Archive for February, 2018

Flip Donkey Doodleplunk?

Barton Beebe & Jeanne Fromer, "Are We Running Out of Trademarks? An Empirical Study of Trademark Depletion and Congestion", Harvard Law Review, February 2018:

Abstract: American trademark law has long operated on the assumption that there exists an inexhaustible supply of unclaimed trademarks that are at least as competitively effective as those already claimed.  This core empirical assumption underpins nearly every aspect of trademark law and policy.  This Article presents empirical evidence showing that this conventional wisdom is wrong. The supply of competitively effective trademarks is, in fact, exhaustible and has already reached severe levels of what we term trademark depletion and trademark congestion. We systematically study all 6.7 million trademark applications filed at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) from 1985 through 2016 together with the 300,000 trademarks already registered at the PTO as of 1985.  We analyze these data in light of the most frequently used words and syllables in American English, the most frequently occurring surnames in the United States, and an original dataset consisting of phonetic representations of each applied-for or registered word mark included in the PTO’s Trademark Case Files Dataset. We further incorporate data consisting of all 128 million domain names registered in the .com top-level domain and an original dataset of all 2.1 million trademark office actions issued by the PTO from 2003 through 2016. These data show that rates of word-mark depletion and congestion are increasing and have reached chronic levels, particularly in certain important economic sectors.  The data further show that new trademark applicants are increasingly being forced to resort to second-best, less competitively effective marks.  Yet registration refusal rates continue to rise.  The result is that the ecology of the trademark system is breaking down, with mounting barriers to entry, increasing consumer search costs, and an eroding public domain. In light of our empirical findings, we propose a mix of reforms to trademark law that will help to preserve the proper functioning of the trademark system and further its core purposes of promoting competition and enhancing consumer welfare.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (9)

Taiwan independence posters in polysyllabic characters

Lisa in Toronto found these posters in Taipei at Cafe Macho in November. They say #newyearnewnation in one corner.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (1)

Face, B face, 13 face, and C face

A student called my attention to this cloying glorification of PRC President Xi Jinping:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (6)

Anime

Today's Dumbing of Age illustrates, in contemporary Indiana, a point that George Bernard Shaw made about England in 1916: "It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him."

Mouseover title: "super honestly, she just wants to punch everyone in the face"

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (12)

A constant, guiding presence

Tomorrow there will be a memorial service for Aravind Joshi, who died on the last day of 2017 ("R.I.P. Aravind Joshi", 1/1/2018).  Martha Palmer, who is flying in from Colorado for the event, sent me this remembrance:

Aravind was such a constant, guiding presence in my life, from 1980-2017.  Always so kind and gentle, and so full of wise and considered advice, on every subject from linguistics and automata theory to life choices and university politics.  And changeless. Always there, at every conference, every PI meeting, with a smile, a chuckle and a twinkle in his eye, taking great delight in the vagaries of human nature and the sea changes in government funding.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (1)

PyeongChang: how do you say that in English?

Should we say the name of the host city of the 2018 winter Olympics the way the Koreans pronounce it [pʰjʌŋtɕʰaŋ]?  Or should we say it more in accord with English phonetics?

The following article by Jane Han spells out the controversy clearly:

"NBC, read my lips – it's PyeongChang" (The Korea Times [2/18/18)

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (89)

Language machinery

Xavier Marquez, "Stalin as Reviewer #2", Abandoned Footnotes 117/2018:

Most people reading this blog probably know about Trofim Lysenko, who, with Stalin’s help, set back Soviet genetics in the late 1940s, preventing any discussion of Mendelian inheritance. Yet Stalin’s influence on Soviet scholarship after WWII was much more far reaching. He intervened in disputes concerning philosophy, physics, physiology, linguistics, and political economy; in fact one of the epithets by which he was sometimes referred in the press was “the coryphaeus of science”, i.e., the leader of the chorus of Soviet science. (Lysenko himself used the term in his eulogy for Stalin in 1953, though it was first used in 1939).

Most of these interventions were editorial in character. He edited pre-publication drafts of articles and books, often in close consultation with their authors and at great length (he was actually a decent editor), and occasionally provided feedback on published and unpublished work. And he did this despite the fact that he was the undisputed ruler of one of the victors of World War II, a country that was facing the gigantic task of reconstruction after one of the most destructive conflicts in human history. In short, he was the editor and reviewer from hell.

The story of Stalin’s intervention into Soviet linguistics is particularly funny, at least in the morbid way that anything from that time can be funny. And it also brings out some interesting points about how official ideological commitments both constrained and enabled Stalin and Stalinism.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (7)

Rhetoric in Troll-land

Anton Torianovski, "A former Russian troll speaks: ‘It was like being in Orwell’s world’", WaPo 2/17/2018:

You got a list of topics to write about. Every piece of news was taken care of by three trolls each, and the three of us would make up an act. We had to make it look like we were not trolls but real people. One of the three trolls would write something negative about the news, the other two would respond, “You are wrong,” and post links and such. And the negative one would eventually act convinced. Those are the kinds of plays we had to act out.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (5)

Barking roosters and crowing dogs

The following full-page ad was published in a Chinese daily in Malaysia:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (10)

Zombie factoid check

It's been a few years since I checked for references to the invented "science" of gender differences in talkativeness — and a scan of recent news articles for "words per day" turns up a steady drip of replications.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (13)

Excessive quadrisyllabicism

Many readers of Language Log will remember the visit of China's former internet censor-in-chief, Lu Wei, to the headquarters of Facebook, Apple, and Amazon in late 2014.  Those were his glory days, but now his star has fallen in a most spectacular fashion:

"China’s ‘tyrannical’ former internet tsar Lu Wei accused of trading power for sex in long list of corruption charges: Lu accused of a range of crimes from abusing power for personal gain to disloyalty", by Frank Tang (SCMP [2/13/18])

"China's former chief of internet regulator expelled from Communist Party" (Reuters [2/13/18)

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (11)

o ai aaa oa ueui

As ktschwarz pointed out in the comments on yesterday's post "Easy going crazy", Google Translate is disposed to recognize text consisting only of vowels and spaces as Hawaiian, and to hallucinate a coherent if sometimes chilling translation into English.

In order to exercise this option more fully, I wrote and tested a simple R script to generate random messages of this type:

 N = 150
 Letters = c("a","e","i","o","u"," ")
 cat(sprintf("%s\n",paste0(sample(Letters,N,replace=TRUE),collapse="")))

So for example:


Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (21)

An overnegation that isn't hard to miss

Comments (6)