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The word "breadth" for a non-native English speaker

 
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off-topic

Vaibhav Gargs wrote:breadth


I'm not a native english speaker - it's my 2nd language started in 5th grade - but never heared this word. I could guess what it translates to in my native language - but I had to google it to be sure. From the etymological point of view it's similar to german "weite" - width - and "breite" - breadth - and as both common in german - I always thought the only translation for both is in all cases width. I guess I learned something new today in my 2nd lang - wich awkwardly I use more than my native lang - german - let alone my 3rd lang russian (no, sadly I don't speak french).

And sorry btw for this off-topic post.
 
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(I split this topic off from one where the OP mentions breadth.)

I had a fairly long email relationship with someone before I realized that he was a non-native speaker of English.  The key exchange went something like this:

me: "People think my name is funny."

him: "Why is that?"

me: "Because my last name sounds like snort 'em."

him: "I just looked up the meaning of the word snort.  What a fun word!"

This person's English was perfect.  I had no idea English was his second language. Yet he had never come across the word snort before!

Now see if this happens: you will hear the word "breadth" several times in the coming weeks and months.
 
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This my weeks new vocabulary. Sometimes I doubt if these words are really useful. But I have this German flashcard app called PONS and I learn new vocabulary in the train.

prurient
lampoon
seamy
its seamy side
repartee
parsimonious
to purloin
visage
to smite
sobriquet
mawkish
soothsayer
mammon
disjunctive
polymath
nostrum
lothario
mien
trollop
to fuddle
puckish
to retaliate

Could I use all of these in a daily conversation? Or are they just somewhat bookish words?
 
Knute Snortum
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They're a little bookish.  I know of an obscure song that contains the line, "Have mercy on my poor old prurient interests."  There was (is?) a magazine called National Lampoon.  "Seamy" is conversational.  There is a cliche in English about "witty repartee."  "Visage" is conversational.  The word "smite" is in the movie Moana (as are the words "smote" and "smotten", which are not really words).  "Retaliate" is conversational.  That's all I can think of.  Some of the words (like sobriquet) I'd have to lookup too.
 
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Matt Wong wrote:breadth... never heared this word.


Off-topic. Never heard Edsger W. Dijkstra?
 
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Breadth is a fine old English word from back before the Normans polluted the language with a lot of French. It has the same roots as German "breit". A related word is "broad", as in the "broad side of a barn", which in turn has served as the basis for a name of a unit in atomic physics.

Breadth and width are basically 2 words meaning the same thing, but width has become more associated with scientific and mathematical uses, and breadth is more colloquial. Also while "width" is often applied to things that are taller than they are wide, breadth generally implies something that's much wider than it is tall. But there's no precision to this - a hallway could have a breadth of 6 feet and a height of 10 feet. And you'd probably say it's "6 feet wide" if asked about only the horizontal extent.  

A lot of the insanity of the English language can be explained by its tendency to mug other languages and steal their words. But both breadth and width are originally English. Then again, consider how different word usages can be between English and American.
 
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In Dutch the words are 'wijdte' and 'breedte'. They are interchangeable, but I think 'breedte' is used more often.
 
Tim Holloway
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Stephan van Hulst wrote:In Dutch the words are 'wijdte' and 'breedte'. They are interchangeable, but I think 'breedte' is used more often.



And since Dutch and English have common ancestry, it appears that the rot goes back even further!
 
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Knute Snortum wrote:They're a little bookish. . . .

All real words; some of them however are used rarely.

There was (is?) a magazine called National Lampoon.

Lampoon is in normal use, but not frequently.

"Seamy" is conversational. . .

Seamy is usually used in the most informal contexts only, or in articles in the cheaper newspapers

"Visage" is conversational. . . .

It is usually used in an ironic or sarcastic context.

"smote" and "smotten" . . .

Smote is the past tense of smite. Smotten should be spelt smitten. Smitten is used as a verbal adjective in a romantic sense separate from its meaning as the past participle of smite.

"Retaliate" is conversational. . . .

I would say that retaliate is the one word on that list that is actually used at all frequently, in formal and informal contexts, at least on this side of the Pond.
 
Campbell Ritchie
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Matt Wong wrote:. . . . From the etymological point of view it's similar to german "weite" - width - and "breite" - breadth - and as both common in german - . . .

Careful about etymologies. An etymology doesn't determine the modern meaning of a word. The etymology of the English word large and the French word large are doubtless the same, but they mean something different. Similarly the English word wide has a much more restricted range of meanings than the German word weit which is, as you say, most probably its origin. Weit can mean far, which the English word wide usually doesn't.
 
Tim Holloway
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"Lampoon" isn't common, perhaps a bit old-fashioned, but in addition to its usage as a stronger, less gentle alternative to the verb "satirize", there are 2 famous groups: The Harvard Lampoon (I have their "Bored of the Rings"), which used to have a radio program, and the National Lampoon, which brought you Chevy Chase's Christmas Vacation.

"Visage" is mostly poetical. Or when you've run out of alternatives for saying "face".

"Smite" is also mostly poetical, which is why it hasn't adopted more modern conjugations. In addition to poetry, of course, it's used when describing archaic forms of combat.

Seamy works well with politicians. I'd rate it as a tad less oily than "sleazy". Sadly, outright sleaze is more popular in the modern USA.
 
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Campbell Ritchie wrote:[Weit can mean far, which the English word wide usually doesn't.



I suppose that the expression "from far and wide" (which appears in my country's national anthem) dates from the time when the meanings of the two words diverged.
 
Paul Clapham
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I'm not even familiar with the word "fuddle" myself. To me it only brings to mind the phrase "fuddle duddle", which... well, you can read about it here: Fuddle duddle.
 
Jan de Boer
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Campbell Ritchie wrote:

Knute Snortum wrote:They're a little bookish. . . .

All real words; some of them however are used rarely.



Yes.. I doubt a little how I should learn English words. Since there are so many synonyms in the language, I think the best thing to do is learn the words passively. At the moment I as a non native speaker already know a more frequently-used simpler word with the same meaning, I'd better stick to using that. I should not try to be as eloquent as somebody who(*) grew up in an English speaking country, that is just too difficult and not really useful.

(*) Should I use 'that' or 'who' here by the way?
 
Knute Snortum
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Jan de Boer wrote: Should I use 'that' or 'who' here by the way?


Either, except when you need to clarify that you're speaking of a person, not a thing.  So I'd prefer "who."
 
Campbell Ritchie
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Jan de Boer wrote:. . . (*) Should I use 'that' or 'who' here by the way?

In Britain, for a person, always who. This is one of those points where the grammar differs depending on which side of the Pond you are.
 
Paul Clapham
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Jan de Boer wrote:(*) Should I use 'that' or 'who' here by the way?



Yesterday Microsoft Word wanted me to use 'which' rather than 'who' when referring to a person. Definitely don't use 'which' in that context no matter where on Earth you are.
 
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Tim Holloway wrote:
"Visage" is mostly poetical. Or when you've run out of alternatives for saying "face".



Or you are refrring to an early 80s electro-pop band.
And I now have Fade To Grey in my head.
 
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Jan de Boer wrote:At the moment I as a non native speaker already know a more frequently-used simpler word with the same meaning, I'd better stick to using that. I should not try to be as eloquent as somebody who(*) grew up in an English speaking country, that is just too difficult and not really useful.

That's what exactly I experienced. There are some common regular words which are generally understood and frequently used by most of the English speaker, could be words from standard news papers Or articles. I was also gathering words from English serials and movies most of them were informal and slang words, some of them were useful too, which made my list of words to be learnt too long.

Again words varies from field to field that's why I'm now going to make separate pages for necessary words used in technology, medical, traveling, sports, business, politics, kitchen or cooking ( I adore cooking ) etc. Source of these words ?news papers Or articles Or blogs of respective field.  
 
Tim Holloway
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Campbell Ritchie wrote:

Jan de Boer wrote:. . . (*) Should I use 'that' or 'who' here by the way?

In Britain, for a person, always who. This is one of those points where the grammar differs depending on which side of the Pond you are.



I would disagree on that. I suppose that "that" would pass in careless speech, but for a person rather than a thing, "who" would be proper even in the barbarous colonies.
 
Tim Holloway
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Paul Clapham wrote:I'm not even familiar with the word "fuddle" myself. To me it only brings to mind the phrase "fuddle duddle", which... well, you can read about it here: Fuddle duddle.



More often an archaic term for "confused", especially by strong drink. In fact, generally seen as "befuddled".

I have heard "fuddy duddy" instead of "fuddle duddle", but in either case, it would be often applied in conjunction with the word "old", meaning someone who's begun to lose their mental faculties with a side order of not keeping up with the times.

English has a LOT of limited-use expressions, which are more or less just idioms, although often coming from a former broader usage. You can look very fluent IF you know how to use them correctly, and very funny if you don't. It's not the only language by far that's like that, but it's what we have to work with.

I think 1000-2000 words is the generally-accepted number needed to know to communicate well in most languages with 5000-10000 making you fluent. In any event, the more colourful usages are generally discouraged in professional writing as they can make the work harder to read and/or clichéd.
 
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Everybody has their own opinion, here's mine. I usually use " breadth" to describe understanding or experience of a concept, whereas I use width to refer to physical dimensions. I have a breadth of experience in ( herding cats) I  don't have a width of experience.  My trousers have a width.
 
Matt Wong
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Whoops - I didn't meant to break the hell lose - to late.

@Campbell Ritchie
Nice catch there about another meaning of a word wich changes when translated to another language. I really didn't thought about that meaning of "weit" when I wrote my post, I got really focused only on the measurement meaning. But even "far" can be turned around another way: "in a time far beyond ..." far can get the meaning of long - in terms of "long time period" - wich, when translated back to german becomes "lang".

I guess that's why it's so funny if you run lyrics many times through google translator with different languages - as the true meanings start to get lost and therefore translated into other words instead of the original ones - wich, as google also doesn't only translate word-by-word but also tries to keep the meaning, screws up pretty badly - much more in cases where it mis-understands the meaning and translate to something very un-related to the orignal input. I can see why study languages and being a "linguist" (at least that's the word I know) can be so interesting.
 
Jan de Boer
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Dave Tolls wrote:

Tim Holloway wrote:"Visage"


Or you are refrring to an early 80s electro-pop band.



I actually always thought Visage was a French word, and in my mind pronounced the name that way. Maybe it was Dutch radio too, I remembered them pronouncing Billy Joel like rhyming with Noël.
 
Campbell Ritchie
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Matt Wong wrote:. . . if you run lyrics many times through google translator . . .

One of the earliest automatic translators translated, “Out of sight, out of mind,” into Russian as, “Blind and mad.”

Mad is another word with different cis‑Atlantic and transatlantic meanings.
 
Campbell Ritchie
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Apologies for my mistake.

Tim Holloway wrote:. . . "who" would be proper even in the barbarous colonies.

I take it that means Australia.
 
Campbell Ritchie
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Jan de Boer wrote:. . . I actually always thought Visage was a French word . . .

It is. If the French can pronounce England Angleterre, we can pronouce Visage viz′zij.
 
Jan de Boer
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Tim Holloway wrote:I think 1000-2000 words is the generally-accepted number needed to know to communicate well in most languages with 5000-10000 making you fluent.



http://testyourvocab.com/

I am at ~~12,000
 
Dave Tolls
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Jan de Boer wrote:
I actually always thought Visage was a French word, and in my mind pronounced the name that way. Maybe it was Dutch radio too, I remembered them pronouncing Billy Joel like rhyming with Noël.



Visage, the word, is from French and pronounced (in English) as Campbell says.
Visage, the band, is pronounced as per the French, though.

All together now!
aaaaaa-Aaaaah, we fade to grey (fade to grey)
(plus some stuff in French)
 
Campbell Ritchie
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Dave Tolls wrote:. . . we fade to grey (fade to grey) . . .

When you get to my age the fading to grey is but a distant memory.

All English speakers would pronounce Joel to rhyme with Noel.
 
Ganesh Patekar
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Jan de Boer wrote:

Tim Holloway wrote:I think 1000-2000 words is the generally-accepted number needed to know to communicate well in most languages with 5000-10000 making you fluent.


http://testyourvocab.com/
I am at ~~12,000

I'm at 7530.  Don't have a notion how they calculated that figure but I won't think I have 7530 words in my Word Bank a/c.  
 
Campbell Ritchie
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Ganesh Patekar wrote:. . . I won't think I have 7530 words in my Word Bank a/c.  

Overdraft. Debit. Debts. Overspending. Extravagance. Impecunious. Broke. Penury. Owing. Indebtedness. Pinched. Tight. Short. Destitute. Squeezed. Needy. Straitened. Distressed. Strapped. Poverty, insolvent, bankrupt, begging, mendacious, penniless. Indigent. Insufficient.

There are a few you don't want in your Bank a/c.

I did seek the help of a thesaurus.
 
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Matt Wong wrote:off-topic

Vaibhav Gargs wrote:breadth


I'm not a native english speaker - it's my 2nd language started in 5th grade - but never heared this word. (...)


I'm a little surprised you have never heard of this word. I always thought that BFS and DFS were well-known terms.
 
Ganesh Patekar
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Image Source   Note: It's funny character named Penny from TBBT Tv serial  

Campbell Ritchie wrote:... penniless ...


Penniless.jpg
[Thumbnail for Penniless.jpg]
 
Tim Holloway
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"Visage" is a French word. It ended up in English thanks to William and his merry band of Normans. Modern pronunciations aren't quite the same thanks to shifting sounds between French and English, but the meanings are more or less identical, I think.

Around here, we'd pronounce "Joel" as Jō'əl, but Noël as Nō-él.

I first heard the apocryphal computer language translation story as being for Chinese. Where I suspect that the literal meanings of the words in question were "no-see, no-think".

"Mendacious" is a word best not heard, but since its primary meaning these days is "liar", perhaps not in the bank. "Mendicant", on the other hand...

Incidentally, the American spelling of the word "grey" was supposed to be "gray", but this spelling seems to be fading in the USA. "Gray" is more phonetic, since I don't know anyone who actually pronounces it as "gree", and if you wanted to be consistent with odd spellings, shouldn't it be "greay" like as in "great"?

And I still want my þorn back!
 
Campbell Ritchie
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Tim Holloway wrote:. . . "Mendicant", on the other hand...

Yes, you are right. My mistake, sorry.

. . . "Gray" is more phonetic, since I don't know anyone who actually pronounces it as "gree", . . .

Since when did spellings and pronunciations go together in English?

And I still want my þorn back!

I had þo forgotten þat letter.
 
Tim Holloway
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Campbell Ritchie wrote:I had þo forgotten þat letter.



You have a liðp? AND a dirty mind, I see!  
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