Wiktionary:Tea room/2011/March

Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to: navigation, search
This is an archive page that has been kept for historical purposes. The conversations on this page are no longer live.
discussion rooms: Tea roomEtym. scr.Info deskBeer parlourGrease pit ← February 2011 · March 2011 · April 2011 → · (current)

March 2011


Apparently eye dialect for "never mind." It gets quite a few (1,880) hits in google books. Probably dated, but some hits are in recent reprints. Does this sort of thing warrant an entry? — Pingkudimmi 09:46, 1 March 2011 (UTC)

Yeah; done; thanks.​—msh210 (talk) 18:20, 1 March 2011 (UTC)
Thanks. — Pingkudimmi 09:47, 2 March 2011 (UTC)


Is this a 'common misspelling' of unweddable? Unweddable gets 41 Google Book hits, this gets only 3 (others are scannos or other words entirely). There 3:41 ratio seems a bit too rare, even though unweddable is itself rare. Mglovesfun (talk) 15:56, 2 March 2011 (UTC)

The ratio doesn't seem too low, but the absolute frequency seems quite low. I would kill it. DCDuring TALK 16:35, 2 March 2011 (UTC)
Perhaps move it and delete the redirect (which is why I haven't created unweddable yet). Mglovesfun (talk) 22:46, 4 March 2011 (UTC)

Latin genitive -atis nouns

Someone commented on OTRS that we don't have the genitive -atis forms for Latin nouns (though we do have the verb form with the same spelling). Can these be auto-generated?​—msh210 (talk) 20:30, 2 March 2011 (UTC)

Actually, he said that that's one example, and that in general Latin verb forms which are also noun forms are often listed as only verb forms.​—msh210 (talk) 20:33, 2 March 2011 (UTC)
The problem is that the bot is not very clever. When adding a Latin entry to an existing (other language) entry it looks to see if there is already a Latin entry; if so, it just bypasses the addition (with a message to its console). It isn't clever enough to add a noun after an existing verb (or the converse). I could probably fix it, but I haven't got time to do everything that I would like - my wish list is already several years long. SemperBlotto 09:41, 3 March 2011 (UTC)
Anyone else have the time, inclination, and ability?​—msh210 (talk) 18:38, 3 March 2011 (UTC)

of a

Two things:

  1. I notice the current definition is labelled as "dated". Why? Surely it's perfectly current. The second quotation is from 2008 (although that doesn't necessarily contradict the "dated" label).
  2. There is an American colloquial usage used in phrases such as "how <adjective> of a <noun>", where standard usage would require "how <adjective> a <noun>" (eg, "How big of a man are you?" for "How big a man are you?"). Should we list this here, or does it belong elsewhere?

Paul G 18:22, 3 March 2011 (UTC)

Regarding the existing sense: It's nonexistent in my dialect. Perhaps it's other than dated in the U.K.?
Regarding the proposed sense: How big of a man are you seems AFAICT to have the same of as how much of that cake can you eat. Is it SOP? (I suspect so.)​—msh210 (talk) 18:30, 3 March 2011 (UTC)

On another topic, surely the entry [[of an]] and this one should be merged into one and either hard-redirected or form-ofed?​—msh210 (talk) 18:33, 3 March 2011 (UTC)

Re point 1: It's not current with me either.
Re point 2: We have a much improved entry at [[of]]. It has a subsense of the "indicating origin" sense for uses following an adjective and another thereafter toward the bottom of the entry. Perhaps it needs rewording or additional citations/usage examples. DCDuring TALK 19:56, 3 March 2011 (UTC)
Re: point 1: The second quotation actually belongs to a different sense, which I've now defined as {{rfdef|lang=en}}. (Better definitions welcome!) Neither one is current U.S. usage SFAIK, except perhaps in certain fixed expressions (is "all of a sudden" using the second sense?); they both sound British -slash- old-fashioned to me.
Re: point 2: That's SOP. The same thing occurs with plural nouns and non-count nouns, and there of course it's just "of" without "a". (See google:"how big of men", google:"how cold of water".)
RuakhTALK 20:12, 3 March 2011 (UTC)
The "dated" usage is current in my dialect. Perhaps we should label it "dated, dialectal or colloquial"? The OED has no such restriction, and cites usage covering more than a thousand years, but phrases such as "of a Tuesday" would look odd in a formal text. Dbfirs 08:48, 8 March 2011 (UTC)
So, both English commenteNrs think it's current, and all three American commenters think it's not. I think a "(UK)" tag is probably the simplest solution. —RuakhTALK 18:44, 8 March 2011 (UTC)
COCA has a score of entries of the first sense for "of a morning"/"of an evening", although meaning not "on every", more nearly "on some" or "by habit on". Interestingly the sole hits at COCA from spoken sources are from an NPR talk show about an early "industrial ballad" (New England textile mills), in one of which a speaker notes how the phrase stuck in her mind and appeared where she would have expected "on a". Many of the other hits seemed "literary".
This reminds me of the w:adverbial genitive, of which it appears to be a periphrasis. A grammarian I read referred to the adverbial genitive (with "s") as now being "sensed" by speakers as a plural.
I also found an instance of the singular sense "one", "once in/on the/a", which seems to be the sense in the second cite (which is not durably archived). DCDuring TALK 19:19, 8 March 2011 (UTC)

American IPA of call and draw

Cot-caught merger across the US

I'm told by TAKASUGI Shinji (talkcontribs), a professional linguist (or linguistics student, I forget now) that /ɔː/ doesn't exist in American English. So what is the American equivalent? Mglovesfun (talk) 15:34, 4 March 2011 (UTC)

The Handbook of the IPA lists ɔ only as ɔɪ, in words like boy. It lists the vowel I have for call, draw and its example, pod (which should be pretty standard American) as ɑ.--Prosfilaes 22:42, 4 March 2011 (UTC)
Depends on your dialect. In mine (and I'm far from alone), pod has a different vowel from call's and draw's, so ideally you'd transcribe them differently. I use /ɑ/ for my pod, far, father, bother, rider, and calm; /a/ for my pot, writer, and .com; and /ɔ/ for my pawn, call, and draw. (I'm never 100% sure about boy, for, and force, whether they should be /ɔ/or /o/. I think I've been using the former, but if someone can convince me either way I'd be very happy.)​—msh210 (talk) 08:49, 6 March 2011 (UTC)
I fully have the w:Cot-caught merger (and even the father-bother merger), so ɑː, ɔː, and ɒ are fully merged for me, according to the article.--Prosfilaes 19:08, 6 March 2011 (UTC)

behind the scenes

Surely this is a noun or some other PoS? ---> Tooironic 10:56, 6 March 2011 (UTC)

  • I would have said that it was an adverb. SemperBlotto 11:18, 6 March 2011 (UTC)
Ruakh's got it right. Its a prepositional phrase. It can be used in a noun phrase as a modifier, leading to the confusion with adjective, and it can be used as a locational complement or adjunct, leading people to think it's an adverb.--Brett 18:59, 7 March 2011 (UTC)

The Plural From of the Word Cheese

I am going to appeal to the Miriam-Webster dictionary to change the plural of cheese. My alternate plural is as follows: cheesen. WHY?? Well, the word cheeses works well if your talking about multiple types of cheese, for example: "I have four cheeses: romano, pepperjack, swiss, and colby." However, if we're just talking about multiple quantities of one type or a non-specific type cheese, the phrase "I have four cheeses." is inaccurate and misleading. To clarify any confusion, the word cheesen is proposed. "I have four cheesen." eliminates any confusion, and clarifies that it is the quantity of the cheese that is being discussed, rather than the type. To make it clear, incorrect usage would be, for example: "I have four blocks of cheesen." Why, you ask? Well, it's a double plural. Cheesen on its own is enough, the word "blocks" is redundant.

So, will you support my e-petition to have this word made official?

Not I. Merriam-Webster, like any respectable dictionary publisher, lists words that see actual use, not those someone wishes would see use. Wiktionary, this Web site, does the same.​—msh210 (talk) 06:17, 7 March 2011 (UTC)
Certainly not. A few older English words still form the plural with the German "en" ending, but no modern English words use this plural form. I assume that you are not a reincarnation of Noah Webster whose spelling reforms are still causing confusion to some of us on this side of the pond. Your appeal will fall on deaf ears! Are you going to coin "worden" as the plural for "bits of words"? Dbfirs 08:13, 8 March 2011 (UTC)

Prefix a-

Iceberg Slim's Doom Fox uses the prefix a- in verbs a lot, two examples in the first page: "Joe's father ruefully shakes his graying head as he watches a handsome lemon-hued dandy prance down an aisle with a ravishing sloe-eyed beauty awiggle in a tight pink dress" and "His mouthpiece flashes starkly in his brutish face as his heavy blue lips pop agape in flabbergast". I think in both cases it basically means the same thing as the ending -ing. Is that right? That's not one of the senses already given at a-, is it?

It might be the Anglo-Saxon intensifying prefix. I think this is still occasionally productive, despite what our entry says, but it tends to sound dated or pretentious in modern usage outside dialect. I'm not an expert, so I might be wrong. Dbfirs 08:20, 8 March 2011 (UTC)
No, it's the "in, on" sense (ety #2). The OED treats that etymology as two senses, one that's "no longer productive" and mostly matches our def, and one that's "now chiefly poet." and matches our examples. These seem to be the latter. (Incidentally, the OED only has "on", not "in", for the sense that matches our def.) —RuakhTALK 18:41, 8 March 2011 (UTC)
Yes, you're probably right because the Anglo-Saxon sense normally has a hyphen. It is still occasionally used in dialect. Dbfirs 21:18, 12 March 2011 (UTC)


I think the definition for "Alewife" is completely wrong. It's defined as a wife that serves ail, but I think it's really just a kind of fish. —This unsigned comment was added by (talk) at 08:48, 8 March 2011 (UTC).

We have had alewife#Etymology 2, which I have expanded, but reflects my confusion about how many species and which bear the vernacular name. The Etymology is also confusing/confused. DCDuring TALK 18:29, 8 March 2011 (UTC)

Proper nouns, languages and scripts

Do proper nouns really belong to languages? Or do they better belong to scripts? Whether the noun is used for persons, places, organizations, fictional characters, assigning such a term to a language seems to invite meaningless multiple language sections. If a name is in an English section, our formatting rules allow translation sections. But many names are translingual, but not in Latin script and therefore not deemed English. We would not have those appear with translations. They would presumably have transliterations or translations into English, but not into other scripts or languages. Is this what we really want?

Do proper nouns need a different entry format? DCDuring TALK 15:13, 9 March 2011 (UTC)

Well, certainly in the case of country names, Proper nouns can differ dramatically from language to language.--Brett 13:05, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
Strongly agree with Brett; England, Angleterre, Inglaterra for example. Mglovesfun (talk) 13:09, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
Surnames and to an extent given names are different. My surname Gardner of course doesn't change from language to language (apart from script). It doesn't become Jardinier in French. These could be considered translingual. Reminds me of the debate of Müller, whether it's English, or German or both. Mglovesfun (talk) 13:11, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
I would not propose a mandatory format for proper nouns, rather something that permits and specifies a script-specific approach and recommends (not requires) it under some circumstances. I would think that all personal names used in English are probably translingual in that they would be used without orthographic change in all languages that use Latin scripts. (Are the 26 plain (no diacritics) letters included in all Latin-derived scripts?) DCDuring TALK 13:47, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
As to Müller, I would expect that the presence of "ü" makes it German. Dühring and Düring are German, but During is Translingual. But in some Latin-derived scripts the pronunciation-indicating diacritics might require a "translation". I would like it if Translingual sections permitted translations. DCDuring TALK 13:55, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
Are the 26 plain (no diacritics) letters included in all Latin-derived scripts? - No. See Appendix:Roman script, especially the Hawaiian section. -- Prince Kassad 14:22, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
Thanks. My question was dumber than I thought. I think that the idea of Translingual proper nouns would reduce the number of repetitive language sections, but would require a translation section to support non-Latin transcriptions and where diacritics are needed for a proper transcription into a language using a script derived from plain Latin script. Are there enough savings to make this worthwhile? DCDuring TALK 17:13, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
A couple of points re having Translingual-section proper nouns (for given names, for example), which I think is a good idea. (1) What goes into the translation section? Does the Hebrew-script form of Miriam get listed as a translation of Maria, to which it's apparently etymologically related? Or does the modern Hebrew Hebrew-script form of Mary? (But this question exists already with English given-name sections so is not new. I'm merely saying that switching to Translingual doesn't help it any.) (2) These Translingual proper nouns would exist in every script (or in every script for which we know of a proper noun portable among more than one language), not just Latin. (3) What's the lemma form? If a proper noun is written as Maria in many languages (including English) and as Mary in English and as Marija in Latvian, and those are all portable (because there are Latvians with the name Marija in the States who give their name thus in English or whatever the precise criterion for inclusion of such a name as Translingual is), then yes, we should list them all as Translingual, but surely not all should have translation tables. In that case, which should? (4) Once an entry is listed as translingual, say Maria, how do we indicate which language it "is really", or derives from? Do we list, in the Etymology section for Translingual Maria, "Adopted into many languages, but originally Finnish (from Latin Maria), French (from...), German (from...), Hawaiian (from...), Latin, Spanish (from...), and Swedish (from...). The Latin is from..."? That seems necessary, but is it legible? (5) We'd want/need a criterion, a cut-off for being considered translingual.​—msh210 (talk) 17:34, 10 March 2011 (UTC)

For what it's worth, we're not the only ones struggling with these questions: see e.g. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110112/ap_on_re_eu/eu_lithuania_poland_spelling_feud. And if I recall correctly, Turkey has laws against the use of certain Latin letters that are sometimes enforced against Kurds (since Kurdish does use those letters), but never against English loanwords. —RuakhTALK 17:54, 10 March 2011 (UTC)

Even if proper nouns are used across languages, different languages can inflect them differently. For that reason alone I don't think we can call them truly translingual terms. —CodeCat 18:03, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
A word belongs to a language when it is used in the language, when it is used (not only mentioned) in texts written in the language. This is the only possible criterion. Even truly translingual words such as Canis lupus are used in English, in French, etc. and may deserve an entry for a language if some information specific to the language can be provided (e.g. pronunciation in the language, gender in the language, etc.) It's still more obvious for given names, etc. Therefore, attestations are what really matters. Lmaltier 18:31, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
Lots of the so-called translingual terms have different translations in languages such as Navajo. For example, Carnivora is bidił daazdoígíí dóó daʼalghałígíí. A translingual term is only used in those languages that accept it, and the script is not the only reason for rejecting the Indo-European-based translingual term. —Stephen (Talk) 21:28, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
Then ought we not have Translations L4 sections in Translingual L2 sections to accommodate that? DCDuring TALK 22:05, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
Several notes in various directions:
Few shared his view, but remember EncycloPetey's arguments that neanderthalensis (and presumably also Canis lupus and Carnivora) are not translingual but Latin.
In the discussion of α΄, which is used in Greek and Bactrian, I suggested having only Greek and Bactrian sections on that account, and yet because it technically is used in more than one language, others preferred translingual. Translingual does not have to mean used in all languages.
Entries like 3 already have a kind of translations. - -sche 22:34, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
neanderthalensis is not translingual at all (because there is no conventional sense when this word is used alone), it's Latin. On the other hand, Canis lupus and Carnivora are translingual, but this does not mean they cannot be considered as Latin too, if used in Latin texts (this is probably exceptional) or if they are used to build phrases considered as composed of Latin words (which is the case of scientific species names, as they are considered as built from two Latin words). On fr.wikt, we don't use Translingual, but International conventions, which is much clearer. Lmaltier 06:37, 11 March 2011 (UTC)

Given names belong to languages, not scripts. Maria has different pronunciation, declension and usage in every language. However if you speak about an Italian Maria in English, it is translingual use of an Italian name, and ideally Italian pronunciation of Maria should be used. Every personal name can appear as a translingual proper noun in languages of the same script (leaving out Latvian and Lithuanian, they transliterate everything). Lmaltier's idea "A word belongs to a language when it is used in the language" sounds simple and easy, but if you'd edit given names in several languages you'd realize it's impossible. All the language statements would become meaningless. The intuitive meaning of an Italian given name is name of an Italian speaking person. If you read about Jean-Marie Dupont in English text, and look it up in this dictionary - which language? male or female? how do you pronounce it? - the French section will explain it. An English or translingual section would just confuse the issue. Talk about meaningless sections! Some less common place names have the same translingual quality. A Finnish section for Stratford-upon-Avon seems needless (though not directly harmful) since the English pronunciation is used in Finnish. Taxonomic names are translingual, and the same might apply to some acronyms. Re DCDuring's first comment, names not in Latin script can have transliterations listed in ====Descendants==== and cognates in ====See also====. --Makaokalani 12:57, 11 March 2011 (UTC)

I think I see the error of my ways with respect to given names, for which different language sections get their warrant from language specific pronunciations. But why not wait until they are actually provided?
Does the same pronunciation logic apply to surnames?
This seems to be another instance in which we can see that the efficient and effective design of a multilingual dictionary of proper nouns is fundamentally different from that of multilingual dictionary of the rest of language. We can continue to attempt to reconcile the two, but I hope that we will continue to subordinate considerations relating to proper nouns to those for the rest of language. DCDuring TALK 13:57, 11 March 2011 (UTC)
BTW, if the only difference among language sections is pronunciation, why not just have multiple pronunciation sections in a mutlilingual section. It could even be placed under a show-hide, possibly excluding English pronunciations. DCDuring TALK 14:00, 11 March 2011 (UTC)
(Not sure why you're suggesting "possibly excluding English", but anyway:) It's not the only difference. Inflections are different. So are etymologies (as I mentioned above). ¶ Makaokalani has a good point re given names.​—msh210 (talk) 18:48, 11 March 2011 (UTC)
I have proposed exactly the same thing for fr.wikt about scientific names (a long time ago): a pronunciation section with pronunciations in all languages. But I realized that this was a bad idea, even in this case. Anyway, when you propose exceptions to simple and sound general principles, it always proves to be a bad idea, sooner or later. Lmaltier 19:47, 11 March 2011 (UTC)
To Makaokalani: yes, it may seem absurd to define Jean-Louis or Dupont in an English section. Yet, it makes sense, because some sounds are impossible to pronounce in English (Jean-Louis Dupont is a very good example), and people with these names living in England, etc. hear their name pronounced another way. We don't describe how they should be pronounced, but how they are actually pronounced (descriptive approach). In fr.wikt, we have French sections with surnames defined as e.g. Russian surname. This is not contradictory. Actually, it's exactly the same for borrowed common nouns (such as the English words blouse or kimono): we don't describe the pronunciation in French or Japanese for the English words, but the pronunciation when the word is used in English. Of course, I don't propose to create thousands of language sections in Jean-Louis with a bot. But if somebody finds it useful to add a section in a language, with useful information, he should be able to do so. Lmaltier 20:03, 11 March 2011 (UTC)
Which English pronunciation of Stratford-upon-Avon? Furthermore, Finnish phonotactics may tolerate Stratford-upon-Avon, but Hawaiian phonotactics doesn't, nor does Georgian phonotactics. In fact, the number of languages where ford is a valid syllable is pretty low I think; most non-English speaking people would mangle that.--Prosfilaes 20:47, 11 March 2011 (UTC)
Even if the sound or the letter doesn't exist in you mother tongue, you have to use it if the person or place you are talking about has no name in your language. The result may come out with a thick accent, but at least you tried. I haven't seen an entry recording such sounds yet - in Category:Mispronunciations, perhaps? - but in any case adding the correct pronunciation, ideally with audio, is a hundred times more useful. I've desribed the problems related to given names and surnames in Wiktionary:About given names and surnames.For transliterations of foreign names there is, for example, Category:fr:Russian surnames

--Makaokalani 14:22, 18 March 2011 (UTC)

I disagree: the normal pronunciation of Paris is different in English and in French. It's the same for small villages. If an English pronunciaation does exist, is attested, for a name, this pronunciation should be mentioned in the English section. If no English pronunciation can be found, no English pronunciation should be mentioned in the English section. Lmaltier 07:27, 19 March 2011 (UTC)
  • To wrap this discussion up, I take it that, for at least most proper nouns, the notion advanced under this heading founders mostly on the fact that pronunciations often differ by language, but also because of such matters as inflection. (How does one inflect "During" in Finnish? in Navaho?)
    1. Is there any class of proper nouns (besides taxonomic names) that might be well served by a Translingual section?
    2. Is there any possible legitimate application for Translingual sections for any class or subclass of pronouncable proper names, for legal or medical latin, or for other terms used mostly in transnational/translingual contexts? For any such class is there a strong pronunciation norm that is somehow independent of the language of the speaker?
    3. Would translingual be appropriate for any class of written-language-only terms, such as the Latin abbreviations (like op cit) used in many languages? DCDuring TALK 15:22, 18 March 2011 (UTC)

I think that Translingual should be used only when there is an international convention applicable to everybody in the world, indepedently of the language: taxonomic names, units such as cm, etc. Other cases are not truly translingual, they are common to many languages, this is very different. Lmaltier 07:34, 19 March 2011 (UTC)

take away

I don't know what the wise people have decided is the proper POS for words like minus and times, but, whatever it is, take away needs a section for that POS, as it's an informal synonym of minus, as in google:"seven take away four".​—msh210 (talk) 19:16, 10 March 2011 (UTC)

The synonymy of two expressions does not imply that they have the same PoS. My head hurts simply recalling that we have had the discussion about arithmetic operators. Clearly, in some uses "take away ...." is an imperative. One can also find "take away" inflected as a verb in this sense, which would argue strongly for treating it as a verb. Are there cases where it cannot be so interpreted? As the verb entry for "take away" would convey they meaning adequately, I would not add another PoS unless it was absolutely necessary. DCDuring TALK 19:39, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
Can you explain, please, how take away in seven take away four leaves three can be interpreted as a verb? I don't see it.​—msh210 (talk) 19:54, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
I have always understood this to be a shortcut for (there are/we have) seven, (then/if you) take away four, (that) leaves three. There is even a pause between the seven and the take away to indicate the dropped connective words, and another preceding leaves. Sometimes we say it quickly so that the pauses may vanish, but I still feel them very strongly. —Stephen (Talk) 21:00, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
Stephen's reading covers more cases than my imperative reading. But it does depend on a lot of interpolation to cover some of the cases, which may not be to everyone's taste. Even so, it seems silly to claim that "take away" is a different PoS than "taking away", "taken away", and "took away", when the meaning is the same. DCDuring TALK 21:39, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
Except that none of those occur in the construction in question.--Brett 13:41, 11 March 2011 (UTC)
I wouldn't have said it if I hadn't found instances. Do we have quantitative criteria for how rare they have to be to warrant ignoring them? DCDuring TALK 17:02, 11 March 2011 (UTC)
Sorry, I should have known. Still, I think that it's clearly not representative. Huddleston, in a personal communication opines that take away is a complex (i.e., two-word) preposition.--Brett 22:58, 11 March 2011 (UTC)
As much as I tend to dislike appeals to authority, that's a pretty good authority. I suppose as long as we have take away (subtract), there is little to be lost from having such a PoS. DCDuring TALK 02:33, 12 March 2011 (UTC)
Added.--Brett 14:59, 12 March 2011 (UTC)
Thank you, gentlemen.​—msh210 (talk) 15:55, 14 March 2011 (UTC)

Disfranchise, New or Old?

Lately I've been hearing forms of the word disfranchise in places I used to hear disenfranchise.

Is this a new word used in ignorance of disenfranchise, or an old word of similar or older history than disenfranchise? Is it a new word created for a significant purpose?

Is there an intentional difference in connotation in using one word over the other? For example, does disenfranchise indicate the granting and later withdrawal of a franchise, while disfranchise indicates the withdrawal of a franchise that someone was born with?

It's been around since at least the 1700s, but has been on the wane for about 150 years.--Brett 15:02, 12 March 2011 (UTC)

Various spellings of fetus

¶ I am not opposed to all alternative spellings, but the alternative forms of this are clearly based on incorrect etymology, and I think it shows given how many alternatives there are. Likewise their derived terms are also erroneous. Could we please mark them as misspellings? I trust that this page details the Latin origins nicely enough ; or what about Wikipedia’s explantion? Would you seriously argue these alternatives are still “correct” because: oops, it’s too late, they are stuck in wide usage now ? 10:43, 16 March 2011 (UTC)

Whether they are correct and whether they are English words are two separate issues. {{nonstandard}} is extremely useful in this sort of case. See also fetii. Mglovesfun (talk) 12:28, 17 March 2011 (UTC)
Prescriptivist pedants decree what spellings everyone else should use. Wikipedia (and the OED) just report what spellings are used in the real world, but I agree that there are rather too many alternatives. Unfortunately, they can't be mis-spellings if they have been used regularly by respected writers in the past, and "foetus" is still regarded as the correct version by many of my generation in the UK, despite being based on an error. Thanks for the interesting links -- having read them, I'll be less critical of the "American spelling". Dbfirs 20:39, 19 March 2011 (UTC)
For what it's worth, the UK Royal College of Obstricians and Gynaecologists, opt for fetus over foetus.

get on with

Note that this is a full entry, while get along with redirects to get along. FWIW I agree with the redirect; I think get on with is get on followed directly by with; but it's not always followed by with. Compare with was deleted for quite similar logic. --Mglovesfun (talk) 12:36, 14 March 2011 (UTC)

Don't be in a hurry to delete phrasal verbs with 2 particles, as they are fairly common. Having said that, I think the redirect is correct for get along with, because of common phrasing such as John gets along well with Jane" can be rephrased as "they get along well." So I would say the same applies to get on with (..get on well together..). And the other sense ... "Get on with your work" is the same as "There's work to be done, so let's get on" making the "with" an object linking preposition. IMHO. -- ALGRIF talk 17:12, 19 March 2011 (UTC)
Good point, so in fact the entry should be created. Mglovesfun (talk) 14:45, 20 March 2011 (UTC)

Coining terms for which there are no synonyms

To all: Just a thought about any collaborative dictionary -- is it presumptuous to expect that a concept that has no lexical token should have one created ad hoc? I am a phrasal lexicographer, and I know of no word that describes database searches or web searches that include, in the retrievals, the concept of refinement to achieve "optimal results." Online search engines, of course, have their own algorithms and parameters for sifting through information, documents, lists, etc., that then are used to organize and display the results. But there is no general term referring to the concept of "optimization of search parameters."

I thought of the concept of refinement/refinedness, but these words only convey a degree of quality -- not of exactitude, a precise point at which the amount of refinement is exactly what the searcher wants. I have been working on a database that requires a number of "field filters" ("attribute filters") to retrieve appropriate records, but the narrowness of the results depends on numbers of multi-field (multi-attribute) specs (i.e. the more varied, precise, and cross-sectional the input, the more refined -- precise/narrow the output). These relate to a quality (degree) of refinement, not to an exact, optimal refinement – at least within my "search-engine environment."

a concept that has no corresponding term in dictionaries or google searches – only business-related organizations using them. These words are nouns that relate to optimal "refinedness" or "defineness" of search concepts, not simple degrees of refinement or definement, but as meeting optimal requirements for particular searches -- whether in a database or the entire internet. I have been working on a database that requires a minimum of filters to retrieve appropriate records, but the narrowness of the results depends on numbers of multi-field (multi-attribute) specs (i.e. the more varied, increased, and cross-sectional the input, the more refined (precise/narrow) the output). "Refinedness" (already listed) relates to a quality (degree) of refinement, not to an exact, optimal refinement – at least within my search-engine environment.

      • [dictionary.com] “refinedness” shows up, but not “refineness” or “refinitude” (and certainly not “refinity”). “Definiteness” and “definitude” show up there (but certainly not “refinity”).
      • [wiktionary.com] none of -- “refineness” “refinitude” nor “definitude” show up (and certainly not “refinity”).
      • [Merriam-webster.com] “definitude” shows up, but none of -- “refineness”, “refinedness“, nor “refinitude” (and certainly not “refinity”).

But none of these (whether included in the “standard dictionary look-ups or not) capture the idea of “optimized” or “optimal” search parameters. So I attempted to address this lack – and submitted “refinity” and “definity” as lexical additions to [wiktionary.com]. They were both dismissed, due to lack of confirmation in standard searches on the net. Is there no room for coining in collaborative enterprises – particularly when a concept exists for which there is no lexical reference?

Perhaps there is a term for this concept that I don't know about. Otherwise, it seems appropriate to coin the term(s), because it appears to be a concept that is almost self-evident in doing searches, but is simply lacking in corresponding vernacular. When a search is done – preciseness and exactitude is hoped for, but rarely (never, actually) done. The sheer number of results for most every search on a general search engine demonstrates the principle. The goal is to get exacting outcomes, without extraneous ones, but optimal outcomes are simply the best that are achieved. But even for “optimal outcomes”, there is no corresponding word – only the phrases “optimal outcomes/outputs/retrievals”. At least those are better than: “The-best-outcomes-that-we-can-come-up-with.”

Regarding "is it presumptuous to expect that a concept that has no lexical token should have one created ad hoc". See WT:CFI#Attesation, protologism, WT:List of protologisms. Mglovesfun (talk) 13:21, 16 March 2011 (UTC)
New words enter the language when there is a need for them. If you have invented a word for which you believe there is a need, then you could start to use it (in natural language) in blogs, letters or articles to journals, newspapers etc. If other people find the word useful then they will also start using it. When evidence of such use is forthcoming we would welcome an entry here. But not before. SemperBlotto 13:27, 16 March 2011 (UTC)
You could even try making an entry at Urban Dictionary, which seems to encourage such things. DCDuring TALK 16:03, 16 March 2011 (UTC)

The answer is no. This is not compatible with a Foundation principle (no original research) which means that we should not invent anything. Lmaltier 07:20, 19 March 2011 (UTC)

Suspect compounds of mass

I have been instructed that this is an allowed forum for discussions that might be construed as abusing RfD and RfV.

Following are entries that seem to be NISoP to me:

These have no support from other dictionaries.

"Mass flow" seems to be flow of a mass.

The others seem to be derived from either the existing RfVed adjective sense or from a possibly adjectival sense to be added related to the use of "mass" in "the masses". DCDuring TALK 12:21, 17 March 2011 (UTC)

I'd nominate them all. They might not all be deleted, but that's what due process is for. Mglovesfun (talk) 12:26, 17 March 2011 (UTC)
I have added three possibly valid senses to mass#Adjective. DCDuring TALK 12:59, 17 March 2011 (UTC)


British English, meaning ugly? I heard someone say it, but I can't find much online. Nadando 19:11, 17 March 2011 (UTC)

  • Yeah, it's real. I'll work up an entry. Ƿidsiþ 17:18, 18 March 2011 (UTC)

Barge Pole

To touch with a barge pole - I see this is defined as "Get romantically involved with" (negative sense only. Obviously it can mean that, but also has a more general sense, the same as touch with a ten foot pole. I'd fix this myself, but I've never edited Wiktionary before and I think I'd do it wrong (do I add another definition to the list? Do I alter the existing one to include both senses? Do I therefore alter the example too? Do I say "same as touch with a ten foot pole", and if so, do I link to that article, and if so, do I remove the "see also"?), so if somebody else would make the change, please, I'll come back later and observe how it was done. Card Zero 20:48, 19 March 2011 (UTC)

I don't think it can mean that, any more than touching with a ten-foot pole means that. I propose that we change the entry to the negative-only form with a redirect, mirroring the touch with a ten foot pole entry. What does anyone else think? Dbfirs 21:07, 19 March 2011 (UTC)
Whoa that's wrong, it can mean romantically but it can be used in any of several contexts. I suspect Wonderfolly. It could be something like "assisted suicide? I wouldn't touch that with a barge pole". Mglovesfun (talk) 14:42, 20 March 2011 (UTC)
... so is it OK to redirect to the negative form, as for the ten-foot version? I've made the alteration, but I'm not sure whether "something" should be included in either the ten foot or the barge pole versions. Dbfirs 11:20, 21 March 2011 (UTC)


I'm new to Wiktionary, but it seems surprisingly hard to find good quotations for this particular word. The best I could find in the figurative sense rendered it as "dev null", and I can't seem to find a print source using Google Books that is not an "Internet glossary." PleaseStand (talk) 07:43, 20 March 2011 (UTC)

  • Perhaps this is because it isn't a word? SemperBlotto 08:35, 20 March 2011 (UTC)
Citations please. Mglovesfun (talk) 14:43, 20 March 2011 (UTC)
google usenet:"to dev-null" yields (currently yields: Google keeps changing its undocumented search features, so who know what searching with that hyphen will yield in the future) plenty of hits for the literal sense. I'm not seeing any for the other sense, but I'm guessing they exist 9and I just need a better search string). If you doubt it, and can't find it, and wish to, then RFV it, and I'll try to cite it if no one else cites it first.​—msh210 (talk) 17:19, 21 March 2011 (UTC)


Not really sure what to do about this. It seems to be correct in every way; just the English emetophile doesn't seem to meet CFI. Emetophilia does seem to be attested, albeit rare (in print). It's enough to make you sick okay that was a poor joke. Anyway, I think we just have to use a gloss, right? But leave the red link. Mglovesfun (talk) 14:41, 20 March 2011 (UTC)


The only English sense of this entry is "A way of accomplishing a task that is not immediately obvious. Hence Technology, the study of or a collection of techniques."

Can it be improved, please? --Daniel. 21:22, 20 March 2011 (UTC)

  • Well I had a go at it. Ƿidsiþ 13:31, 21 March 2011 (UTC)


The entry for the French word 'réfléchir' contains, under the heading Related Terms, the word 'relet'. I am sure this should be 'reflet'. —This comment was unsigned.

  • Fixed. You could have fixed it yourself. SemperBlotto 10:14, 23 March 2011 (UTC)

time was

(Current redlink.) As used in google:"time was you could", is this SOP? It doesn't seem so to me. What POS is it? It seems almost like a sentence (except the object, with the "you could..." being that object/complement/whatever), like "A time was (=existed) (that)" (an inverted "There was a time (that)").​—msh210 (talk) 18:43, 23 March 2011 (UTC)

More precisely, it seems like it is the sum of its parts, but in a very once upon a time way.​—msh210 (talk) 18:48, 23 March 2011 (UTC)
"Time was that [] " also exists; see e.g. google:"but time was that". And, for that matter, google books:"but time was that", which turns up much older examples than I had expected. —RuakhTALK 19:01, 23 March 2011 (UTC)
It seems very much like an idiom, one of many that are ellipses. It looks like a non-constituent, unless we would analyze it as a sentence adverb synonymous with "formerly", but such analysis fails when a "that"-clause follows. DCDuring TALK 19:09, 23 March 2011 (UTC)
All right, thanks. I've taken a stab at it; please modify as you see fit.​—msh210 (talk) 05:38, 24 March 2011 (UTC)


Here's the discussion transcluded from the talk page which I though was interesting: —Internoob (DiscCont) 01:13, 24 March 2011 (UTC)

First section

Surely "ago" , as in "20 years ago", is a postposition not an adverb??

In "20 years ago", ago is an adjective. In "a long time ago", it’s an adverb. —Stephen 23:31, 7 June 2009 (UTC)

"Postposition" is not used in traditional English grammar which is where English dictionaries get their word classes (parts of speech) from. Modern linguistics is much more open and diverse but has not affected how words are marked in dictionaries.

Our current way of dealing with it by using "Adjective" and "Adverb" as the heading but also having a "postpositions" category seems to be the perfect way of dealing with this. — hippietrail 01:04, 8 June 2009 (UTC)

At least that's what I thought we did but it seems to be a figment of my imagination (-: — hippietrail 01:07, 8 June 2009 (UTC)
There are languages that have mostly post- and rarely prepositions. Jcwf 01:10, 8 June 2009 (UTC), Tatar сыман is an example of that.
Glad to see I'm not the only one to come to this conclusion. I think we should list words based on actual usage. Adverbs are the class of words that directly modify verbs, and should fit into the following sentence: I did it xxxx (I did it well, I did it slowly, etc.). Since I did it ago is nonsense, it can't be an adverb. I realise that some pre- and postpositions can be used both alone and with an antecedent (i.e. off, inside), but in that case the words are listed as both preposition and adverb. ago certainly does not belong to that category however; it only ever appears with an antecedent. So if a word is used as a postposition, then that's what it should be listed as, plain and simple. --CodeCat 20:11, 28 August 2009 (UTC)
There are many types of adverbs. The examples you give are usually termed "adverbs of manner" which is an open class but many ancient common English words are adverbs of other types such as "here" and "never". — hippietrail 07:38, 30 August 2009 (UTC)
I know, but that doesn't change my point. Words like yesterday, before, somewhere, far away and pretty much any adverbial phrase would also fit in the place of the xxxx. --CodeCat 09:17, 30 August 2009 (UTC)
But then there are words like very which have a limited application: they only modify adjectives and adverbs. But I still think that you're right that ago is a postposition because it forms a phrase (e.g. "ten years ago") that acts as an adverb (states when something happened). —Internoob (DiscCont) 01:08, 24 March 2011 (UTC)

Relative to the speaker or relative to the subject?

If you say: "I met him a month ago" it is clear that "A month ago" means "A month before the very moment I am uttering this sentence".

But is the following correct? "I met him in January 2010 and he told me then he'd lost his job a month ago"

Now clearly, if used "A month ago" has to mean "A month before that time I met him in January 2010".

So my question is: Is this usage correct or should you say "I met him in January 2010 and he told me then he'd lost his job a month before"


Basemetal (talk) 18:32, 31 January 2014 (UTC)

The preposition/postposition issue seems to be based on an understanding of preposition that stems from its etymology. There are adjectives that don't function attributively and those that don't function as complements to linking verbs. Regardless, they're still adjectives; we don't need to give them different names. The same holds true with prepositions that happen to come after their object. If they were called skubutyles, we'd just get on with it, and nobody would be having this discussion.

The idea that ago is an adjective strikes me as bizarre, but I'm willing to be persuaded.--Brett 12:42, 27 March 2011 (UTC)

Re: "The preposition/postposition issue seems to be based on an understanding of preposition that stems from its etymology": If by "etymology" you mean "the way the words are currently used by most of the educated native speakers that use them", then yes, that is exactly where it stems from. ;-)   It's quite true, as you state, that we don't need to give them different names, but traditionally people do give them different names. And also traditionally, the general catch-all term is "adposition". Some linguists, including the authors of CGEL, prefer to use "preposition" as a catch-all term, and I daresay they have good reasons for this. (For one thing, even "adposition" wouldn't jibe with all features of their analysis, such as intransitive ___positions.) But since we're a standalone dictionary, and not a lexicographic appendix to CGEL, we do need to have this sort of discussion. In many cases we'll decide to follow CGEL, but in some cases we won't. And rightly not. —RuakhTALK 19:55, 27 March 2011 (UTC)
I appreciate the teasing, but by "traditionally" do you mean "by a few specialists for something approaching a hundred years?" Most educated native speakers are very fuzzy on what a preposition is and they have never heard of a postposition or adposition, let alone considered what those labels might mean.--Brett 23:44, 27 March 2011 (UTC)
Well, I specifically said "the educated native speakers that use" the terms. Actually, for that matter, I could have just dropped the "educated" and "native". Many, many people use "preposition" and "postposition" the traditional way — many more than use "preposition" the way that you advocate. google books:"postposition" claims to get 101,000 results; and, for example, "Japanese postpositions" gets many times the number of results that "Japanese prepositions" does, with most of the latter being self-conscious or irrelevant or both. —RuakhTALK 23:59, 27 March 2011 (UTC)
Japanese is another issue. I assumed that, since the word under discussion was ago, we were limiting our discussion to English. Perhaps I should have said so specifically.--Brett 00:26, 28 March 2011 (UTC)
Ah, I see. But even so, I'm pretty sure that the above commenters are using postposition because they're already familiar with that term, e.g. from study of languages such as Japanese. I doubt that most people would even notice that preposition is "pre-" + "position" if they weren't aware of postposition. (I mean, it's possible — I think I once read an objection to P-stranding on the basis of "preposition" — but it's not normal!) —RuakhTALK 11:19, 28 March 2011 (UTC)
I'm okay with either "preposition" or "postposition" personally; I only said "postposition" in the discussion above because other people had. But right now ago is marked as neither preposition nor postposition. It's supposedly an adverb. —Internoob (DiscCont) 16:53, 3 April 2011 (UTC)

I'm trying to create a new name

I am trying to create a new Email but would like to create a common name from two accounts I have already. The two names are Gallant Cosmic and Cosmic Bulgeman. Any suggestions?


Good day.

¶ I would like assistance, if I may, in finding the origins of this word. My discussion here elaborates; but User:Msh210 wisely recommended I put my inquiry here. ¶ Could we please know if there may be a valid Græco‐Roman prædecessor of this spelling?

Gratias vobis ago! --Pilcrow 22:14, 29 March 2011 (UTC)

Like you, I'm puzzled by the early "ae" form in English, though Middle French might have had an influence. The "æ" spelling was standard in the English of the 1600s, and even up to Gibbon's Decline & Fall, but the modern spelling seems to have been used from the late 1700s onwards. Dbfirs 08:18, 30 March 2011 (UTC)
Middle French ought to be musee; I'll look into it. Mglovesfun (talk) 23:34, 30 March 2011 (UTC)
In Latin musaeum, musium, and museum were all spellings of the Greek loanword Μουσεῖον (Mouseîon). User Doremitzwr is a great fan of these spellings, especially with digraphs like "æ". If you like this sort of thing see [this] sample lookup at Perseus, which has very good classical Latin and Greek dictionaries and texts available for use. DCDuring TALK 23:43, 30 March 2011 (UTC)
Apparent in French musée replaced muséum; musaeum is apparently attested in 1566 (source) though I don't know if there are three citations for it. Mglovesfun (talk) 10:21, 1 April 2011 (UTC)

get around

Is it just me or does this phrase also have a sexually suggestive meaning, e.g., in "She really gets around." ---> Tooironic 23:16, 30 March 2011 (UTC)

I know the sense you imply as "X has been around". IOW, the innuendo is arguably in around. DCDuring TALK 23:23, 30 March 2011 (UTC)

to n decimal places

Doesn't this belong in our snowclone appendix? DCDuring TALK 23:20, 30 March 2011 (UTC)

Is the snowclone appendix approved by people? Should it contain verbs with unspecified objects like save someone's bacon? Should, if attestable, the entries to 2 decimal places, to 3 decimal places, etc. be created? --Daniel. 23:28, 30 March 2011 (UTC)
Isn't it SoP? To (insert something here) decimal places. Note that you can omit the word decimal. Mglovesfun (talk) 23:36, 30 March 2011 (UTC)
@ Daniel.
  1. It hasn't been disapproved AFAIK.
  2. No. The format we have is fairly generally accepted among English language dictionaries.
  3. Not in my opinion.
It may be that "to n decimal places" is attestable, I suppose, as meaning to an arbitrary large number of decimal places. DCDuring TALK 23:43, 30 March 2011 (UTC)
No, unless it has a specific referent that the phrase is then based off of, making it a snowclone. Otherwise it's just a common phrase with one variable component. — lexicógrafa | háblame — 01:01, 31 March 2011 (UTC)

paperless office

Just doing a random copyvio check. I Googled "the mythical office where computers and software have made paper unnecessary." and came up with this: [1]. Do these seven results take definitions from Wiktionary? ---> Tooironic 23:24, 30 March 2011 (UTC)

You'll have to ask user:saltmarsh whether the definition was original, but it has been in Wiktionary for more than four years, so I suspect that the other sites just copied. I am often amazed to see how many other reputable websites copy directly from Wiktionary and Wikipedia. Quite often when checking facts for Wikipedia, I get many copies of the identical text, and in some cases I recognise my own phrasing from Wikipedia in the multiple copies. Dbfirs 09:21, 31 March 2011 (UTC)
Two of the sites were Finnish. I know that they copy their content from Wiktionary. --Hekaheka 20:00, 2 April 2011 (UTC)