Archive for Language and sports

Oh, 18!

Robert Hay writes:

There's a Korean pitcher in the majors named Seung-Hwang Oh who was just traded to the Colorado Rockies. Both his previous uniform numbers, 26 and 22, were already taken, so he got number 18, leading to this realization by Sung Min Kim on Twitter:

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A "Wild Boar" proficient in five languages — English, Thai, Burmese, Mandarin, and Wa

At the same time as the World Cup was being held in Russia, an even more intense soccer-related drama was unfolding in Thailand.  A group of teenage boys and their coach had become trapped in a cave complex for more than a week after the entrance had been sealed by rapidly rising floodwaters.  An international team of rescuers worked tirelessly to bring them out of the cave, and one brave hero lost his life in the attempt.  His name was Saman Gunan (Guana/Kunan); he died while taking oxygen to the Thai youngsters trapped in the cave.  Requiescat in pace!

But there was another hero of the Thai rescue operation, and he was a 14-year-old polyglot:

"Teen hero emerges from Thai cave rescue mission", NZ Herald (7/11/18)

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Uyghur basketball player

Article in NBC Sports (6/22/18) by Drew Shiller:  "Report: Chinese prospect Abudushalamu Abudurexiti will play for Warriors in Summer League".

Quips heard around the Language Log water cooler:

Geoff Nunberg:  "It’ll give the announcers something new to chew on, now that they’ve learned to toss off Giannis Antetokounmpo."

Barbara Partee:  "If that article has the pronunciation anywhere near right, then I'll bet his nickname will be Budu-Budu. I like it."

For sure, it's gonna be a challenge for NBA announcers to rattle off his name, but let's see what we're really dealing with.

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Chinese nicknames for NBA players

Quite an amazing thread:

[To access the complete thread, click at the top of the tweet near the author's name.]

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The curling Kims

One of the sensations of the just concluded Olympics in PyeongChang is that South Korea's Olympic women's curling team won the silver medal.

From the press conference after the final match, as tweeted by Jonathan Cheng (WSJ Seoul Bureau Chief):

Skip Yogurt laments her Korean name 김은정 Kim Eun-jung. That middle character "eun" 銀 is a homonym for silver. She muses on whether she should've changed it to "geum" 金, for gold.

If you weren't following the curling, Cheng calls her "Skip Yogurt" because she's the "skip" of the team (like a captain), and her nickname is Annie because she likes Annie's Yogurt.  According to coach Kim, team Kim members chose their own nicknames while eating breakfast, and they decided to go by the breakfast food they like, i.e., pancakes for Young-mi, steak for Kyung-ae, Annie('s yogurt) for Eun-jung, and so forth.

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PyeongChang: how do you say that in English?

Should we say the name of the host city of the 2018 winter Olympics the way the Koreans pronounce it [pʰjʌŋtɕʰaŋ]?  Or should we say it more in accord with English phonetics?

The following article by Jane Han spells out the controversy clearly:

"NBC, read my lips – it's PyeongChang" (The Korea Times [2/18/18)

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Hockey language divergence between North Korea and South Korea

People have been wondering if there has been a language problem between North Korean and South Korean players on the combined Korean women's hockey team at the Olympics.  As a matter of fact, there is a gulf between the two nations in the language of hockey itself.

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No one likes us, we don't care

At the parade celebrating the Philadelphia Eagles' Super Bowl victory today, Eagles center Jason Kelce (decked out in a Mummer suit) led the crowd in a rousing chant that fits the team's underdog mentality:

No one likes us, no one likes us
No one likes us, we don't care
We're from Philly, fucking Philly
No one likes us, we don't care

It was the capper to an amazing five-minute rant, which should be enjoyed in its entirety (uncensored video here, transcript here). Kelce also sang the chant with fans on the sidelines of the parade.

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The New Yorker baubles it

Yesterday, The New Yorker posted an article on its website: "The Error in Baseball and the Moral Dimension to American Life," by Stephen Marche. As originally published, the article contained this paragraph (emphasis mine):

In practice, “ordinary effort” describes, as Bill James wrote, what should have happened. What should have happened in a piece of fielding can have nothing to do with the play of the fielder. Utter offered me a case: The runner hits the ball into the outfield, the fielder baubles the ball, and the runner advances to second. Is that an error? It depends. “What we would have to look at is—is it a single or is it a double? Or is it a single and advance on an error or on the throw?” The way that the scorer determines whether that bauble is an error or not has less to do with the action of the fielder than with the action of the runner. “Was the runner going all the time? Did he never think about stopping at first? Or was he running and looking at the play and then slowed down a little bit and then took off when he saw the little bauble?” If he paused, noticed the misplay, and ran to second, “That becomes the error.”

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A brief history of "taking a knee"

With dozens of NFL players "taking a knee" during the national anthem as a form of silent protest, the very phrase "take a knee" has been invested with new significance. "Take a knee" or "take the knee" now expresses solidarity against racial injustice and defiance against Donald Trump's attacks on protesting players. As the phrase dominates the headlines, it's worth taking a look at its history in football and beyond. While The Dictionary of American Slang dates the expression back to the 1990s (as noted by John Kelly on his Mashed Radish blog), I've found examples in football going all the way back to 1960. And while "taking a knee" may have also become a military tradition, the phrase's origin is firmly rooted in football, with a number of interlocking uses.

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When taking a stand involves sitting

The most pervasive metaphor in English may be the use of "higher" to mean "better" (e.g., stronger or more moral), which has spawned endless figures of speech.  It's hard to avoid those metaphorical phrases, although that might be wise in situations in which "higher" also has a relevant physical meaning.  The New York Times on Saturday ran the following headline:

(1) As Trump Takes On Athletes, Watch Them Rise

Indeed, these athletes may be rising metaphorically as a political force.  But they're refusing to rise physically for the singing of the U.S. national anthem.  On the same day, the New York Times wrote (in this article, though it has now been edited away):

(2) Some people urged more players to kneel or sit during the anthem at football stadiums on Sunday as a way to reinforce their First Amendment rights. Others urged more white players to stand with black players who have knelt or sat during the anthem.

How confusing!  White players are urged to stand metaphorically with their black teammates … by physically kneeling or sitting with them, or by speaking out afterwards.

But how do we readers know that "stand with" in (2) is metaphorical?  Why couldn't the second sentence be about white players standing physically?

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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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