Mol (mollyringle) wrote,

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Language use results (and, yeah, pretty boys)

Was going to post the results of the language-use survey yesterday, but got sidetracked by other strange things. Then this afternoon I got distracted by A&E showing their recent version of The Great Gatsby, which stars not one but two very handsome men for me to stare at – Toby Stephens and Paul Rudd. Oh, the '20s suits, the neat hair, the sad romance, the carnage wrought by gorgeous automobiles...

Aren't they sweet?

I think Toby deserves a much wider drool-contingent than he gets. Look him up. (Also, he's the son of Dame Maggie Smith, best known as Professor McConagall these days. How cool is that?)

(And Paul Rudd, who you've probably seen before; say, in Clueless or something.)

Anyway. As promised, here are the results of the usage poll:

1. The past tense of "dive" is:
7 of you say "dived"; 40 say "dove." Generally North Americans prefer "dove," as two of the "dived" answers came from the U.K., but apparently "dove" is accepted in Australia, New Zealand, and sometimes Wales.

2. Splitting an infinitive is:
23 say "fine, if it makes the sentence flow better"; 17 are still following the doctrine of grammar teachers and are saying "wrong wrong wrong, bad bad bad!"; and 7 would like to know what the hell "splitting an infinitive" means.

It means putting something between the "to" and the verb, in a construction like "to go" - Star Trek, for instance, has popularly said "To boldly go where no man has gone before," which, I'm sure, greatly upset many English teachers.

The "truth" on this one is that there is no reason, linguistically speaking, to avoid doing this. It was a rule someone thought up in the 1700s based on Latin – because, in Latin, an infinitive is one word, and therefore literally cannot be split. However, that has no bearing on English, and since English speakers do it and it doesn't sound weird to most of us, why try to stop it?

Besides, it can affect the tone of the sentence. Take the sentence "I want to actually make a difference" – how would you say it without putting "actually" between "to" and "make", and still preserve the meaning? "I want actually to make a difference"? "I want to make actually a difference"? Ick. "I want to make an actual difference"? "I actually want to make a difference"? Fine, but those don't have quite the same meaning as the original sentence. So, split away, I say.

3. There is a difference in pronunciation between "which" and "witch"; and between "Wales" and "whales":
Surprisingly (to me), 20 of you said "true"; and 30 said "false." I expected almost entirely "false" answers, as I was under the impression that this distinction was fading and that I was one of the few young people to still make the "hw" sound. There was no particular geographic pattern to the distribution of this. However, several people claimed to make the difference for "which" and "witch" but not for "Wales" and "whales." Didn't even think of that possibility. Interesting.

4. "Address" sometimes is pronounced with stress on the first syllable:
True for 35 of you, false for 10. The patterning was more geographically oriented for this: North Americans almost all claimed to do this sometimes, usually for the noun form of the word (which makes sense, being patterned after other verb-noun pairs like REbel and reBEL, and PERvert and perVERT) – however, a couple people claimed, confusingly, to do this for the verb form. None of the UK informants used this pronunciation. The Aussie didn't either, but the NZ'er did.

5. Pepsi, 7-Up, Orange Crush, root beer: collectively these are all called:
"Soda" and "pop" tie at 21 votes each. This surprised me, as I thought "pop" was much rarer (though we used the term in Oregon). The usage for "pop" seems to be scattered all over North America, though more in the middle states than the coasts. "Soda" is more popular in coastal states, it seems. Informants in Oklahoma, Texas, and Tennessee claim to call them all "Coke." "Soft drink" was the most popular write-in, preferred by the Brits, Aussies, Kiwis, and a couple others. Other write-ins: "carbonated beverage," "fizzy drink," "soda water," and "sodapop."

Oh, and since some people asked what a shibboleth was, there's a good definition and story here.

Thank you all again for participating.
Tags: linguistics, movies

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