Your linguistic disasters

AVGVSTA

Member
I had one today. Typing an essay about Revisionist Myth-making, I wrote "... such allusions create intersexual relationships with great potential for conflict", meaning to write intertextual. My reviewer was terrified...

One of my friends also recently entered a research competition and accidentally typed "erotic equipment" for erratic equipment. Oops.
 

Etaoin Shrdlu

μεσσηγυδορποχέστης
Radio 4 just tipped a horse called Smaoineamh Alainn. Well, what they actually said was that it was number 4 in the 1.20 at Cheltenham, but they were having trouble working out how it was pronounced. Then they made a couple of attempts that were unlikely to be anywhere close to the thing. I suppose they should have asked Terry S.
 

Callaina

Feles Curiosissima
That's sort of odd, isn't it? I mean, it's one thing if a radio station in the US had no clue how to pronounce an Irish name, but you'd think a British radio station would have rather easier access to someone who can at least pronounce Irish Gaelic.
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
Not being familiar with how things are in Britain, I could be wrong, but I would imagine only a small minority of the population know any Gaelic...
 

Callaina

Feles Curiosissima
As a language to speak, sure, but wouldn't a fair number of people have at least some clue how Irish names are pronounced (just as most Canadians have some clue how French words are pronounced, even if they can't "speak French")?
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
I have some clue how Dutch is pronounced, but I could still go very wrong pronouncing a Dutch word.

And I think it could well be that Gaelic is less known in Britain than Dutch in French-speaking Belgium.

But these are just suppositions. Etaoin or some other Brit will know better.

How is "Smaoineamh Alainn" pronounced anyway?
 

Etaoin Shrdlu

μεσσηγυδορποχέστης
I haven't a clue. Hawkwood, any idea?
The chance of any non-Irish person in England being able to pronounce an unfamiliar Irish phrase is probably roughly lottery odds.

You have to feel sorry for the broadcasters on the racing channels, who tend to struggle with simpler things. There's a horse called Elegiac, which is generally pronounced by them with the stress on the second syllable. There was also a horse named after the ubiquitous Irish dirge 'The Fields of Athenry', but because the name of a racehorse can only contain 18 characters, which includes spaces, the name appeared on racecards as Thefieldsofathenry. I had the rare pleasure of hearing a broadcaster pronounce it as the fields of fat Henry.
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
There's a horse called Elegiac, which is generally pronounced by them with the stress on the second syllable.
That's how I read it in my head just now... :oops:
There was also a horse named after the ubiquitous Irish dirge 'The Fields of Athenry', but because the name of a racehorse can only contain 18 characters, which includes spaces, the name appeared on racecards as Thefieldsofathenry. I had the rare pleasure of hearing a broadcaster pronounce it as the fields of fat Henry.
That's funny.
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
This isn't exactly a linguistic disaster, but rather, let's say, a linguistic inconvenience. As I alluded to recently, my Dutch surname sometimes and quite understandably misleads people on the Internet into thinking I'm a Dutch speaker, while I in fact barely know a few words of Dutch. Those people sometimes happen to know some Dutch, so they write to me in Dutch and it's a bit embarrassing to tell them "Sorry, I don't know Dutch; can we speak English please?"
 

Callaina

Feles Curiosissima
I bet you could learn Dutch in no time flat, and (given the inconvenience you describe) it might actually be worthwhile for you (unlike most non-Dutch people, for whom it makes no sense to learn Dutch as they will probably never be called upon to use it.)
 

Etaoin Shrdlu

μεσσηγυδορποχέστης
Belgian French speakers never learn Dutch. Flemish speakers often learn French, but they may not admit to it if they're in a mood.
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
Knowing English and some Old English and having some experience of language learning in general, I suppose I could learn Dutch to a decent level without too much trouble, yes.

I wouldn't say that Belgian French speakers never learn Dutch, but I take it that was a deliberate overstatement. I'm under the impression that, indeed, more Belgian Dutch speakers know French than vice versa. For what reason, I don't know.
 

Etaoin Shrdlu

μεσσηγυδορποχέστης
Yves Leterme, who non-Belgians may need reminding was recently prime minister, said that it was because French-speaking Belgians were stupid. Then he was asked if he knew the national anthem (of the country of which he was about to become the head), and sang 'La Marseillaise'. Funny place, Belgium.
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
I read an article somewhere some time ago (unfortunately, I can't find it) that said it had been proven by some studies that French speakers were predisposed to suck at pronouncing foreign languages and this was something to do with French having so few sounds (or maybe there was something about frequencies or whatnot) we just couldn't hear other languages correctly and therefore couldn't pronounce them either. I don't know if this is true, but I must admit it could be. Almost every French speaker I hear speak English has a very thick accent (including myself, though I'm not the worst), whereas I hear people with other native languages speak English almost flawlessly. Why?
 

Terry S.

Quaestor
Staff member
Radio 4 just tipped a horse called Smaoineamh Alainn. Well, what they actually said was that it was number 4 in the 1.20 at Cheltenham, but they were having trouble working out how it was pronounced. Then they made a couple of attempts that were unlikely to be anywhere close to the thing. I suppose they should have asked Terry S.
In the official dialect it would be pronounced, 'smwEEnyoo Aleen' with the final 'n' palatalised. Up here it would be, 'smOOtchoo Aleen'.
 
I haven't a clue. Hawkwood, any idea?
No. I did find out a few days ago after delivering a parcel to a door that scots spell Patterson as Paterson, well according to the lady of the house after I said that her plaque contained an unusual spelling of said surname.

I then asked her if her surname meant father's son but she didn't know. She probably thought what a strange delivery man this is.
 

Callaina

Feles Curiosissima
I read an article somewhere some time ago (unfortunately, I can't find it) that said it had been proven by some studies that French speakers were predisposed to suck at pronouncing foreign languages and this was something to do with French having so few sounds (or maybe there was something about frequencies or whatnot) we just couldn't hear other languages correctly and therefore couldn't pronounce them either. I don't know if this is true, but I must admit it could be. Almost every French speaker I hear speak English has a very thick accent (including myself, though I'm not the worst), whereas I hear people with other native languages speak English almost flawlessly. Why?

French does, I think, have a sort of oddness to its pronunciation that isn't shared by other European languages (or even other Romance languages). This is evidenced by the fact (as I learned in music history class) that, when opera (which originated in Italy) became popular in France and composers began writing French operas, they had to invent a whole new style of aria because what worked in Italian (and even other languages like German) just didn't work in French.
 
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