Military slang

On a large discussion list, I said something that involved a lot of close, careful reasoning and marshalling of evidence to come to a precise conclusion, and another member of the list approved what I wrote with a hearty "Shack!"

I was dumbfounded.

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Is this Cantonese, Mandarin, or a combination of the two?

Sign on a municipal bus in San Francisco:


(Sponsored by truthornahsf.org)

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Chinese signs in Australian election

As most people are aware, Australia had its general election last week.  Chinese politicians and signs promoting them were very much in evidence.  Here's an example of one that caused a lot of controversy:

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We close today for some reason

Seen on an entry door in San Francisco:

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Negative nostalgia

For more than three decades, I have edited and published a journal called Sino-Platonic Papers.  The first issue (Feb., 1986) was "The Need for an Alphabetically Arranged General Usage Dictionary of Mandarin Chinese: A Review Article of Some Recent Dictionaries and Current Lexicographical Projects" (free pdf; 31 pages) — that led to the creation of the ABC Chinese Dictionary Series at the University of Hawaii Press.  (One important title is missing at the highlighted link:  An Alphabetical Index to the Hanyu Da Cidian [2003].)

Up to #170 (Feb. 2006), SPP was issued only in paper copies.  It was a one-man operation, with me being responsible for all of the editing, typesetting, printing, filling orders, billing, packaging, mailing, etc. all over the world.  With hundreds of subscribers in scores of countries, and all of this on top of my teaching, research, writing, and fieldwork, not to mention family life, after ten years it was really dragging me down, and after twenty years, I felt that SPP was killing me.

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Dys-

A commenter's remark on the recent post "Dysfluency considered harmful":

I've always understood the 'dys-' prefix to be in contrast to an 'a-' prefix, where 'dys-' means something like 'born without' and 'a-' means 'loss of.' My favorite example of the contrast is 'dyslexia' vs. 'alexia', with the first meaning inherent problems with reading and the second meaning loss of the ability to read. Same with 'dysphasia'/'aphasia' and 'acalculia'/'dyscalculia.'

This is a good example of mistaken linguistic generalization from limited evidence. In fact the dys- prefix is usually said to be in contrast to the eu- prefix, not the a- prefix, though this is mostly an etymological idea rather than a fact of usage. In any case, dys- doesn't typically refer to inborn problems, but simply to abnormal, difficult, impaired, or bad characteristics.

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Prakritic "Kroraina" and Old Sinitic reconstructions of "Loulan", part 2

What follows is Doug Adams' draft of an excursus that is not trying to be complete in itself (i.e., it's not a free-standing article), but rather something that will provide a certain amount of orientation to readers of the review of Schmidt's Nachlass (for which see the first item in the "Readings" below).

[Excursus: The Name of Lóulán/Kroraina: It is universally assumed (1) that Lóulán (the contemporary Chinese pronunciation of the relevant Chinese characters) and Niya-Prākrit Kroraina (Sogdian krwr’n) refer to the same place[1] and, further, (2) that they are, at bottom, the same word.  In discussions of Lóulán/Kroraina, Lóulán is confidently given the earlier (Old/Middle?—the age is not usually noted) Chinese pronunciation of *γləulan or the like (Schmidt gives *γlaulan).  Since Middle Chinese (ca. 600 AD) /l/ is known to reflect Old Chinese (ca. 1000-200 BC) /r/, it would seem to be a short hop to a reconstruction of *γrəuran in, say, 500 BC.

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Insect name

How would you respond in your native language if someone walked up to you and asked (in your native language or in English or some other language which both of you know), "What's the word for 'the insect that eats wood and destroys walls'?".

A friend of mine in China did that with eight of his colleagues, and not a single one of them could remember the Chinese name for "the insect that eats wood and destroys walls".

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The life cycle of unicorns

Maybe the tide is turning against "Gene for X" thinking — Ed Yong, "A Waste of 1,000 Research Papers", 5/17/2019:

Decades of early research on the genetics of depression were built on nonexistent foundations. How did that happen?

In 1996, a group of European researchers found that a certain gene, called SLC6A4, might influence a person’s risk of depression.

[…]

But a new study—the biggest and most comprehensive of its kind yet—shows that this seemingly sturdy mountain of research is actually a house of cards, built on nonexistent foundations.

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Dysfluency considered harmful

… as a technical term, that is. Disfluency is no better, although the prefix is less judgmental. There are two problems:

  1. These terms pathologize normal behavior, creating confusion between pathological symptoms and common phenomena in normal speech, which may be different not only in their causes and their frequency but also in behavioral detail;
  2. Applied to normal speech, these terms often treat intrinsic aspects of the content and performance of spoken messages as if they were disruptions or failures.

My suggestion: we should use the term interpolation for silent pauses, filled pauses, filler words or phrases, repetitions and corrections, etc. This leaves open the question of whether such interpolations are normal or pathological, and whether or not they're an intrinsic part of the content and performance of the message.

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The "riddle of the rock"

Hugh Schofield, "France asks: Can you solve the riddle of the rock?", BBC News 5/10/2019:

A village in western France is offering a €2,000 (£1,726) prize for help in deciphering a 230-year-old inscription found on a rock on a remote beach.

Until now no-one has been able to make out the meaning of the 20 lines of writing, discovered a few years ago.

The metre-high slab is in a cove accessible only at low tide near the Brittany village of Plougastel.


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(Linear) A/B testing

To understand today's xkcd, you need to know what A/B Testing is, what Linear A and Linear B are, what Aksara Kawi is, what JavaScript and some of its subtypes are, …

Mouseover title: "We wrote our site in Linear A rather than Aksara Kawi because browser testing showed that Crete script rendered faster than Java script."

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Their's

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