I’ve run across another example of the “echelon” problem, and this time I’m going to wag my finger at Michael Gorham a bit more vigorously (see this post). He uses “revolutionary pathos” to translate “революционный пафос,” but “pathos” cannot be used that way in English. The Russian пафос [pafos], like эшелон [eshelon] ‘special train,’ is a classic faux ami: while it can mean ‘pathos,’ it is much more commonly used in a wide range of senses that can, according to context, be translated “spirit” (пафос романа ‘the spirit of the novel’), “bombast,” or, as here, “zeal” or “enthusiasm.” Translators beware! Keep your sense of English free of the contamination of translationese!


  1. He uses “revolutionary pathos” to translate “революционный пафос,” but “pathos” cannot be used that way in English.

    In what way can it not be used in English ? As the OED says:

    That quality in speech, writing, music, or artistic representation (or transf. in events, circumstances, persons, etc.) which excites a feeling of pity or sadness; power of stirring tender or melancholy emotion; pathetic or affecting character or influence.

    You say that пафос in революционный пафос means “zeal” or “enthusiasm”. That’s just how I understand “pathos” in “revolutionary pathos”.

    This may be a case of the reverse echelon problem – not acknowledging a vrai ami.

  2. You say that пафос in революционный пафос means “zeal” or “enthusiasm”. That’s just how I understand “pathos” in “revolutionary pathos”.

    I’m completely at a loss, since nothing in the OED definition you quote (which accurately reflects English usage, needless to say) has anything to do with “zeal” or “enthusiasm.”

  3. Aha, I think I’ve solved the mystery; I looked up German Pathos and discovered it’s used much the same way the Russian word is (which implies the Russians got their usage from German, as so often). So your sense of English has been corrupted by your German.

  4. I wondered about that – being aware of “falsches Pathos” etc. Before sticking out my neck I checked actual deployments of “pathos” in English on the internet. I think I take “pathos” in general as meaning “pathetic or affecting character or influence”, dramatic and (often) melodramatic.

    “Revolutionary pathos” in English means to me “the exaggerated zeal and enthusiasm of a ideological revolutionary”.

  5. What about “false pathos” ? Doesn’t that mean to you “phoney dramatics” ?

    Duden says about Pathos “bildungsspr., oft abwertend”, which is true. Is the English “pathos” more neutral ? Maybe I have been contaminated after all by learnèd deprecation (as if I needed any more …)

  6. English pathos is specific to sorrow, pity, and melancholy, as the OED says. Already in Greek, the word often means ‘suffering’ specifically, rather than its general etymological meaning of ‘what befalls’.

  7. It can certainly in no circumstances be used for “zeal” or “enthusiasm,” except by careless translators.

  8. Jeffry House says

    Doing so would be pathological.

  9. I don’t speak any Russian, so I have no idea what the “special train” issue refers to. All I can say is that when I hear “special train” in a Russian context, I immediately think of the armored trains used by the communist leaders during the civil war in the 1920s.

  10. Yeah, those were eshelons, and later the word was particularly associated with the trains that took prisoners off to the Gulag.

  11. Dan Milton says

    An essay by John Roberts “Revolutionary Pathos, Negation, and the Suspensive Avant-Garde” ( may make everything clear to you smarter people, although to a simple mind like mine it’s utter gibberish

  12. Yeah, those were eshelons, and later the word was particularly associated with the trains that took prisoners off to the Gulag

    strictly speaking it is informal usage. Formally eshelon ~~ train is strictly reserved for military transports, and quite closely related to the English military use. But the folk usage applied the fancy word “eshelon” to all government trains, including the prisoner transport trains for which the formal word was another French borrowing, “etap” <= étape, equivalent to American “stage” as “a mode of long-distance transportation”.

    A Gulag prisoner train ballad superimposes both words:
    Спецэтапом идет эшелон
    С пересылки в таежные дали

    ~~ “Eshelon” goes as a special “etap” from the transport jail to the faraway taiga

  13. David Marjanović says

    I don’t directly associate Pathos with zeal or enthusiasm in German either, but rather with kitschy expressions of exaggerated feelings.

  14. I thought Pathos was the fourth Musketeer – the good-looking but unfunny one …

  15. A Gulag prisoner train ballad

    Available on YouTube here (with appropriate images, starting with a benevolent Stalin).

  16. marie-lucie says

    échelon, étape

    The word un échelon is a diminutive of une échelle ‘ladder’ and means literally ‘step (of a ladder)’, hence it can be used figuratively for ‘steps’ in a hierarchy or ‘career ladder’. Administrations of any kind organized hierarchically may have a number of steps on the way to promotion, or for ‘merit’ or ‘seniority’ increases in salary.

    Une étape (a word of Germanic origin related to English ‘step’ and probably ‘stop’) is a stopping point in the course of a trip, not ‘a mode of transportation’. When most transportation was on foot or on horseback, most countries had some form of official posts where travellers could find food and lodging for themselves and their horses, and horse-mounted rapid couriers could exchange tired horses for fresh ones until the next étape. In well-organized countries, those posts were échelonnés along the route, at regular intervals.

    It is still possible for ordinary people (just like armies, for instance) to say faire étape to mean ‘to stop (for the night, a meal, etc)’ in the course of a trip, whether at a restaurant, campground, or other suitable place.

    Possibly some of you will know how the Russians went from “step” and “stopping point” to railway trains.

  17. Elessorn says

    I guess the phrase itself doesn’t strike me as strange. And while “pathos” to me, at least, connotes something like “overflow of powerful emotion,” the revolutionary context could easily imply that the particular emotion welling up was zeal rather than, say, remorse, sadness, etc.

    But probably that just means that the particular emotion invoked is somewhat besides the point, the import of “pathos” being that whatever is flooding the system, it’s ultimately futile and ineffective, tragically or ridiculously so. (e.g. “Full of revolutionary pathos, but without the slightest plan”)

  18. how the Russians went from “step” and “stopping point” to railway trains

    that’s why I mentioned American stage / stagecoach as a close analogy: from a word designating a stop or an interruption to the one meaning a way of travel long-distance (from one stop to another, at first).

    Intitally, Russian “по этапу” ~~ “by etape” meant sending prisoners on foot, shackled, from one prison fort to another, a day at a time, till they reach Siberian mines. As in Esenin’s fav verse:

    Там в полях, за синей далью лога
    В зелени озер
    Пролегла песчаная дорога
    До сибирских гор.

    Затерялась Русь в мордве и чуди
    Нипочем ей страх.
    И идут по той дороге люди,
    Люди в кандалах.

    Then any transport from a jail to jail became “etap”, even though it was typically done by rail-car. In winter 1909 my grand uncle Iosif Gonikberg, exiled to Tobolsk in Western Siberia, was being re-sentenced to serve an additional exile term in Yakutsk. A local Duma Representative, Mr. Skalozubov, petitioned the Interior Ministry to take into account the prisoner’s poor health, and to replace Yakutsk exile with banishment to in-laws in Brooklyn. The security officials didn’t formally object but curtly replied that this is impossible since the prisoner has been already “etaped” far out of Tobolsk. However, this transportation was indeed occurring in stages – first by railroad to Irkutsk, then by sleigh to Upper Lena River, thence by boat after the spring thaw – so MP Skalozubov managed to intercept the prisoner halfway.

  19. SFReader says

    – Possibly some of you will know how the Russians went from “step” and “stopping point” to railway trains.


    1. (mil. from French) – stopping point on the route of the army, where the troops are provided with an accommodation, food and fodder.

    2. In pre-revolutionary Russia: a special room or building where prisoners or persons under police escort stop overnight on the route to the place of imprisonment or exile.

    3. The length of the path between such buildings or the entire route for such persons sent under police escort to the place of detention, exile.

    4. Group or party of arrested prisoners, being sent under police escort on such route.

    (c) Little Academic Dictionary of Russian Language, 1957

    Meaning of a train for transportation of prisoners is not mentioned here. Obviously it was just a prison jargon (since the prisoners on the train were referred as ‘étape’, it was logical of them to start thinking of the train as an ‘étape’ too)

    I wonder if the word was ever applied to prisoners in French or was it always a strictly military term?

  20. Are ‘stage’ and ‘stagecoach’ American? They were normal in English English by at least ~1800, which seems early to have come back again.

  21. I don’t directly associate Pathos with zeal or enthusiasm in German either, but rather with kitschy expressions of exaggerated feelings.
    I agree that nowadays the word has mostly negative associations (as you say, exaggerated feelings, kitsch), but you still find cases where it’s used with a positive meaning (e.g. here and here ), and if you go back in time you’ll find more of that.

  22. I so want πάθος to be related to L pati, but no matter how many times I look it up they never are.

    (Except insofar as passio was used to translated πάθος).

  23. Stage in the sense ‘unbroken part of a journey’ first appears around 1600, stagecoach around 1650, and stage as short for it around 1670. So no, not American particularly.

    (Coach is an international term ultimately from Hungarian Kocsi [szekér], with apparent reference to the village of Kocs (about 65 km from Budapest), where wooden carts with steel springs were developed in the 15C. The word landed in English around 1550.)

  24. And szekér ‘wagon, cart’ is apparently from a Middle Iranian *sakar.

  25. SFReader says

    Kocs sounds definitely Turkic.

    Most likely from well-known Turkic term ‘köč’ which means “to travel, move, migrate (especially nomadic migration)”. hence Russian “кочевник” (nomad)

    So it seems rather appropriate to start making wooden carts and coaches in the town of Kocs.

    Wouldn’t surprise me if it turns that the town inhabitants were actually nomads or descendants of nomads (skill of making yurts on wheels – which is what a coach is basically – has to come somewhere)

  26. marie-lucie says

    SFReader: (étape): I wonder if the word was ever applied to prisoners in French or was it always a strictly military term?

    It may have started as a military term, but became part of general vocabulary without changing its meaning of “stopping point” during a trip. It was never used to refer to a means of transportation or to people being transported.

    Coach: The English word is probably not a direct borrowing from the Hungarian word but from French le coche (a more direct borrowing, perhaps through German?), which also gave rise to the noun le cocher ‘coach driver, coachman’ and the adjective in the phrase la porte cochère, a large opening in a house wall, fitted with wooden doors, large enough to admit a coach from the street. (I think this was discussed here at some point).

    English coach still exists, with a meaning adapted to more modern means of transportation, but French le coche and le cocher are only found in historical contexts.

    There is still a proverbial phrase la mouche du coche, literally the coach’s fly, from a fable by La Fontaine called Le coche et la mouche: a coach driven by four horses is painfully making its way up a steep and badly rutted road, the passengers following on foot in order to lighten the load; meanwhile a fly is flitting about the heads of the horses, thinking it is encouraging them and practically driving the coach itself. This phrase is still used of the type of busybody who wants to help but only succeeds in being in everyone’s way.

  27. Indeed, the borrowing path is Hungarian > German > French > English, but the word is also found in Spanish and Portuguese coche, Italian cocchino, Dutch coets [kuts]. The human coach is one who ‘carries you’ through an examination, an athletic competition, etc.; it is a purely English semantic extension.

  28. @marie-lucie:

    English coach still exists, with a meaning adapted to more modern means of transportation

    * Road: British “coach” –> US “bus”
    * Train: British “coach” –> US “car”
    * Plane: US “coach” –> British “economy”

  29. In German, Kutsche still means “(horse) carriage”, but it is also used as a collquial jocular word for “car”.

  30. stagecoach is such a part of the local history lore in the Rockies, I hope you forgive for not checking how much older could it have been 🙂 And the coachman .. кочевник link is fascinating!

  31. Jeffry House says

    If a coach is a person who “carries you” through an athletic competition, is that also what a “trainer” does?
    In Spanish, it will be an entrenador rather than a coach-derivitave person who does this. It might have a root in French, ie “puller”. Of course English trains do a lot of pulling, too.

  32. Amtrak (the U.S. long-distance passenger rail service) still provides Coach, Business, and First class service (the last on high-speed trains only), and indeed U.S. airplanes borrowed these terms from the trains. I still remember as a child when the seats near the back of the plane were Economy class, which provided fewer services than Coach class.

  33. Jim (another one) says

    “Formally eshelon ~~ train is strictly reserved for military transports, and quite closely related to the English military use. ”

    Dmitri, that is not any English military use I know of, unless perhaps the British Army uses it, but that’s doubtful. The NATO use of the term refers to waves of attacking units, which was Soviet offensive doctrine. (By the way Soviet offensive doctrine was the best there was back then, since NATO pointedly did not have any offensive doctrine. In fact the US Army used a Soviet offensive tactic during the Gulf War, to very great effect.

  34. s that also what a “trainer” does?


    Memo to self: if sentenced to Siberian exile, ask for Tobolsk, never Yakutsk!

  35. When Russian writers Sinyavskiy and Daniel were sentenced to prison camps, Daniel misheard the place where they were sent to as Moldavia instead of Mordovia.

  36. marie-lucie says

    The “coach” as trainer: French un entraîneur (Sp entrenador). This is a masculine form, probably a direct translation of English “trainer”. As more women became seriously involved in sports there was a problem with how to refer to a female trainer, since une entraîneuse already referred to a woman whose job consists in inciting male customers to drink and to dance with her (perhaps leading to more private activities). So the unisex word “coach” is now popular. My sister told me of a conversation with a man from Marseille whose daughter is a very promising tennis player, so that he is spending a fair amount of money on what he called a “cotch” for her (a Southern French pronunciation).

  37. How do people here pronounce pathos (the English word)? I feel like I’ve only ever heard it with a long o, but this is never the first pronunciation in dictionaries.

  38. I say it the dictionary way, because that’s where I learned it: PAY-thoss.

  39. Now that I think about, I’m not even sure how I would pronounce the first syllable of pathos.

  40. I’ve only heard bathos pronounced once (on a Monty Python show, I think, and it was with /ei/, I think.) I do wonder if everyone uses the same vowels for pathos and bathos.

    I would pronounce both of them with an /æ/, but I’m one of those foreigners who’ve never fully made peace with English orthography.

  41. Me too, I remember hearing bathos with /æ/ (not from Monty Python) but I am not sure if I have heard pathos at all.

  42. In Greek -os words, I think there’s a general preference for /oʊs/ in AmEng and for /ɒs/ in BrEng.

  43. Lazar, I thought you were referring to the “a” not the “o”.

  44. Here’s the Python quote (beginning at 3:55): “He used sarcasm. He knew all the tricks—dramatic irony, metaphor, bathos, puns, parody, litotes, and… satire.” A masterful performance by Michael Palin, who says /beɪθɔs/.

  45. Eli Nelson says

    I used to use /oʊs/ in pathos, ethos, logos and Eros, but I switched to the pronunciations with /ɑs/ after I learned of them. (I use the usual English values for “long vowels” in the first syllables of all these words). I have an aesthetic preference for consistency in my pronunciations, and I like to use Anglicized pronunciations as much as possible. Since I’ve used /ɑs/ in chaos for quite a long time (ever since I learned as a child that it was not pronounced /tʃɑoʊs/) extending this pronunciation to these other words made the most sense to me.

  46. masterful performance: Nice contrast between the proper public school [lai’tʰoʊtʰɪ:s] and then [sa?aɪə]!

  47. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    Have I mentioned before that I was at school with Michael Palin? He’s almost exactly my age and I knew him very slightly — so slightly that I don’t suppose he has any memory of me. I don’t remember if I ever heard “litotes”, but if I did I probably heard it as [li’tʰoʊtʰɪ:z], I’m sure he didn’t say [sa?aɪə]! then.

  48. marie-lucie says


    I know the word litote (also used in French) but I am glad I never had to pronounce it in English! Not that it would be difficult, but I just never had the opportunity to hear it and would not have guessed it properly.

  49. [li’tʰoʊtʰɪ:z] — I listened to the clip again, and I think my version is what he really says. (I often hear [z] as [s] because the distinction doesn’t occur in Danish). So [lai’tʰoʊtʰɪ:s] isn’t proper? Palin is playing a minor hoodlum at the point, whence the [sa?aɪə], but I don’t suppose litotes is common enough in hoodlumese to have an established pronunciation.

    @m-l: It’s λιτότης in the nominative, thence the English form. Does French usually ignore singular -s in borrowed words?

  50. So [lai’tʰoʊtʰɪ:s] isn’t proper?

    The only acceptable pronunciation (according to the old-fashioned dictionaries from which I learned my pronunciations of such words) is [lai’tʰoʊtʰɪ:z] (long i, final z).

  51. final z: Can someone check what Palin does, I don’t trust my ear on this?

    And then there’s the conflation of respectable rhetorical devices under the ignoble name of sarcasm. The Pythons probably had a snigger over that as well.

  52. Sounds to me like he’s voicing it, but of course that may be confirmation bias.

  53. It sounds like he’s using /z/, but in the partially devoiced form that that phoneme tends to take in final position in English.

  54. Right. And that probably falls well within my native (Danish) /s/ range since we don’t really have voicing contrasts. (Well, that can be discussed, but there’s certainly no s/z contrast to train on. For me, English /z/ is still sort of a theoretical construct that I have to consciously listen for and try to produce. For some reason the French contrast in poisson/poison aso is easier to come to grips with).

    What are some good minimal pairs for final s/z? (With audio if possible).

  55. I looked at Palin’s bathos with Praat. The /s/ carries voicing half way in, then it’s devoiced. call it [zs].

    The /s/ of litotes is devoiced. I don’t hear any voice in the isolated segment.

  56. Well, in bathos I think he’s using /s/, which would be expected in that word. As far as I know, English is pretty unanimous in using /s/ in Greek -os (regardless of the vowel) and /z/ in Greek -es.

  57. (I just amended the comment.)

  58. (I just amended the comment.) — Thanks for the heads-up, and I was just about to ask if you didn’t look at litotes. So I can consider myself vindicated on [lai’tʰoʊtʰɪ:s], I guess.

    I want to get that Praat thing of which you speak, sounds (hah) like a useful device.

  59. Instant spectrogram gratification.

    Well, 30-minute gratification, and I did have sunflower installed already.

    But a very prettily unvoiced /s/, if I’m any judge.

  60. marie-lucie says

    Lars: French has la litote, les litotes.

    In general, Latin or Greek words in -es borrowed into French lose the -s in the singular. There are some exceptions, such as le faciès ‘the face’ (usually with respect to its less appealing features, as for instance when comparing a person to an ape).

    Feminine words in -is are usually adapted with -e , eg une thèse, une crise, une ellipse.

  61. On checking, it turns out that current Danish usage is the same. It seems we patched over from German to French style sometime around 1850.

  62. David Marjanović says

    German is inconsistent; perhaps the more specialized terms (like Litotes, which I only know from a Latin textbook) tend to be closer to the original, while the others (These, Krise, Ellipse) are more nativized and/or gallicized. -ismus is an exception because the German orthography is in denial about the existence of syllabic consonants (…though Kant apparently used -ism anyway).

  63. “Ein Gespenst geht um in Europa – das Gespenst des Kommunism.” Nope, I can’t see it.

  64. marie-lucie says

    Le communisme does not have a syllabic m either, although the final letter e is not sounded.

  65. David Marjanović says

    It does in any German attempt to approximate it. French tries really hard, against all sonority hierarchy, to have syllable-final clusters in -m, -r and -l; German doesn’t bother.

  66. In general, Latin or Greek words in -es borrowed into French lose the -s in the singular. There are some exceptions

    As in the irritating one serie, two series that you get a lot on the interwebs when Europeans try to write English..

  67. I think I’ve even seen specie from native speakers on occasion. Then there’s that damned Homo sapien, which I’ve heard from people who really ought to know better.

  68. Well, there actually is a word specie, so that’s different.

  69. I’m familiar with that, but I mean as a singular of species.

  70. No, I realize that, but the fact that there actually is such a word probably makes it easier to make the mistake.

  71. Huh. So there are Americans who say /spisi/ instead of /spiʃi/? I’m surprised, though Ghu knows I shouldn’t be.

  72. George Grady says

    Lars: What are some good minimal pairs for final s/z?

    Some possibilities are bus/buzz, race/raise, ice/eyes, noose/news, fleece/fleas, miss/Ms, close(adjective)/close(verb).

    You can hear many of them pronounced at For example, the two close’s are pronounced one after the other in the sample at

    Some of the difference in pronunciation is how the voicing or lack thereof affects the preceding vowel.

  73. Rodger C says

    One also commonly encounters “bicep.” But then, does anyone actually say “one biceps, two bicipites”?

  74. @Roger C: At the same time, people will often speak of a vertebrae.

    @George Grady: Indeed. I think Palin’s litotes lacks the pre-fortis clipping that would be associated with /s/.

  75. I’ve also heard parenthesee and verticee from native speakers of US English.

  76. @George, thanks. I looked at close with Praat, and as you say, much of the difference is in the timing — but the spectrogram for /z/ does show a component around 1500Hz that /s/ doesn’t have. (That’s about where F2 is at the end of the diphthong).

    I think my problem is that I have been listening for ‘F1’ voicing to continue, and it doesn’t. Looking at French chose, for instance, F1 does carry right through the sibilant.

  77. F1/F2 are formants, and are not directly related to voicing. If you get a closeup of the waveform, you’ll see the overlap between the voice (regular waves) and frication (noise). I ssuppozse that this could be transcribed as [zs].

    Perhaps a fully voiced final /z/ only occurzz in careful speech, as that of actors and especially ministers.

  78. Maybe it’s not geographic, but I associate the epenthetic schwa in isn’t with ‘teenage’/Valley Girl speech.

    I haven’t heard innit in the U.S., but there is the ennit of Reservation English, publicized by (again) Sherman Alexie.

  79. @Lazar, how does that work in learnéd pronunciation of Greek/Latin where the vowel is specified as long and can’t be clipped? (Unlike the rest of English phonology where length is mostly allophonic, as I understand it, because the old length distinctions turned into quality distinctions).

    Or is it so simple that a sibilant after an explicitly long vowel _is_ a /z/ even when pronounced [s]?

  80. @Rodger C: I think singular “bicep” is standard, but it’s a weird situation. It’s relatively common knowledge that the inside muscle of the upper arm actually contains two separate wads of muscle tissue (known as “heads” among fitness buffs, I believe), and the outside muscle has three. Hence, these are “biceps” and “triceps”; there are also “quadriceps” in the thighs.

    If I tense up my arm muscles to show off my “rippling biceps,” it’s ambiguous whether the s, interpreted as plural, refers to the two separate muscles that make up the biceps, or the muscles on my two arms. (It is implied that the muscles of my left arm should be approximately as developed as those of my right.) If I have to specify one arm, I would refer to my “left bicep,” for instance.

  81. @Y, that’s what I see in the French [z] — a sine wave with a little noise added*. In the English /z/ I see noise, and if I squint, maybe a vaguely sinusoid bias.

    And yes, I mixed up formants and fundamental frequency. However the spectrogram for /z/ in /kloʊz/ does show a darker band at the same frequency as the F2 of /ʊ/ — but no trace of an FF.

    *Actually the second harmonic is very obvious in the waveform too, so not really a sine wave, but that doesn’t change the point.

  82. The formants you in the [s] are mouth resonances shaping the noise, mostly sibilant but perhaps with some aspiration noise.

  83. @Brett, the reason why bicep puts some people of their pace is that biceps wasn’t originally a plural, the -s is the Latin singular nominative marker. Originally it’s an adjective meaning ‘with two heads’ and refers to the muscle as a whole. (The Latin plural, as someone noted, would be bicipitis with another -s morpheme, and would refer to the muscles on both arms).

    This is a general fact, all (I think) anatomical names of muscles start with an implicit musculus and the commonly used names are the adjectives or genetives that follow. Latissimus dorsi (‘widest of the back’) isn’t a noun phrase in Latin without the implicit noun, for instance.

    But when people talk of lats, pecs and quads, why haven’t the arm muscles turned into bikes and trikes yet?

  84. The formants you [see] — I assumed so, but didn’t want to clutter things up with a guess. It’s still interesting that it’s there in /z/ but not in /s/, though I’m basing that on one sample of each (from a single clip) — can it be that the /s/ qua fortis wants a closer tongue position overall, while the lenis only needs the tip to change position? And that this for a native listener can contribute to a perceived difference?

  85. @Lars: Pre-fortis clipping is totally allophonic, modifying vowel length at a subtler level than what’s indicated by an IPA length mark (or even a half length mark). /iːz/ is longer than /iːs/, which is longer than /ɪz/, which is longer than /ɪs/. This would be best demonstrated in one of the dialects that does have true phonemic length distinctions – for example /ɛːz/~/ɛːs/~/ɛz/~/ɛs/ in Estuary, or /aːz/~/aːs/~/az/~/as/ in a general Northern English accent.

  86. No wonder I can’t hear what’s going on. Thanks for all the explanations.

  87. If the tonggue moved, it would change the position of the formants, but not their intensity. I suppose the /z/, [z̥] if you will, still has enough laryngeal constriction to produce noise (like an [h]) to be shaped by the oral cavity.

  88. David Marjanović says

    I think I’ve even seen specie [as the singular of species] from native speakers on occasion.

    I have.

  89. Bike, trike are already clipped forms of bicycle, tricycle and so unavailable.

  90. When has that stopped anyone before? I can’t see the great scope for confusion.

  91. @Lars: Of course. I was merely pointing out that there was a greater degree of complexity to the interpretation of “biceps” as plural than for, say, “pease.”

  92. @Brett: True. But on here you can’t tell what people already know, so I took the opportunity to write a little lecture.

  93. I’ve discovered that I can’t even tell what I already know.

  94. David: (…though Kant apparently used -ism anyway)
    Steve: “Ein Gespenst geht um in Europa – das Gespenst des Kommunism.” Nope, I can’t see it.

    I was reading some passage by an 18C philosopher recently, can’t for the life of me remember who it was. Anyway he used words like Idealism instead of today’s Idealismus. I wondered at the time if he was importing them from English.

    It could have been Kant. This may be one of those cases where editors have meddled with the original, claiming to have “unobtrusively modernized” it.

  95. Rodger C says

    I seem to recall, from a sitcom or comic book, a bodybuilder named Latissimus Dorsey.

  96. Italian has an interesting nativized reflex of -ismos, found in cristianesimo, cattolicesimo, protestantesimo, luteranesimo and anglicanesimo, versus -ismo in newer coinages. (I think those are all the words where it occurs – anybody know of more?)

  97. The Latin plural, as someone noted, would be bicipitis

    I missed this at the time, so just to correct it for the record: no, that’s the genitive. The plural of biceps is bicipites.

  98. Lars Mathiesen says

    Did Latin always use the declension of the second part for the whole compound? (I didn’t know enough to ask that in ’16, but I’ve since learned about flied balls and the like). Well, checking a little on my own, -ceps is almost a derivational morpheme (this one [there are two] clearly descended from caput, but you could call it an independent lexical item I’m sure).

  99. David Marjanović says

    Did Latin always use the declension of the [last] part for the whole compound?

    As long as the last part stayed recognizable – of course. German does that, too, likewise Russian and I’m pretty sure Greek and…

    …Vedic for sure, but I don’t know if anyone ever reached the end of a Classical Sanskrit or Prakrit compound.

  100. Trond Engen says

    The idea of reincarnation naturally arose when people died with unfinished compounds still hanging in the air.

    Nirvana is the state of morpho-syntactic completion.

  101. Look at the bicep on that pleb!

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