"Add oil" is now English

Two years ago, I wrote a post about the Chinese expression "'Add oil'" (9/13/16) (cf. the comments to "Non-translation" [7/24/16]). In that post, I mentioned:

I remember way back when I was in high school (in the 50s), the cheerleaders used to tell their team to "step on the gas".  So the concept of ga1yau4 / jiāyóu 加油 ("add oil / gas") was already out there.

In a personal note, Chau Wu adds:

To echo what you said, I remember I also used the phrase 加油 when I was in elementary school (late 1940s – early 50s), both in Mandarin and Taiwanese.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments


More on trends in the Google ngrams corpus

In "Lexico-cultural decay?", 10/9/2018, I called into question Jonathan Merritt's evidence for the view that "most of the central terms in the Christian vocabulary are rapidly declining". Merritt cites Kesebir & Kesebir 2012, who argue on the basis of Google ngram-viewer data that

Study 1 showed a decline in the use of general moral terms such as virtue, decency and conscience, throughout the twentieth century. In Study 2, we examined the appearance frequency of 50 virtue words (e.g. honesty, patience, compassion) and found a significant decline for 74% of them.

I explained several reasons why unigram frequencies for many ordinary words in the Google ngram dataset tend to show a decline over the 20th century, citing Pechinick et al. 2015 and giving some illustrative examples. It occurred to me this morning that there's a different way to illustrate one of the issues, namely the changing mix of types of books in Google's collection. At some point after 2000, that collection shifts fairly abruptly — the earlier material is based on scans of books from cooperating research libraries, while the later material is based on digital texts provided by publishers. This shift produces such a pronounced change in the frequency of nearly all words that the default ngram viewer stops in the year 2000.

But you can ask the viewer to give you data up to 2008 (as far as it's willing to go), and the results almost always show a pronounced change. So I tried it for the items underlying Merritt's argument.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (1)


Porcelain bumping

I learned this term from an important article by David Bandurski in today's (10/17/18) The Guardian, "China’s new diplomacy in Europe has a name: broken porcelain:  Beijing’s message to Sweden and beyond – criticise us, and we’ll topple your agenda – won’t win it any hearts and minds".

The relevant Chinese expression is pèngcí 碰瓷, which literally means "bump porcelain" (think pèngpèngchē 碰碰车 ["bumper cars"]).  How did pèngcí 碰瓷 ("bump porcelain") become embroiled with diplomacy and international politics?

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (5)


Umarell

Umarell is one of those words that people like because it references a somewhat familiar concept that their own language or variety has no easy way to name. Wikipedia has this to say about it:

Umarell (Italian pronunciation: [umaˈrɛlː]; modern revisitation of the Bolognese dialect word umarèl [umaˈrɛːl]) is a term popular in Bologna referring specifically to men of retirement age who pass the time watching construction sites, especially roadworks – stereotypically with hands clasped behind their back and offering unwanted advice. Its literal meaning is "little man" (also umarèin), and it is often pluralized in spelling by adding a final s (out of English influence).

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (14)


"I Want to Eat Your Pancreas"

Seen by a friend of Jeff DeMarco in Sydney, Australia's Chinatown:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (15)


Why it's harder for him to "speak God"

In "Lexico-cultural decay" (10/9/2018) and "Lexical orientation" (10/12/2018) I discussed Jonathan Merritt's 10/9/2018 argument that "traditional sacred speech is dying in the English-speaking world" ("The Death of Sacred Speech", The Week 9/10/2018).

Yesterday, a related piece by Merritt was featured in the New York Times — "It’s Getting Harder to Talk About God". This time he adds polling results to numbers from Google Books:

More than 70 percent of Americans identify as Christian, but you wouldn’t know it from listening to them. An overwhelming majority of people say that they don’t feel comfortable speaking about faith, most of the time. […]

As a student of American Christianity and the son of a prominent megachurch pastor, I’ve been sensing for some time that sacred speech and spiritual conversation are in decline. But this was only a hunch I had formed in response to anecdotal evidence and personal experience. I lacked the quantitative data needed to say for sure.

So last year, I enlisted the Barna Group, a social research firm focused on religion and public life, to conduct a survey of 1,000 American adults. This study revealed that most Americans — more than three-quarters, actually — do not often have spiritual or religious conversations.

More than one-fifth of respondents admit they have not had a spiritual conversation at all in the past year. Six in 10 say they had a spiritual conversation only on rare occasions — either “once or twice” (29 percent) or “several times” (29 percent) in the past year. A paltry 7 percent of Americans say they talk about spiritual matters regularly.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (18)


How science works

[h/t Wendy Grossman]

 

Comments (3)


Their inability not to comprehend that they are incapable

Jonathan Bouquet, "May I have a word… about toolkits, real and metaphorical", The Observer 10/14/2018 [emphasis added]:

No one, least of all my family and close friends, would deny that I am somewhat hidebound, stuck up to my nethers in mud. I mean, don’t get me started on the subject of mobile phones and the inability of so many of their owners not to comprehend that they are incapable of walking and using these devices at the same time.

Thus, when I see the word toolkit, it conjures up images of the contents of a red cantilevered box, containing hammers, various screwdrivers, bradawl, spanners (again various), sundry nails, screws and broken electric saw blades (no, I don’t know why either), and assorted oddly shaped pieces of plastic that probably came from a long-discarded Black & Decker Workmate.

Alas, no longer. A recent report, on parents who won’t let their sons wear a skirt to school possibly being referred to social services, talked of “Brighton and Hove city council’s ‘trans inclusion schools toolkit’”.

Now, without wishing to get involved in the tangled issue of gender identity, I would just like to stick my crusty old arm over the parapet and stand up for toolkit’s proper meaning. Brighton and Hove council could just as easily have used the word advice and it would have had exactly the same meaning.

Or, to put it another way, ain't no toolkit without no hammers.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (17)


For, against, whatever…

A tweet for the misnegation archive:

This one has the unusual property of being purely lexical, with no explicit negations at all.

[h/t Donald Clarke]

 

Comments (12)


Bur Ger A Head: Thai fondness for English syllabism

The following portfolio of photographs illustrating the Thai penchant for separating English words into syllables was taken by Paul Midler over many years of travel in the region:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (18)


Home party

Recently, Tong Wang's husband told her that he would not be home for dinner because he was going out with friends to this place:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (4)


Peking colloquialisms

Here is a photograph of a paper placemat Tong Wang found in a restaurant serving Beijing dishes that is named "Sea Bowl Restaurant" (Hǎiwǎn jū 海碗居):

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (7)


Tangut beer

Comments (14)