Let's talk about mustaches

General discussion about learning languages

Is a mustache one thing or two?

A mustache is one thing, of course!
30
68%
A mustache is clearly two parts!
3
7%
A mustache is obviously more than two parts.
0
No votes
My view on mustaches is too complex to be captured by these simplistic poll options.
11
25%
 
Total votes: 44

StringerBell
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Let's talk about mustaches

Postby StringerBell » Wed Jul 17, 2019 3:54 pm

I had a really hysterical debate last night with my husband about whether a mustache is "one thing" or "two things". In English, "a mustache" is a singular noun that refers to the collection of hair grown over the upper lip, while in Italian it's a plural noun (i baffi) referring to two distinct parts (one on the left, one on the right).

I never before questioned my entrenched stance on the mustache, and I thought it would be fun to make a poll to see how other people view it. If your native language is something other than English, let us know how that language has affected the way you view mustaches. And if your native language is English, you can still chime in on your mustache views.
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Re: Let's talk about mustaches

Postby tacerto1018 » Wed Jul 17, 2019 4:00 pm

In French we say "des moustaches", as plural. So it could be any number of them !
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Iversen
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Re: Let's talk about mustaches

Postby Iversen » Wed Jul 17, 2019 4:15 pm

In my head I see the mustache as two objects, but my language (Danish) treats them as one (ét overskæg). The beard that grows on the chin is also one object (except in the name of the Danish viking king Svend Tveskæg alias Sweyn Forkbeard, who apparently nurtured a beard split in two parts), but sideburns/whiskers are in the plural (bakkenbarter).

PS: I can see that trousers are mentioned below. In Danish trousers are normally plural ("bukser"), but the people who sell them talk about a "buks" in the singular. And "briller" (glasses) are normally plural, but when you buy them the vendor calls the thing a "brille" in the singular. And actually this is more logical, because you then can talk about "flere briller" and be certain that there are several independent contraptions in your collection, each with two pieces of glass. You can also say "et par briller", and then it is just one "brille".
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badger
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Re: Let's talk about mustaches

Postby badger » Wed Jul 17, 2019 4:28 pm

this rather reminds me of when I was doing the FR->EN "reverse" (for me) tree on Duolingo & the angst that a pair of trousers being a single item caused to the French-speakers learning English. a touch of schadenfreude for le jean perhaps? ;)
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Re: Let's talk about mustaches

Postby aaleks » Wed Jul 17, 2019 5:11 pm

In Russian it's "усы" - plural. So, I guess, for me it's two parts (or more? I mean cats and dogs in Russian have усы as well). But I never thought of it before :D .
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Re: Let's talk about mustaches

Postby Speakeasy » Wed Jul 17, 2019 5:44 pm

I hear you got a problem with my moustache ... I'm here, you wanna tell me about it?
Moustache..JPG
Moustache..JPG (25.11 KiB) Viewed 578 times
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iguanamon
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Re: Let's talk about mustaches

Postby iguanamon » Wed Jul 17, 2019 6:18 pm

There's an older word in English used to refer to men's facial hair- whiskers. Nowadays it is mostly used to refer to an animal's (such as a cat) facial hair. Whiskers is obviously plural in English. The English word mustache comes from French via Italian via Greek.
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Re: Let's talk about mustaches

Postby StringerBell » Wed Jul 17, 2019 6:20 pm

I just asked my Italian LEP about this, and he said that he thinks of a mustache as being one thing, so maybe thinking of it as two pieces isn't necessarily an Italian thing?
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Re: Let's talk about mustaches

Postby Speakeasy » Wed Jul 17, 2019 7:04 pm

My Québécoise wife, someone whom I take great pains to avoid provoking, tells me that "moustache" in French can be used optionally in the singular, or in the plural, depending on the speaker's intentions. When I asked her to explain the nuances to me, she glared, and I sagely left the room.
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Re: Let's talk about mustaches

Postby Saim » Wed Jul 17, 2019 7:05 pm

aaleks wrote:In Russian it's "усы" - plural. So, I guess, for me it's two parts (or more? I mean cats and dogs in Russian have усы as well). But I never thought of it before :D .


Same in Polish (wąsy) and Serbian (brkovi). They’re also used to refer to whiskers on animals.
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