The verb mingle means to mix or bring together in combination. Because mingling involves two or more individuals and cannot be one-sided, the prefixes inter- (meaning between; among) and co- (meaning jointly) add nothing that is not already contained in the meaning of mingle. Hence neither co-mingle, commingle, nor intermingle has any reason to exist, yet all three appear surprisingly often.
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During World War II, some United States soldiers in the Pacific theater used the word “lollapalooza” as a shibboleth to verbally test people who were hiding and unidentified, on the premise that Japanese people often pronounce the letter L as R, and that the word is an American colloquialism that even a foreign person fairly well-versed in American English would probably mispronounce and/or be unfamiliar with. In George Stimpson’s A Book about a Thousand Things, the author notes that, in the war, Japanese spies would often approach checkpoints posing as American or Filipino military personnel. A shibboleth such as “lollapalooza” would be used by the sentry, who, if the first two syllables come back as rorra, would “open fire without waiting to hear the remainder”.
Texting and typing are replacing the elaborate strokes that make up written Chinese. And when it comes time to jot down a few words, more Chinese are realizing they can’t remember exactly how. For Ma Silang, the long descent into forgetfulness began after he graduated from high school, went off to London for three years to study photography and bought his first computer. Now the 30-year-old fashion photographer, a native Beijinger, has such difficulty writing in his mother tongue that the other day when he was scribbling a shopping list for himself he suddenly realized that he had forgotten one of two characters that make up the Chinese word for “shampoo.” “It is inevitable that we forget our Chinese characters unless we make a special effort to practice writing a few hours each week, and who has time for that?” said Ma, looking up from an iPhone on which he was tapping a message while waiting for his MacBook to be repaired at Beijing’s Apple store. This is a strange new form of illiteracy — or, more exactly, dysgraphia, the inability to write — that is peculiar to China. The epicenter of the contagion is in places like the Apple store, a multilevel, glass-facaded emporium for China’s tech-savvy.