Archive for Language and politics

Major Linguistic Faux Pas in Chinese Football Association PPT

The Chinese Football Association used dǎngguó 党国 ("party state" — nettlesome term to be explained fully below) in a powerpoint on its plans for '24. Awkward political illiteracy! 

Here's a screenshot.

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Theosophical racism

Today's SMBC:

Those first four panels resonated with my recent experience skimming Helena Blavatsky's The Secret Doctrine: The Synthesis of Science, Religion, and Philosophy. Vol II — Anthropogensis (1888). I learned of Blavatsky's existence due to the restaurant located in her former residence, and my sense of her influence in Philadelphia was reinforced by years of walking past the United Lodge of Theosophists.

I expected The Secret Doctrine to be nuttier than squirrel poop, as indeed it is. But I wasn't prepared for its extreme mythic racism, endorsement of (fantastical versions of) eugenics, and so on. In retrospect, I should have realized that late 19th-century fantasy would be like that. I'll spare you the details of Blavatsky's theories of lost continents and their associated "root races" — you can read Wikipedia's summary, or dive into the 1888 tome yourself if care. But I'll reproduce a few illustrative quotes from the book.

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"…oscillated in his words"?

Ken Bensinger, "Ramaswamy Seemed to Call Zelensky a Nazi. His Campaign Says That’s Not What He Meant." NYT 11/8/2023:

A spokeswoman for Mr. Ramaswamy, Tricia McLaughlin, said that he had not called Mr. Zelensky a Nazi. Instead, Ms. McLaughlin said, he was referring to an event in September in which Mr. Zelensky visited Canada’s Parliament and joined a standing ovation honoring a 98-year-old Ukrainian Canadian war veteran. The problem, it turned out, was that the veteran, Yaroslav Hunka, had served in a division that was under Nazi control during World War II. […]

But she acknowledged that, without context, the remark could be easily misunderstood. “He was talking quickly and kind of oscillated in his words,” she said.

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English language flap in Korea

From the Korea Times (11/6/23):

Ihn says he was 'very disappointed' after ex-leader Lee spoke to him in English


Before you read the article, it's unlikely that you could begin to surmise what the commotion is all about.

The American Korean chief of the ruling People Power Party (PPP)'s innovation committee said Monday he was "very disappointed" that former party leader Lee Jun-seok treated him as a foreigner by speaking to him in English during a weekend event.

Committee Chairman Ihn Yo-han, who was born and raised in Korea, can speak perfect Korean. Still, however, Lee spoke to him in English during an event in the southeastern city of Busan on Saturday in what some critics described as racist behavior.

Ihn, a medical doctor, took over as the PPP's innovation chief in charge of reforms last month. He has since tried to patch up internal feuds in the party, including Lee's badly frayed relations with party leaders close to President Yoon Suk Yeol.

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Mao and Chinese Character Reform: Revisionist History on CCTV

[This is a guest post by David Moser]

Just when you thought CCP propaganda couldn’t get more absurd, China Central Television (CCTV) has aired a short TV series in which Confucius and Karl Marx actually meet up for comradely chat about ideology. In typical fantasy time-travel style, Marx simply appears miraculously at the Yuelu Academy (estab. 976) in Hunan, and is warmly greeted by Confucius to chants of “A friend visiting from afar is a great delight.” (有朋自远方来,不亦乐乎?) The two gray-bearded philosophers then sit down together to discuss how their respective theories seem to merge harmoniously to form an ideal basis for governing China.

This bit of historical cosplay is part of Xi Jinping’s “Soul and Root” (魂和根) propaganda campaign, introducing the notion that Marxism and Confucianism – the “Two Combines” (兩個結合) – must be integrated to form a unified national identity, with Marxism being the “soul” and traditional culture, including Confucianism, being the “root.”

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"Emigrate" no longer an option

As things seem to be spinning out of control in the PRC (generals, bankers, politicians being disappeared left and right; foreign ministers evaporating; a former president being levitated out of his seat at the 20th National Congress; a much-admired premier being heart attacked…), people are increasingly desperate to get out.  We saw this already in the "RUN" phenomenon of more than a year ago during the fallacious Zero Covid nightmare:

"RUNning away from Shanghai" (5/13/22)

"RUN = wrong" (9/29/22)

But now the tempo and anxiety level of those wishing to flee seem to be exponentially increasing, as indicated in this startling report:

China Quickly Removes the Word “Emigrate” from Search Rankings

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Speak Mandarin, not Cantonese, even in Macau

Eason Chan rebukes Chinese fans demanding he speak Mandarin at Macau concert

'I love speaking whatever way and language I want,' says Chan

By Keoni Everington, Taiwan News (2023/10/20)

Well, it looks as though we are having a clash of languages — Mandarin vs. Cantonese — right in the heartland of Cantonese.

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Hong Kong singer Eason Chan (陳奕迅) rebuffed demands by Chinese fans to speak Mandarin instead of Cantonese at a concert in Macau.

On Oct. 13, Chan kicked off his "Fear and Dreams" concert tour in Macau. As is often the case with his concerts, Chan began to casually chat in Cantonese with the audience between songs.

During the show, several Chinese audience members started to shout and boo. They repeatedly interrupted him demanding that he "Speak Mandarin!"

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"Calling all linguists"

Kevin Drum, "Calling all linguists", 10/20/2023:

You know what I'd like? I'd like a qualified linguist with a good ear to listen to a Joe Biden speech and report back.

A couple of weeks ago I spent some time doing this, and Biden's problem is that his speech really does sound a little slurred at times. My amateur conclusion was that he had problems enunciating his unvoiced fricatives, which suggests not a cognitive problem but only that his vocal cords have loosened with age.

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Kimchee is Korean

Not Chinese.  Do you understand?

This has long been a cabbage of contention, but make no mistake about it:  fermented kimchee / kimchi  (gimchi 김치 (IPA [kim.tɕʰi]) (lit., "soaked [in their own juices of fermentation] vegetables") is not the same thing as pickled paocai / pao tsai 泡菜 (lit., "soaked [in brine] vegetables").

Kimchee and paocai are made differently, have different ingredients and spices, and taste different.  To call "kimchee" "paocai" would be like calling "wine" (pútáojiǔ 葡萄酒) "beer" (píjiǔ 啤酒).

Linguistically, kimchee has its own pedigree, of which I will here give an extended account.

Borrowed from Korean 김치 (gimchi), ultimately composed within Korea of Chinese-derived morphemes (chén, submerged, soaked) and (cài, vegetable), i.e. "fermented vegetable". Doublet of kimuchi.


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Mandarin über alles

China’s Language Police
Why Beijing Seeks to Extend the Hegemony of Mandarin
By Gina Anne Tam, Foreign Affairs
September 19, 2023

It's odd that the author knows about "topolect" and recognizes the inadequacy of "dialect" as a rendering of fāngyán 方言, but is unwilling to mention "topolect" in this article, which is so suitable for it.  Maybe the unwillingness to shake off that millennial misconception about there only being one Chinese language and a host of "dialects" is part of the problem for the precarious situation in which they find themselves.

In late August, authorities in Hong Kong raided the home of Andrew Chan, the founder of a Cantonese-language advocacy group called the Hong Kong Language Learning Association. National security police questioned Chan about an essay contest the group hosted three years earlier for literature composed in Cantonese, the lingua franca of Hong Kong. One of the finalists in the contest was a fictional futuristic short story about a young man seeking to recover histories of Hong Kong lost to authoritarian erasure. During a warrantless search of his home, they demanded that Chan remove the work from his website, threatening severe consequences for him and his family. Afterward, Chan put out a statement that he had no choice but to dissolve his group entirely, an organization that had worked to promote Hong Kong’s culture through the preservation of the Cantonese language for nearly ten years.

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How do you say "polo", "logo", and "erase with Photoshop" in Chinese?

"Hebei official’s shirt logo removed for ‘aesthetic reasons,’ triggering speculation among netizens"

By Global Times (Sep 05, 2023)

Official photos of a city Party chief in North China's Hebei Province, with his shirt's logo removed by editing, have sparked a wide-ranging discussion among Chinese netizens, with some speculating that it was a move to obscure the price of the clothing. 

In an article posted via Nangong city's official WeChat account on Sunday, the official's daily work was released, with one picture of his shirt logo in, followed by another two pictures without shirt logo. Some netizens questioned the reasons why they removed the shirt logo, and some checked the similar coat prices online discovering the high retail price for the item, according to media reports.

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Policeman to Tesla driver: “It Is a Bit Ridiculous, But You Must Obey”

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"Don't speak Japanese loudly outside!"

Advisory to staff of the embassy of Japan in Beijing:

ALPS shori mizu no kaiyō hōshutsu kaishi ni tomonau chūi kanki (2023-nen 8 tsuki 25-nichi)


Warning regarding the start of ocean discharge of ALPS-treated water (August 25, 2023)

Kinō (24-nichi), fusoku no jitai ga hassei suru kanōsei wa haijo dekinai tame chūi shite itadaku yō onegai shimashitaga, ika no ten ni tsuite ryūi shite itadakimasu yō aratamete onegai itashimasu.

(1 ) Gaishutsu suru sai ni wa, fuhitsuyō ni nihongo o ōkina koe de hanasanai nado, shinchōna gendō o kokorogakeru.
(2 ) Taishikan o hōmon suru hitsuyō ga aru baai wa, taishikan shūi no yōsu ni saishin no chūiwoharau.



"Yesterday (24th), we asked you to be careful because the possibility of unforeseen circumstances cannot be ruled out.

 (1) When going out, try to be cautious in your behavior, such as not speaking Japanese in a loud voice unnecessarily.
(2) If it is necessary to visit the embassy, pay close attention to the surroundings of the embassy."

(source) (GT romanization and translation)

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