Word of the Day

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Joe with cow and sand

Joe with cow and sand is coffee with milk and sugar. This reminded me of the Japanese word for sugar, satou (written as さとう in hiragana and as 砂糖 in kanji). The funny thing is that the first kanji, Japanese reading suna, Chinese reading sa, means sand!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Slovene hoteti and Latin volo

I've found out that Slove hoteti (to want) (present conjugation: hočem, hočeš, hoče, hočemo, hočete, hočejo) has a negative counterpart conjugated nočem, nočeš, noče, nočemo, nočete, nočejo. In other words, you don't say ne hočem, ne hočeš, etc., as you would with other Slovene verbs (except biti, to be). This is very similar to Latin volo (to want), conjugated volo, vis, vult, volimus, vultis, volunt, and nolo (not to want), conjugated nolo, non vis, non vult, nolimus, non vultis, nolunt, excep that Latin doesn't always have a synthetic form for this verb.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

"To have" to express existence

A few languages use the equivalent of "to have" (ima, ma, ter) to express existence. Among them are Macedonian and Bulgarian.: (MA)во паркот има многу луѓе (vo parkot ima mnogu lugje), (BU)в паркa има много хора (v parka ima mnogo khora) (There are many people in the park.) The same exists in Polish, but only when the verb is negated: W parku jest wielu ludzi (There are many people in the park.). W parku nie ma wielu ludzi. (There are not many people in the park.) A non-Slavic language that uses the verb "to have" is Brazilian Portuguese, where the verb ter (to have) oftentimes replaces the "proper" verb haver (there to be) in these situations: No parque tem muita gente (Instead of the proper: No parque há muita gente.) It should be noted too that haver comes from Latin habere, which means to have! In classic Latin the verb sum, esse (to be) was used in such situations, just as the verb "to be" is used in other Slavic languages, among them Czech, Russian, Slovak and Polish (but not always, as noted above). It is also noteworthy that languages that use the verb "to have" to express existence use it in the singular only, including Brazilian Portuguese, but I've also encountered a plural verb due to hypercorrection. In my opinion, if you want to speak properly, use the verb "haver" then. Instead of Tiveram muitos acidentes o ano passado, an attempt at hypercorrection and IMHO not idiomatic at all, use in speech Teve muitos acidentes o ano passado or, if you want to "talk posh" :) Houve muitos acidentes o ano passado. The funny thing is that the verb haver is sometimes found in the plural, both in Portuguese and Spanish, maybe more in the latter, however, it should only be in the singular according to grammar books: (PT) Houve, not houveram, muitos acidentes o ano passado. (SP)Hubo, not hubieron, muchos accidentes el año pasado. (There were many accidents last year.) The opposite, the use of the singular, is sometimes heard in English: There was many accidents last year. The thing just goes on and on across languages.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Los onceS iniciales

2. Se debe decir los onces iniciales y no los once iniciales, pues los cardinales cuando se usan como sustantivos presentan variación de número y adoptan el plural que les corresponde.

Que me perdonen a mí, que no sé nada de fútbol pero sí un poquito de gramática, pero no entiendo y no acaban de convencerme de que se debe decir onceS. Once es un numeral en la expresión. Lo que pasa es que el sustantivo (jugadores o algo similar) está sobrentendido. Sería sustantivo si se hablara de los dos onces de un partido, o sea, de los dos jugadores marcados con el número 11. Puede que tengan razón en lo que dicen, pero tendrán que explicármelo bien.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Jenž, jejž

The relative pronouns jenž, and variations, are a Czech specialty. No cognates appear in other Slavic languges, not even in Slovak. Even many native Czechs don't get these pronouns right when declining them. One of their insteresting features is that inanimate masculine nominative and animate masculine accusative are not identical. In other cases (nouns and adjectives), but not personal pronouns, in all Slavic languages, these two cases look the same. Czech: Mám nový dům. Nový dům je velký. Slovak: Mám nový dom. Nový dom je veľký. Polish: Mam nowy dom. Nowy dom jest duży/wielki. All of them mean I have a new house. The new house is big, where new house is accusative in the first sentence and nominative in the second one.

This doesn't hold true for jenž, though. Jenž can only be masculine nominative, animate or inanimate: Hoch, jenž je tady, je můj syn. Dům, jenž tam stojí, patří mému otci. (The boy who is here is my son. The house that stands there belongs to my father.) If you want the accusative, you use jejž for inanimates and jehož (which also means whose) or jejž for animates: Hoch, jejž/jehož vidím, je můj syn. Dům, jejž vidím, patří mému otci.

It should be said, though, that these pronouns are most commonly used in writing (and even there occasionally erroneously). The spoken language prefers který (and variations), declined as regular adjectives, with cognates in most Slavic tongues.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Cunami, tsunami

I see that Slovak reporters have been using cunami (tsunami) here, which I applaud, since c is pronounced ts in Slovak. I was curious whether this is countenanced anywhere, and it is.

Czech grammarians prefer cunami, but it looks as though nobody pays attention to them. I will, though, now that I know it's okay and even preferable.

All other languages I read in spell it tsunami.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mist in Slavic languages

It's funny to notice how different Slavic languages deal with the word for mist or fog. Sometimes it looks as though four letters (g is a Czech/Slovak innovation from general Slavic g) were scattered over a table and each Slavic language combined them haphazardly. Czech has mlha, but Polish and Russian have mgła and мгла (mgla), respectively, whereas Slovak has hmla.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


There's even a muscle that's purpose is to tighten things up when we're sitting or standing to prevent accidents.

Is this a new genitive form, the genitive of that? Wouldn't whose have sufficed? But there's another strange thing in this article (I didn't read all of it): the where (you're forming an angle between the where the poop is and where the poop's gotta come out). So I don't know anymore what to think. I thought at first the authors could be non-native writers of English, but their names do not suggest that. Maybe just a poorly revised text?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011



Não sei se no Brasil inteiro, mas na minha região se diz (sempre?) porpeta e eu nunca entendi por quê. Em italiano (padrão pelo menos) é polpetta, polpettone, com l. É fato que em algumas regiões italianas, como por exemplo em Roma e alguma outra, o l em fim de sílaba se pronuncia como r, mas será que é isso que explica a nossa pronúncia porpeta, ou será que é o rotacismo típico da região ou ainda que a pronúncia do l italiano, que é diferente da do u, como pronuncia a esmagadora maioria dos brasileiros em português, é interpretada mais próxima a um r por ouvidos tupiniquins? Que conste também que não encontrei nem porpeta nem polpeta em nenhum dicionário da língua portuguesa.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Pronunciation of thyme

My wife and I have been recently to the United States. Since she is allergic to oregano and thyme, whenever we went to a restaurant, we had to make sure the dish she had picked contained neither of these ingredients. Both my wife and I pronounced thyme with a th sound (as in think), but I noticed all of the locals we spoke to said it like time. I thought that was odd, but I didn't make any comment. I have just done a little bit of research now and have found out that both pronunciations are acceptable, but the time one seems to be more widespread and given prominence in the overwhelming majority of dictionaries. There's even one dictionary that says thyme with a th sound is spelling pronunciation.