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#2657 - 05/20/00 05:56 PM Decimate
Rubrick Offline
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Registered: 05/18/00
Posts: 679
Loc: Somewhere outside New York
Good evening everyone,

Is it just me or do I detect that if an authority/public figure incorrectly uses a word then the vast majority of others (including their peers) jump on the bandwagon and this misuse snowballs?

There is one word in particular which is misused quite occasionally on television and in newsprint. That word is 'decimate'.

Its literal meaning, and excuse me as I do not have the benefit of a dictionary to hand to give the precise definition, is 'to reduce by one tenth'. It was first used to describe the Roman practice of killing one tenth of their or their opponents' troops and comes from the Latin 'deci' menaing ten.

It is confused with, I suppose, 'devastated'. Most examples I can give relate to reports from war areas (so there are plenty as I write) and come in the form of 'The enemy positions were completely decimated'. Ten times over, I can only presume.

Has anyone else noticed this malapropism in reporting or elsewhere?


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#2658 - 05/20/00 06:54 PM Re: Decimate
lusy Offline
member

Registered: 03/16/00
Posts: 140
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
The misunderstanding and misuse of this word is not just occasional in this neck of the woods, it is quite widespread. I know all about English being a living language, but I can't abide the degradation of our language throiugh ignorance, especiallly when it comes about, as you suggest, by people picking up a "buzz-word" they don't understand and using it simply for effect. BTW, loved your example of "completely decimated".

Rgds, lusy


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#2659 - 05/20/00 09:59 PM Re: Decimate
tsuwm Offline
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Registered: 04/03/00
Posts: 10525
Loc: this too shall pass
this is widely accepted usage, in the narrow sense of widespread killing. (ugh, parse that!) here is a link to a typical usage discussion:

http://www.bartleby.com/64/C003/091.html

http://members.aol.com/tsuwm

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#2660 - 05/21/00 03:14 AM Re: Decimate
juanmaria Offline
member

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 163
Loc: Malaga, Spain.
Although I cannot remember any examples I use to get pretty annoyed when things like what you’re telling about ‘decimate’ happens, and it happens a lot. Lately I’m trying to be more tolerant and think that it must be the that way language evolves and all that crap (sorry but I’m reading ‘Catcher in the rye’ and it’s sort of ‘catchy’) but, anyway, it keeps bothering me.
Since, due to my lack of knowledge, I can’t write without a dictionary at hand I’m going to transcript the definition I have of ‘decimation’ that fully agrees with your posting.


decimate —tr. v.-mat·ed., -mat·ing., -mates. 1. To destroy or kill a large part of. 2. To select by lot and kill one in every ten of. [Lat. decimare, decimat- < decimus, tenth < decem, ten.] dec'i·ma´tion n.

USAGE: Decimate originally meant to kill every tenth person, a punishment sometimes inflicted by Roman commanders. The meaning has been extended to include the destruction of any large proportion of a group: Famine decimated the population. The Usage Panel accepts this extension but considers that decimate should not be used to describe the destruction of a single person, or an entire group, or any specified percentage other than one-tenth; avoid a sentence such as The famine decimated 37 per cent of the population.

Microsoft Bookshelf © 1987 - 1992 Microsoft Corp. All Rights Reserved. The American Heritage Dictionary and Electronic Thesaurus are licensed from Houghton Mifflin Company. Copyright © 1986, 1987 by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved. Based upon Roget's II: The New Thesaurus.


Juan Maria.

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#2661 - 05/21/00 09:59 AM Re: Decimate
tsuwm Offline
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Loc: this too shall pass
from the link I gave above:

Sixty-six percent of the Usage Panel accepts this extension in the sentence 'The Jewish population of Germany was decimated by the war', even though it is common knowledge that the number of Jews killed was much greater than a tenth of the original population. But when the meaning is further extended to include large-scale destruction other than killing, as in 'The supply of fresh produce was decimated by the accident at Chernobyl', only 26 percent of the panel accepts the usage.
The American Heritage® Book of English Usage. 1996


http://members.aol.com/tsuwm

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#2662 - 05/21/00 02:43 PM Re: Decimate
juanmaria Offline
member

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 163
Loc: Malaga, Spain.
I read your post after having posted mine and both usage notes make me understand that ‘decimate’ is now acceptable for an undetermined number of casualties but ‘completely decimated’ or ‘decimated 37 per cent of the population’ are not acceptable. At least don’t sound good to me.
The thing that your link -great site by the way- has confirmed me is that ‘decimate’ was a disciplinary action taken by the roman chiefs against their own troops. I was pretty sure but this article confirmed it.


Juan Maria.

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#2663 - 05/22/00 08:42 AM Re: Decimate
Rubrick Offline
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Registered: 05/18/00
Posts: 679
Loc: Somewhere outside New York
Ah, but you see, this is my point. An English word which has clear meaning has been broadly accepted to have yet another, and quite contradictory, one! From the above posts I can see that those who determine the official parlance of the English language - including the Usage Panel (who they?) - clearly have no problem in adopting incorrect usage of a word if the majority of people do so. To use a parallel example - there are not just a few people doing it, there are quite a few!


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#2664 - 05/22/00 09:13 AM Re: shifting meanings
tsuwm Offline
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Posts: 10525
Loc: this too shall pass
here's a word which has undergone a radical shift which bothers me: chauvinist

This comes from French and originally referred to an overly patriotic veteran of the Napoleonic wars; now it is used almost exclusively (at least in the US) as a synonym for 'sexist'! Most folks think that 'male chauvinist' is a pleonasm!! (a superfluity of words, for those of you not following along at home :)

I was reminded of this by today's Random House Word-of-the-Day; here's the link, but it only points to the the current word:

http://www.randomhouse.com/wotd/

http://members.aol.com/tsuwm

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#2665 - 05/22/00 09:20 AM Re: shifting meanings
Rubrick Offline
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Loc: Somewhere outside New York
Congratulations on your graduation to enthusiast, Michael. I guess this makes you a 'chauvinist' of sorts (purely in its original form, of course!).


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#2666 - 05/22/00 11:52 AM Re: usage panels
tsuwm Offline
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"including the Usage Panel (who they?)"

well, here's the link to the American Heritage Dictionary Usage Panel (it's quite an interesting list!):

http://www.bartleby.com/64/12.html

it is also instructive to learn how they reach a consensus on usage questions:

http://www.bartleby.com/64/13.html

http://members.aol.com/tsuwm

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#2667 - 05/22/00 06:40 PM Re: usage panels
Rubrick Offline
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Posts: 679
Loc: Somewhere outside New York
You're telling me!! Apart from a few people whom I recognise - I see the the name of the prominent astronomer, Carl Sagan Professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences; writer; recipient, Pulitzer Prize

listed amongst this illustrious group.

The only problem is that Carl has been six feet under for about five years now. I wonder how many others on the panel are vertically-challenged?

I'm being flippant. I hope to get a chance to read the ways they reach a consensus asap.

I'm a bit sceptical (yes, it is an accepted form of skeptical) about the different methods to determine the courses of the diverging branches of US/UK English. To be blunt - why bastardise a common language? Sure, slang and local dialect play a big part in the development of English in the US but what are the Usage panel trying to achieve?? I have never heard of a similar group on this side of the pond.



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#2668 - 05/23/00 03:21 PM Re: Decimate
juanmaria Offline
member

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 163
Loc: Malaga, Spain.
The thing is whether those changes of use or meaning are for better or for worse. It’s a subjective thing, what for some people is language evolution for others is bastardization.
As I told you before I don’t like when a word or expression starts being misused by the media or by some fashionable group of people and this misuse catches and becomes a normal practice. But, maybe, it’s an excessive conservativeness of mine. I want to think that it’s the way language evolves but I can’t help not liking it.


Juan Maria.

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#2669 - 05/23/00 03:22 PM Re: shifting meanings
juanmaria Offline
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Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 163
Loc: Malaga, Spain.
I didn’t know this use of chauvinist and I can’t help disliking it. I’ve just made a post about this subject but this example of yours fits perfectly in what I wrote before.

Juan Maria.

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#2670 - 05/23/00 04:13 PM Re: usage panels
tsuwm Offline
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>>The only problem is that Carl has been six feet under for about five years now. I wonder how many others on the panel are vertically-challenged?<<

quite a few, actually -- this edition of the AHD was published in '96 and several of the panelists have "bought the farm" since then (they're all *ed on the list). By all means check out the other link; I found it very helpful in understanding what the usage panel is about.

We're skating around the edges here of how our language evolves; usages become sometimes broader, sometimes narrower; old words no longer suffice because of these shifts, so new ones are borrowed or coined; some perfectly good words fall into desuetude. Not to beat a dead horse, but it's how we arrived at 500,000 words! (OED estimate)

BTW, I *like* what's happened to decimate; the original sense isn't all that useful to me, other then as an etymological point of interest. On the other hand, I *hate* what's been done to chauvinist in the US!

"What's another word for Thesaurus?" -Steven Wright

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#2671 - 05/23/00 04:23 PM Re: usage panels
jmh Offline
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Registered: 03/22/00
Posts: 1981
The group you describe sounds like the one they have in France. The only difference is that in France they are creating new words to avoid the incursion of the monoculture "le weekend" etc.

Wasn't there a panel which was set up in the USA to make spelling simpler "donut" and "thru" for example. Do you know a link that discussed the simplification of spelling?


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#2672 - 05/24/00 03:30 AM Re: usage panels
jmh Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 03/22/00
Posts: 1981
Here's a link which discusses the early days of the simplified spelling movement (for those of us who are enthusiastic but not expert).

http://www.uta.fi/FAST/US1/P1/ahonen.html




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#2673 - 05/24/00 05:47 AM Re: Decimate
Rubrick Offline
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Registered: 05/18/00
Posts: 679
Loc: Somewhere outside New York
> The thing is whether those changes of use or meaning are for better or for worse. It’s a subjective thing, what for some
people is language evolution for others is bastardization.
As I told you before I don’t like when a word or expression starts being misused by the media or by some fashionable
group of people and this misuse catches and becomes a normal practice. But, maybe, it’s an excessive
conservativeness of mine. I want to think that it’s the way language evolves but I can’t help not liking it.

A very good and valid point, Juanmaria. However, I'm not all that Black and white. Language evolution is all well and fine and inevitable BUT if you have a common language used in many far-flung countries of the world (I'll use English as the obvious example) and those countries adopt differing definitions for certain words then the whole language will eventually fall into chaos and confusion. A standard has to be adopted to prevent word definitions from deviating too far from their original meanings no matter how appealing they may seem in their present, 'adopted' form. We have standards for measurement, time zones even computers - why not words too? Okay, we do have standards for words but they are often overlooked.


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#2674 - 05/24/00 06:47 AM Re: Decimate
juanmaria Offline
member

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 163
Loc: Malaga, Spain.
What puzzles me is that really I agree with you. But I’m not completely happy with myself thinking this way because when I think about language standardization -I really love standards- I consider that if this practice had been enforced by the old Romans I would be speaking Latin instead of Spanish and the world would be deprived of such a beautiful languages as French Italian or Portuguese.
As you can see I’m totally mixed-up with that question, as happens me with almost every other thing in life.


Juan Maria.

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#2675 - 05/24/00 08:44 AM Globalisation
jmh Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 03/22/00
Posts: 1981
> BUT if you have a common language used in many far-flung countries of the world (I'll use English as the obvious example) and those countries adopt differing definitions for certain words then the whole language will eventually fall into chaos and confusion.

Hasn't the cat already been let out of the bag? Aren't our languages already different. I see it as slightly sad that we are heading towards more standardisation. Before today's fast communications a word might only travel a few miles - look at the many local variations for a bread roll. Now a new word, coined in Melbourne or in Silicon Valley is conveyed to Delhi almost as easily as Denver.

The English that is spoken in Delhi relates to a colonial heritage but it has moved on and become theirs in the same way that the language of London, Washington DC and Canberra belongs to the people who live in those countries. As we try to converse with people from other countries more and buy our goods from the Internet the differences must be decreasing rather than increasing.



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#2676 - 05/24/00 08:51 AM Re: Decimate
Rubrick Offline
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Registered: 05/18/00
Posts: 679
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> What puzzles me is that really I agree with you. But I’m not completely happy with myself thinking this way because
when I think about language standardization -I really love standards- I consider that if this practice had been enforced by
the old Romans I would be speaking Latin instead of Spanish and the world would be deprived of such a beautiful
languages as French Italian or Portuguese.

Ah, but they did. I am sure that these forementioned languages only developed into their present forms after the fall of the Roman Empire and the standards were no longer enforced. Just like the Germanic languages which have only really diverged in the past 700 years I can guess that the Latin languages are just as relatively new and the natural barriers of the Alps and the Pyrenees only aided their development. With the Moorish invasion I presume that there are also Arabic words included in present day Spanish?

We, in the present day, cannot afford to be so lax with our dealings with words. This noticeboard would become Babelised if each of us were to adopt separate meanings for our words and use them periodically in everyday use. The technology of instant messaging itself dictates that we adopt a standard that is understandable to everyone. The shrinking world means that languages are becoming more tightly knit and and they are less likely to devolve into progenic entities than was common over the past millenium.

But I don't mean to sound pedantic. This is purely a speculative opinion ;^)


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#2677 - 05/24/00 09:00 AM Re: usage panels
Rubrick Offline
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> Wasn't there a panel which was set up in the USA to make spelling simpler "donut" and "thru" for example.

Yes, it's the Ministry for Truth or Minitru. Definitely a version of Newspeak! ;^)


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#2678 - 05/24/00 09:58 AM Re: Decimate
juanmaria Offline
member

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 163
Loc: Malaga, Spain.
Actually we have lots of Arabic words. Not only toponyms but everyday words. Even my wife’s second name is ‘Alfageme’. If a Spanish word starts with ‘al-‘ ‘ben-‘ or ‘guad-‘ it’s very likely an Arabic word, ‘guad-‘ stands for river while ‘ben-‘ stands for son.
What appears clear on this discussion is that nowadays world needs a standard way of communication. A sort of English-based Esperanto could be maintained by an international committee. This would assure reliable worldwide communication without thwarting local language evolution.
Returning to Latin, during centuries philosophers and scientist used Latin as a common language long after the fall of the Roman Empire. As you can see my idea is not an original one.


Juan Maria.

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#2679 - 05/24/00 10:16 AM Re: Globalisation
AnnaStrophic Offline
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Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 6511
Loc: lower upstate New York
As Jo pointed out:

>As we try to converse with people from other countries more and buy our goods from the Internet the differences must be decreasing rather than increasing.

Indeed, my first thought upon reading these past several posts is that the internet has sort of jumped into the breach like a latter-day Deus-ex-machina to prevent the "Babelization" at least of English, at least among the literate. The way I see it is growing internet use will force agreement on meaning, and that agreement will trickle down. Individually, we may not agree with the agreed-upon definition, but, hey... whatchagunnado?

When I was in college I participated in a usage/lexical survey called The Linguistic Atlas of the South Atlantic States, a parallel effort to the University of Wisconsin's Dictionary of American Regional English. Back then, you'd hear "pail" on one side of the tracks and "bucket" on the other. Now, while you may still hear such local differences, they are certainly outweighed by the fact that I, for example, know what a scone is and Jo knows what a donut is. :-)

It would seem to me the language is, in fact, expanding. I think it's all for the best.

http://polyglot.lss.wisc.edu/dare/dare.html
http://hyde.park.uga.edu/





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#2680 - 05/25/00 03:51 AM Chauvinist
Rubrick Offline
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Registered: 05/18/00
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> here's a word which has undergone a radical shift which bothers me: chauvinist

This comes from French and originally referred to an overly patriotic veteran of the Napoleonic wars; now it is used
almost exclusively (at least in the US) as a synonym for 'sexist'! Most folks think that 'male chauvinist' is a pleonasm!!
(a superfluity of words, for those of you not following along at home :)

I gave tsuwm plaudits earlier for his definition and use of this word. Now, after drafting in my OED, I am not so sure that I should have been so hasty with my praise. You didn't give us the FULL definition!

True, a chauvinist was a loyal, overly patriotic veteran of the Napoeleonic wars but he was also someone who favoured men and prejudiced against women. I can only presume that the typical chauvinist of the time engaged in the 'spoils of war'.

Apologies to female posters for any offence caused.


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#2681 - 05/25/00 06:35 AM Re: Latin
jmh Offline
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Registered: 03/22/00
Posts: 1981
I lived in Oxford for a while and took one of those touristy tours round the colleges. I was surprised to learn that each college drew scholars from a particular part of the country. This was partly because it was impossible for people from different parts of Britain (as late as the 14th Century - or even later?) to understand each other. Scholarly discourse had to take place in Latin as it was the only language that everyone could understand. So understanding each other across relatively small boundaries is a fairly recent phenemenon.



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#2682 - 05/25/00 06:43 AM Re: Chauvinist
jmh Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 03/22/00
Posts: 1981
Rubrick

I wondered if there was something missing in the original definition - sounds much more like it.


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#2683 - 05/25/00 06:29 PM Re: Chauvinist
tsuwm Offline
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Registered: 04/03/00
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'brick writes:
>>You didn't give us the FULL definition!

True, a chauvinist was a loyal, overly patriotic veteran of the Napoeleonic wars but he was also someone who favoured men and prejudiced against women. I can only presume that the typical chauvinist of the time engaged in the 'spoils of war'.<<

I have to admit that you've got me flummoxed on this one!
My reading of the OED (under chauvinism) relates early usage (1870s ff) to (the British) 'jingoism' exclusively. It goes on to give citations for other forms of chauvinism, with adjectival modifiers, such as male chauvinism, female chauvinism, carbon chauvinism (from Carl Sagan!), etc. All of the citations for male chauvinism are post-1970. This puts about 100 years between the original sense and the sexist sense -- and what I objected to was totally dropping the modifier; i.e., chauvinist == male chauvinist.





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#2684 - 05/26/00 07:55 AM Re: Latin
wsieber Offline
old hand

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 1027
Loc: Switzerland
>Scholarly discourse had to take place in Latin as it was the only language that everyone could understand. <
Even though I didn't despise Latin at school, I can't dispel a lingering suspicion that even in the Middle Age it was also used for the purpose that only the "chosen ones" could understand. (alchemy, medicine, law..)


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#2685 - 05/26/00 09:48 AM Re: Chauvinist
Rubrick Offline
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Registered: 05/18/00
Posts: 679
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> I have to admit that you've got me flummoxed on this one!
My reading of the OED (under chauvinism) relates early usage (1870s ff) to (the British) 'jingoism' exclusively. It goes on
to give citations for other forms of chauvinism, with adjectival modifiers, such as male chauvinism, female chauvinism,
carbon chauvinism (from Carl Sagan!), etc. All of the citations for male chauvinism are post-1970. This puts about 100
years between the original sense and the sexist sense -- and what I objected to was totally dropping the modifier; i.e.,
chauvinist == male chauvinist.

The original definition is indicative of chauvinism being a uniquely male trait (though not in all males, I hasten to add!) which would imply that the 'male' prefix is redundant. I can't see members of the opposite sex being called 'female chauvinists' (though there are plenty of female sexists about!) - unless it is an antinym of the male definition. I was unaware of the many other definitions you have given above, tsuwm (Carl Sagan - a chauvinist? Shurely not.) but perhaps the current meaning has evolved from the resurgence of the word through contemporary '60s/'70s literature. However, I hate speculating too much without some solid material to back me up so I shall trawl for references. Looks like we have a discussion on our hands. Ladies. Care to throw in your valuable comments?


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#2686 - 05/26/00 10:02 AM Re: Chauvinist
tsuwm Offline
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>The original definition is indicative of chauvinism being a uniquely male trait

That's a bit of a distortion, I think. Seeing as how it was applied in a very narrow sense to overly patriotic "veterans of the Napoleonic Wars", that pretty much excludes women (without saying anything directly about them)! I'm not going to claim that sexism wasn't (or was) rampant at the time, but neither does this word, in the original sense, say anything about it. (IMHO)

>. I was unaware of the many other definitions you have given above, tsuwm (Carl Sagan - a chauvinist? Shurely not.) but perhaps the current meaning has evolved from the resurgence of the word through contemporary '60s/'70s literature.

Take another look at the OED citations if you get a chance. With these you can trace the evolution of the usage. I don't think you can make the case for any "resurgence".
Clearly, the move from the narrow, jingoistic sense to the broader usages follow. I think that the Carl Sagan usage was to the effect that people who expect aliens to have a humanoid appearance are being carbon-chauvinists! (see, there you go assuming I meant Carl was a sexist!! ;)

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#2687 - 05/26/00 10:14 AM Re: Chauvinist
Rubrick Offline
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Registered: 05/18/00
Posts: 679
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> That's a bit of a distortion, I think. Seeing as how it was applied in a very narrow sense to overly patriotic "veterans of the
Napoleonic Wars", that pretty much excludes women (without saying anything directly about them)! I'm not going to
claim that sexism wasn't (or was) rampant at the time, but neither does this word, in the original sense, say anything
about it. (IMHO)

Quite right. But my last post was peppered with speculation and presumptions. I presumed that the vast majority of the veterans were men (as most likely was the case) and, as such, that that definition would apply to them and not to the female minority.

The reference to sexism was an aside and has nothing to do with the definition or my interpretation of it.

> Take another look at the OED citations if you get a chance. With these you can trace the evolution
of the usage. I don't think you can make the case for any "resurgence".
Clearly, the move from the narrow, jingoistic sense to the broader usages follow. I think that the
Carl Sagan usage was to the effect that people who expect aliens to have a humanoid appearance
are being carbon-chauvinists! (see, there you go assuming I meant Carl was a sexist!! ;)

Point taken. Jingoism dates from pre-suffragette (suffragist) times so could this be a step in the evolutionary cycle of 'chauvinism' -> 'male chauvinism'? i.e. that it was attributed to the male-dominated jingoists by the female-dominated suffragettes (or am I losing the plot here?).

Of course I wasn't calling Carl a sexist - I called him a chauvinist!!


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#2688 - 05/26/00 10:25 AM Re: Chauvinist
tsuwm Offline
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okay, I *think I see where you're coming from now. By saying that it was a male concept to begin with, you would claim that saying "male" chauvinist is redundant. But the problem with that is that the modifier speaks to "what" it is you are being "overly patriotic" to, and not about what sex you are! Thus, a male-chauvinist is overly dedicated to the male cause, a female-chauvinist to the female cause and a carbon-chauvinist to the carbon-based lifeform cause.
Does this help?

for those following along at home, here's the MWCD definition, which shows the sense progression (and recall that it took 100 years to arrive at sense 3)

chau*vin*ism (noun)

[French chauvinisme, from Nicolas Chauvin, character noted for his excessive patriotism and devotion to Napoleon in Theodore and Hippolyte Cogniard's play La Cocarde tricolore (1831)]

First appeared 1870

1 : excessive or blind patriotism -- compare JINGOISM

2 : undue partiality or attachment to a group or place to which one belongs or has belonged

3 : an attitude of superiority toward members of the opposite sex; also : behavior expressive of such an attitude

-- chau*vin*ist (noun or adjective)

-- chau*vin*is*tic (adjective)

-- chau*vin*is*ti*cal*ly (adverb)


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#2689 - 05/26/00 10:35 AM Re: Chauvinist
Rubrick Offline
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Registered: 05/18/00
Posts: 679
Loc: Somewhere outside New York
> okay, I *think I see where you're coming from now. By saying that it was a male concept to being with, you would claim
that saying "male" chauvinist is redundant. But the problem with that is that the modifier speaks to "what" it is you are
being "overly patriotic" to, and not about what sex you are! Thus, a male-chauvinist is overly dedicated to the male
cause, a female-chauvinist to the female cause and a carbon-chauvinist to the carbon-based lifeform cause.
Does this help?

Nooooo. Mommy, my head hurts.

I thought a woman overly dedicated to the female cause was a feminist. After all, you never hear of a maleist, do you?? (or do you?).


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#2690 - 05/26/00 10:40 AM Re: Chauvinist
tsuwm Offline
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Posts: 10525
Loc: this too shall pass
the 'opposite' of a feminist is a masculinist (MWCD: an advocate of male superiority or dominance), actually.


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#2691 - 05/26/00 10:45 AM Re: Chauvinist
Rubrick Offline
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Registered: 05/18/00
Posts: 679
Loc: Somewhere outside New York
> the 'opposite' of a feminist is a masculinist (MWCD: an advocate of male superiority or dominance), actually.

Of course it is! Male - Female. Masculine - Feminine. Put that slight overlook down to Friday evening ennui.

Have a good weekend!

'brick


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#2692 - 05/26/00 03:08 PM Re: Latin
Jackie Online   content

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Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 11610
Loc: Louisville, Kentucky
Dr. Sieber,
I can't say for sure either (but will ask my expert friend
asap) about the use of Latin, but I think you're
probably right.
Something that goes along with this is the development of
stained glass windows in churches. Commoners could neither
read, nor understand what the priests were saying, so these
windows were a way of getting the message across.


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#2693 - 05/26/00 03:13 PM Re: Chauvinist
Jackie Online   content

Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 11610
Loc: Louisville, Kentucky
>Ladies. Care to throw in your valuable comments?<

Well, thanks, 'Brick, but I will invoke one of my favorite
sayings here: "I just love work. I can sit around and
watch it all day."

You two fellas are fielding flying fake fisticuffs just
fine. 'Preciate your-all's good manners!






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#2694 - 05/26/00 05:37 PM Re: Chauvinist
tsuwm Offline
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Posts: 10525
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>I thought a woman overly dedicated to the female cause was a feminist.

okay (now that we got past the 'malist' tangent <g>), we've arrived at my point. consider our definitions:

chauvinism - 3) an attitude of superiority toward members of the opposite sex

masculinist - an advocate of male superiority or dominance

so, by definition, a male chauvinist is a masculinist.

okay, so we started out with chauvinist having a very narrow definition; over time the definition became broader in that it was applied to various groups and places (see sense #2). And then it shifted to the *narrow* sense of sexist, and (the worst!), because we all know <ahem> that men are more prone to being sexist, we've (again, this may be unique to the US) arrived at chauvinist being used as a synonym for masculinist!

[this is similar to what happened with 'decimate', which started out applying to a narrow ratio (1 in 10) of punishment and the definition was broadened to include "a large part of" (and then it got misused by *narrowing* application to specific ratios other than 1 in 10).]

...and a good weekend to you too, 'brick!


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#2695 - 05/27/00 12:54 PM Re: Chauvinist
jmh Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 03/22/00
Posts: 1981
>Ladies. Care to throw in your valuable comments?<

No, like Jackie its just fine and dandy to watch you boys there slugging it out.

Not sure we're answering to "ladies" at the moment - thought it was a sign on them there "restrooms" we were talking about.


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#2696 - 05/27/00 03:11 PM Re: Latin
juanmaria Offline
member

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 163
Loc: Malaga, Spain.
It’s amazing how things we are taken for granted may be recent in a historical point of view. Even mankind might be considered a recent phenomenon through earth history -but I’m digressing-.
I imagine that by the end of 15th Century Gutenberg’s invention started putting an end to that local Babel Tower.


Juan Maria.

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#2697 - 05/27/00 03:21 PM Re: Latin
Jackie Online   content

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Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 11610
Loc: Louisville, Kentucky
Juanie Baby,
Would you elaborate a bit, por favor?
Specifically: were you thinking of something specific that
we take for granted, and which Babel Tower are you
referring to? Church language?
Gracias--



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#2698 - 05/27/00 04:02 PM Re: Latin
juanmaria Offline
member

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 163
Loc: Malaga, Spain.
Jackie.
I think I know what has happened with my post.
I posted it regarding a jhm posting which said that about the 14th century people of different regions of Britain could hardly, if possible at all, understand each others.
How I’ve been missing for a few days my posting has gone to the end of the stack and now seems anachronistic.
Pressing the ‘Threaded mode’ button helps a little in those cases.
Thank you for your observation. It has helped me to celebrate a double graduation this night. Without your cues I would have had to change my nickname juanmaria for 'John Doe the stranger'.


Juan Maria.

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#2699 - 05/27/00 05:24 PM Re: absence makes it hard to find 'er
tsuwm Offline
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Posts: 10525
Loc: this too shall pass
>I think I know what has happened with my post.

'brick and I exchanged some thoughts on this problem of responding to posts after some passage of time and having said response end up at the end of the thread. like you say, the threaded mode can help a bit; but overall it leaves a lot to be desired too. we finally agreed that the least bad alternative is to quote a bit of the post to which you're responding, to give your post some context.

hope this helps...




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#2700 - 05/27/00 08:50 PM Re: Ladies
AnnaStrophic Offline
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Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 6511
Loc: lower upstate New York
*sitting this one out*


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#2701 - 05/27/00 09:42 PM Re: Latin
Jackie Online   content

Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 11610
Loc: Louisville, Kentucky
>>change my nickname juanmaria for 'John Doe the stranger'

You did it, Journeyman John!!
Congratulations, felicitations, and exaltations upon you!





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#2702 - 05/28/00 06:20 AM Re: absence makes it hard to find 'er
juanmaria Offline
member

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 163
Loc: Malaga, Spain.
> hope this helps...

Sure. Thank you!.


Juan Maria.

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#2703 - 05/28/00 10:51 AM Hmmmmm
jmh Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 03/22/00
Posts: 1981
> I thought a woman overly dedicated to the female cause was a feminist. After all, you never hear of a maleist, do you?? (or do you?).

I think I will have to join in, I can bear it no longer.

There seems to be totally different way of describing men and women here.

The point about feminism is that it is about an oppressed majority in search of equality, no more, no less. When the suffragettes chained themselves to railings it wasn't because they were overly dedicated to the female cause it was because they thought it would be nice to be able to vote for the government of the day (and therefore have their views taken into consideration by those in power), a right which was at that time in the UK not only not available for women, it wasn't available to working class men either, so they took the on the cause of non-land owning men too. We've all benefited.

When the women in the sixties and seventies burnt their bras it wasn't because they were overly dedicated to the female cause it was because many quite ordinary rights were denied to them. Women would now be appalled to be told that they couldn't sign a cheque or have a mortgage in their own name but these are relatively recent rights in the UK. A friend's mother pretended she wasn't married so that she wouldn't have to give up her Civil Service job in the early sixties - she was the main breadwinner in her family but knew she wouldn't win the battle if she told the truth.

When we try to do something about mandatory female circumcision or the plight of women who are outcasts following fistulas related to childbirth traumas we are not overly dedicated to the female cause, one would hope that any modern, caring man would be a feminist too.

So call us female chauvinists, not feminists, when we want to set up a women-only club or fail to employ men when they are better qualified for the job. We can behave badly too.

I'm sure that in some matriarchal societies it would be right and proper to have a maleist movement. It may be just round the corner as more marriages fail (or never happen)and so many boys are brought up without access to their fathers.

So I suspect the reason that the "male" has started to disappear in the word "male chauvinist" is that we don't get enough time to be "female chauvinists"!



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#2704 - 05/28/00 11:09 AM Re: Latin
jmh Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 03/22/00
Posts: 1981
> by the end of 15th Century Gutenberg’s invention started putting an end to that local Babel Tower

I heard a wonderful radio programme where they discussed the evolution of BBC English - they couldn't call it standard English (as it wasn't) and eventually settled on "RP - received pronunciation", essentially the way English was spoken by "educated people" in the South East of England. They asserted (and played tapes to prove it) that the dialects spoken across Britain could not be understood by people from outside their area (I listened to schoolchildren in Devon and in North East England and it was very difficult to tell what they were saying).

It was only in the last twenty years that today's (modified over time, dialects) were "allowed" on to the airwaves. (The popular dialect for radio DJ's was for several years "mid Atlantic").

So if it took the printing press to encourage standardisation of written English (I can only speak for Britain), it took another invention (the radio) to begin the standardisation of spoken English.

Perhaps in the future, people using whatever the Internet becomes will talk of the days when people all over the world spoke different languages. Who knows?


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#2705 - 05/28/00 12:11 PM Re: Chauvinist
Rubrick Offline
addict

Registered: 05/18/00
Posts: 679
Loc: Somewhere outside New York
> chauvinism - 3) an attitude of superiority toward members of the opposite sex

masculinist - an advocate of male superiority or dominance

so, by definition, a male chauvinist is a masculinist.

Yep. I'll go with that - despite the ambiguity.

> [this is similar to what happened with 'decimate', which started out applying to a narrow ratio (1 in 10) of punishment and
the definition was broadened to include "a large part of" (and then it got misused by *narrowing* application to specific
ratios other than 1 in 10).]

Which brings us around to my original point about broadening definitions to 'suit the occasion'. But I'll leave it at that. I think that I (and everyone else) has got the point. Nice work tsuwm. I am suitably impressed by your research skills and good argument. Maybe it is you who should be the lawyer!


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#2706 - 05/28/00 12:14 PM Re: Latin
Rubrick Offline
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Registered: 05/18/00
Posts: 679
Loc: Somewhere outside New York
> I imagine that by the end of 15th Century Gutenberg’s invention started putting an end to that local Babel Tower.

I agree. But only for the educated few. Books were expensive until mass production in the 1800's and even then only a few people could read due to illiteracy amongst the proletariat.


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#2707 - 05/28/00 12:34 PM Re: Latin
Rubrick Offline
addict

Registered: 05/18/00
Posts: 679
Loc: Somewhere outside New York
> So if it took the printing press to encourage standardisation of written English (I can only speak for Britain), it took
another invention (the radio) to begin the standardisation of spoken English.

This is very interesting. There was a programme on BBC last year about 100 years of cinema (or something) and the producers interviewed a number of English people who had been to see the first talkie 'The Jazz Singer'. Previous to this the British audience had seen only silent American films.

One English girl recalled that she had never heard the American accent before and neither she nor her friends could understand a word that Al Jolson siad for the rest of the film. Watching the same film today it is laughable to think that this could ever be the case because we have become acclimatised to others' accents through broadcasting and media but, back then, American English was a foreign language and was just as difficult to understand as spoken English in one area was to someone living in a far corner of England. So the radio standardised spoken English whilst the movies (and later television) standardised global speech. Local dialect can be heard interspersed with snippets of foreign slang on every street, in every major city in the world but I believe that this foreign slang is itself being turned into a unique form of local dialect.

An example. In the US it is common (or uncommon) to say 'say what?' In Dublin you would hear a variation - 'you what?' which means exactly the same thing. But 'you what?' has only become Dublin parlance in the past 20 years - clearly a fallout from TV.


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#2708 - 05/28/00 03:05 PM Re: Hmmmmm
tsuwm Offline
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Registered: 04/03/00
Posts: 10525
Loc: this too shall pass
>the point about feminism...

exactly why I didn't equate feminism to masculinism. it is instructive just to compare the definitions:

masculinist - an advocate of male superiority or dominance
feminist - an advocate of women's rights and interests

say no more!



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#2709 - 05/28/00 03:11 PM Re: Chauvinist
tsuwm Offline
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Registered: 04/03/00
Posts: 10525
Loc: this too shall pass
>Which brings us around to my original point about broadening definitions to 'suit the occasion'.

...and me back to the point that broadening seems natural and doesn't bother me too much with decimate, since the original sense isn't too useful these days -- it's the re-narrowing, as it were, that can rankle.

I wish we could think of some other examples, now that we've decimated these.... ;-)


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#2710 - 05/28/00 03:24 PM Re: some other examples
David108 Offline
member

Registered: 05/09/00
Posts: 112
Loc: Auckland, New Zealand
I might have missed your point, tsuwm, but it seems to me that the word "millennium" fits the original description put up by Rubrick in his opening post.

M-W defines it as follows:

1 a : the thousand years mentioned in Revelation 20 during which holiness is to prevail and Christ is to reign on earth b : a period of great happiness or human perfection
2 a : a period of 1000 years b : a 1000th anniversary or its celebration


What appears to be happening currently is that "commercialism" has picked up on the word; it appears in all sorts of guises, and has become overworked, with the result that the original meaning has changed to suit the usage in the media.

I hear advertisements on radio and TV - lines like "toys for your millennium", and "a special millennium offer". "M&Ms - the official candy of the millennium". By whose authority, other than the advertisers?

I'm probably suffering from millennium overload!



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#2711 - 05/28/00 03:43 PM Re: Hmmmmm
jmh Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 03/22/00
Posts: 1981
So what's the term for an advocate of female superiority or dominance?
Also what is the term for a man who campaigns for male rights?

Will we need to invent the terms when these issues arise? Only then will we have true "opposites"

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#2712 - 05/28/00 03:56 PM The spoken word
jmh Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 03/22/00
Posts: 1981
> back then, American English was a foreign language and was just as difficult to understand as spoken English in one area was to someone living in a far corner of England

As now we have "tuned in", in the main, to voices from people from most parts of the world (I did have a completely incomprehensible removal man from Glasgow when I fist moved up here, but that is by the way)

Perhaps, to disagree with myself, that standardisation has relaxed it's onward march. In the same way that my children are bi-lingual - street Scottish at school and plain(ish) English at home, many of us can understand (and often speak) several varieties of English.

So in the Flicks we get sanitised, clearly enunciated Disney mixed in with Al Pacino's Godfather and Ewan McGregor in Trainspotting or Robert Carlyle in "The Full Monty". (I wonder how many people understood all three films).

So now, not only have the accents become less deviated from the mean but our understanding has expanded - so we are all now polyglots!


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#2713 - 05/28/00 04:01 PM Re: Latin
jmh Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 03/22/00
Posts: 1981
> Books were expensive until mass production in the 1800's and even then only a few people could read due to illiteracy amongst the proletariat.

Reading the history of the Macmillans I was surprised how little was available in print. The early books subscribed to religious ideals, it was only in living memory that anything remotely challenging was published and available freely. The Lady Chatterly trial was only in the sixties and the question was "Would you let you maidservant or wife read this book?"
http://www.brookes.ac.uk/schools/apm/publishing/culture/1997/richards.html

It is only now that we have real-time access to the unedited rambligs of people from other countries!






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#2714 - 05/29/00 03:21 PM Re: Hmmmmm
tsuwm Offline
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Registered: 04/03/00
Posts: 10525
Loc: this too shall pass
>So what's the term for an advocate of female superiority or dominance?

consistency demands that I answer "female chauvinist" (one overly dedicated to her cause)! :-)


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#2715 - 05/30/00 10:54 AM re: millennium
tsuwm Offline
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Posts: 10525
Loc: this too shall pass
David108>I'm probably suffering from millennium overload!

no doubt this one has been driven into the ground recently, but we may have to resort to the OED as to which sense came first. Webster's Third Int'l has the order reversed from what you quoted and logically you'd think that it originally meant simply a period of 1000 years, given its roots are New Latin mille + ennium.

[later in the day}
okay, this one is arguable -- according to the OED, the first known written English usage (ca. 1634) was indeed in reference to the 1000 year reign of Christ, borrowing directly the existing New Latin word for 1000 years (which follows the pattern of biennium, triennium, etc.); English poets soon (ca. 1711) picked up on the general usage. Reading between the lines here, W3 evidently lists the general usage first becasue of the pre-existing NL word. (quoting the W3 preface) "In definition of words of many meanings the earliest ascertainable meaning is listed first."

Credit current overuse to the Mass Media. (no pun intended with 'Mass' :)


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#2716 - 05/30/00 07:46 PM Re: re: millennium
Jackie Online   content

Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 11610
Loc: Louisville, Kentucky
Folks--
This poor, frayed, single thread has now decimated decimating, Latin, chauvinism (et.al.), the millennium,
and the printing press. I may even have forgotten one or two! I wonder if the wanderers would care to return, or
perhaps create a new path? (I still refuse to say you-all were rambling, given its original meaning!)


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#2717 - 06/01/00 11:44 AM Re: Latin
juanmaria Offline
member

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 163
Loc: Malaga, Spain.
> Perhaps in the future, people using whatever the Internet becomes will talk of the days when people all over the world spoke different languages. Who knows?

What is very clear is that never in mankind history communication has been so easy, cheap and quick. Although I like finding historical situations that can be used as a model it’s impossible to find anything comparable with our communications.
Communication examples based on past history will not be valid until mankind starts colonizing other planets.


Juan Maria.

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#2718 - 06/02/00 02:19 AM Re: Other Planets
jmh Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 03/22/00
Posts: 1981
Well Tsuwm's made a start with increasing our understanding of Mars!


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