Wordsmith.org: the magic of words


About | Media | Search | Contact  


Today's Word

Yesterday's Word



AWADmail Issue 520

A Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Tidbits about Words and Language

Sponsor's message: This week's Email of the Week is from Phil Smith III (see below), who will get any Oneupmanship product his heart desires -- and FREE SHIPPING if he asks nicely.

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the net

Queen's English Society Folding
The Guardian
"People don't want to join societies like they used to," said the group's chair.
"The Queen's English isn't under threat. Her Majesty can sleep easy," said former Tory MP Gyles Brandreth, the society's patron.

Long countries Give Better Protection to Languages Than Those That Are Wide

From: Monroe Thomas Clewis (mtc mtclex.com)
Subject: Daunt
Def: To intimidate; to dishearten or discourage.

Douglas Dauntless dive bombers played a significant role in the outcome of WW II in the Pacific Theater, sinking more Japanese shipping than any other US aircraft. According to Wikipedia, "Its battle record shows that in addition to six Japanese carriers, 14 enemy cruisers had been sunk, along with six destroyers, fifteen transports or cargo ships, and scores of various lesser craft."

Monroe Thomas Clewis, Los Angeles, California

From: Börje Forssell (forssell iet.ntnu.no)
Subject: Position of verbs

You wrote: 'In English the verb goes in the middle of a sentence (I love you), while some languages relegate it to the end (I you love). This may sound preposterous to those not familiar with such a language (German, Hindi, Japanese, among others), but it's quite common.' For German, however, this is only partly true, i.e. in subordinate clauses. In a main clause as 'I love you', the order of the words is the same as in English ("ich liebe dich").

Börje Forssell, Trondheim, Norway

From: Venkataraman Balakrishnan (venkataraman.balakrishnan gmail.com)
Subject: German

Any discussion of the positioning of verbs in a sentence brings to mind Mark Twain's words:

Whenever the literary German dives into a sentence, that is the last you are going to see of him till he emerges on the other side of his Atlantic with his verb in his mouth.

Venkataraman Balakrishnan, Chennai, India

Email of the Week brought to you by Oneupmanship -- Playing mind games is wicked fun!

From: Phil Smith III (lists akphs.com)
Subject: Verbs in German

Your German example is trenchant -- I assume you know the old joke about the diplomat who is sent to Germany?

He speaks no German, so is assigned a translator. His first meeting is with some muckety-muck who blathers on in German for a very long time. The diplomat keeps looking at his translator, who is clearly listening but not saying anything. Finally he hisses, "So what's he saying?"

The translator holds up a finger and replies, "Shh... I vait for ze verb!"

Phil Smith, Herndon, Virginia

From: David Close (davidclosejr hotmail.com)
Subject: German

There's this old joke about the German encyclopedia in two volumes. All the verbs were in volume 2.

David Close, Liaoyang, China

From: Valerie Martinez (val-nicasio_mtz kastanet.org)
Subject: verb placement

"The remaining 12% of the languages stick the verb out front (Fijian, Irish, etc.)."

My husband's first language Quiatoni Zapotec (which is one of the more than 200 indigenous languages still spoken in Mexico today) is one of this 12%.

Not only does the verb normally come first, if you want to emphasize a noun in the sentence by having it come first, you usually have to have a special emphasis particle before the noun.

For example, if you're already speaking about a child and s/he was crying, you'd say, "Bislah benin" (lit. "cried child"). But if you want to emphasize that that particular child cried, you'd say "Laa benin bislah" (lit. "emphasis-particle child cried")

Aren't languages fascinating?!

Valerie Martinez, Huron, Ohio

From: Robert D. Ludden (cembalo10 gmail.com)
Subject: comment

I learn from AWAD because the words bring me joy. Not all of them are new to me, of course, but many of them offer me new ways of seeing and employing them. They also often include ways to help me retain them, when I had let them lapse from memory.

Each time you place one in front of me once again I get naches (one of the words you brought back to me) from the moment. I have often been accused of flaunting my vocabulary. Daily you tacitly assure me that the bones of a language are not for a museum, but for use.

Robert D. Ludden, Dixon, Illinois

From: Eric Shackle (ericshackle bigpond.com)
Subject: daunt

A team of Canadian swimmers were undaunted when they risked meeting the fearsome monster Ogopogo in Lake Okanagan a few days ago. See here for details.

Eric Shackle, Sydney, Australia

Stability in language is synonymous with rigor mortis. -Ernest Weekley, lexicographer (1865-1954)

We need your help

Help us continue to spread the magic of words to readers everywhere


Subscriber Services
Awards | Stats | Links | Privacy Policy
Contribute | Advertise

© 1994-2024 Wordsmith