I was a guest yesterday on Radio Times ("What language says about who we are and where we live", 3/6/2014), and the host, Marty Moss-Coane, brought up the movie In a World, and Lake Bell's assertion that "There is a vocal plague going on that I call the sexy baby plague, where very smart women have taken on this affectation that evokes submission and sexual titillation to the male species".
Archive for Language and culture
David Craig sent in this picture which showed up on the Facebook Armchair Linguists page, originally posted by Olexa Stomachenko; no one seems to know what it means:
In "Whom loves ya?", 2/12/2014, Geoff Pullum riffed on one of the outcomes of "a large-scale statistical study of what correlates with numbers of responses to online dating ads", namely that "men who use 'whom' get 31% more contacts from opposite-sex respondents".
It suited Geoff's rhetorical purposes to take this number at face value, but I wondered about where it really comes from, and what if anything it means.
Jim Romenesko, "Brent Bozell urges liberal media to 'tell the truth,' while he fibs about writing a column", 2/13/2014:
The conservative Media Research Center often urges liberal news outlets to TELL THE TRUTH, but the Reston, VA-based press watchdog isn’t telling the truth about its own leader: Brent Bozell doesn’t write the syndicated column that appears under his byline.
It is longtime MRC media analysis director Tim Graham who writes “almost everything published under [Bozell's] name,” a former MRC employee tells me in an email. “That includes his weekly column. Same goes for his books, which at least carry Graham’s name in a secondary billing, but also aren’t written by Bozell (but Bozell keeps 80-90% of the advance and all profits!)”
Two other people with ties to MRC confirmed that Graham is Bozell’s ghostwriter – and that Graham is not happy with the assignment.
“Tim just resents having to do it,” says a former employee.
A recent issue (1/7/14) of the South China Morning Post (SCMP) carried an article by a staff reporter entitled "Hong Kong student's poem recital goes viral in the mainland ". The article features this amazing video of a Hong Kong high school student reciting a couple of Classical Chinese poems:
"Decoding cancer-addled ramblings", Ask MetaFilter 1/20/2014:
In my grandmother's final days battling brain cancer, she became unable to speak and she filled dozens of index cards with random letters of the alphabet. I'm beginning to think that they are the first letters in the words of song lyrics, and would love to know what song this was. This is a crazy long shot, but I've seen Mefites pull off some pretty impressive code-breaking before!
My grandmother passed away in 1994 of a fast-spreading cancer. She was non-communicative her last two weeks, but in that time, she left at least 20 index cards with scribbled letters on them. My cousins and I were between 8-10 years old at the time, and believed she was leaving us a code. We puzzled over them for a few months trying substitution ciphers, and didn't get anywhere.
My father found one of the cards the other day and I love puzzles and want to tackle the mystery again. Based on some of the repeating segments (many lines start with PST, many end with PAGA, and TYAGF repeats often at the end), I'm thinking they may be song lyrics. She inserts lots of backwards commas, and strange breaks at various points that could indicate stanzas. The back of the card has two numbered lines that contain the same letters. The letters (with line breaks to match the card) and images of the cards are below.
Stephan Stiller says that my post on "Good good study; day day up" reminds him of "people mountain, people sea" (rénshānrénhǎi 人山人海), i.e., "crowded; packed; a sea of people". This is another fairly complex Chinglishism that has entered the vocabulary of many English speakers who know no Chinese. It was popularized by a Hong Kong music production company that took this expression as its name, and there was also a Hong Kong film that used this expression as its title.
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Yanis Varoufakis, Stuart Holland, and James K. Galbraith, "A Modest Proposal for Resolving the Eurozone Crisis", 2013:
Europe is fragmenting. While in the past year the European Central Bank has managed to stabilise the bond markets, the economies of the European core and its periphery are drifting apart. As this happens, human costs mount and disintegration becomes an increasing threat.
It is not just a matter for the Eurozone. The fallout from a Eurozone breakup would destroy the European Union, except perhaps in name. And Europe’s fragmentation poses a global danger.
Following a sequence of errors and avoidable delays Europe’s leadership remains in denial about the nature of the crisis, and continues to pose the false choice between draconian austerity and a federal Europe.
By contrast, we propose immediate solutions, feasible within current European law and treaties.
There are in this crisis four sub-crises: a banking crisis, a public debt crisis, a crisis of under-investment, and now a social crisis – the result of five years of policy failure. Our Modest Proposal therefore now has four elements. They deploy existing institutions and require none of the moves that many Europeans oppose, such as national guarantees or fiscal transfers. Nor do they require treaty changes, which many electorates anyway could reject. Thus we propose a European New Deal which, like its American forebear would lead to progress within months, yet through measures that fall entirely within the constitutional framework to which European governments have already agreed.
Paul Krugman, "You're all losers", NYT 1/13/2014:
The other day someone — I don’t remember who or where — asked an interesting question: when did it become so common to disparage anyone who hasn’t made it big, hasn’t gotten rich, as a “loser”? Well, that’s actually a question we can answer, using Google Ngrams, which track the frequency with which words or phrases are used in books:
Sure enough, the term “losers” has become much more common since the 1960s. And I think this word usage reflects something real — a growing contempt for the little people.
Apparently, the South Korean government has decided that kimchi 김치 should no longer be referred to just as pàocài 泡菜 ("pickled vegetables") in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, but should have its own name to distinguish it from other types of pickled vegetables. (There's a November 17 news article about it here.)
The Koreans are very proud of kimchi, and it may be referred to as the Korean national dish. Kimjang, the tradition of making and sharing kimchi that usually is done in winter, has recently been added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list.
My brother Thomas, who served in the Marines during the Vietnam War and fought alongside Korean soldiers, told me he was amazed that, when the Koreans opened their K-rations, there was kimchee inside. Thus it is obvious that kimchee is extremely important to the Koreans, and it is indeed different from Chinese fermented vegetables. But, if it's no longer to be referred to as pàocài 泡菜 ("pickled vegetables") in Chinese, what to call it? Read the rest of this entry »
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H.P. Lovecraft, "The Festival":
It was the Yuletide, that men call Christmas though they know in their hearts it is older than Bethlehem and Babylon, older than Memphis and mankind.
In a Yuletide email message, Victor Mair found holiday cheer in the American Heritage Dictionary entry for spree — not so much the definition (just "A carefree, lively outing", "A drinking bout", or "A sudden indulgence in or outburst of an activity"), but in the etymology and "Word History":
[Perhaps alteration of Scots spreath, cattle raid, from Irish and Scottish Gaelic spréidh, spré, cattle, wealth, from Middle Irish preit, preid, booty, ultimately from Latin praeda; see ghend- in Indo-European roots.]
Word History: A spending spree seems a far cry from a cattle raid, yet etymologists have suggested that the word spree comes from the Scots word spreath, "cattle raid." The word spree is first recorded in a poem in Scots dialect in 1804 in the sense of "a lively outing." This sense is closely connected with a sense recorded soon afterward (in 1811), "a drinking bout," while the familiar sense "an overindulgence in an activity," as in a spending spree, is recorded in 1849. Scots and Irish dialects also have a sense "a fight," which may help connect the word and the sense "lively outing" with the Scots word spreath, meaning variously, "booty," "cattle taken as spoils," "a herd of cattle taken in a raid," and "cattle raid." The Scots word comes from Irish and Scottish Gaelic spréidh, "cattle," which in turn ultimately comes from Latin praeda, "booty." This last link reveals both the importance of the Latin language to Gaelic and a connection between cattle and plunder in earlier Irish and Scottish societies.
So, he explained, "when you go out on your Christmas shopping spree this year, you are essentially raiding the stores and bringing home the booty!"
Because Language Log readers are already familiar with this "most useful word in the Japanese language", and because of its highly polysemantic and multifunctional quality (see the very nerdy, thorough, and entertaining discussion of the various meanings and applications of "sumimasen" on Tofugu, "Sorry for Saying Thank You: The Many Uses Of Sumimasen"), I have decided to leave it untranslated, even in the title of this post. The purpose of the present piece is to further explore the subtleties, nuances, and history of "sumimasen", in hopes not only that this exceptional Japanese word will be better appreciated, but that it will be used more appropriately by those of us who were not born to it. Read the rest of this entry »
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