Archive for Names

An old name for Singapore

This is the back side of a 1901 envelope sent from Hong Kong to Singapore:


(Source)

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Italy is one big grain

Venya sent in this photograph of an ice-cream parlor's sign taken in December 2014.  It was in the Anping district of Tainan, near the old Dutch fort.

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Mr. Mbah

The following article on an Australian website has a slip-up in the handling of an honorific in Indonesian / Javanese:

"Official Indonesian documentation has verified Mbah Gotho was born in 1870, making him the oldest person in the world" (SBS News, 8/31/16)

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At the reported age of 145, Mbah Gotho from the Indonesian island of Java could be the oldest person on the planet but he is not interested in celebrating.

“I only want to die,” he told Indonesian television station Liputan 6 in August in Sragen in Central Java.

… Mr Mbah said he has had a tombstone ready since 1992.

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Mo River Spengler

Rachel Kronick has a knack for finding strange foreign equivalents for Chinese toponyms on Baidu, China's foremost online encyclopedia.  See "The city of Mr. Andreessen, South Korea" (4/22/14).

Now she has struck paydirt again with "Mo Ri River Spengler" for Mòrìgélè hé 莫日格勒河 in the Baidu encyclopedia.

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Mildew Country

Here is a photograph of some Chinese anti-American protesters from "The complete guide to China’s propaganda videos blaming the West for almost everything", by Zheping Huang, Quartz (8/8/16):

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Political vocabulary and Brother Cream

BBC News has a nice article by Tzu-Wei Liu on "The politics of a martial arts book fair in Hong Kong" (7/26/16).  The article is accompanied by six photographs; I will focus on the two that interest me most (because they are both language related), the third and the sixth.

Here's the third photograph:

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A confusion of languages and names

Xinjiang  新疆 (lit., "New Frontiers / Borders / Boundaries") is the northwesternmost and largest (one sixth of the whole country) among all of China's 34 provincial-level administrative units.  It got its present official name in the 1880s under the Manchus during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), but it has also been called, among other names, "Western Regions", Eastern Turkestan, and Uyghurstan.  When suitable, I prefer to refer to this region as Eastern Central Asia (ECA), since the latter designation is purely geographical in nature and has no political implications.

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She calls herself Angelababy

That's what practically everybody else calls her too.

There's a great article by Qian Jinghua in Sixth Tone (Fresh voices from today's China) titled "Call Me Angelababy, Maybe:  Ban on foreign names in Chinese-language press reveals fear of cultural fragility." (6/30/16)

It's about a phenomenally popular 27-year-old actress, model, and singer whose Chinese name is 楊穎, which is read as Yáng Yǐng in Modern Standard Mandarin (MSM) and Joeng4 Wing6 (conventional spelling Yeung Wing) in Cantonese.  Her father, from Hong Kong, is half Chinese and half German, her mother is Shanghainese.  Yang Ying's stage name, "Angelababy", by which virtually everyone knows her (most people are uncertain about her Chinese name or don't know it at all), comes from a combination of her English name "Angela" and her nickname "Baby".

So what's all the fuss over her name?

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The love organ of many names

British comedian Richard Herring is the author of a 2003 book entitled Talking Cock: A Celebration of Man and his Manhood, so he naturally seized upon the republicization opportunity provided by the recent story of the world's first successful penis transplant. He made it the topic of his weekly humor column in The Metro, the trashy free newspaper that I sometimes reluctantly peruse in my constant search for linguistic developments that might be of interest to Language Log readers.

In a bravura display of diversity of lexical choice, Herring contrived to use a different euphemism for the anatomical organ every time he could find an excuse for mentioning it, which, believe me, was a lot. And he left me pondering a serious lexicographical question: just how many euphemisms are there for the appendage in question?

[Unusually, this post is restricted to adult males. Please click "Read the rest of this entry" to confirm that you are male and over 18.]

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What's in a name — Pikachu, Beikaciu, Pikaqiu?

Since I began writing blogs for Language Log around ten years ago, I have never received so many tips on what to write about as I have in response to the furor that has arisen over Nintendo's plan to change the Chinese names for some of the characters in their immensely popular Pokémon (ポケモン < Pokettomonsutā ポケットモンスター ["Pocket Monster"]) game series.

For example, much loved Pikachu (Pikachū ピカチュウ) was originally called Bei2kaat1ciu1 比卡超 in Hong Kong, which is very close to its Japanese name, Pikachu.  But now Nintendo wants to get rid of Bei2kaat1ciu1 比卡超 and force the people of Hong Kong to use the Mandarin name Píkǎqiū 皮卡丘.  This same policy extends to more than a hundred Pokemon characters, who will be renamed in accordance with Mandarin transcriptions.  You can imagine how alien that will sound to Cantonese speakers who have grown up with Pokemon characters having Cantonese names now to lose those intimate appellations in favor of names that have a Mandarin ring to them.

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Tones and the alphabet

The question of whether tones are added to alphabet words used in Sinitic languages arose in the discussion that followed this post:

"Papi Jiang: PRC internet sensation" (4/25/16)

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Name games in Hong Kong

Just a little over a year ago, I wrote a post about "'Farcical names'" (4/3/15), in which I related how an American businesswoman wanted to rescue Chinese from their predilection for adopting whimsical English names.

Now, in "iPhone, Cola and Kinky: what’s in a Hong Kongers name?" (SCMP 3/7/16), we find that the "Trend for Hongkongers choosing unusual English names continues as they compete to find most original one".

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Glenn Frey and the band with the anomalous name

Singer-songwriter-guitarist Glenn Frey died two weeks ago, and I found myself reflecting on the poetry of the songs he wrote with Don Henley for a Lingua Franca post (see it here). Working on that caused me to bump up against the odd fact that the band Frey and Henley co-founded had a name that nobody ever gets right.

Steve Martin reported in his autobiography Born Standing Up that Frey insisted the name was "Eagles", not "The Eagles." Thus the band had settled on a name that was supposed to be what The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (CGEL) calls a strong proper name like Azerbaijan, which takes no the, not a weak one like (the) Azores, which must have a the. (Language Log, by the way, is a strong proper name.)

Everyone feels they need to supply a definite article for Eagles. And there's a reason for that. Once you look at the relevant grammatical constraints of English you see that Frey was really swimming upstream.

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