Toilet Revolution!!

Wunderbar!

China had a toilet reform movement already a decade or two ago. I remember reading a whole, serious book about how to improve toilet construction and behavior.  In fact, I bought a copy and studied it assiduously, but can't put my hands on the volume at this moment.

Apparently the toilet improvement campaign is still going on.  In this "Dictionary of Xi Jinping's new terms", it is number 9 out of 20 key items in the imperial lexicon extracted from President Xi's "Important speeches he made in conferences, inspections and state visits [that] set the tone for China's reform, development agenda and diplomacy."  This "dictionary" was issued by The State Council Information Office of the People's Republic of China.  Here's the entry for "Toilet revolution":

Along with agricultural modernization and new rural construction, local governments will ensure that villagers have access to hygienic toilets.

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Recording-stable acoustic proxy measures

Behind yesterday's post about possible cultural differences in conversational loudness ("Ask Language Log: Loud Americans?" 11/25/2017), there's a set of serious issues in an area that's too frequently ignored: the philosophy of phonetics. [This is an unusually wonkish post on an eccentric topic — you have been warned.]

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Ask Language Log: Metaphors for megabytes?

From Bob Ladd:

I have recently become aware that files that in English are too "big" (for example, to send as email attachments) are too "heavy" in French (lourd) and Italian (pesante). Any chance you can post a note asking for the metaphors in all the other languages that LgLog commenters speak?

Update — Based on the comments, there are several other languages where files can be too "heavy". But what about "long", as in tl;dr? That would be another natural metaphor, either in the spatial or the temporal sense.

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Ask Language Log: Loud Americans?

From Federico Escobar:

An old but ongoing comment/joke among several Spanish speakers I know says that English speakers are particularly loud. It's a gross generalization, I know, but one borne out by countless times in which the voices booming over everyone else's in a restaurant comes from the one table with American tourists. A friend says that she feels that Americans can't help but shouting when they talk.

So, the silliness aside, does this hold water? Would this be, on average, true of English speakers or at least of American speakers of English? A friend theorized off-the-cuff that it may be because of the sound system in English, which perhaps needs a higher volume to tell the phonemes apart than, say, Spanish. Is that at all possible?

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Ho Hou2 Ho!: English / Cantonese combo

Seen today by Jeff DeMarco in the IFC mall in Hong Kong:

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Woo

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Bump of Chicken

Photo by Ross Bender, taken near Osaka Castle last month:

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Two instances of orthographic ambiguity: GODISNOWHERE and Chen Fake

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"Beautiful" in the Constitution of the Chinese Communist Party

James Wimberley notes that, among the recent additions to the Constitution of the Chinese Communist Party, is this section:

The basic line of the Communist Party of China in the primary stage of socialism is to lead all the people of China together in a self-reliant and pioneering effort, making economic development the central task, upholding the Four Cardinal Principles, and remaining committed to reform and opening up, so as to see China becomes a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful.

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Scarf 'em up!

Is there a linguist in your life? Puzzled for a present that might really shiver their timbers? I know it seems like we're all living on a higher plane, laser-focused on abstractions beyond the merely corporeal, but we do enjoy a worldly indulgence now and then. Consider, for example, these beautiful IPA-print scarves (and other merch) available on Redbubble from the inimitable Lingthusiam podcast team, Gretchen McCulloch and Lauren Gawne. Just the thing for keeping one's neck cozy at the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Linguistic Society of America in January in Salt Lake City. All the cool kids will be wearing them!

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Spretchy

From Dafydd Gibbon:

Student at Jinan University, Guangzhou: Professor, what is a spretchy?
Me, puzzled: A spretchy?
Student: Yes, a spretchy.
Me: Sorry, no idea!
Student: But you told us to put the results of the experiment into a spretchy!
Me, trying to hide a smile: Oh … a spreadsheet …

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Duolingo Mandarin: a critique

A friend sent this lifehacker article to me:

"Mandarin Chinese Is Now Available on the Language Learning App Duolingo", by Patrick Allan (11/16/17)

Duolingo claims that it "is the world's most popular way to learn a language. It's 100% free, fun and science-based. Practice online on duolingo.com or on the apps!"

After reading Allan's article, I sent the following note to my students and colleagues:

Judging from the description in this article, I'm dubious about the efficacy of their method.  Never mind about misleading statements emanating from the author of the article (e.g., there are 1.2 billion native speakers of "Chinese"), they seem to overemphasize individual characters, downplay words, don't talk about sentence structure, grammar, and syntax, and don't give any indication of how or whether pinyin is used.

Has anyone checked this app out?

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Is our pundits counting?

Joe Davidson, "Foreign Service leadership being ‘decapitated’ and ‘depleted at a dizzying speed’", WaPo 11/17/2017:

Using “I” 42 times in his 23-minute speech Wednesday, he declared “NATO, believe me, is very happy with Donald Trump and what I did,” as he touted previous accomplishments.

Trump’s unmatched self-adulation might cloud his view of the hard work by foreign service staffers and their increased difficulties because of his administration’s hiring freeze.

Unlike the many op-ed contributors noting Barack Obama's alleged over-use of first person singular pronouns, Mr. Davidson at least counted, or perhaps had an intern do so. Whoever did it, they did it wrong — there are actually 47 uses of the pronoun "I" in that speech, as well as 10 instances of "my" and one of "me", for a total of 58 first person singular pronouns.

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