Archive for Language and politics

Cuccinelli, Lazarus, and Morse

In a recent interview ("Immigration Chief: 'Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor Who Can Stand On Their Own 2 Feet'", NPR 8/13/2019), the director of the Citizenship and Immigration Service suggested an update to the poem on the Statue of Liberty:

Q: Would you also agree that Emma Lazarus's words, etched on the Statue of Liberty, "Give me your tired, your poor", are also part of the American ethos?
A: Uh they certainly are — "Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet, and who will not become a public charge."

In a later interview the same day, Ken Cuccinelli suggested that when Lazarus wrote about "your tired, your poor, […] the wretched refuse of your teeming shore", she didn't mean that those people were actually indigent:

Well of course that poem was referring back to people coming from Europe, where they had class-based societies, where people were considered wretched if they weren't in the right class.

But the history is more complicated.

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Cryptic, allusive messages from Hong Kong's wealthiest tycoon

People have been wondering when Hong Kong's magnates would speak out on the prolonged protests in their city.  Finally one has.  That's Li Ka-shing, the richest of them all:  "HK Billionaire Li Ka-Shing Breaks Silence Over Protests" (8/15/19 newscast on YouTube).  He took out full page advertisements (both seem to be on the front page) in two of Hong Kong's most influential financial newspapers:  Hong Kong Economic Times and Hong Kong Economic Journal.  Here's the first:

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Women's Romanization for Hong Kong

The Hong Kong extradition bill protests, with hundreds of thousands of people, sometimes even a million or two million people (out of a total population of 7.392 million) on the streets, have been going on for more than 11 weeks, with no end in sight, even though the PRC keeps threatening to invade.  One of the main problems the protesters face is how to deal with infiltrators from the north who pretend to be protesters, but promote violence and beat up the Hong Kong people.  Here's one way the Hongkongers are using to expose the intruders:

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Simplified characters in Hong Kong police newsletter

It's strange that there are some simplified characters in the Hong Kong police newsletter, but stranger still that they are only sporadic:

Simplified Chinese characters (in red circles) are found in the online
edition of OffBeat. Police Commissioner Andy Tsang (inset) holds a copy of
the newsletter at a press conference last month. Photos: Stand News, HKEJ

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Xinjiang Uygur

China Daily News headline:

"Xinjiang Uygur sees big influx of visitors", by Cheng Si (8/7/19)

N.B.:  "Domestic travelers accounted for 98 percent of those visiting the region, while the top three sources of overseas visitors were Kazakhstan, Russia and Mongolia."

Never mind that it's hard to imagine why tourists would be rushing to the world's largest concentration camp.  The wording of the title left me reeling:  what is this "Xinjiang Uygur" that is seeing a "big influx of visitors"?  As the subject of a passive sentence about an increase of tourists, that locution strikes me as ungrammatical and unidiomatic.  (If they changed the last word and wrote "Xinjiang Uygur sees big influx of borrowings", then I could understand the first two words as referring to the standard Uyghur language of the region.)

I'm not the only person who feels that  way.

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Go protest on Causeway Road

From the Facebook page of the Hong Kong poet, Tammy Ho Lai-Ming, president of PEN Hong Kong, as reproduced in Andrea Lingenfelter, "At This Moment, Everyone Is a Revolution: The Poems of Tammy Ho Lai-Ming and the Hong Kong Crisis", Blog // Los Angeles Review of Books (8/4/19):

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Spiritually Japanese

A cartoonist and her collaborator have been arrested in China for being "spiritually Japanese" (jīng Rì 精日).  They have also been accused of "insulting China" (rǔ Huá 辱华).  The latter term is transparent, and I've been hearing it a lot for the last couple of decades, whereas the former term is morphologically more difficult to understand (lit., "spirit Ja[pan]") and is new to me.

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The United Front represents your meaning: Tibetan neologisms, New Social Strata emojis and the Sagerean Section

[This is a guest post by Jichang Lulu.]

A recent paper by Alex Joske features Sitar སྲི་ཐར་ (Wylie Sri thar, Chinese transcription Sita 斯塔), a senior CCP united front cadre. Sitar's career included decades at the Central United Front Work Department, of which he was a vice head between 2006 and 2016. He later became a deputy director of the office of the Party's Central Coordination Group for Tibetan Affairs (Zhōngyāng Xīzáng Gōngzuò Xiétiáo Xiǎozǔ 中央西藏工作协调小组). On at least two occasions, he led Central United Front Work Leading Small Group inspection groups, thus earning mention in Joske's paper, of which said Group is the main topic.

'Xi Jinping Thought', another 1499 Tibetan neologisms, and more

A more recent thing Deputy Director Sitar has presided over should perhaps earn him a mention on this Log, by virtue of its subject-matter. On 28 April 2018, Sitar was the top cadre speaking at the presentation of "more than 1500" Tibetan neologisms coined since the 18th Party Congress (held in November 2012), compiled by the National Tibetan Terminology Standardisation Commission (Rgyal yongs Bod skad brda chad tshad ldan can las don u yun lhan khang རྒྱལ་ཡོངས་བོད་སྐད་བརྡ་ཆད་ཚད་ལྡན་ཅན་ལས་དོན་ཨུ་ཡོན་ལྷན་ཁང་, Quánguó Zàngyǔ Shùyǔ Biǎozhǔnhuà Gōngzuò Wěiyuánhuì 全国藏语术语标准化工作委员会). I know this because it was reported on various media and other government websites that reported, in Chinese and Tibetan, on the Commission membership change taking place on that day.

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Hong Kong protesters messing with the characters

Nothing is sacred.

Tiny Hong Kong with a little over 7 million population facing off against ginormous PRC with its population approaching 1.5 billion, yet the Hongkongers have held out with their large (as many as 2 million people at times) protests for 8 weeks now — despite the pepper spray, tear gas, rubber bullets, and bean bag rounds that police have fired at them, and the metal and wooden sticks and rods wielded against them by triad gangsters.  The central government is displeased and keeps threatening to send in the PLA.

Meanwhile, the Hongkongers employ every means at their disposal to counter the CCP, above all wit and satire.  Part of the latter is their linguistic irreverence, as we have demonstrated in numerous posts (see "Readings" below).  One of the ways that the Hongkongers get their points across is to create new characters conveying potent messages, which is more effective even than the coining of neologisms from already existing characters — they are also very good at making up new words.

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Graffiti correction

Writing on a concrete planter in Hong Kong:

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Hong Kong anti-China graffiti

Graffiti painted by protesters in the Liaison Office of the PRC in Hong Kong:

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The enigma of the black hands

"UPDATE 1-China tells U.S. to remove 'black hands' from Hong Kong"

Reuters   (7/23/19)

China said on Tuesday that U.S. officials were behind violent chaos in Hong Kong and warned against interference, following a series of protests in the city, including bloody clashes on the weekend. "We can see that U.S. officials are even behind such incidents," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying at a regular press briefing on Tuesday.

China's allegations of U.S. "black hands" fomenting unrest in Hong Kong have been all over the news during the last few days.  Politically, no one knows exactly what the PRC is referring to (they haven't given any evidence for the involvement of American officials).  Linguistically, the origin of this expression in Chinese is far from clear.

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Ich bin ein Hongkonger

The genesis of this post lies in the following newspaper headline:

"Ich Bin Ein Hong Konger:  How Hong Kong is turning into the West Berlin of the quasi-cold war between the West and China", by Melinda Liu, Foreign Policy (7/16/19)

Every historically literate person immediately recognizes the allusion to John F. Kennedy's famous speech in West Berlin on June 26, 1963:

Speaking from a platform erected on the steps of Rathaus Schöneberg for an audience of 450,000, Kennedy said,

Two thousand years ago, the proudest boast was civis romanus sum ["I am a Roman citizen"]. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is "Ich bin ein Berliner!"… All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words "Ich bin ein Berliner!"

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