Archive for Errors

Nepal, Naple(s), Naipul, nipple, whatever

We at Language Log are no strangers to Nepal:

"'Bāphre bāph!' — my favorite Nepali expression" (8/12/18)

"Learn Nepali" (9/21/16)

"Dung Times" (3/14/18)

"Royal language" (9/29/15)

"Oli ko goli" (10/13/15)

"Unknown Language #7" (2/27/13)

"Unknown Language #7: update" (5/12/13)

Being linguists and language specialists, we know how to pronounce this deceptively simple name, right?

"Nepal":  /nəˈpɔːl/ (About this sound listen); Nepali: नेपाल About this sound Nepāl [neˈpal]

But the general public is not so sure.

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Spectral Sinographs

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Massive miswriting

"Can Chinese Write Their Own Language?" | ASIAN BOSS (7/19/18)

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Seismic solecism

Tangshan, in Hebei Province, was the epicenter of what is considered to the deadliest earthquake of the 20th century, with more than 650,000 of its million inhabitants perishing as a result of this July 28, 1976 disaster.  I still remember clearly the day that it happened, because the news came when I was attending a conference on Chinese philosophy at Harvard University, and many of the participants volunteered to assist the people of Tangshan one way or another (our offers were spurned by the Chinese government).

Two days ago, a linguistic upheaval jolted Tangshan, and the tremors were felt throughout the whole of China.

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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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