Modal logic of traffic signs

Sent in by Michael Robinson:

I saw this traffic sign in Toledo, Ohio. Luckily I wasn't driving a truck, or I would have had no idea what I was allowed to do. Since we were in a car, we figured U-turns must be OK. Because we were heading to a place that sold coffee, and nothing must stand between us and our morning latte.


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Bilingual Spanish-Chinese street signs

Germán Renedo recently noticed that the government has installed bilingual street signs in the Belgrano neighborhood of Buenos Aires, where Chinatown is located. The signs transcribe the sounds of the Spanish words rather than translate their meanings.

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Ask Language Log: why is "inch" a family relationship in Korean?

Katie Odhner asks:

I have lately been teaching myself Korean and have become quite interested in Sino-Korean vocabulary. Recently two words in particular caught my attention: samchon 삼촌 ("paternal uncle"), from Chinese s ān cùn 三寸 ("three inches"), and sachon 사촌 ("cousin"), from Chinese sì cùn 四寸 ("four inches"). I wondered how "three inches" and "four inches" could turn into family members. According to one website I found, chon 寸 can refer to "degree (of kinship)", which makes some sense. But when I looked on ctext.org (Chinese Text Project), I couldn't find classical Chinese examples of this usage, so I'm thinking maybe it's a Korean invention.

Have you ever encountered cùn 寸 ("inch") in Classical Chinese to refer to degree of kinship? Do you think it's a Korean invention? And does "third degree of kinship" for uncle and "fourth degree of kinship" for cousin have any roots that you can think of in the Confucian tradition, or is that also a native Korean concept?

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The Female Brain movie

Silas Lesnick, "An ensemble cast has come together for Whitney Cummings’ The Female Brain movie", comingsoon.net 8/17/2016:

Black Bicycle Entertainment has today announced the ensemble cast for their upcoming The Female Brain movie, which marks the directorial debut of Whitney Cummings. Cummings herself will also star in the film, which she co-wrote alongside Neal Brennan, adapting the nonfiction book by neuropsychiatrist Louann Brizendine. […]

The Female Brain movie aims to comically detail the inner workings and complex power of brain chemistry among couples at different stages of their relationships. […] The film’s story follows five couples struggling through various stages of their relationships: whether it’s finding the right romantic balance; parenting; overcoming commitment issues; expressing emotion; or simply admitting to being useless around the house.

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Heart residue

Stuart Luppescu writes:

I recently ate at a yakiniku 焼肉 ("grilled meat") place in Kyoto that serves only chicken and pork — rather atypical. One menu item was kokoronokori 心残り. I asked the server what that was, and was told it was the flesh, blood vessels, and fat around the heart that is left over when they prepare the heart to be served. Since I am a gaijin 外人 ("foreigner"), they gave me a menu that had the entries with English glosses. For this one they wrote "regret" — they had obviously relied on Google Translate for their rendering. After I left I realized I should have taken a picture and sent it to you, but this message will have to do.

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Universal journalistic clichés?

Tank McNamara for 8/8/2016:

The Olympic Games are unique in showcasing competition in so many sports by the elite athletes of so many nations. It is an amazing stew of many cultures, yet there are common experiences. For instance it is amazing to hear "at the end of the day …" spoken in so many different languages by pundits from all over the globe.

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Language is messy, part 2: Arabic script in "Arrival"

A few days ago I posted the trailer for the forthcoming science-fiction movie "Arrival," based on Ted Chiang's linguistically rich tale of alien contact, "Story of Your Life." While most commenters have wondered how well Chiang's xenolinguistics will translate to the big screen, a couple of eagle-eyed observers noted something worrying in the trailer: incredibly sloppy use of Arabic script.

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Unpermitted erections

Yesterday morning at 8:00 a.m. local time, in five cities around the U.S., the anarchist collective INDECLINE erected five copies of a nude polychrome statue of Donald Trump. The New York City copy went up in Union Square, but was removed after about two hours by the Parks Department, whose spokesman Sam Biederman explained that "NYC Parks stands firmly against any unpermitted erection in city parks, no matter how small".

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I am a cat?

[This is a guest post by Nathan Hopson]

Every once in a very long time, machine translation does something sublime. Usually ridiculous, but just occasionally sublime.

Here's what happened to me the other day.

First, let me begin with a mea culpa: I posted a cat video to the internet. Yes, I finally gave in and committed that gravest of sins. Here's the video:

吾輩は珈琲猫である

A video posted by Nathan Hopson (@gojoppari) on

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New frontiers in pseudo-Freudian slips

Jan Brewer, the former governor of Arizona, calls in once a week to the Mac & Gaydos radio show on KTAR in Glendale, Arizona. Her call on Tuesday 8/16/2016 featured this epic sequence, explaining why she doesn't think Donald Trump needs to run ads in Arizona:

got a strong message out there
and the people want a fighter
they're tired of the lying killer uh Hillary Clinton
and Bill Clintons of the world
vetted her now for thirty years

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The narrow end of the funnel

The big political story of the past 24 hours: Stephen K. Bannon, formerly the Executive Chairman of Breitbart News, has taken over as "chief executive" of Donald Trump's presidential campaign.

The big linguistic story of the past 24 hours, at least here at Language Log: an exchange between Mark Liberman and Geoff Pullum about the rhetorical style of spontaneous speech, as it applies to the linguistic analysis of Donald Trump's rallies.

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Internecine strife at Language Log?

Are we seeing the first signs of discord at Language Log Plaza? Mark Liberman seems to be flatly rebutting Geoff Pullum's "no structure at all" remark about what he calls "Trump's aphasia." Mark maintains that Trump's speaking style is no different in kind from any other human's spontaneous speech, even crediting him with "eloquence." Geoff, by contrast, seems to regard Trump as barely capable of expressing himself in human language. This looks like the beginnings of a proper scholarly punch-up. Is Liberman pro-Trump and Pullum anti? Have Mark and Geoff fallen out?

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Xi'Viet

Michael Rank took this photograph earlier today (8/16/16) and posted it on flickr:

Vietnamese & Xi'anese street food, London E8

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