It's not just puns that are being banned in China

Even non-linguists and those who are not China watchers could hardly escape the momentous announcement of the Chinese government last week that casual punning was being outlawed:

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R.I.P. Emmon Bach

Emmon Bach died at home in Oxford on November 28 of pneumonia-induced sudden respiratory failure. Emmon was born on June 12, 1929, in Kumamoto, Japan, the youngest of six children of Danish missionary parents Ditlev Gotthard Monrad Bach and Ellen Sigrid Bach who moved with their family from Japan to the U.S. in 1941, where he grew up in Fresno and Boulder. He did his undergraduate and graduate work at the University of Chicago, with a Ph.D. in Germanic Studies in 1959; his dissertation was Patterns of Syntax in Hoelderlin’s Poems. He taught at the University of Texas from 1959 to 1972, first in the German Department and then in Linguistics, then at Queens College and the Graduate Center of CUNY in 1972–73. From 1973 until his retirement in 1992 he was Professor of Linguistics, and then Sapir Professor of Linguistics, at UMass Amherst, where he served as Department Head from 1977 until 1985. Starting a few years after his retirement from UMass, he held an appointment as a Professorial Research Associate at SOAS (University of London), where he taught semantics and field methods. And in 2007 he became affiliated with Oxford University, where he gave graduate lectures in Semantics and participated in the Syntax Working Group.

He was President of the Linguistic Society of America in 1996 and President of SSILA, the Society for the Study of Indigenous Languages of the Americas, this year.

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Ethanol tampons

Nicki Johnson sent in the following photograph taken in the local Carrefour in Haikou, Hainan, along with this comment: "I was rather horrified until I realized they were not what they claimed to be."

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Lots of planets have a Middlesbrough

A week ago, Bob Ladd pointed us to a Guardian story about British sociolinguistic prejudice ("Viewer offered BBC’s Steph McGovern £20 to 'correct' her northern accent", 11/25/2014). Steph McGovern is from Middlesbrough, and back in February of 2013 ITV News had one of its posher presenters trying to fix up Middlesbrough resident's pronunciation in real time:

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Past, present, and future

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about the future:  "Mirai".

The ensuing discussion was quite animated, touching upon the nuances and implications of words for the future in many different languages.  I concluded by saying that I would write a separate post about past, present, and future:  here it is.

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All the lonely Starbucks lovers

Melissa Dahl, "Why You Keep Mishearing That Taylor Swift Lyric", New York Magazine 11/24/2014:

There is a line in the newest Taylor Swift single “Blank Space” that I always, always hear wrong: Where Swift sings Got a long list of ex-lovers, for some reason I mishear, All the lonely Starbucks lovers. This makes no sense, but my brain persists in the misinterpretation, and apparently I’m not the only one. Over on Lainey Gossip today, Lainey herself writes:

At this point I think she should just change the name of the song to Lonely Starbucks Lovers. Yes, I can read the lyrics. But all I HEAR is “Lonely Starbucks Lovers”. And reading your emails and tweets, it seems you are the same.


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Lap Sangsouchong

You probably know it as Lapsang Souchong.  It is one of the most vexed and poorly understood of all English names for teas from China, many of which are notoriously difficult to figure out because they arose over a period of several hundred years and derived from numerous different Sinitic topolects.

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"It depends on where you are in the spectrum"

Martin Heymann writes (Tue, 2 Dec 2014 22:26:55 +1100):

Tonight, I was watching the Australian federal Minister of Education interviewed on TV.  He was discussing a senator called Dio Wang (see also here), and got in a bit of a scrap with the interviewer about how to pronounce the surname.

According to the Minister, "it depends on where you are in the spectrum" as to how the surname is pronounced.  Here's the clip (it's quite hilarious, especially because the recording keeps repeating in a loop).

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Triumph of bilingual labelling

[h/t Jonathan Lundell]

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"Closed minds": open to interpretation?

CNN International recently sent out this tweet, linking to an interview with Stella McCartney:

The headline, which also appears on CNN's website, left some people perplexed. Was Ms. McCartney saying that her parents closed minds, or did they open closed minds?

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U.K. political snobbery mostly ignored in U.S. media

At brunch on Saturday, a friend who gets his news from The New York Times observed that he'd read nothing about the Plebgate trial, which has been covered obsessively in the British press (see "Plebgate judgment", 11/28/2014, for some links). And he didn't miss an obscurely-placed item — as far as I can tell from searching the site, the Gray Lady covered the earlier stages of Andrew Mitchell's defense of his reputation ("Britain's Bobbies in the Dock", 3/18/2014; "Cloud is cast over Britain's Institutions", 10/24/2013; "The Fall Guy and the Bobbies", 10/18/2014; "British Police on Defensive Over Downing Street Clash", 10/16/2013), but has not yet published anything about the defamation trail and its 11/27/2014 verdict.

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Starvations

Nathan Hopson sent in this photo (from Nagoya, Japan, but there are similar stores all over Japan):

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No-excuses split infinitive in The Economist

I have grumbled on several previous occasions about the Economist's stubborn adherence to a brainless policy that its editors maintain: no adjuncts are to be located between the to and the verb in an infinitival clause, lest readers should get annoyed. That is, the magazine's style guide insists that the "split infinitive" construction should be avoided even though it is well known that the rule barring it is a 19th-century fiction and there is no serious rational ground for practicing the syntactic self-denial in question. The reason I grumble is that the more notable institutions like magazines or publishing houses insist on such silly rules the more money and time get wasted on enforcing compliance. So I was pleased to see this week that The Economist had slipped up and let one through. The court does not have nationwide jurisdiction, so the mogul is unlikely to ever be thrown behind bars said an article about the Pakistani blasphemy law on page 59 of the November 29th issue.

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