Issue 203, page 4

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Sez You...

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From Eric Marschall:

Word play aside for a moment (I know, it's difficult), I just wanted to make mention of a common misconception reiterated by Bill Schmeer in Issue 202's Sez You... He stated "I have my doubts about an organization that allows you to take your own IQ test and send in the results to gain membership." As a member of MENSA myself, I thought I should elucidate should some take this at face value and think less of the organization's credibility.

The membership process is two-fold: A prospective member does take a home version of the test and (hopefully mindful of the honor code) sends it back to MENSA. Based on that score, the prospective member will get one of two letters: "Thanks but no thanks," or "Come take the official test." The official test is a proctored exam, time-controlled, and very closely scrutinized. Based on that exam the prospective member may be invited to join the organization. Side note: There are also a bevvy of standardized test scores that can qualify a person for membership without taking MENSA's test.

Thanks for that.

From Claus in Denmark:

Stumbled over your site, no clue what I was looking for but enjoyed what I found! I looked up wienerbrød (Viennese bread) in Ordbog over det danske sprog. It mentions a play (Studenterkomedier) by Carl Ploug (+1894) stating Wienerbrød was not known in those days, referring to the date of the play (app. 1810). Assuming Carl Ploug was right, the term and likely the product must have been introduced in Denmark after 1810 but been in common use and well-known by 1894.

A particular version, sort of a sweet roll with raspberry or prune jam inside, sprinkled with sugar is known in Denmark as berliner - as in originating from Berlin. That is likely original German, though, where it is known as Berliner Pfannkuchen - Berlin pancake ... and it is NOT flat!

I guess everybody is just trying to blame somebody else for something they don't know anything about. No reference to current situation, evidently!

From Russell Bateman:

This isn't meant to add much to your story.  From age 19 until 25 ('74 through '60), I lived in France, mostly near Paris (northwest suburbs) where most bakeries had a product known as pain viennois or baguette viennoise. I never saw it except as a ficelle or baguette. The distinction with standard French breads (whether baguette, batard or full loaf, etc.) was that it contained milk, eggs, sugar, etc. and was correspondingly lighter and sweeter--more like American wonder bread.  If twisted into a flat roll with icing on it, I suppose that this dough would roughly imitate what is known as a Danish here.

You have a wonderful avocation.

From Bill Schmeer:

I really wanted to comment on two items in your Sez You section. The verbs to nouns examples brought to mind the use of the word medaling - "to win a gold, silver, or bronze medal" being used in the current Winter Olympics.

And Bev from Australia says she noticed President George Bush, among others, mispronouncing nuclear. The first mangulator, as I remember, was President Richard Nixon, although it would be interesting to know if there was an earlier abuser. Did you notice that if you transpose the first two letters in nuclear it becomes unclear.

And are those who are medaling also meddling?

From Michael Bonner:

Calvin: I like to verb words.

Hobbes: What?

Calvin: I take nouns and adjectives and use them as verbs. Remember when 'access' was a thing? Now it's something we do. It got verbed. Verbing weirds language.

Hobbes: Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding.

From Bruce Yanoshek:

Not only is t added to the end of words, but in the southern part of the US, many people add a t sound between l and s as in their "saltsa" and "faltse" for salsa and false. Is this common anywhere else?

We have heard "eltse" (for else) from a Los Angeles native, among others.

From Stacey::

I know, I know. The Curmudgeons' Corner is for the curmudgeons to vent, and I'm sure I get curmudgeonly about things other people think are a bit odd.  But I wanted to reply to Malcolm Tent's comments. He said, "But that t added to the end of across or wish is beyond me. What are these people thinking?"  In my corner of Appalachia, it's just part of the local dialect. People aren't saying "wisht" just to annoy Mr. Tent; it's how they talk, how their parents talk, how their grandparents talked. Is it non-standard? Sure it is. But aren't all regional dialects non-standard in one way or another?  I have to advise Mr. Tent never to move to southern Ohio. The way we talk here would be sure to drive him nuts!

But the question Malcolm was asking is: Why do people add a t where there is none?  This is not part of one local dialect; it is part of a language phenomenon that crosses dialects.  It is not peculiar to Appalachia.  Native Minnesotans, Texans, and Californians use it.  We know where the intrusive r comes from among British English speakers (and some non-rhotic American speakers).  What's the purpose of that t added to "wisht" and "eltse"?  Perhaps that is for the linguists to decide (maybe they already have!).

Interestingly, while re-watching O Brother, Where Art Thou recently, we noted a word that was spelled out by the character uttering it: runnoft.  This translates as "run off".  There's that t again! (However, in this example it may signify a past tense.)

From Katie:

Congratulations! has selected your site as one of the "Top 100 Educational Websites of 2005."

A lot of thought went into the selection process for this award and you can be very proud. has over 2 million visits a year and our 10,000 Product Testers hand-selected your site as one of the very best.  With so many sites on the Internet today, it really means something to be voted as one of the "Top 100."

Congratulations again on your award.

Cool.  Thanks!

From Andrew Charles:

Regarding the @ sign, in Australia, at least until the popularity of the Internet and email, it was often read and used as the sign for ea "each" and not at or any other a- word.

The use of honorifics and titles connected with age are widespread throughout the European languages. In addition to the Latin-sourced sir, señor, monsignor, etc., we have alderman (originally the equivalent of earl, a high-ranking noble), the German herr originally referring to grey (hair), churl, a freeman and perhaps the oldest, originally meaning old (man), and of course elder and of course the more personal, old man, old woman, and even old boy.

We haven't found any evidence that churl/carl/earl mean, etymologically, anything other than "man".  Old Icelandic karl meant "old man", but none of the other Germanic cognates had a specific sense of "old" that we could find, though it could be implied (some of the cognates meant "chieftain" or "nobleman", suggesting someone of at least some age and experience).


Or read the last issue to see what all of these people are talking about!

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