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Why Do Some People Say "Yuge" Instead of "Huge"?

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It might be the one thing Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have in common: they pronounce huge as "yuge."

It’s not so surprising that Sanders and Trump should share some dialect features in common. They were both born in New York in the 1940s. Indeed, this "yuge" for huge substitution has been a recognized feature of the New York City dialect for a long time, but it doesn’t only occur in New York. It’s found in Philadelphia and here and there around the U.S., as well as in the Irish cities of Cork and Dublin.

So do some people just randomly drop the "h" for no reason? Of course not. When people do it, they aren’t just randomly or lazily leaving off a sound. This "h"-dropping occurs in a specific environment—only in words that start with a "hyu." If they drop it in huge, they also drop it in humor, humid, humiliation, humongous, and Hugh.

Words that start with a consonant followed by "yu" have long been subject to the deletion of a sound. Think of the British pronunciations of tune, duty, suit, and news ("tyune," "dyuty," "syuit," "nyews"). That's the older pronunciation. In the U.S. as well as many other English speaking regions, the cluster of sounds before the u is reduced by eliminating the "y." Even so, that only happens if the first consonant is of the type produced by the contact of the tip of the tongue with the ridge behind the upper teeth ("t," "d," "s," "n," "l"). Other kinds of consonants let the "y" sound stick around (c[y]ure, p[y]unitive, b[y]eautiful, m[y]usic, f[y]ew…).

That "y" doesn’t stick around if you’re in East Anglia, where many towns have done away with the "y" clusters altogether by getting rid of "y" in all environments. There they say "bootiful" and "foo" for beautiful and few. Also, they say "hooge" for huge.

"Hooge" and "yuge" are two solutions to simplifying the "hyu" sound. In the East Anglia case the "y" gets dropped and in the New York case the "h" does. This wouldn’t be first example of a cluster getting reduced in two different ways. The word what has a similar story. Originally, it was like huge: it began with the cluster "hw" ("w" is, like "y," something called a “glide” sound, falling between a consonant and a vowel). What was "hwat." There was also "hwen," "hwistle," "hwale"—pretty much any word spelled with "wh" today once had a pronunciation of "hw." In some places, particularly the American South, Scotland, and Ireland, it still does. But mostly, the "h" was dropped and people say what and whale without it. However, in some words, like who and whole, the "w" was dropped instead.

So, yeah, it’s complicated. The point is, there’s an instability to these consonant + glide clusters that makes them prone to simplify, and that can play out in various ways. As for why it results in "yuge" for New Yorkers in particular, we don’t know exactly, except to say that the story of yuge, like that of all New York dialect features, will have something to do with generation, class, status, and the hustling, bustling mix of people from all over who both adapted and contributed as they tried to talk to each other. That’s the messy way language changes over time. It happens because we're yuman.

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Big Questions
Why Do Baseball Managers Wear Uniforms?
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Basketball and hockey coaches wear business suits on the sidelines. Football coaches wear team-branded shirts and jackets and often ill-fitting pleated khakis. Why are baseball managers the only guys who wear the same outfit as their players?

According to John Thorn, the official historian of Major League Baseball since 2011, it goes back to the earliest days of the game. Back then, the person known as the manager was the business manager: the guy who kept the books in order and the road trips on schedule. Meanwhile, the guy we call the manager today, the one who arranges the roster and decides when to pull a pitcher, was known as the captain. In addition to managing the team on the field, he was usually also on the team as a player. For many years, the “manager” wore a player’s uniform simply because he was a player. There were also a few captains who didn’t play for the team and stuck to making decisions in the dugout, and they usually wore suits.

With the passing of time, it became less common for the captain to play, and on most teams they took on strictly managerial roles. Instead of suits proliferating throughout America’s dugouts, though, non-playing captains largely hung on to the tradition of wearing a player's uniform. By the early to mid 20th century, wearing the uniform was the norm for managers, with a few notable exceptions. The Philadelphia Athletics’s Connie Mack and the Brooklyn Dodgers’s Burt Shotton continued to wear suits and ties to games long after it fell out of favor (though Shotton sometimes liked to layer a team jacket on top of his street clothes). Once those two retired, it’s been uniforms as far as the eye can see.

The adherence to the uniform among managers in the second half of the 20th century leads some people to think that MLB mandates it, but a look through the official major league rules [PDF] doesn’t turn up much on a manager’s dress. Rule 1.11(a) (1) says that “All players on a team shall wear uniforms identical in color, trim and style, and all players’ uniforms shall include minimal six-inch numbers on their backs" and rule 2.00 states that a coach is a "team member in uniform appointed by the manager to perform such duties as the manager may designate, such as but not limited to acting as base coach."

While Rule 2.00 gives a rundown of the manager’s role and some rules that apply to them, it doesn’t specify that they’re uniformed. Further down, Rule 3.15 says that "No person shall be allowed on the playing field during a game except players and coaches in uniform, managers, news photographers authorized by the home team, umpires, officers of the law in uniform and watchmen or other employees of the home club." Again, nothing about the managers being uniformed.

All that said, Rule 2.00 defines the bench or dugout as “the seating facilities reserved for players, substitutes and other team members in uniform when they are not actively engaged on the playing field," and makes no exceptions for managers or anyone else. While the managers’ duds are never addressed anywhere else, this definition does seem to necessitate, in a roundabout way, that managers wear a uniform—at least if they want to have access to the dugout. And, really, where else would they sit?

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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Big Questions
How Long Could a Person Survive With an Unlimited Supply of Water, But No Food at All?
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How long could a person survive if he had unlimited supply of water, but no food at all?

Richard Lee Fulgham:

I happen to know the answer because I have studied starvation, its course, and its utility in committing a painless suicide. (No, I’m not suicidal.)

A healthy human being can live approximately 45 to 65 days without food of any kind, so long as he or she keeps hydrated.

You could survive without any severe symptoms [for] about 30 to 35 days, but after that you would probably experience skin rashes, diarrhea, and of course substantial weight loss.

The body—as you must know—begins eating itself, beginning with adipose tissue (i.e. fat) and next the muscle tissue.

Google Mahatma Gandhi, who starved himself almost to death during 14 voluntary hunger strikes to bring attention to India’s independence movement.

Strangely, there is much evidence that starvation is a painless way to die. In fact, you experience a wonderful euphoria when the body realizes it is about to die. Whether this is a divine gift or merely secretions of the brain is not known.

Of course, the picture is not so pretty for all reports. Some victims of starvation have experienced extreme irritability, unbearably itchy skin rashes, unceasing diarrhea, painful swallowing, and edema.

In most cases, death comes when the organs begin to shut down after six to nine weeks. Usually the heart simply stops.

(Here is a detailed medical report of the longest known fast: 382 days.)

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

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