Barking roosters and crowing dogs

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

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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.

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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)

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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:


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An overnegation that isn't hard to miss

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Bilingual, biscriptal sign in Virginia

Sticker at a gas station near the Richmond airport, courtesy of Jonathan Smith:

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Easy going crazy

Today Josh Tenenbaum gave a talk here in the Interdisciplinary Mind and Brain Seminar Series, under the title "On what you can’t learn from (merely) all the data in the world, and what else is needed". One of his themes was that current RNN systems lack common sense, and so in honor of that point, here's another episode in our ongoing Elephant Semifics series. This one is based on repetitions of  0x306C "HIRAGANA LETTER NU", which Google Translate correctly diagnoses as Japanese.

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Ottoman Hebrew scroll

Or so it would seem, but the people who have looked at this scroll so far cannot make much sense of what's written on it.

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Freudian misnegation of the year

Leonardo Boiko writes "It's still mid-February, but I feel like this is a strong contender nonetheless".

The source: Joshua Rhett Miller, "Pastor says nothing weird was going on with bound naked man in car", New York Post 2/13/2018.

The key phrase: “I won’t deny that he began to take his clothes off and propositioned me, but I will deny, on a stack of Bibles with God as my witness, that I did nothing".

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Replicate vs. reproduce (or vice versa?)

Lorena Barba, "Terminologies for Reproducible Research", arXiv.org 2/9/2018:

Reproducible research—by its many names—has come to be regarded as a key concern across disciplines and stakeholder groups. Funding agencies and journals, professional societies and even mass media are paying attention, often focusing on the so-called "crisis" of reproducibility. One big problem keeps coming up among those seeking to tackle the issue: different groups are using terminologies in utter contradiction with each other. Looking at a broad sample of publications in different fields, we can classify their terminology via decision tree: they either, A—make no distinction between the words reproduce and replicate, or B—use them distinctly. If B, then they are commonly divided in two camps. In a spectrum of concerns that starts at a minimum standard of "same data+same methods=same results," to "new data and/or new methods in an independent study=same findings," group 1 calls the minimum standard reproduce, while group 2 calls it replicate. This direct swap of the two terms aggravates an already weighty issue. By attempting to inventory the terminologies across disciplines, I hope that some patterns will emerge to help us resolve the contradictions.

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Justin Bieber OK infix

What's going on here?  How did Justin Bieber become an infix (more precisely tmesis) inserted between the "O" and the "K" of "OK"? 

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Beggar thy neighbor's question

Piers Morgan, "The wife-beater, the witch and the White House: Why the hell did Trump ever tell Rob Porter and Omarosa ‘you’re hired’?", Daily Mail 2/13/2018:

'Shut the f**k up, a**hole,’ snarled Omarosa Manigault-Newman at me. ‘How are your kids going to feel when they wake up and discover their dad’s a f**king f*gg*t?’

Yes, this is the same Omarosa Manigault-Newman who just spent a year inside Donald Trump’s White House.

I’ve met a lot of vile human beings in my life, from dictators and terrorists to sex abusers and wicked conmen.

But I’ve never met anyone quite so relentlessly loathsome as Omarosa; a vicious, duplicitous, lying, conniving, backstabbing piece of work.

Which beggars the question: what the hell was she doing inside the world’s most powerful building for 12 months?

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Mistakes in English and in Chinese

I'm reading Paul Midler's What's Wrong with China (Hoboken, NJ:  2018).  Midler has spent two decades as a business consultant in East Asia and speaks Mandarin.  His book is replete with penetrating observations about many aspects of society and culture and is solidly based on extensive first-hand experience and deep learning in Chinese history.  Its pages are filled with keen observations about language usage in China, but it was only when I got near the very end of the book (p. 224) that I was caught up short by this paragraph:

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