MLK day: Pitch range

In honor of MLK day, I've replicated something that Corey Miller did for a term paper in an introductory phonetics course in the early 1990s. The point of the exercise is that any given speaker can exhibit a wide variety of different pitch ranges. 25 years ago this was a somewhat complicated business, involving digitization of tape recordings, use of expensive high-end computer workstations and so on. Today the whole process from start to end took me less than half an hour, leaving out the time required to write this post. I've put links to the relevant scripts at the end of the post — six lines of shell commands and a dozen lines of R.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (8)


Supply spiders

Barbara Philips Long writes:

Apple and other autofill writing software have contributed a lot to eggcorns, I suspect. I enjoyed this comment about supply-siders, which called them "supply spiders":

I am now imagining Carl Icahn as a supply spider.

I suspect that Barbara is right to attribute this coinage to someone's autocorrect function, in which case it would be an example of what Ben Zimmer suggested we call a Cupertino ("The Cupertino Effect", 3/9/2006). Of course it might also be a consciously-intended insult.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (19)


Backstroke of the West

Patrick Shanley, "'Revenge of the Sith' Dubbed With Bootleg Chinese Dialogue Is a Fan-Made Masterpiece", The Hollywood Reporter 1/3/2017:

YouTuber GratefulDeadpool has done the unthinkable: He's made Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith cool.

Using the original Chinese subtitles, which feature multiple lost-in-translation misinterpretations, GratefulDeadpool redubbed the prequel trilogy's final installment — with hilarious results.

Entitled Backstroke of the West Highlights Part 1 (Star War: The Third Gathers), the recut features such memorable lines as "I has been hating you," from the villainous Count Dooku, and "The front is a lemon avenue flying straightly," spoken by Obi-Wan Kenobi while piloting a careening starship.

Dorkly explains the bizarre translations likely "began with a machine translation of the Chinese script to [Revenge of the Sith], which attempted to literally translate from Mandarin to English, despite the multitude of barriers between the two languages." The end result was great quips, such as "Smelly boy" from General Grievous to Kenobi and "Your dead period arrived, teacher" from a rebellious Anakin Skywalker during his fateful lightsaber duel with his master on Mustafar.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (17)


Zhou Youguang 1906-2017

Zhou xiansheng,

You were my dear friend for decades.  I wish that you had gone on living forever.  You will be sorely missed, but yours was a life well lived.

As the "Father of Pinyin", you have had an enormous impact on education and culture in China.  After you passed the century mark, you spoke out courageously in favor of democracy and reform.

Now, one day after your 111th birthday, you have departed, but you will always be in our hearts, brimming with light, as your name suggests.

Tearfully,

Victor

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (17)


The perils of literacy

I see this on zdic (online dictionary of Literary Sinitic / Classical Chinese) from time to time:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (27)


"You have foraged relationships with many presidents"

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (8)


IBM's "THINK" motto

Photograph taken by Hervé Guérin in the main lobby of IBM France:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (37)


Monumental laughing face

From an anonymous reader, who spotted this photograph on Instagram, where it was posted by nanorie, who has given her permission to repost it:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (10)


Trump tea

A friend of mine who does research on the history of tea in China recently shared the following photo in a WeChat group that focuses on Chinese food culture:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (6)


Chinese lung cancer poeticizes in English

For several days I've been aware of a strange poem that has gone viral in China:

"Read The Smog-Inspired Poem That China Can't Stop Talking About" (NPR, 1/12/17)

The strangeness of the poem is due to its being written from the perspective of lung cancer and addressed to the patient.  You judge for yourself — here's the complete poem:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (15)


"Just let some joy smoke sift into your system"

In "The Road to Wazoo", I mentioned a striking 1919 advertisement for Prince Albert Tobacco . What was striking was partly the drawing and partly the text:

PRINCE ALBERT

the national joy smoke

Say, you'll have a streak of smokeluck that'll put pep-in-your-smokemotor, all right, if you'll ring-in with a jimmy pipe or cigarette papers and nail some Prince Albert for packing!

Just between ourselves, you never will wise-up to high-spot-smoke-joy until you can call a pipe or a home made cigarette by its first name, then, to hit the peak-of-pleasure you land square on that two-fisted-man-tobacco, Prince Albert!

Well, sir, you'll be so all-fired happy you'll want to get a photograph of yourself breezing up the pike with your smokethrottle wide open! Quality make Prince Albert so different, so appealing. And, P A. can't bite or parch. Both are cut out by our exclusive patented process!

Right now while the going's good you get out your old jimmy pipe or the "papers" and land on some P. A. for what ails your particular smokeappetite.

AG commented that

That ad is incredible. "Mad Men" is an understatement. That's like something you'd get if a roomful of Wodehouses threw typewriters at each others' heads during a gas leak

The ad's language range some kind of bell for me, and this comment from Catherine Arnott Smith nailed the source:

That ad is purest Babbittry, except that the poet Chum Frink, in Babbitt, had to wait until 1922.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (22)


Ask LLOG: "(the) people who"

A retired English teacher sent in this question:

Please look at a) and b):

a) The American government spends billions of dollars a year defending the rights of people who cannot defend themselves because they are weak.

b) For your examples of injustice, you mention only birth defects. Horrible as they are, they make up only a small percentage of human suffering. What about the misery that is the direct result of human action or inaction?

As you see, in a), PEOPLE is followed by a restrictive relative clause and in b) MISERY is followed by a restrictive relative clause, too. But why isn't there a "the" in front of PEOPLE but there is a "the" in front of MISERY? I think a restrictive relative clause always makes the noun which is in front of it identified. So, a "the" is needed.

As a matter of observable fact, the proposed generalization is wrong. The proverb "People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones" is fine without an initial the.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (13)


Rinse thoroughly

As Mark Liberman has often reminded us, when taking things from newspapers you have to be very careful about what to attribute to the person who allegedly said something and what to attribute to the journalist who reported it or the subeditor who futzed with what the journalist turned in. So when we read this in the New York Times about a Parisian hair stylist named Christophe Robin, caution is in order as we try to assign responsibility for the syntactic blunder:

Mr. Robin, who is based in Paris, has also noticed scalp problems at his salon, but he thinks the issue is not under-shampooing but rather that women are not cleansing properly.

"Women are in too much of a rush," he said. "You need to rinse very thoroughly the products out of your hair."

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments off