Archive for Language and medicine

Language for COVID-19: German and Finnish

A rare find of linguistic news in a blog concerning the Supreme Court:

"Relist Watch: Kalsarikännit edition", John Elwood, SCOTUSblog

SCOTUSblog is about the work of the Supreme Court of the United States.  The author must have a streak of the linguist in him, for he chose to  begin today's post with three paragraphs about language usage related to the coronavirus crisis.  Here they are:

As America begins its fourth week under quarantine with widespread working from home, we've begun noticing shifts in grooming, attire and behavior as many of us remain cooped up for weeks on end.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (3)

Social distance posters in various Asian scripts

At first I thought these might have come from Singapore or some other Southeast Asian country, but upon closer inspection, I see that they are from the Hong Kong Department of Health, which was confirmed by Fraser Howie, who sent them to me.  They are respectively in Hindi, Indonesian, Thai, Nepali, Bengali, Sinhala, Urdu, Vietnamese, and Tagalog.  Upon further reflection, it is clear that the content of the posters is directed at the foreign domestic helpers who comprise five percent of Hong Kong's population.  One of their favorite activities when they have time off from their jobs is to gather in groups in public places, sitting on the ground or on benches to chat and often to enjoy what to me seems like a picnic.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (25)

A novel lexicon for the novel coronavirus

Yesterday, as my colleagues and I were gearing up for our first virtual faculty meeting to plan our online teaching for the remainder of the semester, someone mentioned "social distancing".  Immediately, another faculty member said that he heard on television that an MIT professor had advised against that expression because, in fighting the coronavirus, we need to keep our social structures intact.  Instead, the MIT professor recommended "physical distancing".

As it turns out, of all the new vocabulary associated with the fight against the novel coronavirus, "social distancing", as we shall see below, and as I'm hearing from practically everybody I know, is one neologism associated with the pandemic that is likely to outlast the pandemic itself.

Keep 6 feet or 2 meters away from each other!

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (21)

Turandot and the deep Indo-European roots of "daughter"

In recent days, the famous aria from the final act of Giacomo Puccini's opera Turandot, "Nessun dorma" (Italian: [nesˌsun ˈdɔrma]; English: "Let no one sleep"), has surfaced as part of a worldwide movement to encourage the Italian people in their struggle against the novel coronavirus (see here, here, and here).  This article by Claudia Rosett gives the backstory:

"An Uplifting Moment, in the Time of Coronavirus", PJ Media (3/14/20)

This led me to ponder the origins of Turandot's name, especially since the operatic version of the story is set in China and she is alleged to be a Chinese princess.  Right away, I was in for a jolt, since "The name of the opera is based on Turan-Dokht (daughter of Turan), which is a common name used in Persian poetry for Central Asian princesses." (source)

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (25)

Novel transmission of the novel coronavirus

Viral on Chinese social media:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (25)

Coronavirus à la japonaise

Everybody is talking about the latest pandemic.  How do you say it in Japanese?

"'Koronavairusu' or 'Koronauirusu?' Japan Learns English:  Excessive focus on 'proper' pronunciation skews English learning", Asia Sentinel, by Xiaochen Su (March 15, 2020)

—–

With much of Japan gripped with the fear of contracting the Covid-19 virus, which has stricken at least 639 and killed 16, the crisis has triggered an odd only-in-Japan controversy, pertaining to the word "virus."

To a non-Japanese unfamiliar with the language, the difference between two transliterations of a foreign loanword may seem trivial. But the concern for how "virus" is pronounced is the latest example in a long list of foreign loan-words that are being deliberately Anglicized. Beer has gone from biru to bia, pizza from piza to pittsa, violin from baiorin to vaiorin…within the limits of Japanese syllabary, foreign words have become ever closer to the original English pronunciation.

While for decades the standard pronunciation of the term virus has been uirusu, owing to the loan-word originally coming from German, those in the Englishteachingcommunity have seized upon the chance to remind people that it ought to be pronounced vairusu instead.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (13)

Winnie the Flu

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

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (22)

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (27)

Shelties On Alki Story Forest

Last week I gave a talk at an Alzheimer's Association workshop on "Digital Biomarkers". Overall I told a hopeful story, about the prospects for a future in which a few minutes of interaction each month, with an app on a smartphone or tablet, will give effective longitudinal tracking of neurocognitive health.

But I emphasized the fact that we're not there yet, and that some serious research and development problems stand in the way. In particular, the current state of the art in speech recognition is not yet good enough for reliable automated evaluation of spoken responses.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (2)

Speaking Cantonese may cause nasal cancer

Guangzhou Daily printed an article discussing whether speaking Canto causes nasal cancer:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (4)

New drug for medical burnout

"FDA approves first novel drug to treat medical burnout":

TWISP, WA – The US Food and Drug Administration today approved Peaceaudi (Idongivafumab) injection for intravenous use for the treatment of medical burnout.

"Medical burnout is a serious condition, which affects thousands of doctors across the country. The effects of burnout have untold consequences, and could significantly shorten the careers of physicians if untreated," said Arnold J. Palmer, MD, assistant to the regional manager for drug development of the FDA.

"This announcement marks the first time a drug has been specifically approved to treat medical burnout. Idongivafumab's unique ability to target and inhibit C-suite peptides, as well the entire electronic health record (EHR) cascade, represents a quantum leap in burnout science."

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (8)

Chicken baby

Just to show you how up to date Language Log can be, in this post we'll be talking about a neologism that is only a few weeks old in China.  The term is "jīwá 鸡娃", which literally means "chicken baby / child / doll".

The term surfaced abruptly and began circulating virally on social media, following a heated discussion over two articles on K-12 education (the links are here and here).  The articles are respectively about the fierce competition among parents in Haidian and Shunyi districts of Beijing municipality.  Haidian is a large district in the northwestern part of Beijing with many famous tourist attractions, outstanding universities, and top IT firms.  Shunyi district is in the northeastern part of Beijing.  Although it is not as large and powerful as Haidian, it is also considered a very desirable place to live because of its posh villas, easy access to the international airport, and China's largest international exhibition center, but above all — from a parent's point of view — some of the best private and international schools in the country.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (4)

The causes of myopia

Comments (20)