Archive for Humor

Fake Obama, fake English

Earlier today, BBC News posted this article:

"Chinese Obama speaks 'fake' English" (9/21/15)

Embedded at the top of the article is this video in which actor Xiao Jiguo displays his talents at impersonating Obama:

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The American dream is dead

So says Donald Trump — and Fut Azteca:

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"Offhand impressions and grumpy peeves"

Steven Pinker, "On my radar", The Guardian 8/23/2015:

4|Website: Language Log.

Do you notice grammar gaffes, wonder about the speech styles of celebrities, find yourself curious about the origin of new words and constructions? Language Log is the place to go for commentary by people who actually know their stuff – linguists and other language scientists – as opposed to the pundits and scribblers who think that their standing as writers entitles them to present their offhand impressions and grumpy peeves as proven fact.

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The Humble Petition of WHO and WHICH

In 1711, long before E.B. White over-interpreted the Fowler brothers and sent out mobs of zombified prescriptivists to hunt down whiches, Richard Steele gave us "The Humble Petition of WHO and WHICH", The Spectator 78:

' The humble Petition of WHO and WHICH,
' THAT your petitioners being in a forlorn and destitute condition, know not to whom we should apply ourselves for relief, because there is hardly any man alive who hath not injured us. Nay, we speak it with sorrow, even you yourself, whom we should suspect of such a practice the last of all mankind, can hardly acquit yourself of having given us some cause of complaint. We are descended of ancient families, and kept up our dignity and honour many years, till the jack-sprat THAT supplanted us. How often have we found ourselves slighted by the clergy in their pulpits, and the lawyers at the bar? Nay, how often have we heard, in one of the most polite and august assemblies in the universe, these words, "That THAT that noble lord urged ;" which if one of us had justice done, would have sounded nobler thus, "that WHICH that noble lord urged." Senates themselves, the guardians of British liberty, have degraded us, and preferred THAT to us; and yet no decree was ever given against us.  …

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"… could have bore"

Brian Bender, "Former officials question Clinton's email defense", Politico 8/20/105:

While sympathetic to the messy nature of the classification system, fellow diplomats and specialists say Clinton could have bore responsibility to flag sensitive material.

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Pun of the week

The pun goes back at least to 1986 and probably beyond. [See below for antedating to 1940…] I'm not sure who first applied it to Mr. Trump's campaign, or who created the logo.

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Easy-to-use frustration

"Important – Please contact us to provide more information."

That's what the letter from Independence Blue Cross said. Dated 7/28/2015, it arrived 8/4/2015, and informed me that I need to "call or respond online within seven business days to ensure that your future claims and those of your family members can be processed in a timely manner." So today is the deadline.

What do I need to contact them about? "We are required to determine if you or your family members have other health insurance coverage to process your claims."

OK, fair enough. And they inform me that "You can choose the most convenient way to provide this information to us". The first option is to "Simply dial 1-866-507-6575 and follow the prompts on our easy-use interactive voice response system"; the second option is "to visit our member website at".

But it turns out that there are a couple of problems. The first problem is that both methods fail at the first step. And the second problem is that there's apparently no other way to contact them to "provide more information … to ensure that your future claims and those of your family members can be processed in a timely manner".

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Softy Calais goes ballistic…

Calais in north-western France, and Kent in south-eastern England, have been experiencing weeks of extraordinary chaos. Thousands of desperate migrants from Africa and the Middle East are fighting to get into the Eurotunnel depot where they think they might be able to stow away on trucks that will make the train journey through the tunnel to the immensely desirable destination of Great Britain. The British think the Calais local authorities and the French government have been making only desultory efforts to prevent the migrants from clogging the approach roads, breaching the security fences, delaying train departures, and causing side effects like 24-hour traffic jams on the M20 freeway in Kent. So the headline writers at The Sun went to work, with feghoot based on a song from Mary Poppins:

Softy Calais goes ballistic… Frenchies are atrocious!

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Thing explainer

The xkcd site is promoting Randall Munroe's forthcoming book Thing Explainer, in which things are explained in the style of his comic "Up Goer Five", "using only the ten hundred words people use the most often".

At the time that "Up Goer Five" came out, Theo Sanderson created the Up Goer Five Text Editor, which checks words as you type them:

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Religions ranked by Google

Jonathan Falk asks:

If this isn't some form of zeugma, what would you call it? Cyber-zeugma? Auto-zeugma?

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A little bit disingenuous

[TRIGGER WARNING: Harsh Quantitative Evaluation of a Facile Generalization]

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Linguistic terminology or band name?

This quiz is unfairly difficult: "Linguistics or band name?", lingBuzzFeed 4/20/2015.

Any quiz of the form "X or band name?" is going to be hard, because there are at least tens of thousands of band names, so that even if you know that "Semantic Saturation" is a term from psycholinguistics, how would you be sure that it was also a "three-member American progressive Rock Metal band"? And how would you know that nobody had ever started a band called "Harmonic Serialism"? (The quiz says not, but I wonder…)

According to the footer at lingBuzzFeed, "This blog is not related to, or endorsed by, either lingBuzz or BuzzFeed, though is strongly intellectually indebted to both".

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The Conditional Entente

John McIntyre's "Grammarnoir 7: 'The Corpus Had a Familiar Face'" is available at The Baltimore Sun.

At the start of the story, a thug with "fists the size of Westphalian hams and the cold, dead eyes of a community press content coach" strong-arms John's narrator into a big room "with a glass wall overlooking a formal garden. Around a large table sat half a dozen people: Jeans. T-shirts, mostly black. Bottles of imported water. Three-day stubble on every face. No women."

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