Archive for Snowclones

33 words for a customs union

Maybe only 33 words for it, but tens of thousands of words about it

[h/t Francis Thompson]

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Folding like all the things

This quote made me do a double take: "Trump's attorney Michael Cohen will 'fold like a cheap deck of cards,' Stormy Daniels' lawyer says".

And I wasn't the only one — Peter Norvig asked on Facebook

Hey David Regal, as a professional magician, can you tell us exactly how a cheap deck of cards folds? How is that different from an expensive deck of cards? Asking for a friend.

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How swift we misoverestimate

How swift we forget echoes in my head as a familiar cliché, a precomposed adaptable drop-in phrase rather like a snowclone but without customizable parts. I thought it might even be a quotation from some famous source. When I happened to Google-search it today, I was expecting to see millions of hits. Instead there was exactly one, in an utterly obscure short comment on the HeroClix discussion forum. This astonished me. I figured all the millions of others must correct swift to its adverb form swiftly. So I repeated the search on How swiftly we forget. And I was astonished again. Just 26 hits, with some repetitions and duplicates so similar that Google didn't want to show them. Only 70 hits even if you force the display of the duplicates. Given the size of the web today, that should be regarded as approximately zero.

I mention this only because it reminds me that while we all have vague impressions of how often we hear or read something, vast numbers of those impressions are probably wrong (especially when we imagine we have been hearing something more often recently). And it seems to me that this must have some sort of relevance for the cognitive scientists who believe language learning is based on subliminal perceptions of the frequency of encountered word sequences. Though my feeling that it must have some sort of relevance is probably wrong too. It is a mysterious business, language. (Just ignore me. I'm merely ruminating in public. I shouldn't. I'm just wasting your time. Please go on with whatever you were doing.)

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"Donald Trump lives, works, eats…" what now?

Donald Trump supporter Sean O'Loughlin sent out a pro-Trump press release ("Dear America") with this bizarre passage:

When people on the news call Donald Trump a racist, I find that statement difficult to believe. Like myself, Donald Trump is a life-long New Yorker. Donald Trump lives, works, eats and employs people of all races and religions.

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Xy McXface

Yesterday Google announced the open-source release of SyntaxNet,

an open-source neural network framework implemented in TensorFlow that provides a foundation for Natural Language Understanding (NLU) systems. Our release includes all the code needed to train new SyntaxNet models on your own data, as well as Parsey McParseface, an English parser that we have trained for you and that you can use to analyze English text.

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I.SEOUL.U

The city of Seoul, South Korea, has a new slogan.  This is what it looks like:

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Scots words for snow

Several people have sent this in: "Scots 'have 421 words' for snow", BBC News 9/23/2015:

Academics have officially logged 421 terms – including "snaw" (snow), "sneesl" (to begin to rain or snow) and "skelf" (a large snowflake).

The study by the University of Glasgow is part of a project to compile the first Historical Thesaurus of Scots, which is being published online.

The research team have also appealed for people to send in their own words.

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Snowclone of the week

Melissa Holbrook Pierson, "What Is Your Dog Telling You? They may not use words, but dogs say a lot more than we realize with their body language", WSJ 5/11/2015:

For the same reason that Eskimos purportedly have 50 different words for snow, dogs have a vast repertoire of gestures for appeasement and propitiation. The Norwegian dog trainer Turid Rugaas has identified some 30 “calming signals”—movements offered to deflect trouble (which may also relieve stress in both giver and receiver). Supremely subtle, sometimes so quick we don’t notice them, these appeasing signals include a flick of the tongue; turning the head or gaze away; suddenly sniffing the ground or sitting; yawning; shaking off; or approaching on a curve.

[h/t Amanda Seidl, who is planning on getting a dog]

 

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X is the Y of Z: Infectious Death Cult Edition

The MedPage Today Tweet of the Week:

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Nanook of the South

From the current New Yorker:

allrecipes.com has "more than 50" grits recipes (I count 64 on display), and there are lots more on other sites, so (costume aside) this is entirely region-appropriate. It's still linguistically naive, since the recipes have mostly-transparent phrasal names like "Raspberry Kielbasa over Cheese Grits"; but hey, it's a cartoon, and I guess the point is to mock those southerners with all their different approaches to grits, using the "Eskimo words for snow" trope as a vehicle.

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Snowclone blizzard

Elif Batuman, "The Awkward Age", The New Yorker 9/9/2014:

As the Eskimos were said to have seven words for snow, today’s Americans have a near-infinite vocabulary for gradations of awkwardness—there are some six hundred entries in Urban Dictionary.

Since the Eskimo snow word count has been dialed back to a mere seven here, its value seems to be limited to a vague sort of evocation of words-for-X ideology. And the next piece frames the Eskimo vocabulary as an explicitly legendary reference, rather like mentioning Lot's wife to illustrate the dangers of looking backwards:

Giovanni Rodriguez, "The Sisu Social: Can Finns Teach The World to Hang Tough?", Forbes 9/1/2014:

How many mainland Americans, as children, hear that Eskimos have more words for snow than we – mere mortals — can even imagine? There is more legend than fact in the old cliche (it’s complicated), but it’s rooted in a truth we all learn at some point in our development:  how language can evolve to help us navigate the particular worlds to which we are born.

As a boy growing up in the sixties in New York, I was exposed to many words for venting, complaining, and otherwise toughing out life’s many indignities. The language was New York street Yiddish, from which I learned to kvetch when I am wont, schlep when I must, and turn on the chutzpah, when appropriate.  

 

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Snowclone of the day

Sent in by A.C. from NZ:

My ISP's sign-on page has a 'daily picture', accompanied by some surprising(?) trivia. (Usually the surprise is how strained is the link to the picture and how badly they twist the language — often ending up misusing language in some way or other — this one is itself an example: is it really a fact *about* snow?)

Even a simple Google search offers an Inuktitut word for hello. (Admittedly also a large number of links alleging "no word for hello".)

Sparing you the screenshot, the "Daily Fact" is "Snow: Eskimos have hundreds of words for snow but none for hello."

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We have a winner

William Lashner, Fatal Flaw, 2009:

What are we looking at when we are looking at love? Eskimos have like six billion different words for snow because they understand snow. Don’t ever try to snow an Eskimo. But for six billion different permutations of emotional attachment we have just one word. Why? Because we don’t have a clue.

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