Archive for Humor

Corporate PR + correspondents on location

From last summer's pilot episode of What The Fox, put together by Zach Fox and a group of other Penn undergrads:

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C'est la vie ~

Chris P sent in the following emojis from WeChat:

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Ma-Xi –> MaXi

What is the message conveyed by this strange photograph and the unusual writing on it?


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Intentional mistranslation

From a student:

Here are very popular "emoticons" [VM: "image macros" might be more appropriate] that young Chinese people send each other while online chatting. They use "literal" translation of Chinese into English to achieve a comedic effect. I don't think they reflect the young generation's bad English; they actually suggest that the young Internet generation's English is good enough to understand that such translations are ridiculous and thus funny. My personal favourite is "I don't eat this condom."

wǒmen hǎoxiàng zài nǎ'er jiànguò 我们好像在哪儿见过
("it seems as though we've seen each other somewhere")

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Today's SMBC:

Somewhere Leonhard Euler and Kurt Gödel are having a good laugh.

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"Hastily diagrams sentence"

Thoreau, "I don’t cry for yesterday; there’s an ordinary world", Unqualified Offerings 10/22/2015:

Ah!  Clinton vs. Bush with an insane billionaire in the mix and the latest Whitewater/Vince Foster sequels already brewing!  It’s 1992 all over again.  Except this time I’m not single and trying to work up the courage to ask a girl out.  Things are much better for me.

Comment by mds:

Except this time I’m not single and trying to work up the courage to ask a girl out


… I say go for it.

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Another casualty of austerity

Several people have pointed me to this article, which has circulated again recently despite being eight years old — "Underfunded Schools Forced To Cut Past Tense From Language Programs", The Onion 11/30/2007:

Faced with ongoing budget crises, underfunded schools nationwide are increasingly left with no option but to cut the past tense—a grammatical construction traditionally used to relate all actions, and states that have transpired at an earlier point in time—from their standard English and language arts programs.

A part of American school curricula for more than 200 years, the past tense was deemed by school administrators to be too expensive to keep in primary and secondary education.

"This was by no means an easy decision, but teaching our students how to conjugate verbs in a way that would allow them to describe events that have already occurred is a luxury that we can no longer afford," Phoenix-area high-school principal Sam Pennock said. "With our current budget, the past tense must unfortunately become a thing of the past.

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Latin American Spanish accents

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The writing on the wall

Why won't they call in a linguist?

The producers of "Homeland," a TV spy drama, were filming a scene (shot in Berlin) in which one of the show's main characters walks through a refugee camp run by Hezbollah, and they employed a group of Arabic-speaking graffiti artists to daub the walls with authentic slogans saying "Muhammed is the greatest." (Presumably referring to the revered Arabian prophet, but sounding a bit more like an allusion to the celebrated American boxer; who knows.) But they forgot to hire a trusted Arabic-competent linguist to proofread. They had no idea what the artists had written on the set walls. It turned out to be slogans like "Homeland is not a series," "Homeland is racist," and "Homeland is rubbish." And those graffiti duly appeared on TV (whereupon the guerilla artists, not wanting their subversion to be missed, revealed what they had done).

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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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