Archive for Language and politics

Dangerous speech

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No word for rape, Australian edition

Tiger Webb writes to point out what he calls "a particularly toxic variant of the 'no word for X' meme" — from Paul Toohey, "The fight to protect indigenous children from abuse and neglect", News Corporation Australia 5/28/2018:

NO WORD FOR RAPE

Youth workers who spend time with roaming kids say they would never ask them if they’ve been abused and, even after trust is built, never hear children volunteering stories.

Like many cultures, parents don’t discuss it; abusers are likely family; talking to authority figures is difficult; there may be different understandings of right and wrong; and kids may have poor English.

In the Warlpiri language, there is not even a word for “rape” — they use “kanyi”, which means take.

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North Korean English

Remarkable video from the DPRK:

"Kim Jong Un meets U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo & releases 3 U.S. prisoners [English]"

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Cantonese is not the mother tongue of Hong Kongers, part 2

Half a day after the first part of this series, "Cantonese is not the mother tongue of Hong Kongers" (5/4/18), was posted, someone unhelpfully and snarkily asked, "…but are we sure he used the English word 'dialect'?"

That's not the point.

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Peking University president misreads an unobscure character: monumental implications

In an address celebrating the 120th anniversary of Peking University, the president of said institution, Lin Jianhua, misread hóng zhì 鸿鹄志 ("grand, lofty aspiration") as hónghào zhì 鸿皓志 (doesn't really mean anything).  The blunder swiftly spread on the internet, leading Lin to issue an apology.  See this article in Chinese.

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Cantonese is not the mother tongue of Hong Kongers

So say mainland and government spokespersons.  It sounds absurd, but here's the "reasoning", as summarized by Bob Bauer:

Have you heard about HK's latest brouhaha that Cantonese is NOT the mother tongue of HK's Cantonese-speaking population? A bigshot mainland scholar has written that HK Cantonese can't possibly be their mother tongue because it's MERELY a dialect and dialects can't be mother tongues!

Yesterday the Chief Executive Carrie Lam was asked by a legislative councilor what her mother tongue was, but she refused to answer his question and said it was pointless!

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Niggling nitpicking in Hong Kong bureaucratese

Did China "take back" (shōuhuí 收回) Hong Kong from Great Britain or did it "recover" (huīfù 恢復) the former colony?  Even though representatives of the Chinese government have used the former expression in the past, they now insist that there was no "taking back", only "recovering" what was always China's.

On July 1, 1997, was there a “handover of sovereignty” (zhǔquán yíjiāo 主權移交)?  Despite the fact that this phrase was widely used by diplomats to describe what took place between the governments of Britain and the PRC, the Protocol Division of the Hong Kong government is now attempting to retroactively excise this offending language from official publications, including school textbooks.

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Peppa Pig has been purged

The porcine princess seems innocuous enough, but for some reason(s), the Chinese government has decided to censor her:

"China bans Peppa Pig to combat 'negative influence' of foreign ideologies" (businessinsider.com)

"Chinese video app targets 'subversive' Peppa Pig in online clean-up" (CNN)

"China gives 'subversive' Peppa Pig the chop" (AFP)

More links here.

Why go after poor Peppa Pig?  How about Hello Kitty?  Micky Mouse?

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North Korean with a Swiss German accent?

The video embedded in this article features North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un speaking at the historic summit meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone yesterday:

"Hang on, what language is Kim Jong-un speaking?  Livestreaming reveals that the North Korean leader has a unique ‘Swiss-influenced’ accent, a result of his years studying at a German-language boarding school near Bern", Crystal Tai, SCMP (4/27/18).

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Chinaperson

When I started taking Mandarin in the fall of 1967, one of the first words we learned was "Zhōngguó rén 中國人".  A classmate of mine translated that as "Chinaman", provoking our teaching assistant to reprimand him severely, saying that it was a racist term, and to give him a stern lecture about the history of anti-Chinese discrimination in the United States.

Now a West Virginia candidate for the US Senate, Don Blankenship, has fallen into the same trap by referring to the Asian-American father-in-law of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as a "China person" (see here, here, and here for news reports).

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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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