Archive for Names

If you can't say something nice…

This is a guest post by Kirby Conrod.


I'm sorry to see that the venerable Geoff Pullum is so desperately behind the times. I don't mean to be snarky, I genuinely am sad about it. It's not just a matter of being un-hip to the cool new language change in progress (singular "they" is making inroads syntactically in the types of antecedents speakers will use it with), but rather a methodological and disciplinary unhipness that really makes me feel bad.

First, let me address the rudeness: if a senior colleague of mine pulled this kind of self-conscious "he is–sorry, they are" on me in a professional setting, I'd file a complaint. If they did it in a casual setting, I'd have a nasty word for them. That's the kind of snide, intentional misgendering that I am not okay with. In writing, Pullum clearly has the ability to force a use of "they" even if he finds it distasteful. To do otherwise is profoundly disrespectful and borderline hostile, even as a supposedly self-effacing joke about his own grammar. It would've been easy to make the point of his difficulty in writing that sentence without using the wrong pronoun for anyone–and Pullum should seriously self-interrogate on why he thinks "he" would have been the alternative, anyways.

With that out of the way, I'll go into the linguistics first, then the methods.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (82)

A letter saying they won

Evidence continues to pile up that singular they is naturally used in standard English whenever the antecedent is indefinite or quantifier-like (not a personal name, for example) and the sex of whoever it might turn out to identify is completely immaterial. My correspondent Daniel Sterman thought, and I thought too, that there was evidence of this being true now even in the writing of journalists. Sterman spotted this in an article by John Bowden, writing in The Hill, concerning Temple University PhD candidate Phillip Garcia, who has won the position of judge of election in Ward 21, Division 10, Philadelphia:

A Philadelphia resident was shocked to receive a letter Friday saying they won an election earlier in the month — apparently because no one else cast a vote.

"I literally yelled 'what the hell' when I opened the letter," Phillip Garcia told The Hill. "I've written my name in a few times during elections when no one else is listed for a position. It's just been a thing I do, with no expectation of, like, actually making an impact on the vote."

But we were wrong here (this post has been corrected in the past hour).

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments off

Trumpchi, the car

Now comes news of a Chinese car with an unusual name that is aiming to enter the American market:

"China to Export Trumpchi Cars to U.S., Maybe With a New Name", by Keith Bradsher, NYT (11/17/17).

GUANGZHOU, China — The cars are called Trumpchi (though their Chinese maker insists the name is just a coincidence).

Various models of Trumpchi cars have been motoring down Chinese roads for the past seven years. But even after the United States elected a real estate tycoon with a similar name as president, the world ignored them.

But if the distinctive Trumpchi name has nothing to do with that of our President, where in the world did it come from?

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (8)

How to pronounce the name of the president of Catalonia

Comments (73)

Guys and gals: Or, why the "Chinese" are called "Han"

In the comments to "Easy versus exact" (10/14/17), a discussion of the term "Hànzi 汉子" emerged as a subtheme.  Since it quickly grew too large and complex to fit comfortably within the framework of the o.p., I decided to write this new post focusing on "Hàn 汉 / 漢" and some of the many collocations into which it enters.

To situate Language Log readers with some basic terms they likely already know, we may begin with Hànyǔ 汉语 ("Sinitic", lit., "Han language"), Hànyǔ Pīnyīn 汉语拼音 ("Sinitic spelling"), and Hànzì 汉字 ("Sinograph, Sinogram", i.e., "Chinese character").  All of these terms incorporate, as their initial element, the morpheme "Hàn 汉 / 漢".  Where does it come from, and what does it mean?

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (22)

East Asian Trumponyms

Last year, we looked at various transcriptions of Trump's surname:

Now, in "Why China Won’t Pressure North Korea as Much as Trump Wants," New Yorker (Sept. 19, 2017), Evan Osnos writes:

Chinese intellectuals have taken to joking that “Telangpu”—which is one of the Chinese pronunciations of Trump’s name—sounds like “te meipu,” which means clueless or lacking a plan.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments off

Bichetr

Receipt for yesterday's lunch:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (27)

Hurricane naming policy change

I think it's becoming clear that alternating male and female personal names to individuate Atlantic tropical cyclones is not a good idea. These storms are becoming far too nasty. Calling a storm "Harvey" makes it sound like your friendly uncle who always comes over on the Fourth of July and flirts with your mom. And "Irma" sounds like a dancer that he once knew when he was in Berlin. Science tells us that these devastating meteorological events are probably going to get worse in coming years. (Ann Coulter says that as a potential cause of increased violence in hurricanes, climate change is less plausible than God's anger at Houston for having elected a lesbian mayor; but let's face it, Ann Coulter is a few bricks short of a full intellectual hod.) Hurricanes need uglier names. You can't get Miami to evacuate by telling people that "Irma" is coming.

Accordingly, next year the National Hurricane Center is planning to name tropical cyclonic storms and hurricanes after unpleasant diseases and medical conditions. Think about it. The state governor tells you a hurricane named Dracunculiasis is coming down on you, you're gonna start packing the station wagon. So as the season progresses, the following will be the named storms in 2018.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments off

Me So Hungry

Do Victor's posts stoke your appetite for fine foods? Feast on these:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (4)

"Donald" in Scottish Gaelic

A one-second audio of "Dòmhnall".

It's the <mh> that nasalizes the vowel. Supposedly this nasalizing effect is still found in some Irish Gaelic.

If you have 4 minutes, a great animation of a folktale in Nova Scotia Gaelic with a main character named "Dòmhnall". Very peculiar sounding!

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (21)

Chinese Trumpistas

Their legions grow with each passing day.  This post is about what they are called in Chinese (see below).

The Chinese people were fascinated with Trump even before he was sworn in as POTUS:

"Year of the cock" (1/4/17)

See also the references in the second half of the third post cited below.

Now that Trump has been President for more than four months, he is all the more popular among certain segments of the Chinese population.  Even top politicians who are jockeying for power at the 19th Party Congress to be held this fall are modeling themselves after Trump:

"China’s Leadership Reshuffle 2017: Rising Stars; How China’s regional chiefs use Trump tactic in race for top" (Choi Chi-yuk, SCMP, 6/3/17)

One mentioned Communist Party chief Xi Jinping’s name 26 times in a speech, another mentioned poverty 90 times

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (5)

From "barbarian" to "very"

Earlier this week, I wrote a post titled "'Little Man' the eating machine" (5/22/17), in which I pointed out that "Man" here does not mean "(hu)man" or "male human", but that it signifies "(southern) barbarian", with extended meanings of “rough; reckless; fierce; rude; unreasoning; unruly; bullying”.  I also noted that this mán 蛮 has another set of meanings:  "quite; rather; somewhat; very".

In the sixth comment to the post, liuyao wrote:

I was hoping VHM would do a linguistic/philological analysis of 蛮 in the sense of “very”. Given that it was originally a derogatory term for “barbarians” in the south (possibly Austroasiatics that have long been displaced or assimilated), how did it come about that the southern topolects (or when they speak their variants of Mandarin) have this character or word for “very”? Are there alternative characters for this morpheme?

I will now attempt to answer all of liuyao's questions.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (9)

"Little Man" the eating machine

There's a curious article by Kathy Chu and Menglin Huang in the Wall Street Journal (5/21/17):

"How a Toddler Who Loves Eating Transfixed China:  2½-year-old Xiaoman is an online sensation, bringing fame, a Pampers ad and questions about her weight"

https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-a-toddler-who-loves-eating-transfixed-china-1495387268

If you have difficulty reading the whole article via the embedded link, try this TinyURL, which should lead you to a complete preview.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (6)