Lu Xun (1881-1936) is generally regarded as the greatest Chinese writer of the twentieth century. Despite his tremendous reputation and enormous influence through the 70s and into the 80s, in recent decades Lu Xun had fallen somewhat into disfavor as the CCP (Chinese Communist Party), which transformed itself into what I call the CCCCMMMMPPPP (Chinese Communist Christo-Confucian Marxist Maoist Militant Mercantilist Propagandistic Pugnacious Plutocratic Party), no longer took kindly his radical critique of corrupt, feudalistic society.
Archive for Language on the internets
One of Kohei Jose Shimamoto's photos on Facebook:
During the past week, this phrase kept popping up on the Chinese internet, on WeChat, on blogs and microblogs — it was just everywhere (1,850,000 ghits), and people were wondering exactly what it meant:
zhǔ yào kàn qì zhí 主要看气质 ("main / primary — want — see — gas / breath / spirit / vital energy — quality / substance / nature")
I have intentionally not aggregated the syllables into words. The lack of a disambiguating context for this phrase — it tended to just show up by itself — permitted several different readings. Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »
China's netizens are endlessly resourceful in coming up with clever terms to refer to almost anything that can evade the omnipresent censors — at least for awhile. We're all familiar with the "Grass Mud Horse" and the "Franco-Croatian Squid".
Strange as it may seem (!), they sometimes feel the need to say something critical about China, but to do so they have to evade the censors who will catch them, invoking the wrath of the almighty government. So now they have figured out various ways to refer to China without using the name of their country, Zhōngguó 中国 ("Central Kingdom, i.e., China") or Zhōnghuá rénmín gònghéguó 中华人民共和国 ("People's Republic of China").
From David Moser:
Just got this spam text, all in pinyin, to avoid spam detectors. The usual spam offering fake certificates and chops, plus their Weixin contact. What's novel is the tone markings, don't see that very often.
Of the many websites dealing with contemporary Chinese language and culture, chinaSMACK is one of the best. So eye-popping is chinaSMACK's content that I could very easily spend nearly all of my time immersed in it.
One chinaSMACK feature that undoubtedly will be of considerable interest to Language Log readers is this glossary of terms frequently encountered on the Chinese internet.
Gotta be careful when you pick your URL, otherwise something like this might happen to you.
The Chinese Confucius and Mencius Association of Taiwan has the following URL for their website:
Stephen Halsey, who is spending the year in Taiwan doing research, observed an interesting linguistic phenomenon that shows the predominance of sound over symbol, even in the writing of Chinese, where the symbols are complex and semantically "heavy" in comparison to phonetic scripts like the Roman alphabet or bopomofo / zhuyin fuhao (Mandarin phonetic symbols), where the symbols are simple and semantically "light".
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."
When Westerners begin to study Chinese, Japanese, or Korean, a small obstacle that confronts them is the fact that the words for "my / our country" in these languages usually have to be translated as "China", "Japan", and "Korea" respectively in English. As a colleague who knows all three languages put it, "I'm always struck by the oddness and even slight ungrammaticality of the English usage 'in my country' that you hear from C J K speakers."
We looked at this phenomenon in some depth a couple of years ago:
"My country" (1/23/13)
Now an extremely interesting new twist with regard to this concept of "my / our country" has arisen in China that merits another look.
One language-related story in the British press over the weekend was that Gavin McGowan was threatened by Facebook with having his account shut down… because they said his name was fake.
About ten years ago Gavin learned some Scottish Gaelic and started using the Gaelic spelling of his name: Gabhan Mac A Ghobhainn. Facebook is apparently running software designed to spot bogus accounts on the basis of the letter-strings used to name them. Gabhan's name evidently failed the test.
Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »
I have mentioned chinaSMACK before on Language Log, but have never featured it so directly as in this post. The reason is that this time there's an interesting language aspect to one of their articles that is hard to pass up.
chinaSMACK specializes in translating trenchant, amazing stories from the vast amount of traffic that flows through China's microblogs and on the internet more generally. Sometimes they are so bizarre and surreal that my initial reaction upon reading them — after being shocked senseless or laughing myself silly — is to dismiss them as Onionesque. But that is usually impossible because they are so well documented. In the present case, there is an initial news report and five stunning photographs. Because the photographs are so gross and graphic, just downright disgusting, I won't show them directly on Language Log (especially not during the holidays), but readers can go to the link and see them with their own eyes.
A few months ago, I posted here (and on Slate's Lexicon Valley blog) about PangramTweets, a bot created by Jesse Sheidlower that combs Twitter for tweets that include all 26 letters of the alphabet. I mentioned that it would be interesting to see if PangramTweets turns up any particularly short "pangrammatic windows," i.e., pangrammatic strings in naturally occurring text. At the time, the shortest known example was 42 letters long, in a passage from Piers Anthony's Cube Route:
"We are all from Xanth," Cube said quickly. "Just visiting Phaze. We just want to find the dragon."
My post inspired Malcolm Rowe, a software engineer at Google, to set about finding short pangrammatic windows in an automated fashion, first on the Project Gutenberg corpus and then on the megacorpus of web pages indexed by Google. (Let's hear it for Google's 20 percent time!) On his blog, Malcolm now reports on his findings, including the discovery of a 36-letter pangrammatic window that appeared in a review of the movie Magnolia on PopMatters:
Further, fractal geometries are replicated on a human level in the production of certain “types” of subjectivity: for example, aging kid quiz show whiz Donnie Smith (William H. Macy) and up and coming kid quiz show whiz Stanley Spector (Jeremy Blackman) are connected (or, perhaps, being cloned) in ways they couldn’t possibly imagine.