BL: tsunami / tidal wave
Posted: 12 March 2011 06:48 AM   [ Ignore ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4809
Joined  2007-01-03

I should have done this one in 2004 but never did.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 12 March 2011 07:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1231
Joined  2007-04-28

I think tidal wavewas a misunderstanding of what caused them while harbour wave is an old descriptive term that caught on colloquially - the Japanese know it hit other parts of the coast but in harbours the consequences were the most devastating from funnel effect. This is not the case with coastal lowlands in the recent tsunami but most of the coastal population (and word coiners?) would have been concentrated in towns with harbours.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 12 March 2011 10:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4809
Joined  2007-01-03

Sure, but it’s an example of the etymological fallacy. Origin does not dictate usage. Yes, “tidal wave” is an inaccurate description of the cause, but that doesn’t mean the term is “wrong” as a name for the phenomenon. There are lots of examples of such misnomers that no one every comments on.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 12 March 2011 12:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  821
Joined  2007-06-20

You’re right, of course, DW, but “tidal wave” is now “skunked”: if one uses the expression, one runs the risk of others trying to “correct” one.

[ Edited: 12 March 2011 02:04 PM by Zythophile ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 13 March 2011 05:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3149
Joined  2007-02-26

I think we chatted on this before.

Although I don’t think the term tsunami is _wrong_, is it bad of me to think that it is _better_ to use the other term? I say this not because of etymology but because of its current form. I think there is a difference between prescriptivism and endeavouring to make formal terminology more consistent.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 13 March 2011 05:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1231
Joined  2007-04-28

Yes, I was wrong. Tsunami has to be a better term in English, though, because tidal wave is misleading and no one outside Japan knows that tsunami means harbour wave? It is a neutral scientific term now.

Are there good examples of etymological fallacies that have been updated? I have never considered this before as may be obvious!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 13 March 2011 08:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
Avatar
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  429
Joined  2007-02-14

The same thing happened to perfectly good Dutch ‘vloedgolf’. And I have a sense of déjà vú. I think we did do this in 2004, although Dave probably didn’t blog about it back then.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 13 March 2011 09:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2860
Joined  2007-01-31

Here’s a long thread on tsunami from late’04 - early ‘05.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 13 March 2011 02:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2032
Joined  2007-02-19

Ha!Ha! I remember getting awfully hot under the collar because so many people call a tsunami a tidal wave… wordorigins.org has since taught me to roll with the punch. Nowadays, I would certainly be put out if I found the Scientific American calling a tsunami a tidal wave; but when the local paper or my next-door neighbour does so, I don’t even bother to shrug my shoulders. Hats off to wordorigins. org.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 14 March 2011 04:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1231
Joined  2007-04-28

Thanks, Dr T - pretty much everything was covered there.
This:
Excerpt from OED2’s entry for “tsunami:”
Also (repr. a strict transliteration of the Jap. form) tunami. [a. Jap. tsunami, tunami, f. tsu harbour + nami waves.]

had me wondering. I think nami means wave in Japanese and they have a different way of forming plurals in sentences compared to English so the OED should not say waves.
Someone else wonders about the plural of tsunami when used in English. Should we respect the origin and say “Several tsunami hit the coast” or “tsunamis”? I suppose we just accept what people say and it ends up conforming to English usage. We didn’t add an s to coterie (Several coterie combined to...?) being more familiar with French when it entered the language. Dim sum not dim sums. Is it all arbitrary or should some courtesy be shown to the original language these days? I have no idea.

[ Edited: 14 March 2011 04:21 AM by venomousbede ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 14 March 2011 06:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4809
Joined  2007-01-03

Should we respect the origin and say “Several tsunami hit the coast”

No. In English the rules of English grammar apply. Of course, we follow what people do, not what the “rules” say people should do, but the pattern is that, over time, foreign borrowings will take on the English plural.

We didn’t add an s to coterie (Several coterie combined to...?) being more familiar with French when it entered the language.

Huh? Coteries is the usual plural in English.

Regarding dim sum, a pattern in English is for food to be considered in the singular, “we’re having stew,” “we’re eating cake,” “we bought pizza.” The same thing is going on with dum sum. And I have heard dim sums when referring to a number of the savories.

Profile
 
 
   
 
 
‹‹ BL: melt / meltdown      Jimmies ››