Archive for Errors

Office of Mayhem Evaluation

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Really weird sinographs, part 2

Some of the commenters to the first part of this series seem to be making the case that many of the characters chosen by Scott Wilson for his SoraNews24 article are not so weird after all.  I beg to differ.  I think that all of the characters he chose are truly strange, awesomely odd.  Even those who are skeptics admit that the loopy and curvy ones are unusual.  But I think that Wilson has done a good job of picking out weird characters from Morohashi, and as noted in the o.p., there are thousands more that might be thought of as weird.

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Peking University president misreads an unobscure character: monumental implications

In an address celebrating the 120th anniversary of Peking University, the president of said institution, Lin Jianhua, misread hóng zhì 鸿鹄志 ("grand, lofty aspiration") as hónghào zhì 鸿皓志 (doesn't really mean anything).  The blunder swiftly spread on the internet, leading Lin to issue an apology.  See this article in Chinese.

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Able to read and write, yet illiterate

In the course of doing research for a series of posts I plan on doing, I was listening to an interview from a few years ago with Bryan Garner, and something he said bothered me. Well, actually, I was bothered by more than one thing that he said, but this post is only about one of them: Garner’s use of the word literate. And truth be told, that’s something that’s bothered me for a while.

Garner doesn’t usually use literate to mean ‘able to read and write’. Rather, he uses it as a term of praise for the kind of people and publications that use the expressions he approves of and avoid those he condemns. Thus, his usage guides tell us that the double comparative is uncommon “among literate speakers and writers,” that irrelevant is sometimes misspelled irrevelant in “otherwise literate publications,” that singular they “sets many literate Americans’ teeth on edge.” In contrast, pronouncing the –p– in comptroller “has traditionally been viewed as semiliterate,” as is the word irregardless and writing would of instead of would have. Saying where’s it at is “a badge of illiteracy.”

Garner would say that he’s using literate to mean ‘educated’ or ‘cultured.’ Although there’s no entry for the word in his usage guides, there is one for illiterate, which obviously illuminates Garner’s understanding of literate:

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Latin Caesar –> Tibetan Gesar –> Xi Jinpingian Sager

From Shawn Zhang's Twitter account:

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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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Barking roosters and crowing dogs

The following full-page ad was published in a Chinese daily in Malaysia:

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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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Language vigilantism

In "The Eagle-Eyed Vigilantes Defending the Chinese Language:  As new lingo springs up and grammatical errors persist, one magazine is battling to maintain linguistic standards", Yin Yijun (Sixth Tone [1/19/18]) describes an unusual PRC journal:

Shanghai-based Yaowen Jiaozi — whose name literally translates as “biting phrases and chewing characters” — was established in 1995 and operates under the slogan: “Bite every mistake that deserves to be bitten, and chew every article worth chewing.” The monthly magazine’s mission is to attack every grammatical error it encounters — and the staff take the job seriously. Over the past 20 years, the magazine has amassed a long list of mistakes, from a nearly unnoticeable Chinese character error on a chopstick wrapper, to a series of mistakes author and Nobel laureate Mo Yan made in his award-winning works.

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Mistranscribed character

Zhao Mengfu 趙孟頫 (1254-1322) is one of the most famous painters in the history of Chinese art.  Many of his priceless works still exist, and he was even honored by having a 167 kilometer-diameter feature on Mercury (132.4° west, 87.3° south), the "Chao Meng-Fu crater", named after him.

When Zhao Mengfu's name came up in a discussion on connoisseurship in one of my classes a few days ago, I almost fell off my chair upon hearing a graduate student from mainland China pronounce it as "Zhao Mengtiao".  Where did she learn that strange pronunciation for this ultrafamous artist's name?  Did she hear it from her teachers?  Her classmates?  Or was she just making a wild guess based on what she thought the ostensible phonophore, zhào 兆, would yield?  However she came up with "Zhao Mengtiao", the effect upon hearing it would be akin to hearing someone say "Michelanjump" or "Leonardo da Jump".

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Teacher is always honest

When I began studying Mandarin over half a century ago, I very quickly developed a pet phrase  (kǒutóuchán 口頭禪 / 口头禅):  lǎoshí shuō 老實說 / 老实说 ("to tell the truth; honestly"), After I married one of the best Mandarin teachers on earth (Chang Li-ching) several years later, she corrected me when I said my favorite phrase.  She told me that I made it sound like lǎoshī shuō 老師說 / 老师说 ("teacher says").

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What to call editing residues?

Allegra Kirkland, "Sessions Denies Knowing Of Flynn Turkey Dealings, Alleged Kidnapping Plot", TPM 11/14/2017:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions denied knowing that former national security adviser Michael Flynn lobbied on behalf of Turkey and allegedly discussed with Turkish officials the possibility of kidnapping of a U.S.-based Muslim cleric while serving on the Trump campaign.

The string of words in boldface strikes me as an unidiomatic blend of two idiomatic phrases, presumably created by an incomplete edit meant to turn one form into the other:

  • the possible kidnapping of a U.S.-based Muslim cleric
  • the possibility of kidnapping a U.S.-based Muslim cleric

Assuming my diagnosis is right, what's the term for errors of that kind? Or is there one?

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Correction of a public sign

Photograph taken by Adrian Thieret in Shanghai (Pudong) about a month ago.

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