In Urdu there is no word for rape. The closest direct translation is "looting my honour".
From Jason Cox (with additions and modifications by VHM):
In Taiwan, one often comes across efforts at using zhùyīn 注音 ("phonetic annotation") to hint to readers that a Hoklo Taiwanese reading of the sentence is preferred, rather than a Mandarin reading. Sometimes the characters are "correct" Hoklo Taiwanese (they convey the meaning of the characters directly); sometimes they will simply sound like Hoklo Taiwanese when read in Mandarin. Two examples that come to mind: Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »
Early last summer, an inquiry from Sanette Tanaka at the WSJ led me to do a Breakfast Experiment™ on the relationship between the language of real-estate listings and the price of the associated properties ("Long is good, good is bad, nice is worse, and ! is questionable", 6/12/2013; "Significant (?) relationships everywhere", 6/14/2013; "City of the big disjunctions", 6/20/2013).
Jimmy Callin sent in this photograph of a sign in Nanjing:
One of the highlights of this weekend's Saturday Night Live was a "Weekend Update" appearance by Taran Killam playing Jebidiah Atkinson, a 19th-century speech critic.
(Apologies to those outside of the U.S. who can't view Hulu videos.)
From reader GW:
If a misnegation contains conflicting indicators of polarity, what is an expression that contains conflicting indicators of intensity?
I’ve been noticing expressions containing the ngram “by far one of the” followed by a superlative. COCA has twelve of them. A typical example is “I mean, it was by far one of the best nights of my life.” Such expressions seem odd to me. Imagine the goodness of someone’s nights plotted on a vertical axis. “By far the best night” would be a lone outlier at the top. “One of the best nights” would lie in a small cluster of outliers, but it wouldn’t be the topmost; if it were, it should simply be called “the best.” (Is that Grice’s Maxim of Quantity?) I can’t visualize where to plot “by far one of the best nights.”
As a follow-up to my Language Log post on Li Yang's fēngkuáng liánxiǎng 疯狂联想 ("crazy association"), Chris Fraser sent me three images of an old Cantonese book that purports to teach English by means of what it calls "Táng zì zhù yīn" 唐字註音 ("phonetic annotation with Tang [i.e., Chinese] characters").
This arrived in my snail-mailbox a few days ago:
In response to "A fair-use victory for Google in these United States", 8/14/2013, JM writes:
I’ve always wondered when this change took place, so was delighted to see this post. Here’s a harder one to answer: how did it happen that “to table a motion” have opposite meanings in British vs. American English?
US Circuit Judge Denny Chin has ruled in favor of Google in its long-running copyright litigation with the Authors Guild over the scanning and digitization of books. Chin ruled that the Google Books project constitutes fair use because it is "highly transformative" and "provides significant public benefits." In explaining those public benefits, Chin cited the use of Google Books data for Ngram queries, and pointed to a research example that we've discussed several times on Language Log.
The current xkcd deals with the psycholinguistic properties of expletive infixation:
This will be a mini-disquisition on fish terminology, focusing on one particular species.
Reader hanmeng, after seeing a reference to bàyú 鲅鱼 (a kind of fish — discussion below) in the opening scene of the 32nd episode of " Méndì" 门第 ("family status; pedigree; ancestry; lineage; families related by marriage equal in social status" — title of a popular TV drama series), googled to find what the equivalent word is in English, and was directed to Baidu (a search engine for Chinese-language websites), where they render it as "Japanesespanishmack—erel".
Arguably the hottest term on the Chinese internet these days is tǔháo 土豪 ("[local] tyrant / despot"), but transformed to mean "bling", and with a sharply satirical edge. How did tǔháo 土豪 ("[local] tyrant / despot") morph into "bling"? The story is told in "#BBCtrending: Tuhao and the rise of Chinese bling".
Back in 2008, an image got passed around the blogosphere showing the Singaporean identity card of one Batman bin Suparman. I broke down the name in a Language Log post (my first after the great LL changeover). Since then, I hadn't thought much of young Batman, but today brought the sad news that he had been jailed on theft and drug charges.
That gave me an excuse to return to the 2008 post and freshen it up a bit for Slate's Lexicon Valley blog, so head over there for the latest. As part of Language Log's partnership with Lexicon Valley, some past LL posts have been featured on the Slate blog with minor updates. (I've contributed a few other golden oldies, including posts on meh, WTF, and early obscenicons.)
[Update: BBC News has picked up the story, quoting me.]
Reader SN writes:
One of my students has just received extensive comments on a MS. Some were extremely helpful, others less so. Two in the latter category were:
The plural of behaviour is not necessary.
The term ‘variation’ subsumes the plural. Eliminate the ‘s’ here and throughout.
“Behaviours” troubled me the first few times I came across it, but I am now happy that there is a difference between saying an animal shows a range of behaviour and saying it has a range of behaviours. I had never come across this attitude to variation though. Do you think Elgar was aware of his solecism when he named his "Variations on an Original Theme for Orchestra ("Enigma”)",?