celebrate celebrities, because because

One recent grammar activity in the textbook was building abstract nouns from a given concrete noun, verb or adjective plus one of give set of seven suffixes: –hood, –ship, –dom, –ity, –ness, -(a)tion and –ment. One of the given words was celebrate. The expected answer is celebration, but one student wrote celebrity. In real life, yes, in this activity no. Maybe in these days of manufactured famous-for-being-famous “celebrities”, we lose sight of the fact that we (should) celebrate celebrities and celebrities are, literally, celebrated. A celebrated tv star is very different from a celebrity tv star (though in one or two cases I won’t name, it could be arguable exactly which side of the coin s/he is on).

But in this activity celebrat(e) + ity results in celebratity, which is wrong. But are we limited to root + suffix, or can we make other spelling changes? There’s the drop-the-e rule, obviously, and another example was possible > possibility, which needs the insertion of an i. And is celebrity an abstract noun? No and yes. We most often talk about a celebrity (concrete), but we can also talk about the idea of celebrity (abstract). Continue reading

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Strenuous laboratory

Two snippets from this week.

1) My class was practicing changing verbs into nouns into adjectives and vice versa. One word was strength, to be changed into an adjective. Most students wrote strong, but one wrote strenuous. To the extent that I have ever actually thought about it, I have never thought that strenuous is related to strong, so I had to check it quickly. No – it’s not. Online dictionaries didn’t give quite enough information, but Etymology Online shows the derivation of each, slightly confusingly, but convincingly.

Strong is from Proto-Germanic *strangaz and Proto-Indo-European *strenk-. (An asterisk with an etymology means that word has not been directly attested, but has been reconstructed by comparing forms in related languages.) Strenuous is from Latin strenuus and is possibly related to stern.

The student happily accepted his classmates’ answer of strong, but I told him that if he’d written strenuous in a test, I would have given him a mark. Continue reading

Casting the first stone

The South Korean women’s curling team has done unexpectedly well, and will compete in the final tonight against Sweden. Australia’s affiliated broadcaster didn’t show last night’s semi-final against Japan in its entirety, or even give updates during the men’s ice hockey semi-final, so my wife and I downloaded the tv station’s app and watched on her mobile phone. The game finished after 1 am Australian Eastern Daylight Savings Time (11 pm Korean time), so I went downstairs to get a drink of water. I briefly posted on Facebook “Oh, the excitement. Last throw (?terminology) win to Korea.” “Throw” just didn’t look right, but I couldn’t think of any other word. Given that the projectile is called a stone, maybe they could use “cast”. Before the game starts, the two teams need to ascertain who will cast the first stone – the player without sin, presumably. 

This morning, I set out to find the terminology. Wikipedia doesn’t help, using terminology inconsistently. I found the webpage of the World Curling Federation, which uses deliver(y) throughout, so I could/should have written “last delivery win to Korea”, but that doesn’t sound as dramatic. (Cricket also uses the term delivery, alongside ball: “last delivery win to Australia” or (probably more likely) “last ball win to Australia”. Continue reading

nipple

Last night a friend showed me a photo of his nipple. It turns out that in plumping and piping, nipple is a standard term for a small fitting with a ‘male’ thread at each end. It screws into the ends of two other pipes with ‘female’ threads. This friend is studying for an Australian trade qualification, and was showing me photos of his work and study projects. His nipple is a study project he had to design and tool. Because I was previously unaware of this metal-working usage, and previously aware of the anatomical usage, I couldn’t quite believe that he was saying what it sounded he was saying. His Korean pronunciation of English didn’t help.

I don’t know whether his workmates are predominantly Korean or Australian. For a moment, I thought that his Australian workmates (if indeed he works with any) had set him up by telling him incorrect and slightly naughty words for things, but a quick check of the mobile internet showed that he was indeed correct. There are other slightly naughty words in the metal trades: tool, nut, cock, screw and male and female parts spring to mind. I showed him a photo of an anatomical nipple, but he didn’t indicate whether he already knew that use.

And

Hurricane winds: D, S, H and M

The US National Hurricane Center’s forecast maps show wind speeds as D, S, H and M. There is the explanation that D winds are less than 39 miles per hour (63 km/h), S winds are 39-73 mph (63-117 km/h), H winds are 74-110 mph (117-177 km/h) and M winds are more than 117 mph (177 kn/h). I’m sure that people in the forecast path of M winds don’t stop to wonder what these letters mean, but I’m safely on the other side of the planet, so I do. I can’t think of any set of four words beginning with these letters which would describe hurricane-force winds, In other contexts, and by themselves, S might mean strong, H high and M moderate, but that can’t be the definitions here (moderate winds are certainly not the highest category, and what’s the difference between strong winds and high winds?) The US National Weather Center’s website doesn’t have an explanation, and I can’t find anything anywhere else. Any guesses?

I can’t imagine any emergency authority saying ‘Evacuate the area immediately. M winds are forecast for the next 48 hours.’