Archive for WTF

"Fortuitous indeed"

Is there some pop culture reference I'm missing here? Or has the Washington Post turned its advertising outreach over to Monty Python?

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Rogue Finnish weatherword intrusion

Cameron M. sent in a screenshot of his weather report from a couple of days ago, in which the current weather in New York City is described as Pilvistä:

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Cymascope: a new form of pseudoscience?

I have just learned of what is either a remarkable development with implications in many fields or, more likely, a new form of pseudoscience. It is a device called the Cymascope. Information about it may be had at the Cymascope web site. The Cymascope is a device for visualizing sound by causing a membrane to vibrate and shining lights on the membrane. It is claimed that this new method of visualizing sound has already led to marvelous new insights in fields ranging from Astrophysics and Biology to Egyptology and Musicology.

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An Interesting Press Release

This press release ("At the Flick of a Switch"), from the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, is apparently for real. Here's a direct quote:

Since the page was taken down a few hours after I posted this, the content can be found here. This is exactly what was on the Judiciary Committee website earlier, shorn of the header and footer and sidebars giving lot of juicy Judiciary Committee links.

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Trump's future conditional head-scratcher

After Pope Francis suggested that Donald Trump's plan to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border makes him not-so-Christian, Trump fired back with a written statement that begins with a remarkable pile-up of conditionals:

If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is ISIS's ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the Pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been President because this would not have happened. ISIS would have been eradicated unlike what is happening now with our all talk, no action politicians.

All of those would haves! On Twitter, @vykromond asks if Language Loggers have any insights into "the possibly unprecedented 'quadruple conditional' of the first sentence." Here's my tentative analysis.

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Correlated lexicometrical decay

This is a brief progress report on "The case of the disappearing determiners", which I've continue to poke at in my spare time.

As the red line in the plot below shows, the proportion of nouns immediately preceded by THE decreased over the course of the 20th century, from an average of 18.9% for books published in 1900-1910 to 13.5% for books published in 1990-2000.  The blue line shows that the proportion of adjective+noun sequences immediately preceded by THE was higher, overall, but followed a remarkably similar falling trajectory, from 29.1% in 1900-1910 to 21.2% in 1990-2000:

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Toddler pronounced useless

Someone may be able to figure out how this document came into existence — Drew Hangman, "Toddler Dies after Visiting Petting Zoo of E.Coli Infection", Statesman Tribune 10/9/2015:

A Maine toddler was pronounced useless after contracting an E. coli an infection following a go to to the Oxford County Truthful. Based on a report from WMTW, the 20-month toddler Colton Guay of Poland handed away from problems associated to hemolytic uremic syndrome per week after he was admitted to the Maine Medical Middle.

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The secretary of state and its agents

Posted in front of a government building in Sheffield, UK:

 

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"Top-of-the-fish"?

Kelly Dwyer, "Mark Cuban on his beloved Rockets, save James Harden: 'That’s not a very good team'", Yahoo Sports 4/17/2015:

What better voice than Cuban’s, a man who inherited a perennial loser in 2000 before proceeding to act as the top-of-the-fish leader of a club that has made the playoffs in 14 out of 15 full seasons in the years since?

Bradley Sherman sent the link with a request for top-of-the-fish enlightenment. I got nothing, except maybe olive oil, pepper, thyme, and lemon juice.

 

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Editing error or recursive construction, Take 2

Lant Pritchett & Lawrence H. Summers, "Growth slowdowns: Middle-income trap vs. regression to the mean", Vox 12/11/2014:

No question is more important for the living standards of billions of people or for the evolution of the global system than the question of how rapidly differently economies will grow over the next generation.

Is this a slip of the fingers (e.g. for "how rapidly different economies will grow")? Or do the authors really mean a sort of second derivative,  "how rapidly differently economies will grow" meaning something like "at what rate the growth rates of economies will diverge"?

 

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"No Turkish leader has had as much influence as Ataturk as Erdogan"

Ishaan Tharoor, "Why Turkey’s president wants to revive the language of the Ottoman Empire", WaPo 12/12/2014:

In 1928, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founding father of the modern Turkish republic, enacted one of the more dramatic and radical reforms of the 20th century. Ataturk ordered the wholesale transformation of the Turkish language: He instituted a Latin alphabet, abandoning more than a millennium of writing in Arabic script, and had the language stripped of centuries of accumulated Persian and Arabic words. Instruction of "Ottoman" Turkish was banned. […]

Fast forward almost a century. No Turkish leader has had as much influence as Ataturk as the country's current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. And Erdogan, it seems, is keen on turning back Ataturk's legacy.

The decision to institute compulsory education in the Ottoman writing system  is worthy of discussion. But first, can anyone construe the sentence that I've put in bold? Is it an editing error, or is it a construction that for some reason is escaping me?

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The chick(en) says ko-ko-de(k)

In Incredible Things, Brittany High has a very brief article entitled "This Chinese Music Video Is Every Kind Of WTF".  I think that, if you watch the video, you'll agree with her.

Brittany writes:

This is a batshit insane music video for the song “Chick Chick” by Chinese pop group Wang Rong Rollin. It makes stuff like “What Does The Fox Say?” seem absolutely tame. I don’t know what the hell I just watched but I’ll have whatever they’re having.

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WT[bleep]?

Those LLog readers who aren't already Radiolab listeners should give their latest episode on translation a listen. There are 8 stories packed into this one episode, a few about language and a few not-so-much, but all of them well-worth the price of admission.

But I'm not just here to promote Radiolab. I'm also here to comment on something that happened in this episode that I am now very curious about (curious-enough-to-blog-and-solicit-comments curious, not curious-enough-to-do-some-real-research-of-my-own curious). There's a point in the show where one of the show's hosts (Jad Abumrad) warns listeners that there's going to be some raunchy language used and discussed for the next several minutes; even though the putatively offensive words were bleeped out in the version I listened to (via my iTunes podcast subscription), it was clear that I wouldn't have wanted my 5-year-old child to hear the piece so I appreciated the warning.

But at the very end of the episode, something very different happens. With no warning whatsoever, long strings of uncensored expletives assaulted my ears. I was wearing headphones and nobody else was around, but still I wondered: where was the warning? Why was there no bleeping? And then I realized that I wasn't listening to people speaking English anymore, but rather people swearing in other languages — and the first one was Spanish, which I am also a native speaker of.

But still: is Radiolab's audience (and their innocent children!) not at least potentially multilingual? Why the bleeping of English words and the elaborate warning preceding a story about their use, but no warning or bleeping whatsoever about the same sorts of words in other languages? It's not like I ever understood this sort of censorship and prudishness in the first place, but now I'm royally confused.

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