Tricky Words in this week's OVI
The hotel name "Doubletree by Hilton" makes me think about the preposition "by". One meaning of "by" is like "beside" or "next to", as in James Blunt's song about the
wise men who have "a semi(-detached house) by the sea". But there is no Hilton Hotel next to the Doubletree, so I think it's "by" indicating agent in the sense of "činiteľ", meaning that the
Doubletree was created or designed by Hilton as an alternative brand compliant with the standards of the Hilton chain.
Similar examples are "that song by James Blunt" or "Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens", because writers are agents in the sense that they do something active - they create books or songs. The things
which agents use in their activities are instruments, and then you say "with" - I suspect that Oliver Twist was written with a pen and plenty of ink.
This week's question is: If "tongue" means the physical "jazyk", why is "materinský jazyk" translated as "mother tongue" rather than "mother language"? The word
tongue on its own usually means part of the body. Little children are told "It's rude to stick your tongue out." But the association of tongue with language is very close, and in some
commonly-accepted expressions (called collocations) tongue is undertood as language.
"Mother tongue" is a typical collocation (but not "mother's tongue"), and I suspect "mother language" is a literal translation from Slovak into English. The current
alternative for mother tongue is "first language", especially with regard to bilingual people.
Please send your questions about English language habits (questions in English or in Slovak) to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will choose one to answer each week.