Archive for the ‘Modern World Languages’ Category

¿Estas conmigo, amigos y amigas?

March 27, 2010

Somebody asked me today about some words they heard in a Spanish song.


Waterfall – by Jim Warren – my fav work by my fav artist – it has nothing to do with today’s blog post, but it’s very nice, don’t you agree?

Ok, back to those three Spanish words.  It looks like conmigo (with me), contigo (with you), and consigo (with her/him/it) are …

… very commonly-used …

… irregular structures, exceptions, special cases …

… of Spanish prepositions, pronouns, and prepositional pronouns.

the “con-” and the “-go” are redundant.

“con mi go” is “with me with”.

You ask, since when does “-go” mean “with” in Spanish?  Not any more. “-go” is an archaic obsolete Spanish prepositional suffix that meant “with.”

Hm..  But the “-go” came after, not before, the “me.”  Maybe I should say it’s a post-positional suffix, a post-position vs. a pre-position.  Ever notice that what we in English pronounce as “PREP-osition” is really re-pronouncing, “PRE-position” ? : )  The preposition pre-positions our thought.  The preposition, “above,” pre-positions our thinking to expect something, well, positioned, well, above whatever noun object follows.  “above the chair.”  Some languages use post-position words or suffixes that come after the noun.  “chair above.”

While we’re playing with offbeat items, there’s another interesting thing that shows up in languages sometimes.  I know you’ve heard of a “prefix,” a word part that attaches to the front of a word, before the word.  Like adding “un-” and “re-” to “prepared” and “play” to make “unprepared” and “replay.”  I know you’ve heard of a “suffix,” a word part that’s attached to the end of a word, after the word.  Like adding “ing” or “ed” to “sing” or “toast” to make “singing” or “toasted.”  But have you ever seen an “infix”?  A word part that is added into the middle of a word?  There’s an Arabic verb form, Form VIII or one of those, that “infixes” a “t” sound between the first two root consonants.  See?  We learn something new every day.

More little stuff.  Why do we call “the” and “a” … “articles”?  I never thought about it until I thought it was strange that, in some languages, little words and word parts were called, “particles.”  It occurred to me that it was no more strange to call something a “particle” than an “article.”  Both are ways of saying a “thing,” with the idea of a “small thing.”  Article.  Particle.  Thingamajig.  Whoever was inventing the terms of English grammar wanted to have a name for the “a” and “an” and “the” and said, “ok, i’m not going to call them ‘specks’ or ‘bits’ or ‘pieces’ or ‘crumbs’, so I’ll just call them, ‘articles.’ ”  Right.  Absolutely essential information to have handy at all times!  : )

This page …

… says, correctly, that English has subject and object pronouns, and that  English uses the same object pronouns for direct objects and objects of prepositions

It also says spanish uses three separate sets of pronouns for subjects, objects, and objects of prepositions.

None of these standard (regular, as in regularity, as in conforming to the basic rule and not being an exception to the rule) prepositional pronouns are conmigo, contigo, and consigo.  There’s mi and ti and si (have to check this), but no -migo, -tigo, or -sigo.  -migo, -tigo, and -sigo are used only with con (with).  That’s triple redundancy, with con (with) … triple what where? … nevermind … : )


A few google hits and the wikipedia article below say this irregular usage comes from the influence of Latin on Spanish and that Latin has a suffix that means “with.”

This wikipedia excerpt on spanish pronouns explains why it happened:

Con, derives from the Latin CVM (“with”), is an idiosyncratic preposition that combines with the personal pronouns ti, and  as the forms: conmigo (“with me”), contigo (“with you”), and consigo (“with her-, himself”). Linguistically, the denotation of the -go suffix originally was inherent to con, that is — in Latin, CVM was often placed after its pronoun, thus the MECVM, TECVM, SECVM, et cetera, usages. This popular Latin usage gave Spanish the migotigo, and sigo … forms, their usages now lost; like-wise the denotations of the -go and -co suffixes, in the event, speakers redundantly prefixed con- to these words, hence this Spanish prepositional usage.

  • Ven conmigo y con él ahora = “Come with me and him now.”
  • Iré a la fiesta con vosotras = “I will go to the party with you.”
  • Es raro llevar un billete de 200€ consigo = “It is unusual to carry a €200 note on oneself

GamerSpeak – “Uber-Pwnage”

July 21, 2009

A young professional woman attended a rock concert recently.  When she met the lead singer of the band, she described the experience by writing, “It was uber-pwnage!”

Uber-pwnage.  Right.  I know what you’re thinking.  When did the letter “w” become a vowel?

I did a little etymological research on this expression and the answer is cute.  I’ll share it with you here.

Ok.  “Uber” is a German prefix meaning “over” that English has borrowed at least for stylish and slang expressions.  No problem.  But “over” or “upper-level” or “meta” or “really strong” used with “pwnage”?  Uber-pwnage?  wtf?

From the way the young woman used the expression, it must mean something like “really great.”  But how?

The answer comes from a totally unexpected and funny direction.

It comes from what has come to be known in competitive gaming circles — board games,  sports, cards, negotiation, and more — as “trash talk.”

Talking trash.  You know what I mean.  It’s when one player gets so far ahead of the opponent that the game is essentially over.  The now inevitable winner smiles and says, either quietly or with a shout, “I own you.”

Sure, you say.  Everybody knows that.  But how do you get from there to “pwnage.”  Good question.  I’ll tell you.

Let’s say your competitive playing field of choice is an online war game.  In the old days, your computer’s keyboard was your ONLY means of communicating with the game, including any teammates and opponents.  Even today, with audio and video often built into the gaming experience, the keyboard is the primary communications tool.

So what, you say?  I’ll tell you.

So there you are online.  At war.  You now have your opponent on the ropes.  You’re in such command of the game that you can’t possibly lose.  Or maybe that’s what you want to tell your opponent to psyche them out.

So what do you do?  You reach for your keyboard and type, “I own you,” right?  Right.

But the letter, “o” is right next to the letter, “p.”  🙂


So now you’re the opponent and you see on your computer screen, “I pwn you.”  ???????? 🙂

From there, it’s clear etymological and grammatical sailing to “uber-pwnage.”

“Own” becomes “pwn,” pronounced as “pone” or “pawn,” depending on your preference.  (see update below)

Add the English suffix, “-age,” when your energetic gloating and trash talk requires a noun for a condition of life to go with the transitive verb.  In other words, the game condition of “ownage,” with the comical mis-spelling, becomes, the game competitive state of “pwnage.” 🙂

Make the game/competitive condition, not just “ownage” and”pwnage,” but “uber-ownage” and you get — you guessed it —


Who knew?

– tom mcmullen

UPDATE:  It turns out that the people who really know don’t pronounce “pwn” as either “pawn” or “pone,” but simply “own,” as if the mis-typing of “p” instead of “o” never happened.  So our “uber-pwnage” is pronounced “uber-ownage.”  Gotta love GamerSpeak!  🙂


Legend of Zelda, the classic NES game.
I, ahem, happen 2know the 1st vid is what comes whenUwin! 🙂

The Guild – Felicia Day – “Do You Want to Date My Avatar” 🙂


July 21, 2009

A momfriend of mine was driving her daughter and her friends home from a skating park recently when she overheard, “That dude was a really excellent tranny skater!”  When I learned of this, I googled around the web to find out how a “tranny skater”  — presumably a skateboard skater — might be different from any other skateboard skater.

As it turned out, the web support for “tranny skater” was weak.  There were many comments by skaters using variations on “tranny” and other unfamiliar terms, but no definitions or explanations.   Ever-helpful Wikipedia had the word, “transition,” on its list of meanings for “tranny,” but the link to the skating page didn’t explain or even mention any word starting with “tran.”

After a while of not finding the right website, and to keep the fun going, I decided to realize that the universe was revealing to me yet another modern world language, one requiring further research and elaboration.

The phenomenon unfolding before me was none other than — SkaterSpeak — an exciting new language that comes complete with its own vocabulary, underlying sport, technology, and evolving culture.