zil

Missing Words

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Every now and then, I discover that there's a word missing from the English language.  For example, when I was in Russia, I discovered that they have a word for "that wooden arm thing that goes up and down to keep you from crossing train tracks when a train is coming" (in English, the phrase is spoken while bending your arm at the elbow in simulation of the movement of the arm thing at railroad crossings).  The Russian word for this thing is actually a Russified version of the German word (which is probably about as long as above phrase used in English).

(NOTE: I don't just mean that they use a word for that thing (like arm, barrier, or barricade), I mean they have a word that means that thing, and everyone knows exactly what you mean without needing context, whereas arm, barrier, or barricade needs context for you to know it's the one at train crossings to keep you from crossing when the train is coming.)

Meanwhile, back in the present, while doing a word puzzle involving a word that only physicists could really understand, a thought tried to come to my mind, but had to invent a word to finish its instantiation.  The thought wanted to be (and instantiated itself as): "I'm physicsally challenged."  In addition to needing this non-word, the non-word is kinda awkward sounding.  But "I'm physically challenged" wouldn't work - that's not the same thing at all, and could easily be confused as me having physical challenges.  And without making up a new word, the thought would have been something like "I'm not good at physics" or "I don't understand physics" - which is not what the thought wanted to be - it wanted to emulate the structure commonly used these days, such as "I'm vertically challenged" or "I'm artistically challenged" - and the only way it could do that was to make up a new, but awkward-sounding word, thus making me realize that English is missing a word that means "physicsally" (just without being so awkward about it).

So, what word have you most recently discovered was missing from the English language?

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I think we need more words to be more specific about words we already have.  Take depression for example.  When I was "depressed", I tried, in vain, to explain to people that I was not depressed i.e. feeling blue, sad, tired etc, but that I felt emotional pain.  When you go to your doctor and tell him you have a physical pain, he or she will ask is it dull or throbbing, constant or episodic etc.  Everyone knows there are different types of headaches, with varying degrees of intensity.  Doctors even ask you what your pain is on a scale of 1 to 10.  But with emotional pain we have only the words sadness or depression....and they are not enough to describe the different ways people experience emotional pain.  

Also I think we need more words for forgiveness....we all speak about it as if we know and agree on what it is, but if you ask people who they define it you will often get different answers.  Also things that need to be forgiven vary widely, and so does the process of forgiveness.  

Feminism....this phrase means so many different things to different people that it has become fairly useless to use unless you also give an explanation of what it means to you.  Some of my sheroes are LDS feminist women, like Dr. Wendy Ulrich and Dr. Valerie Hudson Cassler, but they are not the radical feminists that some people envision when hearing the word feminism.  Dr. Cassler says she is a Mormon because she is a feminist.  If you understand her view of feminism that shouldn't be surprising and yet for most people it is.

Finally I love the Spanish word (Venezulan) "sufrina"  there is really not an English equivalent.  The best way I can describe it is a Young Adult female who goes on a river rafting activity and then fusses if anyone splashes her because she doesn't want to mess up her hair....she is totally focused on her appearance to the point of ridiculousness. 

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Need some words:

The dread of being interrupted when performing an urgent task or a task that requires concentration.

That itchy anxious feeling you have when entering a building and hoping to avoid certain people

Boy! I really want to avoid people right now! 

 

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1 hour ago, LiterateParakeet said:

Finally I love the Spanish word (Venezulan) "sufrina"  there is really not an English equivalent.  The best way I can describe it is a Young Adult female who goes on a river rafting activity and then fusses if anyone splashes her because she doesn't want to mess up her hair....she is totally focused on her appearance to the point of ridiculousness. 

:crackup:

Yes, we need more specific words (for serious and for fun), and more people who are willing to make the effort to use words precisely.

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On 9/13/2018 at 5:42 PM, zil said:

Meanwhile, back in the present, while doing a word puzzle involving a word that only physicists could really understand, a thought tried to come to my mind, but had to invent a word to finish its instantiation.  The thought wanted to be (and instantiated itself as): "I'm physicsally challenged."  In addition to needing this non-word, the non-word is kinda awkward sounding.  But "I'm physically challenged" wouldn't work - that's not the same thing at all, and could easily be confused as me having physical challenges.  And without making up a new word, the thought would have been something like "I'm not good at physics" or "I don't understand physics" - which is not what the thought wanted to be - it wanted to emulate the structure commonly used these days, such as "I'm vertically challenged" or "I'm artistically challenged" - and the only way it could do that was to make up a new, but awkward-sounding word, thus making me realize that English is missing a word that means "physicsally" (just without being so awkward about it).

Unfortunately, "physical", "physics", and "physic" all come from the same root words.  So, trying to break it down into Latin/Greek roots doesn't help you solve the problem.  I'd just say,"Newtonianly Challenged".  The man practically invented physics, so...

Quote

So, what word have you most recently discovered was missing from the English language?

An Arabic word "Meena" meaning that cutesy, cuddly feeling that you get when you see the cutest little kid in the world and just want to hug them and pinch their cheek.  The closest English word I could come up with was "doting".  But that didn't quite work.  It's analogous to the infatuation you feel as a youth.  But it's the feeling you get for a baby.

On 9/14/2018 at 5:43 AM, LiterateParakeet said:

Finally I love the Spanish word (Venezulan) "sufrina"  there is really not an English equivalent.  The best way I can describe it is a Young Adult female who goes on a river rafting activity and then fusses if anyone splashes her because she doesn't want to mess up her hair....she is totally focused on her appearance to the point of ridiculousness. 

On 9/14/2018 at 7:43 AM, zil said:

people who are willing to make the effort to use words precisely.

On 9/14/2018 at 7:45 AM, zil said:

"an introvert who's had their fill of people".

I find it amusing that all three of these can fall into the category of a perfectly good English word:  Fusspot.

@zil, BTW, the "arm" is actually called a "boom barrier".  Sorry, but some terms in English simply are multiple words.

Edited by Guest

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1 hour ago, Carborendum said:

I'd just say,"Newtonianly Challenged".  The man practically invented physics, so... 

I think I'm too physicsally challenged to think such a thing... ;)

1 hour ago, Carborendum said:

Fusspot

Same to ya, buster!  :angry2:

1 hour ago, Carborendum said:

BTW, the "arm" is actually called a "boom barrier". 

That might be what you engineering types call it, but I'm pretty sure the uninitiated among us wag our arm around from the elbow while calling it "that wooden arm thing that comes down to keep you from crossing railroad tracks when a train is coming". :angrytease:

Meanwhile, "boom barrier" sounds like 1980's protection against one of these:

$_3.JPG?set_id=2

Or maybe one of these:

BOOM.jpg

Edited by zil

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14 minutes ago, zil said:

That might be what you engineering types call it, but I'm pretty sure the uninitiated among us wag our arm around from the elbow while calling it "that wooden arm thing that comes down to keep you from crossing railroad tracks when a train is coming". :angrytease:

I can't argue with that.

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A moving arm signal is a semaphore. A smash board is meant to get an engineers attention when he overruns a signal in a station. 

 

Grade crossing arm comes to mind on the other  

 

AFAIK, English has more words than any other language. Of course, not everything is covered. 

Edited by mrmarklin

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The most perfect language available to us mortals is mathematics - There is no ambiguity and it is impossible to lie without giving yourself away as a flawed incapable thinker.  I am convinced that the first language of G-d has a lot of the same principles. 

I have also discovered in my travels that there is a term (same term) used universally throughout the world that describes a person that speaks only one language.   The term is: "American". 

 

The Traveler

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I have personally invented two new words for the English language.

#1. Administrivia - This is the management of most companies.  It describes management that does not really understand what is going on but insist on making decisions anyway.

#2. Obstacle-illusions This is a term that describes a condition of people that suffer from not being able to understand the difference between what they cannot do, will not do and do not want to do.

 

The Traveler

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1 hour ago, Traveler said:

The most perfect language available to us mortals is mathematics - There is no ambiguity and it is impossible to lie without giving yourself away as a flawed incapable thinker.  I am convinced that the first language of G-d has a lot of the same principles. 

To expand on that thought in a meaningful (I hope) way:

In 1931, 25-year-old Kurt Gödel published a couple of papers that turned the mathematical (and philosophical) world on its ear, from which position neither has ever fully recovered. It came along about the time quantum mechanics was being developed, and though it appears to be unrelated, was strangely similar in a sort of philosophical way. Just as quantum mechanics showed that the universe is not at all what we thought, Gödel's so-called "Incompleteness Theorem" showed that mathematics was nothing like the firm logical structure people had always thought.

Gödel showed that any "recursive axiomatic" number system sufficiently complex to do anything useful with, such as describing the arithmetic of natural numbers, will always -- ALWAYS, WITHOUT EXCEPTION -- have true and valid propositions which cannot be proven from the system's own axioms. This is an absolutely jaw-dropping proof. To call it "counterintuitive" would be like watching a lead ball "fall" upward and saying, "Huh. Lookie thar." It overturned some of the most basic and foundational ideas in mathematics.

Obviously, this is strictly mathematical proposition, but there is no good reason to suppose it does not apply to the systems described by the mathematics being used -- systems like languages, for example.

Human languages are all inherently messy, redundant, and illogical from the outside. Right around the time of the Restoration, there had been, were, and would continue to be major efforts to construct a "perfect" artificial language. (Brigham Young's Deseret Alphabet was, in reality, a manifestation of this ideal of developing the "perfect" language, though it was only a phonetic system for English as spoken by the Latter-day Saints.) I put "perfect" in quotation marks because what constitutes "perfection" varies widely, and all such ideas turn out to be flawed.

For example, one common idea is that every word will have exactly one meaning -- what linguists today might describe as the ultimate analytic language. One word per meaning, one meaning per word. Simple.

...except it is the opposite of simple. The average adult native English speaker has a vocabulary of 12,000 to 20,000 words, depending on which source you want to believe. (That's their "active vocabulary", meaning words they can use. Their "passive vocabulary" includes words they recognize in context but don't use, and might be as much as double that number.) Highly educated people might have an active vocabulary of, say, 40,000 words. It's hard to believe that there are many, or any, people with an active vocabulary of 100,000 words. Yet you would probably need at least that size of vocabulary for simple everyday speech if you spoke a purely analytic language, and much larger if you dealt with a complex abstract area like mathematics, philosophy, or religion.

This whole discussion also ignores the immense complexity of deciding what constitutes a "new idea". Does an animal's eating use the same word as a human's eating? (Not in German, it doesn't.) If not, does a frog's eating use the same word as an elephant's? Does a dalmation's eating use the same word as a Great Dane's? Does my eating use the same word as yours? We are completely different beings, after all. Where do you draw the lines in separating out the boundaries of word meanings? It's a fool's errand.

God himself constantly reuses terms to teach us things we can't quite grasp. He uses puns, allegories, direct comparisons, and assignment of meaning. I see no reason to believe that the verbal language God speaks (assuming that can be narrowed down to such) abandons all such constructs. On the contrary, it seems to me that it would incorporate and perfect such things.

Just some musings for your entertainment. I've given this some consideration through the years, but I don't pretend to have plowed any new ground. I'm open to feedback or further thoughts.

Edited by Vort

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51 minutes ago, Traveler said:

I have also discovered in my travels that there is a term (same term) used universally throughout the world that describes a person that speaks only one language.   The term is: "American". 

Back in the days when I was traveling the world, there was nothing derogatory about "American" and I decline to consider it so now.  Those (natives of other countries) I met (and more particularly the ones I worked with) generally used this term in what can best be described as an affectionate or at least curious fashion.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of Americans who speak more than one language.  We may fall behind those raised in other countries on average in this way, and we may have no shortage of faults in our country, but I don't imagine any country is running low on faults.

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24 minutes ago, Vort said:

For example, one common idea is that every word will have exactly one meaning -- what linguists today might describe as the ultimate analytic language. One word per meaning, one meaning per word. Simple. Except it is the opposite of simple. The average adult native English speaker has a vocabulary of 12,000 to 20,000 words, depending on which source you want to believe. (That's their "active vocabulary", meaning words they can use. Their "passive vocabulary" includes words they recognize in context but don't use, and might be as much as double that number.) Highly educated people might have an active vocabulary of, say, 40,000 words. It's hard to believe that there are many, or any, people with an active vocabulary of 100,000 words. Yet you would probably need at least that size of vocabulary for simple everyday speech if you spoke a purely analytic language, and much larger if you dealt with a complex abstract area like mathematics, philosophy, or religion.

Sounds similar (not exactly) to the Chinese written language (except their's is a symbol is a word).  Does that mean Chinese (or perhaps another East Asian language is closer) is the closest we have to a perfect language?

:hi:

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1 minute ago, JohnsonJones said:

Sounds similar (not exactly) to the Chinese written language (except their's is a symbol is a word).  Does that mean Chinese (or perhaps another East Asian language is closer) is the closest we have to a perfect language?

:hi:

No, on at least two counts. First, my point was that such an analytic ideal is not "perfect" in any meaningful sense. Second, Chinese characters do have various meanings, depending on context.

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Has anyone heard of Sniglets? If not google it. They are the best!! Words you never knew you needed.  One of my favorites is "rignition: the act of starting a car that's already running."

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sniglet

https://www.amazon.com/Sniglets-SnigLit-Doesnt-Appear-Dictionary/dp/0020125305/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1537280395&sr=8-1&keywords=sniglets+book

Edited by carlimac

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