Archive for Slogans


The city of Seoul, South Korea, has a new slogan.  This is what it looks like:

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Cabbages & Condoms

Tom Mazanec's uncle recently came across this sign in a restaurant in Chiang Rai, Thailand:

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Oli ko goli

Anschel Schaffer-Cohen writes:

I was reading this Guardian article about the newly elected prime minister of Nepal, and I was a bit surprised by this sentence:

Oli, 63, is generally popular in Nepal and has a reputation for being outspoken. Some use the phrase “Oli ko goli” to describe him – “When Oli speaks, he fires [a bullet]”.

Can so few syllables–three, not counting his name–actually contain that much information? What's the literal translation of this phrase, and if there's implied context where does it come from? Since I remember reading that you speak Nepali, I was hoping you could shed some light on this, either personally or on the blog.

You can find similar translations of “Oli ko goli” all over the web, but they're all wrong.

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Civilized language

Sign at a bus station in Inner Mongolia:

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Sort of rubblish

Back in 2009, somebody (unfortunately I forget who it was) sent me this photograph of a sign in Beijing:

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Cantonese protest slogans

We've been following the tumultuous Hong Kong democracy protests closely, e.g., "'Cantonese' song" (10/24/14), "The umbrella in Hong Kong" (10/19/14) and "Translating the Umbrella Revolution" (10/3/14), with plenty of additional material in the comments to these posts.

Now there is a new article in Quartz that focuses on the most popular slogans used by the protesters: "The backstory to seven of the most popular protest slogans in Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement" (10/23/14).

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The grammar of "Better Together"

The official name of the organization campaigning for a No vote in the upcoming Scottish independence referendum is "Better Together." That phrase was originally the campaign's main slogan. Much has been written in recent days about the campaign's evident signs of panic, but no one has commented on the stupidity of "Better Together" as a slogan. (It was actually ditched by the campaign in June, and replaced by an even more pathetic slogan: "No Thanks.")

Better together is an adjective phrase. Used on its own, without any logical subject or other accompanying noun phrases, it is apparently supposed to affirm that something will go better in some way for someone than something else if something is together with something else, but it doesn't specify any of these someones or somethings. Yet the cui bono issue (who benefits) is absolutely crucial to the debate. The ineptness of the sloganeering is almost unbelievable.

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Despicable human scum

For those wondering why on earth an official announcement about the solemn business of executing a traitor would use wildly overheated language like "despicable human scum" and "worse than a dog" (especially about the uncle of the reigning monarch), the BBC has published a short article on the language of North Korean posthumous character assassination.

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Za stall in Newtown

Together with his "greetings from small-town Japan", Chris Pickel sent in this photograph of a sign, which was put up in his neighborhood for the aki-matsuri 秋祭り ("autumn festival").

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Too much Victor Mair

I've been reading way too much Victor Mair. In the restaurant of my hotel in London I just saw an English girl wearing a T-shirt on which it said this:


And I immediately thought, who is Ho Pe?

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Anti-PRC sign in Syria

During the Arab Spring demonstrations, we saw many signs that attempted to reach a Chinese audience in Chinese: "Maybe Mubarak understands Chinese", 2/10/2011; "Chinese sign in Benghazi", 3/21/2011; "Roll out of here, Mubarak", 4/3/2011. Similar signs were spotted during the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations later the same year:  "No more corruption".

Now, in Syria, we see protesters condemning China with signs written in Arabic:

(from this website)

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Dogs and Japanese not admitted

Sign in the window of a snack shop in Houhai district of Beijing called Beijing Snacks (Bǎinián lǔ zhě 百年卤者 [Century Braiser]):

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Oldest linguistics department: research needed

Uh-oh! A friend of mine who recently looked at the websites of the Departments of Linguistics at both the University of Chicago and the University of Pennsylvania just pointed out to me that each of them claims to be the oldest department of linguistics in the USA. This is bad. Language Log is headquartered on a server at Penn. Now we don't know whether our home is the oldest department of linguistics in the USA or not.

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