Archive for Transcription

Chow Yun-fat

Hong Kong movie star Chow Yun-fat has fallen afoul of the authorities on mainland China for supporting the Occupy Center democracy protesters.

It's interesting to see how the media report what he said about having his films banned on the Mainland.

"'I'll just make less then': Actor Chow Yun-fat responds to alleged PRC ban for supporting HK protests"  (10/27/14)

The Shanghaiist report was picked up by reddit and other outlets: "Banned from mainland China? Chow Yun Fat doesn't care" (10/27/14)

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Homa Obama

Tom Mazanec sent in the following ad that he saw in a Guangzhou (China) apartment complex:


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Oh my melon!

Bryan Van Norden is a Visiting Professor at Wuhan University this semester, and he ran across an interesting bit of language play. Below is a still (taken with his cell phone) of a television commercial currently running in the PRC. It is for a watermelon juice drink. As you can see, the tag line is a bilingual pun, substituting guā 瓜 ("melon") for "God."


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Transliteration follies

From Arun Tharuvai, via his Twitter account, we find that Intersecting Bubbles has this brief but fascinating post on a multilingual notice:  "Shell Petroleum thinks that Hindi is English written in the Devanagari Script ".

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Ganbatte!

Ken Mallott found a Chinese use of a Japanese word in a way that surprised him.  He explains that he's an Orioles fan, and in 2012 they signed Taiwanese pitcher Wei-Yin Chen (陳殷), who apparently has quite the following back in Taiwan. His fans have taken to posting Chinese messages in traditional script on Facebook before 殷仔's starts, encouraging their fellow supporters to get up early to watch him pitch.

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258 FAKE

The following address plate is affixed to the outer wall of Ai Weiwei's studio in Beijing:


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Carmen in Korean and Cantonese

Reader Jean-Michel found an odd example of a Sinographic typo and it's got him stumped. This has to do with the Korean Blu-ray release of "As Tears Go By," the 1988 debut feature by Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai.

In Chinese the film is known as Wàngjiǎo kǎmén 旺角卡門 ("Mongkok Carmen") after the Bizet opera (though the resemblances are very superficial). What is strange, however, is that the Korean Blu-ray art, as illustrated below, initially gave the characters as Wàngjiǎo xiàwèn 旺角下問.

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Famous last words

Guest post by Karen Stollznow


In recent weeks we've been following the tragedy and mystery of the Malaysia Airlines flight 370 that vanished on March 8 with 239 people on board. Less than an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur en route to Beijing all communication was cut off. The plane diverted unexpectedly across the Indian Ocean and disappeared from civilian air traffic control screens. There has been much controversy surrounding the transcript of the last incoming transmission between the air traffic controller and the cockpit of the ill-fated flight.

We tend to have a morbid fascination with people's last words. We assign profound meaning and philosophical insights to the final words uttered by those who face their fate ahead of us. There are numerous books and websites that chronicle the linguistic legacies of famous people such as Douglas Fairbank's ironic, "I've never felt better," to Woodrow Wilson's courageous, "I am ready," and the betrayal expressed in Julius Caesar's "Et tu, Brute?" Planecrashinfo.com maintains a database of last words from cockpit recordings, transcripts, and air traffic control tapes. These are disturbing announcements of impeding doom, including: "Actually, these conditions don't look very good at all, do they?" through to an assortment of cuss words, and moving farewells like, "Amy, I love you."

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"Let It Go!" in Chinese

Natasha Heller called to my attention the fact that there are several Chinese covers of the Oscar-winning song "Let It Go", from the blockbuster Disney computer-animated film "Frozen".

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Transcriptional and hybrid words in Mandarin

Like all languages, Mandarin and other Sinitic tongues have borrowed and coined words throughout their history.  But it would seem that the pace and nature of the current changes in Chinese usage are of such extraordinary amplitude that an unprecedented transformation is occurring, one that may be marked not merely by differences in quantity and quality, but of order and kind.

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No more Hong Kong, no more Tibet

The Encyclopaedia Britannica has begun to refer to Hong Kong as Xianggang, the Modern Standard Mandarin (MSM) pronunciation of the name.

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Scholar-hegemons in China

In "Nerd, geek, PK: Creeping Romanization (and Englishization), part 2" and other Language Log posts, we have delved into the terminology for nerddom.  In the course of our discussions, we seem to have arrived at a consensus that it's difficult to find a Chinese term that conveys well the notion and nuances of the English word "nerd".

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A variable, transcriptional Chinese character

Gloria Bien sent in the following photograph and asked what to make of the Chinese text in it, especially the unusual character 叻, which is pronounced lè in Modern Standard Mandarin (MSM; but see below for the Cantonese pronunciation and meaning). Wenlin says it's part of a name for Singapore, but not used alone, as it is in this picture. Google says Overseas Chinese use it for Singapore. But, as Gloria observes, "I'm the most Singapore" doesn't make sense.

This is from a package of noodles from Emeryville, CA, and says "Product of China," but complex characters are used throughout.

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Please don't do nothing here: a Bengali conundrum

Sreekar Saha sent in this sign and expressed puzzlement over the English translation:

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Zhou Youguang, Father of Pinyin

Zhou Youguang, the main architect and early advocate of Hanyu Pinyin (the official romanized orthography for Modern Standard Mandarin), had his 108th birthday yesterday.  Although I've been a close friend and admirer of Professor Zhou since 1981, I've never dedicated a Language Log post exclusively to him, so it's about time that I do so.

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