The Complexities of English.

Anatoly Vorobei has an amusing post:

Великий и могучий английский язык [The great and mighty English language]:

“You are shit” – оскорбление [an insult]
“You ain’t shit” – тоже оскорбление [also an insult]
но [BUT] “You are not shit” – подбадривание [reassurance/encouragement]
“You are not the shit” – опять оскорбление [an insult again]
“You are the shit” – похвала [praise]
“You don’t know shit” и “You know shit” означают одно и то же, и это оскорбление
но [BUT] “You KNOW shit” с акцентом на втором слове – опять похвала [“You don’t know shit” and “You know shit” mean the same thing, and it’s an insult… BUT “You KNOW shit” with stress on the second syllable is praise again]

As commenters there point out, a couple of these are not as commonly used, but “You are shit” is perfectly well formed and unquestionably an insult, and I can certainly imagine it being said.

Comments

  1. Martin Langeveld says:

    “You are shit” may be something that native (US) English speakers don’t normally say, but “X is shit” is pretty common. Per the Walter Isaacson biography of Steve Jobs, it was one of his favorite ways of insulting something, or someone’s work, as in “Everything you’ve ever done in your life is shit, so why don’t you come work for me?” and “This work is shit and you’re a complete idiot!” or, quite frequently just “This is shit.”

  2. Oh, absolutely. It’s just that specific phrase that sounds unusual.

  3. “You’re shit” definitely requires an “at” for me (you’re shit at water skiing, you’re shit at not setting things on fire.), unless context says what the other is shit at.

    “-You’re shit at dancing.
    – I’m shit? You’re shit!”

    “S/he’s shit” is perfectly acceptable, though, but I’d say it means something slightly different. More dismissive of the character of someone, rather than about another’s specific skill at something.

  4. Speaking of shit:

    You’ve heard of “in vitro” (the study of things in test tubes) and “in vivo” (the study of things in a living system). Now meet “in fimo,” a new scientific term coined by researchers at the UNC School of Medicine and Notre Dame University to mean “excrement examined experimentally.” Their proposal was published in the journal Gastroenterology.

    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/01/190103110727.htm

  5. AJP Crown says:

    I knew a very cool German woman whose only failing in English or in life was to translate eine große Scheiße as ‘a big shit’ when she meant a fuckup. “And this is a very big shit.”

  6. From Kory Stamper, because who else:

    Then I think about the afternoon several years ago when a group of international high-school students were piled onto my couch, flipping through one of my dictionaries. One girl’s casual thumbing evolved into a susurrous cluster of girls, heads together, dictionary at the center. Their whispery knot would occasionally burst open with an “oh!” and a clatter of laughter. Now, dictionaries do not usually elicit such a response from teenagers, so I asked what they were doing. They all blushed deeply, and then one of the girls spoke up. “Please do not be angry, but we hear these words, like ‘shit,’ but sometimes you don’t understand how to use the word. These words are not in the dictionary in class. So how do you use it? If you use it wrong, the students think you are stupid.”

    I did what any compassionate person would have done: I made them cookies, sat in their midst, and taught them how to “give a shit” and not “take shit” from their classmates, who were all, for the record, “full of shit.”

  7. “You’re shit!” would be a slightly odd thing to say, but “You’re a shit!” wouldn’t, especially if you threw in an additional modifier such as complete, ungrateful or little. It belongs to that confusing class of nouns that can be either countable or uncountable depending on context, but–alas!–shit remains overlooked by ESL textbooks in favor of less useful words.

  8. David Marjanović says:

    You’re a piece of shit seems very common.

    in fimo

    “But as can happen while digging into Latin, the pursuit of a proper name for the experimental study of poop became soiled with impurities.”

    Laetamen is one of the best euphemisms I’ve ever seen, though.

  9. The original reference to in fimo, full of lovely linguistic detail. This is the first time I read an article in the periodical Gastroenterology.

    The makers of Fimo®, a polymer clay for artists, can’t be to pleased about this. (It’s short for Fimoik, itself an abbreviation of Fifi, Modelliermasse und Mosaik, Fifi being the nicname of the original marketer’s daughter.)

  10. Stephen C. Carlson says:

    I would have gone with “in stercore” myself, but the article makes a good case for “in fimo.”

  11. In this Oglaf comic*, the guardian of the gateway says, “That’s a bit chickenshit isn’t it?”in a way that seems unidiomatic in American English. (The creators of the comic are British.)

    * Oglaf is usually about sex, but I think it’s actually funniest when (as in this example) it’s not.

  12. (The creators of the comic are British.)

    They’re Australian.

  13. @Tim May: Ah, you are right! I misremembered.

  14. J.W. Brewer says:

    “Admit admit you’re shit you’re shit.” — from the outro of this upbeat pop tune recorded Jan ’78 (by young Brits from Manchester, if that’s relevant). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLE5tZCRHSw

    This was originally a b-side so I guess they weren’t worried about being *counterproductively* daring as long as the a-side still got played on the radio.

  15. John Cowan says:

    I don’t have any trouble with “you are shit”. Also, chickenshit means ‘cowardly’, and the person in the comic is characterizing his own inaction in failing to try to pass the guardian as cowardly.

    “We was lower than whaleshit, and that’s at the bottom of the ocean.”

  16. I don’t have any trouble with “you are shit”.

    I don’t either, in the sense that it is (as I said in the post) perfectly well formed, but are you saying it’s something you regard as a normal element of speech, in the sense that it’s frequently used?

  17. David Eddyshaw says:

    In British English, at any rate, there is a difference between “You are shit” and “You are a shit”, the former being a fairly nondescript piece of rudeness implying general substandardness, whereas the latter implies a distinct kind of personality defect (entirely compatible with being at least superficially quite charming.)

  18. AJP Crown says:

    “You are the shit” (who stole my car) is different again.

  19. Just in case someone doesn’t know, but wants to, “The great and mighty English language” is variation on “the great and mighty Russian language”, a phrase form Turgenev’s panegyric to, well, Russian language. The phrase is known to anyone who had a great privilege to attend Russian public schools to the degree that “the great and mighty” on it’s own means Russian language in ironic sense, and is deployed when someone misuses it or swears too much or something like that. In case at hand, the use is obviously ironic as well.

  20. “That’s a bit chickenshit, isn’t it?” sounds fine to me as an American. Now, if it were “That’s a bit shit” (or “That’s a bit crap”), that would seem British.

    Chickenshit is more of an adjective than shit is in American English.

  21. John Cowan says:

    I discussed the question with a professor of syntax from England of shitty paper vs. shit paper. I use the first as condemnation, he uses the second; for him, the first is entirely literal (‘paper smeared with shit’); for me, the second is ungrammatical.

  22. David Marjanović says:

    I, too, have seen shit paper with shit as the same kind of quasi-adjective that fun often is (that was a fun paper to write).

  23. For illustration of standalone “You’re shit” in BrE, just search for videos of the British schoolyard/football/general-purpose chant “You’re shit, and you know you are.” My (BrE) understanding of it there is as a quasi-adjective, “you’re incompetent” rather than a noun, “you are excrement”, which would be much harsher, like Clint Eastwood’s “To me you’re nothin’ but dog shit, y’understand?” If it only admits the noun reading in AmE, perhaps that plays into why it’s much rarer there than in BrE.

  24. John Cowan says:

    Now that I think of it, shit paper would be grammatical for me as a noun-noun compound like ‘paper made of shit’ or conceivably ‘paper whose appearance resembles shit’. But it’s definitely a noun.

    Clip from Glengarry Glen Ross of a salesman saying “You can’t close shit! You are shit!” The author is an American. The first shit is a noun meaning ‘anything’, with the same negative polarity rules; the second is another noun meaning ‘something worthless’.

    Roger Shuy has a great LL post called “Getting to Know Jack”, showing jack has dual polarity.

    President Eisenhower, so the story goes, once toured a farm and made a speech with frequent use of manure. The farm wife asked Mamie, “Can’t you get your husband not to use that awful word manure?” Mamie sighed and replied, “You have no idea how long it took me to get him to say manure!”

  25. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    I don’t generally tell people that they’re shit, because I’m polite, but if I wanted to I can’t see any linguistic reason why I couldn’t (although if I was feeling that strongly about it I would probably say ‘shite’).

    I agree with Peter (and John Cowan’s English friend) – my slightly politer version would be ‘you’re rubbish’ (again as an adjective).

    I do like the distinction in the original between ‘ain’t’ = ‘not even as much as’ and ‘are not’ = ‘much more than’.

  26. Clip from Glengarry Glen Ross of a salesman saying “You can’t close shit! You are shit!”

    A very apposite quote, confirming that it’s perfectly good American English but (I suspect) used almost entirely in similar environments, where the “are” is stressed.

  27. John Cowan says:

    In addition to in vivo, in vitro, in fimo there is also in silico, i.e. studied in computer simulation. This breaks Priscian’s head: grammatically it should be in silici, but that would mean ‘in flint’. Alas, we have not yet closed the technological loop to such an extent that we make computer chips out of flint.

    (I have always suspected that the name “Stone Age” is misleading, and that most technologies used wood, grass, bone, and other perishable stuff, leaving stone solely for tools that were either hard or sharp or both. Of course humans remain, for the most part, in the Fire Age, just as the Earth remains in the Age of Bacteria.)

    “Getting to Know Jack”.

  28. David Eddyshaw says:

    Earth remains in the Age of Bacteria

    For biochemists, too: for whom all eukaryotes look the same and are all BO-ring.

  29. David Marjanović says:

    Should be in silicio, then. Outside of English, the element is generally some variety of silicium, which Priscian would probably have considered nomen adiectivum perfecte cromulens.

  30. Savalonôs says:

    The “shit” in “You can’t close shit!” has two distinct meanings depending on whether close or shit is emphasized, although the overall gist of the sentence is fairly similar either way. If close is emphasized, then “shit” just means stuff, things, whatever; “you can’t close shit, you can’t close stuff” has a bit of a stoner ring to it. Someone who was entirely sober would probably find a more felicitous way of making the same point (whatever that is).

    With shit is emphasized, then the sentence is in the pattern of “You ain’t shit!” Here “shit” has the full impact of describing something worthless and bad. I think this construction is comparable to “You aren’t five feet tall!” i.e. you are less than that, not even five feet tall. Note that “You aren’t five feet tall!” in this sense sounds old-fashioned; it’s no longer idiomatic.

  31. John Cowan says:

    English has used silicium and silicum, but eventually went with pseudo-Greek silicon (actual Greek pyritio). Wikt says that German chemists use Silicium but the hoi polloi spell it Silizium. In Russian it’s kremnij and similarly in most of the Slavics.

  32. @Savalonôs: You’re right – the contemptuous meaning (=[not] anything) is a negative polarity item, while the “stoner” meaning (=stuff) isn’t.

  33. AJP Crown says:

    Пυρίτης pyritēs. Of, or in fire, from πύρ pyr, fire. In Rome pyrites was used for several kinds of stone that created sparks when struck against metal. Pliny described one kind as being brassy, a reference to what we now call pyrite (fool’s gold). Next: Columbus brings fire to the new world in Pyrites of the Caribbean.

  34. David Marjanović says:

    Fire and fury.

  35. Rodger C says:

    nomen adiectivum perfecte cromulens

    Cromulentum?

  36. Lars (the original one) says:

    I’ve always felt that the second declension was more boring than the third.

  37. In Russian it’s kremnij

    From кремень [kremen’] ‘flint,’ from OCS кремы [kremy], genitive кремене [kremene], a lovely old n-stem.

  38. John Cowan says:

    Someone who was entirely sober would probably find a more felicitous way of making the same point

    I am always entirely sober (in that sense; I do laugh), and yet I could easily say “I have to get this shit off the floor” in any sense from ‘excrement’ to ‘dirt’ to ‘something that shouldn’t be there’ (e.g. water) to just ‘stuff’. It just seems like plain semantic weakening to me.

    From kremen’ ‘flint’

    Is this at all connected with kamen’ ‘stone’, which may or may not be (I hope it is) cognate with hammer?

  39. David Marjanović says:

    Cromulentum?

    Not if it’s a present participle.

  40. Is this at all connected with kamen’ ‘stone’, which may or may not be (I hope it is) cognate with hammer?

    It is indeed cognate with hammer, but (though it is another lovely old n-stem: kamy, kamene) not with kremen’; it may be distantly related to German Schramme ‘scratch; scar.’

  41. J.W. Brewer says:
    “Admit admit you’re shit you’re shit” — from the outro of this upbeat pop tune

    That sounds like a bird call rendered in English (aka verbalisation):

    o Teakettle teakettle teakettle (Carolina Wren, traditional)
    o Cheeseburger cheeseburger cheeseburger (Carolina Wren, modern)
    o Trees-trees-murmuring-trees (Black-throated Green Warbler)
    o Chuck-will’s-widow (Chuck Will’s Widow)
    o Who cooks for you (Bared Owl)
    o To be or not to be (Bard Owl)
    o Why don’tcha come to me? (Hermit Thrush)
    o Fire fire; where where; here here; see it? see it? (Indigo Bunting)
    o Admin admit you’re shit you’re shit (Green-Spiked Punk Thrush)

  42. I don’t know if it’s part of a general trend in English of clipping adjectives, but I see a lot of people online using shit/crap to mean shitty/crappy: “I’m a shit golfer”, “this is a crap cellphone”, etc.

  43. Then there’s the coprobestiary:
    o batshit = manic
    o bullshit = utterances spoken without concern for truth or verity, lies
    o chickenshit = contemptible, cowardly
    o dogshit = of low quality
    o horseshit = nonsense, unacceptable behaviour

    And:
    hotshit = of high quality
    jackshit = little or nothing

  44. Savalonôs says:

    There should be a word for cases like “fire” and “pyre” where they actually are cognates but by coincidence they sound more similar than you’d expect distant cognates to.

  45. John Cowan says:

    Oh very well. Another beautiful hypothesis slain by an ugly fact.

    The kamen’/hammer cognacy has been disputed in these pages by Hyllested (as quoted by David M, not in person).

    Meet Jack Schitt.

  46. Not if it’s a present participle.

    I was reading it by analogy with flatulentus, virulentus, corpulentus etc.

  47. The kamen’/hammer cognacy has been disputed in these pages by Hyllested

    Thanks, I’d forgotten about that.

  48. David Marjanović says:

    Green-Spiked Punk Thrush

    FTW.

    flatulentus, virulentus, corpulentus etc.

    I confess I didn’t even know these forms. Will have some looking-up to do.

    The kamen’/hammer cognacy

    Looking it up on Wiktionary and getting lost in Weise’s law and other matters before having to go, I found that the only piece of evidence ever seems to have been kamor “stone” in one Slavic language. That would leave the question open as to why the metathesis (*ak- > ka-), motivated by the Proto-Slavic dislike for syllable-final obstruents, would have happened in Germanic.

  49. “That’s a bit chickenshit isn’t it?”in a way that seems unidiomatic in American English. (The creators of the comic are British.)

    It’s unidiomatic in American because of the “a bit”. Americans don’t use ironic understatement – “That’s chickenshit, isn’t it”, or “That’s chickenshit, I guess” would be more American.

  50. I think “kinda chickenshit” or “a little chickenshit” would work better for me.

  51. AJP Crown says:

    Michael Roth, the German SPD minister of state for Europe said in Berlin on Saturday, “Der Brexit ist eine große Scheiße”. This is being translated in the London papers as “Brexit is a big shitshow.” A shitshow is a situation or event that is badly organized, unpleasant, and full of confusion (see here). I’d say currently Brexit is more of “a big shitstorm“, a situation in which a lot of people are disagreeing and arguing with each other (Camb. dictionary). The shitshow comes later.

  52. David Marjanović says:

    It just means “is a load of crap”…

    …and of course it’s a shitshow. It’s quite the spectacle to watch from what treacherously looks like a safe distance.

  53. January First-of-May says:

    …and of course it’s a shitshow. It’s quite the spectacle to watch from what treacherously looks like a safe distance.

    Oh, how much I agree with that!

    (Russia is probably more of a safe distance here than Germany or Austria, though really no distance on this planet is truly safe if things continue towards the no-deal disaster.)

  54. Trond Engen says:

    Strong supporter of European Integration as I may be, I’m actually getting fed up with over-the-top disaster predictions. Britain may choose the pit, but if they can negotiate time for the practical (and mutually beneficial) arrangements to avoid short-term disruption, medium term effects could be weathered off by reasonable deficit spending and a cheaper pound, and the long term would be trend growth from a lower level. The British will be poorer, but not that much poorer. The real loser here is Northern Ireland, and I don’t primarily mean economically. Their biggest political party are doing all they possibly can to close the border to Ireland against a clear majority in the people. There’s no way that can end well.

    Also, the European Union is perfectly capable of taking Brexit as a signal that it must run itself into a pit of its own. And when they’re both down there, yelling insults at eachother for being stupid enough to end up in a pit, I’m not sure who will get out first.

  55. AJP Crown says:

    Having heard most of Monday’s debate – organized, pleasant, and full of anxiety but no confusion – I’d say ‘brexit is a load of shit’ is the best translation.

    Other countries should note the potential danger of referendums: they’re an alien system in conflict with other kinds of democracy, such as electing party members running on a platform. That’s what caused the current chaos.

    I agree with Trond and the former Governor of the Bank of England Mervyn King, there’s no reason to believe that disaster is what’s gonna happen if they leave without a deal in place. On the other hand, it’s still not clear to the brexiteers that the US & China etc. are interested in renegotiating trade with the UK only in order to get better terms than they currently have with the EU, not to help Britain out.

  56. David Marjanović says:

    if they can negotiate time for the practical (and mutually beneficial) arrangements to avoid short-term disruption

    That would be a deal, as opposed to no deal.

  57. January First-of-May says:

    That would be a deal, as opposed to no deal.

    I think this would actually be the scenario referred to as “managed no-deal”, which the EU had repeatedly denied to be an option at all.

    That said, it’s possible that some of it would actually come under “no-deal preparations”.

  58. David Marjanović says:

    “BBC Europe editor Kayta Adler said the mood in Brussels was one of disbelief – that the UK still does not seem to know what it wants.

    She said EU leaders were also questioning the logic of arguing over things like a customs union or Common Market option at this stage, because right now, the UK has only three options as they see it – no deal, no Brexit or Theresa May’s deal – and anything else is a matter for future talks once the UK has actually left.”

  59. John Cowan says:

    questioning the logic of arguing over things like a customs union or Common Market option at this stage

    That’s as much as to say that contingency planning is not worth doing. Operating for even a single day without a customs union of some sort will promptly give rise to the Great Chunnel Truckocalypse, which will be a disaster not only for traffic control but for both economies. (There is an attempt underway to add supplementary ferries at enormous cost, but really now. Whoever thought that up was probably haunted by some movie of the retreat from Dunkerque.)

  60. AJP Crown says:

    the UK has only three options as they see it – no deal, no Brexit or Theresa May’s deal – and anything else is a matter for future talks – BBC Europe editor, Brussels

    If Britain ever wants an orderly exit from the European Union, it must pass the withdrawal agreement painfully negotiated with the bloc – NY Times

    This isn’t true. If the UK parlt and PM agreed together to a customs union or better, a single market (this means freedom of movement and is aka “the Norway option”), the EU would be delighted to comply. Neither is possible under May’s withdrawal agreement; “future talks” with the EU don’t cover it, because the PM could back out at any time without committing to it internally.

    It’s all quite complicated, much like the Schleswig-Holstein Question.

  61. Trond Engen says:

    I guess I just can’t imagine them not doing something sensible eventually.

  62. January First-of-May says:

    I guess I just can’t imagine them not doing something sensible eventually.

    A lot depends on who are the “them” of whom you’re so confident, and/or whether there’s enough time left to wait for “eventually”.

  63. I guess I just can’t imagine them not doing something sensible eventually.

    Have you only recently become acquainted with the human species?

  64. Trond Engen says:

    “They” are mainly the British government and MPs, but also everyone involved on the EU side. I still think they’ll have a backup agreement to fall back on whwn everything else falls. Deep into extended time, when both parties finally understand that the other party won’t cave in and there’s no time to take an offer as a point of further negotiation, they’ll agree on a few practical arrangements which allow business as usual for some time while the actual diplomatic negotiations can take place without all the posturing and slogans. They may not even write anything down, just an unwritten agreement of no sudden movements. “As long as you don’t move we won’t move either..” That’s how the greater good is served in international politics.

    But I may be too optimistic.

  65. I certainly hope you’re right, but I’d bet the other way.

  66. John Cowan says:

    And yet not a word is being said, publicly or (I’ll wager) privately, about the ultima ratio regum, perhaps because reges are no longer involved on either side.

  67. AJP Crown says:

    Trond: I guess I just can’t imagine them not doing something sensible eventually.
    I think it’s very difficult for a Norwegian to get their head around how Britain is doing this. I don’t find any of the process to be unnecessary in the circs. There is no party line on brexit, because it was triggered by a referendum not an election. But there’s no proportional representation in Britain so the key players are not used to making compromises as they are in Norway. Other things: Political conversation is more sophisticated in Norway both in public and private, and Norwegians are great rule followers whereas in England the rules are there to be taken advantage of.

    January: whether there’s enough time left to wait for “eventually”
    Oh, sure there is. The EU tries to generate public pressure through the press (today you were being manipulated by Macron, Barnier and the taoiseach among others), but there’s really nothing that can be done. Brussels is not in a position to tell the UK how to magic its way out of impossible EU conditions (half the UK doesn’t want the Irish backstop). The EU makes empty threats; it will just have to wait. My sympathy is with Britain on both time and organisation.

  68. AJP Crown says:

    ultima ratio regum

    Not an issue. Also the House of Lords hasn’t been involved at all (it might possibly be later this week because protocol) which strengthens my argument to get rid of a 2 chamber parlt.

    My suggestion regarding the queen is that she offer to become Head of the EU as a sort of independent body like God. She has a good record of presiding over nations with different religions.

  69. John Cowan says:

    Not an issue.

    I know. I was referring to several recent comments of mine on other threads on the improvement in human collective behavior lately. Neither side is going to use force to settle their differences.

    Head of the EU

    A simpler approach would be for the EU to join the Commonwealth. Mozambique is a member even though it was never a direct or indirect British colony, and to join the Commonwealth you have only to recognize QE and her heirs as — Heads of the Commonwealth. Some members even have other monarchs, though the great majority are republics. (It would be nicely ironic if Ireland became a member-by-EU-proxy, since it was kicked out for being a republic!)

    Indeed, Anthony Eden proposed a variant of this idea in 1956-57, around the same time as the Treaty of Rome establishing the EEC. The Edinburgh Declaration (1997) requires a “constitutional association” with existing members, leaving Mozambique as a unique exception, but after all, present or former EU membership should certainly count as a constitutional association!

  70. David Marjanović says:

    impossible EU conditions (half the UK doesn’t want the Irish backstop)

    Without the backstop or another form of customs union, Brexit will break the Good Friday Accords. That is widely expected, locally and elsewhere, to bring back the grassroots version of ultima ratio regum.

    The DUP just don’t seem to mind.

  71. Jonathan D says:

    Mozambique was the first exception, but I wouldn’t say it is unique now that Rwanda is also a member. Mind you, even if Ireland alone joined the Commonwealth, that wouldn’t do anything about the customs issues.

  72. January First-of-May says:

    leaving Mozambique as a unique exception

    Not any more since Rwanda joined in 2009, as far as I could tell from Wikipedia.
    (Ninja-ed by Jonathan D.)

    Half the UK doesn’t want the Irish backstop

    The problem with the Irish backstop, as far as I understand it, is that the two main trade markets of Northern Ireland are Great Britain and Southern Ireland*, not necessarily in that order – and the Irish backstop as proposed would allow the latter at the expense of the former, while a backstop-less Brexit (including a no-deal Brexit) would allow the former at the expense of the latter.

    It appears (I’m not sure to what extent this is actually true) that keeping ties with Southern Ireland is more important in terms of possible border issues, for obvious geographical reasons – thus the backstop; but that Great Britain is otherwise the bigger market – thus the DUP position.

    Ideally, of course, both Great Britain and Southern Ireland should be able to stay trading with Northern Ireland; by transitivity, this would put Southern Ireland on Great Britain’s side of any customs border – and since Southern Ireland, in turn, wants to trade with the rest of the EU, this means that there is no customs border, i.e. that the UK would have to be in full customs union with the EU.
    (IIRC, the option to put the “backstop” between Ireland and continental Europe had actually been suggested at one point, and received a very polite version of being laughed out of court.)

     
    *) i.e. the Republic of Ireland

  73. I guess I just can’t imagine them not doing something sensible eventually.

    I can’t see there’s been anything “sensible” so far. Why do you think it’s going to change?

    In a parliamentary democracy, a binding referendum is a nonsense: ‘Dave’ was not sensible in committing to it being binding, parliament was not sensible in endorsing it being binding on a bare majority. Turning a major constitutional upheaval on a 52%/48% split in a 72% turnout is not sensible: either side can say (and is saying) that well less than half the electorate supports each option.

    IIUC binding referendums in (say) the U.S. must come with budgetary analysis and taxation provisions. There’s been only bogus hot air about the economic impacts.

    And what none of the shitshow is addressing is there’s an underbelly of voters (particularly in areas of high immigration) whose main fear is the wave of refugees waiting at Calais. Those might be coming through Europe, but they’re not EU citizens, and revoking EU freedom of movement will do nothing to turn off the tap or greatly reduce the attractiveness of an English-speaking country for desperate people.

    What’s really broken is the political system. The voting against sensible advice in the referendum was to give a bloody nose to the arrogant pricks who think being in parliament is so they can get their manorial moat cleaned out at public expense.

    There was similar frustration in the late ’80’s in New Zealand at the high-handed politicians (specifically on their dipping into the state pension scheme/making pensions a political football). That resulted in introducing proportional representation (also non-binding referendums). And as AJPC pointed out, PR parliaments handle cross-party compromise better.

  74. I am quite enjoying the Brexit show, to the degree that i’ve scanned the order paper on a couple of occasions and literally set with a pencil in hand when the results of the first round of indicative votes were announced. The one thing that I cannot quite get that seems to be apparent to everyone else is why Theresa May is apoplectic about European Parliament elections. The UK will certainly elect a bunch of really disagreable characters, but it’s the EU problem. Let them deal with it.

  75. John Cowan says:

    n a parliamentary democracy, a binding referendum is a nonsense

    In the parliamentary oligarchy called the UK, a binding anything is nonsense. 37 well-chosen people (a majority of a quorum in each House) can do anything, including abolishing elections, the monarchy, or even the monarch. There’s certainly precedent for each of these actions.

    IIUC binding referendums in (say) the U.S. must come with budgetary analysis and taxation provisions.

    Not that I know of. The 2018 Florida referendum restoring voting rights en masse to convicted felons who have served their prison term (with some exceptions) obviously comes with costs, like registering as many as 1.5 million new voters, but as far as I know there was no specifically economic analysis. Now they are discussing whether the amendment is self-executing or needs to be implemented by a law (as the governor, who opposed the measure and would surely veto such a law, is arguing). It’ll end up in the courts, of course, the U.S. version of oligarchy (but fortunately highly self-limited).

  76. John Cowan says:

    why Theresa May is apoplectic about European Parliament elections

    The expense to the British government, which is considerable and will be wasted if Brexit.

  77. Jonathan D says:

    In the Australian version of parliamentary democracy, binding referendums are the method of constitutional amendment. As a result, we tend to avoid calling anything else a referendum, instead using the word plebiscite.

  78. The expense to the British government…

    Well, yes, but it seems only penny wise. The costs are around 100 mil compared to direct payments to the EU on the order of 30 bil and overall influence on the economy on the order of 1% of GDP depending on how exactly things go. Let’s make it 0.5% over 2 years which is in the ballpark of another 30 bil. I mean, not a small change for a man, but a trivial figure for UKind.

  79. why Theresa May is apoplectic about European Parliament elections

    (I thought the Europeans were just as grumpy about it?) Because it commits UK to a constitutional connection with EU: the Euro Parliament makes laws (well kinda) that are binding on all member states. UK representatives are in a minority, so that amounts to the Euros dictating to UK. Which is exactly against the Will of the UK people as so clearly expressed in the referendum (ha!).

    The UK is to regain its sovereignty, is what the Right Wing of the Tory Party fought on. Good luck with expressing any sovereignty when you’ve already thoroughly pissed off the whole Commonwealth and they’ve turned their economies elsewhere; and all potential trading partners are already in economic blocs whose very purpose is to turn their backs on non-members.

    It’s not clear UK can even pick up EFTA where it left off in the ’70’s. This is the ‘Norway option’ that seems entirely nebulous, and that May the incompetent has just not pursued.

  80. AJP Crown says:

    Another cause of what Theresa calls the log-jam is her great loyalty to the Conservative party. She wants at all costs to stop it breaking up, so she has had to appease its ERG right-wing (incl. Johnson and Smogg) at the expense of what others in the UK want. Her new scheme is to talk to the Labour leadership about what’s acceptable to both sides. We may know before the weekend if that works. Labour will only agree to a scheme that allows freedom of movement. If that includes a customs union it makes imo the call for a second referendum (and of course the backstop problem) moot.

    Ant, it’s interesting that small countries including NZ & Norway have such comparatively efficient, fast-acting and in general sophisticated systems of gov. I don’t know if small size is the reason, or just a reason.

    I’ve given up providing links in comments, because they (the comments) disappear.

  81. David Marjanović says:

    (IIRC, the option to put the “backstop” between Ireland and continental Europe had actually been suggested at one point, and received a very polite version of being laughed out of court.)

    What I’ve read is that Barnier or someone like that joked “maybe we could politely ask the Irish if they want to leave, too”.

    The one thing that I cannot quite get that seems to be apparent to everyone else is why Theresa May is apoplectic about European Parliament elections. The UK will certainly elect a bunch of really disagreable characters, but it’s the EU problem. Let them deal with it.

    On the one hand, she clearly finds it humiliating that she said she’s going to deliver Brexit, and instead she’s leading the UK into the next EU parliamentary election, where MEPs will be elected for nothing because they’ll withdraw “shortly” thereafter.

    On the other hand, a pro-Brexit MP said in the debate a week ago that he’s actually looking forward to that election, where the UK can turn a bunch of EU “skeptics” into MEPs and… he stopped short of saying “destroying or at least trolling the whole thing from within”.

    In the parliamentary oligarchy called the UK, a binding anything is nonsense. 37 well-chosen people (a majority of a quorum in each House) can do anything, including abolishing elections, the monarchy, or even the monarch.

    I’ve said that before, but it’s not quite right: the monarch has veto rights over matters concerning the monarchy, the Prince of Wales has veto rights over matters concerning Wales, and the Duke of Cornwall ( = Prince of Wales) has veto rights over matters concerning Cornwall. In 2012 it came out that these rights are actually being used. No abolishing the monarchy without Royal Assent.

    But your point stands. In all other parliamentary democracies, the people is sovereign, and the parliament represents the people. (And referenda and plebiscites are usually provided as instruments by the constitution.) In the UK, Parliament is sovereign. By now all MPs are democratically elected, but constitutionally speaking that’s just happenstance, like the fact that all states of the US* currently let their choice of presidential electors depend in some way on a democratic election (which, as it further happens, they all let end on the same day) instead of, say, the governor appointing the Seven** Wisest Men In the Kingdom and letting them vote as they see fit.

    * Except Georgia. Georgia’s election results have been unknowable since 2002, when paper-free electronic voting machines were used for the first time. The impending replacement does produce a paper receipt – which can easily be made to say something else than the vote it actually recorded.
    ** In the cases of Oregon, Oklahoma and Connecticut.

    It’s not clear UK can even pick up EFTA where it left off in the ’70’s. This is the ‘Norway option’ that seems entirely nebulous, and that May the incompetent has just not pursued.

    Norway is part of the common market, accepts a lot of free movement for that purpose, and even pays into the EU budget. It’s taxation without representation. Norway is so rich it doesn’t seem to mind, but your average Brexiteer would throw a fit if they knew that.

    If that includes a customs union it makes imo the call for a second referendum […] moot.

    Morally speaking, the fact that the first referendum was held under false pretenses – heaps of lies, some of which were openly admitted within hours after the referendum was over – means that it must be repeated, no matter if the exact same result comes out again or not. I keep being chronically stunned by how few people admit that.

    When Austria’s Constitution Court ruled that the runoff of the presidential election was null & void and had to be repeated, it explicitly pointed out that there was no evidence of any wrongdoing; but the amount of general sloppiness (envelopes of absentee ballots opened too early, things like that) was large enough that the result could have been affected, making the repetition obligatory.

    (Then, the glue on the next round of absentee ballot envelopes didn’t work, and the repetition had to be delayed. And thus – back to language – the “un-word of the year” became Bundespräsidentenstichwahlwiederholungsverschiebung “federal presidential runoff election repetition postponement”.)

  82. David Marjanović says:

    I’ve given up providing links in comments, because they (the comments) disappear.

    One link per comment usually goes through. But if you edit a comment with a link in it, it is retroactively sent into moderation. Comments with more than one link go there straight away.

    Ant, it’s interesting that small countries including NZ & Norway have such comparatively efficient, fast-acting and in general sophisticated systems of gov. I don’t know if small size is the reason, or just a reason.

    Germany?

    (Germany has an interesting mixed system where real estate is given some say in who becomes an MP, but not much. I can’t claim to have understood it.)

  83. Ant, it’s interesting that small countries including NZ & Norway have such comparatively efficient, fast-acting and in general sophisticated systems of gov. I don’t know if small size is the reason, or just a reason.

    NZ is not what it seems. Up to the ’50’s there was a bicameral system that was as sclerotic as Westminster (usually) is. With the Upper House abolished (and still with FPP), it lurched to the one Chamber being too powerful and fast-acting: FPP delivered an unrepresentative majority; the governing Party was dominated by Cabinet; Cabinet was dominated by a small cabal of ideologues/or a strong-willed and overbearing P.M. Throughout late ’70’s/’80’s/early ’90’s there were brutal swings in policy, too little reflection, next to no consensus.

    So NZ’s small size and small Parliament was dysfunctional in terms of governance. What’s made the difference is P.R. Interesting David M should mention Germany, because NZ adopted the Mixed Member Proportional system (shortly before Germany abandoned/modified it, I believe).

    If by “fast-acting” you’re referring to the speed of amending gun laws: there’s no NRA here/no big interests trying to defend lethal weapons; there’s been a huge outpouring of grief and horror at that awful incident: how did it happen?/we must never let it happen again. “Fast-acting”? There was a Royal Commission reviewed gun legislation in 1997 and made recommendations (that were generally well agreed). Various governments have tried to introduce the legislation, but just had too much other stuff to do. Those recommendations are pretty much what’s going on to the Statutes now. So we could say it’s 20 years too slow.

  84. “chickenshit” is not in my dialect and I can never remember what precise insult it means. Apparently it’s somtimes specifically cowardice and sometimes generic inferiorty; I see now how my previous attempts to infer from context would have failed. Not that I’ll remember next time I see it.

    are you saying it’s something you regard as a normal element of speech, in the sense that it’s frequently used?

    Besides the aforementioned “You’re shit, and you know you are” (to the tune of the Village People’s “Go West”), other datapoints:
    * Usain Bolt had to deny news reports that he had described the 2014 Commonwealth Games as “a bit shit”.
    * 2015 Christmas stockingfiller book “Is it just me or is everything shit?”

    QE and her heirs as — Heads of the Commonwealth

    My understanding is that the position of Head of the Commonwealth is not hereditary, although QE2 recently asked the heads of Commonwealth to let Charles have it when she’s done.

    Brexit will break the Good Friday Accords

    So did the Twenty-seventh Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland

    the fact that the first referendum was held under false pretenses – heaps of lies, some of which were openly admitted within hours after the referendum was over – means that it must be repeated

    There is a practical problem with this argumen, as with any statistical argument: hardly any of the Leave voters is going to admit that they were one of the people who was fooled. Of course the Remain press can find a few to write “I see now how wrong I was” but they are regarded as any tribe regards any turncoat.

    In the Australian version of parliamentary democracy, binding referendums are the method of constitutional amendment. As a result, we tend to avoid calling anything else a referendum, instead using the word plebiscite.

    In the Republic of Ireland, a referendum is when a bill passed by both houses of the Oireachtas (parliament) is put to the people. When anything else is put to the people it’s called a plebiscite. The only referendums have been on bills to amend the constitution (some of which are to ratify important treaties). The only national plebiscite was to approve the constitution itself; there have been local plebiscites on changing placenames, and will be some this May on directly elected mayors.

  85. other datapoints

    They’re not datapoints, they’re irrelevant; the question was specifically about the phrase “you are shit.” Obviously “shit” is a very common term of disparagement, but (in my opinion) it’s not used in the specific way Anatoly cited.

  86. AJP Crown says:

    But if you edit a comment with a link in it, it is retroactively sent into moderation.
    – That must be what’s happening. I’ll stop the editing.

    Germany?
    I don’t know anything about the real estate thing, just that construction in Hamburg when I lived there was totally SPD-controlled, as was everything else. At the federal level it seems like German gov. functions well; it has a well balanced election system https://www.bundestag.de/en/parliament/elections/electionresults/election_mp-245694 with much better, more spacious seating for Bundestag members than the hideous creaking old palace of Westminster has for MPs.

    Bundespräsidentenstichwahlwiederholungsverschiebung is a very long word, imo it’s an example of a rule that needs reworking.

    the first referendum was held under false pretenses – heaps of lies, … it must be repeated
    There was a lot wrong with it from start to finish. There’s an argument that another one would prolong the navel gazing and general ennui and could resolve nothing, so better to have the soft brexit.

    This is the ‘Norway option’ that seems entirely nebulous
    The Economist had a good explanation of this (you can sign up and read 5 articles/month free.) https://www.economist.com/the-economist-explains/2016/10/07/the-difference-between-europes-customs-union-and-single-market

    It’s taxation without representation.
    Or as I prefer to think of it, access to markets without having to follow EU rules on farming and the environment. Maybe I’d be allowed to import English plants & fruit trees, and I vaguely remember the EU protocols are a bit retarded concerning rewilding and poisonous sprays (or something).

  87. John Cowan says:

    No abolishing the monarchy without Royal Assent.

    That in no way helped Charles I. On January 4, 1649, the House of Commons passed an ordinance appointing a court to try him for treason “against the people of England”. Before and since, treason was always against the monarch, and it would be a bit difficult to convict Charles of treason against himself. The Lords rejected the ordinance, and obviously it didn’t get the Royal Assent, but nevertheless “Charles Stuart, that man of blood” was brought before the court on January 20, not without protest by Charles and others against its lack of legitimacy. By January 24 he was convicted and then executed on January 30. In between the Commons passed an act prohibiting anyone from being king of England and Ireland, making it a crime to proclaim a new king, and declaring the House of Commons the source of all legitimate authority. On February 4 the House of Lords was abolished as “useless and dangerous” (useless it certainly was, as attendance at this dangerous body had decreased to about three peers), and on February 6 the monarchy followed.

    Apparently [chickenshit means] sometimes specifically cowardice and sometimes generic inferiority

    It’s normally an an adjective meaning ‘cowardly’ and by extension ‘petty and contemptible’. Unless one believes that these are hereditary traits, it has nothing to do with genetic inferiority.

  88. J.W. Brewer says:

    The House of Commons as of January 1649 was that of the so-called Rump Parliament, several hundred insufficiently extreme MP’s having been forcibly excluded by the military the month before in the coup d’etat traditionally called Pride’s Purge. So the events leading to the regicide were not simply an abandonment of a balanced regime in which Commons, Lords, and King each had a structural role, because there was no longer even an arguably-legitimate Commons. No doubt current voting on Brexit-related matters would have yielded less ambiguous results if the current Army leadership had simply figured out which outcome it wanted and then sent in the troops to force out all the MP’s inclined to vote against it.

  89. Presumably there are ruddy old retired colonels who would favor such a solution.

  90. AJP Crown says:

    Sadly, like the police, the ruddy faced retired colonels all look amazingly young these days.

    Regicide
    I had a great uncle called Reggie. In 1922, he shot someone and committed suicide.

  91. John Cowan says:

    Bundespräsidentenstichwahlwiederholungsverschiebung

    That’s just a matter of German leaving out the spaces in noun-noun compounds that English provides. I made up an example for a Quora answer: “The New Year’s Day party guests on the finance company motor yacht broke all the heirloom crystal dinner plates.” Niklas Hamann kindly supplied a literal German translation, which is grammatical but “absolutely no one would use”, namely “Die Neujahrspartygäste auf der Finanzfirmamotorjacht zerbrachen alle Erbstückskristallteller”.

  92. AJP Crown says:

    Explanation unnecessary, I understand the convention. We do it in Norwegian too but with less rigour. Some younger people don’t do it at all. Always the way.

  93. John Cowan says:

    I don’t know anything about the real estate thing

    It was a joke, I think. Germans have two votes in national elections: one for a constituency-based candidate (hence “by real estate”) as in the U.S. or UK, and the other for a party. The winners (by plurality) of the “for a person” vote get half the seats, and the other half are assigned from party lists based on the “for a list” vote in a way that is meant to ensure that a party’s total representation in the Bundestag is proportional to the second vote (provided it gets at least 5% of the vote). Sometimes a party wins too many constituency elections to satisfy proportionality, in which case extra members are added until the next election.

  94. J.W. Brewer says:

    It’s obviously quite common in bicameral legislatures to have two different voting systems in use so you don’t put all your eggs in one procedural-approach basket — indeed a bicameral legislature with identical voting systems for both houses is sort of pointless. The BRD approach of using multiple systems but mushing together their outputs into a single legislative chamber is more unusual, but that isn’t to say it doesn’t work for them in practice. I guess in the US the Electoral College sort of mushes together into one pot aspects of the two systems separated by chamber in the regular federal legislature.

    ETA: obviously they also have an upper house (Bundesrat? I can’t be arsed to google it) so they maybe have at least three systems yielding a two-chamber output.

  95. indeed a bicameral legislature with identical voting systems for both houses is sort of pointless

    Which is why US states mindless copying of the bicamerality of Congress for their own legislatures makes no sense, yet here we are, and have been for more than two centuries.

  96. J.W. Brewer says:

    @Keith Ivey, I think historically in at least some parts of the country there was more divergence in selection mechanism between the two houses of certain state legislatures, but there’s less than there used to be especially since the federal courts for better or worse put the kibosh back in the Sixties on state senates that tried to organize themselves on some explicit principle other than equal-population districts. So now it may be an inertia-driven tradition as you suggest that isn’t adding a whole lot of structural value most of the time. There are still some state senates that have longer terms than the lower house and maybe even a few that still have staggered terms so they can’t entirely turn over in a single “wave” election. Simply having different membership sizes (thus different district populations) is probably not enough to make that much of a difference in the typical scenario where there’s only two or three lower-house members for every state senator, but in the extreme situation of New Hampshire (24 members in upper house but 400 in lower) it probably does make the fundamental dynamics of the two houses structurally different.

  97. David Eddyshaw says:

    Sadly, like the police, the ruddy faced retired colonels all look amazingly young these days.

    You’re only really old when the Popes start looking younger.

  98. In case anybody cares: I did mean generic, not genetic.

  99. David Marjanović says:

    There is a practical problem with this argumen, as with any statistical argument: hardly any of the Leave voters is going to admit that they were one of the people who was fooled. Of course the Remain press can find a few to write “I see now how wrong I was” but they are regarded as any tribe regards any turncoat.

    That’s why the ballot is secret.

    Of course the Remain press found people willing to go on TV and loudly lament their decision the very day after the referendum; I remember one quite vividly. I don’t think lots of people have changed their opinions since the initial spike in Google searches for what is the eu ebbed off.

    I don’t know anything about the real estate thing

    Sorry, I was indeed referring to the fact that each MP (like a US Representative or Senator) represents all the people in a geographically contiguous district and is elected there by winner-takes-all. This system assumes that people’s political interests are determined by where they live; in reality, that has been a pretty weak factor in people’s political interests for the last several decades, urban vs. rural aside to some extent.

    I sympathize with the argument that political decisions which only concern a particular region should be made in that region, not at some national/federal level above it. The EU calls that the subsidiarity principle.

    Geographic representation is the reason why the UK practically has a two-party system, and a large part of the reason why the US has one: a party that is supported by 20% in every constituency, but not by a plurality in any, won’t get 20% of the seats – it gets none at all.

    That in no way helped Charles I.

    I suppose those rules only date from the Glorious Revolution.

    Bundesrat?

    Yep.

    (Austria also has one, but really just as a sinecure for politicians who have outlived their usefulness to their parties – unlike the German one.)

    US states mindless copying of the bicamerality of Congress

    Except Nebraska. 🙂

    That’s just a matter of German leaving out the spaces in noun-noun compounds that English provides.

    Yes, except that -es-, the second -en- and -s- are connecting elements that mark the phonological words on both sides as parts of a single compound.

    (Historically they’re all derived from genitive endings, but they can’t be analyzed as such anymore. For instance, feminine abstracts in -ung, like Wiederholung in this case, never had a genitive in -s.)

  100. John Cowan says:

    I think historically in at least some parts of the country there was more divergence in selection mechanism between the two houses of certain state legislatures

    Indeed. Specifically, a county-based upper house (counties tend to be either cities or reasonably equal-area subdivisions) wound up giving rural areas more senators and cities more representatives.

    That’s why the ballot is secret.

    Polling in 1976 or thereabouts showed that Nixon lost the 1972 election.

    Except Nebraska.

    Curiously, the unicameral legislature, though called simply the Legislature, is the institutional successor of the State Senate; it was the lower house that was abolished. The members are still called senators.

    One unusual property of the U.S. system is that representatives (although the constitutional requirement is only to live in the state from which one is elected), must as a political rather than a legal matter permanently reside in their district (with some exceptions). Furthermore, they are chosen by local or at most statewide party committees. Our members are truly members of, not merely for, their districts.

    Another curious property is that because of primary elections, anyone may register with their state as a member of any party, and the party has nothing to say about it, since most primaries allow voting for a party candidate only by the registered members of that party. Registration does not imply that one supports the party platform or will necessarily vote for that party in the general election.

    For example, in four of the five boroughs of NYC the Democratic Party is so dominant that nomination (by primary) is tantamount to election, so if you are not a registered Democrat you are effectively disenfranchised.

  101. @John Cowan: I remember a closely fought race for a House seat, where the Republican candidate (who I had met and utterly detested) did not, in fact, live in the district. I was rather surprised and disappointed that his opponent never brought up that issue.

  102. Jonathan D says:

    It interesting that David, as someone outside any district-based electoral system, describes even an association with a district (as in Germany and New Zealand) as “real estate having a say”. To me, that phrasing brings up the idea that land areas (equivalently, lower population density) might influence the division into districts, rather than simply population. This could be in the sense sometimes seen in discussion of the US electoral college, where it may be a reasonable summary of the effect of something actually more arbitrary (after all, Rhode Island gets the same benefit as similarly populated less dense states), or in a more deliberate sense seen in the Western Australian upper house.

  103. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    I had a great uncle called Reggie. In 1922, he shot someone and committed suicide.

    Not a great-uncle, but almost: my mother had a first cousin who participated in a sordid affair in New York in 1926 that resulted in the death of a policeman. His partner (who fired the shot) was executed, but he was sentenced to life imprisonment. However, he was released in 1948 and got married, had two daughters, and lived a blameless life until he died (naturally) in 1986 at the age of 81. I don’t think my mother ever knew about this. She certainly never gave any hint of knowing, and it was probably a deadly secret in the family at the time.

  104. AJP Crown says:

    I don’t think my mother ever knew about this.

    Same here. My grandfather rarely spoke about his family and I’m guessing his brother the murderer may be the reason. Oddly and one hundred years apart two men in separate branches of my family have shot women shortly after arriving in Australia and then escaped conviction for murder.

  105. That’s one of the fascinating things about the TV show Finding Your Roots — all those family secrets nobody ever talked about!

  106. AJP Crown says:

    Discussing family secrets, “25 fascinating guests, including … Felicity Huffman.”

  107. Lars (the original one) says:

    The Danish system is district-based as well, but with a proportional system on top. It is possible to run outside the party lists and get a ‘pure’ district seat, but almost all candidates belong to a party list and can get list votes assigned to them in addition to their personal votes. Some popular politicians get more votes than needed for a district seat, in which case the surplus is passed on to other people on their list — but more generally the top scorers in a district can ‘steal’ votes from low scorers in addition to list votes until they have enough.

    The proportional part of the system operates on list votes in the 3 larger regions, and selects lower scoring candidates from the constituent districts. It accounts for 40 out of 175 ‘South Danish’ members (there are 2 each from Greenland and the Faeroes as well).

    The number of candidates selected from each region is roughly proportional to the population, but each square kilometer of land area counts for about 17 people as well, something that was added to give Jutland a slight edge — one seat in Copenhagen needs about 10% more votes than one in the rest of the country.

  108. Stu Clayton says:

    Felicity Huffmann’s big secret for me, I now find, was that she is married to Donnie Smith of Magnolia! She’s got that going for her, at least.

  109. I first read that as “Donnie Smith of Mongolia,” which would be much more interesting.

  110. AJP Crown says:

    So many countries have one or other form of pr now. In Britain the idea is so popular and so unlikely to happen, they say, because it’s not in the interests of the two major parties. But other 2-main-party countries have introduced pr, surely? I wonder how they managed to introduce it.

  111. Stu Clayton says:

    # New Zealanders voted in favour of mixed-member proportional representation in 1993, a switch from the first-past-the-post electoral system that B.C. still uses. #

    From the Vancouver Sun in 2018, google “two party transition to proportional representation” (to avoid quarantine I give no link).

    # “Last year’s decision to change New Zealand‘s voting system has turned Kiwi politics into a confusing game of musical chairs as politicians panic over secret maps which chart their route to oblivion,” Agence France-Presse’s Michael Field reported in 1994.#

  112. @Stu Clayton: On The Colbert Report, whenever Stephen Colbert talked about celebrity couples with combined names (like “Brangelina”), he would mention “Filliam H. Muffman.”

  113. AJP Crown says:

    Mixed members. Is this about gender balance?

    Mongolia is a good movie. I especially liked Tom Cruise’s performance.

  114. change New Zealand‘s voting system has turned Kiwi politics into a confusing game of musical chairs …

    Indeed. Changing to PR took a couple of General Elections to bed in. The first election under PR would be better described as the last FPP election: the two main Parties campaigned as if they only had each other to beat. And then didn’t know what to do when neither of them got anything like a clear majority. There was 3 months of coalition negotiations.

    They’re nowadays far more adept at figuring out likely coalition partners in advance of elections: it actually increases their likelihood of votes if their potential voters know that. There’s a middle-ground party that was part of nearly every government (of either shade) until recently. There’s ‘strong and stable’ for you.

  115. John Cowan says:

    Mixed members. Is this about gender balance?

    “To start a 4-H club [an organization for teenagers, originally for those interested in agriculture but now many other subjects as well] you first need an adult leader. This may be a man or a woman or a combination of both.”

  116. @AntC: Parties that will join any governing coalition in proportional representation systems may have moderating effects, or they may pull the politics in unproductive directions. If you have a small, basically single-issue party that is willing to compromise of virtually everything else—so that they can be a reliable coalition partner for any of the major parties—you can have a situation where the major players all end up honoring that party’s position on their one primary issue. As an example, the Shas party in Israel has been part of almost every government since 1984. Even after the chairman of the party, Aryeh Deri, was convicted of corruption charges, it took extraordinary circumstances for the prime minister Ehud Barak to be able to kick the party out of his ruling coalition.

  117. AJP Crown says:

    a man or a woman or a combination of both

    What about ‘or neither’? Unfair to inanimate objects.

  118. David Marjanović says:
  119. Mixed members. Is this about gender balance?

    😉 About some members being elected by ‘real estate’ [*]; some by proportion voted to each party. So New Zealanders get two votes: one for candidates standing in their geographical constituency [*], one for a party. The returns from the real estate are ‘topped up’ to 120 representatives to make the parties proportional to that party vote.

    [*] real estate means dividing the geography into constituencies of roughly equal numbers of voters, not equal acreage — which would be daft: if you took the acreage of Auckland, our largest city, population ~1.5 million and centred it on Mt Cook/Mt Aoraki ‘the cloud piercer’, you’d get a population of a few hundred.

  120. If you have a small, basically single-issue party that is willing to compromise of virtually everything else—so that they can be a reliable coalition partner for any of the major parties—you can have a situation …

    where they’ll get biffed out of Parliament at the next election. And/or the party that was stupid enough to go into coalition with them will get biffed out. That is, in any polity based on consensus /for politicians who want to stay in government for longer than one term.

    Israel is full of nutters who would vote according to their religious affiliations, even if a jerkass were standing. (I know, I’ve lived there, and that was at relatively peaceful/consensual times.)

    I presume that’s the reason Donald Trump is President: Mike Pence and his religious affiliates are of the jerkass vote persuasion. Trump is a reincarnation of Cyrus the Great, apparently.

    Can anybody explain why Trump’s approval rating is up around 40%? I’d be amazed it could be so much as the people in his will, and not even all of them.

  121. Can anybody explain why Trump’s approval rating is up around 40%?

    I don’t think we’d better get into the Trump morass (everyplace else on the internet is sopping with it), but I think it’s safe to say it’s not about Trump himself but about his being a placeholder for the rage of a large percentage of the population that feels left behind by the changes of recent decades and terrified at losing the privileged place they felt they had under the old regime (however you want to define that). It does seem to be pretty comparable to the rage of the Brexit voters, even though that’s a mossy cliche by now. Anything that Trump says or does that sets the “coastal elite” fuming and fussing makes the 40% happy. It’s silly and pointless to say “but they’d be the first to complain if a Democrat did it!” — that’s not how people work.

  122. John Cowan says:

    but I think it’s safe to say

    “Thanks, we cry, ’tis thrilling! / Take, O take this shilling / And let us have no more!” —Lewis Carroll

  123. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    I think it’s safe to say it’s not about Trump himself but about his being a placeholder for the rage of a large percentage of the population that feels left behind by the changes of recent decades and terrified at losing the privileged place they felt they had under the old regime (however you want to define that).

    That seems to be the only reasonable explanation of the high level (around 40%) of approval that the Gilets Jaunes have in France.

  124. AJP Crown says:

    There may be some similarities, but Trump supporters don’t wear their grandfather’s harris tweed overcoat and long for the return of rationing and the Spitfire. That’s what’s a bit worrying about the brexit lot. I’m pretty sure America can survive Trump, but economies don’t run on nostalgia.

  125. That seems to be the only reasonable explanation of the high level (around 40%) of approval that the Gilets Jaunes have in France.

    Exactly. The specific policies at issue are far less important than venting anger. “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more” is the motto of our time.

  126. John Cowan says:

    the return of rationing and the Spitfire

    No, but some of them long for the return of white supremacy, all the while their opposite numbers insist that it is still in full force. As someone said, when a U.S. state feels the need to say that English is their sole official language, that means that English is no longer their sole language.

  127. SFReader says:

    I thought Americans voted for Trump for his entertainment value.

  128. January First-of-May says:

    I thought Americans voted for Trump for his entertainment value.

    I thought that was Reagan.

  129. AJP Crown says:

    I felt, both times, that people voted against Carter & Hillary. And then afterwards yuppies and uneducated white people were identified as the Ron & Don supporters who elected them but I’m not sure those memes didn’t actually appear – media created – until after the vote.

    When a U.S. state feels the need to say that English is their sole official language, that means that English is no longer their sole language.
    How true, but it’s not about language, it’s about identifying another group as a threat. You really need min. three languages perhaps more to establish security. Take Manhattan, can you imagine an English is the official language movement? And it’s got like ten versions of Spanish never mind Vietnamese, Italian, Urdu, Russian etc.

  130. David Marjanović says:

    I thought Americans voted for Trump for his entertainment value.

    Oh no. Even Al Franken wasn’t elected for that.

    I think the other two explanations offered above are correct. Early in the campaign, Cruz was the candidate of the Tea Party, the first and last True Conservative running for president, the one who would finally, finally make things as they ought to be; and Trump was the candidate of the Beer Party, the one predicted by The Onion back in November 2012. (…Huh. That article used to be longer.) The Tea Party, and everyone else, pointed out that Trump’s behavior was very far from that expected of a True Conservative. Trump hardly disputed that (remember “strong Christian”?). Instead, he promised to nominate lots of True Conservative judges who would finally, finally make things as they ought to be; and Cruz’s candidacy became redundant.

    As it so happened, Mitch McConnell had kept a lot of federal judiciary positions open just in case the next president would be a Republican. They’re being filled now.

    “I never said he was the best example of the Christian faith. He defends the faith. And I appreciate that very much.”
    – Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, about Trump in late November 2018

  131. David Eddyshaw says:

    It is remarkable that the most powerful and secure Christian community in the entire world has been suckered into imagining that’s it’s persecuted. These people have just no idea.

  132. Bathrobe says:

    I always get the feeling that Trump is a product of anti-intellectualism. Something like this:

    Pervasive anti-intellectualism in society >
    Many aspiring intellectuals go to big cities, make good, have no sympathy for the rednecks that pushed them to leave >
    People back home get angry at being left behind and ignored by the rich and powerful in the big cities >
    Trump, rich and powerful but the ultimate anti-intellectual, gets elected >
    No matter what he does, he’s still our down-to-earth guy, better than any East Coast intellectual

    I’m probably wrong, as usual…

  133. David Eddyshaw says:

    He has his supporters here in the UK (one of our people was assaulted by one as she was on her way home after a demonstration against his last visit.)

    Here, where the Kulturkampf aspects that he exploits fortunately have little traction, it is the racism that wins him admirers.

    Still, I vote with Hat: let’s ignore the man and discuss more salubrious matters, such as polyvalent shit.

  134. AJP Crown says:

    Trump is a product of anti-intellectualism.
    I’d hardly call any of his competitors pointy-headed intellectuals, but why now? I think dumb-but-sly is simply a personal trait, like his hairdo, that didn’t get him elected, it just didn’t disqualify him.

    I’m probably wrong, as usual…
    Probably. But who isn’t?

  135. Bathrobe says:

    but why now?

    Because the outflow of manufacturing jobs overseas is biting badly. And after the financial crisis people stopped believing the self-serving elites of the big cities (including Hillary) and the liberal intellectuals who told them that the future would be more of the same. Trump sticks it to these people, which goes down well with the heartland. Even though he’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing…

  136. AJP Crown says:

    That getup is sheep’s clothing? Who would you rather be stuck on a desert island with, Donald or Hillary? I think Hillary, but I’m not certain. Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn: Jeremy, without a doubt.

  137. David Eddyshaw says:

    There is more meat on Donald.

  138. AJP Crown says:

    He’s the only one of the four I could eat.

  139. David Eddyshaw says:

    It’s all in the preparation.

  140. AJP Crown says:

    With relish.

  141. John Cowan says:

    For I am a cook, and a captain bold
    And the mate of the Nancy brig,
    And the bo’sun tight, and the midshipmite,
    And the crew of the captain’s gig.
    —W. S. Gilbert, “The Yarn of the Nancy Bell

    I learned this poem by oral tradition, literally at my father’s knee, and when I recite it myself I preserve many of the changes introduced by the folk process. But only today have I discovered that what I understood as whittled (which makes good sense in context) was in fact wittled ‘victualled’, though I had long since recognized an earlier occurrence of wittles ‘victuals’ (which in performance I pronounce with /v/).

    All this is yet more evidence for the 19C Cockney near-merger of /w/ and /v/ as [ʋ], since undone but preserved (per Trudgill) in several varieties of small-island English. Also, presumably Gilbert had no merger of /w/ and /hw/, whereas I do.

  142. There’s also “wessel” for vessel.

  143. Rodger C says:

    It is remarkable that the most powerful and secure Christian community in the entire world has been suckered into imagining that’s it’s persecuted.

    For “persecuted” read “no longer the only show in town.”

  144. You seem to have missed the phrase “suckered into imagining.”

  145. AJP Crown says:

    I always misheard it as The Bad Ballads when I was a child. It’s one of those names where it’s a bit of a shock when you suddenly find you’ve been saying it wrong your whole life.

  146. SFReader says:

    imagining that’s it’s persecuted.

    In my understanding, “defending the faith” in Christian discourse means debate about religion, not actual persecution.

    1 Peter 3:15

  147. David L says:

    Fidei defensor was what Pope Leo X called Henry VIII, somewhat prematurely as things turned out. It was abbreviated to Fid. Def. (along with Ind. Imp. and other stuff) on British currency until quite recently (maybe it’s still there, I’m not sure).

    I always took it literally, that British sovereigns would take up arms against infidels, not that they would engage in reasoned debates on fine points of theology. I don’t think present-day monarchs have much appetite for either.

  148. I always took it literally, that British sovereigns would take up arms against infidels

    Nope, it was given to Henry in 1521 for writing his Assertio septem sacramentorum against Luther. Pure polemics, no weaponry involved.

  149. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    Fidei defensor was what Pope Leo X called Henry VIII, somewhat prematurely as things turned out. It was abbreviated to Fid. Def. (along with Ind. Imp. and other stuff) on British currency until quite recently (maybe it’s still there, I’m not sure).

    The most recent £1 coin I can lay my hands on is from 1986. It has F.D.

  150. John Cowan says:

    There’s also “wessel” for vessel.

    Yes, and I keep that one in performance. Usually I perform to just a few people or even just one, but on one occasion there was an audience of maybe 150. They also got “Casey At The Bat”, where the changes due to the folk process are even more numerous and intense. The urtext begins:

    The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day;
    the score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play.
    And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
    a sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

    whereas I recite:

    It looked extremely rocky for the Mudville nine that day;
    The score was two to four, with but one inning left to play.
    And when Cooney died at second, and Burrows did the same,
    A pallor wreathed the features of the patrons of the game.

    I have no idea how many of these changes are authorial, if any, though it is known that authorial variants do exist.

    On the other hand, I sing “Scarborough Fair” as pure Simon and Garfunkel, though it too is a folk ballad.

  151. David L says:

    Pure polemics, no weaponry involved.

    But my boyish imagination was much more thrilled by the idea of kings slaying heathens by the sword than writing dreary defenses of Catholic orthodoxy.

    I wonder, did Henry really write it or did he command some poor scholar to do it for him?

  152. SFReader says:

    It is rumored that king Henry was assisted by the future patron saint of Statesmen and Politicians

  153. @David L: I doubt he literally composed and edited it himself, but the scope and ideas were probably significantly Henry’s (if not necessarily original to him). He had a lifelong interest in religious debate. It is particularly well documented how he argued, sometimes in friendly fashion, sometimes not so much, with his last wife Catherine Parr, who was a genuine religious scholar and was fairly influential in setting the early doctrines of the Church of England.

  154. David Marjanović says:

    the 19C Cockney near-merger of /w/ and /v/ as [ʋ], since undone

    A complete merger, said Trudgill, undone only by social pressure after exposure to the unmerged standard, in a way that passed through a stage where [w] and [v] were allophones. Also interestingly, Trudgill never mentioned [ʋ] even as a theoretical possibility, only the bilabial unrounded approximant [β̞], which is apparently preserved on a few islands.

  155. David Marjanović says:

    I have a remarkably badly preserved TWO PENCE coin from 2011, which has ELIZABETH·II·D·G·REG·F·D on it, unchanged from the 2 NEW PENCE coin from 1971.

    The F·D title was promptly revoked by the pope when Henry VIII didn’t like the pope anymore, but soon reinstated by Parliament.

  156. Heny VIII used his position as “defender of the faith” as one of his kettle logic arguments that his takeover of the church in England was justified.

  157. Big Dick McGee says:

    Whatever happened to the word “shitty”? It seems like it’s going extinct now.

  158. Trond Engen says:

    The Norwegian parliamentary election system is 100% built on party lists. There’s no way for voters to influence the selection of candidates made by the parties. On election day, we pick a single party list. When votes are counted, members are assigned to the parties according to a slightly modified version of the Webster/Sainte-Laguë method. This gives a result where every member represents close to an equal number of representatives, but the smaller parties will have relatively larger unrepresented tail ends. To compensate for this, the last member from each constituency is selected based on the national count, between parties having received 4% or more of the votes nationally.

    To me, this system has the virtue that all regions are represented by its full political specter, and most voters have a member in parliament who represents both the local district and the voter’s own political views.

    The number of seats from each constituency is assigned according to population size. For the last two decades or so the population number is adjusted with the equivalent of 1,8 people per square kilometer. This is reassessed every other electoral cycle, i.e. every 8 years.

    Traditionally each fylke is a constituency, but there’s an ongoing reform of local administration, and it seems that the constituent parts of the new merged regions will continue as separate constituencies, at least for the next parliamentary election.

    In local elections, we select both names and parties. We do this by picking a party list and adding and removing names. The number of representatives from each party is decided from the count of party votes, and the actual representatives from each party is decided from the count of personal votes. Since you may replace all names on a party list with candidates from other parties, and it will still count as a vote for the party, you may use it to decide who represents the parties you didn’t vote for.

  159. Trond Engen says:

    The number of seats from each constituency is assigned according to population size. […] This is reassessed every other electoral cycle, i.e. every 8 years.

    Ideally, this should be decided by turnout on election day, i.e. seats in parliament should be assigned to constituencies according to the number of votes. This would add a cross-party incentive for local voter mobilization and participatory democracy and, conversely, reduce the incentives for voter suppression. Not that voter suppression is a problem in Norway (or Europe in general, I think).

  160. Trond Engen says:

    I dream of a reform of the EU decision system into a three-chamber model. The parliament is the lowest chamber, being permanently assembled and having powers of budget and European law. The uppermost chamber is the EU council, made up of the prime ministers or presidents of each member state, making decisions that according to treaty have to be unequivocal or nearly so. Exclusion of member states. Declarations of war.

    And then there’s the intermediate chamber, representing the national parliaments. The EU lacks an easy way to amend treaties and respond to changing needs. Everything of any importance turns into a media show where national politicians have an incentive to use European issues to grandstand on some minor detail of overblown importance in national discourse.* There’s no easy solution, but I think one major issue is the disjoint between the European and the national level of politics. I would suggest a chamber consisting of members selected proportionally from the party groups in the national parliaments and empowered to make decisions on their behalf. The number from each member state could e.g. be equal to the number of representatives in the European parliament. Normally they’d meet once or twice a year to make a formal acceptance on behalf of the member states that the decisions made by the EU parliament are within its powers according to treaty, and to accept or reject decisions that go beyond, amounting to changing the treaty itself. Decisions in this chamber could be made according to rules for qualified majority which might be different on different issues. Ratifying amendments to treaties might e.g. take a majority in a sufficient number of national delegations as well as a qualified majority overall.

    *) Angela Merkel’s Germany prevented an adequate response to the 2008 crisis for the sake of German banks and due to internal German political considerations over popular prejudice about lazy Greeks. More than 10 years on, the EU is hardly recovering, and Germany, having suppressed internal demand for two decades, is sliding into recession without powerful growth in southern Europe to pull it out again. Shifting British governments were strongly opposed to the EU’s social dimension and any measures against social dumping, seeing it as a threat to the post-Thatcher British labour market but posing as fightng against overreaching bureaucracy. It’s not hard to see the consequences in the Brexit referendum.

  161. A word of warning: I’m off on an expedition to Amherst (bookstore, lunch, movie) and won’t be back till after 3, so for the next 5 1/2 hours no one will be minding the moderation queue. Don’t pile up your links!

  162. John Cowan says:

    Whatever happened to the word “shitty”?

    Still going strong in American English.

    all regions are represented by its full political specter

    The specter that haunts them, no doubt.

    (I’ve noticed this error before, or I wouldn’t mention it. In English, the French borrowing specter/spectre means only ‘ghost’ and by extension ‘something to be feared’. The scientific and mathematical senses and their metaphorical extensions to other kinds of ranges are represented by Latin spectrum. The two words split some time in the 18C, although Thomas Henry Huxley uses auditory spectrum to mean not ‘range of audible notes’ but ‘musical hallucination’.)

  163. Trond Engen says:

    I have made that error before. I even thought about it before posting and decided I had it right this time. But I didn’t think hard enough to check a dictionary.

  164. Trond Engen says:

    (Alas, for some nefarious reason, nobody has asked this politically passive citizen of a non-EU country how to reform the EU.)

  165. David Marjanović says:

    Merkel thought Greece should just go bankrupt. It had to be explained to her that that would destroy a lot of jobs in Germany.

    BTW, Germany is having a budget surplus yet again. I’d say it’s time for some ambitious investment, like thermal insulation for all buildings, but nooo…

  166. AJP Crown says:

    Germany has excellent regulation of thermal insulation. If I were Angie Merkel, and it’s a big if, I’d start one of those funds like the Norwegians have.

  167. Bathrobe says:

    I’d start one of those funds like the Norwegians have.

    Nah, would just breed complacency. What will happen if everyone feels too secure? And capitalism wouldn’t be capitalism without recurring cataclysmic crises…

  168. Budget surplus and tittering on the brink of recession, plus the country that cannot set it’s own monetary policy. Time to cry havoc and unleash the tax cuts?

  169. Stu Clayton says:

    Tittering on the brink of recession is a fabulously upbeat attitude. Nero has never been treated fairly.

  170. Of course, I meant teetering, but I proudly own this mistake.

  171. Stu Clayton says:

    I didn’t really notice it on first reading, due to mental auto-correct. “Tottering” would do just as well as “teetering”, depending on one’s age.

  172. According to the OED, the words teeter and totter are a doublet. Cognates appear to exist in essentially all Germanic languages, but the specific paths by which the two English words arrived at their modern forms are unclear. There is also another synonym, titter, unrelated to the imitative “laugh” sense, which still exists but seems to be regional (and which is poorly documented, historically).

  173. Bathrobe says:

    Teetotalling on the brink of recession would be a much harder attitude to understand.

  174. AJP Crown says:

    “Titter ye not!” – Frankie Howerd, Up Pompeii. But I can’t find a clip.

  175. Stu Clayton says:

    Does anyone remember teeter-totters ? Are they still called by that name ?

  176. AJP Crown says:

    Only in America, as far as I know. But Tittermatorter is supposed to be the old Norfolk word for a seesaw from something (don’t know what) Scandinavian.

  177. Stu Clayton says:

    I couldn’t remember the word “seesaw”. “Teeter-totter” is todally antiquated, why did it occur to me ? The German is merely die Wippe.

  178. AJP Crown says:

    Perhaps because Brett had written ‘the words teeter and totter are a doublet’. In den Vereinigten Staaten sind aus Sicherheitsgründen an die Stelle der Wippen heute meist Schaukelreittiere getreten. I don’t know what the Sicherheitsgründen are and anyway it’s not Sicherheitsgründen it’s fear of being sued.

  179. Stu Clayton says:

    Suesaws.

  180. January First-of-May says:

    Russian, weirdly, seems to treat seesaws as a kind of swing.

  181. Trond Engen says:

    Norwegian too. Vippehuske or dumpehuske (in dialects using huske for “swing”).

  182. old Norfolk word …

    Gansey – heavy jumper made of oiled wool

    Norfolk? I could have sworn that’s Irish. At least I’ve heard it used by a very senior/now departed Irish woman who (AFAIK) never visited Norfolk.

    Ah, it’s for ‘Guernsey’s, meaning “sweaters worn by fishermen around the coasts of the UK”. Also “Traditional Dutch” — which would suggest they borrowed the word if not the thing. Thank you Google.

  183. Trond Engen says:

    Norw. genser.

  184. AJP Crown says:

    Guernsey jersey

    As Trond says but also ‘ganser’ which I was always told as a child was a pronunciation of ‘Guernsey’ for a dark blue fisherman’s sweater. What the dark blue fisherman was… etc.

  185. AJP Crown says:
  186. David Marjanović says:

    Russian, weirdly, seems to treat seesaws as a kind of swing.

    That occurs in German, too – I don’t really have Wippe in my active vocabulary, and use Schaukel at least as the cover term. Schaukeln refers to any kind of swinging back-and-forth motion: Schaukelstuhl “rocking chair”.

    …So I looked up where Wippe, with its suspicious pp, comes from (Wiktionary > DWDS). Both of my suspicions are borne out! It’s a 17th-century loan from Low German, and it’s a root cognate of vibration!

  187. John Cowan says:

    Interesting!

    There are no less than four rivers named Wipper, presumably for their alluvial courses: one in Saxony-Anhalt, one in Thuringia, one in the former Further Pomerania (Wieprza in Polish), and the upper course of the Wupper (a doublet?) in North Rhine–Westphalia. I am not sure which of these King George V of the UK had in mind when he considered changing his overtly (and overly) German house name of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Wipper during World War I (when Gotha-made airplanes were bombing London), but probably either the first or the second. Being convinced that Wipper would be an unfortunate choice in English, the King then went for Wettin, of which Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was a cadet branch. This too proving risible, he settled on Windsor, allegedly causing the Kaiser to say that he looked forward to future performances of The Merry Wives of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.

    There is also the Kipper und Wipper crisis of 1621-23 at the start of the Thirty Years’ War, in which the various Imperial states not only debased their own currency, but issued debased forgeries of the currency of their neighbors, an early example of economic warfare.

  188. January First-of-May says:

    one in the former Further Pomerania (Wieprza in Polish)

    Surely this one is about boars? Though of course that might be a folk etymology.

    I am not sure which of these King George V of the UK had in mind when he considered changing his overtly (and overly) German house name of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Wipper during World War I

    …This and the follow-up sounded so much like one of those made-up historical-esque factoids that I had to look it up. Apparently it really did happen (and even the Kaiser’s alleged comment was really reported).

    The two rivers named Wipper in Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia are fairly close both to each other and to the ancestral lands of Wettin. It appears that the one in Saxony-Anhalt was closer to said ancestral lands, but it’s hard to say which one was intended, if either.
    One source for the house name question mentions a “district of Wipper”, which doesn’t appear to exist at all (there are only two Google results for that string, one of which is said source and the other apparently a scanning error).

  189. AJP Crown says:

    There’s also Wuppertal, named after the River Wupper, which features in that well worth watching Wim Wenders film about Pina Bausch and the Tanztheater Wuppertal. I’d always thought it sounded like Schleswig Holstein, probably all marshy and ducks and geese, but it’s nowhere near, more like the Ruhrgebiet.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pina_(film)

  190. John Cowan says:

    Surely this one is about boars?

    With these Germanic/Slavic name pairs that seem meaningful on both sides, I wouldn’t bet either way.

    There’s also

    Wipper, Wupper, Wim, and Wenders, attorneys-at-law.

  191. January First-of-May says:

    With these Germanic/Slavic name pairs that seem meaningful on both sides, I wouldn’t bet either way.

    Presumably one of the names is the original and another is the folk etymology, but it’s essentially unknowable which is which except by plausibility (which in this case would probably point against the “boar” option).

    I’m reminded of the case of Eboracum “yew place”, aka Eoforwic “boar town”, aka Jorvik “horse bay”, aka modern York (of uncertain origin, but probably related to some or all of the above).

  192. Funny thing – just yesterday I happened to be reading about the Mexican city of Cuernavaca (“cow horn”), corrupted from the Náhuatl Cuauhnāhuac (“near the woods”).

  193. John Cowan says:

    As m-l said in 2013, nobody would settle in a place infested by wild boars. York is regularly from Jórvík, I believe.

  194. January First-of-May says:

    Presumably one of the names is the original and another is the folk etymology, but it’s essentially unknowable which is which except by plausibility

    …and, now that I think of it, in principle there’s also the option that both are folk etymologies and the original was Baltic or Celtic or Finnic or Neanderthal or whatever.

  195. David Marjanović says:

    Eboracum “yew place”

    Or “rowan place” among other options, as you taught us four years later in the same thread.

  196. David Marjanović says:

    or Neanderthal

    Indeed not – the place was under a mile of ice even later. 🙂 I’ll also rule out Finnic in this far southwestern place, but the other two probably aren’t completely out of the question.

  197. I eagerly await the investigation into Neanderthal loanwords in Proto-Human.

  198. John Cowan says:

    Or “rowan place” among other options

    True, but for present purposes a tree is a tree is a tree is not a boar.

  199. Lars (the original one) says:

    Swings are gynger in Danish, and see-saws are vipper, but rocking chairs are gyngestole. Make of that what you will.

    Cradles are vugger, for a third axis of rotation. (Well, actually the three things above all rotate around a lateral axis, though located differently relative to the user’s body, so maybe it’s only the second).

  200. AJP Crown says:

    How old is your jar of crystalized ginger compared to the age of this Scandinavian children’s playground?

    Denne ingefær er ungefahr yngre enn gyngene.

    This ginger is (roughly) younger than the swings.

  201. Geansaí is the Irish for Guernsey and geansaí is the Irish for jumper/pullover/gansey/jersey. Which doesn’t prove that gansey came to English from Irish.

    In the West Indies a gansey can be a T-shirt, and the singlet worn by Australian Rules footballers is a guernsey; both are quite a way from the fisherman’s oiled woollen garment.

  202. Rodger C says:

    York is regularly from Jórvík, I believe.

    Cf. Shakespeare’s intermediate “Yorick,” which I suspect he read somewhere was the “Danish” ancestor of “York.”

  203. J.W. Brewer says:

    Okay, so if an Australian-rules player wears a guernsey on the part of his body where an American-football player wears a jersey, what does a Gaelic-football player wear there?

  204. John Cowan says:

    Yes, I thought of that too. Makes sense. Alas, in Dansk, Norsk, Nynorsk, and Svensk [sic], York is boringly just York, nothing like its lovely names in the Celtic languages: Cymraeg Efrog, Gaeilge Eabhraig, Gàidhlig Eabhrig, Kernowek Evrek (that’s boring KK, not proper Cornish spelling at all according to my prejudices), and at one remove Nouormand Évèroui — but back to York in Brezhoneg, wassamattawitchem.

    GAA players wear jerseys, definitely.

  205. GAA players wear jerseys, definitely.

    Yes, but they got the metric system there, they don’t call them jerseys, they call them Royale with Cheese.

  206. AJP Crown says:

    I don’t know, I didn’t go in to Burger King.

    …If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere
    It’s up to you, New Efrog-frog.

  207. J.W. Brewer says:

    But does the Gaelic-football player call his jersey a geansaí when not speaking English, or is geansaí in Irish limited in semantic scope to something that more closely resembles a normal sweater?

  208. John Cowan says:

    It turns out that not only is there a New York in Lincolnshire (just over ten miles from Boston), which I knew, but there is a York in New York State, in Livingston County in the center of the western part of the state. Joseph Marron, one of the inventors of lidar (laser-based radar) had some connection with York, N.Y., but I don’t know just what.

    One of Thomas Jefferson’s drafts for the Constitution for Virginia refers to “George Guelf king of Great Britain and Ireland and Elector of Hanover”, and contains a preliminary version of the list of George’s crimes that wound up in the Declaration of Independence. The republican William Cobbett, aka “Peter Porcupine”, spelled it “Guelph”, and one William Hudson, evidently also a republican, was tried for “seditious and inflammatory words”, to wit:

    The king, what is he? — George Guelph, a German hog-butcher, a dealer in human flesh by the carcass, he sells his Hanoverian subjects to his British subjects for thirty pounds a piece, and not content with that, he goes partner with the prince of Hesse-Cassel, and has fifteen pounds a head for each of his carcasses.

    The jury found him guilty for this as well as his toasts “Equality!” and “The government of France!”, and the judge gave him two years in Newgate and a fine of £200 (about £23,040 today) or imprisonment until he paid (which I doubt he ever could have). If he ever did get out, I certainly hope he went to America afterwards.

  209. J.W. Brewer says:

    The seditious fellow Cobbett (and perhaps the prosecutors) referred to as Dr. William Hudson tended to spell his own surname Hodgson. I can’t quickly find an online copy of his prison memoir “The Case of William Hodgson, Now Confined in Newgate, for the Payment of Two Hundred Pounds, After having Suffered Two Years’ Imprisonment on a Charge of Sedition, Considered and Compared with the Existing Laws of the Country,” but it appears to have been recently reprinted in a non-public-domain volume called Newgate Narratives. One way or another he eventually got out, resumed his life in factious and fractious radical circles, and lived to a ripe old age. The google books corpus does have an 1820 reprint of the philosophical treatise he wrote while incarcerated, titled The Commonwealth of Reason. One suspects that had he actually been across the Channel within the jurisdiction of the same French government he was toasting from London he would have rapidly offended the wrong person and been sent to the guillotine by his erstwhile allies.

  210. The Gaelic Athletic Association uses jersey in English and geansaí in Irish As “jersey” is giving way to “shirt” in English soccer parlance,* I’m sure “shirt” has some inroads among less racy-of-the-soil gaelic footballers, but it’s not the default.

    * the anachronistic “boot” is retained over the more accurate “shoe” for the bared-ankle modern footwear.

  211. York is regularly from Jórvík, I believe.

    Cf. Shakespeare’s intermediate “Yorick,” …

    (This might be folk etymology but …)

    The story they tell tourists in the original York, Yorkshire, England is that the ‘Jór’ is the ‘bor’ of Latin Eboracum. Then the Celtic names that @JC lists are transparently from the Latin.

    The ‘vík’ is merely Viking/Old English town/settlement, as in many -wick or -wich placenames. Perhaps a re-interpretation of the -ac- in Eboracum.

    Then I’m not seeing ‘Yorick’ would be any sort of intermediate. -ac to -ick? (And wikipedia treats the idea as fanciful. Compare Erick, Roderick, Rorik.)

  212. David Marjanović says:

    Cradles are vugger

    Wugs! Wugs at last! ^_^

    The story they tell tourists in the original York, Yorkshire, England is that the ‘Jór’ is the ‘bor’ of Latin Eboracum.

    No, it’s the whole Ebor-, via Old English Eofor-, where f is [v] (intervocalic allophone). And interestingly enough, the Norman version is evidently directly from the Old English, too.

    Then I’m not seeing ‘Yorick’ would be any sort of intermediate.

    Between Jórvík and York.

  213. John Cowan says:

    The ‘vík’ is merely Viking/Old English town/settlement

    Although the ON and OE forms are cognate (a borrowing into Proto-Germanic from Latin vicus ‘street, (urban) quarter, village’), they are definitively separated semantically, because in ON the word means ‘bay, inlet’, and likewise in the modern North Germanic languages. So the semantics shifted from ‘Boartown’ (a folk etymology) to ‘Horse Bay’ (a second folk etymology).

    Hence the opening of Finnegans Wake: “Riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and environs.” The final NP acronyms to HCE = Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker, the hero, and recirculatio was a Roman ritual of driving a plow around the site of a new city in order to sanctify it that later took on Christian connotations. Vicus is also Vico, whose theories of historical recapitulation inform the book’s structure.

  214. Trond Engen says:

    I don’t think OE wic “village” and ON vík “bay” are strictly cognates, since the Scandinavian word has a perfectly good etymology from víka “recede, retreat, yield”. But as homonyms in WGmc they were early confused, which might explain why the borrowing is feminine while Latin vicus is masculine. Or we could follow through on that logic and argue that they are cognates after all, descended from the same inherited Germanic word for “bay”, but semantically contaminated in WGmc. with a Latin word for “village”.

  215. John Cowan says:

    I don’t think OE wic “village” and ON vík “bay” are strictly cognates, since the Scandinavian word has a perfectly good etymology from víka “recede, retreat, yield”.

    Ah, I didn’t know about that. Thanks. It also explains the vowel length difference, though per contra there is Gothic weihs ‘village’ with its long vowel /i:/ (Gothic takes several spelling conventions from Greek.)

    the borrowing is feminine while Latin vicus is masculine.

    I don’t think that actually needs a special explanation. Borrowed nouns often take their gender from formal considerations in the borrowing language, if natural gender does not apply. Consider Classical Greek amphoreus m. (< amphiphoreus ‘two-(handled) bearer’) > Latin amphora f. ‘amphora’ > Proto-Germanic *ambrijaz m. ‘bucket’. This last appears as amber in most of the descendants, though it was lost after Middle English, and the modern German form is Eimer with total loss of the bilabial stop (MHG amper as expected). It’s possible that the Germanic form is cognate with Greek and not a borrowing, though that still doesn’t explain the gender shift from Greek to Latin, where borrowing is beyond question.

    In North American Icelandic when that was a going concern, the borrowed word konstabel was neuter, despite the masculine natural gender (in those days) and the masculine gender of lögreglumaður, presumably because of its un-Icelandic shape. This was pointed out by none other than Vilhjálmur Stefánsson, the explorer and ethnologist. He was born in Gimli, Manitoba, moved to North Dakota as a child, and wrote a short paper on the inflection of borrowed nouns, presumably based on his own variety of Icelandic.

  216. January First-of-May says:

    In North American Icelandic when that was a going concern

    …It took me a while to realize that this is not referring to Vinlandic.
    (I doubt that anything is known about Vinlandic at all, and for that matter I somewhat doubt whether it even existed as a separate dialect at any point. The Vikings of Greenland probably did have their own dialect, but I’m not sure if anything is known about it either.)

    That said, a variety of Icelandic with a significant layer of borrowings is fascinating in its own right – I had no idea it was a thing!

  217. David Marjanović says:

    Eimer has been remodeled as ein “1” + a lost cognate of English bar, “one handle”.

    And it’s not in my active vocabulary, I only have Kübel, which I hope is not from Latin cubile “bed”… no, Wiktionary says it’s from Latin cupa “barrel” via an early Romance diminutive, but it proves another point in being masculine just like Eimer.

    It’s been passed on to Polish as a dysphemism for “toilet”. Also masculine, but that’s simply because it ends in a consonant.

    Proto-Germanic *ambrijaz m. ‘bucket’

    Given the *b, shouldn’t we assume a much later Wanderwort with an origin after some Romance lenition? Late enough to escape umlaut, too?

  218. John Cowan says:

    Quite possibly, although the OED s.v. amber thinks it’s already ‘one(-handled) bear(er)’ in Proto-Germanic and at most influenced by amphora. From two handles to one. The OED also says that amber doesn’t appear after 1100 in actual English text, only in the form ambra in Anglo-Latin (proper Latin situla). Bucket is also curious: once you discard the French diminutive, there are two paths: inherited buck and Frankish buk ‘belly’ > VL bu:cus > French buc > English. No sorting out that!

  219. David Marjanović says:

    the OED s.v. amber thinks it’s already ‘one(-handled) bear(er)’ in Proto-Germanic

    That would be quite irregular, because one had *ai, not *a.

  220. Jonathan D says:

    I’d say the expansion of Australian Rules north of the Barassi Line is not entirely successful in taking the word ‘guernsey’ with it. In any case, the old (even then) jumpers/jerseys I wore as junior last century seemed a bit closer to a fisherman’s oiled woolen garment than the modern equivalent does.

  221. Rodger C says:

    The Vikings of Greenland probably did have their own dialect, but I’m not sure if anything is known about it either.

    Well, there’s the Qingigtorssuaq (spellings differ) inscription, in which one Bjarni Þorðarson calls himself something like “Bjanne Tordarson.”

  222. AJP Crown says:

    In 1916 A. P. Herbert, then a Sub-Lieutenant, wrote a poem about Major General Cameron Shute, commander of the Royal Naval Division (sailors fighting in the trenches as soldiers). Shute, a deeply unpopular soldier, hated its unconventional nautical traditions and tried to stamp them out. He’d been particularly critical of their latrines.

    THAT SHIT SHUTE
    The General inspecting the trenches
    Exclaimed with a horrified shout
    ‘I refuse to command a division
    Which leaves its excreta about.’
    But nobody took any notice
    No one was prepared to refute,
    That the presence of shit was congenial
    Compared to the presence of Shute.
    And certain responsible critics
    Made haste to reply to his words
    Observing that his staff advisors
    Consisted entirely of turds.
    For shit may be shot at odd corners
    And paper supplied there to suit,
    But a shit would be shot without mourners
    If somebody shot that shit Shute.

    – A P Herbert

    I hadn’t realised that calling someone a shit was as old as this.

  223. I hope Herbert got a decoration for that magnificent contribution to the war effort.

  224. AJP Crown says:

    Good, isn’t it. Apparently in WW1 poetry it was unusual to attack someone by name. I’m not sure when this was published. I can see Herbert getting into a shitload of trouble if it was known during the war.

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