Archive for Language and politics

The politics of multilingualism in Hong Kong

The following article by Danny Mok appeared in today's South China Morning Post:

"Police? Jing Cha? Altered helmet may spell 'trouble' for city policeman" (5/19/15)

The article commenced with this photograph:

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"Brain fade" in Britain

Ian Preston sent a link to a recent article about slips of the tongue by David Cameron in the current election campaign in the UK (Matt Dathan, "David Cameron makes another gaffe: 'This election is all about my career… sorry, I mean country'", The Independent 5/2/2015:

David Cameron has made another gaffe on the election campaign trail – this time saying how election was a “career defining” moment when he meant to say “country defining”.

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"Elsewhere": electronic alibis

American readers may not yet have heard the recent story about the chairman of the Conservative Party in Britain, Grant Shapps MP. He has been accused of sock-puppetry: editing his own Wikipedia page to remove unfavorable references to his business life (and editing the pages about other Conservative MPs to highlight unfavorable aspects of their lives). And his response was to say that he couldn't possibly have done it, because: "A simple look in my diary shows I was elsewhere."

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Foundation and jihad

Did Osama bin Laden name Al Qaeda after Isaac Asimov's Foundation series?

Meeting Dmitri Gusev here at Text By The Bay ("Rising sun", 4/25/2015) reminded me that I'd seen his name before. The context was a 2002 article in the Guardian, "What is the origin of the name al-Qaida?"  (picked up on LLOG in "Copy-editing terrorism", 7/28/2005):

 In October last year, an item appeared on an authoritative Russian studies website that soon had the science-fiction community buzzing with speculative excitement. It asserted that Isaac Asimov's 1951 classic Foundation was translated into Arabic under the title "al-Qaida". And it seemed to have the evidence to back up its claims.  

"This peculiar coincidence would be of little interest if not for abundant parallels between the plot of Asimov's book and the events unfolding now," wrote Dmitri Gusev, the scientist who posted the article.

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Political pitch ranges

I don't have time for much this morning, but here's a plot of the f0 quantiles of the first minute or so of each of six speeches from the 2015 NRA-ILA Leadership Forum:

["F0", pronounced "eff zero", is a conventional designation for the fundamental frequency of the voice, which represents the rate of oscillation of the vocal folds in voiced speech, and is a physical proxy for the psychological dimension of "pitch". "Hz" is the standard abbreviation for "Hertz", the international unit of frequency (cycles per second) named after Heinrich Hertz.]

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Macaroni politics

Charlie Spiering, "Hillary Clinton touts 'macaroni and cheese' issues at Emily's List gala", Breitbart 2/4/2015:

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton touted the importance of “macaroni and cheese” issues in the federal government, as she teased a presidential run in a speech last night.  

During her appearance at the EMILY’s List 30th anniversary gala, Clinton recognized Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who recently announced she’ll retire after 2016.  

Mikulski, she explained, helped her when she was elected to the U.S. Senate from New York.  

“She knew the ropes, but she also knew how to cut through all the hot air,” Clinton said. “She understands that, yes, we have to work on macro issues and also macaroni and cheese issues, too.”

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From Bushisms to la langue François

Remember the Bushisms industry? Something similar, mutatis mutandis, seems to be springing up in France.

Stéphane Ratti, "De la langue française à la langue François", Le Figaro 2/14/2015:

Pourquoi François Hollande s'acharne-t-il à massacrer ainsi la langue française dans toutes ses interventions? Plusieurs analystes se sont à juste titre posé la question après avoir, avec précision, analysé quelques-unes des monstruosités syntaxiques présidentielles à l'occasion de sa dernière conférence de presse.

Why does François Hollande insist on butchering the French language in all of his comments? Several analysts have understandably asked the question, after having analyzed carefully several of the president's syntactic monstrosities on the occasion of his last press conference.

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Official standard

I received the following message from a young Chinese scholar who is studying in America:

Improving my English and understanding Western culture, as well as dealing with racial and gender issues as an Asian female and also a first-generation immigrant in this country, is much easier than being part of the 官本位 culture in China, though I was born and grew up there. I feel that my intelligence is treated with more respect in the States.

This is not the first time that I had heard this young scholar and other young scholars inveigh against 官本位, but in this instance she put it so succinctly and clearly that I felt galvanized to come to grips with a concept that I had heretofore only grasped in a hazy manner.

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Tintin in [China's] Tibet

A couple of weeks ago, in "China's" (2/1/15) and the comments thereto, we were discussing the political aspects and implications of prefacing names in publications pertaining to places in the People's Republic of China (PRC) with the possessive "China's".

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"Faux-cul" and "vraie vulve"

Outsiders to American politics are probably somewhat puzzled by the narrative background of the Chris Christie PAC acronym story. I mean, LMFAO, fine, but what's a PAC? and who's Chris Christie? And why did American Bridge think it was funny to turn "Party Rock Anthem" into "Traffic Block Anthem"?

All obvious to us here in the U.S., but probably mystifying to most people elsewhere in the world.

Since I'm planning to spend some time in France this summer, I've been dusting off my high-school French by reading French-language news media, and I've been similarly puzzled by some of the stories,  like "'Faux-cul', 'vraie vulve': Jean-Marie Le Pen insulte Claude Bartolone", Paris Match 1/31/2015, and "Jean-Marie Le Pen s'en prend violemment à Claude Bartolone, qu'il insulte de 'faux-cul' et de 'vraie vulve'", Le Huffington Post 1/31/2015.

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The URL for Chris Christie's new political action committee has occasioned a certain amount of innocent merriment, because naturally suggests the acronym LMFAO, normally interpreted as "laughing my fucking ass off":

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The Shanghai Stampede: incident or accident?

On New Year's Eve, a fatal stampede broke out on the Bund in Shanghai.  Many people died (see below for a discussion of the total number) and many more were injured, some seriously.

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