Schlump season

When I was a student at Dartmouth (1961-1965), from around mid-December to mid-March, we had roughly three feet of snow on the ground much of the time, but then came the big melt, and we called it the "schlump" season.  The paths across campus were so muddy that the buildings and grounds crew placed "duck boards" on the ground for us to walk on.

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Coherence award for Stephen King

Jan Freeman, "Stephen King scores a grammar win", Throw Grammar from the Train, 3/20/2015:

Stephen King, novelist and resident of Maine and (sensible man!) Florida, has refuted the Maine governor’s claim that King had left the state to escape oppressive taxes.

"Governor LePage is full of the stuff that makes the grass grow green," the best-selling author told a local radio station. "Tabby and I pay every cent of our Maine state income taxes, and are glad to do it. We feel, as Governor LePage apparently does not, that much is owed from those to whom much has been given."

For me, that boldface sentiment is the news here: In its long quotation history, it has rarely been rendered grammatically. “From whom much is given, much is expected” – from John F. Kennedy Jr. — is just one mangled example. You'd think a Bible quotation would get some respect, but it turns out the human mind has a hard time supplying the right number of prepositions and pronouns to say what this maxim intends.

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"DNA-based prediction of Nietzsche's voice"

An interesting paper was recently brought to my attention: Flavia Montaggio, Patricia Montaggio, & Imp Kerr, "DNA-based prediction of Nitzsche's voice", Investigative Genetics, Spring 2015. The abstract is pretty good:

This paper presents a protocol for the accurate prediction of an individual’s voice based on genotype data, specifically from single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). We collected trace amounts of cellular material (Touch DNA) from books that belonged to the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). DNA was extracted and amplified using DOP-PCR technique. Five different genomic DNAs were generated. Nietzsche’s genotype was singled out after comparison to genotype data from one living relative of the Nietzsche family. Nietzsche’s genotype data was analyzed using a DNA-based phenotyping assay, termed VoiceRator, that incorporates the 24 most informative voice SNPs based on their association with genes related to the phenotypic expression of the vocal tract and larynx structure and function. An SNP-based voice profile of Nietzsche was inferred. The profile data was converted into bio-measures that were used to 3D-print a vocal tract and larynx through which phonation was organically generated. A composite of seven Text-to-Speech simulations was made using a sound morphing software. The result is presented in audio format and illustrates the first attempt at simulating the voice of a deceased person.

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More on "duang"

A couple of weeks ago, we had an extensive discussion of Jackie Chan's famous expostulation about the wondrous effect of his shampoo that went viral on the Chinese internet.

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Crash blossom roundup

"Crash blossoms" — those ambiguously phrased headlines that encourage absurd interpretations — are flourishing like never before. Here's a roundup of the latest specimens spotted in the wild.

1. "Matt Cassel trade a simple, cheap bandage for Bills QB problem" (CBS Sports, Mar. 4, 2015)

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Don't eat the water

Sveinn Einarsson spotted this photograph of a scene at one of the refugee camps on the Chinese side of the China-Burma border on Tencent News:

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"English will not be longer problem for your!"

Yvonne Treis sent in this photograph of a sign at an “America English” language school in Addis Ababa/Ethiopia that she took in May 2009:

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Smoothies, schmoudees, smuuhsies, whatever

On Facebook, Bert Vaux posted about a fascinating bit of Danish loanword phonology.

While watching the Danish show Borgen last night I noticed that Kasper, when talking about ordering a smoothie, first said [smu:di] and then later said [smu:ði]. The first form in particular but also the variation pleased me, so I asked Anna Jespersen about it and look at this bonanza she came up with! (What follows is a paraphrase of what she sent me.)

Smoothie is a newly borrowed word, and I think it's the only one we have encountered with a non-initial [ð]. Consequently, there's a lot of variation. [ð] and [d] would be the most common variants but there are lots of other options. Check out these two ads from McDonald's:

i. In the attached print ad, the line below the smoothies reads "Try our new, refreshing smoothies (no matter how you pronounce them)".

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Himba color perception

Below is an email message from Steve Mah, posted with his permission. It follows up on my post "It's not easy seeing green", 3/2/2015, about the experiment on Himba color perception shown in the 2011 BBC documentary "Do you see what I see?" (video available here).  I've also appended an earlier email from Jules Davidoff to Paul Kay, telling essentially the same story:  This striking "experiment" was a dramatization, and the description of its "results" was invented by the authors of the documentary, and not proposed or endorsed by the scientists involved.

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Hong Kong-specific characters and shorthand

Joel Martinsen found this photograph on the microblog of Wáng Dàyǔ 王大禹:

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Correctly English

Ben Zimmer called my attention to this book cover, via David Adger's Twitter account:

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Pekingese vs. Putonghua

John Rohsenow sent me a WeChat (a Chinese text and messaging service) post that compares Putonghua (Modern Standard Mandarin [MSM]) sentences with their equivalents in Pekingese.  The differences are stark, amounting to a translation from one language to another.

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bibbity ~ bibbidi, bobbity ~ bobbidi

Manohla Dargis, "In ‘Cinderella,’ Disney Polishes Its Glass Slippers", NYT:

You know the rest, bibbidi-bobbidi-boo and all that jazz.

My reaction when I read that was, Gee, interesting re-spelling of Bibbity Bobbity Boo, in line with the standard American flapping and voicing of non-syllable-initial /t/. But it turns out that I'm about 66 years too late.

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