Archive for Proverbs

Fake Chinese Shakespeare quote

[This is a guest post by Silas S. Brown]

"One night, we can build a nouveau riche, three generations to cultivate an aristocrat." – Shakesepare

Needless to say Shakespeare didn't say such a thing – if he did, the compilers of the Oxford Dictionary of English would not have labelled the word "aristocrat" as being first used in the 18th century (which is later than Shakespeare), not to mention other anachronisms.  If the forger had instead cited a 19th-century poet, that might have made it slightly more difficult to detect at fifty paces, but it must have been hard to resist the lure of citing the one that everyone has heard of even if they've just started to learn English.

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What does "Schmetterling" sound like to a German?

I'm prompted to ask this question in response to the very first comment on this post:

"'Butterfly' words as a source of etymological confusion" (1/28/16)

The comment supplies a link to this YouTube video, in which russianracehorse tells "The Butterfly Joke".  A Frenchman, an Italian, a Spaniard, and a German each pronounce the word for "butterfly" in their own language.  The words for "butterfly" in the first three languages all sound soft, delicate, and mellifluous.  Finally the German chimes in and shouts vehemently, "Und vat's wrong with [the joke teller could have said 'mit'] Schmetterling?"

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Chinese proverbs

A frequent topic of our Language Log posts has been about how best to learn Chinese, e.g.:

"How to learn to read Chinese " (5/25/08)

"How to learn Chinese and Japanese " (2/17/14)

"The future of Chinese language learning is now " (4/5/14)

Two things I have stressed:  1. take advantage of properly parsed Pinyin or other phonetic annotation and transcription; 2. utilize the full resources of digital, electronic, hand-held, and online dictionaries and other devices to assist and enhance the learning of reading and writing.

Whenever a well-designed, efficient pedagogical tool appears, I am always pleased because it means more rapid acquisition and less suffering for students.

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C'est la vie ~

Chris P sent in the following emojis from WeChat:

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Eighteenth-century European sources for some Chinese proverbs

Jan Söhlke was intrigued by the issue of fake Chinese proverbs that had come up in some recent Language Log posts. That reminded him of the time when he was preparing his MA Thesis he stumbled across an unusual selection of Chinese proverbs. His thesis is on Wilhelm Raabe's novel Das Odfeld.  As a motto Raabe uses a quote from a text by his own grandfather, August Heinrich Raabe, that appeared in a journal called the Holzmindisches Wochenblatt (Holzminden Weekly) back in 1787.  As Jan was leafing through the journal, he noticed a group of Chinese proverbs. It struck him as a bit odd, so he made a copy.  Unfortunately, at the time he did not own a digital camera nor did he have a cell phone with camera, so he had to type them by hand.

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Xi Jinping: "when a car breaks down…"

Via Twitter, Matthew Leavitt asks Language Log what we think of the translation of Xi Jinping's metaphor:  “when a car breaks down on the road, perhaps we need to step down and see what the problem is.”

This was spoken at a news conference during the Beijing summit between President Obama and Chairman Xi and quoted in the New York Times.  After avoiding the issue for awhile, Xi used this expression in response to a question about restrictions on visas for foreign journalists that was posed by Mark Landler, a reporter for the New York Times.

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Eighty-one Cantonese proverbs in one picture

From the "Cantonese Resources" blog:

Ah To 阿塗, a graphic designer and part-time cartoonist who is concerned about the survival of Cantonese in Canton and Hong Kong, has just published a comic called "The Great Canton and Hong Kong Proverbs" on Hong Kong independent media "Passion Times".

(Click to embiggen.)

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