Archive for Changing times

Irasshaimase?

[This is a guest post by Nathan Hopson]

I never thought this day would come.

From convenience stores to high-end luxury retailers, the daily soundscape of Japan is punctuated by millions upon millions of calls of “Irassshaimase!” It’s a greeting so pervasive that it becomes one of the most searing impressions of the country for first-time tourists, and for those of us who live here long-term it’s hard to imagine Japan without it. But perhaps now we will have to. The unthinkable, it seems, has been thought.

Irasshaimase (いらっしゃいませ) is a formal imperative form. It comes from the root verb irassharu (いらっしゃる), a “polite” verb that can mean to come, go, or be. The simple imperative is irasshai (いらっしゃい), which, though more unusual these days, can still be stumbled upon if you escape some of the more formalized spaces of the mainstream bourgeois economy. Both irasshaimase and irasshai mean, more or less, “Come on over!” or “Come on in!” In its modern incarnation, used primarily to greet customers who have already entered a store or restaurant, the nuance of irasshaimase is closer to “Welcome!” Occasionally you’ll hear it paired with “Goyukkuri dōzo” (ごゆっくりどうぞ), in other words, “Please take your time.”

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More obsolete communications technology

Following up on our discussion of faxes and pdfs ("Obsolete communications technology", 7/13/2020), an even older textual transmission method is featured in the punch line of today's Doonesbury:

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Spelling out whole words

A recent Frazz:

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Coronavirus slang and the rapid evolution of English

People describe the experience of living through COVID-19 lockdowns and extreme social distancing as being "weird", "strange", "unsettling", "disturbing", and so on.  As such, the current circumstances give rise to all sorts of new expressions to express their feelings and activities which are so different from "normal" times, one of the most common terms for what we're going through often being called "the new normal".

Jason Kottke, meister of one of the most venerable blogs, kottke.org, has written about these changes in "Covid-19 Slang and How Language Evolves Quickly in Stressful Times" (5/13/20). He draws on two other articles.  From Tony Thorne's "#CORONASPEAK – the language of Covid-19 goes viral – 2", language and innovation (4/15/20), he garners the following:

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Autres temps, autres mœurs

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Ladle Rat Rotten Hut, Emojis and coded communication in Shanghai

Look everyone! it's a post about language in China by not-Victor! :)

I just had to drop everything and write this post while I was listening to the latest Reply-All podcast, this week consisting of a series of phone interviews with people around the world about the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic in their area. The first interview was with Justine from Shanghai, and she was talking about ways people were working around censorship in talking about…

…uh oh I suddenly realize I may be doing a disservice to the Chinese public by posting about this, so I won't go into all the detail I intended. Anyway, the basic idea is that folks were using homophonic transliteration with emojis to get around censorship of certain stories about the epidemic there. You can listen to the podcast here; the relevant bit is between minutes 4:40 and 6:15.

If you can imagine it, this would be like trying to parse "Little Red Riding Hood" from emojis  like💡💯🐀✍️👱‍♂️. Leaving comments open to see if anyone can figure out what homophonic transliteration words I intend for that sequence. First prize is a disinfected plastic cup with logo from the Language Log water cooler stash delivered by drone sometime in 2022.

It's probably worth noting that this idea of communicating via pictures of sound-alikes is basically the actual honest to god origin of phonetically based writing systems. Also worth noting that this way of repurposing symbols to represent sounds of another expression has a long history particularly in Chinese and related languages, whose linguistic features mean that you often have lots of homophones and near-homophones, and whose logographic writing systems probably lend themselves to that kind of graphemic/phonemic cross-indexing during lexical lookup. (Someone must be studying that, right? ) So you get a lot of punning and double-entendres in Chinese writing, if I understand rightly.

If the idea of homophonic transliteration is new to you,  you could get in the wayback machine and check out this archival LL post from simpler times, here.

Wishing all my fellow humans the very best from a living room in Arizona!

 

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COVID-19 songs

I've recently seen several 1980s songs about troubled romantic relationships re-purposed to refer to the COVID-19 disaster. The most viral is Gloria Gaynor's "I will survive":

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Real people in virtual worlds: a viral update?

The idea of real people interacting in virtual worlds has been a staple of SF writing at least since the 1980s. There have been networked multi-player games at least since the 1970s, and of course such games have become a big deal in recent years. And more and more, the meetings that I'm involved in have some or all participants joining via internet-based virtual meeting software, like Skype, Zoom, Chime, etc.

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*Neither Sentence Nor Sentence?

Today in Seth Cable's seminar on Montague's Universal grammar, he gave out a problem set that included the task of adding "Neither Mitt smokes nor Barack smokes" to the little fragment of English that had been developed. And in the discussion of the problem set, it turned out that I was the only one in the class who seemed to have any doubts about whether the sentence "Neither Mitt smokes nor Barack smokes" was grammatical.
My own intuition was that it had to be "Neither does Mitt smoke nor does Barack smoke", though that sounded a little funny too.

So out of curiosity I just checked in the big Huddleston and Pullum Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. I was afraid the question was too arcane to be covered there; but to my happy surprise they do actually discuss it, on pages 1308-9 in their chapter on coordination.

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"Talking to someone"

From Julia Preseau:

I am feeling old today, having just realized that "talking to" is a widely used way to describe beginning stage of "dating relationships."

I noted it in two of these interactions on a little video experiment regarding "girls trying to pick up girls".

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Readers in these times

It's common these days to lament the decline of civility caused by various forms of internet discourse. But for an eloquently uncivil condemnation of incivility, it's hard to beat the introduction ("To the Reader") of the 1598 edition of John Florio's Italian dictionary A Worlde of Wordes:

I knowe not how I may again adventure an Epistle to the Reader, so are the times or, readers in these times, most part sicke of the sullens, and peevish in their sicknes, and conceited in their peevishnes. So should I fear the fire who have felt the flame so lately, and flìe from the sea, that have yet a vow to pay for escaping my last ship wracke. […] But before I recount unto thee (gentle reader) the purpose of my new voyage: give me leave a little to please my selfe, and refresh thee with the discourse of my olde danger. Which because in some respect it is a common danger, the discoverie thereof may happily profit other men, as much as it please my selfe. And here might I begin with those notable Pirates on this our paper-sea, those sea-dogs, or lande-Critickes, monsters of men, if not beastes rather than men; whose teeth are Canibals, their toongs adder-forkes, their lips aspes-poyson, their eies basiliskes, their breath the breath of a grave, their wordes the swordes of Turkes, that strive which shall dive deepest into a Christian lying bound before them. But for these barking and biting dogs, they are as well knowne as Scylla and Charybdis.

There is another sort of leering curs, that rather snarle then bite, whereof I coulde instance in one, who lighting upon a good sonnet of a gentlemans, a friend of mine, that loved better to be a poet, than to be counted so, called the auctor a rymer, notwithstanding he had more skill in good Poetrie, then my slie gentleman seemed to have in good manners or humanitie. But my quarrell is to a tooth-lesse dog that hateth where he cannot hurt, and would faine bite, when he hath no teeth.

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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.

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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.

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