Nouns and verbs on #wordpress

Les habitués du salon IRC #wordpress aiment bien parler langue et langage. La conversation reprise ici est en anglais, mais le salon est en général ouvert aux autres langues, et bon nombre des participants en parlent plusieurs.

In our ongoing series Language topics on the #wordpress IRC channel, we present the latest instalment. This morning’s discussions mainly dealt with nouns and verbs, and the purity of English.

The participants were spread out between Lausanne and Tokyo, and most but not all of them are native speakers of English (at least two are bilingual from childhood, and several more have acquired a near-native level in a foreign language). Both sexes were represented.

“Phenny”, who pitches in at the end of the excerpt, is not a human being, but a bot, capable of consulting a variety of dictionaries and carrying out Google searches.

This is a bit long, so please read on below the fold.

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So Mr Schröder has made, er, creative use of the process that allows for a dismissal of (the lower chamber of) Parliament and new elections in Germany. It’s not entirely clear yet whether they will be okayed by the President. Just to make sure I’m up to date, I follow the political news that come out of my country-of-citizenship more closely than usual.

I can’t help but notice that the level of political discourse appears to be particularly, er, elevated this time. The site of the Tagesschau (which federates the news programming done by a network of public regional broadcasters and also provides a national program), provides an educational insight in the potential candidates’ vocabulary.

(A short introduction to the German political landscape, though: There are two large parties, SPD (German Social-Democratic Party) and CDU/CSU (Christian-Democratic Union, which operates everywhere except in the state of Bavaria, and Christian-Social Union, which is the Bavarian version thereof); three smaller parties that are likely to be represented in Parliament: Bündnis 90/Die Grünen (Federation 90/Green Party), FDP (German Liberal Party) and PDS (Party for Democratic Socialism) — the first two are currently partnered with one of the big parties each, who, in turn, need them to form a majority, while the third, as the successor of the East German communist party is still not fit for polite company at the federal level; and then there’s a newcomer, called Linksbündnis (or Federation of the Left), rallied around the controversial former SPD heavyweight Oskar Lafontaine and apparently in a partnership with the PDS. Mr Lafontaine has recently drawn major criticism for his populist public statements — in a way unsurprising, though: he has always had a populist streak; suffice it to say that this “Federation of the Left” is, to me, reminiscent of the British UKIP phenomenon.)

It’s party congress weekend for several of them, so future candidates seem to think it’s time to crank up the volume a bit:

  • [Geldgeiler Gockel] CSU General Secretary Markus Söder calls Mr Lafontaine a money-grubbing rooster (the original, with its alliteration and suggestion of vanity in Gockel is much better).
  • [Brechreiz] Green politician and Foreign Affairs Minister Joschka Fischer says Mr Lafontaine’s statements made him want to throw up.
  • [Die Penner von gestern] Chancellor Schröder hits out at the CDU/CSU, calling them yesterday’s hobos. (He has a way out, though: he could claim he only meant Penner as a slang term for someone who’s asleep. Maybe bummers or ragbags would have been a more toned-down translation.)
  • [Alte Säcke] Mr Söder, in turn, strikes back with the epithet old sacks or bags for his SPD rivals. Now this one needs a better translation: I have always understood the Sack in this particular insult to refer to the scrotum.
  • [Vergiftet] Meanwhile, Guido Westerwelle, the FDP president and allied with the CDU/CSU warns Angela Merkel, the Christian-Democratic challenger of Mr Schröder for the office of Chancellor not to accept the latter’s invitation to have a debate on TV — calling Mr Schröder’s suggestion poisoned, and adding (my translation): “If you want to win against Boris Becker, don’t challenge him to a tennis match but to a game of chess”.


An interesting site: Les Accents des Français:

We — the authors of this site — are two students at the École des Mines [a prestigious civil engineering school — C.W.] in Paris and victims of the speech “standardisation” that these pages are concerned with… since we speak “accent-free” French. We recognise that a heritage is in peril: the wealth of regional pronunciations of our language. This site understands itself as a modest but enthusiastic initiative to “defend and illustrate” the idioms of our country before all of us speak with a Parisian accent!

[Nous - les auteurs de ce site - sommes deux étudiants de l’Ecole des Mines de Paris, victimes de la “standardisation” du parler qui sera évoquée dans ces pages… puisque nous parlons un français “sans accent”. Nous constatons qu’un patrimoine est en péril, la richesse des prononciations régionales de notre langue. Ce site veut être une initiative - modeste mais enthousiaste - pour “défendre et illustrer” les parlers de notre pays, avant que nous ayons tous l’accent de Paris!]

This is obviously the work of amateurs; the site favours the phonetic characteristics (eschewing all technical or academic terms) over lexicon or syntax. It offers a coherent collection of recordings of speech samples harvested in 14 regions of France, with transcriptions and brief introductions.

Unus, solus, totus, ullus…

Un nouveau quiz sur Language Log: ré-écrire la devise des État-Unis, E pluribus unum … en latin.

There’s another quiz up at Language Log, this time set by Geoffrey Pullum. The task is to rewrite the USA motto E pluribus unum (”out of many, one”, representing the union of the original 13 states) to signify the converse “out of one, many” — in Latin. I’m a bit hesitant to offer my solution. The idea […]

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Impressive picture of Deep Impact’s projectile hitting the comet Temple 1. The blow did more damage than expected. The photo was taken by the medium resolution camera on the spacecraft. It’s often the unmanned spacecraft that yield the most interesting scientific results. Image: NASA.

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  • 2005-07-04
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From the Guardian Unlimited front page, today, 19:35 Western European Daylight Saving Time.

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Another lexical creation in French, which Jean Véronis could have caught had he fished for neologisms in the RSS feeds of Libération: blog-bouler, adj. (and past participle) blog-boulé/e. A junior high school girl has nearly been blog-boulée, i.e. “blog-balled”: expelled from her school for having slandered her maths teacher on her (less than one month old) […]

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  • 2005-07-03
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  At Technologies du Langage, Jean Véronis provides a stunning visual of words he picked out of RSS feed of Le Monde, but which are absent from what is certainly the best French online dictionary, TLFi. The Trésor de la langue française, he reminds us, took 30 years to compile until it was completed in 1994. […]

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