User talk:Macdonald-ross

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Hello, Macdonald-ross, and welcome to the Simple English Wiktionary!

We hope you will be happy editing here. Some helpful pages to begin with are Wiktionary:Community Portal, Wiktionary:Useful, Help:Contents, Wiktionary:Rules, Wiktionary:How to change a page, and Help:Creating a new entry.

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Good luck and happy editing! Barras (talk) 18:35, 17 June 2011 (UTC)

Recent edits[change]

Thank you for your recent edits. They are very helpful. A few small points:

  • it is a given sense of a word that in countable/transitive, etc., not the word itself. Consequently, these should be put with each definition.
  • aim for even simpler examples and definitions.--Brett (talk) 23:16, 15 September 2011 (UTC)

Examples that use vs examples that exemplify[change]

Your recent example, He is really suffering now, uses the word suffering but it doesn't exemplify it. There's nothing at all in the context that would help a student guess what suffering is or how it is used; there's nothing that would distinguish it from sneezing, studying, or sleeping. Consider something like He was rushed to the hospital, suffering from severe head pain. Here, we have the common string suffer from, along with the word pain, which helps the reader understand that you suffer from bad things.--Brett (talk) 00:06, 16 September 2011 (UTC)

Thank you; these are helpful thoughts, though they may be hard to live up to! Macdonald-ross (talk) 05:32, 16 September 2011 (UTC)

Primary meaning[change]

I noticed that you reorder impact based on "primary meaning". Can you explain how you interpret this idea and how you decide which meaning is primary?--Brett (talk) 14:25, 21 November 2011 (UTC)

OK. It's basically about etymology. A word may have many meanings; the word 'run' may be the record-holder. Often one meaning can be identified as the original or root meaning. (Running as a gait where both feet leave the ground simultaneously once in every stride, or some such). Then other meanings develop over time. So now rivers runs, ladders in stockings run, people run (figuatively) from their fears, there's a run on the pound, and so on. Top-class dictionaries give detailed historical examples of the use of words in earlier literature, and derivations from classical languages. The Oxford English Dictionary on-line is probably the largest database of such information, but shortened version are available in print. I use the two-volume Shorter Oxford Dictionary. In the case of 'impact' the metaphorical use is obviously secondary, and often bad writing, too, when it avoids the more common and simpler 'effect'.
It might be argued, in Simple, that the frequency of meaning should be a criterion rather than the history of meaning. However, frequency of usage tends to be culturally and dialect biased, so I don't think that would be a stable criterion. I would add that the more common a word is, the more likely it is to have multiple meanings, and the more important it is to cope with this on wikt pages. Finally, I come back to metaphor as the key concept because it is widely agreed amongst linguists that metaphorical extensions are the most common mechanisms for the evolution of multiple meanings, and also a good way for learners to grasp the way language changes over time.
Now to details. My SOED gives Impact from Latin impactus, f.ppl of impingere; first recorded use in English lit. 1781; definition:
The act of impinging; the striking of one body against another; collision. Figurative use: "The impact of barbarian conquests" (Stubbs)
Regards, Macdonald-ross (talk) 08:13, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Yes, the OED tends to list things historically. For a learner of the language, though, the history of a word is typically of little interest. Family originally meant the servants of a house. Clearly this meaning is obsolete, but the point is that word meanings change just as frequencies do. Consider awesome. The original meaning isn't obsolete, but it's certainly very rare, and language learners are unlikely to encounter it. Would you take that as "primary"?
I take your point about metaphorical extension. If one knows a basic idea, as in run, then many of the other meanings flow clearly from that. When we think about learners' needs though, frequency is often telling. A wise editor will consider a combination of these factors. I didn't mean to suggest I disagreed with your change, I just wanted to be sure that you weren't going to go wildly off shifting a bunch of sense orders around based on some puritanical notion of "primary meaning."--Brett (talk) 15:03, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
No there will be no widespread shuffling, if only because at present I only have time for my work on Simple, and what I do on main English and on simple wikt is ancillary.
On your main point, I would not consider a usage which is obsolete or near-obsolete to be 'primary' even though it was original. I just think that where one common usage is clearly primary, and others are derived or figurative, then the primary meaning should come first. It is a question as to whether the derived meanings should be signalled as the OED does by its use of 'fig.'. In any event, this concerns such as you rather than me, because it is admins on wiki who cruise around, and would make decisions. All I've done is raise an issue for consideration. Macdonald-ross (talk) 11:41, 23 November 2011 (UTC)


Hey there! Just letting you know that I granted you the autopatroller right here. Your creations look good and so there is no real need to have them unpatrolled. Happy new year and happy editing! -Barras (talk) 15:28, 3 January 2012 (UTC)