Why is there a ‘d’ in the word fridge but not in the word refrigerator?

Allow me to write a more general answer.

The phonotactics of a language, and the conventions of its spelling, can lead  speakers to expect letters to be pronounced differently in different contexts—for example, at the start or at the end of a word.

Truncation, in words like (re)frig(erator), takes a sound from the start or middle or end of a word, and makes it a new word. So [ɹɛfrɪdʒəɹeɪda] becomes [frɪdʒ].

But when you come to spelling that truncation, you find that keeping the old spelling can be misleading in its new context (which is after all, a brand new and unfamiliar word). So as both other respondents have written, you can’t spell  [frɪdʒ] as (re)frig(erator) > frig: <g> at the end of a word in English is always [ɡ], so you have to add a final <e>.

Moreover, English typically spells final [dʒ] as <dge>. Plain <ge> does exist, particularly in old –age loans from French; but an unfamiliar word ending in <ige> could be taken for a recent loan from French, and pronounced in the recent French fashion: [ʒ]. Even if that risk didn’t exist, spelling will prefer the usual <dge> pattern anyway, because familiarity in spelling is important (and when deciphering unfamiliar new words, we need all the help we can get).

Australian English truncates words a lot, and has to deal with this issue. The truncation of breakfast can’t be breakie: the shortening of the <ea> is irregular, and wouldn’t be extended to the new word. So it’s usually spelled brekkie. The truncation of poverty can’t be povo, because English shortens long vowels on the third syllable back, not the second; so it is spelled povvo instead, with the double consonant indicating that the first <o> is short. Ditto Seppo as the truncation of Septic Tank = Yank = American.

Answered 2016-04-14 · Upvoted by

Heather Jedrus, speech-language pathologist.

Why are there languages which are spoken the same but written in different script or alphabets?

Traditionally in Europe: religion. As a more general answer than religion, which covers the other answers here: culture. Scripts comes from a particular culture, and adherents of that culture adopt that script. If speakers of the same language belong to different cultures, they use different scripts. If there is a massive cultural shift in the language community, then everyone shifts script.

The critical thing to note here: writing is a cultural artefact, much more thoroughly than language is. So it does not pattern with language, and can change even more quickly. It can change by fiat, or by proselytism, more quickly than language does.

So three hundred years ago, Greek Orthodox Christians wrote Greek in the Greek script; Greek Jews wrote Greek in Hebrew script; Greek Muslims wrote Greek in Arabic script; and Greek Catholics wrote Greek in Roman script. Four hundred years ago, Orthodox Cretan authors wrote Greek in Roman script too—because they were writing Renaissance plays influenced by Italian culture, and all their Ancient Greek references were via Italian. The Orthodox churchmen in Crete at the same time were writing in Greek script.

Ditto Albania, with the added mess that some Albanians made up their own scripts. Coming up with a single Albanian alphabet was a necessary step to having Albanian nationalism override  the credal identities of Albanian subcommunities.

Hence what used to happen with Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian. It flabbergasts me that Serbs also use the Roman alphabet, but that’s about a new culture (or religion): Westernism. Which is also why Turkey switched to Roman.

Hence also the merry-go-round of scripts in the former Soviet Union. Arabic (Islam); then Latin (Westernism); then Cyrillic (Sovietism); then Latin again (Pan-Turkism).

Chinese Traditional vs Simplified is partly about culture (rejection of the past), though of course many of the simplified characters are older cursive forms, so they’re hardly made up out of thin cloth. There  was some Westernising enthusiasm around Pinyin, but certainly not enough to displace the ideographic script.

What is the Greek word for actor?

Modern Greek: like everyone else said, ηθοποιός. In Ancient Greek this meant “character-building”. The modern meaning came about because plays can be character building, I suppose, but I can’t find out when the meaning shift happened. Pretty sure it’s very recent.

The word is from katharevousa. The old vernacular word is θεατρίνος, which is still around in its pejorative meaning of “drama queen; impostor”.

Like the Ancient word for actor.

Oh, what’s the Ancient word for actor, you ask?


You recognise that word, don’t you?

How can the Russian word пожалуйста mean “Please” and “You’re welcome” at the same time?


I know nothing of Russian (Я не знаю ничево в русскаям языкам… which proves my point); but the same polysemy occurs in Greek, and Philip Newton’s answer to Greek (language): Why do we say “παρακαλώ” when answering the phone or saying ‘you’re welcome’? makes sense to me: “please don’t mention it” (“please don’t abase yourself so much as to thank me”).

Intriguingly, the African American use of Nigga please! goes in the completely opposite direction: not an expression of humility, but of exasperation (“please don’t offend my honour/my common sense”)

Emil Manukyan is right about words meaning lots of things depending on their context, though it’s an exaggeration to say it could mean whatever you want: the  meaning is still traceable back to “being well-disposed”.

But don’t quote Saussure, that’s just vague theoretical underpinnings. The way to make sense of this is conversational implicature. As in so much else about language, it was Grice that led the way on this.