Words and their meanings / interpretations

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xsolar47
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25 Aug 2010, 10:06 pm

So, I am generally confused and intrigued by the peculiarities of the english language. As of right now, I am thinking about what words or phrases mean and how they can be misinterpreted. Most of my misinterpretations come from violations of what I perceive as rules. Do some words or phrases seem irrational to you? What are your words or phrases that are are tough or just plain weird?

Inflammable

I misinterpret this as being flammable with the prefix "in", meaning not. So this word must mean not flammable. But in reality this word is the opposite of being not flammable. Also, there appears to be no deflammable, or unflammable generally accepted into the English language as being grammatically correct.

Depress

I look at this word, and see the prefix "de", meaning not. This word means the opposite of not pressing down on something. Also, unpress is not a word.

Repress

Also, could the prefix "re" mean again, so this word would mean press again? No, actually, its meaning is quite different from the action of pressing something again.

Prior

I am genuinely embarassed by this one. :oops: I know this word means before, and the "pr" lends itself to be similar to the prefix "pre", but I can't help myself from thinking that this word means after. I just wish people would say before, rather than prior due to my confusion on this. Example: "Please arrive at the airport 15 minutes prior to 5." To me this would be interpreted usually as 15 minutes after 5, or a full 30 minutes later than intended.

quarter 'til, quarter after

I sometimes catch myself as thinking of quarter 'til the hour or quarter after being 25 minutes before or after, because the quarter is linked to the visual image of 25 cents in my mind, and not as much to dividing a circle into 4 pieces, and one quarter being one of those slices, or 15 minutes of the hour.



KaiG
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25 Aug 2010, 10:24 pm

The original word was "inflammable". The word "flammable" is a bastardisation.

A lot of the intricacies of the English language are a product of its mongrel nature. It's a mixture of Anglo-Saxon, Old French and Latin, with a bit of Old Norse thrown in. It makes me glad that I'm a native English speaker, because I imagine it's a difficult language to master if you're trying to learn it, but it's a wonderful language to be fluent in because of its enormous and diverse vocabulary.

For example, in "depress", the "de-" is from the Latin for "down", and the literal meaning of the word was originally "to press down physically". Over time this came to refer to "bringing down" metaphorical examples as well, such as emotions and economic value.

Similarly, the "re-" in "repress" is from the Latin for "back", and the meaning of the term is "to push back".

I can't help you with your problem with "prior", because it's not entirely logical :P

When I think of "quarter", I think of 1/4, or 25% of a whole. Just try to think of it as 25%, not 25 "things". It's a fraction, or percentage.


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auntblabby
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26 Aug 2010, 4:20 am

some common turns of phrase leave me scratching my head-

when people say "[such and such] the damn thing- do they mean to say "the damned thing" or something else entirely? how does a "damn" thing differ from a "damned" thing?

or when people say "the hell with it!" instead of "TO hell with it!" - what do they mean here?



decoder
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29 Aug 2010, 5:28 pm

Definitely my topic :)

1. Why not socializable, instead of sociable?

2. Prayer is also an odd word right? It should refer to the subject instead of the object.

3. welcome comes from "well come" ?

4. What type of word is "born"? Like in "I was born".



marshall
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29 Aug 2010, 6:04 pm

Same sayings that don't make any sense to me...

"You can't have your cake and eat it too"

Why not? If I eat my cake I still have it with me, it's just in my belly rather than on my plate? Right? This is the stupidist idiom ever invented IMO. Why not just say "you can't have it both ways" rather than confusing people by talking about some silly cake.

"I could care less"

Don't they mean "I could not care less"?



Janissy
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29 Aug 2010, 6:07 pm

auntblabby wrote:

when people say "[such and such] the damn thing- do they mean to say "the damned thing" or something else entirely? how does a "damn" thing differ from a "damned" thing.]


damn=damned in this context. People clip the "-ed" off the end of damned because it makes the words flow together more smoothly. That "-ed" sound at the end of "damned" sometimes functions like a speedbump in the middle of the sentence so people clip it out.

Quote:
or when people say "the hell with it!" instead of "TO hell with it!" - what do they mean here?


They mean the exact same thing. I think that "the hell" instead of "to hell" came into use after "what the hell?!" came into use. "What the hell" put "the" and "hell" together in peoples' minds. Also, the people using this are rarely religious so there is no need to preserve the religious conotations of literally going to hell.



Booyakasha
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29 Aug 2010, 6:08 pm

Quote:
Inflammable:
From Latin as if *inflammabilis < inflammare (“to set on fire”) < in (“in, on”) + flamma (“flame”).

1. Capable of burning; easily set on fire.
2. (figuratively) Easily excited; set off by the slightest excuse; easily enraged or inflamed.

* Inflammable can be misinterpreted as an antonym of flammable and so taken to have the opposite meaning to that intended. Where such confusion might arise, especially where this may be a safety hazard, it is preferable to use a synonym.

Depress

From Middle English depressen < Old French depresser < Latin depressus, past participle of deprimere (“to press down”) < de (“down”) + premere (“to press”).

1. To press down on
2. To make depressed, sad or bored.
3. To cause a depression or a decrease in parts of the economy.


Repress

[Middle English repressen, from Latin reprimere, repress- : re-, re- + premere, to press; see per-4 in Indo-European roots.]
1. To press again.
2. To press back or down effectually; to crush down or out; to quell; to subdue; to suppress; as, to repress sedition or rebellion; to repress the first risings of discontent.
3. Hence, to check; to restrain; to keep back.

Prior
[Middle English priour, from Old English and Old French prior, both from Medieval Latin, from Latin, superior; see per1 in Indo-European roots.]
1. Of that which comes before, in advance.
2. former, previous

Welcome
[Middle English, alteration (influenced by wel, well) of Old English wilcuma, welcome guest, welcome

Born - either verb form as in past participle of bear, or adjective.


That's what the dictionary says - dunno about the others.



Booyakasha
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29 Aug 2010, 6:14 pm

marshall wrote:
Same sayings that don't make any sense to me...

"You can't have your cake and eat it too"

Why not? If I eat my cake I still have it with me, it's just in my belly rather than on my plate? Right? This is the stupidist idiom ever invented IMO. Why not just say "you can't have it both ways" rather than confusing people by talking about some silly cake.

"I could care less"

Don't they mean "I could not care less"?


"I could care less" is the Americanised form of I couldn't care less - the original expression was I couldn’t care less, meaning “it is impossible for me to have less interest or concern in this matter, since I am already utterly indifferent”. It is originally British. The first record of it in print I know of is in 1946, as the title of a book by Anthony Phelps, recording his experiences in Air Transport Auxiliary during World War II. By then it had clearly become sufficiently well known that he could rely on its being recognised. It seems to have reached the US some time in the 1950s and to have become popular in the latter part of that decade. The inverted form I could care less was coined in the US and is found only there. It may have begun to be used in the early 1960s, though it turns up in a written form only in 1966.

Why it lost its negative has been much discussed. It’s clear that the process is different from the shift in meaning that took place with cheap at half the price. In that case, the inversion was due to a mistaken interpretation of its meaning, as has happened, for example, with beg the question.

In these cases people have tried to apply logic, and it has failed them. Attempts to be logical about I could care less also fail. Taken literally, if one could care less, then one must care at least a little, which is obviously the opposite of what is meant. It is so clearly logical nonsense that to condemn it for being so (as some commentators have done) misses the point. The intent is obviously sarcastic — the speaker is really saying, “As if there was something in the world that I care less about”.

However, this doesn’t explain how it came about in the first place. Something caused the negative to vanish even while the original form of the expression was still very much in vogue and available for comparison. Stephen Pinker, in The Language Instinct, points out that the pattern of intonation in the two versions is very different.

There’s a close link between the stress pattern of I could care less and the kind that appears in certain sarcastic or self-deprecatory phrases that are associated with the Yiddish heritage and (especially) New York Jewish speech. Perhaps the best known is I should be so lucky!, in which the real sense is often “I have no hope of being so lucky”, a closely similar stress pattern with the same sarcastic inversion of meaning. There’s no evidence to suggest that I could care less came directly from Yiddish, but the similarity is suggestive. There are other American expressions that have a similar sarcastic inversion of apparent sense, such as Tell me about it!, which usually means “Don’t tell me about it, because I know all about it already”. These may come from similar sources.

So it’s actually a very interesting linguistic development. But it is still regarded as slangy, and also has some social class stigma attached. And because it is hard to be sarcastic in writing, it loses its force when put on paper and just ends up looking stupid. In such cases, the older form, while still rather colloquial, at least will communicate your meaning — at least to those who really could care less.

http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-ico1.htm



Last edited by Booyakasha on 30 Aug 2010, 5:45 am, edited 1 time in total.

auntblabby
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29 Aug 2010, 9:44 pm

Janissy wrote:
damn=damned in this context. People clip the "-ed" off the end of damned because it makes the words flow together more smoothly. That "-ed" sound at the end of "damned" sometimes functions like a speedbump in the middle of the sentence so people clip it out.


to me, it still looks bad written, and sounds bad spoken, in a similar manner to "i'dn't" instead of "isn't."

Janissy wrote:
They mean the exact same thing. I think that "the hell" instead of "to hell" came into use after "what the hell?!" came into use. "What the hell" put "the" and "hell" together in peoples' minds. Also, the people using this are rarely religious so there is no need to preserve the religious conotations of literally going to hell.


"what the hell" also sounds and looks nonsensical, similar to the statements "i'm going store" or "i'm gonna go store" instead of "i'm going to the store." it should be "what IN the hell" or "what IN hell," followed by the usual "is going on?" or "is THAT?!" or other things.
my cat is more of a grammarian than i am [IOW i am barely literate] so these are aesthetic things for me more than grammatical things.



danandlouie
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30 Aug 2010, 2:51 am

just never....NEVER......ask about atheist vs agnostic. trust me.