Archive for Language and art

GAN4 ("Do it!")

From a long blog post on contemporary Chinese religious art and architecture:

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Plum > apricot and wine > brew: the language of poetry and painting

[This is a follow up to "Preserved wife plum" (7/12/17), after which there ensued a vigorous and enlightening discussion on the terminology for plums, apricots, pastries, and so forth.]

My wife was born in Shandong in 1936, but fled from the Japanese with her family to Sichuan before she was one year old, and she spent the next eleven years of her life in Sichuan, before fleeing once again with her family, this time from the Chinese Communists, to Taiwan.

One of the last things Li-ching did before passing away in 2010 was write her childhood memoirs in Hanyu Pinyin (see here, here [three items], and here).  At this moment, I do not recall if she mentioned it in her memoirs, but one of her fondest recollections of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan where she and her family lived (it was also the wartime capital of the Republic of China — now on Taiwan) was the làméi 臘梅 / 腊梅 (Chimonanthus fragrans / praecox).  In English, the làméi 臘梅 is referred to as wintersweet, Japanese allspice (despite the attractive name, it is not edible), calyx canthus, and mistakenly — but still quite commonly — as "wax plum" (look it up on Google Images under this name for pretty pictures of the blossoms).   In Japanese this plant is called rōbai 蝋梅, although it used to be written 臘梅 and 蠟梅 (nowadays it is normally written in kana alone:  ろうばい · ロウバイ).

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Wetware lives in meatspace

I missed Heather McHugh's poem "Hackers can sidejack cookies" — a collage of fragments from the Jargon File — when the New Yorker published the text in 2009. Here's the author reading it at B.U. on 4/17/2010:


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The sphere of the sphere is the sphere of the sphere

In a comment on "Electric Sheep", Tim wrote:

Just want to share a little Google Translate poetry resulting from drumming my fingers on the keyboard while set to Thai:

There are six sparks in the sky, each with six spheres. The sphere of the sphere is the sphere of the sphere.

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'Tis the Season: blooming in translation and in art

Jocelyn Ireson-Paine came across the Language Log posts which mention blooming: the increase in size of translated texts. She draws, and this made her think that if line drawing is regarded as translation from an original scene to lines, blooming can occur there too. She has written a brief note on this in "Drawing as Translation".

The essay was inspired partly by Jocelyn's thinking about what she does when she draws, and partly by English lecturer Matthew Reynolds talking about his book Translation: A Very Short Introduction.

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Après Babel in Marseilles

At Le Musée des Civilizations de l'Europe et de la Méditerranée in Marseilles, there's an exposition called "Après Babel, Traduire", which includes a translated version of "The directed graph of stereotypical incomprehensibility", 1/15/2009:

From LLOG: From MuCEM:

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Birth Happy Day!

I found this piece of framed calligraphy in a small arts and crafts shop named Noa Omanuyot in the Dan Panorama Hotel on Mt. Carmel in Haifa:

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Multiscript sign in the Hong Kong subway

Many's the time that we have encountered biscriptalism in the Sinosphere and elsewhere (see here, here, here, and here).

Now Jenny Chu has sent in this photograph of an interesting ad, currently in Hong Kong's MTR, which fuses Japanese- and Korean-appearing lettering with English, presumably in order to seem in touch with the latest trends.

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Intriguing Chinese sign spotted in London

From Donald Clarke:

The sign seems straightforwardly to be a warning that this is a "dangerous construction site".  The more you look at it, however, the more questions arise.

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Konglish, ch. 2

A little over a year ago, we had our first look at "Konglish", Korean-style English.  If it was thriving then, it seems to be positively luxuriant now:

"The Beauty and Perils of Konglish, the Korean-English Hybrid" (Margaret Rhodes, WIRED, 9/29/16)

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Women's words

In Wired (2/1/16), Liz Stinson has an article titled "This Little Red Book Confronts Sexism in the Chinese Language" (the text is accompanied by a total of 8 slides).

It begins:

Activism can take many forms. In the case of Women’s Words, it takes the form of a little red dictionary. The tiny book is the work of Karmen Hui, Tan Sueh Li, and Tan Zi Hao of Malaysian design collective TypoKaki. On its pages you’ll find made-up words and phrases—Chinese characters that, through their unusual arrangement and alteration, subvert the sexism ingrained in Mandarin.

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Love transformed

With the title "Yeah… that totally translates to 'love'", imgur presents the following image:

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Floating world

Nicola Esposito sent in the following observations and questions:

What is the etymology of ukiyo 浮世, the "floating world" known in the West mostly thanks to its depictions by artists such as Hiroshige, Hokusai and others?

While perusing the website of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, I discovered that the origins of ukiyo lie in a homophone of 浮世 denoting the "transient world" of Buddhist tradition.  The page does not offer any other detail, but from what I gather that homophone should be ukiyo 憂世, whose literal meaning should be closer to something like "unhappy world".  Unfortunately my knowledge of Japanese is too shallow to be able to to tackle Japanese sources, and I was wondering if you could offer insight on this etymology and in particular how this substitution happened, if it indeed happened. Was it some kind of pun?

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