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pjf (2464)

pjf
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I run Perl Training Australia [perltraining.com.au].

I help with Melbourne Perl Mongers.

I spend an awful lot of time talking about Perl, and have had my picture in the Australian newspapers with a camel. That's rather scary.

Journal of pjf (2464)

Monday July 19, 2004
03:34 AM

Words missing in English

[ #19920 ]

Words missing in English
English seems to be missing some words, or at the very least my knowledge of English is not broad enough to know them. I find these continually frustrating, as they result in clumsy phrases or the need for clarifications.

What's very interesting is that replacement words have not come into common usage. In specialised fields this seems to happen extremely quickly -- often too quickly, with a proliferation of buzz-words and jargon, often with many items overlapping. However when it comes down to what one means by "free", we continue to use some very awkward phrases.

To the best of my knowledge, all the ambiguities that I've encountred can be solved by using languages other than English, many of which do use different words for the different concepts. Unfortunately, not all these foreign words are in common usage, which means they do little to dispel these ambigutities.

The missing words that have been bothering me the most recently are:

Hot (temperature) vs hot (spicy)
English uses the same word, hot, in relation to food, to mean two different things. One is that the temperature of the food is hot, and the second is that spices (usually chilli) have been added to the food.

This means that the phrase "the food is hot" is ambiguous. The phrase "the food is spicy" is also ambiguous, as spicy simply means it contains spices. Spiced cookies are certainly spicy, but they're not considered to be hot.

Free (beer) vs free (speech)
Things can be free, in that they have no cost. Things can also be free, in that they possess freedom. The common way of indicating the meaning is to use the phrases "free as in beer" and "free as in speech", both of which are cumbersome.

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