Archive for Slang

Using animal images to cast aspersions

We call people "swine", "pigs", "dogs", "curs", "rats", even "water buffalo" when we want to disparage them.

The latter epithet was uttered in the famous "water buffalo incident" that took place at the University of Pennsylvania in 1993, when an Israeli-born Jewish student, translating from Hebrew slang behema ("animal; beast" — used by Israelis to refer to loud, unruly people) shouted "Shut up, you water buffalo" out his window at a noisy group of students who were disturbing him and others in his building at midnight.  The controversy was exacerbated by alleged racial overtones of "water buffalo", though the student who yelled the phrase denied that he meant it to have racial implications.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (13)

Green's Dictionary of Slang goes online

Today, Green's Dictionary of Slang (GDoS for short) launches its online version. This is excellent news, coming more than five years after Jonathon Green published the print edition of his exhaustive three-volume reference work. As I wrote in the New York Times Book Review at the time,

It's a never-ending challenge to keep up with the latest developments in the world of slang, but that is the lexicographer’s lot. Green plans to put his dictionary online for continuous revision, which is indeed the direction that many major reference works (including the O.E.D.) are now taking. In the meantime, his monument to the inventiveness of speakers from Auckland to Oakland takes its place as the pièce de résistance of English slang studies. To put it plain, it’s copacetic.

Despite some tough sledding along the way, GDoS now sees the light of day online. Below is Jonathon Green's announcement. (For more, read the coverage in Quartz, and also see the dictionary's blog.) The good news is that headwords, etymologies, and definitions are freely available through online searches, while the full entries, with voluminous citations for each sense of each word, are available for an annual subscription fee.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (5)

Trump's vulgarities rendered into Chinese

Judging from these recent Language Log posts and the comments thereto, it is not always easy for native speakers of English to understand what Donald Trump says, especially when he is making lewd remarks:

"A non-apology for the ages" (10/7/16)

"'Like a bitch'?" (10/8/16)

"Trump translated" (9/31/16)

"Trump's aphasia" (9/5/15)

There have been many other attempts on Language Log to clarify Trumpian rhetoric.

If those who are born to English have difficulty comprehending the Donald's utterances, you can well imagine how hard it must be to grasp their nuances in another language.  Let's take a look at some of the Chinese translations of Trump's latest crudities.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (26)

The perils of "7" and "9" in Cantonese

Here we go again:

"Samsung’s Galaxy On7 goes official" (Marketing-Interactive, 9/28/16)

As we’ve covered shortly two weeks ago, the pronunciation of “7″ sounds like “penis” in Cantonese, and the latest Samsung Galaxy On7 launch has once again stirred up discussion on the internet in Hong Kong.

The Cantonese pronunciation of  “On9″ [sic: there seems to be a mix-up here] is similar to slang meaning “stupid”, and many are saying the new release is a crossover between the two slang words.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (11)

Apps for casual sex

There are so many people out there designing apps.  It's potentially a very lucrative business, since, if you come up with the right app to fill a need for millions of people, you can strike it rich.  Consequently, with thousands of people coming up with new apps all the time, there seems to be an app for almost everything under the sun (but not quite — so there's still plenty of room for the designers to come up with more seemingly specialized apps, yet nonetheless fulfilling somebody's requirements).

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (26)

The love organ of many names

British comedian Richard Herring is the author of a 2003 book entitled Talking Cock: A Celebration of Man and his Manhood, so he naturally seized upon the republicization opportunity provided by the recent story of the world's first successful penis transplant. He made it the topic of his weekly humor column in The Metro, the trashy free newspaper that I sometimes reluctantly peruse in my constant search for linguistic developments that might be of interest to Language Log readers.

In a bravura display of diversity of lexical choice, Herring contrived to use a different euphemism for the anatomical organ every time he could find an excuse for mentioning it, which, believe me, was a lot. And he left me pondering a serious lexicographical question: just how many euphemisms are there for the appendage in question?

[Unusually, this post is restricted to adult males. Please click "Read the rest of this entry" to confirm that you are male and over 18.]

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (63)

Delay no more

This is what happens when copy editors type what they're feeling and then forget to take it out again before it goes online:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (14)

Bob Dylan can't even

For Bob Dylan connoisseurs, the release of The Cutting Edge 1965-1966: The Bootleg Series Vol. 12 is a momentous occasion. It encompasses the studio sessions that gave us the albums Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde On Blonde, and it's available as a 2-CD sampler, a reasonable 6-CD version, and an ultra-comprehensive 18-CD collector's edition for the true Dylan obsessives. The collector's edition, which compiles every outtake from those crucial 1965-66 sessions, may have been released by Columbia primarily for copyright reasons, but for those willing to slog through the 19-hour runtime, there are some unexpected pleasures.

For a Billboard review, Chris Willman listened to the whole 18-CD set in a marathon session. Here's how he describes one track:

Dylan grows increasingly frustrated by how he feels the Hawks are mangling "She's Your Lover Now." "Aw, it's ugly," he says. "I can't. I can't even." Did Bob Dylan just invent the 21st century catchphrase "I can't even"? I think he did!

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (26)

Chinese internet slang, acronyms, and common expressions

Of the many websites dealing with contemporary Chinese language and culture, chinaSMACK is one of the best.  So eye-popping is chinaSMACK's content that I could very easily spend nearly all of my time immersed in it.

One chinaSMACK feature that undoubtedly will be of considerable interest to Language Log readers is this glossary of terms frequently encountered on the Chinese internet.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (5)

Niubi ("awesome") revisited

In recent years, this has been one of the most common modifiers and exclamations in Chinese.  You can say just "niu" by itself, where "niu" actually means niú 牛 ("cow"), but that's an elision of "niuB" or "niubi", which in turn means "cow pussy".  Although "niu(B/bi)" is used so frequently, in mixed company, on packaging, and so forth that it has lost much of its original shock value, it now means not much more than "awesome".  Nonetheless, I would recommend scrupulously avoiding it in situations where you are expected to be polite and formal.

Although "niu(B/bi)" may amount to "awesome", it is far more colorful and crude.  The origin of this usage is quite vulgar; for explanations, see here, here (with links to other posts in which the term is treated), also here and here.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (14)

No shitting here

Sign outside an apartment in Taipei:

Posted on imgur by Jverne

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (7)

Biscriptal juxtaposition in Chinese, part 2

When Tom Mazanec came home from Fudan University in Shanghai a few nights ago, he found this leaflet in a baggie hanging on his door:


Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (6)