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Posted: 14 April 2017 04:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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If I were not familiar with mate in Spanish, I suppose maté wouldn’t be jarring and confusing.

Well, exactly.  It’s totally understandable that if you know a foreign language you’re used to its spellings, grammar, and other features, and deviations from them in English rub you the wrong way.  This is exactly why people who have studied Greek fulminate about “the hoi polloi”—it is so clear to them that “hoi” is an article, and thus “the hoi” is (to them) redundant, that they can’t bear the sight of it.  But the vast majority of English speakers know neither Spanish nor Greek (nor, frankly, any other language besides English), and it is their comfort and understanding that must be considered.

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Posted: 14 April 2017 11:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Well, exactly.  It’s totally understandable that if you know a foreign language you’re used to its spellings, grammar, and other features, and deviations from them in English rub you the wrong way.  This is exactly why people who have studied Greek fulminate about “the hoi polloi”—it is so clear to them that “hoi” is an article, and thus “the hoi” is (to them) redundant, that they can’t bear the sight of it.  But the vast majority of English speakers know neither Spanish nor Greek (nor, frankly, any other language besides English), and it is their comfort and understanding that must be considered.

I do not think it is a matter of knowing a foreign language in order to understand a word or expression that has been borrowed and incorporated into English.

Everyone who is not familiar with Greek; nevertheless, might understand that the expression, the hoi polloi, is redundant. I am not familiar with Arabic but I know that in English, Sahara desert, is a tautological statement. I understand that these expressions are acceptable usages in English, but it only takes a minimum amount of effort to try to understand the origin of these words, especially since they are foreign and now part of the English language.

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Posted: 15 April 2017 03:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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Logophile - 14 April 2017 11:44 PM

it only takes a minimum amount of effort to try to understand the origin of these words, especially since they are foreign and now part of the English language.

True, but when you multiply that minimum amount of effort by the number of monolingual speakers of English times the number of words that that minimum amount of effort must be applied to and factor in the percentage of people who care enough to exert that effort, the effort becomes more of a factor.

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Posted: 15 April 2017 04:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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especially since they are foreign and now part of the English language.

This statement contradicts itself; since they were foreign would make sense; since they are of foreign origin but would work too.

And that’s the point. They’re English now, not foreign. Sahara Desert is not tautological in English because in English sahara does not mean “desert,” rather it is a proper name for one particular desert. It is no more tautological than Mississippi River. Likewise hoi polloi has been imported into English as a noun, not as an article + noun. No one uses just hoi to mean “the” in English.

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Posted: 15 April 2017 05:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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Everyone who is not familiar with Greek; nevertheless, might understand that the expression, the hoi polloi, is redundant.

No, it’s not, and nobody but Greek scholars thinks it is; that’s why almost everybody uses it with “the.” See my discussion here.

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Posted: 15 April 2017 10:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Sahara Desert is not tautological in English because in English sahara does not mean “desert,” rather it is a proper name for one particular desert. It is no more tautological than Mississippi River.

- or Pendle Hill, or River Avon.

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Posted: 15 April 2017 12:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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languagehat - 15 April 2017 05:21 AM

Everyone who is not familiar with Greek; nevertheless, might understand that the expression, the hoi polloi, is redundant.

No, it’s not, and nobody but Greek scholars thinks it is; that’s why almost everybody uses it with “the.” See my discussion here.

All serious Greek scholars would understand the concept of Anglicization. In fact I’d go as far as to say that it is mainly those who have picked up a smattering of Greek second-hand through old editions of Fowler, etc that would insist that the hoi polloi is wrong. And I speak not as someone who jests at scars, etc. I bear old wounds from Fowler myself and still remember learnedly intoning to my first wife that the hoi polloi was an error. Come to think of it such behaviour may explain why she’s my ex-wife.

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Posted: 15 April 2017 10:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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languagehat - 15 April 2017 05:21 AM

Everyone who is not familiar with Greek; nevertheless, might understand that the expression, the hoi polloi, is redundant.

No, it’s not, and nobody but Greek scholars thinks it is; that’s why almost everybody uses it with “the.” See my discussion here.

I think more than just Greek scholars, but I think you are arguing about the usage rather than the redundancy.

Again, I am just responding to your statement:

But the vast majority of English speakers know neither Spanish nor Greek (nor, frankly, any other language besides English), and it is their comfort and understanding that must be considered.

That is a generalization, because one does not need to be a Greek scholar or know Greek to understand the meaning of hoi polloi. Therefore, If one looks up the word in the dictionary and understands that hoi is the Greek definite article then one has the prerogative to either say the hoi polloi or just hoi polloi, either one is correct. Also, as Dave said, “They’re English now, not foreign.”

I am not asserting that the hoi polloi is wrong; I understand and accept that it prevails and is correct usage, but I just think that it is technically a redundancy. 

Also, the vast majority of speakers don’t understand Italian, German, French, etc., but I would think that the majority would understand the Italian meaning of pasta, antipasto, al fresco or the French meaning of au courant, art nouveau, avant-garde. One does not have to be a scholar in those languages to understand the meanings of those words.

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Posted: 15 April 2017 11:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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Logophile - 15 April 2017 10:05 PM

languagehat - 15 April 2017 05:21 AM


I am not asserting that the hoi polloi is wrong; I understand and accept that it prevails and is correct usage, but I just think that it is technically a redundancy. 

You have conceded the correctness of the phrase in English. All of us here are surely aware that the question of how it stands in Greek is quite irrelevant. Comparisons then between the two languages are, as Dogberry so eloquently puts it, odorous. Where then lies your redundancy, technical or otherwise?

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Posted: 15 April 2017 11:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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Also, the vast majority of speakers don’t understand Italian, German, French, etc., but I would think that the majority would understand the Italian meaning of pasta, antipasto, al fresco or the French meaning of au courant, art nouveau, avant-garde. One does not have to be a scholar in those languages to understand the meanings of those words.

Many of them may understand the meanings of those words in their original languages, but my bet is that far more of them only understand the sense in which they are used in English. If every time you heard someone use the phrase avant-garde you asked them what they thought it meant in French, my guess is that relatively few would come back with ‘Vanguard’ or ’Advance guard‘. This is true even of French-speakers. I learned French at school for ten years and speak it quite fluently, but I was well into middle age before the penny dropped and it dawned on me what an avant-garde literally was.

And even where they really do understand the meaning, it in no way follows that they will understand the grammar. Quite a lot of English speakers are probably vaguely aware that Italian nouns ending in -o end in -i in the plural, but that doesn’t stop them asking for ‘a cheese-and-ham panini’. I learned Italian too, and I can’t bring myself to use panini as a singular, but I glumly accept that that is now current English.

[ Edited: 16 April 2017 04:07 AM by Syntinen Laulu ]
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Posted: 16 April 2017 03:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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All serious Greek scholars would understand the concept of Anglicization. In fact I’d go as far as to say that it is mainly those who have picked up a smattering of Greek second-hand through old editions of Fowler, etc that would insist that the hoi polloi is wrong. And I speak not as someone who jests at scars, etc. I bear old wounds from Fowler myself and still remember learnedly intoning to my first wife that the hoi polloi was an error. Come to think of it such behaviour may explain why she’s my ex-wife.

Your candour does you credit, aldi. and of course you’re absolutely right. Borrowing a word or phrase from another language does not obligate us towards it in any way.  We can (and often do) severely maul such words in the process, without being in any way accountable to anybody; and the same applies to those who borrow words from our own language, whatever it may be, and however steeped in history and tradition.
(P.S. wish you better success, the second time around).

This is a wonderful site for getting more rational perspectives on the use of words. It’s been, and continues to be, of enormous value to me. Thank you, Dave, and all participants. You are all people really worth exchanging ideas with.

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Posted: 16 April 2017 05:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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Amen!

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Posted: 16 April 2017 06:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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lionello - 16 April 2017 03:47 AM

(P.S. wish you better success, the second time around).

Well, we’ve been together now for around 30 years so I’m hoping this one will last!

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Posted: 16 April 2017 02:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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You have conceded the correctness of the phrase in English.

I never conceded because I never objected to the usage.  Regarding the redundancy aspect I think it’s arguable. Let’s leave it at that.

All of us here are surely aware that the question of how it stands in Greek is quite irrelevant.

I don’t understand that statement. If you’re referring to the translation of hoi polloi from Greek to English then it is relevant. The phrase comes from Greek where it means the masses and in English, when properly used, means the same thing. Hence, the only issue is the redundancy side of the argument.

http://www.alphadictionary.com/articles/drgw010.html

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Posted: 16 April 2017 03:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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Logophile - 16 April 2017 02:32 PM

The phrase comes from Greek where it means the masses and in English, when properly used, means the same thing. Hence, the only issue is the redundancy side of the argument.

http://www.alphadictionary.com/articles/drgw010.html

“Everyone who is not familiar with Greek; nevertheless, might understand that the expression, the hoi polloi, is redundant.”

Pardon my asking, but precisely which side of the Mobius strip are you occupying?

You offer an article in support of the assertion that there may be a ‘redundancy side of the argument’,
yet that very article concludes that there is no redundancy in the English usage of the hoi polloi:

Expressions like PIN number, VAT tax, and the hoi polloi are instances of foreign words or abbreviations having become words on the own, no longer related to their origins. There really isn’t redundancy in these any more; only if you mentally restore the phrases they come from.

As to your “properly used” notation, I suggest that there may be some space between Greek usage and the common English sense.  My dictionaries support your statement that it means ‘the masses’ in Greek.  They also confirm that the English term generally carries a mildly derogatory sense.  Not exactly the same thing, are they?

[ Edited: 16 April 2017 03:34 PM by cuchuflete ]
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