Half == Partly

It's common to see half used to mean something much vaguer than "1/2" or "one of two equal parts", and as a result, things sometimes end up with three or more halves. A nice recent example (from Megan Twohey and Jacob Bernstein, "The 'Lady of the House' Who Was Long Entangled With Jeffrey Epstein", NYT 7/15/2019):

Shortly after Ghislaine Maxwell arrived in New York from England in the early 1990s, she was looking for a new start. She had just lost her father, a British media mogul, along with much of her family fortune and her social standing.

Soon she was on the rise with the help of her new boyfriend, Jeffrey Epstein, a rich financier. It was the beginning of a mutually beneficial relationship. With Mr. Epstein, Ms. Maxwell was able to resurrect the lifestyle she coveted. […]

Euan Rellie, an investment banker who attended dinner parties that she and Mr. Epstein hosted in New York, said she "seemed to be half ex-girlfriend, half employee, half best friend, and fixer."

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (18)


Corpora and the Second Amendment: "the right (of the people) to … bear arms"

An introduction and guide to this series of posts is available here. The corpus data can be downloaded here. Important: Use the "Download" button at the top right of the screen.

New URL for COFEA and COEME: https://lawcorpus.byu.edu.

Having dealt in my last post with how bear arms was ordinarily used and understood in 18th-century America, I'll turn in this post to the question of how it was used in the Second Amendment.

I'll begin by considering how the right to bear arms would most likely have been understood during the Founding Era. As I will explain, I think it would have been understood to mean something along the lines of 'serve in the militia.' I'll then ask whether that conclusion is changed by the fact that the right to bear arms is described in the Second Amendment as belonging to "the people." My answer will be that my conclusion is unchanged.

My next post will wrap up my examination of the Second Amendment by considering whether my interpretation is ruled out by the fact that the Second Amendment deals not simply with the right of the people to bear arms but with their right to keep and bear arms. And again, the answer will be no.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (4)


"Avoid characterizing it as anything but racism"

Paul Farhi, "'Racist' tweets? News media grapple with how to label Trump's latest attacks", Washington Post 7/15/2019:

When is it time to call a statement "racist," and when is it time to let others characterize it that way?

News organizations wrestled with that question Sunday and Monday after President Trump tweeted a series of statements aimed at four members of Congress, all women of color. […]

Arizona State journalism professor Dan Gillmor said news organizations are guilty of "weasel wording" when they avoid characterizing the president's tweets as anything but racism.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (8)


"Mulan" is a masculine, non-Sinitic name

There is much hullabaloo over the new "Mulan" trailer:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (27)


Changelings

In response to my question about a "term for exchange errors in the mapping from thematic roles to syntactic positions" (in "Thematic spoonerisms"), Jerry Friedman pointed us to hypallage. The OED's first citation for this word is to George Puttenham's 1589 The Arte of English Poesie:

1589 G. Puttenham Arte Eng. Poesie iii. xv. 143 The Greekes call this figure [Hipallage]..we in our vulgar may call him the [vnderchange] but I had rather haue him called the [Changeling].

So I looked up the book, and the context is so much fun that it deserves to be reproduced in full.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (11)


Thematic spoonerisms?

Matt Richtel, "Urinary Tract Infections Affect Millions. The Cures Are Faltering", NYT 7/13/2019 [emphasis added]:

For generations, urinary tract infections, one of the world's most common ailments, have been easily and quickly cured with a simple course of antibiotics.

But there is growing evidence that the infections, which afflict millions of Americans a year, mostly women, are increasingly resistant to these medicines, turning a once-routine diagnosis into one that is leading to more hospitalizations, graver illnesses and prolonged discomfort from the excruciating burning sensation that the infection brings.[…]

The drug ampicillin, once a mainstay for treating the infections, has been abandoned as a gold standard because it is so often resistant to multiple strains of U.T.I.s.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (31)


Nicknames for foreign cars in China

"Porsche and BMW are known as 'broken shoes' and 'don't touch me' in China", by Echo Huang

Many of these names are off-color and some even quite vulgar, but they are all affectionate:

Audi's RS series:  xīzhuāng bàotú 西装暴徒 ("a gangster in a suit"), inspired by the car's smooth look and impressive horsepower (some links in Chinese).

Bugatti's Veyron: féi lóng 肥龙 ("fat dragon").  The French car manufacturer's high-performance Veyron sports car earned the moniker for its round-front face design, and because "ron" in Veyron sounds like "lóng" ("dragon"), just as "Vey" sounds like féi ("fat").

BMW: bié mō wǒ 别摸我 ("don't touch / rub me").  The German acronym for Bayerische Motoren Werke forms the basis to create a Mandarin phrase that expresses how precious people consider the car to be.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (4)


Academic rubbish

Echo Huang from Quartz (7/5/19) has written a fun and interesting article on Shanghai's new waste sorting rules:

"'What kind of rubbish are you?': China's first serious trash-sorting rule is driving Shanghai crazy"

Echo also has a related Chinese version.

"Starting Monday (July 1), individuals and businesses in China's financial capital who fail to separate trash correctly face fines and even a lower social credit rating (link in Chinese) that could make it hard to get a bank loan."

The following "sticker" / image macro showing the "Shanghai aunties" (Shànghǎi āyí 上海阿姨) who help people sort their trash is a favorite of Weibo microbloggers:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (22)


Militarism and Pacifism Among Phonemes

A recent request from Steve Anderson led me to borrow from our library its copy of the Proceedings of the Third International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, Held at the University of Ghent, 18-22 July 1938. (Why the scanned book isn't available from Google Books or from the Hathi Trust isn't clear to me…)

There are many curious and interesting features of this volume, such as the fact that most of the participants from Germany are cited in the List of Members as "Delegate of the German Government", e.g.

BACH, Prof. A., Drachenfelsstr., 1, Bonn a/Rhein, Germany. (Delegate of the German Government.)
FEYER, Miss Ursula, Eulerstr., 21, Berlin N. 20, Germany. (Delegate of the German Government.)
FISCHER, Prof. W., Englisches Seminar, Universität Giessen, Ludwigstr., 19, Germany. (Delegate of the German Government.)

I saw no analogous identification of scholars from other countries, though perhaps I missed a few.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (13)


They triumphs?

Farhad Manjoo, "Call Me 'They'", NYT 7/10/2019:

The singular "they" is inclusive and flexible, and it breaks the stifling prison of gender expectations. Let's all use it.

I am your stereotypical, cisgender, middle-aged suburban dad. I dabble in woodworking, I take out the garbage, and I covet my neighbor's Porsche. Though I do think men should wear makeup (it looks nice!), my tepid masculinity apparently rings loudly enough online and in person that most people guess that I go by "he" and "him." And that's fine; I will not be offended if you refer to me by those traditional, uselessly gendered pronouns.

But "he" is not what you should call me. If we lived in a just, rational, inclusive universe — one in which we were not all so irredeemably obsessed by the particulars of the parts dangling between our fellow humans' legs, nor the ridiculous expectations signified by those parts about how we should act and speak and dress and feel — there would be no requirement for you to have to assume my gender just to refer to me in the common tongue.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (63)


Making the goats dance

According to abcduvin.com ("tout sur le vin, ses techniques, son vocabulaire"), the phrase "À faire danser les chèvres" ("To make the goats dance") means "Vin trop acide, désagréable à boire" ("Wine that's too acid, disagreeable to drink").

The Dictionnaire de L'Académie Française cites the same expression: "Du vin à faire danser les chèvres, du vin très acide".

Although the metaphor is not entirely transparent, "make the goats dance" could be used in English, and indeed has been.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (12)


Corpora and the Second Amendment: "bear arms" (part 3) [UPDATED]

[Part 1, Part 2.] An introduction and guide to this series of posts is available here. The corpus data can be downloaded here. Important: Use the "Download" button at the top right of the screen. 

New URL for COFEA and COEME: https://lawcorpus.byu.edu.

From The Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut
From October, 1735, to October, 1743, Inclusive

—♦—

THIS WILL BE my final post about bear arms, and it will be followed by a post on the right of the people to … bear arms and another on keep and bear arms. These posts will directly address the linguistic issues that are most important in evaluating the Supreme Court's decision in District of Columbia v. Heller: how bear arms was ordinarily used in the America of the late 18th century, and how the right of the people, to keep and bear Arms was likely to have been understood.

As I've previously explained, the court held in Heller that at the time of the Framing, bear arms ordinarily meant 'wear, bear, or carry … upon the person or in the clothing or in a pocket, for the purpose of being armed and ready for offensive or defensive action in a case of conflict with another person.' In my last post, I discussed the uses of bear arms in the corpus that I thought were at least arguably consistent with that that meaning. Out of the 531 uses that I identified as being relevant, there were only 26 in that category—less than 5% of the total.

In this post I'll discuss the other 95%.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (17)


Emojis vs. emoticons

Here's an emoji:  😻

Here's an emoticon:  :‐)

As we will see below, the superficial resemblance of the two words is completely coincidental — even though they both have to do with the visual depiction of emotions and ideas in texts.

This post began as a comment to "Emoticons as writing" (7/7/19), but it soon became too long and too complex to fit in a comment, so it now receives separate treatment of its own.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (25)