Archive for Language and the media

Epic eye-roll

Everybody's talking about the eye-roll of the century, the eye-roll that has gone wildly viral in China.  It's undoubtedly the most exciting thing that happened at the Two Sessions of the National People's Congress (NPC) that began on March 5 and will most likely end soon.  It was a foregone conclusion that President Xi Jinping would be crowned de facto Emperor for Life and that his "thought" would be enshrined in the constitution.  What was not expected was a brief but epochal roll of the eyes on the part of one female reporter, Liang Xiangyi 梁相宜 (dressed in blue — I'll call her Ms. Blue or [Ms.] Liang), when another female reporter, Zhang Huijun 张慧君 (dressed in red — I'll call her Ms. Red or [Ms.] Zhang), went on too long and too effusively with her fawning question to a high-ranking CCP official.

You see, everything at the NPC is supposed to be scripted and orchestrated.  There aren't supposed to be any surprises.  Yet, as you can see for yourself, Ms. Liang could not hide her true emotions, which are painfully evident at 0:36 in the following 0:44 video — with an increasingly dramatic buildup to the moment of her monumental recoil:

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Dung Times

There's a roundly execrated publication of the CCP called Global Times in English.  The Chinese name is Huánqiú shíbào 环球时报.  Associated with the People's Daily, it is infamous for its extreme, provocative, anti-Indian, anti-Japanese, anti-Western (especially anti-American) editorials and articles.

Now it seems that some Indian Tweeps are referring to the Global Times as "Gobar Times", using Hindi  gobar गोबर ("cow-dung") to mimic the sound and the sentiment the name evokes. A tweet by Donald Clarke calls our attention to this fecal phenomenon.

Here it is in use.

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Candidate for careless Whorfian nonsense of the year

Earlier today, I discussed (or at least linked to) a serious econometric study arguing that the morphology of future time reference is meaningfully correlated — perhaps causally correlated — with the distribution of attitudes towards "willingness to take climate action" ("The latest on the Whorfian morphology of time"). A short time later, with the radio playing in the background as I worked, I heard an extraordinary example of (what I take to be) the sort of media-buzz nonsense that gives discussions of linguistic relativity such a bad reputation among serious people.

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Characterless future

Browser extensions sometimes can cause unexpected problems, e.g.:

"The Time of Shedding and Cold Rocks" (3/7/18).

Often, however, they can be very helpful if they do what you want them to do.

Jonathan Smith writes:

Do you use the web browser Chrome? If so try adding the extension "Convert Chinese to Pinyin (Mand)". It does a decent job converting Chinese-language web pages to word-spaced pinyin (with tone marks if desired) so one can pretend one lives in a characterless future :D

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Toward a recursive meta-pragmatics of Twitterspheric intertextuality

A few days ago, I posted a post consisting of…

a screenshot of a tweet (by me) consisting of…

a screenshot of a Language Log post (by me) consisting of…

a screenshot of a tweet (by me) consisting of…

a screenshot of a tweet by Lynne Murphy, a linguistics professor, quote-tweeting* an earlier tweet by Benjamin Dreyer, who is (although I didn’t know it at the time) a vice president, Executive Managing Editor, and Copy Chief at Random House.
* retweeting and adding a comment

A screenshot of the post is provided below the fold—but I hasten to add that I am providing the screenshot solely as a convenience to the reader, to save them the trouble of having to leave this post in order to look at that one, should they be so inclined.

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Mistranscription of the month

"Florida school shooting: Armed deputy on duty never went inside to confront gunman", Associated Press 2/22/2018:

The sheriff said he was "devastated, sick to my stomach. There are no words. I mean these families lost their children. We lost coaches. I've been to the funerals. I've been to the homes where they sit and shiver. I've been to the vigils. It's just, ah, there are no words."

"Correction: School Shooting-Florida story", Associated Press 2/26/2018:

In a story Feb. 22 about the Florida school shooting, The Associated Press misquoted Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel in some versions of the story when he spoke about the families of the victims. He said, "I've been to their homes where they're sitting shiva," not "where they sit and shiver."

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Excessive quadrisyllabicism

Many readers of Language Log will remember the visit of China's former internet censor-in-chief, Lu Wei, to the headquarters of Facebook, Apple, and Amazon in late 2014.  Those were his glory days, but now his star has fallen in a most spectacular fashion:

"China’s ‘tyrannical’ former internet tsar Lu Wei accused of trading power for sex in long list of corruption charges: Lu accused of a range of crimes from abusing power for personal gain to disloyalty", by Frank Tang (SCMP [2/13/18])

"China's former chief of internet regulator expelled from Communist Party" (Reuters [2/13/18)

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Mistakes in English and in Chinese

I'm reading Paul Midler's What's Wrong with China (Hoboken, NJ:  2018).  Midler has spent two decades as a business consultant in East Asia and speaks Mandarin.  His book is replete with penetrating observations about many aspects of society and culture and is solidly based on extensive first-hand experience and deep learning in Chinese history.  Its pages are filled with keen observations about language usage in China, but it was only when I got near the very end of the book (p. 224) that I was caught up short by this paragraph:

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Korean editorial rumor, speculation, and innuendo

It all started with an English language South Korean newspaper making unsubstantiated claims that a staff member on President Trump's National Security Council was said to have mentioned that a limited strike against North Korea "might help in the midterm elections".

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Alexa disguises her name?

"Alexa Loses Her Voice" won USA Today's Super Bowl Ad Meter:

I believe that this was also the first Super Bowl ad to raise a technical question about speech technology.

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"Wait, wait, don't orca me"

Yesterday's edition of the comedy radio news quiz "Wait, wait, don't tell me" featured some discussion of the Talking Orcas story that Geoff Pullum discussed a few days ago in "Orca emits speech-like sound; reporters go insane", 1/31/2018. The whole discussion is worth a listen:

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Orca emits speech-like sound; reporters go insane

Published today in Proceedings of the Royal Society B you will find (provided you have the necessary institutional credentials or library membership) a paper entitled "Imitation of novel conspecific and human speech sounds in the killer whale (Orcinus orca), by José Z. Abramson, Maria Victoria Hernández-Lloreda, Lino García, Fernando Colmenares, Francisco Aboitiz, and Josep Call. The paper is about the conditions under which killer whales can be induced to use their blowholes to imitate sounds that they hear. And it will not be a huge surprise to Language Log readers that the world's newspapers immediately lost their minds. The Daily Mail, a scurrilous Conservative-oriented English tabloid, on its very successful soft-porn-laden website, used the headline "Orca on the blower: Killer whale learns to talk." Hundreds of largely plagiarized stories are springing up around the world under similar headlines (don't make me try to list them). They can do this because when the topic is language, you don't have to maintain any pretense of seriousness. You can just make stuff up. Nobody (other than maybe Language Log) is going to call you on it.

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"I don't think there isn't a darn thing I can do"

RichG sent in a link to Matt Pierce and David Montero, "Warrants in Las Vegas mass shooting reveal name of additional 'person of interest", LA Times 1/30/2018 [emphasis added]:

Authorities were looking into an additional "person of interest" following the mass shooting in Las Vegas that killed 58 people and wounded hundreds of others, according to search warrants unsealed by a Nevada judge Tuesday.

Though Stephen Paddock has been identified as the lone gunman in the Oct. 1 massacre, and authorities had been looking at his girlfriend, Marilou Danley, the court mistakenly failed to redact another name from the warrants: Douglas Haig.

That is the name of a Mesa, Ariz., ammunition dealer who runs a website called Specialized Military Ammunition, which touts itself as "your source for premium, MILSPEC, tracer and incendiary ammunition in popular military calibers," including ammunition that "ignites diesel and kerosene." (Officials have said that Paddock shot at aerial fuel tanks during the attack, although they did not ignite.) […]

The Las Vegas Review-Journal was the only publication to receive the mistaken document, which identified Haig as a "person of interest." It's the first public acknowledgment by law enforcement that a third person had been investigated in relation to the crime.

District Court Judge Elissa Cadish apologized for the error and issued a gag order on any publication of the original document that included the name.

"I ordered them redacted and thought they were redacted not only to protect the investigation, but because of concerns about possible danger to this individual," Cadish said. "Unfortunately, I think the reality is now that it's up online and I don't think there isn't a darn thing I can do to take it off."

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