Archive for August, 2012

What did Huntsman say to Colbert in Mandarin?

Former Republican presidential candidate (and former ambassador to China) Jon Huntsman was on "The Colbert Report" last night, and at the end of the interview Stephen Colbert asked him to say what he really thought about Mitt Romney, in Mandarin. You can see the exchange at the end of this video (skip to about 3 minutes in):

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What did Huntsman say?

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Jail pants, Blame flies, Jets GM breaks down

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Creeping Romanization in Chinese

The big language news in China this week was the call by a large group of scholars to purge written Mandarin of Roman letter expressions. Since this directly relates to my last post on "New radicals in an old writing system" , I hasten to follow up with this account of what caused so much academic alarm in China at this juncture.

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As ADJ of NP as

Reader JM writes:

In a situation where I want to compare my grades (for example) with someone else's, I default to saying "I have just as good of grades as she does." I don't know why I feel like the of should be there, but to me, saying "I have just as high grades as her" seems strange.  I know that I can say "I have just as high a grade as she does" but I get tripped up when the object is plural.

I'm not sure if I'm the only one who does this or what the "standard" construction might be. I've asked a few of my linguist friends and they can't figure out which construction they prefer.

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Chris Christie's pronouns

According to Andrew Rosenthal ("Chris Christie: But Enough About Mitt, Let’s Talk About Me", NYT 8/29/2012):

Gov. Chris Christie is getting rave reviews today for his performance at the National Republican Convention, and there’s no doubt in my mind that he did a huge amount of good for the three most important people in his life – he, himself, and him.

Whether he did any good for Mitt Romney is less certain (and when the cameras cut to Mr. Romney in the audience, the look on his face, at times, suggested that he may have been wondering the same thing.)

The New Jersey governor was, as advertised, energetic, and combative, and played right to the heart of his constituency – err, I mean Mr. Romney’s constituency – on the far right of the Republican Party. But his speech sound more like a stump speech for himself, for re-election or for some federal office, than the keynote speech at the nominating convention for another politician.

By my count, Mr. Christie used the word “Romney” six times in his address. He used the word “I” 30 times, plus a couple of “me’s” and “my’s” tossed in for seasoning.

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New radicals in an old writing system

In china now magazine from a couple of days ago, Chris Barden has an intriguing article entitled "Chinese Characters Reloaded:  Artist Jiao Yingqi’s Radical Proposal".

The article begins with the clarion call of Lu Xun, the greatest Chinese writer of the 20th century:  “Either Chinese characters die or China is doomed.”  That's not the most transparent translation of these shocking words that Lu Xun is reported to have uttered on his death bed:  "Hànzì bùmiè, Zhōngguó bì wáng" 漢字不滅,中國必亡 ("If Chinese characters are not eradicated, China will perish!").

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"Any instrument … that looks like a weapon"

"Grand Island Preschooler Asked to Change the Sign for His Name in School", 8/27/2012:

Hunter Spanjer says his name with a certain special hand gesture, but at just three and a half years old, he may have to change it.

"He's deaf, and his name sign, they say, is a violation of their weapons policy," explained Hunter's father, Brian Spanjer.

Grand Island's "Weapons in Schools" Board Policy 8470 forbids "any instrument…that looks like a weapon," But a three year-old's hands?

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Hoping to be in some kind of tact

Reader RP writes:

I happened to notice the following formation on the Guardian comment boards:

Its just possible that so long as Roma culture remains in some kind of tact that we may be the ones going to them in the future asking them for tips on how to live, how to survive.

So this person has parsed the word 'intact' as two words 'in tact' — which is not especially crazy, given that 'tact' is a common word — and assumed this allows modifying the word 'tact'.

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"Pain Quotidien" and "Raid the Larder"

From a post entitled "Paging Victor Mair" on his blog, Karl Smith sent me the following photograph:

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Hew

"Judge likely to hew jury's prison recommendation in slay sentencing of ex-U.Va. lax player", Washington Post (from AP) 8/27/2012:

Does this headline mean that, compared to the jury's recommended prison term, the judge is likely to
A) Increase the term slightly
B) Increase the term substantially
C) Decrease the term slightly
D) Decrease the term substantially
E) Leave the term as recommended

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"Slept walked"

Bob Moore:

Did you hear the piece on NPR this morning about sleep walking? They interviewed a teenage girl who at one point uttered the sentence "I slept walked." I don't think I have ever heard anything like that before. She not only analyzed "sleep walk" as a verb-verb compound (where I would have called it a noun-verb compound), but she inflected both verbs to make it past tense. Is this a complete one-off, or is this pattern that is more common than I am aware of?

Bob is referring to a quote in "Lack Of Sleep, Genes Can Get Sleepwalkers Up And About", Morning Edition 8/27/2012, where Miranda Kelly says

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I usually don't realize when I do it. Like every couple months I'll wake up in an odd place, and realize "Oh, I slept walked."

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Sraddling a warmer pitch?

John McCormick and Lisa Lerer. "Romney Sraddles Warmer Pitch With Obama Attacks in Tampa", Bloomberg Businessweek 8//27/2012:

This is a typo worthy of the legendary Grauniad, all too rare in these days of rampant spelling correction.

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No word for self-aware

"The beautiful white dialect", Les blanches exotiques 8/22/2012:

I love how beautiful and simple the exotic white dialect is. Because it has less words and lacks any logical grammar, it just sounds so peaceful, calming, and real. You can just feel the emotion when you listen to them speak. It varies from tribe to tribe, but throughout the white motherland is basically the same. I took a two-week service trip to build a McDonalds with authentic white food and lived with an authentic white family, so I know. It’s so sad that they’ve started using civilized words from modern languages, “cash” and “pajama.” It must be because there’s no concept of cash in white culture. Did you know they have twenty different words for “coffee” but no word for “self-aware?”

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Remembering Neil Armstrong and his "one small step"

Since the death of Neil Armstrong on Saturday, many remembrances have told the story about his famously flubbed first words on the moon. From Ian Crouch on The New Yorker's News Desk blog:

When the lunar module, named the Eagle, touched down, following moments of radio silence that terrified the folks back in mission control, he relayed: “Houston: Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” Later, as he made his way out of the lunar module (or LM), he described his progress in banal terms that, because of where they were coming from and what they conveyed, rose to the level of magic: “I’m going to step off the LM now.” And then he issued what is among the most famous proclamations of the last century—a jubilant counterbalance to F.D.R.’s “Day of Infamy” speech and a capstone to J.F.K.’s declaration that “we choose to go to the moon”—a statement that Armstrong had composed and prepared just hours earlier, in between the more pressing business of operating space equipment, according to Armstrong’s biographer, James Hansen: “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”

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"and/with/on its X"

In "Believed ham", I asked

When did French-language menus start using possessive pronouns, in constructions like et ses/son/sa X "and its/their X", to describe secondary or accompanying ingredients? When did English-language menus start copying this construction? And is it as awkward and odd in French as it is (restaurant tradition aside) in English?

The picture, from a restaurant-reviewing blog, illustrates an "Onglet de black Angus avec ses frites" ("Black Angus hanger steak with its fries"). The only connection that the fries have with the steak is that they're served together — so in what sense are they "its" fries?

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