"Chinese helicopter" under attack

Just a couple of weeks ago, we learned about 19 Singaporean expressions that had been newly added to the OED:

"New Singaporean and Hong Kong terms in the OED" (5/12/16)

Among these expressions was "Chinese helicopter", which was characterized as "derogatory" and defined as "a Singaporean whose schooling was conducted in Mandarin Chinese and who has limited knowledge of English".

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Ask Language Log: why is "whether or not" more frequent?

Ton van der Wouden asks:

The Google Ngram viewer shows a tenfold increase in the frequency of the string "whether or not". Can the readers of language log think of any explanation for this growth? Can it perhaps be traced back to some prescriptive source? Is it perhaps accompanied by a comparable decrease of the frequency of the variant with postposed "or not", as in "whether you like it or not" — a string that is too long a search term for the Ngram viewer.

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Once more on the mystery of the national spelling bee

Looks like this year's winners are again co-champions and of Indian (South Asian) origin. Guessing from their names, one of them has a Karnataka heritage and the other an Andhra background.

Quoting from "National spelling bee ends in a tie for third consecutive year" (USA Today, 5/27/16):

For the third year in a row, the Scripps National Spelling Bee has ended with two champions.

Nihar Janga, 11, of Austin, Texas, and Jairam Hathwar, 13, of Painted Post, N.Y., were declared co-champions Thursday night after fighting to a draw during 39 rounds of competition.

“It was just insane,” Jairam* said as he and Nihar triumphantly hoisted the golden winner’s cup into the air.

“I’m just speechless,” Nihar said. “I’m only in the fifth grade.”

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*The younger brother of 2014 co-champion, Sriram Hathwar.

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Any sufficiently antique technology…

Maybe staged, but still amusing:

Update — I should add that the dining room at the restaurant last night was decorated with shelves full of antique devices, including telegraph units, sewing machines, typewriters, and a transistor radio.

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Xi Jinping and his rookery

Bruce Humes saw this on NYT’s bilingual website in an article today entitled "China’s Leader Wears Many Hats, but Only One Jacket"*:

In summer, Mr. Xi follows tradition and wears a long-sleeved white shirt and dark trousers when mixing with ordinary folks. When accompanying officials follow suit, as they often do, they call to mind a rookery of emperor penguins. 

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The embrace of algae

Apparently being covered in pond slime can be a Good Thing:

That's an advertisement in the elevator at the LREC 2016 site. The legend sounds like a chapter heading from a dystopian SF novel, but apparently it's an experience worth 46,80 €.

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Writing Shanghainese

The recent discussion of different ways of writing Chinese reminded Jeff K of two books of Shanghai expressions that he had come across.  See here for scans of a few pages.

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Setting injustice back

Mitch Albom, "Austin pastor’s false cake charge sets real injustice back", Dallas Morning News 5/23/2016:

Brown set back every future case of intolerance, allowing critics to ask if it’s real or fabricated.

As Albom's column explains, Jordan Brown is the openly gay pastor who accused the bakery at Whole Foods of adding an anti-gay slur to the decoration of a cake that he ordered there. Store surveillance video from the check-out line demonstrated that part of his story was false,  and eventually he confessed to having fabricated the claim.

What motivated Vance Koven to send in this link  was the use of the verb set back in the headline and the body of Albom's column. Wiktionary defines the relevant sense of set back as "to delay or obstruct"– and Albom obviously meant that Brown's attempt at deception will delay or obstruct future campaigns against the type of "injustice" or "intolerance" that Brown claimed to have suffered.

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Rapping Karl Marx in China

In Sixth Tone, Fan Yiying has written an article that leaves me reeling:

"Hip Song Gives Karl Marx Good Rap:  Theme music for a Marx-focused television show is a hit with Chinese youth."

The video of the song is posted here (unfortunately, you have to wait 40 seconds to get through the ads). And here is the audio:

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About those grilled fevers…

From Steve Kass:

My brother is traveling in Portugal and posted this on Instagram. That’s all I know.


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Firestorm over Chinese characters

It began with a one page think piece by Ted Chiang in the New Yorker (5/16/16) that we describe and discuss here:

"Ted Chiang uninvents Chinese characters" (5/13/16)

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Stone Service

I'm in Portorož, Slovenia, for LREC2016; and so far the most interesting linguistic aspect of the place is the sometimes-surprising mixture of languages on signs. For example:

The longer explanation of the side of the van is in Slovenian — Restavriranje, brušenje, čiščenje in impregnacije naravnega kamna = "Restoration, grinding, cleaning and impregnation of natural stone". But the short version is in English: STONE SERVICE.

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The uses of Hanyu pinyin

Hànyǔ pīnyīn 汉语拼音 ("Sinitic Spelling") is the official romanization of the PRC.  It also comes with an official orthography which provides guidelines for word separation, punctuation, and how to deal with grammatical constructions.  An English translation of the basic orthographical rules by John Rohsenow can be found at the back of the various editions of the ABC Chinese-English Dictionary from the University of Hawai'i Press.

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