On Tue, Nov 20, 2012 at 4:28 AM, Alex Fink <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> On Mon, 19 Nov 2012 14:18:30 -0500, Herman Miller <[log in to unmask]>
> wrote:
> >Speaking of lead, Japanese has 鉛筆 "enpit(s)u" for "pencil" (from
> >Chinese "qiānbǐ", where 筆 "bǐ" is a pen or a writing brush). So
> >apparently Chinese and Japanese didn't have a word for graphite, or they
> >may have misinterpreted the English word "lead" for the graphite in a
> >pencil to assume that it was actually made of "lead" the metal.
> "Misinterpreted" is uncharitable and oversimplistic.  It'd be better to
> say that they calqued English in not caring about the _chemical_
> nonidentity of lead and graphite, and in unifying them under one word
> referring to substances of similar gross physical and functional
> characteristics -- which there's absolutely nothing wrong with, as long as
> the chemists have disambiguatory words in their own discipline's jargon.
>  Compare "jade", which is the name of two minerals of unrelated chemical
> structure, or "fish", which is not a clade in the tree of life!, which
> people similarly get by fine with.

Oh, and by the way, the German word is "Bleistift", having precisely "lead"
as the first root. According to Wikipedia, the first pencils were indeed
just lead sticks, sometimes with silver ending. And indeed the graphite was
thought to be lead for quite a while, so the word "lead stick" has been
preserved in German until nowadays.

> On Mon, 19 Nov 2012 20:38:03 +0100, Nikolay Ivankov <[log in to unmask]>
> wrote:
> >Just one nuance about your examples. The eye of the sky could have been a
> >direct association. I remember that as a child I've always considered cars
> >as having faces, with headlights as their eyes and radiators as mouth.
> >Similarly, the sky may be percepted as a living being with the sun being
> >literally its eye. I think it would be quite natural as well to think of
> >the branches of a tree as its arms, of a waterfall as hair of a river (one
> >waterfall in Island is called Odin's Beard, and looks quite alike), and of
> >hair as a "grass belong head".
> Yes, but moreover, don't exoticise this phenomenon.  Body part metaphors
> are pervasive, the body being as it is one of targets of metaphor we're
> most intimately familiar with.  And in particular uses of "eye" for "round
> spot" are common: English has a couple, in potatoes and cyclones having
> eyes.  Along similar lines English also gives feet to tables and mountains,
> mouths to rivers, etc.  There doesn't have to be any mystic animacy
> attributed to the sky or whatnot for these sorts of compounds to take hold.

Concur. However, the initial question was whether we are going to attribute
a metaphoric compound to something for which we know isn't precisely what
we say. For, for instance, WE know that the sky is not a skin and the sun
is not its eye. But some other culture may also take such things not as
metaphors, but literally.

Though, of course, the mechanism of such literal understanding may and I
think does use metaphors as an intermediate product. So first we call
branches "tree arms", and then next generations take this expression as
literal and attribute to it a myth that trees were humans that turned into

On Mon, 19 Nov 2012 12:31:20 -0800, Gary Shannon <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> >I've tried both ways, and being a native English speaker who is reasonably
> >fluent in Spanish I am familiar with both orders.
> >
> >However, I prefer adjective (or adjective-like noun) first for what I
> think
> >is a logical reason: Given a noun phrase with more than one adjective, the
> >presence of the noun clearly marks the end of the noun phrase and you know
> >you're done with it. "The big, hungry, black bear ate the berries."
> >
> >Whereas when the adjectives follow the noun having more than two
> adjectives
> >becomes very clumsy [...]
> Yes, there's certainly something to that.  But a noun having two or more
> attributive adjectives at all is, I believe, Statistically Unlikely (here I
> gesture towards the desiderata thread), and a language would suffer very
> little loss of expressiveness by just barring that altogether (saying
> perhaps "bear black which is hungry" when one might otherwise want to say
> *"bear black hungry").  I betcha there are NA languages out there that do
> forbid multiple adjs.
> This sounds like something David McCann could speak to with more authority.
> Alex