Archive for May, 2015

The kitchen sink

Randy Alexander asks:

How do you say this in Chinese?

This seems to be another one of those things where there is no standard name for it. Almost everyone I ask has a different name for it, and they have to think for a moment when I ask then how to say it in Chinese.

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"Horse of Cart"

Tom Mazanec has been seeing a series of strange ads all over the Shanghai subway.  They're for a company that does one-on-one oral English practice over Skype, called

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Budapest restaurant

Blake Shedd sent in this photograph of a Japanese restaurant in Budapest called "Tokio":

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Mystery message

Email from Diego Viana:

I am a Brazilian journalist and reader of the Language Log blog. I'm writing to you because the blog came immediately to my mind when a friend showed me a piece of paper she found in a recently bought jacket. It's written in an alphabet we don't know and, obviously, the first thing we thought was that it might be a message from over-exploited Asian workers. (It looks Asian, I guess…)

I'm sending you a picture of the note attached. Do you think one of the blog contributers might help?

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Tormented in Taiwanese

A couple of weeks ago, we encountered the case of Chang Chun-ning being asked by her fěnsī 粉絲 ("fans") on the Mainland to change one of the characters in her name that they weren't familiar with:

"7,530,000 mainlanders petition Taiwan actress to change her name" (5/14/15)

After the incident about the bank in China telling Chang Chun-ning to change her name that was quoted and translated by K. Chang here ("Even the bank wanted me to change my name. I've had enough!!!!!!"), there is another clause that finishes her Weibo (microblog) post, as quoted in the China Times article:

hái fù shàng 'zhuākuáng' de tiētú 還附上「抓狂」的貼圖。

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Dilige et quod vis fac

A few weeks ago, Eric Baković organized a "Short 'schrift" in honor of Alan Prince's forthcoming retirement, asking for

– a paean
– a poem
– a story
– a greeting
– an expression of gratitude
– a work of art (whatever that may mean to you)
– a 'classic-style' squib (à la 1970s-era LI)
– a brief analytical argument
– a simple formal proof
– a spoof of any of the above

I contributed a story, "Dilige, et quod vis fac". The result has now been revealed —  squibs,  greetings and thanks, stories, music, images, poetry & prose,  from the archives, family & friends — so I'm reprinting my contribution below.

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Water control

The exoticization of Chinese, yet again

This time it's the alleged, essential aqueousness of governance:

"The Water Book by Alok Jha review – this remarkable substance", by Rose George (5/14/15).  The first sentence:  "The Chinese symbol for 'political order' is made from the characters for river and dyke."

What a lame, wrongheaded way to begin a serious article!

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Eggcorn makes it into Merriam-Webster

And NPR commemorates the event: Mark Memmott, "'Eggcorns': The Gaffes That Spread Like Wildflowers", Weekend Edition 5/30/2015.

Here's the LLOG post where the term was first suggested: "Egg corns: Folk Etymology, Malapropism, Mondegreen, ???", 9/23/2003.  There are quite a few eggcorn-related posts in LLOG Classic and New LLOG as well. And anyone interested in the topic should check out Chris Waigl's Eggcorn Database.

See also Katy Steinmetz,  "This Is What ‘Eggcorns’ Are (and Why They’re Jar-Droppingly Good)", Time Magazine 5/30/2015.

[Note, by the way, that eggcorn made the Oxford English Dictionary back in 2010, and the American Heritage Dictionary in 2011.]


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The shape of a spoken phrase in Spanish

Or maybe in Chilean Spanish; more specifically in the Audible audiobook version of Isabel Allende's La Casa de los Espiritus:

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Blatter beast

Is it just me, or does "Sepp Blatter" sound like the name of an alien creature in a Star Wars episode or some other sci-fi story? Put together the sep of (e.g.) septic tank of corruption and the blatter of Douglas Adams's ravenous bugblatter beast of Traal and you've really got a name that phonologically conjures up a monstrous creature from beyond.

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Cassia Forest

Chilin Shih is spending the summer doing fieldwork in China, and she has started a weblog, Cassia Forest, to document her journey.

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The Inspiration-o-meter

Molly Fitzpatrick, "Know. Here. More. The top 100 words used in 2015 commencement speeches are oddly inspiring, even out of context", Fusion 5/21/2015:

Is there a formula for inspiration? If so it involves these words: know, here, more, life. They top the list of the 100 most common words used in commencement speeches this year. 

We analyzed the transcripts of 30 high-profile commencement addresses delivered this spring. […]

Commencement speakers talk more about the students they’re addressing than themselves, but only barely. We found that the second-person pronouns “you,” “your,” and “yours” were used just 4.7% more than the first-person pronouns “I,” “me,” “my,” and “mine.” […]

Here are the top 100 words in order, ranked by the number of times they were used across all 30 speeches. Prepare your graduation ceremony bingo cards accordingly:

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