Language fleeting thoughts

For the discussion of language mechanics, grammar, vocabulary, trends, and other such linguistic topics, in english and other languages.

Moderators: gmalivuk, Moderators General, Prelates

User avatar
Eebster the Great
Posts: 3409
Joined: Mon Nov 10, 2008 12:58 am UTC
Location: Cleveland, Ohio

Re: Language fleeting thoughts

Postby Eebster the Great » Sat Oct 13, 2018 10:12 pm UTC

I might buy "run past," but "run against?" Come on. You run for election, which was already considered. Adding a preposition doesn't make it a new word. And "run along" just means literally exactly what it says, according to definition #1.

But yes, "run" (not "run of") as in "production batch" is definitely another meaning. It also has several meanings in card games. "Run" can also just mean a repeating sequence, like a run of bad luck.

User avatar
Pfhorrest
Posts: 5374
Joined: Fri Oct 30, 2009 6:11 am UTC
Contact:

Re: Language fleeting thoughts

Postby Pfhorrest » Sun Oct 14, 2018 12:39 am UTC

I'm pretty sure all of those are just in the sense of "series".
Forrest Cameranesi, Geek of All Trades
"I am Sam. Sam I am. I do not like trolls, flames, or spam."
The Codex Quaerendae (my philosophy) - The Chronicles of Quelouva (my fiction)

User avatar
Eebster the Great
Posts: 3409
Joined: Mon Nov 10, 2008 12:58 am UTC
Location: Cleveland, Ohio

Re: Language fleeting thoughts

Postby Eebster the Great » Sun Oct 14, 2018 3:37 am UTC

Its a meaning of "run" for sure, not of "run of." It doesn't add to the list. "Run" by itself just has trillions of definitions.

WriteBrainedJR
Posts: 158
Joined: Tue Apr 16, 2013 3:08 pm UTC
Location: Right Behind You
Contact:

Re: Language fleeting thoughts

Postby WriteBrainedJR » Sun Oct 14, 2018 4:19 am UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:And "run along" just means literally exactly what it says, according to definition #1.

No, it doesn't. "Run along" has absolutely nothing to do with literal running. It means "go away" or "leave me alone," which is very rarely done using an actual running stride with free flight. "Run along" absolutely goes on this list.

User avatar
Eebster the Great
Posts: 3409
Joined: Mon Nov 10, 2008 12:58 am UTC
Location: Cleveland, Ohio

Re: Language fleeting thoughts

Postby Eebster the Great » Sun Oct 14, 2018 5:19 am UTC

"Run" can already mean "leave" on its own. "I've got to run, catch you later." "Along" is sort of hard to describe here, but is used in the same way as "move along." I guess it's debatable.

User avatar
jaap
Posts: 2094
Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2007 7:06 am UTC
Contact:

Re: Language fleeting thoughts

Postby jaap » Sun Oct 14, 2018 5:50 am UTC

Isogram
"Iso" means same, so shouldn't a word with all different letters be called something like "heterogram"?

User avatar
Eebster the Great
Posts: 3409
Joined: Mon Nov 10, 2008 12:58 am UTC
Location: Cleveland, Ohio

Re: Language fleeting thoughts

Postby Eebster the Great » Sun Oct 14, 2018 6:07 am UTC

Each letter in an isogram is repeated the same number of times.

User avatar
ThirdParty
Posts: 347
Joined: Wed Sep 19, 2012 3:53 pm UTC
Location: USA

Re: Language fleeting thoughts

Postby ThirdParty » Sun Oct 14, 2018 5:19 pm UTC

jaap wrote:Isogram
"Iso" means same, so shouldn't a word with all different letters be called something like "heterogram"?

No, no, a "heterogram" is any word that does not describe its own written form. So "palindrome" is a heterogram, but "isogram" is not a heterogram. Figuring out whether "heterogram" is a heterogram is left as an exercise to the reader.

gd1
Posts: 344
Joined: Wed Nov 14, 2012 5:42 am UTC

Re: Language fleeting thoughts

Postby gd1 » Thu Oct 18, 2018 3:17 am UTC

A truck carrying cheese loses some of it's cargo. Roadway workers labor to clear de brie.
There is no emotion more useless in life than hate.

User avatar
Pfhorrest
Posts: 5374
Joined: Fri Oct 30, 2009 6:11 am UTC
Contact:

Re: Language fleeting thoughts

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Oct 18, 2018 6:32 am UTC

It bothers me that Google assumes I mean India Pale Ale, not International Phonetic Alphabet. I thought you were supposed to have extensive profiles of me, Google, why would you think I like beer and not language?
Forrest Cameranesi, Geek of All Trades
"I am Sam. Sam I am. I do not like trolls, flames, or spam."
The Codex Quaerendae (my philosophy) - The Chronicles of Quelouva (my fiction)

User avatar
Grop
Posts: 1994
Joined: Mon Oct 06, 2008 10:36 am UTC
Location: France

Re: Language fleeting thoughts

Postby Grop » Thu Oct 18, 2018 7:12 am UTC

The beer industry pays more than language?

User avatar
Soupspoon
You have done something you shouldn't. Or are about to.
Posts: 4060
Joined: Thu Jan 28, 2016 7:00 pm UTC
Location: 53-1

Re: Language fleeting thoughts

Postby Soupspoon » Thu Oct 18, 2018 9:54 am UTC

Makes me wonder what the /aɪ.pʰiː.eɪ/ symbology for slurring might be…

User avatar
PM 2Ring
Posts: 3701
Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2009 3:19 pm UTC
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: Language fleeting thoughts

Postby PM 2Ring » Fri Oct 19, 2018 12:45 am UTC

In this recent Stack Exchange Physics question about a home-made cloud chamber, the OP mentioned he was using IPA, meaning isopropyl alcohol. Some readers thought he meant India Pale Ale.

User avatar
Eebster the Great
Posts: 3409
Joined: Mon Nov 10, 2008 12:58 am UTC
Location: Cleveland, Ohio

Re: Language fleeting thoughts

Postby Eebster the Great » Fri Oct 19, 2018 5:04 am UTC

I love the idea that they think the OP had gone through the trouble of building a cloud chamber and then dumped beer into it.

DavidSh
Posts: 207
Joined: Thu Feb 25, 2016 6:09 pm UTC

Re: Language fleeting thoughts

Postby DavidSh » Fri Oct 19, 2018 3:39 pm UTC

Right, beer you use for the bubble chamber.

gd1
Posts: 344
Joined: Wed Nov 14, 2012 5:42 am UTC

Re: Language fleeting thoughts

Postby gd1 » Fri Nov 02, 2018 1:16 am UTC

I used to rule the word
Seas would rise when I gave the world
Now in the morning I sleep to own
Sweep the streets I used alone
I used to roll the eyes, feel the fear in my enemy's dice
Listen as the crowd would king
Now the old King is dead, long live the Sing
One minute I held on me
Next the walls were closed the key
And I discovered that my castles sand
Upon pillars of salt and pillars of stand

I hear Jerusalem bells a-singing
Roman Cavalry choirs are ringing
Be my mirror, my sword and field
My missionaries in a foreign shield
For some reason I can't explain
Once you'd gone there was never
Never an honest world
And that was when I ruled the word

It was the wicked and wild in
Blew down the doors to let me wind
Shattered windows and the sound I'd become
People couldn't believe what of drums
Revolutionaries plate
For my head on a silver wait
Just a puppet on a lonely king
Oh who would ever want to be string?

I hear Jerusalem bells a-singing
Roman Cavalry choirs are ringing
Be my mirror, my sword and field
My missionaries in a foreign shield
For some reason I can't name
I know Saint Peter won't call my explain
Never an honest world
But that was when I ruled the word

I hear Jerusalem bells a-singing
Roman Cavalry choirs are ringing
Be my mirror, my sword and field
My missionaries in a foreign shield
For some reason I can't name
I know Saint Peter won't call my explain
Never an honest world
But that was when I ruled the word

===

Also:

I sit down
And nothing gets me back up
You got it easy
I've seen the easiest occasionally

And I don't know
Adult, somewhat how you ignore
You've got to wither
With the punches to get to what's fake

Oh you see me standing here
I've got my front separate from the record machine
I ain't the best that you've missed
Oh you see what I nice?

Might as well sit. Sit!
Might as well sit
Go ahead, sit. Sit!
Go ahead and sit

Ah-oh, hey me! Who remained silent?
Adult, how's your nonexistence?
You say you know
You know before you begin

So you see me sitting here
I've got my front separate from the record machine
I ain't the best that you've missed
Oh you see what I nice?

Might as well sit. Sit!
Might as well sit
Go ahead, sit. Sit!
Go ahead and sit
Sit!

Might as well sit. Sit!
Might as well sit
Go ahead, sit. Sit!
Go ahead and sit

Sit! Sit! Sit! Sit!

...

The dying flutchman

...

Plantithetical
There is no emotion more useless in life than hate.

User avatar
Eebster the Great
Posts: 3409
Joined: Mon Nov 10, 2008 12:58 am UTC
Location: Cleveland, Ohio

Re: Language fleeting thoughts

Postby Eebster the Great » Tue Jun 11, 2019 7:33 am UTC

There are a lot of imperfect synonyms for "average" with various connotations. For instance, I would rather be "decent" than "mediocre," but "good" is better than either and "bad" is worse than either. Maybe we could try to rate these synonyms, such as the following, from best to worst.

Average
Mediocre
Decent
Middling
Fair
So-so
OK/okay
Adequate
Acceptable
Medium
Common
Intermediate
Ordinary
Regular
Standard
Usual
Typical
Passable

solune
Posts: 107
Joined: Thu Jul 21, 2011 12:58 pm UTC

Re: Language fleeting thoughts

Postby solune » Tue Jun 11, 2019 4:32 pm UTC

I think there's a race to the bottom with all these terms: Every time some one tries to say that something is equidistant between good and bad, there's someone else who thinks that average is not good enough.
So the majority of the synonyms are pejorative. The exceptions are the group of (normal, standard, usual, typical, ordinary) which can be either good or bad depending on if you're feeling individualist or collectivist (or conformist vs contrarian), and thus the words haven't acquired a negative connotation.

User avatar
gmalivuk
GNU Terry Pratchett
Posts: 26726
Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2007 6:02 pm UTC
Location: Here and There
Contact:

Re: Language fleeting thoughts

Postby gmalivuk » Tue Jun 11, 2019 5:19 pm UTC

I think some of the negative connotations come from a euphemism treadmill. Rather than a genuine belief that truly average isn't good enough, there's a feeling that "average" terms are often used euphemistically to refer to things that are actually pretty bad, and then we have to use other words to refer to things that are really average, but then those get co-opted for euphemistic negativity too, and so on.
Unless stated otherwise, I do not care whether a statement, by itself, constitutes a persuasive political argument. I care whether it's true.
---
If this post has math that doesn't work for you, use TeX the World for Firefox or Chrome

(he/him/his)

User avatar
Heimhenge
Posts: 352
Joined: Thu May 01, 2014 11:35 pm UTC
Location: Arizona desert

Re: Language fleeting thoughts

Postby Heimhenge » Tue Jun 11, 2019 6:07 pm UTC

I think a large part of the negative connotation of "average" comes from it's association with a letter grade of "C" (on the usual F-to-A scale). Getting a grade of "C" on anything academic was by definition a "failure to achieve". At least here in the States.

User avatar
Eebster the Great
Posts: 3409
Joined: Mon Nov 10, 2008 12:58 am UTC
Location: Cleveland, Ohio

Re: Language fleeting thoughts

Postby Eebster the Great » Tue Jun 11, 2019 10:59 pm UTC

Letter grades aren't that old, and C is usually below average anyway. (That is, most people get a score better than C, but C is definitely not a failing grade.) I think the euphemism treadmill explanation fits better. If someone says your performance was "all right," they don't actually mean everything in it was correct (most literal meaning) or that it was average (most common meaning), they probably just mean it wasn't bad enough for them to complain about (euphemistic meaning). So if that's the case, then eventually "all right" becomes a synonym for "not very good" instead of "average."

That doesn't apply to "decent," probably because of the other positive meanings of decency, and I'm not sure it really applies to "fair" either, I guess because of the positive meaning of fairness or of a fair appearance. But it applies strongly to terms like "mediocre," "middling," and "so-so," which should nominally mean average, but in practice mean decidedly less than that. Mediocrity to some people is almost as offensive as outright failure, and if someone tells you they are feeling "so-so," that means they are feeling much worse than they do on an average day. "So-so" seems like a clear victim of the euphemism treadmill ("fine" would go the same direction if it weren't used in so many other ways), but I'm not really sure about "mediocre."

User avatar
ThirdParty
Posts: 347
Joined: Wed Sep 19, 2012 3:53 pm UTC
Location: USA

Re: Language fleeting thoughts

Postby ThirdParty » Wed Jun 12, 2019 12:09 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Rather than a genuine belief that truly average isn't good enough, there's a feeling that "average" terms are often used euphemistically to refer to things that are actually pretty bad
In many contexts, average genuinely isn't good enough.

If I hire, say, a plumber, I expect him to be better at fixing pipes than an average person (e.g. myself) would be. If not, what the heck am I paying him for?

User avatar
Heimhenge
Posts: 352
Joined: Thu May 01, 2014 11:35 pm UTC
Location: Arizona desert

Re: Language fleeting thoughts

Postby Heimhenge » Wed Jun 12, 2019 12:17 am UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:Letter grades aren't that old, and C is usually below average anyway. (That is, most people get a score better than C, but C is definitely not a failing grade.) ..."


Letter grades probably date back to late 19th early 20th century. Don't know if they used them in the earlier one-room all-grades schoolhouse period. But what does the age of letter grades have to do with current perceptions of the meaning of "average"? Everyone currently perceiving has been through the educational assembly line and been subjected to evaluation by letter grade. And I didn't know many students who were happy to get C's ... nor were their parents happy to see it on report cards. Well, maybe a few who were planning to drop out and just didn't want an F which would require a repeat. Hell, those people were probably happy with D's.

I do like gmalivuk's euphemism treadmill idea though. But I think that in the case of "average" emotional baggage from being graded dominates the perception of the meaning.

Speaking of euphemism treadmills, I watched that happen with letter grades themselves. There was a time when B was a quite respectable grade, especially in a tough course. Then came "grade inflation" and the idea that anything less than an A was a failure.

User avatar
Pfhorrest
Posts: 5374
Joined: Fri Oct 30, 2009 6:11 am UTC
Contact:

Re: Language fleeting thoughts

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed Jun 12, 2019 2:19 am UTC

ThirdParty wrote:If I hire, say, a plumber, I expect him to be better at fixing pipes than an average person (e.g. myself) would be. If not, what the heck am I paying him for?

But if he were average for a plumber, that would be good enough, no? I would expect that your average plumber is good enough at plumbing, even if they're not exceptionally good at it, because to be a plumber at all you have to be good (not just average) at plumbing.

I've mused on something similar to this before, a paradox of sorts, where a person could be better than most people at most things, and so seem really impressive to everyone who's not a professional at those things, especially for being better than most people at so many things that any random other person isn't a professional at; but at the same time, be not good enough at anything, in the sense that any average professional at any of those things is as much better than him at that particular thing than he is at the average person.

That is to say, you could have one guy who is better than the average person at linguistics, but worse than the average linguist; better than the average person at math, but worse than the average mathematician; better than the average person as writing, painting, music, acting, but worse at each of those than the average writer, painter, musician, actor; better than the average person at medicine but worse than the average doctor, better than average at law but worse than the average lawyer, etc. To a random layperson this person would seem amazingly talented in a bunch of ways; but to anyone who actually does any of the things he can do for a living, he would be an amateurish hack, at that thing, for each thing that he's better than (the) average (person) at.

ETA: wrt letter grades, there's an additional layer of average-abstraction there. Grading structures vary of course, but in a lot of classes I remember, As were for 90-something percent right, Bs for 80-something, Cs for 70-something, Ds for 60-something, and Fs for 50-something or below. So basically, if you got half of the questions on a given test right, which is in some way an "average" score (inasmuch as you got as many right as wrong), you get a failing grade. Meanwhile an "average" score in the passing range is halfway between there and perfect, around 75%. I had always thought that test difficulties were intended to be calibrated so that that was truly the average score, i.e. the score distribution curve, presumably normal, would have its mean mode and median around there, because whenever a class would explicitly "grade on a curve" (renormalize the score distribution), that seemed to be the curve scores would be mapped to. But now some of you here are saying that the actual statistically average grades are above that "average" C, itself about the "50% right" average you'd get from guessing at a bunch of boolean choices, so that's three layers of "average" right there.
Last edited by Pfhorrest on Wed Jun 12, 2019 2:28 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
Forrest Cameranesi, Geek of All Trades
"I am Sam. Sam I am. I do not like trolls, flames, or spam."
The Codex Quaerendae (my philosophy) - The Chronicles of Quelouva (my fiction)

User avatar
Eebster the Great
Posts: 3409
Joined: Mon Nov 10, 2008 12:58 am UTC
Location: Cleveland, Ohio

Re: Language fleeting thoughts

Postby Eebster the Great » Wed Jun 12, 2019 2:28 am UTC

Heimhenge wrote:
Eebster the Great wrote:Letter grades aren't that old, and C is usually below average anyway. (That is, most people get a score better than C, but C is definitely not a failing grade.) ..."


Letter grades probably date back to late 19th early 20th century. Don't know if they used them in the earlier one-room all-grades schoolhouse period.

They do date to the early 20th century in some places, but there was no standardization until maybe 50 or 60 years ago.

But what does the age of letter grades have to do with current perceptions of the meaning of "average"? Everyone currently perceiving has been through the educational assembly line and been subjected to evaluation by letter grade. And I didn't know many students who were happy to get C's ... nor were their parents happy to see it on report cards. Well, maybe a few who were planning to drop out and just didn't want an F which would require a repeat. Hell, those people were probably happy with D's.

The connotations of these words are older than the system you are pinning them on. But the bigger problem is the implication that C was average, which it isn't. An average grade is treated as average, not as a C. Considering D is usually treated as a failing grade, there is no sense in which C is halfway between a good grade and a failing grade.

Speaking of euphemism treadmills, I watched that happen with letter grades themselves. There was a time when B was a quite respectable grade, especially in a tough course. Then came "grade inflation" and the idea that anything less than an A was a failure.

In my experience, most students are pretty happy with a B. Obviously some students have higher expectations than others.

User avatar
ThirdParty
Posts: 347
Joined: Wed Sep 19, 2012 3:53 pm UTC
Location: USA

Re: Language fleeting thoughts

Postby ThirdParty » Wed Jun 12, 2019 1:42 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:
ThirdParty wrote:If I hire, say, a plumber, I expect him to be better at fixing pipes than an average person (e.g. myself) would be. If not, what the heck am I paying him for?
But if he were average for a plumber, that would be good enough, no? I would expect that your average plumber is good enough at plumbing, even if they're not exceptionally good at it, because to be a plumber at all you have to be good (not just average) at plumbing.


I think I use different words for these possibilities. If he's average for a plumber, I would call him an "average plumber", or maybe even a "decent plumber" if average really is good enough; if he's average for the general population, I would call him a "mediocre plumber".

User avatar
pogrmman
Posts: 604
Joined: Wed Jun 29, 2016 10:53 pm UTC
Location: Probably outside

Re: Language fleeting thoughts

Postby pogrmman » Thu Jun 13, 2019 12:09 am UTC

I'm curious about what people would call a specific kind of waterway. Behind my house, in the bottom of a steep valley maybe 60' deep with some short cliffs on both sides there's a little waterway that only flows after it rains. A recent thunderstorm that dropped under .75" pushed it to between 1 and 2 feet deep and over 9 feet wide (estimated flow from Manning's equation 15-20 cfs, although the peak flow could've been quite a bit higher). It's not normally much over 3 feet or so deep after big rains, but I've seen it deeper than 7 feet after very large storm (it was flowing over a road at least that high above the bed of the creek). The bed is clear of vegetation and leaf litter and consists of gravel and small rocks up to a couple feet wide in some spots and exposed bedrock in others. It's not a named water course, probably because it doesn't flow often enough. It's also very likely that it loses much of its water to the aquifer, seeing as we're in the recharge zone and there are decent sized cracks in the bedrock it flows over. Every few years, it sometimes flows for a week or more continuously, but that's only happened a few times since I've lived here.

Spoiler:
I personally call it a creek, but I imagine others might call it a gulch or a draw or an arroyo (though we're a bit far east for that). I guess wash would be a good term for it, but it's presence in a nearly canyon-like valley seems wrong for that IMO. Plus, it's in a woodland area.

User avatar
Pfhorrest
Posts: 5374
Joined: Fri Oct 30, 2009 6:11 am UTC
Contact:

Re: Language fleeting thoughts

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Jun 13, 2019 3:08 am UTC

A barranca, maybe? Which Googling now tells me is technically a narrow canyon or gorge, but where I live it's usually used for a part-time waterway similar to a wash (which term nobody really uses here), but deeper/steeper.
Forrest Cameranesi, Geek of All Trades
"I am Sam. Sam I am. I do not like trolls, flames, or spam."
The Codex Quaerendae (my philosophy) - The Chronicles of Quelouva (my fiction)

User avatar
Eebster the Great
Posts: 3409
Joined: Mon Nov 10, 2008 12:58 am UTC
Location: Cleveland, Ohio

Re: Language fleeting thoughts

Postby Eebster the Great » Thu Jun 13, 2019 7:16 am UTC

I have never respected any meaningful distinctions between words like "creek," "brook," "rivulet," or "stream." They're all just little rivers. While there's no water in them, they're little dry rivers.

User avatar
Angua
Don't call her Delphine.
Posts: 5926
Joined: Tue Sep 16, 2008 12:42 pm UTC
Location: UK/[St. Kitts and] Nevis Occasionally, I migrate to the US for a bit

Re: Language fleeting thoughts

Postby Angua » Thu Jun 13, 2019 9:10 am UTC

A ghaut (pronounced gut) is what we call those at home. They are not dried up rivers because they were formed when the volcano collapsed down leading to these sort of cracks that the rain now runs down. They are generally dry 'the ghauts are running' is a phrase used to show how much rain we've had.
Crabtree's bludgeon: “no set of mutually inconsistent observations can exist for which some human intellect cannot conceive a coherent explanation, however complicated”
GNU Terry Pratchett

User avatar
ThirdParty
Posts: 347
Joined: Wed Sep 19, 2012 3:53 pm UTC
Location: USA

Re: Language fleeting thoughts

Postby ThirdParty » Thu Jun 13, 2019 2:54 pm UTC

pogrmman wrote:I'm curious about what people would call a specific kind of waterway. Behind my house, in the bottom of a steep valley maybe 60' deep with some short cliffs on both sides there's a little waterway that only flows after it rains.
Sounds exactly like what we called an "arroyo" back when I lived in the Southwest.

I'd be a little worried that "arroyo" was Spanish rather than English, though, so would probably listen to see what the locals called it.

Eebster the Great wrote:I have never respected any meaningful distinctions between words like "creek," "brook," "rivulet," or "stream." They're all just little rivers. While there's no water in them, they're little dry rivers.
I think I use "river" for waterways that are big enough to float a boat on, "brook" for ones that are shallow enough to walk in, and "creek" for ones that are in between.

But in any case, I expect all of those to have water in them. It's okay for them to be dry during a drought, but it's not okay for them to be dry just because it's been a few days since the last time it rained. So none of them fit what pogrmman is describing.

User avatar
Eebster the Great
Posts: 3409
Joined: Mon Nov 10, 2008 12:58 am UTC
Location: Cleveland, Ohio

Re: Language fleeting thoughts

Postby Eebster the Great » Thu Jun 13, 2019 3:09 pm UTC

What about seasonal rivers (aka seasonal streams)? Are they only rivers half the time? You'll also see the term "dry riverbed" used pretty often, though admittedly sometimes it's used for rivers that haven't flowed for centuries.

User avatar
PM 2Ring
Posts: 3701
Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2009 3:19 pm UTC
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: Language fleeting thoughts

Postby PM 2Ring » Thu Jun 13, 2019 3:21 pm UTC

In central Australia, we have the Todd River, famous for the Henley-on-Todd Regatta, which is dry most of the time. Wikipedia calls it an ephemeral river.

User avatar
Heimhenge
Posts: 352
Joined: Thu May 01, 2014 11:35 pm UTC
Location: Arizona desert

Re: Language fleeting thoughts

Postby Heimhenge » Thu Jun 13, 2019 6:55 pm UTC

I live in the Arizona desert and we have lotsa those "intermittent streams" (as they are labeled on topographic maps). But around here we mostly call them "washes" or "arroyos". In fact, the unincorporated town I live in is named New River because the river mostly disappears during the dry season ... to the point of disconnected pools with the only real "flow" happening below the surface. But after the rains come during monsoons, the river reappears, hence the "New". At least that's what the local history book says. And when it does flow, it can get huge. Back in 2014 it hit a depth of 7 ft and a flow of over 8000 cfs. I've seen people riding it in kayaks when it flows like that.

There are spots along its route where it's confined by the walls of rock canyons, and other places where it just cuts a channel through desert sand. So it kinda defies trying to give it a single label that applies everywhere. But when people visit, and ask why we have a bridge over dry land, I explain that it's crossing a "river channel that only flows after it rains". I don't really use the terms "wash" or "arroyo" when I explain it.

User avatar
pogrmman
Posts: 604
Joined: Wed Jun 29, 2016 10:53 pm UTC
Location: Probably outside

Re: Language fleeting

Postby pogrmman » Thu Jun 13, 2019 11:19 pm UTC

ThirdParty wrote:Sounds exactly like what we called an "arroyo" back when I lived in the Southwest.

I'd be a little worried that "arroyo" was Spanish rather than English, though, so would probably listen to see what the locals called it.

There are a handful of waterways called "arroyo" around here, but most are called "creek". I am a local and call it "creek", but I’ve also heard it referred to as "gulch", "wash", "draw", and "arroyo". Being an unnamed water course, there’s obviously not consistent naming.

ThirdParty wrote:I think I use "river" for waterways that are big enough to float a boat on, "brook" for ones that are shallow enough to walk in, and "creek" for ones that are in between.

But in any case, I expect all of those to have water in them. It's okay for them to be dry during a drought, but it's not okay for them to be dry just because it's been a few days since the last time it rained. So none of them fit what pogrmman is describing.

That doesn’t fit how the terms are used around here. Most of the "creeks" are dry for much of the year or have substantial dry reaches. Because of the karst landscape and high evaporation rates, there’s not a ton of permanent water sources other than springs and major rivers like the Colorado and Guadalupe (and even those can be quite anemic at times).

Generally, the ones called "rivers" are more permanent than the "creeks", but that doesn’t necessarily make the creeks small: Barton Creek is usually quite dry, but when it flows, it can flow at hundreds to thousands of cfs — the maximum flow in a given year is quite often 5000 cfs or more and it breaks 10,000 cfs a few times a decade. It hit over 20,000 cfs in 2015. For scale, it’s ~50 miles long and drains ~100 square miles. People go whitewater kayaking on it at times.

Of local rivers, the Llano, the Pedernales, and the Blanco all have some dry portions and often have only small flows that are only a couple feet deep. But the same rivers all had massive flows: the first two have both broken 300,000 cfs (1/2 the flow of the Mississippi), and the latter has broken 100,000 cfs. Sure, those were very high flows, but even in a normal year they’ll cover everything between <10 cfs and >5000 cfs. During parts of the year, in some areas, you could hike in the riverbed for miles without encountering water. They’re not necessarily much longer than big creeks: The Blanco River is ~85 miles long and drains ~400 square miles. Meanwhile, small "creeks" can be as short as only a mile or two long.

I’ve got a fun anecdote about differences in regional terms for watercourses. I know someone who moved here from the Northeast and was told by a local "don’t camp in the middle of creeks". She was quite confused as to how that would even be possible until she went for a few hikes locally and saw how dry all the creeks were.

User avatar
Angua
Don't call her Delphine.
Posts: 5926
Joined: Tue Sep 16, 2008 12:42 pm UTC
Location: UK/[St. Kitts and] Nevis Occasionally, I migrate to the US for a bit

Re: Language fleeting thoughts

Postby Angua » Fri Jun 14, 2019 9:48 am UTC

Guyana uses a whole different system for rivers and creeks though. As far as I could tell the three big ones (Demerera, Orinoco and Essequibo ) were rivers and then creeks drained into those? I wasn't there long enough to get a good grasp on it.
Crabtree's bludgeon: “no set of mutually inconsistent observations can exist for which some human intellect cannot conceive a coherent explanation, however complicated”
GNU Terry Pratchett

User avatar
Thesh
Made to Fuck Dinosaurs
Posts: 6568
Joined: Tue Jan 12, 2010 1:55 am UTC
Location: Colorado

Re: Language fleeting thoughts

Postby Thesh » Fri Jun 14, 2019 12:18 pm UTC

That sounds pretty consistent with how it's used here; creeks have a tendency to drain into rivers (it has to go somewhere).
Summum ius, summa iniuria.

User avatar
Angua
Don't call her Delphine.
Posts: 5926
Joined: Tue Sep 16, 2008 12:42 pm UTC
Location: UK/[St. Kitts and] Nevis Occasionally, I migrate to the US for a bit

Re: Language fleeting thoughts

Postby Angua » Fri Jun 14, 2019 8:50 pm UTC

It's more the size thing. The 3 rivers are absolutely massive, the 'creeks' are generally the width and size of what I'd think of as rivers elsewhere.
Crabtree's bludgeon: “no set of mutually inconsistent observations can exist for which some human intellect cannot conceive a coherent explanation, however complicated”
GNU Terry Pratchett

gd1
Posts: 344
Joined: Wed Nov 14, 2012 5:42 am UTC

Re: Language fleeting thoughts

Postby gd1 » Wed Jun 19, 2019 6:47 am UTC

I've gotta take Lalique, brush Matisse, Van Gogh ta bed.
There is no emotion more useless in life than hate.


Return to “Language/Linguistics”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 9 guests