The moos you can moo

Geoff Pullum, always forthright, looks at some typical journalistic anthropomorphisms about animal communication and calls them "lies" ("Now it's cows that use names (sigh)", LLOG 12/20/2014):

The bottom line is that when it comes to language, journalists simply make stuff up. They are shockingly careless in all sorts of ways (in accuracy of quotations, for example, as Mark has pointed out many times), but when it comes to animal language it's far worse than that. They actually print what are obviously lies, even when the text of the same article makes it clear that they are lying.

I was curious about the background of this case, which as Geoff notes is a particular instance of a generic class of untruths, so I looked into it a bit more closely.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (10)


Sony hacker language

Everybody is in a tizzy over the hacking of Sony Pictures.  Most people assume that North Korea was behind the hacking, which caused Sony Pictures to withdraw "The Interview" shortly before it was supposed to open in theaters.

Some of the coverage: "U.S. Intelligence Connects North Korea to Sony Hack: Reports", Newsweek 12/17/14; "A Look At North Korea's Cyberwar Capabilities", Huffington Post 12/18/14; "Obama May Have Forced Sony To Release 'The Interview'", Business Insider12/20/14.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (11)


Kanji of the year 2014

As chosen by ballots to the Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Public Interest Foundation (Nihon Kanji Nōryoku Kentei Kyōkai 日本漢字能力検定協会, more commonly known as Kanken 漢検), the annual "Kanji of the Year" (kotoshi no kanji 今年の漢字) for 2014 is zei 税 ("tax"), with 8,679 (5.18% of the total) votes.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (4)


Chinese WOTY 2014

Three years ago, Language Log covered what we referred to as the "Morpheme(s) of the Year" (12/17/11).

Two years ago, we advanced to "Chinese character of the year: mèng 梦 ('dream')" (12/25/12).

And last year, we looked at "'Words / Characters of the Year' for 2013 in Taiwan and in China" (12/26/13).

Toward the end of last month, the tension began to build in the selection process for this year:  "APEC Blue, Tigers and Flies: What Chinese Phrase Best Describes 2014?" (11/28/14).

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments


Now it's cows that use names (sigh)

According to a sub-headline in Full-Time Whistle, new scientific research has shown that "Cows and their calves communicate using individualised calls equivalent to human names."

How interesting. Cows have enough linguistic sophistication to employ the high-level device of personal naming? Let us delve into the details just a little, without moving away from the article itself.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments off


Which is what we what?

Charles Belov sent in a link to an AP story that contains a puzzling quote from SONY's CEO Michael Lynton ("Sony responds: 'We had no choice'", AP 12/20/2014):

Since Wednesday when Sony cancelled the film’s Dec. 25 release, the studio has come under withering criticism by those who have said capitulating to hackers sets a dangerous precedent. Everyone from George Clooney to Newt Gingrich has bitterly reproached Sony for what they've called self-censorship that goes against American ideals of freedom of expression. Obama said the same Friday morning.  

‘‘I wish they had spoken to me first,’’ said Obama in a press conference. ‘‘We cannot have a society in which some dictatorship someplace can start imposing censorship.’’  

But in an interview with CNN on Friday, Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton disputed that, saying: ‘‘The President, the press and the public are mistaken about what happened.’’ He also said that he spoke to a senior adviser in the White House about the situation.  

‘‘We were taken by surprise by the theaters, which is what we wanted to do first. Now we’re trying to proceed and figure out what the next steps would be,’’ Lynton told CNN.

As Charles noted, the sentence in bold doesn't seem to make any sense.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (9)


Xinhua breaks ban on puns

I was going to write "Xinhua brakes ban on puns".  Upon reconsideration, I thought that would only lead to confusion, but it might at least have given an idea of how bad their pun is.

First of all, just so everyone knows, Xinhua is Xinhua ("New China") News Agency, the official press agency of the People's Republic of China.

Carl Minzner tweeted:

Open violation of ban on wordplay! Name of new Chinese state website dedicated to Xi Jinping? 学习进行时

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (4)


Multiple

John F. Banzhaf III writes to complain about overuse of "multiple":

Over the past six months I have heard an ever-growing number of TV news anchors, reporters, and talking heads on television use the word "multiple" where "many" – a shorter and less pretentious word – would do as well, if not better.

I would suggest that your remind people not to use the word "multiple" when many is what is meant, or is at least as good.  Otherwise, the speaks sounds pretentious and perhaps pompous.  A quick guide as to when to use each word would also be helpful to many of your readers.

This is not something that I've noticed, though perhaps I don't listen closely enough to enough talking heads.  It does seem to be true that the use of multiple has increased fairly steadily over the past century and a half, from nearly nothing to a rate in the range of 60 to 80 per million words:

(I've used multiplication by 10,000 to turn the Google ngram viewer's uninterpretable percentages on the vertical axis into rates per million words…)

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (29)


Censored letter

A current cause célèbre in China concerns a letter that was supposedly written by a little boy to the President of China, Xi Jinping:

"‘Not as skinny as Obama, like Putin is okay.’ China censors schoolboy’s suggestion that Xi lose weight" (12/18/14)

"A 9-year-old told China’s president to lose some weight—and censors shut him down" (12/18/14)

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (7)


That mystery language was…

Last night's "Mystery Language" post has gotten 43 interesting and insightful comments.

The answer, revealed by Doug Marmion, of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (17)


Maximizing Buzzword Compliance

From a "sponsor message" sent to me by the Chronicle of Higher Education "on behalf of Campus Management":

Institutions are facing a convergence of forces that, combined with an outdated technology infrastructure, have created the need for a new approach in education technology: the On Demand Model for Higher Education.

Discover the cornerstones of this innovative strategy, including how to enhance constituent engagement, provide more flexibility in academic delivery and financial aid, and leverage an agile infrastructure to grow and adapt in any market.

Hear from a panel of thought leaders as they discuss rising above technology challenges to empower dynamic models of engagement and delivery, and in turn positively impact growth, retention and financial security.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (16)


Nut rage

The biggest news in South Korea these days is the macadamia nut tantrum that occurred on Korean Airlines last week.  Heather Cho, the eldest daughter of Korean Air Lines chairman Cho Yang-ho and herself a high-ranking executive at the airline (though since resigned), threw a monumental hissy fit when she was served macadamia nuts in a manner that she thought was not suitably elegant.  Amongst the usual media accounts of the incident, there was this statement from the UK Guardian:

Bloggers and the Korean press lambasted Cho for her arrogance, and took to social media to mock her for going “nuts”.

and reports of this tweet in Korean from an online shopping mall/auction site that makes a sort of punning reference to “that nut.”

Jeff Weinberg asks whether “nut” or “nuts” in Korean is used for “crazy person” or “crazy” as it’s used in English (and maybe primarily American English).

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (34)


Mystery Language

Can anyone determine what language this woman is speaking?

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

If the flash player doesn't work for you, try the HTML5 audio version:

Comments (44)