes). I'd be much happier if we had peer-reviewed studies of each color word that reported the range of monitor-display colors that a range of humans thought fit the terms. But reality denies me that happiness. DCDuring TALK 01:10, 9 November 2010 (UTC)

go from zero to hero

Would from zero to hero be a better, more inclusive entry? Equinox 23:11, 5 November 2010 (UTC)

Yes, but
  1. I've never seen this with any other verb but 'go'
  2. Definition, I think, would be harder to write. What would it be? An adverb?
Mglovesfun (talk) 00:08, 9 November 2010 (UTC)
google books:"from zero to hero" is overwhelmed by examples with no verb (e.g. as a book title). google books:"him from zero to hero" gets three hits, each using it after a transitive verb (turn, propel, transform). google books:"he * from zero to hero" mostly finds examples with go, but also ascend, graduate, verbless, and transitive examples. google books:"rise from zero to hero" finds one example with the verb rise and two examples with the noun rise (where "from zero to hero" is adjectival). google books:"his * from zero to hero" finds it modifying the nouns journey, elevation, and translation (though it also finds verbless, intransitive, and transitive examples). (Sorry for the sexism of the search strings. Apparently b.g.c. thinks that women never go from zero to hero. Positive spin: they're never zero. Negative spin: they're never hero. google books:"from zero to heroine" gets only one hit, so doesn't account for it. Though I suppose its not rhyming could be part of it.
So yeah, I think we should move this. And the POS could be either (1) two sections, one ===Adjective=== and one ===Adverb===, or (2) ===Prepositional phrase===. (The latter is not strictly accurate — this is actually two prepositional phrases stuck together — but syntactically it comes closest. It's used with various verbs that are much happier with prepositional phrases than with adjectives or adverbs; "it propelled him to fame" is fine; *"it propelled him famous" is not, and *"it propelled him famously" is not O.K. in this sense.)
RuakhTALK 12:01, 9 November 2010 (UTC)

of a mind

This seem archaicly idiomatic to me. Two or more people can be "of a mind" ("in agreement"). One can be "of a mind" ("intending", "desiring") to do something. I don't find it in OneLook. Are these senses both idiomatic? DCDuring TALK 00:35, 6 November 2010 (UTC)

See also half a mind. DCDuring TALK 00:39, 6 November 2010 (UTC)
Is that different to, say, of a belief? ---> Tooironic 10:56, 6 November 2010 (UTC)
I guess the "of a" construction seems old-fashioned in most of its uses to me. The intending/desiring sense is covered by a sense of "mind".
But the "in agreement" sense is not. If a speaker said "of one mind", that doesn't seem idiomatic to me, whereas "of a mind" does. DCDuring TALK 11:59, 6 November 2010 (UTC)
"I'm of a mind to [] " is the same as "I have a mind to [] ". Either one is theoretically twice as much as "I have half a mind to [] " (which you mention), and half as much as "I have two minds to [] ", but looking through the b.g.c. hits I get the sense that they're all of roughly the same amount of mind. (Some people like to play up, or play down, how much mind they're of.) I think this is an idiomatic use of the word mind, one that warrants separate coverage at [[mind]], but we probably shouldn't try to cover each variant of it separately. —RuakhTALK 00:51, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
I see that that usage is definitely non-idiomatic, though mind (intention) is not used as "intention" is, I think. What might be idiomatic would be a usage like: "We are of a mind about that." ~ "We are [in agreement/of the same mind/of like mind/of one mind] about that." All of the expressions with "mind" seem a bit old-fashioned, but "of a mind" - to the extent that it is still in use - seems "opaque", as the semanticists say. Does it depend on an (obsolete ?) sense of "a" that I'd never noticed before? DCDuring TALK 02:14, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
It's certainly not the usual sense of "a", though it does survive in some proverbs and expressions ("birds of a feather" comes to mind). I think it's probably dated or archaic or poetic, though google books:"we are of a kind" turns up several dozen recent, relevant examples, and google books:"we are of a * you and I" turns up a few more (mixed in with plenty of irrelevancies). It's hard to find more "naturalistic" examples, from when this sense might have been more productive, simply because "a" is so incredibly common (if you'll pardon the understatement); but I did find one:
(Note: I didn't try very hard to find examples that aren't of the form "___ are of a ___". They likely exist, but in the interests of not becoming a crazy person, I limited myself to twenty minutes on this one.)
RuakhTALK 02:17, 9 November 2010 (UTC)
I hadn't thought of them. I hadn't looked at COCA either. It has ten hits for "of a piece". They all seem like archaic constructions. If we had the practice of making appendices for snowclones and constructions generally, that's where I would have these, with {{only in}} directing users from the instances. DCDuring TALK 02:53, 9 November 2010 (UTC)
Re: "of a piece": Good one. google books:"of a * with" is not so helpful, but google books:"of a sort with" has some relevant cites, all oldish. I think of a piece might well warrant an entry, even if of a mind doesn't, simply because "of one piece" doesn't work at all. (Even two-hundred-year-old dictionaries cover "of a piece with"; whether because "a" was already mostly unproductive, or because "piece" wasn't used otherwise in such a sense, I can't say.) —RuakhTALK 03:04, 9 November 2010 (UTC)
Other lemmings, including MWOnline, treat of a piece as an idiom. Take a look, especially etymology and synonyms. How should we characterize the sense of a (article) (the same), which [[a]] lacks? As you say, it seems (feels) unproductive. Is it thereby "archaic" or "obsolete"? MWOnline has it unmarked as the second sense of "a". Also what is the PoS? Article? Determiner? DCDuring TALK 12:14, 9 November 2010 (UTC)
Re: POS: I think it's the same word as the usual "a". The same thing can be done with "one", as in Kipling's "We be of one blood, you and I." For that matter, bringing this back to the original topic: "we were of one mind on the issue" (the opposite of "I was of two minds on the issue"). But semantically, "the same" is a good gloss. It seems very substitutable. —RuakhTALK 01:39, 11 November 2010 (UTC)


One of our definitions: Pronoun: "(colloquial) (often with really) Somebody or something who is Template:superl in some way."

He's really something! I've never heard such a great voice.
She's really something. I can't believe she would do such a mean thing.

As I analyze this, "really" is a degree adverb modifying "something", not a sentence adverb modifying "s/he is something". That would make "something" an adjective, I think.

In other uses, "something" is an adjective meaning "having a characteristic the speaker cannot or does not specify" or "having any of many possible characteristics". At least in those senses in can be modified by "too" and "very", seemingly meeting a basic test for adjectivity.

"Something" seems to be able to take a placeholder role as any of four PoSes: noun, verb, adjective, and adverb. DCDuring TALK 00:40, 8 November 2010 (UTC)

How would you analyze "He's really something special!"? —RuakhTALK 02:21, 9 November 2010 (UTC)
Glad you asked. "Really" would seem to be a modal sentence/clause adverb in both cases. Thanks. DCDuring TALK 03:01, 9 November 2010 (UTC)
Or "He certainly is something."? Ƿidsiþ 09:37, 9 November 2010 (UTC)
I think I didn't (and may not yet) internalize the contradiction between "really" functioning as a clause-modifying modal adverb and my residual adherence to the grammar-school notion of an adverb as modifying words (verbs, adjectives, adverbs) rather than clauses (or prepositional phrases). I had even made modal adverbs a subcategory of Category:English sentence adverbs. That grammar-school view really needs to go, but apparently old learnings die hard. DCDuring TALK 15:12, 9 November 2010 (UTC)
Perhaps useful to this discussion is that there is a similar meaning for some as well. Maybe there is a connection. —CodeCat 23:51, 10 November 2010 (UTC)

I don't understand the idea that something is sometimes and adjective. Can somebody help me understand it? Something is a compound of a determiner and a noun. It doesn't have any characteristics of a pronoun except the propensity to identify something without naming it.--Brett 13:26, 12 November 2010 (UTC)

I'd be perfectly happy if the Pronoun section were cleaned up, making use of the Determiner PoS as appropriate. No OneLook dictionary provides a model. DCDuring TALK 16:30, 12 November 2010 (UTC)
So you're suggesting that anywhere words like some are categorized as pronouns, change them to determiners?--Brett 12:26, 13 November 2010 (UTC)
No. I'm suggesting that I won't stand in the way of my grammatical betters making whatever modernizing improvements may be warranted, the matter being above my pay grade. DCDuring TALK 23:00, 13 November 2010 (UTC)

I don't understand why my removal of the word something in the definition to mean a special person/item was reversed. Surely it makes more sense to call it 'a particular person or thing'. This is not 'something' as most people understand it, in fact it could be regarded as having the opposite meaning. The something is meaningless in a definition. 20:03, 9 March 2011 (UTC)


  • Since October 2007, the beginning of our first definition of "a": "Apocopic form of an."
    This implies to me that "a" is not the lemma. I have not yet found a dictionary of modern English that agrees. Should this be part of the etymology.
  • MWOnline has 9 senses and subsenses of the article "a". Longmans DCE has 14. We now have 3. Our Appendix is not much help. Is this too hard or too grammatical for us to cover ? DCDuring TALK 18:47, 9 November 2010 (UTC)
Indeed, I wouldn't have "apocopic form of an" at all. Mglovesfun (talk) 10:15, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
Agreed. It is wrong. SemperBlotto 10:18, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
OnlineEtyDict says that "a" is from Old English or Middle English an. I don't like to mess with basic entries that have had so much attention from so many editors without checking. DCDuring TALK 16:28, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
I'd forgotten to mention that all the translations for a appear at an. It may be that the underlying motivation was to off-load content from overcrowded [[a]] to [[an]]. DCDuring TALK 16:54, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
an is the original form that is reduced to a in so many cases that it makes the latter seem like the lemma form. In the end I'm not really sure if it matters, but like DCDuring said it does help to balance the page sizes a bit if we keep the definition at an. —CodeCat 23:46, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
I'm not sure what it means for one form to "seem like the lemma form" — lemmata are an artificial construct used for mentioning words, and don't necessarily have to do with what form is the most common, or anything like that — but "a" is definitely the default form of the word. People often use "a" even when "an" is standardly required, but "an" for "a" only occurs as an error. And if you pause after the article to consider what the next word should be, the article is "a", not "an". —RuakhTALK 01:50, 11 November 2010 (UTC)

on the one hand

The "correct" form should really be on one hand shouldn't it? Though both would be attestable I'd imagine. ---> Tooironic 19:42, 9 November 2010 (UTC)

As this is normally paired with "on the other hand" (and "on other hand" is ungrammatical, pidgin-like), one would expect the two terms of the pair to have parallel structure to be "correct". Also, "on one hand" is more common in SoP use, creating more potential for ambiguity. OTOH, on one hand is in common use, but 15-20% as common as on the one hand at COCA. DCDuring TALK 19:56, 9 November 2010 (UTC)
What I mean is that "on the one hand" is illogical because there is not only the one hand (as alluded by the "the"). But of course it is not Wiktionary's place to prescribe - though we should definitely include on one hand right? ---> Tooironic 12:12, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
I've lexicalized the more common form and simply don't notice the definiteness problem. In this case apparently parallelism trumps grammar. DCDuring TALK 16:58, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
I don't think it's wrong. Consider: "On the one side we have liberalism; on the other, fascism." Or (from a real book): "The one group wants government to support the family. The other group wants government to hold business corporations responsible for their actions." Equinox 23:44, 10 November 2010 (UTC)


Section header was: Scrape (verb). —RuakhTALK 18:26, 10 November 2010 (UTC)

The entry under this word does not mention another use of the word Scrape: as in " bow and scrape" denoting an obsequious behaviour or attitude towards someone. The "bow" part refers to bending forward respectfully towards a person being deferred to; the "scrape" part is not understood by this contributor which is why Wiktionary was consulted. —This unsigned comment was added by (talk) at 10:13, 10 November 2010 (UTC).

Did you see bow and scrape? The sense of scrape seems literal here. ---> Tooironic 21:55, 10 November 2010 (UTC)

est-ce que

We define this as "(used in the interrogative) do" ("Est-ce que tu veux une chambre?"), with usage notes saying "it was originally the interrogative form of c'est, meaning this is or it is, but now it is purely a question marker". But what about e.g. "Est-ce qu'il y a personne?". This can't be translated as do — perhaps is. Equinox 23:42, 10 November 2010 (UTC)

Indeed, there are plenty of cases where it can't be translated as do, either because there's already something corresponding to an English auxiliary verb or be, or because the clause is in a past or future or conditional tense, or in the third-person singular. I've replaced the def with {{non-gloss definition|Used to introduce a yes or no question.}} and removed the usage note, but further tweaking and/or expansion would not go amiss. —RuakhTALK 01:16, 11 November 2010 (UTC)

five past twelve

Looking at our entry for the word word, I saw this quotation:

  • 1945, Sebastian Haffner, The Observer, 1 Apr 1945:
    "The Kaiser laid down his arms at a quarter to twelve. In me, however, they have an opponent who ceases fighting only at five minutes past twelve," said Hitler some time ago. He has never spoken a truer word.

It's a good illustration of the use of "word" to mean "utterance" — but the word uttered, "five minutes past twelve", is opaque, isn't it? It's a German idiom, famously used by Hitler: "(bis) fünf nach zwölf". It's also left untranslated in a couple of other books which quote him, directly or indirectly:

  • 2007, Max Domarus, Patrick Romane (ed), The essential Hitler: speeches and commentary:
    [...] divine Providence stood by him. It did so because he was steadfast; he refused to capitulate; he was ready to fight on to "the last battalion," even until "five minutes past twelve."
  • 1974, John Strawson, The Battle for Berlin:
    There were many reasons for this. First and foremost was the will of a Führer who refused, like Queen Victoria, to admit that the possibility of defeat existed, and who in any event was prepared to fight until five past twelve, to clutch at any straw, to allow the nation to be destroyed rather than surrender [...] He had told General Thomale that if necessary he would fight until five past twelve. Guderian used the same expression to Himmler on 21 March. With Berlin encircled, were the hands of the clock at last past midnight?

The whole of Hitler's 12:05 speech was translated and printed here:

  • ca 1942–5, Franklin Watts, Nathan Ausubel (ed), Voices of History:
    You can count on this: Germany will be the very last one to lay down her arms, and that will be five minutes past twelve.

All of this leads me to the question: could we have an entry for "five past twelve" as an English idiom? The books above are all quoting one source (a speech by Hitler). (We definitely need an entry for "fünf nach zwölf", the German idiom, which has been used by others besides Hitler and which is used in contexts other than "fight until..." — though curiously I'm not finding it anywhere in print before his use...) — Beobach972 02:27, 11 November 2010 (UTC)

Is the expression actually used in English, other than as a translation of the German? Dbfirs 09:38, 18 November 2010 (UTC)


Is there a difference between southern and Southern? See sudista. Maro 21:08, 12 November 2010 (UTC)

Sort of. "southern" is a generic term attachable to anything; southern Germany, southern Massachusetts (but for reasons I can't explicate, as a native speaker, southern part of the campus, southern side of the building). "Southern" is distinct; you might talk about the Southern Campus (though South Campus would be more common), but that would be the southernmost (or historically southernmost) of distinct campuses. Southern on its own in the US frequently means Southern US, which is not the south part of the US; definitions vary some, but I would define it as the states that succeeded as part of the w:Confederate States of America, and I think about any definition would exclude Arizona, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii, no matter how far south they are. In any case, Southern Foo would imply that the part of Foo so labeled is distinct from Foo or the rest of Foo in a way more definitive then just direction.--Prosfilaes 11:16, 13 November 2010 (UTC)
Prosfilaes is correct. I will note that the difference between southerner and Southerner (in the US senses of those words) is even more marked. Hm — I'll see if I can improve our entries for Southern and Southerner. — Beobach972 06:34, 14 November 2010 (UTC)
In American English, Southern is an adjective that the refers to the South, more or less the states of the Confederacy. One can find it in usages with lower-case nouns: "Southern leadership", "Southern accent", etc. I am not familiar with its use in American English with lower-case nouns with other meanings. I am ignorant of "Southern"'s usage in UK English. DCDuring TALK 11:21, 16 November 2010 (UTC)
UK usage is not as clearly defined as American usage. The south-east of England is sometimes intended, but a Scot might mean the whole of England ("Southerner" = "sassenach"), and a "Northener" might use "Southerner" to mean anyone south of "The Midlands", or even include "Midlanders". I don't see much difference between the capitalised and uncapitalised versions of "southern" in the UK. Dbfirs 09:35, 18 November 2010 (UTC)


The entry for this word claimed that the intransitive meaning of "to benefit" is "To be or to provide a benefit." (changed from "derive benefit" in July 2005) I fixed that, but the entry lacks examples and the translations (which are based on the old definition) need some work, too. Maybe someone can take a look? Rl 13:32, 15 November 2010 (UTC)

Something that makes you sleep

I am frantically trying to remember a two-word term describing the above. It is used as an example of a fallacy whereby shrouding something very prosaic in scientific-sounding language gives false authority to the user. It was coined, I believe, in a story by an 18th- or 19th-century author in which a group of scholars is treated to (and conned by) the use of the term. __meco 09:39, 16 November 2010 (UTC)

Wonderful! __meco 11:57, 16 November 2010 (UTC)

vive la différence

Usage notes: "Often used as a humorous exclamation (e.g., by a man appreciating an attractive woman)." Erm, is it? Mglovesfun (talk) 15:27, 17 November 2010 (UTC)

Hello, Mglove ! Comme je passais par là, et que personne ne t'a répondu... Of course this expression'd be used by a man trying to approach an attractive woman, but only if she tells him that he is loosing his time, since she is lesbian. Then he'll make a big smile, maybe bow, utter "Vive la différence !", and look somewhere else (hoping not to fall upon a travestite, but then he has his phrase ready, unless...) ... T.y. Arapaima 10:49, 26 November 2010 (UTC)
Mg, you weren't quite clear. Are you questioning whether the phrase is commonly used in this way, or whether the usage is humorous? Pingku 13:04, 26 November 2010 (UTC)

about time

We have called this an Adverb. I have changed it to Prepositional phrase, which may not be correct. We present it as:

  1. Close to the right time.
    It's about time for the wedding to start, let's run to the church.
  2. (idiomatic, sarcastic) Far past the desired time.

The first sense is literal and arguably should be replaced with {{&lit}}. The second need not be sarcastic or ironic. Those tags seem to be intended to account for the evolution of the supposedly idiomatic sense from the literal sense. Insofar as "about time" is idiomatic, its idiomaticity seems to depend on its being a shortening of "It's about time".

We also have [[it's about time]], which we call an interjection. It is clearly a phrase, in fact often a complete sentence. But it retains its sense when used with the kind of complements that accompany "time": "to" infinitives, optionally introduced by PPs headed by "for" and clauses, optionally introduced by "that". It also retains its sense with other forms of "be". The interpretation depends on deixis. IOW, it doesn't really seem idiomatic. It seems like a prototype of a syntactic construction. If we keep this, it would seem to depend on a phrasebook rationale.

Our treatment of time#Noun doesn't well cover its complementary phrases or clauses.

My inclination is to provide more coverage for the complementation of a word like time and dispense with entries for the non-idioms under discussion, except as phrasebook entries. The phrasebook rationale has a great deal of merit for catchphrase-type entries, including such possibly non-idiomatic phrases as mistakes were made. Many such phrases are also good prototypes for snowclones or contructions. DCDuring TALK 16:57, 17 November 2010 (UTC)


Noun sense: "self-employed people". Do we list this kind of nominalisation? My impression is that such a structure can apply to almost any adjective and thus does not require a seperate sense. ---> Tooironic 11:33, 21 November 2010 (UTC)

I agree with you. Even when it's used substantively/nominally, it's still secretly an adjective, and can be modified by an adverb; see e.g. google books:"the permanently self-employed". —RuakhTALK 21:25, 21 November 2010 (UTC)
CGEL cover such fused-head constructions involving adjectives in the chapter on nouns and noun phrases. There are some lexical aspects to which adjectives can form such fused heads, but a strong discriminator between a true noun and a fused-head adjective is that true nouns can be used in an indefinite NP. For countable nouns, use with "a"/"an" should discriminate effectively. *"'A self-employed'" in the audience spoke up." seems wrong. If it is to be taken as a plural-only noun, *"'Five self-employed' in the audience spoke up." doesn't seem much better.
I wonder if "self-employed people" is a fully substitutable definition of the meaning of "self-employed". Not all determiners that work with self-employed people work with "self-employed". DCDuring TALK 19:52, 22 November 2010 (UTC)
Should not be a noun. Cf. the rich, the poor, the aged, even the happiest are sometimes sad. Equinox 23:15, 22 November 2010 (UTC)

good for you

I don't know about other countries, but in Australia this also has a sarcastic, negative meaning. ---> Tooironic 12:25, 22 November 2010 (UTC)

Bear in mind that sarcasm is a deliberate act of inverting the actual meaning of something. (I could say, in a thickly sarcastic tone, "yeah, that was really helpful!", but it doesn't change the dictionary meaning of "really" or "helpful". Equinox 23:17, 22 November 2010 (UTC)
I agree, but some sarcastic-and-ironic usages are so common, or such a high proportion of overall usages, that they may be worth covering anyway, either in usage notes or in regular sense lines. (But caution is needed; a sarcastic-and-ironic usage is not completely equivalent to the converse sarcastic-but-unironic usage. Something like "Good for you! Your mother must be so proud!" works well, whereas "That's stupid. Your mother must be so proud!" is awkward at best.) —RuakhTALK 01:47, 23 November 2010 (UTC)
The phrase, on its own and with a certain emphasis, is used as a mildly sarcastic comment here in the UK, too, but the meaning would not normally be sarcastic in continuous text or normal conversation, and "good for you", like "well done", is often used on its own as a positive, supportive comment . If the sarcastic usage is much more common (to the point of excluding the usual sense) in Australia, perhaps we could add a usage note. Dbfirs 21:17, 1 December 2010 (UTC)

corn on the cob

Our definition is "cooked ears of corn (maize, specifically sweet corn)". Really? Not raw?​—msh210 (talk) 18:00, 22 November 2010 (UTC)

I only know of it referring to cooked ears of corn. One makes corn on the cob from ears of corn (not from raw corn on the cob) by boiling or roasting). DCDuring TALK 19:56, 22 November 2010 (UTC)
I agree, but google books:"raw corn on the cob" does get a fewscore hits. As does google books:"cooked corn on the cob", which I think would mostly only make sense to someone for whom "corn on the cob" could be raw. So we may want a second sense. (But on the other hand, even google books:"raw fried chicken" manages to find a few hits, so maybe we shouldn't bother.) —RuakhTALK 20:51, 22 November 2010 (UTC)
Since we're listing anecdotal evidence: When my (very) significant other asks me to buy (raw) corn on the cob, it's specified as "corn on the cob", lest I buy something else.​—msh210 (talk) 21:01, 22 November 2010 (UTC)
I concede based on a quick poll of some few normal humans. The more common sense is cooked, but ears of corn in a retail food store are very commonly called "corn on the cob". It isn't at all unusual for something destined for final conversion into X to be itself called X. Under that hypothesis "raw fried chicken" should mean chicken breaded/spiced in preparation for the last step: frying. DCDuring TALK 22:29, 22 November 2010 (UTC)
google books:"still on the cob" is also informative. Since the core of an ear, the part that the kernels are attached to, is known as the "cob", I suppose this makes sense. It also raises the question of whether this is genuinely idiomatic. :-P   —RuakhTALK 21:08, 29 November 2010 (UTC)
The four OneLook dictionaries that have it all define it as cooked. Looks like a job for {{&lit}}. DCDuring TALK 00:28, 30 November 2010 (UTC)
... so if it is cooked, then the phrase is a single expression, but, if raw, a sum of parts? Dbfirs 21:36, 1 December 2010 (UTC)
That's the logic of it. AFAICT, most people seem to view it as having only the "cooked" meaning. DCDuring TALK 23:20, 1 December 2010 (UTC)
However, since corn could mean various types of cereal grain, then corn on the cob limits the meaning to that of maize, whether cooked or raw. So probably not SoP, imho. -- ALGRIF talk 13:38, 3 December 2010 (UTC)
Is this expression used in the UK or anywhere outside North America? In the US corn does not include other grains. BTW, {{&lit}} is only used to remind users that an idiomatic phrase can also be used non-idiomatically. I believe that at least in the US most users limit "corn on the cob" to corn that is cooked and served on its cob, which seems idiomatic to me. DCDuring TALK 14:46, 3 December 2010 (UTC)
We used to say "Indian corn" to distinguish maize from other corn crops, but I haven't heard this usage recently, and I think I have heard "on the cob" added to describe the crop rather than the food. Maize is the standard name for the crop in modern farming here. Dbfirs 10:34, 15 February 2011 (UTC)

have a bath

Per Special:PrefixIndex/have a and Talk:have a bath. While have a sounds awkward to Americans, is this a reason for us to create lots and lots of common collocations? Some of those. Have a fit looks idiomatic, while have a flat seems really unidiomatic. I haven't looked at the history, but it looks like Wonderfolly to me. Mglovesfun (talk) 15:17, 24 November 2010 (UTC)

  • In this particular instance, "have a bath" is UK, and "take a bath" is US. Both sound strange to transpondians. SemperBlotto 15:22, 24 November 2010 (UTC)
For reference, see Appendix:Collocations of do, have, make, and take and Category:English light verb constructions. As reluctant as I am to see idiomaticity in merely common collocations, the pondian differences suggest a certain level of arbitrariness in the selection among these verbs to create non-strange expressions. CGEL includes the four verbs above and give as the main verbs used in "light verb constructions", but also offer an apology/suggestion/blessing, etc., pay attention/heed/a call/a visit, put an end to/stop to, raise an objection to. There may be other verbs like set and let that could be put into this category. In these kinds of constructions, the semantic burden is carried mostly by a noun complement and minimally by the verb. Many, but not all, light verb constructions seem idiomatic to me. "Have" in "have a flat" is closer to its core non-light-verb senses of "possess" or "experience". "Have a fit" could also be the very nearly synonymous throw a fit, but not any of the other verbs mentioned above AFAIK. DCDuring TALK 18:17, 24 November 2010 (UTC)
In an IRC conversation, I brought up, by way of analogy, make a right and make a left which sounds strange in the UK, but ultimately the mystery is the use of make, not the phrases in their entirety. Mglovesfun (talk) 18:43, 24 November 2010 (UTC)
Other dictionaries only have hang a left as idiomatic. To me take a left seems equivalently (non)idiomatic to make a left. DCDuring TALK 19:04, 24 November 2010 (UTC)


"Note the differences implied between gabblers and other prattlers in R. F. Burton's translation of The Arabian Nights (at the end of the tailor's tale)." Can anyone explain what this is about? Equinox 21:22, 24 November 2010 (UTC)

It's a famous (-ish) comic interlude in the 1001 Nights, night 30 to be precise, which plays on the old stereotype of barbers never shutting up. A guy is stuck in the barber's chair needing the loo, and his barber won't stop talking and finish the job. The joke is that the barber claims to be "the quiet one" in his family, and goes on to explain his brothers thusly:
‘I am he, The Silent Man hight, by reason of the fewness of my words, to distinguish me from my six brothers. For the eldest is called Al-Bakbúk, the prattler; the second Al-Haddár, the babbler; the third Al-Fakík, the gabbler; the fourth, his name is Al-Kuz al-aswáni, the long necked Gugglet, from his eternal chattering; the fifth is Al-Nashshár, the tattler and tale teller; the sixth Shakáshik, or many clamours; and the seventh is famous as Al-Sámit, The Silent Man, and this is my noble self!’
Not good evidence for any difference in the terms used though. Burton is clearly just looking for as many near-synonyms as he can find. Ƿidsiþ 21:27, 24 November 2010 (UTC)
(More: Interestingly, in Lane's translation he explicitly says in the notes: ‘this and the two following names [ie the first three] convey the same meaning.’ Ƿidsiþ 21:42, 24 November 2010 (UTC))


Does this really function like a single word? I'm sure that color/colour would get enough hits to pass an RFV, but I wouldn't consider it a word, it's just two words connected by a forward slash. Mglovesfun (talk) 19:30, 25 November 2010 (UTC)

I don't think it can be shown to function as a single word — any quotation using it can be parsed, as you say, as "two words connected by a forward slash". (This is in contrast to German constructions like "Student/in".) I'd support incorporating the content into the separate entries, and deleting this. — Beobach 01:27, 5 December 2010 (UTC)

What is the verb that describes tree movement

What is the verb that describe tree movement, not movement but when the wind blow, tree shaking, not shaking but kinda affected by the wind. So branches and leafs moving. But how to say it in English?

To sway? Mglovesfun (talk) 13:16, 28 November 2010 (UTC)
The sound is susurration or rustling... — lexicógrafa | háblame — 13:52, 28 November 2010 (UTC)
Yeah, thank you! To sway is a perfect answer.


Below's a lovely sentence from Huckleberry Finn: I added this quote to alwuz (which appears in this spelling in plently of other works), but would like to know the best tag to put on the definition line: Do we want {{archaic}} {{dialectal}} {{alternative form of}}, {{nonstandard}} or a mixture of some? --SixTwo 00:02, 29 November 2010 (UTC)

  1. "Doan' hurt me--don't! I hain't ever done no harm to a ghos'. I alwuz liked dead people, en done all I could for 'em. You go en git in de river agin, whah you b'longs, en doan' do nuffn to Ole Jim, 'at 'uz awluz yo' fren'."

This is odd. You have two different spellings here: alwuz and awluz. Same at wikisource. But if you look at the archive.org scans, there is only one: awluz. Rl 10:50, 29 November 2010 (UTC)

  • I'd say {{US|dialectal}} should cover it. Ƿidsiþ 12:51, 29 November 2010 (UTC)
  • I've made it {{eye dialect of|always}}. Per Widsith, I suppose |from=US can be added, but I didn't know whether some more specific dialect is more appropriate. (AAVE, I suppose? It's Jim speaking in the quotation above.)​—msh210 (talk) 19:56, 29 November 2010 (UTC)
I don't think it is alwuz because British dialect has awlus and I suspect that this is the same word. I can't prove this. Dbfirs 20:11, 29 November 2010 (UTC)
There are doubtless many ways to write always in eye dialect. Alwuz is attestably among them.​—msh210 (talk) 20:43, 29 November 2010 (UTC)
If I'm not mistaken, allus is by far the most common. — lexicógrafa | háblame — 20:46, 29 November 2010 (UTC)
Agreed. Should the other variant spellings just be referred to this spelling? The pronunciation is not exclusive to the USA. Regions of Northern England also retain this pronunciation and eye-dialect spelling. Is "alwuz" genuine eye-dialect, or just a common mistake as RI suggested above? Dbfirs 10:40, 30 November 2010 (UTC)
Since "alwuz" appears only once and in just one transcription of the text, whereas "awluz" appears three times in the on-line transcription (and probably four times in the original?), I propose moving the entry to "awluz", leaving "alwuz" as an alternative eye-dialect used by other authors. Does anyone disagree? Dbfirs 11:13, 28 December 2010 (UTC)
It's not a good quote as is. Someone should get a hard copy and check. Until then, I say have both entries with {{eye dialect of|always}} and without this quote.​—msh210 (talk) 17:37, 28 December 2010 (UTC)
Yes, that sounds fair. We'll preserve the quote on the talk page until someone can check it in a real book. The internet is not always an accurate source of quotations. If Mark Twain had used different spellings for different characters, then that would have been convincing, especially in view of his introduction, but it is unlikely that he intended two different spelling for one character. There are 246 internet hits for that sentence with the spelling "awluz" (consistently), so I'm fairly sure that "alwuz" is a mis-transcription, but I agree that it would be wise to check. Unfortunately, I don't have a printed copy of the book. Dbfirs 23:43, 28 December 2010 (UTC)
There's no need for a hard copy here; we have many scans of this book on Google Books. [3] and [4] show scans of 1918 and 1899 editions of Huckleberry that use alwuz, and removing the time restriction shows editions from the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2000s that use that spelling. (I know many of the last are based off the Gutenberg edition.) Searching for "I awluz liked dead" by Mark Twain comes up with 13 hits, and "I alwuz liked dead" by Mark Twain 27, so the most common spelling at that point is alwuz, even if it is an error. 15 have "'at 'uz alwuz yo' fren'" including the 1918 edition even if it doesn't change awluz to alwuz elsewhere.--Prosfilaes 04:08, 29 December 2010 (UTC)
Should we give any weight to the "definitiveness", "priority", or other qualitative assessment of an edition? If so, how? The Gutenberg process, I think, enshrines typesetter errors, though it seems pretty good at catching scannos. Some modern (and therefore in copyright) editions of important works differentiate themselves by having editors who make "corrections" of many kinds. DCDuring TALK 11:50, 29 December 2010 (UTC)
It seems very strange that Mark Twain, who was so careful about different accents, should genuinely use two different spellings for the same character in the same utterance! Dbfirs 22:46, 29 December 2010 (UTC)
I might ignore a cheap Gutenberg reprint or something, but many if not most editions of Huckleberry Finn have alwuz at that point. I think we should be more interested in the words found in the most common editions then the ones found in expensive scholarly editions.--Prosfilaes 23:41, 29 December 2010 (UTC)
I agree, and thank you for checking the scans. So I guess we can keep the quote on both pages, illustrating both spellings, perhaps with {{SIC}} so people realize the error (if it was one) was Twain's and not ours.​—msh210 (talk) 04:53, 30 December 2010 (UTC)
I don't agree (but I also thank you for checking). I think an error by an author does not make a good citation. There are many other citations available for each spelling where it is clear that the author did intend that spelling. Dbfirs 23:27, 30 December 2010 (UTC)
If we have other citations, we might as well use them, but I'm not a fan of second-guessing authors, and even if something is an error in "a well-known work", that may be the very reason people would look it up.--Prosfilaes 08:05, 31 December 2010 (UTC)
Are any original Mark Twain manuscripts in existence? In Mark Twain's Representation of Negro Speech by James Nathan Tidwell (American Speech: Vol. 17, No. 3 (Oct., 1942), pp. 174-176) it is suggested that alwuz is the stressed form and awluz the unstressed form. This sounds at first to be just be an attempt to justify an error, but Mark Twain was very careful about reproduction of pronunciation, and he used other variant spellings to represent the same word in stressed and unstressed forms. Are there any experts in Missouri Negro speech who could comment? I'm happy to be proved wrong, in which case, I agree that the cite should be included in both entries. Dbfirs 11:00, 31 December 2010 (UTC)


Are we missing a sense here, as in, "He is a walking dictionary" or "She is so hot she's like a walking felony"? ---> Tooironic 11:48, 29 November 2010 (UTC)

The first usage looks like a synonym of living, or perhaps living, breathing. There are presumably other words that would fit. Pingku 12:44, 29 November 2010 (UTC)
I think it's just the usual sense of walking. I mean, one wouldn't say about someone confined to a wheelchair "he's a walking dictionary", no matter what extent he's a dictionary incarnate to. (At least, I don't think one would.)​—msh210 (talk) 19:53, 29 November 2010 (UTC)
Doesn't sound too far off, within my vocabulary — although come to think of it that would be a really strange usage. — lexicógrafa | háblame — 20:02, 29 November 2010 (UTC)
google books:"walking dictionary" wheelchair pulls up two hits, each applying the term "walking dictionary" to a wheelchair-bound person, and neither one remarking on its being odd at all. Personally I wouldn't find anything odd about it, either, unless someone pointed it out. —RuakhTALK 21:02, 29 November 2010 (UTC)
The Guha citation, yes. The Vash-Crewe citation seems to be referring to his erstwhile state as a "walking dictionary": now he's confined to a wheelchair. That said, [5] has "walking repository" about someone who's — part of the relevant time — in a wheelchair, and there's probably a third cite somewhere. (It's called attestation by handwaving.  ;-) )​—msh210 (talk) 04:50, 30 November 2010 (UTC)
Re: Vash-Crewe: No, I don't think so. That possibility had occurred to me, so I read the whole passage, and found that such an interpretation wouldn't really make sense. The writer was "a few months away" from college at the time, had just had "a vocational counseling session" with her "[high] school psychologist", and had already been paralyzed for more than a year; so, it wouldn't make sense for "in school" to be referring to a previous period of time. It must be referring to the social setting, just as today I might say that at work I'm known as Ran while among friends I'm known as Ran. —RuakhTALK 20:55, 1 December 2010 (UTC)
Hm, I suppose so. I've added the sense; tweak ad lib.​—msh210 (talk) 22:06, 1 December 2010 (UTC)