Archive for Language and politics

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 the role of kraken-releasing in the plot of the movies, the current political usage is either deeply ironic or deeply subversive — see below for an explanation.

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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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When is a Qaghan really a Qaghan?

When is a Qaghan really a Qaghan?

It matters, so let's familiarize ourselves with the meaning of the term right off the bat.  In Chinese Studies, we call this "zhèngmíng 正名" ("rectification of names").

Confucius was asked what he would do if he was a governor. He said he would "rectify the names" to make words correspond to reality. The phrase has now become known as a doctrine of feudal Confucian designations and relationships, behaving accordingly to ensure social harmony. Without such accordance society would essentially crumble and "undertakings would not be completed." Mencius extended the doctrine to include questions of political legitimacy.

Wikipedia

So, what is a "qaghan"?

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A beachhead by any other name?

Matt Viser, Seung Min Kim & Annie Linskey, "Biden plans immediate flurry of executive orders to reverse Trump policies", WaPo 11/7/2020 [emphasis added]:

Although transitions of power can always include abrupt changes, the shift from Trump to Biden — from one president who sought to undermine established norms and institutions to another who has vowed to restore the established order — will be among the most startling in American history.

Biden’s top advisers have spent months quietly working on how best to implement his agenda, with hundreds of transition officials preparing to get to work inside various federal agencies. They have assembled a book filled with his campaign commitments to help guide their early decisions. […]

Making a clear break from the Trump administration's adversarial posture toward the civil service is also a top priority for the Biden transition team.

The Trump administration's suspicion of career officials and early calls for them to “get with the program” or “go” created tensions with incoming political appointees that never dissipated. Biden officials are hoping to create a positive atmosphere by avoiding some of the terminology and labels they think contributed to the mistrust.

The teams of campaign staffers and other aides that first embed themselves into government agencies after an election have historically been called “landing teams” and “beachhead teams,” summoning the memory of the storming of Normandy during World War II.

To avoid any associations with war, some Biden aides are sticking to soberingly bureaucratic terms, referring to landing teams as “ARTs” or Agency Review Teams, and beachhead team members as “temporary employees.”

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Heaven speaks

Taken in Jiaoxi, Yilan County, Taiwan:

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"Jesus talk" and "human speech" in Hong Kong

Editorial by Geremie Barmé in China Heritage (10/6/20): "Hong Kong & 講耶穌 gong2 je4 sou1".  Here are the opening paragraphs of this installment of "Hong Kong Apostasy":

The Cantonese expression 講耶穌 gong2 je4 sou1, literally ‘to give a sermon about Jesus’, or ‘to preach’, means to prattle, or to speak in a boring and vacuous fashion. When I worked for The Seventies Monthly in Hong Kong in the late 1970s, colleagues would regularly mock Mainland propaganda as being nothing more than 講耶穌 gong2 je4 sou1, boring harangues.

In the decades since the People’s Republic subsumed the former British colony, its people have been increasingly exposed to Communist officialese, be it in the form of government speeches, media pronouncements or just everyday palaver. On the Mainland, blathering partyspeak has long been derided for being 假大空 jiǎ dà kōng, ‘mendacious, hyperbolic and fatuous’. Nonetheless, Communist logorrhea also disguises serious, often deadly, intent. (See ‘Mendacious, Hyperbolic & Fatuous — an ill wind from People’s Daily, China Heritage, 10 July 2018.)

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Flag codes: another type of Hong Kong resistance writing

This photograph is from a little over a year ago, when the former Hong Kong UK consulate worker Simon Cheng was kidnapped by the CCP government and taken to China where he was tortured and forced to make a "confession":

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Shitshows, shitholes, and shitstorms

I don't know who was responsible for first labeling the Trump-Biden debate a "shitshow", but the word has been much talked about during the last couple of days.

Nathan Hopson wrote in:

Well, obviously I want to know how the world is translating "shit show." You surely don't have to ask why.

French, the other language I read my news in, can fall back on un merdier or un spectacle de merde, both of which appear to be also liberally sprinkled in social media today.

Japanese famously doesn't have a whole lot of obscenities, but fortunately shit is one of them.

Asahi, Japan's #2 paper gave us:

Shit show(くそみたいなショー)
kuso mitai na shō = a show like shit

(FWIW, Yahoo Japan's realtime search of "shit show" (on Twitter, etc.), has many examples, mostly referencing the Asahi article.)

IMHO, it's sad that we have to fall back on a simile here. Takes some of the oomph out of the gut punch that was our national horror show.

How is the rest of the world press dealing with this "spectacle of shit"?

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Attila the Republican

A new political advertisement, apparently from the campaign of Kelly Loeffler:

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Word substitution of the month

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2020 punctuation/prosody

Seen on the internet:

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