When taking a stand involves sitting

The most pervasive metaphor in English may be the use of "higher" to mean "better" (e.g., stronger or more moral), which has spawned endless figures of speech.  It's hard to avoid those metaphorical phrases, although that might be wise in situations in which "higher" also has a relevant physical meaning.  The New York Times on Saturday ran the following headline:

(1) As Trump Takes On Athletes, Watch Them Rise

Indeed, these athletes may be rising metaphorically as a political force.  But they're refusing to rise physically for the singing of the U.S. national anthem.  On the same day, the New York Times wrote (in this article, though it has now been edited away):

(2) Some people urged more players to kneel or sit during the anthem at football stadiums on Sunday as a way to reinforce their First Amendment rights. Others urged more white players to stand with black players who have knelt or sat during the anthem.

How confusing!  White players are urged to stand metaphorically with their black teammates … by physically kneeling or sitting with them, or by speaking out afterwards.

But how do we readers know that "stand with" in (2) is metaphorical?  Why couldn't the second sentence be about white players standing physically?

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"Sons of a bitches"

In his 9/22/2017 rally speech in Huntsville, Alabama, Donald Trump said

Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners
when somebody disrespects our flag
to say get that son of a bitch off the field right now —
out, he's fired.
Fired!

This posed a question for people who wanted to speak up in support of the football players he was threatening: What's the plural of "son of a bitch"?

I always thought it was "sons of bitches", but a surprising number of people decided on "sons of a bitches" instead. (See "Plurals", 9/22/2013, for some additional context.)

 

 

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Politically adorable

I wondered when this would happen. Jack Shafer, "Week 18: The Further Perils of Paul Manafort", Politico (Swamp Diary) 9/23/2017 [emphasis added]:

Flynn has hired seven attorneys, and his family has established a legal defense fund for him, stipulating that donations from foreign governments or the Trump campaign or business won't be accepted. Isn’t it adorable that Flynn, who worked for a United Nations klatch of clients now insists on a legal defense entirely made in America?

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Tonal variation and reading pronunciation

From Zeyao Wu:

I am intrigued by how the pronunciation of my nickname changed when I moved to Guangzhou [VHM: in the far south, formerly Canton] from Dongbei [VHM: the Northeast, formerly Manchuria].

In Dongbei, all my relatives and my friends called me Yáoyao 瑶瑶, with the second tone of the second syllable becoming neutral. [VHM: the base tone of yáo 瑶 ("precious jade") is second tone]

When I moved to Guangzhou, my friends call me Yǎoyáo 瑶瑶. It seems that this sort of pronunciation is not standard. I think Cantonese speak in this way because they pronounce Mandarin with the tones of Cantonese.

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Southern Ohioisms

During my recent trip to Ohio, I met a man named Don Slater from southeastern Ohio who regaled me with endless examples of how people from his neck of the woods (centered on Noble County, but down into eastern Kentucky and Tennessee) talk.

People from Noble County don't butcher a hog, they "burcher" it.

They don't say "ain't that awful" or "tain't that awful".  They say "hain't that awful".  Don said he thought that pronunciation might have some Irish influence behind it.

One of the most amazing expressions Don taught me was one he said is used around Gatlinburg, Tennessee:  "beyall".  See if you can figure out what it means before you turn to the next page.  HINT:  this expression is often used by waiters and waitresses in restaurants.

Try again.  SECOND HINT:  it is a question — "beyall?"

THIRD HINT:  it is equal to four words in standard English".  NO MORE HINTS.

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Dotard

In recent weeks, President Trump has delivered a number of fiery speeches and incendiary tweets about what will happen to North Korea if Kim Jong-un launches nuclear missiles over Japan and toward Guam and the United States.

Naturally, the feisty dictator replied with some choice words of his own:

"North Korean leader responds to Trump: ‘I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire'", bThe Washington Post (9/21/17).

The Washington Post seems to have changed the title of the article, so I can no longer provide a direct link, but there are plentiful records of it on the internet.  In any event, countless other media outlets quoted the same odd word, "dotard".

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The wonders of Google Translate

I have sung the praises of Google Translate (GT) before (e.g., "Google Translate is even better now" [9/27/16]), but this morning something happened with GT that really tickled my fancy.

One thing I use GT for is to compose texts in Chinese.  I find it to be a very powerful and easy to use input tool.

So I input the following:

shuō dìngle 說定了
xīngqítiān zhōngwǔ jiàn 星期天中午見

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Big Grams Cauldron

One of the most famous Chinese bronze vessels of antiquity, preserved in the Shanghai Museum, is the Dà Kè dǐng 大克鼎 ("Larger Ke Cauldron"), dated to ca. 891-886 BC.  Discovered around 1890 AD, it is 75.6 cm in diameter and 93.1 cm in height and weighs 201.5 kg.

In terms of language and script, the Dà Kè dǐng 大克鼎 is distinguished by its lengthy inscriptions amounting to 290 characters in 28 lines.  The inscriptions tell how a noble named Ke cast the vessel during the reign period of King Xiao of the Zhou Dynasty and records the King's praise to Ke's grandfather and the award of a royal estate to Ke.  Ke is said to have cast this vessel in appreciation of the King's favors and as a tribute to his grandfather.  It is called the Dà Kè dǐng 大克鼎 ("Larger Ke Cauldron") inasmuch as it was discovered together with more than 1,200 other bronzes, including seven smaller Kè cauldrons.

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Utterly lost in translation

During a search for something else, I happened upon this page at the Bible Study Tools site. It provides a nice reminder (for the two or three people out there who might still need it) of the fact that it's dangerous to trust websites, in linguistic matters or in anything else. As the screenshot shows, it purports to show Psalm 86 in two parallel versions, the Latin Vulgate and the New International Version.

"Filiis Core psalmis cantici fundamenta eius in montibus sanctis" is translated as "Hear me, Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy." The correct translation is debatable, but the first four words mean "A song psalm for the sons of Korah", and the rest means either "Its foundations are in the sacred hills" or (according to the Revised Standard Version) "On the holy mount stands the city he founded." Verse 2, "Diligit dominus portas Sion super omnia tabernacula Iacob" (roughly, "The Lord loves the gates of Sion more than all the dwellings of Jacob") is translated as "Guard my life, for I am faithful to you; save your servant who trusts in you. You are my God." The third verse begins Gloriosa dicta sunt ("glorious things are spoken") but is translated as "have mercy on me". This is worse than the worst botch I ever saw from Google Translate. And I suspect human error is to blame.

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Namibia, Nambia, whatever

It's hard to keep all those African countries straight, as President Trump demonstrated in a speech to African leaders at the U.N.:

Mr. Trump continues to create jobs in broadcast comedy, even for workers normally employed in other industries:

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The category boundary paradox

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Kazakhstan goes Latin

Excerpts from "Kazakhstan: Latin Alphabet Is Not a New Phenomenon Among Turkic Nations", by Uli Schamiloglu (a professor in the Department of Kazakh Language and Turkic Studies at Nazarbayev University in Astana, Kazakhstan), EurasiaNet (9/15/17):

Kazakhstan’s planned transition to the Latin alphabet raises complex questions. While alphabets may not be important in and of themselves, they play an important role in helping define a nation’s place in the world.

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C is for contrafibularity

Better late than never:

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