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Carol the Dabbler

The Language (and travel) Thread

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Just read:
"Police are appealing for information after a man attacked a 63👀-year-old NHS worker, leaving them unconscious on a bus in north London."
Why THEM and not him or her?
I think I've seen this form before.

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3 hours ago, J.P. said:

Just read:
"Police are appealing for information after a man attacked a 63👀-year-old NHS worker, leaving them unconscious on a bus in north London."
Why THEM and not him or her?
I think I've seen this form before.

Perhaps the person writing that article didn't know the gender of the unconscious person? 

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40 minutes ago, T.o.b.y said:

Perhaps the person writing that article didn't know the gender of the unconscious person? 

That would be my assumption as well.  Or it's possible that the journalist knew, but the police had asked that no identifying information be included.  "They" is a very common English-language substitute for "he" or "she" when the gender of the referent is either unknown or being kept secret.

The grammar police insist that the term should be "he or she," but that gets to be a bit tedious, so most people just say "they."  There are also some attempts at creating a new pronoun; for example, "heesh."  In writing, I sometimes use "s/he" but of course that wouldn't come across when spoken.

 

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I like that:  "English isn't a language, it's three languages stacked on top of each other."

Let's see -- the foundation is Germanic, of course, but there are also some pretty basic Scandinavian influences, including some of our pronouns.  Then we've got a lot of vocabulary from Latin, mostly via French, plus some grammatical "rules" (which most native speakers ignore most of the time) that Latin scholars attempted to graft onto English in order to make it "respectable."

I guess that's three languages -- give or take one.

 

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13 hours ago, besleybean said:

I have been teaching myself Latin, for nearly two years now.

Is that for some specific purpose, Bev, or just something you've always wanted to do?

 

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Had the chance to learn it at school and didn't take it...have always regretted that decision.

Did a bit of Greek at college, but still always wanted to do Latin.

My old college friend was learning along with her son and sent me the books they used...

I was then ploughing through 'Latin for idiots'...

but my daughter put me onto DuoLingo(she's doing German) and I love it!

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I've been teaching myself Latin over the years as well, off and on.  I should try Duolingo.

 

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If either of you wants/needs a hand, let me know. :smile: There's not much demand so I'm a bit rusty, but I tutor Latin for local kids who want or have to take it at school or college.

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Thanks Caya!  I'll keep that in mind!  :smile:

 

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On 10/15/2019 at 8:43 AM, Artemis said:

In English, the subjunctive mood is dying because English usage is global, democratic, and increasingly banal. We’ve rolled over the present subjunctive with the simple past indicative: I wish I was you.  It conveys the same information, but makes more difficult the acquisition of other European languages by English native speakers....

(That's actually from something that Artemis quoted.)  I happened to read that again, and realized that even though saying "If I were you" has apparently become a habit of mine, that habit doesn't necessarily include variations, even slight ones.  So there's probably a 50/50 chance that I'd say "I wish I was you." 

I'm trying to think how I handle other common opportunities to use the subjunctive mood.  It's hard to tell, because there's a difference only in the first and third person singular -- e.g., the common saying "if things were different" could be either subjunctive or indicative.  Our subjunctive mood has become so vestigial that we scarcely notice it -- which is one reason I don't consider the difficulty of learning other languages to be an important reason for preserving what's left of it.

 

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On 10/14/2019 at 1:55 PM, Artemis said:

 One of the changes that’s annoying me lately is the shift from using “were” to “was” in the subjunctive case.  For instance, it’s common now for people to say “If I was you,” instead of “If I were you,”.  It hurts my ears and my eyes.

That post precipitated a fairly lengthy discussion of the issue at the time.  I just now came across a YouTube video [link] which explains that there are exceptions to a number of "rules" (which I had never really thought about, but which make perfect sense to me).  The subjunctive mood is used only for hypothetical situations (e.g., I am clearly NOT you, therefore it's correct to say "If I were you").  Similar-looking sentences that refer to unknown or unrevealed situations, on the other hand, do NOT call for the subjunctive -- for example, "If I was wrong, I apologize" (meaning I'm not sure whether I was right or wrong, so I'll apologize just in case).

The video is aimed at people who are learning English, but it makes some thought-provoking points even for native speakers.  Here's the whole thing:


I think "lying" is a bit too strong -- oversimplifying more likely.  But I would love to hear this woman's take on "It is he"!   :P

Regarding the subjunctive mood, I'd be very surprised if it's still being used in another 100-200 years.

 

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The New York Times has a musical take on science:

Embed seems wonky, so here's the link to the tweet: https://twitter.com/emorwee/status/1407298598103101441 and here's the article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/22/science/moray-eels-eat-land.html .

 

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Please don't be offended, I know it probably sounds not PC, and I'm aware of woke culture and all...

But.. 

The gender pronouns kind of driving me :blanket: the other day. You see, my language and couple of others that I know a bit of mostly don't have gender differentitation for the third person. So I remember the long translation and wonder why they are needed when I learned English way back when.

The other day, I was watching an online Mafia game, and everyone was introducing themselves with the pronouns they liked to be refer with (he/him, she/her, them/their, sometimes combination and mix match).

And I had seen it's getting more common for famous people to announce their preferred pronoun.

So as an non English, I feel more and more like John in asking people if they like my potato when I'm trying to talk.

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On 7/3/2021 at 7:38 AM, Van Buren Supernova said:

The gender pronouns kind of driving me :blanket: the other day. You see, my language and couple of others that I know a bit of mostly don't have gender differentitation for the third person.

Lucky you!!!  I've thought for most of my life that English could use a fourth gender (in addition to masculine, feminine, and neuter -- the latter being Latin for "neither"), namely uter (Latin for "either").  Of course people have been using "they" to mean "he and/or she" for a long time.

On 7/3/2021 at 7:38 AM, Van Buren Supernova said:

... everyone was introducing themselves with the pronouns they liked to be refer with (he/him, she/her, them/their, sometimes combination and mix match).

And I had seen it's getting more common for famous people to announce their preferred pronoun.

This sort of thing has been around for a while, though not in this form.  In general, it's easy enough to tell an American or European person's gender by their first name (and trans-sexual individuals typically adopt a new first name, presumably for this very reason), but there are a number of exceptions, including many of the new names that have been cropping up lately.  In such cases, people have sometimes included a parenthetical courtesy title with their name -- for example, (Mr.) Dana Smith.

I've also seen the practice that you describe, for example in the email signature of a university faculty member.  I'm not quite sure what to think of the apparent university rule that everyone must indicate their pronouns.  I suppose the idea is that people with ambiguous names or who prefer "they" won't feel singled out, and there's something to be said for that.  But as usual, I'm in favor of keeping it voluntary.

 

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So it's quite common now. 

I'm just imagining  that it would be hellish for example, an office meeting in my previous work place, where there were normally some representatives from various countries, but the language used was English. If someone started to add pronoun to their introduction, the rest in different cultures/language would be ???

It adds so much to the stress of my nightmare (roundtable introduction).

 

I'll have a lot of upcoming language question, but for today I'm taking it easy.

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20 hours ago, Van Buren Supernova said:

I'm just imagining  that it would be hellish for example, an office meeting in my previous work place, where there were normally some representatives from various countries, but the language used was English. If someone started to add pronoun to their introduction, the rest in different cultures/language would be ???

Do people sometimes announce their pronouns in person?  There would seem to be less need for it then (as opposed to in writing), since the gender of most adults is pretty obvious just from looking at them (so my Dana Smith example would probably not need the "Mr.").  But just off the top of my head, I can't think that I've ever known anyone who preferred the opposite gender from what I might assume (and definitely no one who preferred "they"), so I'm clearly not the best person to ask.

Sometimes I wish that people would let me know which courtesy title they prefer (Mr., Ms., Miss, Mrs, Dr., etc.), but since I don't do that myself (unless asked), I can hardly complain!

 

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On 7/18/2021 at 11:26 AM, Carol the Dabbler said:

Do people sometimes announce their pronouns in person?  There would seem to be less need for it then (as opposed to in writing), since the gender of most adults is pretty obvious just from looking at them (so my Dana Smith example would probably not need the "Mr.").  But just off the top of my head, I can't think that I've ever known anyone who preferred the opposite gender from what I might assume (and definitely no one who preferred "they"), so I'm clearly not the best person to ask

Yah, I went from merely okay to curious stage because I was watching a mafia game, and they did that (announce the pronouns in person) and NOTHING ELSE.

It's like, I am Floccinaucinihilipilification, and my pronoun is It/Its. Common thing like profession, even location or others were never mentioned. Only names and pronouns.

 

On topic:

I want to ask about able. Can it be considered a verb, or adverb? Because it's a bit confusing to me.

Quote

See, it is said that the past tense is abled, and third person usage is ables, past participle is abled, present participle is abling.

But when I try to search for  the usages, I didn't really find it. Abled is not used as the past tense that I know, so the example is physically abled, less abled.

It's not used like, ermmm, how to say it, classic verb. Not like I abled to understand you (huh??) but more like I was able to understand you. Please correct me if I'm wrong at any point. And in past participle, the usage is I have been able to, not I have been abled to! And it's not he unabled to kick you out, but he wasn't able to kick you out.

So I haven't seen the classic usage of what I put in quote box to put it simply, so I thought it is not a real verb? Or did I get everything wrong?

Another one, in this sentence: It gave the example of children being able to have better lives... Is it grammatically correct? It sounds correct for me but as non English speaker, I could read a mumble jumble of all tenses in one sentence and it still feels natural for me as I don't have the radar and just look at the big picture. Or is there a need for was/were?

Thanks in advance for anyone who understands this shenanigan and bothers to answer my question.

 

 

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11 hours ago, Van Buren Supernova said:

I want to ask about able. Can it be considered a verb, or adverb?

Just off the top of my English-speaking head, I'd say that it is used mostly an adjective:  I am able to write.  I am not able [or I am unable] to fly.  But it is also used more or less as an adverb in the expression "able-bodied," meaning physically capable of doing the things that most humans can do.

The adjective and adverb are related to the noun "ability":  I have the ability to write.  I do not have the ability to fly.  They're also related to the verbs enable and disable:  This pass will enable you to enter.  I have disabled the power switch.

11 hours ago, Van Buren Supernova said:

See, it is said that the past tense is abled, and third person usage is ables, past participle is abled, present participle is abling.

Well, not exactly!

The two related verbs, enable and disable, that I mentioned above, do have those forms.  But I can't offhand think of any context where just able is used as a verb.  Anyone who can think of such a context is encouraged to post it here.

 

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