Holiday Issue, Christmas/Solstice 2001, page 4

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New Ask Us Theory About
Sez You...
From Matthew Turner:

In reference to comments made in Issue 141's 'Sez You', and subsequent comments made by Malum99.  Actually, one forms plural nouns in Tagalog with the use of the word mga, ie, woman is babae, while women is mga babae. If you're referring to bundock or bundook (which I think you might mean bundok or mountain), mga is used rather than using the noun twice, ie, mga bundok, or mountains. However, adjectives can be repeated in order to convey 'very'. For instance, maganda is beautiful, while magandang-maganda means very beautiful. In the same way, ang init, meaning 'it is hot', changes to ang init-init, or 'it is very hot'. So, while it is true that Tagalog is rooted in Malay (with a few thousand Spanish and English words mixed in), and that meaning can be changed through repetition, it is with adjectives rather than nouns. Fascinating language (and great website).

The Spanish influence is evidenced in the Tagalog phrase for "How are you?": kumasta ka? (It's como está Ud.? or como estás? in Spanish.)

From Clyde Bunky:

You probably have this info already, but in Tagalog, the "ng" is often used as a connective between words. A colloquialism for car is "coche" and an American car is either a "Cocheng Americano", or an "Americanong Coche". That connective, "ng", does NOT help in making Tagalag easy to hear, as in "nang cocheng americanong" (an American car) ! I enjoy your publication and thank you!

That colloquialism, coche, comes directly from Spanish for "car".  In the U.S. we have something popularly called "Spanglish" in which the word for "car", carro, comes from the English word.

From Steven Weyand Folkers:

Thanks for a really thought provoking website! My knowledge of Tagalog is extremely limited, but my wife Ester Musni Folkers is from the Philippines and speaks the language fluently. 

I am music director at St. Lambert Church in Skokie, IL, and we have a significant Filipino population here. I can provide you with other resources for Tagalog and the many dialects of the Philippine archipelago. As I'm sure you know, each province has their own dialect.

My attempts at learning the national language have proved rather humorous. One day when Ester was going grocery shopping, and I knew we were low on vinegar, I suggested that she might want to buy some suka at the store. However, I put the accent on the first syllable, rather than the second, which resulted in her asking me why on earth she should buy vomit! On another occasion, I wanted to make sure she took her keys with her. I should have said, "Honey, did you remember to take your susi with you?" Instead, my poor addled brain produced susu. She looked at me strangely, and replied that they go with her wherever she goes. Susi means "keys"; susu means "breasts"!

Thanks again for a wonderful site!

Great stories, Steven!!

From Edwin Wendell Dean III:

I just discovered your webzine a couple of days ago, and I love it. However, I just thought I'd add my two cents to this particular quandary:

<< Take octopus, for instance. The accepted plural is octopusses; only pedants and marine biologists use the original Greek plural, octopoda. Many people, on the other hand, attempt a "foreign" plural but assume, incorrectly, that the word is Latin and say octopi. (Such individuals have no valid excuse for existence and should be smacked upside their sorry heads with a copy of Webster's. -Eds.) >>

Now, MY copy of Webster's lists octopuses (one "s") and octopi as the plurals, as does Dictionary.com. Both sources also list octopus as "New Latin", derived from the Greek, oktopous ("eight feet", of course) -- so a Latinate declension is appropriate.

Furthermore, as a marine scientist myself, I've only heard Octopoda (with a capital, please) used to discuss the entire order of eight-legged cephalopods, not as a simple plural. If you're referring to a member of the Octopoda of indeterminate genus, then the word octopod is used. There are octopods that aren't octopuses.

The New Latin declension is consistent with other taxonomic nomenclature, which treats imported words as if they were Latin (Strigiphilus garylarsoni, anyone?). New Latin is as much a mongrel tongue as English, if not more so, freely cribbing such useful Greek word elements as deino-, neo- and paleo- -- but for the most part, it treats them as if they were pure Latin, grammatically.

However, English often (but not always) imports shreds of foreign grammar along with the foreign vocabulary, particularly in the case of New Latin taxonomy. So using a mongrel-Latin declension for the English plural for a word with Greek roots is consistent with the patterns of both languages.

On the other tentacle, http://is.dal.ca/~ceph/TCP/faq.html#Plural invokes octopodes as the Most Correct Plural, using the same reasoning that you gave to support octopoda. That's more euphonic than any of the alternatives, at least to me, and euphony, I must confess, counts for a lot in my book.

Euphony is indeed important!  Thanks for that discussion!

From James Madison:

Richardsnary [as slang for "dictionary"] doesn't seem so odd - after all, "Dic(k)" is short for Richard isn't it :-)

Exactly!  What we found odd was the fact that thieves needed a slang word for "dictionary"!

From Jack Haines:

The site just keeps getting better and better.  In an effort to thoroughly beat this dead horse, what about the letter Wynn? I remember it from my History of the English Language class, and it looked like Thorn, only it was pointed instead of round. I guess it kinda looked like a pennant. Did I miss your discussion of it in either of the last two issues, or was it skipped on purpose?

No, you didn't miss our discussion of it.  It's simply so rarely mentioned these days that we left it alone for the time being.  It is pronounced like modern English w, by the way.


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