Archive for Language on the internets

Greasiness, awkwardness, slothfulness, despondency — Chinese memes of the year

The first two conditions, along with eight others, are covered in this interesting Sixth Tone article:

"An Awkward, Greasy Year: China’s Top Slang of 2017 " (12/28/17) by Kenrick Davis

Davis's presentation is excellent, so let us begin this post with two montages accompanying his article.

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CCP approved image macros

Two powerful agencies of the PRC central government, Zhōnggòng zhōngyāng jìlǜ jiǎnchá wěiyuánhuì 中共中央纪律检查委员会 ("Central Commission for Discipline Inspection") and Zhōnghuá rénmín gònghéguó jiānchá bù 中华人民共和国监察部 ("People's Republic of China Ministry of Supervision"), have issued "bā xiàng guīdìng biǎoqíng bāo 八项规定表情包" ("emoticons for the eight provisions / stipulations / rules"); see also here.  The biǎoqíng bāo 表情包 (lit., expression packages") were announced on December 4, 2017, five years to the day after the rules themselves were promulgated.

English translations of the so-called "Eight-point austerity rules" or "Eight-point regulations" may be found here and here.  The rules were designed to instill greater discipline among Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members, to bring the Party "closer to the masses", and to reduce bureaucracy, extravagance, and undesirable work habits among Party members.

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Bad words on WeChat: go directly to jail

With over 980 million monthly active users, WeChat is an extremely popular messaging app in China.  However, in the Orwellian climate of the PRC, you had better watch your language carefully, lest you get whisked off to jail without trial.  Here are some words that can result in your incarceration:

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Google is scary good

Before I finish typing "red", Google is already suggesting "red herring", which is what I was looking for.

When I've barely begun to type "Philadelphia" or "Seattle" and only one "Walla", Google is already suggesting ""Philadelphia weather", "Seattle weather" and "Walla Walla weather", which is what I was looking for in each case.

If I want to check in on American Airlines, all I have to type is "ame", and — voilà! — there it is!

I was trying to think of a certain kind of Japanese tomb.  I typed in "Japanese tombs" and, remembering that these tombs resemble a keyhole, I added "k", and up popped "japanese keyhole tombs".

I do this kind of search hundreds of times every day, and I'm infinitely grateful to Google for enabling them and making them seem (on my end) so effortless.

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Dialect maps get surreal

Everybody seems to enjoy sharing dialect maps displaying the boundaries of different American regionalisms. So it was only a matter of time before this enticing form of data visualization got satirized. On Twitter, Josh Cagan takes it in an absurdist direction.

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Lingthusiasm

There's a wonderful new podcast on linguistic matters that I highly recommend to all Language Log readers. It's called Lingthusiasm, and it's appropriately billed as "a podcast that's enthusiastic about linguistics." The podcast is co-hosted by Gretchen McCulloch and Lauren Gawne. You may know Gretchen from her All Things Linguistic blog or her posts on The (dearly departed) Toast about Internet language. Lauren is a postdoctoral fellow at SOAS and blogs at Superlinguo. There have been six episodes so far, and they're all worth a listen.

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Apologetic rat

The following ghastly photographs of a rat that was caught stealing from a convenience store in Heyuan, Guangdong province have gone viral on Chinese social media.

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WARNING:  viewer discretion advised.

The photographs following the page break may be upsetting to some readers.

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Tracing lexical trends in Google searches

Google has released a fun data visualization tool that shows changes in search interest over time for a variety of trending words, particularly new slang terms. In "The Year in Language 2016," you can see how frequently people searched for the definitions of words, in queries such as "selfie definition" or "define selfie." By this metric, the top 10 words for 2016 are: triggered, shook, juju, broccoli, woke, holosexual, shill, gaslighting, bigly, and SJW. You can also plot the search interest for more than 50 words from 2013 to 2016.

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Monumental laughing face

From an anonymous reader, who spotted this photograph on Instagram, where it was posted by nanorie, who has given her permission to repost it:

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Last new term of the year in China

Starting around a year or two ago, the expression "Zhào jiārén 赵家人" ("Zhao family member") emerged as a coded reference for politically powerful and wealthy elites in contemporary Chinese society.  See Kiki Zhao's penetrating post on the NYT Sinosphere blog:

"Leveling Criticism at China’s Elite, Some Borrow Words From the Past" (1/4/16)

For the literary background of "Zhào jiārén 赵家人" ("Zhao family member"), see this post:

"Lu Xun and the Zhao family" (1/5/16)

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Buzz-phrase

After reading "A new English word" (11/30/16), Yixue Yang sent me the following interesting note on "lihai" ("awesome / awful") in action in China today:

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"Fatso Kim the Third" blocked in China

On microblogs and on social media in China, it was well nigh universal to call the ruler of North Korea Jīn sān pàng 金三胖 ("Kim Third Fat" [referring to Kim Jung-un, third in the line of Kims following his father Kim Jung-il and his grandfather Kim Il-sung]) — until the North Korean government caught wind of it and complained to the Chinese government:

"North Korea begs China to stop calling Kim Jong Un fat" (FOX News, 11/15/16)

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Green's Dictionary of Slang goes online

Today, Green's Dictionary of Slang (GDoS for short) launches its online version. This is excellent news, coming more than five years after Jonathon Green published the print edition of his exhaustive three-volume reference work. As I wrote in the New York Times Book Review at the time,

It's a never-ending challenge to keep up with the latest developments in the world of slang, but that is the lexicographer’s lot. Green plans to put his dictionary online for continuous revision, which is indeed the direction that many major reference works (including the O.E.D.) are now taking. In the meantime, his monument to the inventiveness of speakers from Auckland to Oakland takes its place as the pièce de résistance of English slang studies. To put it plain, it’s copacetic.

Despite some tough sledding along the way, GDoS now sees the light of day online. Below is Jonathon Green's announcement. (For more, read the coverage in Quartz, and also see the dictionary's blog.) The good news is that headwords, etymologies, and definitions are freely available through online searches, while the full entries, with voluminous citations for each sense of each word, are available for an annual subscription fee.

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