Archive for Language on the internets

Cantonese poetry recitation

A recent issue (1/7/14) of the South China Morning Post (SCMP) carried an article by a staff reporter entitled "Hong Kong student's poem recital goes viral in the mainland ". The article features this amazing video of a Hong Kong high school student reciting a couple of Classical Chinese poems:

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"People mountain, people sea" and "let's play"

Stephan Stiller says that my post on "Good good study; day day up" reminds him of "people mountain, people sea" (rénshānrénhǎi 人山人海), i.e., "crowded; packed; a sea of people".  This is another fairly complex Chinglishism that has entered the vocabulary of many English speakers who know no Chinese.  It was popularized by a Hong Kong music production company that took this expression as its name, and there was also a Hong Kong film that used this expression as its title.

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Tyrant's bling

Arguably the hottest term on the Chinese internet these days is tǔháo 土豪 ("[local] tyrant / despot"), but transformed to mean "bling", and with a sharply satirical edge.  How did tǔháo 土豪 ("[local] tyrant / despot") morph into "bling"?  The story is told in "#BBCtrending: Tuhao and the rise of Chinese bling".

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The English language's Twitter feed

I have a piece on Fresh Air today, behind the curve as usual, on the discussion that followed the Oxford Dictionary Online's inclusion of twerk, which Ben Zimmer covered in a post a couple of weeks ago ("Getting worked up over 'twerk'"). Actually I don't care much about twerk, whose coolness and credentials Ben defended definitively. But I think it's worth looking at the whole list of new words that appeared on the ODO blog post announcing the quarterly update, headed "Buzzworthy words added to Oxford Dictionaries Online – squee!":

apols, A/W (“autumn/winter”), babymoon, balayage (“a technique for highlighting hair”), bitcoin, blondie (small cake), buzzworthy, BYOD (“bring your own device”), cake pop, chandelier earring, child’s pose (yoga), click and collect, dad dancing, dappy, derp, digital detox, double denim, emoji, fauxhawk, FIL (“father-in-law”), flatform (shoe), FOMO (“Fear Of Missing Out”), food baby (“a protruding stomach caused by eating a large quantity of food”), geek chic, girl crush, grats, guac, hackerspace, Internet of things, jorts, LDR, me time, michelada (“drink made with beer, lime juice…”), MOOC, Nordic noir, omnishambles, pear cider[see comment below], phablet, pixie cut, prep (v. “prepare”), selfie, space tourism, squee, srsly, street food, TL;DR, trolly dash (UK supermarket promotion), twerk, unlike (v.), vom (“vomit”)

I’ve bolded the ones that seem to me to have a chance of being still current by the end of the decade, including a few that have been around for quite a while. Some of this is pure guesswork (if you have inside knowledge about bitcoin, let me know) and others may scrape by, but it's a fair bet that the vast majority are not going to survive your hamster.

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Grass-Mud Horse Lexicon Classics

China Digital Times (CDT) Grass-Mud Horse Lexicon is the premier place to go for Chinese netizen language designed to avoid the censors and to poke fun at the political system.

Over the years, CDT has accumulated 273 entries in its Grass-Mud Horse Lexicon.  From these, the CDT editors have selected 71 essential items for inclusion in The Grass-Mud Horse Lexicon: Classic Netizen Language, which has just been published.

Here's the Kindle edition on Amazon.

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Subversion at the spam factory?

So this is new, at least for me — the latest batch of a few thousand spam comments (adding to the pile of 5,095,703 caught so far) pretends to come from people using negatively-evaluated pseudonyms in Spanish, like caca, ladrones, or indecentes:

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Anatomy of a spambot

We've often had occasion to wonder how spammy blog comments are linguistically constructed. (See, most recently, Mark Liberman's post, "Numerous upon the written content material," in which he refers to spam comments as "aleatoric sub-poetry.") Now, on Quartz, David Yanofsky and Zachary M. Seward expose how spam comments are engineered:

Comment spam follows a formula, which was made plain the other day when a spambot accidentally posted its entire template on the blog of programmer Scott Hanselman. With his permission, we’ve reproduced some of the spam comment recipes here and added colorful formatting to make it readable. The spambot constructs new, vaguely unique comments by selecting from each set of options. We hope you find it wonderful | terrific | brilliant | amazing | great | excellent | fantastic | outstanding | superb.

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My country

Sima (long-term resident in China) from writes:

I've been a regular Sina Weibo [VHM:  PRC clone of Twitter] user for some time and enjoy default news updates on my phone. Each update usually has two stories and, of late, almost invariably, one is about the outing of a corrupt official (cash, apartments, mistresses) and the second is about the latest 'play' over those rocks in the sea near Taiwan.

My latest update says:


[VHM: wǒ hǎi jiān chuán zài rù Diàodǎo jùjué Rìběn kàngyì
literal rendering of each syllable or word:  I / We sea surveillance ship(s) again enter Fishing Island reject Japan protest]

Whilst I'm used to expressions like 我国 [VHM:  wǒguó {"my / our country"}], which I wilfully employ when talking about 'my England', much to some people's disgust, and 我校 [VHM:  wǒxiào {"my / our school"}], which I actually write in articles and official documents relating to the school cricket team [VHM:  in China] (which I may have bored you about at some time), I'm not accustomed to such flexible employment of 我.

Do you know whether this use of 我校, 我国, etc. has a long history (i.e., pre-1949, or pre-1919)? Can 我 be freely applied? Is there a name for this phenomenon?

It reminds me a little of Western attitudes to sports teams; 'we won the world cup', when obviously said cup was won by eleven or so over-paid men who kick balls for a living, and not (usually) by the speaker himself.

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Perhaps now more than ever, ain't nobody got time fo that

Philosophy and the Poetic Imagination
by E. Lepore & M. Stone, 2012

Perhaps now
More than
We spend our days
Immersed in

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Where's Xi?

Supposing Mitt Romney cancelled all of his appearances and meetings and went missing for a week. Furthermore, neither the Republican National Committee nor the Secret Service would make any statements or answer any questions concerning his whereabouts. Naturally, we would all be alarmed and wondering what had happened to the Republican candidate for the presidency of the United States of America. But imagine, if you can, that it would be illegal to search for Romney's name on the internet. All searches for "Romney" and "Mitt Romney" would be decisively blocked by the United States Government, and one might well be arrested for complaining about this. Out of frustration, citizens would search for "Room Knee eh?", "Glove ROM leg joint", and the like.

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On the front lines of Twitter linguistics

I have a piece in today's New York Times Sunday Review section, "Twitterology: A New Science?" In the limited space I had, I tried to give a taste of what research is currently out there using Twitter to build various types of linguistic corpora. Obviously, there's a lot more that could be said about these projects and other fascinating ones currently underway. Herewith a few notes.

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Censoring "Occupy" in China

Last weekend I was on the NPR show "On the Media" to talk about how the word occupy has evolved since the beginning of the Occupy Wall Street movement in mid-September. I reiterated a point I had made in my Word Routes column the previous week, namely that the success of the movement has been helped along by the modular nature of the Occupy slogan, allowing any place name to fill the "Occupy ___" template. That template has shown up in protests around the world, from Frankfurt to Tokyo, with English Occupy generally left intact (perhaps for maximum media impact). In China, meanwhile, Occupy has a translation-equivalent that is being censored online.

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The Mock Spanglish of @ElBloombito

If nothing else, Hurricane Irene leaves us with the legacy of a fine fake-Twitter account, @ElBloombito (aka "Miguel Bloombito"), which takes satirical aim at the Spanish-language announcements that New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg appended to the end of his many hurricane-related press conferences. Bloomberg has been working on his Spanish public speaking for years (and has even received intensive tutoring sessions), but his very Bloombergian enunciation was too good a target to pass up for Rachel Figueroa-Levin, the creator of the @ElBloombito Twitter account.

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Text Message Language Is Everywhere

Those who hate text message abbreviations will be dismayed to learn of how far they have spread. Here is the sign at the gas station on the Gitksan reservation in Hazelton, British Columbia.
The gas station on the reservation in Hazelton, BC.

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Dear [Epithet] spamference organizer [Name]

The most unsuccessful piece of pseudo-personal spam I received this week must surely be the falsely flattering invitation that began as follows:

Dear Professor [Name][Name1],

We would like to invite you as Invited Speaker on the area of Social Sciences, Law, Finances and Humanities in the Conferences

Vouliagmeni Beach, Athens, Greece, December 29-31, 2010

Organized by the European Society for Environmental Research and Sustainable Development / EUROPMENT, in collaboration with the WSEAS...

Dear Professor [Name][Name1]? Come on, spamsters! Can't you even do a standard mail merge? Isn't that the core of your goddamn lousy trade?

Would it be OK with you if I gave an invited talk entitled "[Title][Subtitle]"?

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