Jump to content
Carol the Dabbler

The Language (and travel) Thread

Recommended Posts

This is the place to ask your language-related questions! (What is "a queue for the loo"? Does Reichenbach really mean "rich brook" in German?) Your questions don't have to be Sherlock-related, or about the English language -- any language-related question is welcome here!

 

This is also the place to post your language-related discoveries and other comments. (So that's what John meant by "pants"! Beware of "quite" -- it's really quite confusing!) And again, any language-related comment is welcome.

 

I'm starting this thread mostly so that I'll have a place to ask questions. I'll do my best to answer some questions too, but everyone's help will be appreciated!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm sure we have a good few multi-lingual members who would be willing to help out with queries. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Indeed. Sounds good, Carol, I'm going to start thinking up some questions!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Getting back to my sample questions above:

 

"Queue" is British for an orderly line of people waiting their turn for something -- in this case, the "loo," which is British slang for toilet. The phrase "a queue for the loo" was used in "Reichenbach," by the way.

 

As for the translation of Reichenbach, I'm going to need some help. I've heard something like this: reichen does mean "rich," and bach does mean "brook" -- but "rich brook" is more of a pun than a true translation. Can someone please verify and explain that -- and tell us what reichenbach really means?

 

I've already commented on "pants" in the "Scandal in Belgravia" thread:

 

When John enters the room in Buckingham Palace and sees Sherlock sitting there enveloped in a sheet, he asks, "Are you wearing any pants?" and Sherlock replies, "No."

 

I naturally heard this with my American ears. But I have recently been informed that in British usage, "pants" never means trousers, it means specifically underpants.

 

That bit suddenly got even funnier.

 

And here's another one where I'll need some help. In the US, "quite" always means "very" or "completely." My first inkling that it doesn't necessarily mean the same in the UK was a quote where Martin Freeman referred to himself as "quite short" -- even though he's only a bit short for a man. That quote was clarified when I read that "quite" in the UK can have the same meaning as in the US -- but it can also mean almost the opposite, "a bit" or "sort of." However, that explanation leaves me more confused than ever! Can someone please explain the rules for interpreting the British "quite"?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would say quite is used often in the context of 'sort of' in the UK when it is used with other words - the quite short comment is a good example.

 

Also if you said 'not quite right' you'd mean not completely right - meaning sort of wrong!

 

Then you can also use 'quite' as a word on its own, as an agreement, which would kind of mean completely.

Edited by aely

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

OK, so when "quite" modifies another word, it always means "sort of" in the UK -- except when there's a "not" in front of it, in which case it means "completely" (just as in the US). And likewise when it's used all by itself. Thanks! I don't think that first usage will ever sound normal to me, but at least I should be able to interpret it -- as long as I actually stop to do the double-think.

 

I have a vague recollection, though, of reading that when "quite" modifies a word that can't be "sort of" (like pregnant?), then it means "completely" in the UK too. What light can you shed on that?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, just to add confusion "Quite" used as a modifier can mean "Completely" too, as in "He's quite mad" but this usage does sound somewhat Victorian to modern ears.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Victorian, eh? That got me to thinking that maybe "quite" meant "completely" on both sides of the Atlantic until -- umm -- quite recently. So I checked my Oxford English Dictionary (the 1971 edition, though the information is obviously older than that). It lists two basic meanings for "quite": I. Completely; to the fullest extent. II. Actually, really, truly, positively.

 

Not a "sort of" anywhere in sight. So apparently that meaning is mere 20th-Century slang. Wonder how that got started?

 

The question remains -- how does one know which meaning is intended?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Also, you do have to take things in context. "Quite" pregnant isn't the same as Martin's being "quite" short. Context really means everything.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Yeah, like I had to look up several words because I was like "What's THAT supposed to mean?!". Let's see if I can remember...I looked up ASBO because I'd never heard of that till' Sherlock. If anyone else wants to know, it stands for Anti-Social Behavior Order. I laughed because that fits our favorite (and only) consulting detective better than it does John Watson. Shoot...it was a while ago...Erm...Sod it all. Wish I could use a mind palace like Sherlock does, then I'd remember. But I can't. Let me get back to all of you on this...And meanwhile, I shall be more than happy to answer questions for your translation needs or anything else. Oh and I've asked CSI, who is still out and not well I'm sad to say, who has German heritage and is a Sherlock. Reichenbach does literally mean "rich brook". Ooh, ooh! And when Sherlock says "Cherchez le chien!" in Hounds, (CSI is a French expert) it means "Search for the dog". And and and, the part in The Blind Banker when he speaks in German and the German tourist speaks back. Here is CSI's translation. You can thank him. Sherlock (after bumping into the tourist): Excuse me, please. Tourist: Yes, thank you! (Walks off, cab drives past, Sherlock angry, realises...) Sherlock (normal): Please, wait. (then the German) Please! Tourist: What does he want? (Sherlock grabs his book) Hey, you, what are you doing?! Sherlock: Wait/A minute! Tourist: Give me my book back! :lol2: Sorry, this makes me laugh...Rather indignant young tourist and Sherlock actually being polite for once...
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for all the info, Mary!

 

... ASBO ... stands for Anti-Social Behavior Order. I laughed because that fits our favorite (and only) consulting detective better than it does John Watson ....

 

OK, that must be something like a restraining order. I hadn't thought about how ironic it was for John "Propriety" Watson to get the punishment, but you're right -- that could be another reason why he was so irate (in addition to being literally left holding the bag)!

 

 

I've asked CSI, who is ... not well I'm sad to say, who has German heritage and ... Reichenbach does literally mean "rich brook".

 

Please convey our good wishes to CSI, as well as our thanks for all of the German translations.

 

 

... when Sherlock says "Cherchez le chien!" in Hounds, (CSI is a French expert) it means "Search for the dog".

 

Right. As it happens, I can add some background here. "Cherchez le chien" is a play on "Cherchez la femme," meaning "Look for the woman," an old cliche in detective stories, due to the idea that all problems are somehow caused by women (going back to Eve and/or Pandora, I suppose). For anyone who remembers the "Pogo" comic strip, the turtle with the Napoleon hat, Churchy LaFemme, inexplicably got his name from that saying.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
You're welcome. Anyone else have anything they want translated or defined or anything? Oh, and also our Sherlok in saying "Cherchez le chien" is really pounded by the drug, trying to get to the point, and trying to make it seem as though he's normal. Before then it goes "We're looking for a dog, yes? A great, big dog. That's your brilliant theory." then "Cherchez le chien! Good. Excellent. Where shall we start?" and so on. CSI is also a script expert. I get most (if not all) of my information from him, so it is him who deserves your thanks and not me. He's still not well. May be getting worse. But he thanks you for thinking of him.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would say ' Reichenbach' is still 'Reichenbach' in German. It's a name so it keep being the same. If it should mean rich brook you have to convert it to 'reicher Bach' but it doesn't make any sense ;)

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you, sheepfriend! OK, so "Reichenbach" isn't exactly translatable (and "rich brook" is kind of meaningless anyhow).

 

But isn't there some other type of phrase where "reichen" actually does mean "rich"? Because if there is, then the name "Rich Brook" would still be a pretty good pun, even if it's not a grammatically-correct translation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have thought about this the whole day but no result.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for thinking about it!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you, sheepfriend. There are some questions that just do not have a simple answer!

 

That probably applies to the following as well, but at least we can have a good discussion.

 

Those of us from the United States typically refer to ourselves as "Americans" or as "U.S. citizens" (though the latter is a more technical term, not generally used in casual conversation). The term "Yankee" means so many things that we generally avoid it except in reference to the New York baseball team. And "Yank" is what people from the UK call us -- it sounds a bit odd to our ears, but we understand it, and don't particularly mind being called that.

 

Now here's my question -- what are we Americans supposed to call "people from the UK"? I generally stick with that rather clumsy phrase, or "British people." The term "Brit" seems like it ought to be analogous to "Yank," but I have heard conflicting reports. Some say it's perfectly innocuous. Others say it's acceptable only when used only by those to whom it refers (i.e., British people), and offensive when used by anyone else (e.g., Americans).

 

I welcome any and all comments from anyone!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have heard British people referred to in US movies, particularly those set during WWII as "Limey" (pl Limies? or Limeys?) which seems to be divisive, some (Me included) aren't bothered by it, while others find it offensive despite it being quite an old fashioned term now.

 

As far as the term "Brit" is concerned, again it doesn't particularly bother me, but it can vary greatly in meaning depending on inflection, and some find the way in which it is sometimes used to be offensive to them.

 

What does tend to offend is the sometimes casual use of "England" and "English" to mean more broadly "Britain" and "Inhabitants of the British Isles" Scots, Welsh and Irish people find this particularly galling when used to describe them.

 

As to how I identify, I generally prefer "British" to "English" but that's just my personal taste. And I would be more likely to say "We British like tea" than "We Brits like tea" although to my ears both are acceptable.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah, 'Brits' seems to be an American term, I've noticed.

 

And Plexiglass in America is the same as Perspex, right?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I hate being called English as opposed to British as I'm part Welsh and part Irish and I don't like to have my heritage forgotten by calling me 'English' exclusively. I'm born and bred in Liverpool though (many people in Liverpool are of Irish descent) and we have a strong identity so I'm quite happy to accept being called 'Scouse' rather than English (or a Scouse as one of my friends calls me, which I find a bit odd in a way because scouse the noun generally refers to a type of meat stew).

 

I don't look on 'Brit' as being inherently offensive - I'll refer to myself as 'a Brit' in some areas (usually online, often using 'us Brits' when making a point) and I never refer to Americans as Yanks unless I'm complaining about them (when I usually say 'bloody yanks' often when I'm mithering about health care or political systems).

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And Plexiglass in America is the same as Perspex, right?

 

A quick look on Wikipedia shows that they are indeed the same thing, although Plexiglass is a trademark for Perspex originally filed in Germany.

 

:)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah, I probably could've answered that question myself, I just thought I'd ask it here. :) Thanks!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Now I'm wondering about pyrex...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I had always assumed that the name Pyrex (for heat-resistant glassware) came from the Greek word for fire (pyr-). But no, their original product was a glass pie pan, and the name is actually just "pie" (respelt as "py") plus the Latin word for "king" (rex) -- so "pie king."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So it's called pyrex over there too. Phew.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of UseWe have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.Privacy PolicyGuidelines.