Archive for Language and politics

X of Y ↔ Y(ed) X

Robert Ayers sent in this cartoon:
And asked "Was the 'colored person' fall from grace strictly a one off due to history? I see no movement from, eg, 'Asian person' to 'person of Asia'. Or 'Irishman' to 'man of Ireland'."

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Reading problems?

Or maybe writing problems? Donald Trump's recent speech announcing the end of the government shutdown was read (I presume from a teleprompter), but the reading was awkward in at least two ways: the president often pronounced unstressed function words in a full and unreduced form, and his phrasing was odd, sometimes to the point of obscuring the meaning.

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Ben Zimmer on "ratfucking"

Ben Zimmer has a great piece at Politico, "Roger Stone and 'Ratfucking': A Short History". The subtitle: "The flamboyant political aide is often tagged with the term. But its origins—and Stone’s relationship with the word—are complicated."

Ben takes the history back to one of Edmund Wilson's notebooks in 1922, and (via Jesse Sheidlower) before that to WWI military slang:

Sheidlower zeroes in on a veteran of General John J. Pershing’s American Expeditionary Force named Leonard H. Nason, who used a series of rat-related euphemisms in novels he wrote based on his experiences at war. His favorite circumlocution was “rat-kissing” to describe destructive activity, as in, “No more of this rat-kissing” (Sergeant Eadie, 1928) or, “You know, I had a sergeancy clinched if we hadn’t run into all this rat-kissing!” (The Man in the White Slicker, 1929). And in a turn of phrase that Ted Cruz would appreciate, Nason referred to “this here gigantic rat-copulation they call a war” in his 1930 novel, A Corporal Once.

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Peppa Pig uncensored — for now

Last year, poor Peppa was banned from the airwaves, online video channels, and movie theaters in China after she fell afoul of the censors for allegedly associating with gangsta characters.

"Peppa Pig has been purged" (5/2/18)

Now she's been rehabilitated, and just in time:

"Peppa Pig to celebrate Chinese New Year with special film", Kylie Knott, SCMP (1/12/19)

New characters include Dumpling and Glutinous Rice Ball, both popular Chinese New Year delicacies

The British cartoon character that fell foul with Chinese censors last year

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Speak Hakka, our Mother Tongue

From the Hakka Affairs Council in Taiwan:


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The face of censorship

Here's what it looks like:

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More literary troubles for Xi Jinping

This article (in Chinese) describes how China's netizens (wǎngyǒu 网友) are ridiculing President Xi for inappropriately quoting a poem by Kong Rong 孔融 (153-208), a 20th generation descendant of Confucius, in his New Year's address to the nation.

The first lines of the poem are:

suìyuè bù jū
shíjié rú liú


The years do not stand still,
Time flows on like a river.

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The dagnabbit effect strikes again. (Or, when the personal [dative] is political.)

The following is a guest post by Larry Horn, whose work on personal datives has been discussed on Language Log in the past. (See these posts from late 2009: "On beyond personal datives?," "Horn on personal datives," "Ditransitive prepositions?") It originally appeared on the American Dialect Society mailing list.

Elizabeth Warren is now being mocked left and (mostly) right on social media for her aside during her announcement for the presidency:  "I'm gonna get me a beer".

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Cantonese under renewed threat

When Great Britain handed Hong Kong over to the PRC in 1997, the communist government promised to maintain the status quo of the colony's laws, educational system, human rights, language policy, and so forth for half a century, until 2047.  It has only been a little over twenty years, and already virtually all aspects of government, society, and culture are being reshaped along the lines that are operative in the PRC.  Naturally, the aspect of Hong Kong life that concerns us at Language Log most are policies governing language norms and usages.

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Make food great again

Spotted by Anthony Clayden in Taitung, Taiwan:

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In this year's update to the New York Sun's famous 1897 "Yes, Virginia" editorial, "'Marginal' Santa Believer Puts Out Cookies After Trump Chat", AP 12/26/2018:

A 7-year-old girl who talked to President Donald Trump on Christmas Eve still left out milk and cookies for Santa despite the president telling her it was "marginal" for a child of her age to still believe.

Then again, Collman Lloyd of Lexington, South Carolina, says she had never heard the word "marginal" before.

You can see and hear Donald Trump's side of the conversation here, and Collman Lloyd's side, with the president on speakerphone, here.

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From an anonymous reader:

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The politics and linguistics of bread in Taiwan and China

Taiwanese master baker Wu Pao-chun 吳寶春 with a loaf of his famous bread:

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