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    #1

    to stop a dead for a moment

    Hello!

    The other day, I was reading a fairly interesting article on the differences between American an British English. In particular, on the usage of the words "post" and "mail". While reading, a curious idiomatic expression came up. I quote it textually:

    "What so often stops one dead for a moment are not the big things but the subtleties of usage, of which mail is a good example."

    ¿What does "to stop one dead for a moment" mean?

    To help you understand the context, you can read the full article here

    World Wide Words: Mail

    Thanks in advance and congratulations for this magnificent site. It's exactly what I've been expecting since long ago!

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    #2

    Re: to stop a dead for a moment

    UK native, not a teacher.

    Interesting article!

    To stop [somebody] dead means that something has suddenly taken all somebody's attention, in this case, the author means that whilst he was considering the wider context, suddenly he became very aware of the subtleties, to the exclusion of everything else. This is a way of expressing his surprise at the importance of the small things. There is another phrase, similar in meaning, that reads "to stop [somebody] hin his tracks". This tends to mean that something can be suddenly stopped, but is less likely to be used with 'for a moment', and is more likely to infer that something can quickly be stopped but will not resume, e.g "Clearasil stops acne in its tracks", "New regulations stop cowboy builders in their tracks".

    Hope that helps.

  1. BobK's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: to stop a dead for a moment

    "The bullet just clipped his hat and stopped him dead [in his tracks]'. Note: the bullet doesn't have to hit him to stop him dead; in fact, the thing that does the stopping doesn't even have to be a concrete noun: 'The idea stopped him dead: "But it was obvious, all the time. Why didn't I realize before now?"'



    Incidentally, esperar is a faux ami in the context of your post. You weren't expecting the forum - you were waiting for it or longing for it or hoping to find something like it, or ...

    b

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    #4

    Re: to stop a dead for a moment

    Side track: Bob, what is a faux ami?

    From the context, it sounds like a word that looks so much like one in your native language that you think you know its meaning. Like l'ananas instead of la banane for banana?

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    #5

    Re: to stop a dead for a moment

    Quote Originally Posted by Barb_D View Post
    Side track: Bob, what is a faux ami?

    From the context, it sounds like a word that looks so much like one in your native language that you think you know its meaning. Like l'ananas instead of la banane for banana?
    Sort of: ... any misleadingly similar-looking word or structure that causes L1:L2 interference. The French sensible, for example, which doesn't mean "sensible"; in this case esperar can sometimes mean "expect" but often means other things.

    I call them faux amis because my French master (RIP) was fond of the phrase, and I had never heard the English 'false friend' until I did my CELTA two years ago. I've never known who was translating or in which direction - my French master or the world of ELT.

    b

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    #6

    Re: to stop a dead for a moment

    Yes, I agree. My girlfriend is Spanish but speaks perfect English after 14 years' practice. She introduced me to the term "false friend" which I assume she picked up at language school. I learnt German but never heard it used in my German classes. I can, however, furnish you with a couple of examples:

    DE:EN
    Sympathisch: likeable NOT sympathetic
    Sensibel: sensitive NOT sensible
    Eventuell: maybe NOT eventually


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    #7

    Re: to stop a dead for a moment

    Thanks for your corrections, guys, besides your answers to my doubts.

    Effectively, a "false friend" is a relationship between two languages, in which to terms are grammatically alike but semantically different. They are one of the first issues tackled in every English course. Logically, native speakers usually don't know them because they are particularities that arise when studying a foreign language. I was stopped dead (correct?) when I first mention them at a course I took up imparted by a native speaker and she asked me what they were. This is a more amusing example:

    preservative (en) = a substance added to food to make it last fresh longer.
    preservativo (sp) = a condom.

    But in this case, I don't think "expect" is a false friend; I simply misused it, because I was about to get out of work, starving, looking forward to coming back home and it was the first verb that crossed my mind.

    Again, any correction on this message is welcome!!! Specially "to get out of work" with the sense of "end a laboural day". I'm not quite sure if it's said like that.
    Last edited by null_pointer; 12-Jun-2008 at 00:32.

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    #8

    Re: to stop a dead for a moment

    Quote Originally Posted by null_pointer View Post
    ....This is a more amusing example:

    preservative (en) = a substance added to food to make it last fresh longer.
    preservativo (sp) = a condom.
    This clash is not as far-fetched as it may seem. My CELTA tutor was thrown out of a shop in France when he held up a packet of biscuits and asked if they were made sans préservatives.

    But in this case, I don't think "expect" is a false friend; I simply misused it, because I was about to get out of work, starving, looking forward to coming back home and it was the first verb that crossed my mind.

    Again, any correction on this message is welcome!!! Specially "to get out of work" with the sense of "end a laboural day". I'm not quite sure if it's said like that.
    OK , espero may not have been in this case, but it can be sometimes for some Spanish speakers.

    (And 'get out of work' is perfect ; end of 'a laboural day' isn't though - especially the adjective - which I've never met. Besides, in English we would'nt use an adjective in that context; the nearest we'd get would be 'a working day' (in which working is a gerund, rather than a participle - as it is in phrases like 'a working model'). So it may be a verbal noun, but its role is adjectival (we used to call it 'a noun in apposition', but I don't know if that terminology is used any more). But 'a working day'[/a day's work/a day at work]* feels to me more general: "After a working day he usually stopped at the pub 'for a swift half' ". And normal working days, Mon-Fri, are 'weekdays'.

    In your case though, 'get out of work is fine'; which is what you wanted to hear - I could have stopped the previous paragraph after the first semi-colon!

    b

    PS *These two are useful if you want to use an adjective to qualify 'day' - "after hard 'day's'/'day at' work
    Last edited by BobK; 12-Jun-2008 at 12:43. Reason: Addded PS

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    #9

    Well, Galileo did it: I recant

    Sorry - wrong word, and indeed a different language. I was thinking of another "e_e_ar" word, not the Spanish esperar but the Latin expectare (which doesn't mean "expect").

    b


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    #10

    Re: to stop a dead for a moment

    "Laboural"... Oh my god! Kind of mistakes you make when you write in a foreign language but think in your mother tongue.

    Anyway, not being wholly content with "get out of work" (in spite of its correctness, I'm so stubborn ), I did my own inquiries as you did with "esperar". This must sound much better: "to get off work", musn't it?

    BobK, I apologize for my ignorance, but, what language is CELTA? Referring to what happened to your tutor... well... there are intolerant people all around the world. But in your tutor's case it's much graver, since the clerk showed an absolute ignorance of language differences. I would have demanded him.

    By the way, do you speak Latin? It was my nightmare when I was in secondary school, hahaha!!!

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