Regional Linguistics
August 6, 2004 5:13 AM   Subscribe

Regional linguistics filter: Who says "open" the lights rather than "turn on" the lights and where are you (or they) from? In a related vein, who says "make" a party rather than "throw" or "have" a party and where are you (or they) from?
posted by caddis to Writing & Language (30 answers total)
 
I hear these phrases from my french (Quebecois) coworkers every day:

"Ouvre la lumiere" --- Open the light
"Faire un party" --- Make a party

One I particularly enjoy:

"Prendre un decision" --- Take a decision (I must hear this half-a-dozen times a day).

I think you're seeing literal translations from French, and North Americain French (Quebec, Acadia, etc...) at that. If it's any consolation, us anglos do the same in French, so it all evens out.
posted by bonehead at 9:22 AM on August 6, 2004


Could be French in origin, because in New Orleans one "makes" all kinds of things, like groceries. . .I don't remember talk of opening lights, but it's been awhile.
posted by rainbaby at 9:31 AM on August 6, 2004


This seems more like the era you are from. You opened the electrical circuit to turn the lights on as your are opening the electric flow and how you would see it on a electrical schematic – today you turn the switch to “on”.

My grandparents made a party by planning the whole event out; starting by making invitations – today you call up a bunch a people using any excuse for having a good time together, throwing a people together.
posted by thomcatspike at 9:37 AM on August 6, 2004


I grew up in Minneapolis and my mother always "made" groceries. However, she hung out with a lot of people from downsouth, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, etc. I always thought it was a southern idiom. Or is it even an idiom?
posted by Juicylicious at 9:38 AM on August 6, 2004


This seems more like the era you are from. You opened the electrical circuit to turn the lights on as your are opening the electric flow and how you would see it on a electrical schematic – today you turn the switch to “on”.

My grandparents made a party by planning the whole event out; starting by making invitations – today you call up a bunch a people using any excuse for having a good time together, throwing people into the mix for a fun time.
posted by thomcatspike at 9:40 AM on August 6, 2004


Thomcatspike: Wouldn't one close the circuit to turn the light on?
posted by sohcahtoa at 9:42 AM on August 6, 2004


thomcatspike: the problem with that is that in electrical schematics, you close a circuit to allow current to flow, and open one to make it stop.
posted by rkent at 9:46 AM on August 6, 2004


Wow sohcahtoa, I swear I didn't wait 4 minutes after preview to post. Er... I think.
posted by rkent at 9:48 AM on August 6, 2004


I've never encountered "open the lights".

But my relatives, including my mom, have always said "make (someone) a party" or "make (someone) a wedding", and practically never used the term "throw a party". We're Jewish New Yorkers; maybe it's a Yiddish-derived semantic construction? Come to think of it, I've also heard "make a success" and similiar phrases.
posted by Asparagirl at 9:50 AM on August 6, 2004


Did that until I was in middle school, trace it directly to growing up bilingual: in Mandarin kai1 means both "open" and "turn on [an electrical appliance]".
posted by casarkos at 9:54 AM on August 6, 2004


My mom is French, and she's been yelling at me to "Shut the lights" since I was a kid. "Open/close the lights" is definitely a Franglicism, which also syncs up with the idea of areas near Quebec and New Orleans.
posted by LairBob at 9:57 AM on August 6, 2004


The Harvard Dialect survey, for anyone who is interested in these sorts of things.

As an aside, sohcahtoa and musfanum got me through tenth grade.
posted by mbd1mbd1 at 10:05 AM on August 6, 2004


Somebody needs to learn those people how to speak proper.
posted by seanyboy at 10:05 AM on August 6, 2004


In the midwest (Iowa and Chicago) I've always heard and used the term "have a party". Such and such is having a party, for example.

I've heard "open the lights" before, but I can't remember where, exactly. It's certainly uncommon around here.
posted by aladfar at 10:07 AM on August 6, 2004


whoops, I mixed it; 0=no, 1+ closed, damn deep thoughts. Basically have heard, open the light switch. Also before electricity you opened the shades to allow the light in. Basically hear “open” and “make” from the generations older than me.
posted by thomcatspike at 10:10 AM on August 6, 2004


0=open as in no electricity flowing
posted by thomcatspike at 10:11 AM on August 6, 2004


Filipinos sometimes say open the light, as that would be the literal translation.

"Bukas ang ilaw" - open the light
"Patay ang ilaw" - kill the light
posted by linux at 10:18 AM on August 6, 2004


Whenever I have encountered "open/close the light," it has been a francophone-related thing, but interestingly the anglophones I know from Montreal also say the same thing. So it seems to have migrated, even if it originated in transliteration.
posted by dame at 10:29 AM on August 6, 2004


It's most definitely "Close the lights" for turning off the lights --- "Fermer les lumieres". In fact, I think English is the weird one here. We get "turn off" from the old house gas valves, I would guess.

"Making the shopping": very Montrealais! At the dep, of course.
posted by bonehead at 10:58 AM on August 6, 2004


in Mandarin kai1 means both "open" and "turn on [an electrical appliance]".
I'll go with this as my Chinese wife always does the "open and close" the light
posted by mss at 10:58 AM on August 6, 2004


Used to work with a guy who would sometimes tell us to throw another log on the air conditioner. Never was sure whether he wanted us to make it colder or warmer...
posted by kindall at 11:04 AM on August 6, 2004


Growing up in Rhode Island, I associate "close the lights" with persons of French-Canadian extraction. Others:

"Pass the broom over the floor"
"Side by each" ("side-by-side"; once used to describe a 2-1 breakaway during a NESN college hockey broadcast)
And the classic Warwick, RI public service announcement billboard, "Drive Slow Your Car"
posted by yerfatma at 11:12 AM on August 6, 2004


On a related note, Chileans are starting to say "hace sentido" (literally "it makes sense") as opposed to the canonical spanish idiom "tiene sentido" (lit. "it has sense"). It's an anglicism, probably brought back by all the exiles and MBAs.
posted by signal at 11:42 AM on August 6, 2004


Tagalog shares similar usage of "opening" and "closing" of lights: the Tagalog verb "bukas" means both "open" and "turn on." BUT, the Tagalog verb for "turning off" is "patay," or "kill," though Filipinos speaking English will usually say "close."
posted by brownpau at 11:49 AM on August 6, 2004


I grew up in Maine, and I know a franco-ism when I hear it. I would expect older people of French-Canadian extraction to say that. Along with "butter peanut."
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:33 PM on August 6, 2004


Growing up in North Dakota, always heard a lot of "Make the light on/off" and the anecdotal "Throw the cow over the fence some hay" — people told me the latter makes perfect sense in a highly localized German dialect, but I think they're full of shit.

Also an ex-girlfriend of mine, from a very very Czech-Bohemina family, never had an untied shoe &&151; her shoe was open. She's the only one I've ever heard use that particular idiom.

And thank you browpau, that drove me nuts for three months in Cebu (that and jokingly arguing 'This is not a polo!')
posted by nathan_teske at 12:37 PM on August 6, 2004


I don't speak a word of Chinese -- well, not one I can use on a family web site -- but I "beat" the telephone.

My family stopped speaking Tagalog a generation before mine, so I "turn on" and "turn off" lights, but my grandfather would "open" or "put on" lights. I have heard the "put on" usage elsewhere in the family as well, and I've been known to "put out" a light myself from time to time.

I had an ex who would "make" a party. She was from San Diego, but was raised by her grandparents.

None of the above mentioned people know, knew, are, or were exposed for any significant time to speakers of, French.
posted by majick at 1:19 PM on August 6, 2004


Definately French in origin. My girlfriend grew up in the Ivory Coast and she only says open/close the light.
posted by Grod at 1:20 PM on August 6, 2004


I should have remembered ouvre la lumiere from my high school French, it seems to dominate the answers here. I asked as I know someone who uses these expressions. She is Jewish, grew up on the Jersey shore and her parents grew up in the Bronx. I have lived in the NYC area for many years and very rarely hear these expressions from anyone else. I guess I was looking for more responses like Asparagirl's and was hoping to narrow down the who and where a little more specifically. Interesting responses nonetheless.
posted by caddis at 1:34 PM on August 6, 2004


I'm a Montrealer born and bred. I don't say "open the lights" or "close the lights" although I know anglos who do - but my impression's that it's more common from people of Italian or maybe Portuguese backgrounds or who've grown up in those neighbourhoods. Anglo Montrealers do have a lot of language quirks, things like "pass by" a store (i.e., go to the store, as opposed to walk by it), eat "shallots" (i.e., green onions, échalotes), but I've never in my life heard "make the groceries" in English.
posted by zadcat at 2:39 PM on August 6, 2004


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