Archive for Language and sports

Censored belly, Tibetan tattoo

[This is a guest post by Jichang Lulu.]

Imagine that a certain phrase could be potentially offensive to the authoritarian rulers of a country you would like to do business in. To promote that business, you intend to display images of certain professionals who work for you. One of these professionals has indelibly inscribed the potentially offensive phrase on their belly. The professional activity you wish to promote typically involves barebelliedness.

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Iron Crotch

Here on Language Log, we have devoted a considerable amount of attention to the terminology related to kungfu:

"Kung-fu (Gongfu) Tea" (7/20/11)

See also Ben Zimmer's masterful article on Visual Thesaurus:

"How 'Kung Fu' Entered the Popular Lexicon" (1/17/14)

Now we have documentation for another type of kungfu that has hitherto eluded us:

(YouTube video here.)

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Portable air filter for North China smog

Ad in the Beijing subway:

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Big-league metaphors: the role of sports language in American politics

Yesterday I had the pleasure of joining fellow Language Logger Barbara Partee on Josh Chetwynd's KGNU radio show, "The Real Deal in Sports." Josh is the author of The Field Guide to Sports Metaphors, and he spoke to Barbara and me about how the metaphorical language of sports pervades American politics (especially in the latest presidential campaign). We mulled over how those metaphors shape our political discourse, and callers joined in with their own thoughts. You can listen to the hourlong broadcast here.

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"Add oil"

If you attend Chinese sporting events, you will often hear fans exhort their team to jiāyóu 加油.  Should you ask them what that means, they might reply "add oil", which would undoubtedly leave you feeling rather puzzled.  From the context, functionally you know that it must mean something like "go!".  But how one gets from "add oil" to "go" remains something of a mystery.  Cf. the comments to "Non-translation" (7/24/16).

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Go China

Jason Cox sent in the following very brief video from the USA-China basketball game at the Rio Olympics, showing a man holding a sign that says "Go USA".

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A rather disturbing (at least to me) article in the South China Morning Post (7/24/16), "How China’s quest to become a football powerhouse is revamping the beautiful game:  China has emerged as deep-pocketed investor in what amounts to a global power grab for influence in football", is preceded by this photograph:

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Spanish or Catalan?

An article in BBC News (7/21/16), "Former Barcelona star Carles Puyol in 'Spanish' row", begins thus:

While promoting popular online platform Tencent Sports, Puyol said "Soy Carles Puyol y soy espanol" ("I am Carles Puyol and I am Spanish"), prompting an angry reaction from many Catalans, Spanish sports website reports. Although technically correct – Puyol won the World Cup playing for Spain in 2010 – it's been seen as an insult to his native Catalonia region, which has ambitions to become independent.

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"Enter the Dangal"

Earlier this year, Language Log readers contributed to the elucidation of "South Asian wrestling terms" (3/1/16).

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Recursive epitomology

Today's SMBC:

Mouseover title: "Life rule: Never do anything you've done more than 3 times already."

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Nothing to fear but… what?

In advance of tonight's Game 7 in the NBA Western Conference finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Oklahoma City Thunder, the New York Times recalls a similar Game 7 faced by the Chicago Bulls in 1998:

That spring, the top-seeded Bulls were taken to a seventh game by the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference finals. Between Games 6 and 7, the Bulls’ coach, Phil Jackson, huddled with his players and told them not to fear failing.

“The fear is not losing,” Jackson told them. “The fear is not producing the effort needed.”

Phil Jackson is notoriously enigmatic (they don't call him the Zen master for nothing), but this pronouncement is particularly tough to unpack.

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Fruity bar

One of the items in the gift box handed out to the thousands of runners in the Qingyuan marathon in Guangdong province last Sunday:

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South Asian wrestling terms

Rudraneil Sengupta is preparing a book on the history of wrestling in the subcontinent, and is searching for the etymologies of certain common terms used in the sport.

He believes that some of the most common words in wrestling come from Iran & Turkey and that general region, and some are of Sanskrit origin.  For example, the old Sanskrit word (now rarely used) for wrestling is Malla-Yudh. Yudh means battle.  Now Malla, as far as his research tells him, was first used as the name of a tribe, then was the name of a kingdom, then became a derogatory term — a term to denote a despised "other" (dark-skinned, poor, tribal).  Apparently this same tribe was famous for their proficiency in wrestling, and thus the term Malla-Yudh came to be coined. He's not sure whether this is accurate, or if the etymology has ever been carefully considered.  But that's where he is starting from.

I myself recognized a few of the words as looking distinctly Persian (e.g., Pehelwani / Pahelwani / Pahlwani and kushti), and I remembered that there was a Malla dynasty in Indian history and a series of Malla kingdoms in Nepalese history, but wasn't sure or precise enough about their possible relationship to words for wrestling, so I asked some colleagues who are specialists in Asian languages if they knew more about them.

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