Those TED audiences expect to be entertained

And tickets are expensive, so they can be brutal if you offend them — "Pope warns powerful to act humbly or risk ruin in TED talk", ABC News, 4/26/2017:

[h/t Michael Leddy]

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Explosive semantics

"New images of MOAB denotation damage", Fox News 4/25/2016:

The denotation damage has been estimated at nearly 20 kiloreferences. And the connotation damage, though not yet measured, is believed to be larger than from any explosion in recent decades.

[h/t Glenn Bingham]

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"I have gone into my own way"

In a series of recent posts we've explored the fun side of recursive weighted sums and point nonlinearities as a translation algorithm: "What a tangled web they weave", "A long short-term memory of Gertrude Stein", "Electric sheep", "The sphere of the sphere is the sphere of the sphere". But the featured translations have all involved inputs of characters in kana, hangul, Thai script, and other non-Latin alphabets, and it's natural to wonder whether this is an essential part of the game.

No — here are various repetitions of "è ", "îî ", and "îè "  translated from Greek:

è è è è è è è è è è Things to Do
è è è è è è è è è è è Date of Issue No.
è è è è è è è è è è è è May 2009
îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî I have forsaken myself for it to be with you
îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî I have resuscitated myself for my own sake I have forgiven myself for myself
îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè You're going to be yours
îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè You'll be out of your way
îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè You're on your way out of the sun
îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè You're on your way back to your day
îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè You are on your way back to the day you are in your country
îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè You have been signed in. You have signed in. You have signed in.
îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè You are on your way to the last day of your stay. You have reached the last day of your stay.
îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè You have finished your call and have signed in.
îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè You have been signed in. You have made a call. You are on your way. You are on your way. You have signed in.

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Dialect readers redux?

In a recent article Patriann Smith, a professor of Language, Diversity and Literacy Studies at Texas Tech, makes a bold proposal: that “nonstandard Englishes” such as African American English (AAE) and Hawai’i Creole English be used as the primary language of instruction in educating children who speak them. ("A Distinctly American Opportunity: Exploring Non-Standardized English(es) in Literacy Policy and Practice", Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 9/12/2016) Smith reviews evidence that speaking “nonstandard English” (her term) as a first language interferes with children’s educational progress, given the way children are taught and progress is assessed. She also questions the privileged status accorded to the “standard” (aka mainstream, higher status) dialect of English (SAE) used in education, business, government, and other institutions, and the traditional view of literacy as the ability to read that dialect. Hence the proposal that children be taught in their native dialect whether “standard” or not.

In this post I'll look at some implications of this proposal for learning to read. The idea that children who speak AAE (or another nonstandard dialect) might benefit from being taught to read using materials written in their dialect isn't new.  Some 40 years ago there was a brief, a mostly-forgotten educational experiment with "dialect readers".  They weren't widely accepted then.  Has their time finally come?

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E.B. White and quotative inversion

For some documentation and discussion of the New Yorker magazine's curious aversion to quotative inversion, see "Quotative inversion again", 10/29/2009. And against that background, consider this sentence from E.B. White's 1957 piece "Letter from the East", quoted in my earlier post:

"Omit needless words!" cries the author on page 21, and into that imperative Will Strunk really put his heart and soul.

A careless slip of the red pencil? Or was E.B. White exempt from the dictum? Or was the no-quotative-inversion diktat imposed by a post-1957 New Yorker style maven? Perhaps someone who knows more about the history of that publication's quirks can tell us.

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Removing needless words

Yesterday I was skimming randomly-selected sentences from a collection of English-language novels, and happened on this one from George Orwell's 1949 novel Nineteen Eighty-Four: "It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words." This brought to mind two things I had never put together before, Orwell on Newspeak and Strunk on style.

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Biscriptal juxtaposition in Chinese, part 3

Christopher Alderton saw this flyer on his way to work a few days ago:

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PR push for "Voice Stress Analysis" products?

A Craigslist ad posted 20 days ago — "Seeking a Blog Writer for Voice Stress Analysis Technology":

We are looking for someone to ghostwrite blog posts and articles for a large company that specializes in computer-aided voice stress analysis technology or CVSA. We want you to primarily discuss the scientific research backing it up and the psychophysiological processes involved in implementing the technology. Basically, we want you to describe how it works, why it works, and why it is an effective technology, with everything backed up by scientific research and facts. […]

We are seeking a motivated, passionate, enthusiastic ghostwriter to craft blog articles ranging loosely from 750-900 words, that are valuable and informative to our target audience. Our audience for this client is law enforcement agencies, military, intelligence, immigration, and any other section of our government or private law practices that will be using investigative interviewing methods to screen subjects.

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Annals of incompetent spam: the weeding ceremony

A spam email I received this morning (addressed to me and three other addresses, no subject; the sender was "david mark" at davidmark0066@gmail.com) had the following text:

Hello this is david i will like to know if you can handle my weeding ceremony  and do you own the service ??

I actually never realized people had weeding ceremonies. I thought you just got out there with a trowel and a pair of kneepads and dug out those unwanted plants without benefit of any rituals of any sort. But some may have different traditions. We must be open to cultural diversity.

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Sino-Japanese faux ami

Nathan Hopson saw this sign on the ferry from Hong Kong to Macau.

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Annals of targeted advertising

I'm used to getting spammed about every plausibly product-related web search I do. But I'm at a loss to understand what triggered an email this morning with the Subject line "Trending Just For You: Be Yourself: A Journal for Catholic Girls". The body of the message:

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Active seeming: dumb grammar fetishism yet again

Last January 21 The Economist actually printed a letter I wrote pointing out that how wirelessly to hack a car was a ridiculous way to say "how to wirelessly hack a car," and resulted from a perverted and dimwitted obeisance to a zombie rule. But did they actually listen, and think about changing their ways? They did not. I have no idea how they manage to publish a beautiful magazine every Thursday night when they are so mentally crippled by eccentric 19th-century grammar edicts that they will commit syntactic self-harm rather than go against the prejudices of a few doddering old amateur grammarians in the middle 1800s who worried about the "split infinitive." Take a look at this nonsense from the magazine's leader in the issue of April 22, about UK prime minister Theresa May's chances of having more flexibility after the general election she has called:

With a larger majority she can more easily stand up to her ultra-Eurosceptic backbenchers, some of whom seem actively to want Britain to crash out.

Seem actively??

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Or the arbitrary cat, horse, or pig

I think Mark Liberman may have been concerned that perhaps my post "Pronominal reference to the arbitrary dog" hinted at being tempted toward the Recency Illusion. Not true, of course: even when surprised by some point of usage that I notice, I never conclude I must therefore be the first to have encountered it. On encountering the use of singular they for a dog, I didn't say "This has never happened before"; I said "we should expect this sort of use to increase in frequency." But anyway, just in case, Mark sent me some other cases of animals being referred to with singular they. They presumably indicate that where sex is irrelevant, the use of it should nonetheless be avoided, because it might offend the animal.

https://www.bengalcats.co/why-do-cats-knead/
You see, the repetitive movement is not only serving as a way to promote milk flow, it also encourages maternal instinct and establishes a bond between a cat and their kittens.

http://www.ancientegyptonline.co.uk/cat.html
When a cat died, their human family would go into a deep mourning and shave their eyebrows.

[By the way, notice that the foregoing example is ambiguous (cat's eyebrows vs. family members' eyebrows), and the ambiguity is caused solely by the refusal to use it for the arbitrary cat. People will risk being incomprehensible rather than change their mind about whether they could compromise on a pronoun gender choice. Or maybe the point is just that people do not avoid, and do not know to avoid, or even notice, dangers of ambiguity for the hearer or reader.]

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