I just received something called a Bobble, which is a plastic water bottle with a built-in filter. The company’s trade mark is, “Make water better.” At my age, anything that helps me in that department is welcome, but I’m a little surprised they’d be so frank about it.
She periodically stops to ask for directions from men, then offers them a ride and beckons them to follow her as she removes her clothes and sidles backward.
Stephen Holden, “A Much Darker Hitchhiker’s Guide: Scarlett Johansson as a Deadly Alien in ‘Under the Skin’”, New York Times, 4 April 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/04/movies/scarlett-johansson-as-a-deadly-alien-in-under-the-skin.html?src=dayp
Loory evidently forgets that every duck is a girl duck. A boy duck is a drake. Loory’s story is about a drake that falls in love with a rock.
We’re used to regarding the male as the archetype for a species: lion, peacock, wolf. We used to do the same with our own species. That has become politically unacceptable, but apparently not in the case of ducks: Loory doesn’t identify his lovelorn duck as a boy duck. For him, duck is presumptively masculine, or perhaps a duck is presumptively male. (That’s an important distinction, but pursuing it would take us too far afield.)
With domestic animals, we’ve historically used as the archetype whichever sex was most useful or familiar to us, which was sometimes the female, as with cows and geese, except in cases where the immature (and therefore effectively sexless) animal is the one that interests us most: chicken, pig. (Though I gather that while Americans raise chickens, Englishmen raise hens.)
With several animals, both sexes are equally useful, so we have names for each that are separate from the name of the species: ram, ewe; stallion, mare; boar, sow; Tom, Moggie; Jack, Jenny. (I originally included hounds—dog, bitch—in that category, but the etymology of dog is mysterious, and although it is now used to designate males of other species, such as seals, I can’t prove that it ever referred specifically to the canine male.) Oddly enough, a thousand years ago, we did the same thing for ourselves in Old English: man meant a human being of either sex, while the male and female of the species were wer and wif, respectively. Wif survives as wife, but wer has almost disappeared. Its only remnant is in werewolf, where, paradoxically, it seems to mean human being, not merely male human being. (There’s also the archaic legal term, weregild, where, again, it seems to include both sexes.) Somehow, the generic term, man came to refer primarily to the male of the species, and only secondarily to the species as a whole; but that’s a topic for another day. (One would think that a term that applies to the whole species ought to be the specific term, while the generic term should refer to gender. One would be wrong. English is seldom simple.)
Nobody seems to have much to say about drakes anymore, or ganders, for that matter. I don’t know why.
The Wikipedia article, “Checked and free vowels“, refers to the following as “onomatopoeias”:
yeah /jæ/; eh /ɛ/; duh, huh, uh, uh-uh, and uh-huh with /ʌ/.
If an onomatopoeia is properly defined as a word that imitates a sound which exists independent of that word, such as crash, burp, whir, or gulp, then none of the listed words is an onomatopoeia. Yeah (which is not pronounced /jæ/ in General American but /ˈjeə/) is simply a particle equivalent to yes or yea (whatever part of speech one considers those to be). Eh (which likewise is not pronounced /ɛ/ in General American but /ˈeɪ/) may be an interrogative (c.f. Ger. nicht wahr?, and oder?, Fr. non?), or it may serve merely as a meaningless place-holder like duh, uh, um, etc. (Cf. Fr. hein.) Huh is usually an interjection expressing puzzlement, surprise, or doubt. It can also take the place of interrogative eh. Uh-uh and uh-huh mean, respectively, no and yes, and are therefore in the same category as yeah. None of them imitates a sound that exists independent of the word itself, so none is an onomatopoeia. (Arguably, huh is an onomatopoeia for a kind of snort: cf. the onomatopoeia humph!; but if so, it is the only one on the list.)
The standard of Wikipedia’s linguistic articles is usually higher than this. An editor who understands the concept of checked and free vowels (I don’t) should revise the passage.
Originally posted on the “talk” page for the wikipedia article.\
Note that I would have written hunh for huh, unh-hunh for uh-huh, etc., to reflect the nasalization of the vowels in those words, but didn’t want to vary from the spelling used in the article already. I observe, moreover, that the spell-checker in Google Chrome thinks my spellings are wrong, for whatever that may be worth. When I was a boy growing up in Virginia, we distinguished between the interjections huh /hʌːʰ/, expressing strong disbelief, and hunh /hʌ̃ː/, which expressed puzzlement, surprise, or mild doubt.
. . . (the sad story of Kober’s failure to secure a research position at the University of Pennsylvania should be recommended reading for any twenty-first-century female professor who would like to count her own blessings). . . .
Mary Beard, “What Was Greek to Them?”, New York Review of Books, 5 Dec. 2013: p. ___, archived at http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/dec/05/what-was-greek-to-them/.
It is recommended reading, because Beard just recommended it. She means it should be required reading, but for some reason she doesn’t want to recommend that.
A while ago I heard a reporter on the BBC speculate that something was going to have “a knock-off effect”. While I can imagine that such a thing exists—the effect that fake Gucci handbags, for instance, have on the price of real Gucci handbags—it was pretty clear that what she meant was “knock-on” effect, which is Britspeak for “domino effect”, more-or-less. Just one more example of how the English are ruining our language.
This morning on NPR a U.S. Senator, speaking of another Senator whose retirement had been announced, said,
He will be very, very missed.
When did <missed> become an adjective, so as to be modifiable by <very>? To my way of thinking, <missed> in that sentence is a verb in past-participial form, and the passive voice; and it needs an adverb to modify it:
He will be greatly missed.
He will be sadly missed.
I wouldn’t say, “very missed” any more than I would, “very running”.
On the other hand, while treating that particular word, <missed>, as an adjective may be an innovation, the general practice of treating past participles as adjectives is nothing new. For instance, <tired> is a pure verb, the past participle of the transitive verb, <to tire>. Yet I wouldn’t bat an eye at a sentence like this:
Christmas shopping always tires me, so after a full day of it, I was very, very tired.
We do it with present participles, too:
She found the offer of employment very appealing.
I suppose it just goes to show how much of what we think of as the rules of language—some would say, all of it—really depends on arbitrary custom. But it’s precisely those customs that make language intelligible, which, I suppose, is why innovations against custom make so many of us uncomfortable.
At any rate, you won’t catch me saying “very missed”. If you do, I’ll be very, very embarrassed.