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


The Annoying PPP (past-perfect progressive)

It's only January, yet we may have already seen this year's winner in the category of Misapprehensions about Chinese Characters and the Nature of Language.  It appears in Xiaolu Guo's "‘Is this what the west is really like?’ How it felt to leave China for Britain" (The Guardian, 1/10/17).  Ms. Guo's long essay, an adapted extract from her forthcoming Once Upon a Time in the East: A Story of Growing Up, is preceded by this dismal epigraph:

Desperate to find somewhere she could live and work as she wished, moved from Beijing to London in 2002. But from the weather to the language and the people, nothing was as she expected.

Poor Xiaolu Guo!

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (26)


The Road to Wazoo

The OED has wazoo, n., glossed as "The buttocks; the anus",  noting that it is used "Freq. as a (euphemistic) substitute for ass in fig. phrases, as pain in the wazoo, etc.", giving special notice to the expression up (also out) the wazoo, glossed as "in great quantities, in abundance, to excess.

Wiktionary has the gloss "(vulgar, slang) the anus; ass", with derived terms listed as up the wazoo and out the wazoo, both glossed as "(vulgar, idiomatic) up the ass; excessive or excessively; too much".

But as a result of phonetic processes like those discussed here the other day, the pronunciation of the in a phrase like "up the wazoo" often overlaps with what the pronunciation of to would be in a similar context.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (46)


Cantonese teachers influenced by Mandarin

[This is a guest post by Silas S. Brown]

It seems a few native Cantonese speakers employed in the production of Cantonese language courses are quite happy to read out Mandarin vocabulary with Cantonese pronunciation, rather than the actual native Cantonese versions of the words, and I can't help wondering why.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (20)


New Year's resolutions

Today's xkcd is distressingly close to not being a joke:

Comments (18)


Transcription, lenition and allophonic variation

I doubt that many native speakers of American English will recognize this word:

But with a little more context, more people will get the message:

And if we play the whole pause group, it becomes obvious:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (24)


Dialectology of Japanese reflexive exclamations

Fascinating episode of a Japanese TV program called Detective Knight Scoop (Tantei Knight Scoop):


Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (23)