Archive for Language and politics

Anti-Neanderthal prejudice?

“We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease because of the way in which we’re able to get vaccines in people’s arms […] And the last thing, the last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking, that, ‘In the meantime, everything’s fine. Take off your mask. Forget it.’ It still matters.”

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Non-toxic dog whistles?

The OED's definition of the political sense of dog whistle is "A statement or expression which in addition to its ostensible meaning has a further interpretation or connotation intended to be understood only by a specific target audience", derived from the literal sense "A high-pitched whistle used in training dogs; (later) esp. one producing sounds at a frequency above the range of human hearing". The definitions at Merriam-Webster and Wiktionary are similar.

There seem to me to be a few things wrong these definitions, at least as the term dog whistle is generally used. One thing missing that the "further interpretation" is (viewed by user of the term dog whistle as) shameful. And one superfluous part of the definitions is the idea that the "further interpretation" is not understood outside the "target audience" — rather, the goal (as attributed to the dog whistler) seems to be more a matter of euphemism or deniability.

Scanning instances of dog whistle on Google News this morning, the first dozen or so of the examples seem to me to confirm my impressions.

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Tsai Ing-wen's multilingual New Year's greetings

The multilingual part of this message from the President of Taiwan comes near the end of this 2:26 Twitter video:

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"The Museum of the Passive Voice"


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"(Political) party" in the Analects

A select quotation from the Confucian Analects (Zǐlù 13.18):

Shè gōng yù Kǒngzǐ yuē:`Wú dǎng yǒu zhígōng zhě, qí fù rǎng yáng, ér zi zhèng zhī. 'Kǒngzǐ yuē:`Wú dǎng zhī zhí zhě yì yú shì. Fù wèi zi yǐn, zi wèi fù yǐn, zhí zài qí zhōng yǐ.'

葉公語孔子曰:「吾黨有直躬者,其父攘羊,而子證之。」孔子曰:「吾黨之直者異於是。父為子隱,子為父隱,直在其中矣。」

The Duke of She informed Confucius, saying, "Among us here there are those who may be styled upright in their conduct. If their father have stolen a sheep, they will bear witness to the fact." Confucius said, "Among us, in our part of the country, those who are upright are different from this. The father conceals the misconduct of the son, and the son conceals the misconduct of the father. Uprightness is to be found in this."  (trans. James Legge)

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Hokkien renaissance

This is cause for rejoicing:

 "Meet the Malaysian on a mission to make Hokkien great again, amid Mandarin’s rising popularity in Southeast Asia"

    Linguist Sim Tze Wei has been accused of trying to divide the Chinese people, as there are those who see the use of other Chinese languages ‘as a sign of disunity and weakness’
    But he points out that Chinese immigrants to Asia have for generations been speaking their own languages, which are being edged out as more turn to learning Mandarin

Randy Mulyanto, SCMP, 1/24/21

When Sim Tze Wei began working to raise awareness of the Hokkien language, he never expected he would be accused of trying to divide the Chinese people.

“Han Chinese nationalists everywhere are keen to equate Mandarin to [real] Chinese,” said Sim, adding that there are those who find ethnic Chinese people speaking in Chinese languages other than Mandarin “as a sign of disunity and weakness”.

The Malaysian-Chinese linguist, who is in his mid-30s, is president of the Hokkien Language Association of Penang. Through the association, Sim is campaigning for the wider use of Hokkien, and advocating that it be reinstated as a language of instruction in independent and Chinese primary schools in the northern Malaysian state, as he fears Hokkien will “continue to be eroded by Mandarin and English”.

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No word for "runoff"?

Candice Norwood, "In battle for the Senate, Georgia organizers fight to mobilize voters of color", PBS News Hour 12/3/2020:

For Susana Durán, Georgia State director for the civic engagement group Poder Latinx, informing voters about the race starts with the basics.

“What is a runoff? There’s no Spanish language word for runoff,” Durán said. “I’m trying to figure out the shortest way to explain what a runoff is without having the voters run off.”

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"Radical Liberal Raphael Warnock"

Kelly Loeffler has gotten some ribbing, even on Fox News, for repeatedly referring to her opponent as "radical liberal Raphael Warnock" in their 12/6/2020 debate:

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Autumn sorrow

Barbara Phillips Long sent in these remarks from the comments section in a post at Lawyers, Guns, and Money about the feminist revolutionary Qiū Jǐn 秋瑾, executed by the Qing dynasty imperial authorities in 1907 (the post is headed by a striking statue of Qiu Jin):

I like the statue a lot too, so I did a deeper dive into Qiu Jin's Wikipedia page. This is her death poem, using her name (Qiu = autumn), before being publicly beheaded in her village: "秋風秋雨愁煞人" ("Autumn wind, autumn rain — they make one die of sorrow") brb off to make this my email signature.

Edit: I looked up 愁煞 chou2sha1 because the syntax in Chinese is very different from the English translation. I'm definitely not fluent, let alone understand classical Chinese poetry, so would be happy to hear from anyone who actually knows something about this stuff. 愁 by itself is "to worry" (but a more intense version of worry, I assume, since 擔心 dan1xin1 is the usual term people use). 煞 is a variation of 殺 (to kill, terminate, cut short, put a stop to, etc.)

So actually, I'd say it's much more violent in the original. Hard to translate without ambiguity in English ("Autumn wind and autumn rain kill us with sorrow"???), so I can see why the translation ended up the way it did.

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Krakenology

As Know Your Meme explains,

"Release the Kraken!" is a catchphrase and image macro series based on a memorable quote uttered by Zeus in the 1981 fantasy adventure film The Clash of the Titans as well as the 2010 3D remake. Despite the dramatic delivery of the line in the reboot, the quote was perceived as unintentionally funny and quickly became a target of image macro jokes on the web. […]

The first Urban Dictionary entry for the phrase "Release the Kraken" was submitted on March 31st, 2010, defined as "to pwn or to kick the ass of whomever you're releasing the kraken on." Throughout the first week of April 2010, the phrase was dubbed the latest meme by various tech and internet news outlets including Geekosystem, Vulture, Now Public, MTV and Mediate among others. In December, the phrase was listed in TIME Magazine's Top 10 Buzzwords of the Year.

Recently, this phrase has acquired a political second life, as a way of promising to reveal evidence of massive fraud in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Given that the cinematic Kraken was the key destructive force in a failed satanic plot , the current political usage is either deeply ironic or deeply subversive.

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The meanings of "New World Order"

I was puzzled by apparently mixed messages in the protest sign featured here:


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Kamala Harris and the Prosody of Parody

I’ve been working on a description of Kamala Harris’ distinctive prosody for a while now, so when I saw Maya Rudolph’s parody of Harris’ victory speech on SNL last Saturday (which happened less than 3 hours after the original!), I wondered if it might shed more light on what’s happening with Harris herself.

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Liberté, Égalité, Gritté

I'm a few days late with this, but better late than never — Gritty as La Liberté guidant le peuple:


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