Coercive hopes

Andrew Strom, “Workers Understand a Boss’s ‘Hopes’“, On Labor 6/9/2017:

According to the sworn testimony of former FBI Director James Comey, President Trump pulled him into a private meeting in the oval office and said, about the FBI’s ongoing investigation of former national security advisor Michael Flynn, “I hope you can let this go.”  One question raised by the testimony is whether it was reasonable for Comey to interpret President Trump’s statement as a directive.  While labor law does not have a direct answer, the National Labor Relations Board has held that when a company president expresses his “hope” to a worker, it can be coercive.

In a 1995 case, KNTV, Inc., the company president had a private meeting with a reporter where the president told the reporter, “I hope you won’t continue to be an agitator or antagonize the people in the newsroom.”  The NLRB found that the statement was coercive in large part because it was made by the company’s highest ranking official and it was made in a meeting that the reporter was required to attend alone.  Sound familiar?

In other words, the expert agency that regularly adjudicates disputes about whether particular statements by an employer rise to the level of coercion has held that when the president of an organization expresses his “hopes” in a private conversation with a worker, those comments will likely have a “chilling effect” on the employee.

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It had been very careless in their behavior

Daniel Victor, “What Was Behind Those Befuddling McCain Questions?“, NYT 6/8/2017:

Senator John McCain became an unexpected focus of befuddlement and concern on Thursday after a line of questioning that appeared to conflate two separate F.B.I. investigations during James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Here’s the start of Senator McCain’s questions:

JohnMcCain: In the case of uh
Hillary Clinton,
you made the statement that
there wasn’t uh
sufficient evidence to bring a suit
against her, although
it had been very uh
careless in their behavior. But you did reach a conclusion
in that case that it was not uh necessary to
further pursue her.
Yet, at the same time, in the case
of Mister Comey,
said that there was not enough information to make
a conclusion. Tell me the difference between your conclusion as far as
former Secretary Clinton is concerned and-
and Mist- Mister Trump.

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On the short periods of Trumpian time

On Friday, at a joint press conference with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, Donald Trump begrudgingly took questions from Jon Karl of ABC News. Karl asked whether there are indeed recordings of Trump’s conversations with former FBI director James Comey, as Trump once suggested on Twitter. Here is how he replied (emphasis mine):

KARL: And you seem to be hinting that there are recordings of those conversations.
TRUMP: I’m not hinting anything. I’ll tell you about it over a very short period of time. Okay. Do you have a question here?
KARL: When will you tell us about the recordings?
TRUMP: Over a fairly short period of time.

In his response, Trump used “over a very/fairly short period of time” to mean “soon.” It’s a peculiar choice of preposition — why over rather than in?

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Cantonese is not dead yet

Not by a long shot, judging from several recent articles in the South China Morning Post:

American professor speaks up for Cantonese to preserve Hong Kong’s heritage: Robert Bauer from HKU is writing a Cantonese-English dictionary that will include colloquial terms, believing language represents cultures” (Heyling Chan, 5/21/17)

Hong Kong vloggers keeping Cantonese alive with money-spinning YouTube channels:  While many fear Cantonese may be in decline, for Hong Kong’s online stars it has opened a gateway to thousands of followers and lucrative careers” (Rachel Blundy, 6/10/17)

Use Cantonese as a tool to extend Hong Kong’s influence, academic urges:  Chinese University linguist says better teaching of the native language is the vital first step in raising the city’s profile in Beijing’s trade initiative” (Naomi Ng, 5/4/17)

In Vancouver’s ‘Cantosphere’, a sense of responsibility and an identity under siege:  Artists and academics in Vancouver are carving out a space to examine both the fate of Hong Kong and the diaspora identity” (Ian Young, 5/19/17)

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Implicatures on Capitol Hill

Those of us who teach introductory Linguistics courses owe a special debt to James Comey’s testimony yesterday before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

This two-hour exchange offers us a broad and deep source of evocative and consequential real-world examples of the ways that what is said, what is meant, and what is communicated may be different.

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Don’t forget to pay pay pay pay pay the rent

Recently, signs like this one showed up in the Shanghai subway:

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“This is a whole new life for me now”

Following up on yesterday’s post about Rona Barrett’s 10/6/1980 interview with Donald Trump, here’s a sample from Lesley Stahl’s 12/13/2016 interview:

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Four candles for Ronnie Corbett

Ronnie Corbett died on March 31, 2016, a year after his diagnosis with Lou Gehrig’s disease. A long-planned memorial service for him was held a couple of days ago in Westminster Abbey. That’s an honor reserved for only the most important figures in British life. At the front of the church during the service was the famous armchair in which he always sat to do his featured monologue (generally a ridiculous shaggy-dog-story joke with many digressions) during the TV show he did with Ronnie Barker, called The Two Ronnies. And just as at his funeral more than a year ago, four candles were displayed along with the chair. It was an allusion to the truly legendary sketch in which Corbett and Barker riffed on almost-indistinguishable phonetic strings in working-class vernacular Southern British English — pairs like four candlesfork handles. In the unlikely event you’ve never watched it (it’s been mentioned on Language Log a few times, of course, especially by commenters), watch it now, and remember one of the finest of British comedians — perhaps the most loved of them all.

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“I think it’s a very mean life”

Rona Barrett interviews Donald Trump in 1980:

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Sorry, my Chinese is not so good

Music video by a trio of English musicians singing about learning Chinese:

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“Donald” in Scottish Gaelic

A one-second audio of “Dòmhnall”.

It’s the <mh> that nasalizes the vowel. Supposedly this nasalizing effect is still found in some Irish Gaelic.

If you have 4 minutes, a great animation of a folktale in Nova Scotia Gaelic with a main character named “Dòmhnall”. Very peculiar sounding!

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Yet again on the mystery of the national spelling bee

This year’s champion, Ananya Vinay, is a 12-year-old sixth-grader from Fresno, California.  The runner-up, Rohan Rajeev, is a 14-year-old eighth-grader from Edmond, Oklahoma.  One of the co-champions from last year, Nihar Janga of Austin, Texas, was 11 and the other, Jairam Hathwar, of Painted Post, N.Y., was 13.

Speaking of youthfulness, this year home-schooled Edith Fuller of Tulsa, Oklahoma was the youngest contestant ever to make it to the finals.

At 5, Girl Becomes Youngest To Qualify For National Spelling Bee” (NPR, 3/8/17)

That was in March.  By the time of the national spelling bee, she had turned 6.  It’s ironic that little Edith was knocked out on a technicality that was introduced to the national spelling bee for the first time this year.

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Blizzard Challenge: Listeners wanted

From Simon King:

We need your help with the Blizzard Challenge listening test for 2017.

Please take part yourself, and encourage your colleagues and students too. Feel free to forward this message to your local mailing lists.

Speech Experts (you decide if you are one!) take part here.

Everyone else, do it here.

It’s a fun test – you get to listen to paragraphs from children’s stories! It takes about 45 minutes to complete; you can take a break at any point, then continue where you left off.

Deadline for completion: 15th June 2017

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