Archive for Names

From "Servia" to "Serbia"

[The first part of this post is from an anonymous contributor.]

The Serbian legation in London complains to the media about the spelling Servia, which is 'highly offensive to our people'.

(It is true that there is a place in Greece called 'Servia', whose name 'derives from the Latin verb servo, meaning "to watch over"'.)

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Cartographic cacophony

Zach Hershey sent in photographs of a map on the wall of an Ethiopian restaurant on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia. Here's one:

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Local language

From Bob Bauer:

A couple of days ago I discovered one of your Language Logs from last year that had a very interesting and very long back-and-forth discussion on the distinctive characteristics of Hong Kong's Chinese language.* I noticed.one commenter with initials HL** mentioned some particularly interesting things about the use of the term Punti 本地話*** to mean "Cantonese" in HK's law courts. Historically, Punti had referred to the indigenous Cantonese in contrast to the more recently-arrived Hakka immigrants. (By the way, for what it's worth, in the first half of the 19th century 地 was pronounced [ti], and then in the late 19th/early 20th century it diphthongized to [tei]).

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Tibetan –> Chinese –> Chinglish, ch. 2

This is a sequel to "Tibetan –> Chinese –> Chinglish " (11/11/15).

(‘Alone, Popecity’ 独克宗, a street sign on National Highway 214 at the entrance to Shangri-La, 2015. Photo: William Ratz)

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Csikszentmihalyi

Two days ago, we contemplated the wonders of the short Polish-American surname Dzwil.  Today we turn to a much longer, but equally wondrous, Hungarian-American surname, the one in the title of this post.

For some seemingly impenetrable Hungarian surnames, it helps an English speaker to have mnemonic devices to produce a passable pronunciation.  An example is the surname of the Berkeley Sinologist, Mark Csikszentmihalyi.  Mark is the son of the Chicago, and later Claremont, psychologist and management specialist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (in Hungarian orthography that would be Csíkszentmihályi Mihály).   Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is the creator of the concept of "flow", a highly focused mental state.

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Dzwil

For the last few weeks, as I walk by the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology on my way to work, I've been noticing equipment marked "Dzwil" that belongs to a masonry construction company engaged to firm up the foundations.

Naturally, every time I saw that word I said to myself, "I wonder how they pronounce it".

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Outlawed Uyghur names

The Chinese government is troubled by the ongoing unrest in Xinjiang, the westernmost region of the country. The authorities attribute the turmoil to what they refer to as religious extremism, which, they believe, leads to terrorism. Moreover, religious extremism also foments separatism, which the government is dead set against. In an effort to reduce the impact of religious extremism, the government bans many cultural practices that they assert are manifestations of undesirable ideological tendencies.

Here, for example, is a sign that was posted outside hospital in Yining forbidding the burka, unusual facial hair, the hijab, the symbolism of the crescent moon with star, and any apparel conveying pronounced religious sentiments:


(Photograph courtesy of an anonymous colleague)

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Bèibèi panda

Bloix asked:

Can someone tell me if the name of the new panda cub, Bei Bei, really means "precious treasure"? If it does, how does that work? Does Bei mean treasure and the duplication is emphasis? Or what?

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Two unusual Japanese names

From time to time, one encounters Japanese names that evoke bygone days.  In Japan, though, things that are archaic somehow manage to stay alive in the present.  Two realms in which that happens fairly often are place names and surnames.

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Sea-watcher

President Obama has a strange moniker among netizens in China:  Guānhǎi 观海 (“Sea-watcher”).  Variants include Àoguānhǎi 奥观海 ("O'sea-watcher"; cf. "Homa Obama") and Guānhǎi tóngzhì 观海同志 ("Comrade Sea-watcher").

How in the world did Obama acquire this bizarre Chinese nickname?

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Ootori

Calvin Ho sent in the following photograph:

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Goldensmell salt and milkfish balls

Jackie and Mimi, Toni Tan's daughters, spotted two interesting products at the Asian supermarket near their home.

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The kitchen sink

Randy Alexander asks:

How do you say this in Chinese?

This seems to be another one of those things where there is no standard name for it. Almost everyone I ask has a different name for it, and they have to think for a moment when I ask then how to say it in Chinese.

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