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Why is “Weiner” Sometimes “Weener” and Sometimes “Whiner”?

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With his latest scandalous revelations, former congressman Anthony Weiner has provided another round of giggle-worthy news coverage playing on the connotations of his name. The word “wiener” came to mean, well, a man’s wiener, through its association with a type of sausage from Vienna, the Wiener Würstchen. The German word for Vienna is Wien, pronounced “veen,” and Viennese is Wiener, prounounced “veener.” In the same way people say “Polish” for Polish sausage, people started calling the wiener wurst a “weener,” and the word then traveled over to the domain of other sausage-like objects.

But Anthony Weiner’s name is not Wiener! It is spelled with “ei” rather than “ie,” and in German, “ei” is pronounced “eye,” as it would be in “whiner.” So why doesn’t he use that pronunciation? What sort of glutton for punishment is he?

If he lived in Germany, his name would indeed have the “eye” pronunciation but in the United States both the “eye” and “ee” pronunciations show up for this name, for reasons having to do with ethnicity, sound drift, and chance. There is a German name Weiner that comes from a dialectal pronunciation of Wagner, related to Waggoner, meaning wagon-maker. But Anthony Weiner is Jewish, and according to dictionaries of Jewish surnames, his name probably originates from the Yiddish name Vayner, meaning wine merchant. Yiddish is related to German, and Vayner is related to the German word Wein for “wine,” and pronounced with the “eye” vowel. But there is another less common but also predominately Jewish surname Wiener, meaning someone who comes from Vienna.

So there have long been two surnames with two pronunciations and two different but very close spellings floating about in the same American community, and in the process of Americanization things were likely to get mixed up. Probably adding to the confusion was influence from the inconsistent “ie” “ei” spelling rules in English, and a slew of common American Scottish names where “ei” stood for the “ee” sound (MacLeish, Neil, Reid, Weir, Keith).

Of course, in the American tradition, it’s up to each family to decide how they want to spell and pronounce their name. If Anthony Weiner wants to reinvent himself again, he could always consider a name change.

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Big Questions
What Is the Difference Between Generic and Name Brand Ibuprofen?
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What is the difference between generic ibuprofen vs. name brands?

Yali Friedman:

I just published a paper that answers this question: Are Generic Drugs Less Safe than their Branded Equivalents?

Here’s the tl;dr version:

Generic drugs are versions of drugs made by companies other than the company which originally developed the drug.

To gain FDA approval, a generic drug must:

  • Contain the same active ingredients as the innovator drug (inactive ingredients may vary)
  • Be identical in strength, dosage form, and route of administration
  • Have the same use indications
  • Be bioequivalent
  • Meet the same batch requirements for identity, strength, purity, and quality
  • Be manufactured under the same strict standards of FDA's good manufacturing practice regulations required for innovator products

I hope you found this answer useful. Feel free to reach out at www.thinkbiotech.com. For more on generic drugs, you can see our resources and whitepapers at Pharmaceutical strategic guidance and whitepapers

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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Big Questions
Do Cats Fart?
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Certain philosophical questions can invade even the most disciplined of minds. Do aliens exist? Can a soul ever be measured? Do cats fart?

While the latter may not have weighed heavily on some of history’s great brains, it’s certainly no less deserving of an answer. And in contrast to existential queries, there’s a pretty definitive response: Yes, they do. We just don’t really hear it.

According to veterinarians who have realized their job sometimes involves answering inane questions about animals passing gas, cats have all the biological hardware necessary for a fart: a gastrointestinal system and an anus. When excess air builds up as a result of gulping breaths or gut bacteria, a pungent cloud will be released from their rear ends. Smell a kitten’s butt sometime and you’ll walk away convinced that cats fart.

The discretion, or lack of audible farts, is probably due to the fact that cats don’t gulp their food like dogs do, leading to less air accumulating in their digestive tract.

So, yes, cats do fart. But they do it with the same grace and stealth they use to approach everything else. Think about that the next time you blame the dog.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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