Archive for Language and politics

Year Hare Affair

That's the abbreviated title of a popular webcomic by Lin Chao 林超.  The full title in Chinese is Nà nián nà tù nàxiē shì 那年那兔那些事 (lit., "that year that rabbit those affairs"; i.e., "The story of that rabbit that happened in that year")

From the beginning of the Wikipedia article:

The comic uses animals as an allegory for nations and sovereign states to represent political and military events in history. The goal of this project was to promote nationalistic pride in young people, and focuses on appreciation for China's various achievements since the beginning of the 20th century.

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Wolf's milk, a slime mold attractive to young Chinese?

"Growing up on wolf's milk" — when I first encountered this expression, which was applied to youth who had survived the multiple catastrophes of the first quarter-century of the PRC, I took it literally because I thought that they didn't have much of anything else to eat.  Naturally, though, I did wonder how they would be able to obtain a significant amount of milk from she-wolves to make a difference.

For a moment I thought that maybe starving children were going out into the woods and scavenging for Lycogala epidendrum, commonly known as wolf's milk or groening's slime, which grows on damp, rotten logs from June through November. It wasn't long, however, before I realized that the expression "growing up on wolf's milk", as it occurred in PRC parlance from the 70s and later, was being used metaphorically to describe the hardships experienced by those who endured the privations of early communist rule in China.

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Another use for Mandarin Phonetic Symbols

A couple of weeks ago, we asked:  "The end of the line for Mandarin Phonetic Symbols?" (3/12/18)

The general response to that post was no, not by a long shot.

Now, in addition to all the other things one can do with bopomofo, one can use it to confound PRC trolls, as described in this article in Chinese.

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Epic eye-roll

Everybody's talking about the eye-roll of the century, the eye-roll that has gone wildly viral in China.  It's undoubtedly the most exciting thing that happened at the Two Sessions of the National People's Congress (NPC) that began on March 5 and will most likely end soon.  It was a foregone conclusion that President Xi Jinping would be crowned de facto Emperor for Life and that his "thought" would be enshrined in the constitution.  What was not expected was a brief but epochal roll of the eyes on the part of one female reporter, Liang Xiangyi 梁相宜 (dressed in blue — I'll call her Ms. Blue or [Ms.] Liang), when another female reporter, Zhang Huijun 张慧君 (dressed in red — I'll call her Ms. Red or [Ms.] Zhang), went on too long and too effusively with her fawning question to a high-ranking CCP official.

You see, everything at the NPC is supposed to be scripted and orchestrated.  There aren't supposed to be any surprises.  Yet, as you can see for yourself, Ms. Liang could not hide her true emotions, which are painfully evident at 0:36 in the following 0:44 video — with an increasingly dramatic buildup to the moment of her monumental recoil:


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The end of the line for Mandarin Phonetic Symbols?

Just as all school children in the PRC learn to read and write through Hanyu Pinyin ("Sinitic spelling"), the official romanization on the mainland, so do all school children in Taiwan learn to read and write with the aid of what is commonly referred to as "Bopomofo ㄅㄆㄇㄈ "), after the first four letters of this semisyllabary.  The system has many other names, including "Zhùyīn fúhào 注音符號" ("[Mandarin] Phonetic Symbols"), its current formal designation, as well as earlier names such as Guóyīn Zìmǔ 國音字母 ("Phonetic Alphabet of the National Language") and Zhùyīn Zìmǔ 註音字母 ( "Phonetic Alphabet" or "Annotated Phonetic Letters").  From the plethora of names, you can get an idea of what sort of system it is.  I usually think of it as a cross between an alphabet and a syllabary.

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Xi Jinping as a living bodhisattva

Everybody's talking about Xi's Buddhist sanctification since it hit the headlines in this article:  "Xi Jinping's latest tag – living Buddhist deity, Chinese official says" (Reuters [3/9,18].

Speaking on Wednesday on the sidelines of China’s annual meeting of parliament, the party boss of the remote northwestern province of Qinghai, birthplace of the Dalai Lama, said Tibetans who lived there had been saying they view Xi as a deity.

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Using riddles to circumvent censorship in China

We are thoroughly familiar with the use of puns to foil and irritate the censors in China:

"Punning banned in China" (11/29/14)

"It's not just puns that are being banned in China" (12/7/14) — with links to earlier posts on puns in China

"Fun bun pun" (4/9/17)

And many others, including the most recent post on puns and censorship, which focused squarely on the heated controversy over the abolition of term limits for the presidency:

"The letter * has bee* ba**ed in Chi*a" (2/26/18 — the day after the announcement of the constitutional change)

Another means of evading the censors, and more difficult to detect than puns because they speak through indirection (the answers are not given), are riddles.

"Lantern Festival riddles outwit and enrage Chinese censors", by Oiwan Lam, Hong Kong Free Press (3/6/18)

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The letter * has bee* ba**ed in Chi*a

Since the announcement by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) yesterday that the President of China would no longer be limited to two five-year terms in office, as had been the case since the days when Chairman Mao ruled, there has been much turmoil and trepidation among China watchers and Chinese citizens.  Essentially, it means that Xi Jinping has become dictator for life, which is not what people had been hoping for since Richard Nixon went to China 46 years and 5 days ago.  What everyone had expected was that China would "reform and open up" (gǎigé kāifàng 改革開放), which became an official policy as of December, 1978.  Instead, all indications from the first five years of Xi's regime and the newly announced policy changes regarding Xi Jinping thought and governance are that China has jumped right back to the 1950s in terms of policies and procedures.

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The language impact of the Confucius Institutes

The China Daily, which is owned by the CCP, is China's largest circulation English-language newspaper.  It ran the following article in today's issue:

"Chinese increasingly heard around the world", by Yang Zhuang (2/24/18).

What with the flood of Chinese tourists, business people, officials, students, and so forth who are travelling to all corners of the globe, there is little doubt that Chinese languages are indeed being heard outside China nowadays more than at any time in the past.  But that's a very different matter than the claim made in the CD article that non-Chinese are borrowing more words from Chinese languages than before.

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Modality is a bitch (updated)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

H/t (via retweet) Hugo Mercier.

UPDATE:

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Taiwan independence posters in polysyllabic characters

Lisa in Toronto found these posters in Taipei at Cafe Macho in November. They say #newyearnewnation in one corner.

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Face, B face, 13 face, and C face

A student called my attention to this cloying glorification of PRC President Xi Jinping:

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Excessive quadrisyllabicism

Many readers of Language Log will remember the visit of China's former internet censor-in-chief, Lu Wei, to the headquarters of Facebook, Apple, and Amazon in late 2014.  Those were his glory days, but now his star has fallen in a most spectacular fashion:

"China’s ‘tyrannical’ former internet tsar Lu Wei accused of trading power for sex in long list of corruption charges: Lu accused of a range of crimes from abusing power for personal gain to disloyalty", by Frank Tang (SCMP [2/13/18])

"China's former chief of internet regulator expelled from Communist Party" (Reuters [2/13/18)

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