Archive for Language and politics

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (11)

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!"

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (26)

Hong Kong counterprotestors, Mandarin honorifics

[This is a guest post by Brendan O'Kane]

Like pretty much everyone else I know, I've been following the news out of Hong Kong with a mixture of hope and admiration and absolute dread. I was looking at reports from yesterday's rally in support of the police when something caught my eye: the sign text in this image:


(Source)

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (16)

Ping-pong bing-bang

Xi Jinping commits another pronunciation gaffe.  Even if you don't know Mandarin, you can hear it clearly here because it is repeated over and over again.  Instead of saying "pīngpāng wàijiāo 乒乓外交" ("ping-pong diplomacy"), he says "bīngbāng wàijiāo 冰邦外交" ("ice states diplomacy"), which some wits are further distorting as "bīngbàng wàijiāo 冰棒外交" ("popsicle diplomacy"):

https://twitter.com/RealEmperorPooh/status/1144817965008744448

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (10)

Uyghurstan or Uyghuristan?

Many countries in Central Asia are named with words that end in -stan, which is a Persian term (ـستان [-stān]) meaning "land" or "place of", thence "country"; it is synonymous and cognate with the Sanskrit word sthāna स्थान (from Indo-Iranian *stanam "place," literally "where one stands," from PIE *sta-no-, suffixed form of root *sta- "to stand, make or be firm." Source).   Consequently, we refer to these countries as "the stans":

Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan

Note, however, that five of these names have an -i- before the -stan, while two — Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan — lack the -i-.

Since the Uyghurs may one day have a country of their own with a name ending in -stan, I wondered whether there is a rule governing whether it should be "Uyghurstan" or "Uyghuristan".

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (30)

Alice Mak Addresses the Hong Kong Chief Executive with Vulgar Language

Four days ago, rumors and reports were flying fast and furious that Alice Mak Mei-kuen, a member of Legislative Council of Hong Kong for the New Territories West constituency, representing the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, swore at the Chief Executive (CE) of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) of the People's Republic of China (PRC), Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, using the most vile language imaginable:

"Swear words heaped on Carrie Lam as pro-establishment lawmakers express fears of election rout over Hong Kong extradition bill fracas:  Lawmaker hurled expletives at Lam as she tearfully explained her decision to suspend the bill; Many fear electoral backlash in November's district council elections", by Gary Cheung and Tony Cheung, SCMP (6/20/19)

Although the language employed by Mak was, shall we say, quite colorful, I held off on posting on it until I could get better confirmation of her actual words.  That came through yesterday evening in the form of these notes from Bob Bauer:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (3)

"Eastoxification" supersedes "Westoxification" in Persian

One never ceases to be amazed at the articles one comes upon in Wikipedia.  First, in this comment to a discussion on anti-Westernism in China ("War on foreign names in China" [6/22/19]), I encountered the notion of "Westoxification" in contemporary Iranian discourse.  Reading the Wikipedia article on this subject is so interesting that I copy passages of it here for Language Log readers (the whole article is fascinating and well worth reading):

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (8)

War on foreign names in China

AP News report (6/21/19) by Fu Ting:  "Chinese crackdown on foreign names draws protest".  The article begins thus:

The Manhattan neighborhood, Venice Garden, the Vienna hotel chain — to the ears of the Chinese government, the names are too foreign-sounding and must go.

Provinces and cities across China have been issuing notices pressuring both private and public officials to rename businesses, bridges and neighborhoods, reflecting renewed efforts by President Xi Jinping's government to "sinicize" China.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (11)

"Der große Clusterfuck der Tories"

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (30)

Hong Kong protest puns

A truly amazing chain of Cantonese puns has sprung up from last Wednesday's protests in Hong Kong.

As police were about to shoot tear gas at them (virtually point blank), Hong Kong reporters shouted out, "gei3ze2 記者!" ("Press! [Don't shoot!]).

Applying the norm that you can insert virtually anything into the initial slot in the phrase "diu2 lei5 lou5 mou5*2 屌你老母" ("fuck your mother") to mean, roughly, "fuckin' X" or "X my ass," one of the police shouted back "gei3 lei5 lou5 mou5*2 記你老母" ("fucking journalists," "fuck you / fuck your mother, journalists," or "journalists my arse").

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (6)

Hong Kong protest slogan

The main slogan of the Hong Kong protesters is "faan2 sung3 Zung1 反送中" ("against being sent to China; against extradition to China").  The sung3 Zung1 送中" ("extradition to China") part of the slogan is echoed by the expression sung3zung1 送終 ("attend upon a dying relative; mourning; pay one's last respects; bury one's parent").  Consequently, when the protesters shout "faan2 sung3 Zung1 反送中" ("against being sent to China; against extradition to China"), they are also simultaneously and paranomastically exclaiming that they are against the death [of Hong Kong] (faan2 sung3zung1 反送終).

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (6)

Freemocracy

We just posted on a calligraphic ambigram that means both "go" and "Hong Kong":  "'Go Hong Kong!'" (6/12/19).  Here's another one that does not require rotation:


(Source)

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (3)

"Go Hong Kong!"

Whether in English or in Chinese (Xiānggǎng jiāyóu 香港加油!), "Go Hong Kong!" has been blocked and censored on the Chinese internet because of the massive protests against the hated extradition bill that Xi Jinping is trying to force upon the city.  However, through the magic of Chinese calligraphy, there's a way to get around the ban against this cheer:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (5)