Archive for WTF

No music on Twitter?

David Brooks is working hard to maintain his reputation for always being wrong about things that are easy to check:

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Winnie the Flu

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

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ESL spam scam? (updated)

I just got an email from WordPress notifying me of a comment awaiting approval at LAWnLinguistics. Here is the comment, in full:

This is Pam, and English is my 1st language. I'm for real, and would like you to get back in touch with me.

The comment makes four assertions:

  1. This is Pam
  2. English is my 1st language.
  3. I'm for real,
  4. and would like you to get back in touch with me.

It's almost certain that three of those four assertions are false. Does anyone want to guess which is the one that is true?

CLARIFICATION (after reading the first five or six comments, all guessing wrong): For the benefit of those who want to submit a guess, note that what prompted this post was the content of the comment, not anything about its word choice, syntax, punctuation, etc.

HINT (after reading more wrong guesses): Pragmatics.

HINT IN THE FORM OF A QUESTION (after reading still more guesses that are not only wrong but aren't even close): How often have you encountered a situation in which, upon your initial contact with someone who is a complete stranger, the first thing they say after introducing themself is "English [or some other language] is my 1st language?

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Skrillex as mosquito repellent

"Dubstep artist Skrillex could protect against mosquito bites", BBC News 4/1/2019:

The sun is shining on your skin, there's a breeze in your hair and someone has just handed you a coconut with a straw sticking out of it. This is living.

But just as you start to relax you find yourself clawing at your own skin, scratching at the mosquito bites that have developed on your body over the past few days.

But it doesn't have to be this way.

According to a recent scientific study, the way to avoid mosquito bites is to listen to electronic music – specifically dubstep, specifically by US artist Skrillex.

OK, it's April Fool's Day. And BBC Science Reporting is traditionally prone to credulous Weird Science stories, especially about animals ("It's always silly season in the (BBC) science section", 8/26/2006). So this will turn out to be a joke, or maybe click-bait exaggeration of some marginal results about mosquitoes' response to sounds, right?

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The spam technology ecosystem expands

Wikipedia describes as a for-profit "social networking site for academics", whose misleading .edu domain name "was registered in 1999, prior to the regulations requiring .edu domain names to be held solely by accredited post-secondary institutions". For my part, I'd describe as "a source of large volumes of annoying unsolicited email".

Yes, I know that I should unsubscribe — but this is harder to do than you might think, since they have registered me under a number of different email addresses, and add new ones when I tell them to unsubscribe the old ones. Anyhow, seems recently to have achieved a level of transcendent fakery that almost makes me glad that that they're still spamming me.

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Climate change and social mobility

The content management system at The Atlantic magazine seems to have slipped a cog or two, and associated one story's headline with another story's subhead. Either that, or ticks play a larger role in American social mobility than I would have guessed.

The image on the right appeared in my email inbox this morning, along with a dozen others promoting "A selection of top stories from The Atlantic this week". Turns out it combines

But until I did a bit of searching and link-following, I wondered.

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We are bemused

[h/t Stan Carey]

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Fanciful etymologies on an “ancient history” site

"Lost in Translation? Understandings and Misunderstandings about the Ancient Practice of 'Sacred Prostitution'",  Ancient Origins:

Ishtar was sometimes called the Goddess Har since she was the mother of the harlots. These “harlots” were not prostitutes as we know them, but priestesses and healers. These harlots were holy virgins serving goddesses such as Ishtar, Asherah, or Aphrodite.

The Hebrew word hor means “a cave” or “dark hole” and the Spanish word for “whore”, puta, derives from the Latin term for “a well”. In turn, the Latin term for “grave” is puticuli, which means “womb of rebirth”. The root of the word came from an early Sanskrit language where puta is defined as pure and holy. The cave, the hole and the bottomless black lake were metaphors for the Great Goddess— the primordial darkness from which all life is born.

The Ancient Origins "about-us" page says that

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives

But the etymology in those two paragraphs is not just out-of-the-box, it's out-of-its-mind.

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Speaking of Lou Dobbs…

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Whence the "ff" in Roscoff, where I am now? The Breton name is "Rosko". And "ff" is not a common word ending in French.



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Really weird sinographs

Scott Wilson has written an entertaining, and I dare say edifying, article on "W.T.F. Japan: Top 5 strangest kanji ever 【Weird Top Five】", SoraNews24 (10/6/16) — sorry I missed it when it first came out.  Wilson refers to the "Top 5 strangest kanji", but he actually treats nearly three times that many.  The reason he emphasizes "5" is so that he can stick with his theme of W.T.F., cf.:

Scott Wilson, "W.T.F. Japan: Top 5 most difficult kanji ever【Weird Top Five】", SoraNews24 (8/4/16)

Scott Wilson, "W.T.F. Japan: Top 5 kanji with the longest readings【Weird Top Five】", SoraNews24 (4/20/17)

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Mandarin phone spam

Yesterday I got two phone calls from an unknown but allegedly local number (267 area code). I was in meetings so I let the calls go to voice mail, and the message turned out to be in Chinese. It seems to be someone claiming to represent FedEx with information about a package that I need to negotiate for:

Calling back yields a message in English "The subscriber you have dialed is not in service. If you feel you've received this message in error, please hang up and try your call again later. Message MN13856". The two letters and the first three digits of the "Message" code are different on each repetition.

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For several weeks, the "Kindle Store" panel of the Kindle app on my cell phone has been presenting Margaret Atwood's novel The Handmaid's Tale at the top of its version of the New York Time Nonfiction Bestsellers list:

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