Archive for Names

"Little competent donkey"

Announced only yesterday, Alibaba has a new robot delivery vehicle for the last mile:

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Easy Grammar from the Free Hong Kong Center

Not sure what they mean by "grammar" here, but they sure do have a message:

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Idle thoughts on "gelding"

The title and the following observations come from Rebecca Hamilton:

I was reading Patrick Leigh Fermor's Between the Woods and the Water: on Foot to Constantinople, as I convalesce from COVID-19 (I've had a hard time of it), and I stumbled upon an aside he made about the French "hongre," meaning "gelding," as does the German "wallach." He made this comment – without further explication – in the context of a discussion of the ethnographic roots of Hungarians, Wallachians, and Rumanians (in particular, the latter as being descendants of Roman occupation, if not Romans themselves). What all this means, I cannot say. It seemed like a topic you would know something about. Because I am confined to bed for the moment, if you could be so kind as to forward me some reading material, I would be very grateful. Also, anything about "Wales" or "Welsh" sharing etymological roots with "Wallach," and how "wether" fits into all this would be great.

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Chinese idol names

[This is a guest post by Alex Baumans]

I recently became aware of the Chinese idol survival programme 'Youth with you', which has resulted in the formation of the group The 9. I got to wondering about the members' names. The group consists of XIN Liu, Esther Yu, Kiki Xu, Yan Yu, Shaking, Babymonster An, Xiaotang Zhao, Snow Kong and K Lu. Of these, only Zhao Xiaotang strikes me as an original Chinese name. As my Mandarin is non existent, I can only guess at the derivation of the other stage names.

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New novel coronavirus market

Those who followed the origins of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic will remember that it was often connected with a Wuhan "wet market" called Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market.  Now another wholesale market is suspected of being the point of origin for a second wave of the coronavirus, this time in Beijing.  Here is a report on the different interpretations of the name of the market from a born-and-bred Beijinger:

People in Beijing are getting disquieted again these days, because there have been 51 new domestically transmitted COVID-19 cases reported within 4 days in this city, which are all linked to the most important wholesale market in Beijing. This wholesale market, "Xīnfādì 新发地"*, although very well-known to the locals, is not very familiar to people in other provinces, and it's interesting that some have thus misinterpreted the name of this wholesale market "Xīnfādì 新发地" as "[Xīn] guān bào[fā] de [dì]fāng【新】冠 爆【发】的【地】方"** (a possible abbreviation for "the location of the outbreak of Novel Coronavirus"). People here had been almost lulled into a sense of security since there had been no newly registered domestic cases in Beijing for about 2 months, and now it seems that there could be another outbreak on a smaller scale.

[VHM:

* My original supposition was that the "fā 发" of this name likely derives from "pīfā 批发" ("wholesale").  "Xīn 新" means "new" and "dì 地" means "place" = "New Wholesale Place".  But see below for the actual derivation, which is both quite surprising and quite appropriate for the latest usage.

**  Again, "[xīn] 【新】" means "new; novel", "  "guān 冠" means "crown; corona", "bào[fā] 爆【发】" means "erupt; explode", "de 的" indicates that what precedes this particle is a modifier,  and "[dì]fāng 【地】方" means "place", hence "place of the new eruption of the coronavirus".]

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Cvrk

If you're looking for words with lots of consonants and few or seemingly no vowels, try Eastern Europe, especially Czechia.

I have a friend named Stu Cvrk, and I asked him the story of his surname and how to pronounce it.  Here's what he told me:

It is Czech. The Czech pronunciation is "tsverk". My grandparents Americanized it a bit to make it easier to say, as we now pronounce it "swerk."

The story of its derivation according to family lore is this:

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Noam'n copies

This is a guest post by Corey Miller.


Sometime in the course of my Zoom Russian class, I brought up Chomsky. I thought enough to say /xomski/, but the teacher surprised me when he said /naum/. I checked out his Russian Wikipedia entry and sure enough it says Ноам (Наум). I must say one of the advantages of Zoom language class is that you can Google (translate)—for the serious student I think it’s more enrichment than cheating.

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Wolf Warrior Diplomacy

A little over two years ago, I made a rather detailed post on Lycogala epidendrum, commonly known as wolf's milk or groening's slime, and its metaphorical applications in China:

"Wolf's milk, a slime mold attractive to young Chinese?" (4/7/18)

During the interim, the popularity of this lowly amoeba has only grown, until it has become the model for an aggressive style of diplomacy on the world stage called in Chinese "zhàn láng wàijiāo 戰狼外交" ("wolf warrior diplomacy").  Synergistically, it has joined forces with another microoranism, this one called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), also known as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and a host of other names that I will refrain from mentioning here for fear of pushing the wrong buttons (this is highly fraught topic, one that must be treated delicately, lest one stirs up a hornets' nest of conflicting onomastic opinions).  Together, COVID-19 and wolf warrior diplomacy have brought the world to the brink of pandemic strife.

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The historical phonology of "Han", the main Chinese ethnonym

[VHM:  This is a guest post by Chris Button.  It will be primarily of interest to specialists in the phonological history of Sinitic.  Since there are quite a few such scholars on Language Log, I expect that it will occasion the usual lively debate that follows posts on such subjects.  It will also undoubtedly be of interest to historical phonologists in general, as well as to a broad spectrum of Sinologists and their colleagues focusing on other Asian cultures and languages.]

I've been thinking about the etymological associations of Hàn 漢. It's often reconstructed with an aspirated coronal nasal as *hn-, in spite of the Middle Chinese x- then being somewhat unexpected (Baxter and Sagart put it down to dialects), largely on the basis of the *n- in 難. But its etymological association with 艱 and its velar *k- make this problematic. A regular source of MC x- would be *hŋ- which then at least would be a velar onset to parallel *k-. The *n- in 難 could perhaps be put down to some sort of assimilation of *ŋ- with the *-n coda (one might compare 般 *pán < *pám where there is dissimilation of the coda unlike in its phonetic 凡 *bàm) . At the very least, 漢 most likely went back to something like *hŋáns and then *xáns with a velar onset and the -s eventually becoming qu-sheng. An alternative option is rhinoglottophilia whereby a *ʔ became *n- as attested in cases like 憂 *ʔə̀w and 獶(夒) *nə́w a I mentioned here.

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BiH

I've been familiar with the country name "Bosnia and Herzegovina" for quite some time, but until this morning I've never seen it referred to as BiH.  I came upon this usage in news reports about the delivery of PRC medical supplies to that country, e.g., here.  Although the Chinese printing on the boxes in the background of the photograph in this report is small and blurred, we can verify from other sources (e.g., here) what it says:

wànlǐ shàng wéi lín, xiāngzhù wú yuǎnjìn 万里尚为邻,相助无远近 ("ten thousand miles but still neighbors, mutual assistance has no far or near")

Other recent uses may be found here and here.

Can anybody transcribe and translate the printing in Roman letters (Bosnian? Croatian?) that is also on the boxes?

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Alphabetical transcriptions in Cantonese

[This is a guest post by Till Kraemer]

I live in Hong Kong, and many things are fascinating here, especially the way they use English characters in Cantonese. Some very frequently used words (including tones and everything) don't have Chinese characters at all, like "hea" and "chur". Obviously it's colloquial, but this interesting Chinese/English mix goes as far as official names of movies:

(image source)

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The order of surnames and given names in East Asian languages

From Frank Chance:

I have complained for years about the reversal of Japanese names in the Western – and Japanese – media.

If China can dictate pinyin, as it essentially did in 1979, Japan can lead in the change to respect the original language.

Here's an article that speaks to this issue:

"Japan asked the international media to change how we write their names. No one listened", by James Griffiths, CNN Business (3/21/20):

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More on Persian kinship terms; "daughter" and the laryngeals

Following up on "Turandot and the deep Indo-European roots of 'daughter'" (3/16/20), John Mullan (student of Arabic, master calligrapher, and expert chorister) writes:

As someone who’s studied a bit of Persian and a few other Indo European languages, I’ve always found it odd that most all of the kinship terms in Persian—mādar, pedar, barādar, dokhtar, pesar (cf. ‘puer’ in Latin and ‘pais’ in Greek, I assume)—have easy equivalents to my ear, /except/ ‘khāhar,’ sister. Wiktionary suggests it’s still related.

One quite recent finding of mine in PIE. As you probably know, 'Baghdad' is not an Arabic name, but a Persian one. It's composed of 'Bagh,' God (not the word used today), and 'Dād,' Given/Gift. Now I'm familiar with Bagh, ultimately, from listening to way too much Russian choral music and hearing Church Slavonic 'Bozhe.' Similarly, in the deep corners of my Greek student mind I remember names like 'Mithradates'—gift of Mithra or something along those lines—popping up as rulers/governors of city states in Classical Anatolia. What I /didn't/ pick out was the exact same construct as 'Baghdad' hiding in front of my eyes all along. There are two active NBA players named 'Bogdan(ović).' It's the same name as the city, only it's popped up in Serbo-Croatian. Funny stuff.

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