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"Talking out of two ears"

From p. 224 of the transcript of the April 30 session of The People of the State of New York against Donald Trump, Defendant, where prosecutor Joshua Steinglass is questioning Keith Davidson, who was Stormy Daniel's lawyer at the time of the hush-money payment from Michael Cohen:

Q. During this time, were you also speaking with Michael Cohen on the phone?

A. Yes.

Q. How would you describe his demeanor during this time?

A. He was highly excitable. Sort of a pants on fire kind of guy. He had a lot of things going on. Frequently I would be on the phone with him, he would take another call, he would be talking out of two ears. Sort of like that movie with the dogs and squirrels.

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Tim Cook crushes it everything

The video featured in Tim Cook's latest Xeet:

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Sinoglyphic scripts for Sinitic and non-Sinitic languages in East / Southeast Asia

Forthcoming from De Gruyter, July 14, 2024 (ISBN: 9783111382746):

Vernacular Chinese-Character Manuscripts from East and Southeast Asia, edited by: David Holm.

Volume 40 in the series Studies in Manuscript Cultures

Keywords: Asia; vernacular; ritual; library collections; recitation

Topics:  Asian Literature; Asian and Pacific Studies; Dialectology; Linguistics and Semiotics; Literary Studies; Literature of other Nations and Languages; Southeast Asia; Textual Scholarship; Theoretical Frameworks and Disciplines

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Retrospective censorship of Uyghur texts

From a memoir by Uyghur poet Tamir Hamut Izgil, Waiting to Be Arrested at Night, Bruce Humes posted on his Ethnic ChinaLit blog (12/30/23) this brief excerpt about how content, once commissioned and approved by the Chinese state, became grounds for incarceration of researchers, writers and editors:

Huítóu kàn gōngchéng 回头看工程 — Xinjiang’s Ominous “Looking Back Project”

Uyghur poet’s memoir recalls the Xinjiang administration’s retroactive hunt for unPC content in textbooks once commissioned, edited and published by the state:

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Locative variation

One of the hard parts of learning a new language is figuring out what preposition to use when (or what postposition, or what case, or etc.). This can be tricky even for simple locative expressions:

I live in France.      J'habite en France.
I live in Paris        J'habite à Paris.
I live in Japan.       J'habite au Japon.
I live in the forest.  J'habite dans la forêt.

…and so on.  Except that you could also say "J'habite sur Paris", meaning something like "I live in the Paris area".

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BoJo bamboozled

From Philip Taylor:

The British media were flooded yesterday with reports that former Prime Minister Boris Johnson had been “bamboozled” by scientific evidence presented during the Covid-19 pandemic.  My understanding of "bamboozle" has always been that deception must be involved, and this is borne out by the OED, but there was clearly no deception in this case (other than, perhaps, self-deception, in that BoJo may well have convinced himself that he did understand the scientific evidence, when he clearly did not), so why did Sir Patrick Valance, then Chief Scientific Advisor to HMG, record in his diary that “the Prime Minister was at times ‘bamboozled’” ?

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The history of "artificial intelligence"

The Google Books ngram plot for "artificial intelligence" offers a graph of AI's culturomics:

According to the OED, the first use of the term artificial intelligence was in a 13-page grant application by John McCarthy, Marvin Minsky, Nathaniel Rochester, and Claude Shannon, "A proposal for the Dartmouth summer research project on artificial intelligence", written in the summer of 1955:

We propose that a 2 month, 10 man study of artificial intelligence be carried out during the summer of 1956 at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. The study is to proceed on the the basis of the conjecture that every aspect of learning or any other feature of intelligence can in principle be so precisely described that a machine can be made to simulate it. An attempt will be made to find how to make machines use language, form abstractions and concepts, solve kinds of problems now reserved for humans, and improve themselves. We think that a significant advance can be made in one or more of these problems if a carefully selected group of scientists work on it together for a summer.

The proposal uses the phrase repeatedly without quotation marks, capitalization, or any other indication of its status as a neologism, suggesting that it was in common conversational usage before that (apparently) first publication, and/or that the authors thought its compositional meaning was obvious.

There's no question that the concept had been under discussion for a decade or so at that point, with analogous ideas to be found hundreds of years earlier. And there are older uses of the phrase "artificial intelligence", in interestingly divergent contexts, also going back hundreds of years.

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The changing accents of British English

King’s English and Cockney replaced by three new accents, study finds

Britons depart from overtly class-based post-war speech epitomised by either clipped vowels or working-class dialects

By Charles Hymas, The Telegraph, Home Affairs Editor 

I vaguely recall an earlier study from about ten years ago that came to similar conclusions (including the emergence of a "multicultural" accent).  It's not surprising that differences would gradually diminish, especially under the influence of enhanced, pervasive mass communications and increased population mobility.

What we see, though, is that, as the older, established accents wither away, new ones arise among various shifting cultural, ethnic, and social regroupings.

Remember the Valley Girl accent, which people used to talk about a lot ten or twenty years ago?  Where is it now?

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Black Hand: Language Log foretells the future

From Brian Miller:

I believe it was your comment here on a 2019 use of a phrase in China politics or press

“Thus my second surmise was that, by 'black hand', the CCP / PRC mean 'stealthy manipulator who remains totally out of view'.  But how does it get that meaning in Chinese?”

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Viral vibe

"Chinese Song Streamed Billions of Times for ‘Satirical’ Vibe"

Yomiuri Shimbun (August 29, 2023)

Here's the song, with the lyrics in characters, pinyin romanization, and a poor English translation:

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Tortured phrases, LLMs, and Goodhart's Law

A few years ago, I began to notice that the scientific and technical papers relentless spammed at me, by academia.edu and similar outfits, were becoming increasingly surrealistic. And I soon learned that the source for such articles was systems for "article spinning" by "rogeting" — automatic random subsitution of (usually inappropriate) synonyms. Those techniques were originally developed many years ago for spamdexing, i.e. generating "link farms" of fake pages, in order to fool search engine ranking systems by evading simple forms of content similarity detection,

And the same techniques also fool simple systems for plagiarism detection — though the incoherent results are not useful for student papers, at least in cases where instructors actually read the submissions. But the same time period saw the parallel growth of predatory publishing (and analogous developments among generally reputable publishers), and the use of mindless quantitative publication metrics to evaluate researchers, faculty and institutions. The result: an exponential explosion of "tortured phrases" in the scientific, technical, and scholarly literature: "talk affirmation" for "speech recognition", "straight expectation" for "linear prediction", "huge information" for "big data", "gullible Bayes" for "naive Bayes",  "irregular woodland" for "random forest", "savvy home" for "smart home", and so on.

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Apostrophes in Hanyu Pinyin

The most famous instance of the use of an apostrophe in Hanyu Pinyin romanization is in the place name "Xi'an", the capital of Shaanxi (the doubled "a" is another story) Province.

Xī'ān 西安 — two characters signifying "Western Peace"

If you don't use an apostrophe to separate the syllables, you end up with the monosyllable "xian", which — depending upon the tone and the character it is meant to represent — could mean dozens of different things.

Mark Swofford has carried out an interesting investigation on "Mandarin words with more than one apostrophe", Pinyin News (6/11/23).

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Annals of inventive pinyin: rua

This exercise video shows a woman repeating the syllable "rua" to describe a move that she makes:

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