Archive for Language play

Theodore Kushner's Chinese blocks

From Ivanka Trump's Instagram account:

The best moment of the day!

A post shared by Ivanka Trump (@ivankatrump) on

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Grammatical diversity in the New York Times crossword

Monday's New York Times crossword is the handiwork of Tom McCoy, an undergraduate member of the Yale Grammatical Diversity Project. I wouldn't've thought it possible, but he's managed to make a coherent theme out of a nonstandard grammatical variant in American English.

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A Japanese English portmanteau that failed

Sign on a store front in Nagasaki:

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Multiscriptal cosplay poster in Haifa

Guy Almog sent me this photograph of a detail from a poster that he and I spotted at several places in and around the Haifa subway:

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All the way with U in 2016/7

From Li Wei on Facebook:

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The hippo bottom of us

One of the most successful weekly essays I wrote in an early sixties college class on modern English poetry was about T. S. Eliot's "The Hippopotamus", the first two (out of nine) stanzas of which read thus:

THE BROAD-BACKED hippopotamus
Rests on his belly in the mud;
Although he seems so firm to us
He is merely flesh and blood.

Flesh and blood is weak and frail,            5
Susceptible to nervous shock;
While the True Church can never fail
For it is based upon a rock.

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Days of the week in Nagoya

In "Hybrid writing in East Village, New York" (9/1/16), we looked at the playful combination of a Chinese character with Roman letters in the name of a Korean-Japanese restaurant, 木hursday, and we expanded our field of vision to encompass the names of the days of the week in languages across Eurasia.

Now Nathan Hopson takes us to Nagoya, Japan, where he spotted this fascinating take on the days of the week at Uni Mall, one of Nagoya's underground malls radiating off from the railway station.

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Furigana-like glossing in Mandarin

On Language Log, we have often touched upon the use of furigana ruby to gloss kanji (Chinese characters) for various purposes, most recently in the comments to "Roman-letter Mandarin pronoun of indeterminate gender " (8/9/16).

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"Facial expressions" in text-dominant online conversation

Christina Xu has written "A Field Guide to China's Most Indispensible Meme" (Motherboard, 8/1/16).  Her essay includes more than a dozen illustrations, the first of which is this one:

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Pop Japonesque nonsense?

[This is a guest post by Nathan Hopson]

Amazon's App Store for Android features a free daily app. The selection of a few days ago caught my eye not for the content of the app itself, but for the nonsensical (and incorrect) use of Japanese.

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Cat and mouse on the Chinese internet

Yesterday in the Washington Post, there was an enticing article by Anna Fifield:  "These are the secret code words that let you criticize the Chinese government" (7/29/15).

Fifield states that she is drawing on "Decoding the Chinese Internet: A Glossary of Political Slang," by authors Perry Link and Xiao Qiang.  Comment by Perry Link:  "This is good work, and I am happy to have my name associated, but it is not my work.  Ms Fifield somehow made a mistake."

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Lojban just got harder

Matt Treyvaud forwarded this from the Lojban mailing list:

"Lojban changes to hanzi writing system" (4/1/15)

Some people complained that although the spelling in Lojban is very easy to grasp the grammar is not. So the committee for the development of Lojban (BPFK) decided to fix this issue and to make the spelling hard as well.  Especially for those people who are not familiar with hanzi (Chinese characters).

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"Imitation Game" codebreakers also played the palindrome game

Doc, note: I dissent. A fast never prevents a fatness. I diet on cod.

Is this the best palindrome ever created in English? Many think so. (I agree.) But did you know that it was made by the British mathematician Peter Hilton, while working alongside Alan Turing as an "Enigma" codebreaker during World War II? If you've seen The Imitation Game, you might remember Matthew Beard's portrayal of young Hilton. (The film embellishes his true story, giving him a brother serving on a Royal Navy ship targeted by the Germans.)

Even more amazingly, "Doc, note I dissent…" was actually the result of a palindrome competition held by the codebreakers at Bletchley Park (who, as the movie shows, were quite good at UK-style cryptic crosswords, too). The competition was, like the rest of the goings-on at Bletchley Park, shrouded in secrecy until relatively recently. Now for the first time, Mark Saltveit, editor of The Palindromist Magazine, tells the full story of the codebreakers' palindrome game. Read all about on Vocabulary.com here.

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