Linguistic tools for the supervillain

In celebration of Geoff Pullum's 700th LLOG post, "World domination and threats to the public", we'll be meeting for a quiet (virtual) drink this evening. But meanwhile I'll quietly suggest that Geoff has been too hasty in joining Randall Munroe at xkcd in assigning to the field of Linguistics a "low likelihood of being a crucial tool for a supervillain, and low probability of anything breaking out of the research environment and threatening the general population".

In fact LLOG posts have described at least two fictional counter-examples  over the years, and I expect that commenters will be able to suggest some others.

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World domination and threats to the public

Linguistics is in the most desirable quadrant according to today's xkcd: low likelihood of being a crucial tool for a supervillain, and low probability of anything breaking out of the research environment and threatening the general population.

But I'm not at all sure that everything is positioned correctly. Molasses storage should be further to the right (never forget the Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919); dentistry should be moved up (remember Marathon Man); robotics in its current state is too highly ranked on both axes; and entomology, right now (October 18, 2017), in addition to being slightly too low, is spelled wrong. Lots to quibble about, I'd say. But not the standing of linguistics as a safe thing to work on.

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"Artist=President Barack Obama"

Alex Jones, contact LLOG immediately! Never mind Pizzagate, never mind Sandy Hook, never mind the FEMA concentration camps, never mind the fake moon landings. This morning I stumbled on evidence, lying around in plain sight, for a systematic program of deception so huge — and yet so improbable — that even InfoWars listeners will find it hard to believe: Donald Trump is actually Barack Obama in disguise.

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The degendering of the third person pronoun in Mandarin, pt. 2

Bilibili (bīlībīlī 哔哩哔哩; B zhàn B站 ("B site / station") "is a video sharing website themed around anime, manga, and game fandom based in China, where users can submit, view, and add commentary subtitles on videos" (Wikpedia).  When you register for this site, you're supposed to declare whether you're M(ale) or F(emale), in which case your posts will be referred to respectively as "tā de 他的" ("his") and "tā de 她的" ("hers").  If you do not specify your gender, your posts will be referred to as "ta的" or "TA的", i.e., neither M(ale) (tā de 他的) nor F(emale) (tā de 她的).

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Paramilitary

Does Spanish paramilitar have a different meaning than English paramilitary, or at least stronger negative connotations? This question has recently become the focus of reaction to a New Yorker article by Jon Lee Anderson, "The increasingly tense standoff over Catalonia's independence referendum", 10/4/2017.

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Five things

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Easy versus exact

Ever since people started inputting Chinese characters in computers, I've had an intense interest in how they do it, which systems are more efficient, and why they choose the particular ones they adopt.  For the first few decades, because all inputting systems presented significant obstacles and challenges, I remained pretty much of an onlooker because I didn't want to waste my time struggling with cumbersome methods.  It's only after I discovered how simple and fast it is to use Google Translate as my chief inputting method that I became very active in entering Chinese character texts.

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Help our spam journal to a healthy grow

I continue to be astonished by the sheer volume of the junk email I get from spam journals and organizers of spamferences, and by the linguistic ineptitude of the unprincipled responsible parties. I have been getting dozens per month, for a year or more: journal announcements, calls for papers, requests for conference attendance, subscription information, and invitations to editorial boards. Today I got a prestige invitation that began thus:

After careful evaluation and reading your article published in Journal of Logic, Language and Information entitled “On the Mathematical Foundations of", we decided to send you this invitation.

Clearly the careful evaluation and reading did not enable them to get to the end of my title (it does not end in of). And what was the invitation?

In light of your remarkable achievements in Critical Care, we would like to invite you to join the Editorial Board of Journal of Nursing.

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"Why does Jeff Sessions talk like that?"

 

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Terror of singular 'they'

Joining a crowd of other recent fraudsters, Paul Roberts and Deborah Briton returned from their Spanish vacation and subsequently turned in a completely fake claim against the Thomas Cook package-vacation company, alleging that their time in Spain had been ruined by stomach complaints for which the hotel and the company should be held liable. They sought more than $25,000 in damages for the fictional malady. The judge sentenced them to jail. And in this report of the case my colleague Bob Ladd noticed that Sam Brown, the prosecuting attorney, showed himself to be so terrified of blundering into a singular they that he would not even risk using they with plural reference, preferring to utter a totally ungrammatical sentence:

*Sam Brown, prosecuting, said: "Both defendants knew that in issuing this claim he or she would be lying in order to support it."

Beware of struggling to obey prescriptive injunctions that don't come naturally to you; they can warp your ability to use your native language sensibly.

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The less… umm… fewer the better

Someone with a knowledge of usage controversies, German language, and modern political history put this on the web somewhere; I haven't been able to find out who or where:

[Hat tip: Rowan Mackay]

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Sinitic is a group of languages, not a single language

Pro-Cantonese sign in Hong Kong:


A man holds a sign professing his love for Cantonese as he attends a Hong Kong rally in 2010 against mainland China’s bid to champion Mandarin over Cantonese. Picture: AFP

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Awesome / sugoi すごい!

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