Word Maven Patricia T. O'Conner

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Word maven Patricia T. O’Conner answers your questions about the English language! Give us a call at 212-433-9692 (212-433-WNYC) or leave a comment at


Patricia T. O'Conner

Comments [33]

R Meyer from Manhattan

there are tons of bad biblical translations. the NRSV is my favorite these days. The New Jerusalem Bible was translated into French, and then from French to English. Both retain a lot of the prose & poetry, which is lost in something such as The New American Bible.

Aug. 27 2008 02:39 PM
Tisha from Ho-Ho-Kus, NJ

Well, I guess it really depends on what translation you read, but I always heard it "of those to whom much is given, much is expected," and when I asked our very learned parish priest the origin of the expression, HE told me it was from St. Ignatius Loyola (who was probably paraphrasing (or even translating) Luke anyway.

Impressed as always at what all the listeners have contributed to this question

Aug. 27 2008 02:28 PM
Frank Deis from New Jersey

You mentioned Pinyin and I thought you were going to lay out the full answer but you didn't quite get there. Here it is.

The answer is that it has always been BEIZHING in Mandarin. The old systems of Wade and Wade Giles go back to a Jesuit system that put a heavy emphasis on apostrophes. The problem is that English speakers are generally not prone to notice apostrophes, and the old system hinges completely on paying attention to them.

For example we have the Tao Te Ching which, with no apostrophes, should be pronounced Dao De Dzhing. Several consonants move from voiced to unvoiced with the addition of the apostrophe. And Peking, with no apostrophes, was intending to be pronounced as Beizhing. With apostrophes, P'ek'ing, it would actually be something like "Peking" but that is a word which really never existed. I think we are stuck with it as a descriptor for ducks, living or roasted.

Aug. 27 2008 02:19 PM
John from Woodside

LUKE 12:48
"For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more." This expresses the concept that the Christian God is just: he does not require any less faithfulness to the Gospel from those who have much material wealth and power. On the contrary, God seeks more committment from those who, through their earthly circumstances, have more ability to help their fellow man.

Aug. 27 2008 02:19 PM
Julia Paterson

" whom much is given, of him much will be required" comes from The New Testament, the gospel of St. Luke, chapter 12 verse 48. Hope this helps -- Google is wonderful!

Aug. 27 2008 02:04 PM
R Meyer from Manhattan

To the one whom much is from the Bible. I forget where though. I suspect that it has been translated with sexist language (i.e., to the man....) Inclusive language linguists prefer "to the one...."

Aug. 27 2008 02:00 PM
Steve (the other one) from Manhattan

"For everyone to whom much is given, of him shall much be required." -- Luke 12:48

Aug. 27 2008 01:58 PM
Bo from Brooklyn - Prospect Heights

To whom much is given, much is expected. - Luke 12:48.

Aug. 27 2008 01:57 PM
robert from park slope

At what point should one no longer be offended at widespread grammatical faux pas and accept that the language has changed?

Aug. 27 2008 01:56 PM
Betty Ann from UES

Can you ask her about the word "jabip." It's a slang term my mother from Pennsylvania used to use when she didn't want to tell us where she was going (i.e. Christmas Shopping).

Aug. 27 2008 01:52 PM
Michael - from west village

On the show - please dicuss the growing use in recent decades of the pronunciation "rahhther" rather than the American "Raaaather"

To what do you attribute this?

Aug. 27 2008 01:49 PM
donovan from Brooklyn

Pat is asking herself why she is even in this segment...

Aug. 27 2008 01:48 PM
Kelly Chang from NYC

Peking is a tranliteration of Cantonese or Southern "north capital" pronounced closer to "buck" + "king". In Mandarin, the same characters are pronounced "bay jing" or Beijing in pinyin spelling. There is a J sound in mandarin. very close to the english, less like a soft j many westerners think it is.

Aug. 27 2008 01:48 PM
Vic from NJ

Turn this reference around, Chinese would refer to their adversaries as, "running dogs."

Aug. 27 2008 01:46 PM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey

I saw a commercial (think it was for a phone company) where two parents are talking to their daughter in Chinese. And the daughter asks if her mother's making Peking duck. While I couldn't understand a word of it, she definitely said a word that sounded like Peking. So maybe Peking refers to some other detail of the city of Beijing.

Aug. 27 2008 01:46 PM
jackie from Midtown

Why "Nueva York" from some Spanish-speaking communities? On the contrary, I've never heard Puerto Plata referred to as "Silver Port."

Aug. 27 2008 01:43 PM
T. Scott Lilly from Brooklyn

You should play the
They Might Be Giants song

Aug. 27 2008 01:43 PM
Norman from Toronto

Mandarin: "bei" = "north"
Cantonese: "pek" = "north"

Bei/Pek + ing = Beijing/Peking

Aug. 27 2008 01:43 PM
Vic from NJ

The origin of the name "CHINA"...?
In ancient Greek, "cina" is "dog"
Is this, perhaps, just another cultural "dis." that got lost in translation?

Aug. 27 2008 01:41 PM
SKD from brooklyn

On the subject of house versus home: I think "home" became a buzzword with realtors who wanted to make their product more appealing. That explains why smaller houses are more likely to be described as homes than larger houses, in order to bolster the less grand product. Also, in this unfortunate time of high mortgage foreclosures, I think we hear talk of foreclosing homes instead of foreclosing houses in order to call up the emotional aspects of the situation.

Aug. 27 2008 01:38 PM
Christopher from East Village

I have a problem with the pronunciation of "divisive". I have always pronounced it with a long "I" ("eye) sound on the second "I". Then I started hearing President Bush saying it with a short "I" (as in "miss"). I've looked in my dictionary, and the "miss" pronunciation isn't there. And now I hear Obama saying it in the same Bush way!

Aug. 27 2008 01:38 PM
Norman from Toronto


Leonard, your knowledge of Chinese is so correct and impressive.

However, in Mandarin the word "Beijing" is prounounced with the "j" like "juice" or "jack", not "zh", which is a common mispronunciation.

Your show is amazing. And I absolutely adore the segments involving Patricia.

Aug. 27 2008 01:37 PM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey

Farsi is the Arabic word for the Persian language (Arabic has no "P").

Aug. 27 2008 01:37 PM
david from riverdale/NYC

The chief executive of the US is addressed as "Mr. President;" the chief executive of a city is addressed as "Mr. Mayor," yet the chief executive of a state is addressed as "Governor." - Why the discrepancy?

Aug. 27 2008 01:37 PM

I wish Greece had its Hellenic name: Hellas .. what happened?

Aug. 27 2008 01:37 PM
hunter from LES

which is more commonly spoken in chinatown, cantonnese or mandarin?

Aug. 27 2008 01:36 PM
alex from NYC

According to All Things Considered, Beijing should be pronouned with a hard "j", like the beginning of juice (not soft, as in azure).

They reprimanded the NBC staff for this. Lucky they haven't heard Leonard Lopate.

Aug. 27 2008 01:36 PM
Frago from 2 feet from the monitor

A House is Not a Home is the 1953 autobiography of New York madam Polly Adler

House = house of prostitution

Aug. 27 2008 01:33 PM
alex from NYC

A House is Not a Home is the 1953 autobiography of famous New York madam Polly Adler. (Wikipedia).

Aug. 27 2008 01:30 PM
Chuck D from Jersey City

I have been hearing a lot of people using the word "(dis)orientated", instead of "(dis)oriented". Is orientated a real word? I didn't think so. Has the whole world gone mad?!?!

Aug. 27 2008 01:30 PM
Marc Naimark from Paris

A question for Patricia: I love your appearances with Leonard and I enjoy reading your blog, but I'd like to know what language-related blogs you read and radio programs and podcasts you listen to, or would recommend to the non-professional language lover.

Aug. 27 2008 12:06 PM
Elie Walters from New York City

In England they use the word 'homely' in place of 'homey', as in "the room feels much more homely now". Which came first? Is one idiomatic and one proper English?

Aug. 27 2008 11:38 AM
Marc Naimark from Paris

Patricia's back!

Aug. 27 2008 04:48 AM

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