Archive for Language and politics

Dotard

In recent weeks, President Trump has delivered a number of fiery speeches and incendiary tweets about what will happen to North Korea if Kim Jong-un launches nuclear missiles over Japan and toward Guam and the United States.

Naturally, the feisty dictator replied with some choice words of his own:

"North Korean leader responds to Trump: ‘I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire'", bThe Washington Post (9/21/17).

The Washington Post seems to have changed the title of the article, so I can no longer provide a direct link, but there are plentiful records of it on the internet.  In any event, countless other media outlets quoted the same odd word, "dotard".

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (12)

Cultural invasion

Article in South China Morning Post (9/19/17) by Jasmine Siu:

"Activist fined HK$3,000 for binning Hong Kong public library books in ‘fight against cultural invasion’ from mainland China:  Alvin Cheng Kam-mun, 29, convicted of theft over dumping of books printed in simplified Chinese characters"

A radical Hong Kong activist was on Tuesday fined HK$3,000 for dumping library books in a bin in what he said was an attempt to protect children from the “cultural invasion” of simplified Chinese characters.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (9)

Learn from President Learn

By itself, the phrase "xuéxí lù shàng 学习路上" means "on the path / way / road" of learning.  However, when you see it in large characters at the top of a lavish website devoted to the life and works of President Xi Jinping, you cannot help but think that it also punningly conveys another meaning.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (4)

"Sponke their monkeys"

Political poster in Sydney, Australia:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (22)

Xi Jinping thought: watch for the possessive suffix

Ding Xueliang, a professor of PRC history and contemporary Chinese politics at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, has called attention to the difference between

Máo Zédōng sīxiǎng 毛泽东思想 ("Mao Zedong thought")

and

Máo Zédōng de sīxiǎng 毛泽东的思想 ("Mao Zedong's thought")

Similarly, there is a significant difference between

Xí Jìnpíng sīxiǎng 习近平思想 ("Xi Jinping thought")

and

Xí Jìnpíng de sīxiǎng 习近平的思想 ("Xi Jinping's thought")

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (9)

The mind-numbing official-speak of the CCP

David Bandurski has done the world a great service by providing a point by point translation and valuable exegesis of the essentials of President Xi Jinping's "important speech" delivered in Beijing on July 26, 2017.  See his:

"The Arithmetic of Party-Speak:  The 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party is just around the corner — and that means the machine of political discourse is humming away at high speed" (8/28/17).

As presented in state media products such as “Xi Speak in Pictures” (Xí yǔ tújiě 习语图解), the essence of the Core Leader's directives may be boiled down to and designated by the following magic numbers:  2, 3, 5, 9, 8, 3, 2.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (15)

Censored belly, Tibetan tattoo

[This is a guest post by Jichang Lulu.]

Imagine that a certain phrase could be potentially offensive to the authoritarian rulers of a country you would like to do business in. To promote that business, you intend to display images of certain professionals who work for you. One of these professionals has indelibly inscribed the potentially offensive phrase on their belly. The professional activity you wish to promote typically involves barebelliedness.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (40)

"Dangal in Doklam": Sino-Indian propaganda video war

China fired the first shot with this infamous Doklam video called "7 Sins of India".  It's all about a remote spot on the border between Bhutan and Tibet, where India is now confronting China in an attempt to preserve the territorial integrity of tiny Bhutan.  This is the same area through which China invaded India in 1962, pushing south as far as Siliguri.

India has now countered China's propaganda video, which has been dubbed crudely racist by many, with a cute, corny video of its own called "Dangal in Doklam".

"Dangal in Doklam: After 7 Sins, Here’s India’s Sonu Song for China"

Deeksha Sharma    the quint

Updated: 23 August, 2017 9:18 AM IST

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (7)

Ask Language Log: splittism and separatism

From Elijah Z. Granet:

I am an avid reader of Language Log, and am writing with a question that has puzzled me for sometime, and which, as far as I can tell, has never been addressed. I would be quite grateful if you could spare a moment of your valuable time to help me figure out this odd occurrence.

I do not speak Chinese (or any East Asian language, for that matter), but I do try to follow the news coming out of China.  For several years now, especially as unrest in Xinjiang has increased, I have been growing increasingly puzzled by the insistent use of the calque “splittism.”  Official sources (e.g., Xinhua) will always say “splittism”, and many English sources will  also use it (albeit with a qualifier along the lines of “the Chinese authorities have condemned what they call ‘splittism’”).  A cursory search of Google Books and News suggests the use of “splittism” in reference to China dates back decades.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (55)

The linguistics of a political slogan

Banner on the side of a fancy car in Sydney, Australia:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (12)

"Nephew-nazi"

When the White House issued a statement that finally condemned white supremacists for the violence in Charlottesville this weekend, the version that was originally released had an unusual typo: "nephew-nazi" for "neo-Nazi":

The president said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry, and hatred and of course that includes white supremacists, KKK, nephew-nazi and all extremist groups. He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together.

Brian Stelter noted the typo on CNN.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (16)

"North Korea best not…"

Donald Trump's "fire and fury" warning to North Korea, we now know, was unscripted, not the product of speechwriters and advisers. As some have suggested, Trump's aggressive language may have been (at least unconsciously) modeled on Harry Truman's announcement that the U.S. had dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima in August 1945.

Truman: If they do not now accept our terms they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.
Trump: North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.

Beyond the echo of Truman, Trump is particularly fond of the hyperbolic construction, "like the world has never seen," and variations on that theme. In the Toronto Star, Daniel Dale details Trump's past use of the phrase and wonders if "the president bumbled into the threat because he did not understand the ramifications of a favourite phrase he had in his head." (See also Mark Liberman's post from last year, "This is the likes of which I didn't expect.")

But what about the opening of the threat, "North Korea best not…"? Ben Yagoda said on Twitter that it "sounds like something from a bad Western." John Kelly thought it sounded more Southern. I was reminded of a famous line from the character Omar Little on the HBO series The Wire: "You come at the king, you best not miss."


Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (23)

FIST or FISK?

Tom Porter, "New York Times cross word: NRA spokeswoman denies bizarre threat to 'fist' the publication", Newsweek 8/5/2017:

A National Rifle Association spokeswoman in a bizarre dispute denied that she threatened to "fist" the New York Times in a video atacking [sic] the publication.

In a video released Thursday entitled “Dana Loesch: We’re Coming For You New York Times,” former conservative radio host Loesch staring straight to camera accuses the publication of spreading "fake news," and promoting  “constant protection of your democrat overlords.”

However one section containing an unclear short f-word prompted debate on Twitter. 

“We’re going to [unclear] the New York Times and find out just what deep rich means to this old gray hag, this untrustworthy dishonest rag that has subsisted on the welfare of mediocrity for one two three more decades,” Loesch said. “We’re going to laser focus on your so-called honest pursuit of truth. In short we’re coming for you.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (18)