Friday, August 8, 2008

'Ambience'/'Ambiance' and Let's Hear It for the Weasels

I was thinking the other day about the animals that we refer to as the very embodiment of certain types of people. (It was a slow news day.) You know, like, "He/she is a real ..." Here are some that came to mind:

chameleon
weasel
pig
jackass
gnat
dog
snake
skunk
bear
fox
dinosaur

And that's all I have to say about that.

On an unrelated topic, I was typing out my backside yesterday about "ambience" versus "ambiance" -- trying to say from memory which is right/wrong/preferred. So today I figured it was time to look it up:

Webster's New World College Dictionary says it's "ambience," but notes "ambiance" as an alternate spelling.

Merriam-Webster agrees. It prefers "ambience" but allows "ambiance."

American Heritage's fourth edition disagrees, preferring "ambiance" but allowing "ambience."

In the French, my Harrap's Mini French Dictionnaire, much to my surprise, spells it "ambiance" (I thought the French used the "e.")

And that's all I have to say about that.

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17 comments:

Drew said...

What about "fox"? "Cow"? "Chick"? Probably other things that terms that women would rightfully resent being called?

A while back, I decided to look into animal names that English uses as verbs. I made a list.

kidicarus222.blogspot.com/2006/09/dont-make-me-platypus-all-over-you.html

And then I wondered aimlessly why some very commonplace animals don’t get to be verbs, while other stranger ones, like "badger" and "ferret" do.

Drew said...

Oh, yikes. Please excuse the many typos in my comment above. Why must I always embarrass myself in front of the wordies?

June Casagrande said...

I was feelin' wussy and thus avoiding once that felt to me to have a particular sting to them(hence "wussy").

But I really like your verbs idea. Sorry I missed that post the first time. I never thought about ferret and badger before.

But then, when it comes to thinking about all this stuff, I'm still just a pup.

June Casagrande said...

Wanna hear embarrassing? I'm sitting here proofreading/copy editing, and took a quick break to check messages/comments. And, in the middle of proofreading, I didn't even NOTICE any typos in your comment.

All is forgiven in the unbuffered blogsophere (at least, in my mind it is.)

Will Deuel said...

I always liked the English use of birds the way we use chicks.

squirrel
dodo
rat

June Casagrande said...

Good ones.

Yeah, I like "bird," too. There's something about those British accents. Not long ago saw a link (http://www.order-order.com/2008/07/sub-standard.html) in which a lot of British guys were using the C-word (the one that rhymes with "blunt") to refer to other guys. Almost sounded poetic.

I regret overlooking "nag." That's my second favorite next to "weasel."

I just love the word "weasel." One of my all-time favorites.

Drew said...

For a while, my friends in college fell into the habit of using the word “sh*tweasel,” which really didn’t seem to be all that different from “weasel,” except with the addition of the word “sh*t” to make it more offensive. It was a noun — “That guy is such a sh*tweasel” — but also a verb, in the sense of sh*tweaseling out of something you had promised to or were obligated to do.

I’ve never looked it up, but I sure hope that there does not exist an actual sh*tweasel, scientifically differentiated from and altogether worse than the normal, presumably cleaner weasel.

Also: When we call someone an “ass,” are we generally comparing them to the animal or the body part?

June Casagrande said...

Re "ass," I'm not sure. That's why I left it out.

Re "sh*tweasel," sorry but that's beautiful! What a great word! And a great example of how even a nonsensical intensifier can intensify.

When I was in the third grade, a little boy in the lunch room kept referring to the spinach on my lunch tray as "Devil's guts." Even that young, I realized that there was no reason that "Devil's" should make any difference -- yet it did. The word "guts" alone simply would not have had the same impact.

And, I can honestly say, I haven't looked at canned spinach the same way since.

That kid was a bona fide sh*tweasel.

P.S. Why am I relucant to use swear words on this blog? I don't know! (I used to be a cussaholic, and I suppose I've just gone a little wussy on the four-letter words lately.)

Drew said...

I normally don't self-censor when it comes to the swears, but since you knocked the "u" out "the seaward," I assumed I should follow suit. It's interesting, though, that you freely use "wussy," since most people assume that the Fast Times at Ridgemont High etymology is correct. In fact, that very etymology rendered that word totally off-limits in Catholic school.

June Casagrande said...

Yeah, "wussy" is like "freakin'."

I'm not fooling anyone, but I feel like I can eke by with it.

. said...

Hey June! I searched Google for "ambiance ambience" and your page happened to be the first result I clicked on. (I think it was the "typing out my backside" line that got my attention.) Anyhoo, thanks for the roundup of professional opinions on the preferred spelling. I think I'll go with the original francais.
Mike

June Casagrande said...

Thanks for sayin' so, Mike.

It never ceases to amaze me that the font of stuff I don't know is so bottomless. Maybe by the time I'm 95 I will have looked up all there is to look up. Of course, then I'll just die. (Sorry. Having one of those days.)

Still, glad I could help!

NJ said...

Regarding "Ambience"/"Ambiance", I personally prefer "Ambience". My reasoning is that this spelling is consistent with the word "Ambient" (as in "ambient temperature").

All the English dictionaries I have checked do not list the word "Ambiant". "Ambiant" is a French word.

June Casagrande said...

Ever since I posted this, I hesitate when writing "ambient." I used to spell it with confidence, but the "ambient" vs. "ambiant" thing threw me.

Ozaru said...

FWIW another top Google hit now demonstrates that in one technical arena, at least, ambiance and ambience are used with distinct meanings and pronunciations: specifically, sound engineers working in Hollywood use "ambiences" (yes, now a countable noun) to refer to background music clips, which may, together with the lighting etc., create a certain "ambiance" (mood).

June Casagrande said...

Interesting! It's always fascinating how, in a time when communications are becoming so globally homegenized, little groups continue to form and speak their own languages.

Gary said...

Regarding Brits' use of "birds": Could that explain why they also use "gulls" instead of "girls"? {:^)

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