Tricky Words in this week's OVI
Disposal and disposition. The idea behind the prefix "dis-" is sometimes "apart" (separate) and sometimes "out of" (away), so in Slovak it is either "roz-" or "mimo" respectively. If something goes
out of use, you can "put it away" somewhere, say on a waste dump, and that is waste disposal, so you dispose of waste that way, although it is better for the environment to dispose of it by
recycling, especially disposable things (jednorazové). If you have something "at your disposal", however, you can choose how you want to use it, and you probably don't throw it away.
The disposition of troops on a battlefield means how they are set apart and arranged over that area, and a person's disposition is how their feelings or characteristics are arranged, which gives
them a certain tendency in their personality, such as a cheerful or a gloomy disposition. So to translate the Slovak "k dispozícii", it's better to avoid "disposition" and say "at your disposal" -
but also remember that "disposal" more often means "throwing away".
The question this week is: why do English speakers use the word "so" much less than Slovaks say "tak"? One reason could be that there are different uses of "tak", and "so" is not always the best
translation. Sometimes it's normal, as in "Don't drive so fast, why are you so impatient?" But then there's "tak, ako ja" - "just like me", or "(nie) tak veľký, ako ja" - "(not) as big as
And then there's the typical "tak..." which people use when starting to answer questions, trying to gain time while they think of the proper answer. That's not typical for English speakers, because
"so" sounds more like "takže", expressing a logical conclusion ("z toho vyplýva/usudzujem") or surprise mixed with suspicion ("takže vy ste ten nový..."), so it's too strong for just gaining time.
Learn to say "Well…" instead.
Please send questions about English language habits to email@example.com, and I will choose one to answer each week.