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Oryx-and-Crake [userpic]

Dear linguaphiles,

I am translating two stories by James Tiptree Jr. and there are some things I need help with.

The first story is called "I’ll Be Waiting for You When the Swimming Pool is Empty" (1971). I could not find the text available online but the plot goes approximately as follows: A nice young Terran boy on his gap year stumbles on a very primitive planet and sets about, in his charmingly naive and bumbling way, to improve it, like a Peace Corp volunteer teaching basketball to a tribe of headhunters. He advances the development of their society greatly, and they start interplanet travel to bring enlightenment to more planets. At last they bring all the planets to their own, now advanced, level. They send a message to the Terran boy asking him what to do next but he never gets it (presumably being already dead of old age). I more or less got all the allusions in it (hopefully) except the following:
* the actual title. Is it a reference to some song or poem?
* the author makes fun of popular brands, e.g. his sound system brand is "Marsony" = Mars + SONY, the spaceship is "Galhonda" = ??? + Honda; his forcefield is "GE-Bilblas", the GE part is clear but what is Bilblas?
* "And in a very short while they had a kibbutz, and the girls were teaching Walden set theory and creative hygiene." Set theory is a branch of mathematics, and Walden is a book by Thoreau, but it does not make a lot of sense together...

The second story is titled "Painwise", and can be read online here. In short, it is a story of an astronaut scouting alien worlds whose pain receptors are rewired somehow so he’s impervious to torture, yet he can still suffer in his isolation and loneliness. He is picked up by a live space capsule manned aliened staffed by three sentient empath aliens. He fetches food from various planets for them - they do not dare to land on these planets because it's very painful for them every time, them being empaths and there being so much pain in the Universe. Now my question is about the following:
* "Sometime later while he was feeding Muscle with proffit ears..." What could these proffit ears be? It's possible that the author just invented a name for some exotic food from distant planet, but I will be grateful for any other ideas.
* "He was driving a stagecoach, wiped in salt combers, tossed through volcanoes with peppermint flames, crackling, flying, crumbling, burrowing, freezing, exploding..." - the part in bold is not clear.
* (about sex) "I had five women and a cloud-painting team and some little boys, I think." - the part in bold is not clear. Could it mean a group of artists or does it have some other meaning?

Thanks in advance.

stam_adam [userpic]

Hi everyone,
a little question: if it says, with no additional context, that the small house has light blue tiles stuck around the brown exterior walls, does it mean these blue tiles form a line on the walls which goes all around the house, or that they are scattered here and there over all the four walls?
Thanks :)


Hi everyone,

I'm hoping you'll be able to translate "Girls Against Cat-Catcalling" (and "Women Against Cat-Calling") into RUSSIAN and POLISH and actually as many languages as possible for me. (French, Greek, Italian, Japanese, and Chinese would be great, too.)

Cat-calling is a colloquialism so I'd appreciate as good a translation as possible.

This is not my artwork

Any other feminist slogans in any language would also be appreciated.

Thank you.

Marissa [userpic]

Hello, Linguaphiles - it's been a while!!

I would be much obliged if someone with Italian expertise could help me translate a short note from English. This will be a handwritten note to accompany a wedding invitation (in English). The note is going to a close friend of my fiancé's family - an elderly woman whose grasp of English is tenuous. I'd like the tone to be respectful but warm. I've met her, but only once, at another wedding!

"Dear Nicoletta,

We hope that you are well! We would be delighted to have your company at our wedding in Jamaica this October, but understand if you will be unable to make the trip. In the joyful event that you are able to join us, we would imagine that Nick's Uncle Paul would be happy to assist you with arranging your travel and accommodations through our travel agent, Ms. Sarah X (800-xxx-xxxx)

Affectionately yours,
[Joe and Jill]"

...Thanks SO much, Linguaphiles!! This is my first time on LJ in ages, just because I can't think of anywhere better to go for translation help. <3  I don't want to offend her or imply that she's incapable of making her own reservation

stam_adam [userpic]

Hi, I have a question to native English-speakers :)
When, with no particular context, you hear the word "smudged window", does it it sound to you like the window is dirty, or that it is blurred? Let's say: She stood, lost in her thoughts, pointing to the city beyond a smudged window. (this is not a quote, just an example :) )
Thanks a lot!

Do you know how to write pinyin on the computer with the correct tone marks? When I google it, I find a lot of explanations of how to write Chinese characters with Pinyin input, which is no problem for me, since I have Microsoft Pinyin thingy installed. Before my current laptop, I used to be able to find the accented vowels in pinyin somewhere in the language box, which was cumbersome but at least I knew how to do it. Now I can't even find that. I can just use numbers, but I prefer the look of the tone marks above the vowels.
I have a laptop with Windows 10 and a Swedish keyboard.

pronker [userpic]

My siblings and I are compiling odd things that our grandparents and parents said. Three of Gran's ([1900-1986], mother immigrated 1890 from Devon, England, father born and raised in Nebraska; she enjoyed Nebraska small town upbringing until 1936, when relocated to northern California forever) sayings baffle us. Would anyone else have heard of:

1. "Eskimo" for anything mildly objectionable. "Don't wear green with purple, that's Eskimo!"

2. "Kookoomaw" for anything really objectionable. "Ugh, that's kookoomaw! Throw it out!" (referring to moldy cheese fallen to the rear of the refrigerator)

3. "Let wind be free, for there shall be no other God before thee" said when hearing a fart.

Current Location: sofa
Current Mood: artistic
Current Music: something from upstairs
pronker [userpic]

Spinning a windy to mean telling a tall tale. "Aw, don't take me seriously, I was just spinning a windy." Has anyone else heard this? Searching did not turn up a source. (Native Californian here.)

Tags: ,
Current Location: downstairs office
Current Mood: giddygiddy
Current Music: kitty meow
kiwizelena [userpic]

I joined the LiveJournal today, as well as Linguaphiles community. I am intending to practise my English for exams and for further use.

I write this post just to let everyone know that I am from Czech Republic, I love my country and my language. I'd love to see if there is someone, who would be interested in Czech/need help learning it or something like this. Otherwise, I'll just keep reading/scrolling down.

Have a nice day!

Мария Капшина, Морана, Spielbrecher [userpic]


I have a question about pairs of personal pronouns like jou/je, zij/ze, mij/me used to mark emphasis in a statement.

As far as I know, this opposition doesn't exist in other Germanic languages (Or does it?). I'm curious about its origin. Am I right to assume that originally Dutch had only the "stressed" variants that tended to get "frozen" in this older form when under logical emphasis, while in the "non-stressed" position they were more easily contracted to eventually become separate forms?


whswhs [userpic]

Is there an adjective form derived from the Latin word genius, as in genius loci, "spirit of a place"? Neither genialis nor genitalis seems to be used in a sense that refers to spirits.

aikaterini [userpic]


I have a question about pronunciation of certain Scottish names. I'm thinking of writing a story with Scottish characters and I'm trying to make sure that I've got their names right.

Initially, the characters would be named Fingal and Fiona. But then I read that Fiona is not a true Scottish Gaelic name, and that the Scottish Gaelic form of Fingal is Fionnghall. So, then I decided that Fionnuala or Fionnula sounded more Scottish Gaelic than Fiona.

So, I've been wondering: what is the correct pronunciation of those names in the nominative and vocative? I've heard Fionnghall pronounced as FYOHN-uh-gall or FIN-gall.

In the vocative, where Fionnuala becomes 'A Fhionnuala' and Fionnghall becomes 'A Fhionnghall', what would the correct pronunciation of those names be? If, for example, Fionnghall is pronounced "FYON-uh-gall" in the nominative, would it be pronounced "A YON-uh-gall" in the vocative? If Fionnuala is pronounced "Fin-NOO-uh-la" in the nominative, would it be pronounced "A in-NOO-a-la" in the vocative?

Current Mood: curiouscurious
5x6 [userpic]

An old battle, isn't it? I've always been more or less on the latter side, to an extent. Indeed, there are few people out there who stick firmly to one concept (up to split infinitives and ending prepositions) or the other (ain't and double negatives in written speech).

I think it is important to differentiate between what sound "wrong"(=uneducated) and "wrong" (=non-native).

I've made a little list (excluding medieval grammarians' inventions like split infinitive) of expressions that sound wrong (at least to some), but not non-native, and made notes of how I, personally, perceive these. I am sure others feel differently, so I'd love to hear comments on that:

1. ain't, double negatives, messed conjugation ("we was"): definitely wrong.
2. Messing objective and direct cases: "Between you and I", "Who's there? - Мe". The former makes me cringe, the latter not so much.
3. Using who instead of whom - basically a norm now; using whom instead of who - I find it unacceptable
4. Confusing farther and further - sounds wrong, but not terribly so.
5. Try and //verb//, instead of "try to //verb//" - OK
6. Like better, instead of like more - perfectly OK
7. Confusing "that" and "which", like in "Conclusions were spelled out in the summary that/which was attached to the report". Formally, the meaning is different (and one demands a comma and the other doesn't), but people routinely confuse them. I accept, but do not like this.

What else did I miss? Yesterday's colloquialisms becoming grammatical norms today?

dorsetgirl [userpic]

The Mexican band Maná have a lead singer whose full name is apparently José Fernando Emilio Olvera Sierra. He's normally known as Fher Olvera.

My question is: what is the 'h' doing there in "Fher"? I'm assuming that it is in some way reflecting the pronunciation of the shortened name, and I'm further assuming that the pronunciation is closer to FARE than FUR. Have I got that right? And if so, how does it work? Is 'h' only used like this before an 'e', or does it have a similar function before other vowels in abbreviations?

Presumably the same thing is happening with the abbreviation of Barcelona, as in the football club? I'm guessing the pronunciation of "Barce" is either ambiguous or just plain wrong, and that's why it's spelt Barça instead, even though that means, again, flinging in a letter that wasn't there in the original (although in this case it's obviously a replacement rather than an addition).

5x6 [userpic]

If I am not mistaken, formal grammar rules stipulate that this pair is used regarding two (and no more) propositions or objects, and cannot be mixed with the first/last pair. However I see that people are more liberal in their speech. So, I'd like to ask, which of the following clauses you perceive as correct (I leave aside the first/second combination):
(1) I have two dogs, Spot and Jemma. The former is male, and the latter female.
(2) I have two dogs, Spot and Jemma. The first is male, and the latter female.
(3) I have two dogs, Spot and Jemma. The former is male, and the last female.
(4) I have two dogs, Spot and Jemma. The first is male, and the last female.
(5) I have three dogs, Spot, Daisy and Jemma. The former is male, and the latter two female.
(6) I have three dogs, Spot, Daisy and Jemma. The first is male, and the latter two female.
(7) I have three dogs, Spot, Daisy and Jemma. The former is male, and the last two female.
(8) I have three dogs, Spot, Daisy and Jemma. The first is male, and the last two female.


Г-н Фаршеклоакин [userpic]

I've noticed that the acronym KO in French and Italian informal communication can mean simply "not OK" without particular relation to the original meaning "Knock Out".

Specifically, in French at work (OK = "test passing", "KO" = "test failing"), and in Italian here (scroll down for the history of Russian revolution in hand-drawn cartoons with Italian captions): the very first one has "guerra KO", another one close to the bottom has


Industria pesante OK
Industria leggera KO

How is that "KO" pronounced in French and Italian? What other languages use that meaning of "KO"?

booq [userpic]

Hi everybody:

1) Are there syninyms to "tearing pain", please?

2) I came across "drawing pain" as a synonym to "tearing pain". Is that right or wrong?

Thank you in advance!

Sylvia [userpic]

I'm pretty sure this says something like "chocolate-covered cookie with caramel", but what language is it in?

Thank you very much!

Antje [userpic]

I recently used the term "wifebeater" for that certain kind of shirt without sleeves. An American friend notified me that there is an argument trying to change it to "a-shirt" (as opposite to t-shirt).

Admittedly it is quite an odd word. And also probably not entirely true. Not all wifebeaters wear such shirts, and not everyone who wears such a shirt is a wifebeater! In German it is simply called "Unterhemd" (undershirt, as you wear it under the clothes).

Thinking further about it, I remembered that there is a special kind of collar on a shirt that is called "Vatermörder" in German. Father murderer. Not really better!

Do you have any other examples?

at least 10% Discocunt [userpic]

My daughter is two-and-a-bit, and monolingual English (although she's learning Spanish and Urdu at nursery!) One of her favourite sentence structures for the last couple of months has been to have both a pronoun and a noun in her sentence, as in: "I don't want it salad", "I want it banana", "You go up it stairs", "She can't find it teddy." For separable verbs, the "it" goes in the middle and the noun on the end: "You put it down dolly".

This definitely feels like it is correct grammar in some language, even if it's not in English! Her other mum and me are familiar with German, Irish, French, Spanish and Russian between us. French has "La salade, je ne la veux pas", which is close to what she's doing. Are there any languages where her syntax would be correct?

. [userpic]

Hello peeps, I hope you can help me with a little thing... it's for a fantasy thriller I'm currently working on, set in modern day (post-2010), where a woman 'sins' enough to unleash the verbal wrath of a certain type of spirits (not ghosts in traditional sense) that knows the truth of humans' personalities and their life stories. Their purpose is to pass judgement on humans by revealing their true character. In this case, their 'victim' is an unfaithful and scorned woman who lies and twists facts for attention and revenge; she gets a kick out of it. One of her shenanigans is to wrongly but knowingly accuse others (anyone, from former lovers to strangers; if she feels badly treated, whether real or not, she targets them mercilessly) of serious sins/crimes that could affect them for life, sometimes even blackmailing them; she also emotionally harasses them with manipulation - one moment she will say she loves them, the very next she will curse them to death. All while portraying herself as a good, smart, and beautiful woman of God who volunteers at soup kitchens and similar - the type that everyone would trust at first glance and not think any ill of.

I'm looking for words to describe such a woman - 'attention-seeker', 'liar', 'cheater', 'narcissist', etc. - in various languages (worldwide, English included; not geographically limited, age or gender determined, nor class-restricted; could be said by Delhi street girl or by a Wall Street man). In feminine form, if that applies. E.g. 'mentirosa' is the feminine form of the Spanish word for 'liar'. More slang-y and/or swear words - 'bitch', 'whore', 'psycho' - are also of interest. Primarily more recent/newer/modern words, but if you know a good old word (pre-1950?) that fits, please do throw it in!

zurita2015 [userpic]

"I was still standing there, hot, gazing into my new lady’s radiant sleepy eyes, waiting for talk of ravens".

This passage isn't taken from a fantasy (and\or erotic) novel. The protagonist (a female house cleaner) meets her new employer, a truly unique 80-old lady. The setting is Oakland, California, in the early 1970s. The protagonist is 30-something at this time, I think.

So how you would interpret this "talk of ravens"? (There are no real live ravens in the flat or nearby, it's the only phrase when ravens are mentioned, see under the cut for a longer quote). Thanks in advance!

A longer quoteCollapse )

mavisol [userpic]

Dear linguaphiles, how do you call sides of a wood board? Is it just "sides" (Lower side, upper side...)? Or something different?
Many thanks in advance!

Antje [userpic]

I guess this is a question mostly for the non native speakers in here but everyone is welcome to join in of course. Basically, I learnt all my English starting about 15 years ago by watching TV and reading fanfictions in original language. In Germany everything on TV is dubbed so there isn't that much exposure to the language like in other countries.

My favorite TV show at the time was "Stargate SG-1" and Richard Dean Anderson as Jack O'Neill has taught/teached (teached? Really?) me a lot of great phrases and slang words. Things like "shrink", "crap", "just peachy", "piece of cake", "Ya think?" and many more. Let's gloss over the fact that I once tried to look up "Yeahsureyabetcha" in the dictionary! D'oh! (<-- which I also tried to look up)

Once when being tortured by a bad guy he accused him of being a bastard for ending a sentence with a preposition. Something to take note of! ;)

For a long time I sounded like a snarky air force colonel. Later, mainly from interviews with John Barrowman, my English got mixed with British terms, he likes to use for example "chuffed", "snogging", "telly".

And just recently I developed a love for "Gotham" and particularly Alfred Pennyworth, played by Sean Pertwee. Of course words like "bugger", "oh dear" or "bloody" aren't exactly new for me, but still they do stand out as lovely and unique in an otherwise American show. And I see that "innit" does creep into my (written) language now. I'm not even sure how to spell it properly. In'it? Inn't? Same like suddenly using "cannae" after being at vacation in Scotland.

So my question just for fun is: Do you remember if you also have learnt words or phrases like that? Words you still use today and fondly think of the origin maybe? Do you still remember what they are and where you learnt them from? (<-- there's that preposition again. But I also learnt English from reading internet forums, it's not my fault if they don't use proper grammar in there!)

booq [userpic]

Hi everybody!

Here is a piece of text: "Sticking pain on swallowing, on feeling of throat, and on bending neck."

What are synonyms for "sticking pain", please?

Thank you in advance!

5x6 [userpic]

На правах модератора позволю себе небольшую рекламу: в сообществе vspomnit_vsyo регулярно проводятся литературные игры. Сейчасм например, там идет моя игра. Приглашаем любителей книг принять участие.

topum [userpic]

Can anyone translate what was written on the side of that building in Singapore? Was it just a company name?

Read more...Collapse )

whswhs [userpic]

One of the criticisms of universal languages has long been that they don't have the historical depth that gives a language flavor. But Esperanto has been around for a long time, and a comparatively large number of people speak it. So I was wondering, are there any well known Esperanto puns?

schnuffichen [userpic]

Dear linguaphiles,

I'm a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Potsdam in Germany, and I'm preparing materials for a new study on German plurals. In order to figure out which words make for suitable test items, I need to know which plurals are known to native speakers of German.
The questionnaire takes about 5 minutes and all you have to do is write down the according plural form to the singular words you see. The only requirement is that you're a native speaker of German - current location or age don't matter.


Thanks very much for your help! :)

zurita2015 [userpic]

I'm translating a short story by Lucia Berlin and I'm perplexed by some phrases and expressions. Please help me!

The setting is Oakland, California in the early 1970s. The protagonist is called Maggie, she is an educated woman working as a house cleaner (she needs the work).

1\ One of the ladies in the story "forgets everything, even her ailments". "10 AM. NAUSEA (sp) on a piece of paper on the mantel". WHAT CAN (sp) MEAN IN THIS CONTEXT?

2\ "I asked a man for a match and he gave me the pack. They were the dumb kind with the striker on the back. Better safe than sorry". WHY IS SHE CALLING THIS MATCHPACK "THE DUMB KIND"?

3\ "The Christian Eastern Stars" (Maggie calls so a certain class of her employers - WASP women as opposed to Jewish or African-American women). DOES SHE MEAN THAT THEY ARE LIKELY TO BE MEMBERS OF THE ORDER OF EASTERN STAR? Or maybe that they are Christians from the East Coast? (the latter seems unlikely to me).

steepholm [userpic]

Sometimes I say sentences such as: "Didn't that bakery used to be a fish shop?"

It occurs to me that it would be more grammatically consistent if I said: "Didn't that bakery use to be a fish shop?"

Spoken aloud they sound pretty similar, and now I wonder whether that's what everyone else says anyway, and I've just never noticed. But then, "use to" in that sense is seldom heard in the present tense these days (e.g. "Do you still use to play golf at the weekend?" sounds pretty archaic, if not downright wrong), so perhaps we've all slid into saying "used to" because that's now the default form of the phrase. Again, it's a small step from:

"That bakery used to be a fish shop."
"Did it?"


"Didn't that bakery used to be a fish shop?"

I'm not sure where I'm going with this, to be honest, but I'd be interested in other perspectives on this usage.

the stag's daughter [userpic]

Okay, let's put it this way... like some 90s children, I grew up listening to Enya. For better or worse, I still totally possess some of her albums, and this one song is one of my favorites but it has also driven me lyrically mad.

The liner notes and the lyrics I can find on Google include some Irish Gaelic for part of the song, and while I don't speak the language I can tell what part of the song those lyrics appear in. Those lyrics are as follows:

Amharc, mn ag obair l ‘s mall san och’,
Ceolann siad ar laetha geal, a bh,
Bealach fada annon ‘s anall a choch’.

However, bookending this section is a repeated set of lyrics that I cannot find anywhere except in a sort of hacky phonetic transcription. I have always assumed those lyrics are Irish Gaelic as well, but if that is the case, why has no one transcribed them properly anywhere? Can any Irish Gaelic speakers here tell whether the multiple-Enya-voice-Borg is singing in that language at the beginning and end of the song?

Furthermore, if it is not Irish Gaelic there, what language is it? Is it even a real language or is it some of the random syllables that I think might also be in some of Enya's other songs? As I sing the phonetic transcription to myself (link also includes an odd theory about the song), I oddly find myself hearing phonemes + melodies that seem to belong in an indigenous American song, given my scant familiarity with languages like Navajo, Lakota, and respective musical structures. But I don't know which is more absurd— my forming that association, or the prospect of Enya trying to sing in Navajo.

Who can help unravel this mystery?

pronker [userpic]

Algo es algo; menos es nada seems to mean "Half a loaf is better than none."  This is near, but is there another closer to the English?  Thanks for any help.

Current Location: downstairs office
Current Mood: happyhappy
Current Music: drip drip drop of big storm
Andrew [userpic]

Could someone please explain to me or point me to resources (in Spanish or English) on the relationship between vos + tú + usted in countries where all three are used side by side? As far as I understand, this mostly exludes Rioplatense Spanish. I was recently thrown for a loop with verbs of address by meeting some brothers from Colombia who addressed each other with usted. But I'm mostly wondering because I'm travelling to Central America soon and would like to be aware of any nuances here. I speak Spanish fluently and have lived in Spain and Puerto Rico. I've never been to any other Spanish speaking country.

Thanks for your help!

pronker [userpic]

"Does the sandwich come with?" [overheard at deli, asking does a reuben include sides of pickles or kraut, something of that nature without following 'with' by 'it/them'.]

I've noticed within the past three years a language change and perhaps others here have, too. Most often, it's noticeable about food as in the above example. A person keeps waiting for the 'it.' The verb I've noticed most is 'come,' but perhaps there've been others.

A term for this phenomenon might be 'assumed object'?

Sidenote: there is no tag for 'rant.' Should there be? :D

Current Location: sofa
Current Mood: confusedconfused
Current Music: roar of heater
好きな同茶 [userpic]

Please write what does the eyewitness say
after 0:45 till 2:12

thanks in advance

PS Original text of an interview in short terms is also acceptable. No need in exact translation. By the way The main questions are: "Did the Dragonfly pilot tow a hangglider in the last flight, and what movement of hangglider the eyewitness had remembered?"

Barszczow A. N. [userpic]

I had to combine two sentences without the subjonctif:

1."Ces indices serviront aux enquêteurs." et 2. "Ce n'est pas certain."

into one with the subjunctive. I did this this way:

"Que ces indices servent (subj) aux enquêteurs, ce n'est pas certain."

Could you please tell me if this sentence is correct? One person said no (the one who will give me my note), the other said yes. I thought it over and I still think it's okay. Could you please confirm/deny? Thank you.

Barszczow A. N. [userpic]

"Written cardinals from 21 to 99 are hyphenated –
eighty-three" from here

I don't remember being taught that at school, but maybe I've forgotten. Has the rule changed recently? Not so recently?

How do you write the 21-99 cardinals in your everyday life? Do you bother with a hyphen? For example on some bank forms? I can't think of any other context when one would write the numbers in letters.

holde_maid [userpic]

How would one address a respected teacher in Cebuano? Old-fashioned expressions preferred. :)
Thanks a lot in advance!

Current Location: Austria
dorsetgirl [userpic]

It seems to be impossible to do anything on the internet at the moment without seeing a lot about what's going on in the US, much of it pretty horrifying.

I'm not for a moment disputing that these things are happening, because we saw it here after the Brexit vote too. And it's awful. But one particular example has me very puzzled about word choice.

I wouldn't have been surprised - saddened but not surprised - to hear that there was an outbreak of "grabbing women by the pussy". But apparently what's happening is that girls are "having their vaginas grabbed".

Someone apparently had to pick up their daughter from school yesterday "because a boy grabbed her vagina". The person tweeting this information (@ShaunKing) stated "I have dozens just like this of young girls who had their vaginas grabbed yesterday in the name of Trump".

For context I'm English, aged 50s, and I'm asking: does the word "vagina" mean something different in the US? I mean, to me, it's inside. It's a hole, a cavity, a tunnel, whatever. The birth canal. So to "grab someone's vagina" would involve sticking a hand up there first and then grabbing the side wall. Which would obviously be excruciatingly painful, but keeping to the subject of word choice, it would legally count as rape.

Therefore you'd be describing this action as sexual assault at the least, or rape. Not "grabbing someone's vagina".

So - what does the word "vagina" mean in the US? And is the term "pussy" actually current in the US, or is the orange one just seriously showing his age there? [We have the term "pussy" here, and from Trump's usage I'm assuming for now that we use it in the same way as in the US - there were always a lot of sniggers in "Are You Being Served" whenever Mrs Slocombe talked about her pussy. Lady bits, external. But that was forty years ago.]

Alex [userpic]

This is a slightly specific request, but I am looking for a German etymological dictionary... in English. Does such a thing exist?

Many thanks in advance!

Barszczow A. N. [userpic]

Does it make any sense in English to use Past Perfect in a sentence when you don't compare two past events:

I had never been to Europe. ?

How it's different from

I have never been to Europe.

I understand that you cannot use Past Simple in this sentence.

Current Music: Natacha Atlas "Etheric Messages"
Drama Shark [userpic]

Hey all,

I know this is not perhaps strictly on topic, but I hope it's okay to post the request here.

A few months ago, I finished an occult detective story set in 19th century Ireland and I've recently gone back to it to get it ready for publication on the Kindle. At the time, and even more so in hindsight, I'm a little hesitant about the Irish accents I set down. Put simply, I'm worried all the Irish people sound far too much like Hollywood leprechauns. Is there anybody out there familiar with the era (1891) and location (the coast of County Mayo) who'd be willing to go through the text and offer some suggestions? I'd be greatly in your debt. Let me know, please and thank you!

rusquen [userpic]

Hello Linguaphiles! I come seeking help. This is probably a long shot, but I figured I'd ask anyway =)

I'm writing a fantasy novel set in a somewhat parallel world with a bunch of (mashed-up) fantasy-counterpart cultures. Specifically in this case I'm dealing with a culture that, lingustically, borrows heavily from Brittany. Because I happened to hear some Breton folksongs a few years back and fell head over heels in love.

Now, I'm bilingual English/Russian, semi-fluent in French, Spanish, and Esperanto, and know the basics of German grammar (yes, I'm a bit of a language geek. I blame Tolkien.) However, I never really studied Breton beyond picking apart song lyrics. I've seen Russian used awkwardly/improperly in fiction, and, while I personally don't find it offensive, just funny, I'd like to avoid it with Breton if at all possible. It's a beautiful language and I'm afraid to maul it - while at the same time I like it so much I'm not afraid enough not to use it at all. If that makes any sense.

So, if anyone out there knows Breton or resources on Breton - please help? I would generally love a good grammar-based "teach yourself Breton" resource if it exists (I seem to be stuck with this culture for at least a trilogy), but, more immediately, I need the following three things:

1. Titles
How do noble titles work in Breton? I know there are aotrou / itroun, but I don't get what exactly those titles are, since there also seem to be regular titles' equivalents (dug, kont, etc). Are those just generic lord/lady denoting nobility? Can you have a lot of people titled aotrou at the same time, or is it only applied to the current overlord, like the Duke of Brittany (an aotrou Yann from "An alarc'h")?

2. A snippet of conversation
A (female, if it matters): It cannot be, my lord. It simply cannot be. [As in, he just told her something and it's freaking impossible.]
B (male, if it matters): I know. [As in, yeah, it sounds impossible, but...]

After raking the internet I came up with the following:
A: Ne’m eus ket, aotrou. Ne’m eus ket nemet.
B: Gouzon.
Is that correct? Also, is it ne'm or nem?

3. A battle cry
Something like "to arms" or "arise, X" (X being the name of the country, so 2nd person singular, "you"). Glosbe.com, which is the best online Breton dictionary I've managed to find,  has nothing certain for "arise" or "to arms", but it gave me dihuniñ for "awake". The Wiktionary seems to show that singular "you" imperative of -iñ verbs cuts off the ending. I'm still not sure, however, if "Dihun, X!" sounds like a call to arms or like "wakey-wakey, sweetie". Besides, for all I know, dihuniñ might be irregular and do something completely different in imperative.

There's also the phrase d'an emgann (dan emgann?) in "An alarc'h", which, insofar as I could figure out, means "to battle". Which would work beautifully, except I wouldn't want to lift it wholesale if it's already a traditional battle-cry.

I hope I'm not too off-topic here. Any help is greatly appreciated!

whswhs [userpic]

One of my clients for copy editing asked me a question about English grammar: When is the definite article required with ordinals? My first approximation to an answer was that you use it when the ordinal refers to an entity, either concrete or abstract: The last to depart should turn off the lights or I stopped after the fourth martini. If it's being used adverbially it doesn't need and shouldn't have an article: I left last, so I turned off the lights.

But what about this sentence: We approximate the temperature change over the past century to third order/the third order? The word "order" seems to be a noun (if an abstract one) and by the general rule I came up with ought to have a definite article. But it seems to be common for mathematicians just to write "to Nth order" with no article. Is there some grammatical principle that explains this difference of usage? Or is it just an idiomatic usage that doesn't fit the standard pattern and has to be taken as a separate thing? I can't see any rule that obviously fits, and I'm not sure how to search for one.

asher63 [userpic]

Fellow Anglophones - native and otherwise - this one is just for fun.

What is your favorite intensive expression in colloquial English?

I'm nominating "from Hell" and "on steroids".

(True story: a local political message recently condemned a proposed ballot measure as "a sales tax on steroids". I actually wondered for a moment whether steroids were among the substances now declared legal in Oregon.)

Garonne [userpic]

There are lots of people who are fluent in multiple languages because language learning is a hobby or passion for them. My question is about a different group of people. Among your acquaintances, what's the highest number of languages spoken (fluently) by someone who isn't very keen on learning languages or even actively dislikes it?

Define fluently however you like.

My maximum is 5. I know someone who grew up trilingual (and still retained the use of all three languages as an adult). He became fluent in a fourth language by living for many years as an adult in a country where it was spoken. Then he moved to a country which spoke a fifth language, and was forced to learn that. He managed to become quite fluent, but was always complaining about it, and ended up moving back to a country speaking one of his other four languages.

I also know quite a few people who are "unwillingly" fluent in four languages. But I'm sure the record is much higher than four or five!

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