Archive for Language and politics

"Crisis = danger + opportunity" in America and in PRC official media

From Gillian Hochmuth:

Thank you for your great explanation of the reasons behind the famous Kennedy "crisis" misquote. When I was in high school, I had a friend who was Chinese and spoke Mandarin fluently, who explained it to my US History class after the teacher quoted Kennedy. That was over 20 years ago and I remembered that his quote was wrong, but could not remember the explanation I was given well enough to explain it to someone else.

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Roll out of here like an egg, Xi

Tweet from Heitor@Heitormde:

The 0:36 video was taken just outside the gate of the Chinese embassy in Brasilia.

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Memes, parodies, puns, and other devices for discussing the coronavirus inside the Great Firewall

In the PRC, you'd best not say anything about COVID-19.  It's more or less forbidden for citizens to talk about it, much less question the government's handling of the CRISIS (not a "dangerous opportunity").  Even the name and the very existence of the disease are highly problematic.  Still, despite all the draconian censorship, people figure out various ways to circumvent the prohibitions and express their feelings and opinions.

"The coronavirus is inspiring memes, parodies and art in Asia as a way to cope", by David Pierson, Los Angeles Times (3/6/20)

"‘Noodles’ and ‘Pandas’: Chinese People Are Using Secret Code to Talk About Coronavirus Online".  "'Vietnamese pho noodles,' anyone?", by David Gilbert, VICE (3/6/20)

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Languages in Singapore

Fraser Howie called my attention to these two articles that look at language usage in Singapore from quite different angles:

"Revealed: The World’s Best Non-Native English Speaking Countries, 2019", by Anna Papadopoulos, Ceoworld (November 5, 2019)

"Singapore has almost wiped out its mother tongues:  Elderly speakers of Cantonese, Hakka and Hokkien sometimes cannot talk to their own grandchildren", Asia (Feb 22nd 2020)

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Xiist music

Allusions to Language Log posts abound:

 

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Winnie the Flu

Tweet from Joshua Wong 黃之鋒, Secretary-General of Demosistō:

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Chinese coronavirus linguistic war

From a Taiwanese colleague:

In the struggle against Wǔhàn fèiyán 武漢肺炎 ("Wuhan pneumonia"), Taiwan has to fight the war on three fronts: (1) trying to stop the virus at its borders; (2) trying to join the WHO for world-wide collaboration and disease information; and (3) fighting against the Communist Chinese dictatorial linguistic policies.  The linguistic policy on disease terminology is really weird; it smacks of George Orwell's 1984.

He cites this article in Chinese and this facebook page (also in Chinese).  Here's another article in Chinese from Taiwan that sticks to "Wuhan pneumonia" despite the pressure from WHO and the PRC government to adopt a name that is not transparent with regard to the origin of the disease.

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Sino-Manchu seals of the Xicom Emperor

Tweet by Sulaiman Gu:

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The PRC censors its own national anthem

The people are outraged at what happened to a doctor named Li Wenliang at Wuhan Central Hospital who called attention to the outbreak of the coronavirus on December 30, 2019, before it became an epidemic.  Instead of the government praising him, they sent police to threaten and harass him, as part of their effort to cover up the burgeoning contagion.  While treating patients, he contracted the disease himself and succumbed to it on February 7, 2020.  To add insult to death, the government first denied that he had died, then admitted it and began a propaganda campaign to promote him as a hero.

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"Lawyer lawsuits"?

If you listened to the U.S. Senate proceedings yesterday, you may have been puzzled — as I was — by Jay Sekulow's discussion of "lawyer lawsuits":

And by the way,
lawyer lawsuits?
lawyer lawsuits?
We're talking about the impeachment of a president of the United States,
duly elected.
And the members,
the managers,
are complaining about
lawyer lawsuits?
The consitution allows
lawyer lawsuits.
It's disrespecting the constitution of the United States
to even say that in this chamber —
lawyer lawsuits!

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MLK linguistics

There have been a few LLOG posts focusing on Martin Luther King Jr. over the years, notably "Martin Luther King's rhetorical phonetics" (1/15/2007), "Celebrating the Linguistic Significance of Martin Luther King Jr." (1/17/2016), and "There is No Racial Justice Without Linguistic Justice" (1/15/2018).

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New New Year's couplets

From a friend in Hong Kong:

The following pictures are from Shatin mall last night. They show people lining up to get individually calligraphed Chinese New Year’s couplets that take up the key slogan of the protests: “Restore HK’s glory: revolution for our times.” On the way up to mass today, we saw new slogans spray-painted calling for HK independence as “the only way out”. “It ain’t over yet.”

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Two-fifths of the people in Vietnam have the surname Nguyen. Why?

In "Why 40% of Vietnamese People Have the Same Last Name", Atlas Obscura (3/28/17), republished in Pocket, Dan Nosowitz tells us:

In the U.S., an immigrant country, last names are hugely important. They can indicate where you’re from, right down to the village; the profession of a relative deep in your past; how long it’s been since your ancestors emigrated; your religion; your social status.

Nguyen doesn’t indicate much more than that you are Vietnamese. Someone with the last name Nguyen is going to have basically no luck tracing their heritage back beyond a generation or two, will not be able to use search engines to find out much of anything about themselves.

This difference illustrates something very weird about last names: they’re a surprisingly recent creation in most of the world, and there remain many places where they just aren’t very important. Vietnam is one of those.

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