Nathan Hopson bought this "rain suit" the other day:
For the last few weeks, we have been pondering the ban on puns in the People's Republic of China: "When puns are outlawed …" (12/9/2014); "It's not just puns that are being banned in China" (12/7/14); "Punning banned in China"(11/29/14).
Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, Cantonese speakers are coming up with new words, most of them involving puns, practically every day: "New Cantonese word" (12/8/14).
The following is a guest post by Bob Bauer, who introduces us to yet another clever Hong Kong Cantonese punning expression.
Jessie Opoien, "The political pitfalls of cultural crossover: Scott Walker edition", The Capitol Times 12/10/2014:
In an undated letter unearthed by the liberal group One Wisconsin Now during the August release of documents from the first of two John Doe investigations related to the governor, Walker responded to a letter from Milwaukee attorney and chairman of the Wisconsin Center District Franklyn Gimbel.
Walker told Gimbel his office would be happy to display a menorah celebrating "The Eight Days of Chanukah" at the Milwaukee County Courthouse, and asked Gimbel to have a representative from Lubavitch of Wisconsin contact Walker's secretary, Dorothy Moore, to set it up.
The letter is signed, "Thank you again and Molotov."
Neil Dolinger sent in the following banner ad that popped up on his computer screen one day:
Apologies to anyone (and it must be lots of you) who tried to reach a LLOG page yesterday and got redirected to x.vindicosuite.com.
This was the result of the latest malfunction in the sitemeter.com tool for counting visits and referrals, which we've been using for the past decade. Increasingly often over the past year or so, the sitemeter tracking code has been non-deterministically routing visitors to unwanted advertising sites, playing strange background music, etc. At about the same time, the company stopped responding to any support queries or complaints. Because its tracking statistics are useful, and because the unwanted redirections were rare and intermittent (and arguably due to mistakes rather than malice), I've stuck with them.
But as of yesterday evening, for a significant period of time, every single attempt to access a LLOG page resulted in a glimpse of the desired page followed quickly by redirection to x.vindicosuite.com, which is apparently some sort of passive DNS replicator or something. As far as I can tell, no virus or worm attack was involved, but the redirection alone is unacceptable, even if this is just another bug in sitemeter's counting software rather than anything malicious.
It seems that a lot of other people had the same problem with sitemeter (see also here, and many other comments over the past couple of years). So I've removed the sitemeter code from our WordPress installation. Now I can look forward to wasting a few hours trying to get sitemeter to stop charging me for their "service".
Scott Alexander ("Come ye to Bethlinkhem", 12/8/2014) does his best to generate sympathy for the Chinese authorities:
China bans puns on the grounds that they may mislead children and defile cultural heritage. Language Log is on the story, and discusses the (extremely plausible) theory that this is part of a crackdown on people who use puns to get around censorship. Obligatory link to the Ten Mythical Creatures here. There’s no censor sensibility to the law, and it seems likely to cause Confucian and dis-Orientation among punks and pundits alike in its wonton disregard for personal freedom and attempts to bamboo-zle the public. It’s safe Tibet that dissidents who just Taipei single pun online will end up panda price and facing time in the punitentiary or even capital punishment – but those Hu support the government can Maoth off as much as they want and still wok free. I Canton derstand how people wouldn’t realize that this homophonbic bigotry raises a bunch of red flags. In the end, one Deng is clear: when puns are outlawed, only outlaws will have puns.
"Blindfold sex knife attack ex-wife jailed for murder attempt", BBC News 12/8/2014 — Although the five-noun pile-up doesn't give us any syntactic help, the facts are more or less what you'd guess by putting all the words on the table and making up a story about them:
A woman who tried to murder her ex-husband after blindfolding him following sex and telling him she had a surprise in store has been jailed.
Andrea Santon, of Lancaster, stabbed her former partner with a kitchen knife after luring him to her home and bedding him after a night out in June.
But in this one, the syntax takes us down a garden path, with baffling results: "World's Oldest Womean Just Pleased Every Other Human On Earth When She Was Born Now Dead", The Onion 12/8/2014. Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »
"La Bavière veut imposer aux étrangers de parler allemand, même « en famille »" Le Monde
L'Union chrétienne-sociale (CSU) qui dirige la Bavière depuis des décennies veut empêcher les étrangers de parler une autre langue que l'allemand, même en famille…. C'est d'autant plus risible que les Bavarois eux-mêmes utilisent un allemand bien éloigné des standards officiels et parfois même peu compréhensible dans le reste de l'Allemagne.
The CSU, which has governed Bavaria for decades, wants to prevent immigrants from speaking a language other than German, even at home…. It's even more ridiculous that the Bavarians themselves use a variety of German quite far from the official standard, and often nearly incomprehensible in the rest of Germany.
Simon Pettersson called my attention to a new and popular Hong Kong word that's spreading fast: gau1wu1 鳩嗚 ("shopping"). It's a rendering of the Mandarin word gòuwù 購物 in Cantonese created by picking characters that sound like the Mandarin word when read in Cantonese. Additionally, gau1 鳩 (jiū in Mandarin) officially means "dove", but is mostly used in Hong Kong to write the homonym that is a vulgar word for penis, which is also written 尻 and several other ways, too:
gau1 [門+九], sometimes wrongly (or perhaps I should say euphemistically) written as gau1 / hou1 / haau1 尻 (" end of spine; buttocks, sacrum"), is a vulgar Cantonese word that means "a cock" or "cocky".
The second syllable, wu1 嗚, when not being used for punning purposes as in the case of gau1wu1 鳩嗚 ("shopping"), where it stands for the sound of Mandarin wù 物 ("thing; object; substance; matter"), normally functions in the following ways:
 [onomatopeia] toot; hoot; zoom
 [interjection] alas
On a brief trip to London recently, I stayed in a small hotel named Hazlitt's, after William Hazlitt, who in 1830, the last year of his life, rented a small apartment in one of the buildings that the hotel now occupies. A copy of his 1802 self-portrait hangs by the registration desk, and there are various Hazlitt memorabilia scattered around, reminding me that I knew almost nothing about him.
Among the things that I thereupon learned about William Hazlitt is the fact that his family emigrated to Philadelphia in 1783, when he was five years old, on the first ship from Britain to America after the end of the Revolutionary War. They also spent time in Boston, where his father was involved in founding the first Unitarian church in America, before returning to England in 1786.
I also learned that in 1809 Hazlitt published A New and Improved Grammar of the English Tongue : for the use of Schools, In which the Genius of our Speech is especially attended to, And the Discoveries of Mr. Horne Tooke and other Modern Writers on the Formation of Language are for the first time incorporated. I haven't been able to find a copy of this work, but the Preface is available in the 1902 edition of his Collected Works, and contains some striking material.
Even non-linguists and those who are not China watchers could hardly escape the momentous announcement of the Chinese government last week that casual punning was being outlawed:
- "Punning banned in China" (11/29/14)
- "No laughing matter: China's media regulators ban puns" (12/3/14)
- "Chinese Government Moves To Crack Down On Puns" (12/5/14)
- "Nowhere to Pun Amid China Crackdown" (11/28/14)
- "LIKE A PUN IN A CHINA SHOP: Chinese media regulators crack down on puns, wordplay amid apparent state fears. The United States is stronger than that." (12/3/14)
Emmon Bach died at home in Oxford on November 28 of pneumonia-induced sudden respiratory failure. Emmon was born on June 12, 1929, in Kumamoto, Japan, the youngest of six children of Danish missionary parents Ditlev Gotthard Monrad Bach and Ellen Sigrid Bach who moved with their family from Japan to the U.S. in 1941, where he grew up in Fresno and Boulder. He did his undergraduate and graduate work at the University of Chicago, with a Ph.D. in Germanic Studies in 1959; his dissertation was Patterns of Syntax in Hoelderlin’s Poems. He taught at the University of Texas from 1959 to 1972, first in the German Department and then in Linguistics, then at Queens College and the Graduate Center of CUNY in 1972–73. From 1973 until his retirement in 1992 he was Professor of Linguistics, and then Sapir Professor of Linguistics, at UMass Amherst, where he served as Department Head from 1977 until 1985. Starting a few years after his retirement from UMass, he held an appointment as a Professorial Research Associate at SOAS (University of London), where he taught semantics and field methods. And in 2007 he became affiliated with Oxford University, where he gave graduate lectures in Semantics and participated in the Syntax Working Group.
He was President of the Linguistic Society of America in 1996 and President of SSILA, the Society for the Study of Indigenous Languages of the Americas, this year.