Metropolis movie poster and clip in German

Here's a poster for the movie Metropolis, which was a silent German film made in the late 1920's.

Here's a clip with the original German titles:

You can see more clips with the German at this link.

Also: someone let me know that this post was linked to a list of the best movie posters, so if you're interested in seeing a bunch of interesting designs, check it out.


The -able/-ible Conundrum

I've previously written about the trickiness of adjectives in English ending in -ic vs. -ical. Another thorn in my side when it comes to the language of Milton is the confusion over adjectives ending in -ible versus adjectives ending in -able (or their corresponding adverbs ending in -ibly and -ably respectively). Part of the problem is that the two suffixes sound exactly alike in many, if not most, dialects of modern English, with the "i" or "a" being reduced to a schwa sound. Another difficulty is that these adjectives, borrowed from other languages, sometimes swap endings in the transition. The French adjective "responsible" has become the English "responsible" for no apparent reason in my mind other than possible lazy spelling by medieval English speakers.

A trawl through the internet offers some clues as to possible rules governing which spelling to use.

Bhacharada.com lists the following points:

Point 1: –able is the basic form. Many more words end in –able than in –ible. When in doubt, and if your dictionary is temporarily unavailable, use –able (or –ably).

Point 2: An a for an a and an i for an i: If the adjective is closely related to a noun that ends in –ation, the adjective is almost certain to end in –able; if a related noun ends in –ion instead of –ation, the adjective is pretty sure to end in –ible.
The site essentially says that 1) -able is preferred because it is statistically more probable and that 2) someone who is writing in a hurry should take the time to search for a related noun ending in -ation to determine whether the suffix is -able, which is already the preferred form. These rules don't seem to be terribly helpful in most cases because for words like understandable or responsible, without corresponding -ation nouns, it's a guess because the rule doesn't state that adjectives without an -ation form can't have -able or -ible as a suffix.

Englishclub.com states that

The -ible ending is for words of Latin origin. There are about 180 words ending in -ible. No new words are being created with -ible endings. Here are the most common examples:

The -able ending is for:

* some Latin words, for example: dependable
* non-Latin words, for example: affordable, renewable, washable
* new (modern) words, for example: networkable, windsurfable
Okay, so both endings are for Latin-derived words. That doesn't help much.

The site also provides a rule of thumb:

Rule of thumb: This rule can help you decide the correct spelling. It works most (but not all!) of the time. Remember, if you are not sure about a word, it is probably best to use a dictionary. Here is the rule:

* If you remove -able from a word, you are left with a complete word.
* If you remove -ible from a word, you are not left with a complete word (note that accessible, contemptible, digestible, flexible and suggestible above are among the exceptions to this rule).
Interesting, but there seem to be quite a few exceptions to that rule. To the ones listed, we might add "destructible," "combustible," "resistible," among others. So the rule seems rather flawed, at best.

The Pennington Publishing Blog goes even further, stating

End a word with "able" if the root before has a hard /c/ or /g/ sound (despicable, navigable), after a complete root word (teachable), or after a silent e (likeable). End a word with "ible" if the root has a soft /c/ or /g/ sound (reducible, legible), after an "ss" (admissible), or after an incomplete root word (audible).
but concedes the following common exceptions:

Exceptions to the rule: collapsible, contemptible, flexible, formidable, indomitable, inevitable, irresistible, memorable, portable, probable
That rule seems awfully involved and confusing, especially when we consider that many words fall into two categories. Take "pass," which is a complete root word, so it should end in -able. However, it also ends in the letters -ss, suggesting that the adjectival form should be "passible." In this case, the first guideline applies, and the word is indeed correctly spelled "passable," yet there is no way a native or non-native speaker of English would know this based on the stated rule.

Ultimately, it seems that the best way to deal with words ending in -able and -ible is to buck up and memorize them. And, as with the case of adjectives ending in -ic and -ical, words ending in -able and -ible will probably continue to force people to head to their nearest dictionary to dispel the almost inevitable (one of those pesky exceptions!) doubts.

(Posted by language fan and friend Silas McCracken.)


Truly translating Japanese

I said in my last post that I was going to resume reading Japanese and doing some translations, and that's what I've really been doing. I stayed up very late last night reading some text and trying to translate it, and it took a while, because while I can grasp the meaning, putting it into some type of sense into English takes a lot more brain action.

And today, when my ESL students were taking a test, I read more Japanese, and noticed that I really slow down and almost read between the strokes within the kanji. It's as if I become a microscope and really want to understand what I'm reading. Maybe that's what having reading problems in English is like for people who speak the language natively.


I finally went to Japanese class

I've had to miss Japanese class for more than a couple of months because I got some cool work doing voiceovers and production at a great Chicago station. Because of the Japanese drought, I decided to go to the station earlier to see if I had a lot of work, because sometimes I get there and there's not much to do, and other times I have quite a bit to do. There was nothing there, so I decided to go to my class. I'm very glad I got to go! But I noticed that I couldn't read as many kanji as before. So I'm going to publicly say that I WILL resume my Japanese reading, and will sometimes post translations here in order to practice and show people that I can actually translate it into English :D

I will also say publicly that I've noticed that my obsession with trying to translate correctly is similar to the obsession I've acquired of trying to get voiceovers right. Especially tonight (I went there after class) when a very accomplished and talented local media star who's also my boss was pointing out areas where I need to improve. Then I listened to other spots I did, and realized that some folks might not like them either. So now I'm wondering: will I be able to succeed?

Basically, I want to do things well, and when I was doing a lot of translating at one point, I remember getting really upset at my inability to know all the kanji on the planet--I would really stress out and think I'd never make it. But I got through it and did okay, which is what I have to realize now, because I feel the same extreme concern (ie, worry) about getting broadcasting right as well!


He can speak French in Russian

Here's an ad with The Most Interesting Man in the World. They claim that "he can speak French in Russian" and "people hang on his every word--even the prepositions." Whoever wrote the copy for this ad is into language. Thank you nerdy copywriter :D


I can't get into Doctor Who

I've tried many times to watch Doctor Who, and I have seen entire episodes, but I can't get into it. I especially hate the Daleks--their voices are absolutely annoying. What's more interesting is the "making of" part after each episode. Since it's shown on PBS, there are no commercials, so they use the last 15 minutes to show behind-the-scenes interviews and production. But there's still a kind of smugness about it.

The only Doctor Who I watched before this current incarnation was the one with Tom Baker, which was really campy, so maybe that's why it was more entertaining. Here's a radio interview with him, along with a bunch of images from when he was doing that show.


Multilingual teen update!

multilingual teen at frankfurt airport

I met the Multilingual Teen almost two years ago, and was impressed with all the languages he spoke. I thought he'd end up being a diplomat or international businessman, or even an interpreter/translator, but he said he wanted to be an air traffic controller, and that's really what he's doing! He sent me a bunch of pictures from the Frankfurt Airport, and here's a picture of him in the control tower! This is what he said:

I'm right now learning to be Air-Traffic-Controller. So eventually I will be working in a tower at a german airport. But I don't know which airport it will be. Actually it's not even our decision, they'll sent us where they need new Controllers.

I asked him if he will use all his languages, and he said:

unfortunately not. only german and english. BUT at the moment I think I will apply for Amsterdam or Tel-Aviv someday, so eventually I will have used some different languages :D Seeing the different airports is part of the training here. I've been in Düsseldorf, Köln and Frankfurt so far.

Another interesting point: his photo album is in German, and was uploaded at the German Picasa site. It makes sense because he's German, but it's still cool to me :D


If you like this blog, then vote

Click here to vote.

I keep getting emails and notifications (even within the comment section of another post) about how this blog was nominated for one of the "top" language blogs. If you'd like to vote for it, click on the image or hyperlink above, then scroll down the list to "Metrolingua" (it's in alphabetical order, so it's down there), and vote if you think it's the best one. Thank you and have a nice day :D


When "yes" and "no" become complex

"Yes" and "no" seem like fairly clear-cut words that refer distinctly to affirmative and negative responses, respectively, but the concepts of "yes" and "no," at least as modern English speakers understand them, are far from universal even within a mostly related European context

While Modern English has the two-form "yes" and "no" system, English, as recently as Early Modern English, had a four-form system with "yes' and "yea" corresponding to the modern "yes," with the modern "no" being covered by "no" and "nay." Wikipedia states that "The answers to positively framed questions ("Will he go?") were yea and nay, whilst the answers to negatively framed questions ("Will he not go?") were yes and no. (see Wikipedia entry) Interestingly, "yes" is derived from the Old English adverbs for "surely" and "so," while "no" stems from an Old English adverb that means "never."

Some languages, such as Romanian, continue to use four-form systems. Three-form systems also exist, such as in French, which as"oui" (an affirmative answer to a positive question), "non" (no), and "si" (an affirmative answer to a negative question). Other languages that currently use three-form systems are the Scandinavian languages (Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, and Icelandic) and German.

In addition, there are languages that use "echo responses" to answer affirmatively or negatively. With an "echo response," the verb mentioned in the question is repeated with or without a subject and without the use of "yes" or "no." For instance, in English, you would be using an echo response if you answered "Is he happy?" with "He is." Latin, Finnish and Welsh, as well as Manx, are languages that primarily use echo responses instead of "yes" and "no." I remember that during my brief study of Manx, being particularly mystified by answering questions almost entirely this way, with "yes" being replaced by such answers as "she will be," "she is," or "she was," and I used to joke "how odd that Manx has past and future tenses of yes."

Incidentally, Latin, unlike modern Romance languages, has no distinct words for "yes" and "no." Modern Romance have developed these words, especially "yes," in interesting ways. At least one of the words for "yes" in Romanian ("da") is borrowed from the Slavic languages in the region. In Western Romance languages, there are generally "si"-type languages (e.g. Spanish and Italian, as well as the Portuguese "sim"), "oïl" (or "oui")- type languages (such as Modern French), and "òc"-type languages (Occitan, spoken in southern France). Wikipedia gives this explanation:

"The name Occitan comes from lenga d'òc (i.e. òc language), which comes from òc, the Occitan word for yes. The Italian medieval poet Dante was the first to have recorded the term lingua d'oc. In his De vulgari eloquentia he wrote in Latin: "nam alii oc, alii si, alii vero dicunt oil" ("some say òc, others say sì, others say oïl"), thereby highlighting three major Romance literary languages which were well known in Italy, based on each language's word for "yes", the òc language (Occitan), the oïl language (French), and the sì language (Italian). This was not, of course, the only defining character of each group.

The word òc came from Vulgar Latin hoc ("this"), while oïl originated from Latin hoc illud ("this [is] it"). In old Catalan and nowadays in Catalan of Northern Catalonia (France, Catalunya Nord) is hoc (òc) too. Other Romance languages derive their word for yes from the Latin sic, "thus [it is], [it was done], etc.", such as Spanish sí, Modern Catalan sí, Western Lombard sé, Italian sì, or Portuguese sim." (see Wikipedia entry)

(Posted by language fan and friend Silas McCracken.)


Weird Czech song with English subtitles

Vogdoid (a guy I know offline who I met in Japanese class) posted this odd/funny video. I'm assuming the song is in Czech, because the singer, Ivan Mládek, is from Prague. And I'm also assuming that the English translation is decent :D


Simon Badinter: the only French guy on American radio

I interviewed Simon Badinter, who is a really friendly French guy (originally from Paris), and is fluent enough in English to host a radio show every Sunday night on WGN Radio in Chicago. He's the only French person on American radio, and he's pretty excited about it.

I talked to him about how he learned English, what it's like to be totally bilingual, and how he got into radio. He also likes the US and Chicago, which is nice, especially because I've heard that French people aren't too crazy about the US. I'd also like to note that I was trying not to laugh, which is why you'll sometimes hear me snicker quietly :D

You can listen to the interview at this link (mp3 file).


Japanese spelling of sensei and dojo

Sometimes I meet people who do karate or other Japanese-based martial arts, and they'll call their teacher "sensei" and the place where they practice "dojo," and that's all the Japanese they know. But have they ever wondered what those words look like in Japanese?

So I decided to post those words here in the Japanese Kanji and Hiragana, just in case people want to see what they look like.

kanji: 先生
hiragana: せんせい

kanji: 道場
hiragana: どうじょう

Note: the English transliteration and reading of "sensei" is correct, but the pronunciation and transliteration for "dojo" isn't. It should really be pronounced with long o's, like "dohjoh", which means the spelling of the English representation should be different as well. Usually the long "o" is represented with "ou" or an "o" with a horizontal line over it. So some dictionaries portray it as "doujou" or "dōjō".


Congratulations Mary Beard

I just read that Mary Beard won the Wolfson History Prize, which is not only prestigious, but is, what she says, "very handsome in financial terms"--ie, I think it's thousands of dollars, which is quite incredible considering intellectual pursuits don't seem to be the most profitable on the planet.

I met Mary last year when she was lecturing at the University of Chicago, then saw her again briefly this year when she was lecturing at the Art Institute of Chicago, and will hopefully see her again when she returns to the University of Chicago this fall. She's not only a very successful writer and academic but is also a very nice person who's been encouraging to me and even agreed to write the Foreword to the anthology that I put together. And what's impressive is that she writes for an established newspaper and teaches at a prestigious university, but is very open to online writing and baby blogs such as mine :D

Isaac Wolfson, who set up the prize and foundation that gives financial rewards to various institutions and achievements, had an interesting life as well and was quite generous.


A different way of celebrating our independence

Tomorrow is Independence Day for the US, to commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Here's a cute video of Captain America and other superheroes celebrating it.


Good Billy Mays ad

I still can't believe Billy Mays died--he seemed to be at the height of his success and fame, and seemed healthy as well. Here's a good ad that he did for ESPN--it's campy and clearly doesn't take itself too seriously. It mocks advertising by breaking down the obvious and using purposely stiff actors. It's just entertaining on various levels and contains cultural commentary as well.