Archive for January, 2019

Which what?

Presumably this is elliptical for something like

We lose 300 Americans a week to drugs, 90% of which comes through the Southern Border.

Some might object to the singular agreement of "comes", but intuitions and behavior are likely to be variable on this point, especially because the antecedent is omitted :-)…

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Sinographs for "tea"

It is common for Chinese to claim that their ancestors have been drinking tea for five thousand years, as with so many other aspects of their culture.  I always had my doubts about that supposed hoary antiquity, and after many years of research, Erling Hoh and I wrote a book on the subject titled The True History of Tea (Thames & Hudson, 2009) in which we showed that tea-drinking did not become common in the East Asian Heartland until after the mid-8th century AD, when Lu Yu (733-804) wrote his groundbreaking Classic of Tea (ca. 760-762) describing and legitimizing the infusion.

Since people in the Chinese heartland were not regularly drinking Camellia sinensis qua tea before the mid-8th century, I long suspected that they did not have a Sinograph for tea (MSM chá) either.  Rather, based on my reading of texts and inscriptions dating from the 7th c. AD and earlier, I hypothesized that the character now used for "tea", namely chá 茶, was a sort of rebranding (by removing one tiny horizontal stroke) of another character, tú 荼 ("bitter vegetable").

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Visual puns in K-pop

The newest release from K-pop group Apink is called "Eung Eung", written %%.

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Another slur-or-not

Ryan Miller, "Jeremy Kappell apologizes in Facebook video, promises he did not use racial slur on TV", Rochester Democrat & Chronicle 1/7/2019:

Meteorologist Jeremy Kappell promised that he did not use a racial slur in reference to Martin Luther King Jr. and issued an apology to anyone who may have been hurt by his slip-up during a television broadcast last week.

WHEC-TV (Channel 10) fired Kappell on Monday, three days after he appeared to refer to a Rochester park as "Martin Luther Coon King Jr. Park" in a live shot on a newscast. Kappell said that he jumbled his words by mistake during a four-minute Facebook video that he posted on Monday evening.

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Was it "getting" or "gay"?

Patrick Redford, "There's Nothing To Say About What Andrew Wiggins Said That's Not Conditional", Deadspin 1/9/2018:

Andrew Wiggins went off for 40 points on the Thunder last night in a lively game that featured 32-year-old interim coach Ryan Saunders getting his first win and Thunder guard Dennis Schröder getting ejected for shoving. Wiggins was asked about Schröder’s ejection after the game, and he either said, “He was getting—he was acting crazy,” or, “He was gay. He was acting crazy.” Those are obviously two very different quotes, and as much as I think he’s mumbling “getting,” the tape is ultimately inconclusive.

"Andrew Wiggins: Would never disrespect LGBTQIA community", ESPN 1/9/2018:

Hours after he called Oklahoma City Thunder guard Dennis Schroder "gay," Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins sought to clarify his remark, saying early Wednesday morning that he wouldn't use "any term to disrespect" the LGBT community.

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Galactic glimmers: of milk and Old Sinitic reconstructions

Often have I pondered on the origin and precise meaning of the Sinitic word lào, luò (reading pronunciation) 酪 ("fermented milk; yoghurt; sour milk; kumiss"); Old Sinitic (OS) /*ɡ·raːɡ/ (Zhengzhang).  My initial impression was that it may have been related to IE "galactic" words.

Possibly from a Central Asian language; compare Mongolian айраг (ajrag, fermented milk of mares) and Turkish ayran (yoghurt mixed with water). The phonetic similarity between Sinitic (OS *ɡ·raːɡ, “milk”), Ancient Greek γάλα (gála, milk) and Latin lac (milk), from Proto-Indo-European *ǵlákts (milk) is worth noting (Schuessler, 2007).

(Wiktionary)

Paul Kroll, ed., A Student's Dictionary of Classical and Medieval Chinese, p. 256a:

1. kumiss, fermented mare's milk (also cow's or sheep's) < Khotan-Saka ragai (with metathesis)

    a. yogurt, milk curdled by bacteria

As Schuessler (2007), p. 345 notes, the fermented drink "arrack" may be a different etymon, a loan from Arabic 'araq ("fermented juice").  (Pulleyblank 1962:  250 contra Karlgren 1926) [VHM:  full references below]

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Calling out sick

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Misnegation never fails to disappoint

Heather Stewart, "Brexit: as parliament returns to work, what happens now?", The Guardian 1/6/2019:

Labour is likely to table a vote of no confidence in the government, though it is unclear whether it would do so immediately – and even less unclear whether it could win it.

[h/t Stan Carey]

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How to address your professor

Face to face, most students greet me as "Professor Mair", a few as "Dr. Mair". In e-mails and other written communications, they nearly all address me with "Dear Prof. Mair", "Hello Prof. Mair", or "Hi Prof. Mair", all of which sound natural and normal. I nearly fell off my chair when a female student from China recently sent me an e-mail that began simply "Victor". A few weeks later, I was stunned when she sent me another e-mail that began even more abruptly with just "Mair". This particular student's English otherwise is quite good, so I really don't know what's going on with her.

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Stanley Insler, 1937-2019

Stanley Insler died unexpectedly last night in Yale-New Haven hospital.  He was Professor Emeritus of Linguistics at Yale University, the Edward E. Salisbury Professor of Sanskrit and Comparative Philology in the Department of Classics.

Stanley was a scholar of ancient Indo-Iranian languages and texts.  His research focused on Sanskrit, Vedic, Avestan, Zarathustra and the history of Zoroastrianism, metrical texts of the Pali Buddhist Canon, Indian narrative literature, Silk Road Studies, and the Gāthās of Zarathustra.  Courses he taught included “Old Iranian:  Avestan” and “Vedic Poetry”.  Among his many publications are The Gāthās of Zarathustra, Acta Iranica 8 (Tehéran-Lìege:  Bibliothèque Pahlavi; Leiden: diffusion E. J. Brill, [1974] 1975); "The Love of Truth in Ancient Iran," Parsiana (September, 1989), 18-20; chapters on “Human Behavior and Good Thinking” and “Zarathustra’s Vision” in An Introduction to the Gathas of Zarathustra, ed. Dina G. McIntyre (Pittsburgh, 1989-90); "The Prakrit Ablative in -ahi." Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, 72-73 (1991-92), 15-21; and "Rhythmic Effects in Pali Morphology," Die Sprache, 36 (1994), 70-93.

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Robot love

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More literary troubles for Xi Jinping

This article (in Chinese) describes how China's netizens (wǎngyǒu 网友) are ridiculing President Xi for inappropriately quoting a poem by Kong Rong 孔融 (153-208), a 20th generation descendant of Confucius, in his New Year's address to the nation.

The first lines of the poem are:

suìyuè bù jū
shíjié rú liú

歲月不居
時節如流

The years do not stand still,
Time flows on like a river.

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New ideas in social media

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