Archive for Language and medicine

Perfect translation

Meme online from a Chinese forum (fortunately I have a screenshot). Hilarious, but sad, though, considering China’s reported covid conditions.

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Pandemic lockdown slogans

The photographs below are of government lockdown slogans on signs in Chinese cities.  The first was taken by a former student of mine in Guangzhou, and the other two are from Weibo.

In the first photograph, the last line is so awkward that if seems ungrammatical and barely makes sense.  As shown in the following analysis, it's the result of a forced rhyme.

1., 2. (left, right)

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Kids' song: "Let's do nucleic acid"

The subtitles explain what's going on:

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Unknown language #14

Here is the first page of a letter sent from China (Tongzhou, Beijing) to the US (Trenton, NJ) by a missionary in 1888. The missionary’s name is James Ingram (1858-1934).  My colleagues in China are very interested in what the letter says, but they cannot read the script.


(credit:  Yale Divinity Library)

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Pinyin with tones on labels at a TCM research facility

(TCM = Traditional Chinese Medicine) 

Photograph of a small portion of specimen jars at the Won Institute of Graduate Studies northeast of Philadelphia in Warminster, Pennsylvania:

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New words for "quarantine" in the PRC: "silence" and "time-space companion"

From a PRC M.A. candidate:

Nowadays China has some new words for quarantine: “jìngmò 静默” ("silence") and "shíkōng bànsuí zhě时空伴随者” which means that the phone number of the person and the confirmed number stay in the same time-space grid (800m X 800m) for more than 10 minutes, and the cumulative length of stay of the number of either party exceeds 30 hours in the last 14 days. The detected number is the time-space accompanying number.

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Zero-COVID: null with a difference

In Chinese, it is called "qīng líng 清零" (lit., "clear zero").  Because the concept never made sense to me as a practical means for coping with the pandemic coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2, I wrote a post trying to understand what the Chinese authorities mean by it:  see "Dynamic zero" (5/19/22).  In that post, I discussed the problem from many different angles, including:

  1. "zero moment point" in robotics
  2. "zero-sum game" in mathematics
  3. "zero dynamics" in mathematics

If "Zero-COVID" genuinely interests / concerns you, I recommend that you spend some time on the "Dynamic zero" post.  Here I will cite only this brief passage from it:

…before it was rushed into use for the current "zero [Covid control]" policy, "qīng líng 清零" started out in literary texts as an adjective implying "lonely; lonesome; solitary; desolate".  More recently, it was employed in computing as a verb denoting "to reset; to clear the memory".  From there, it was adapted by Chinese epidemiologists in the sense of "to reduce to zero; to zero out".  That may be their goal, but it is not happening, despite their fiercest efforts at FTTIS ("Find, Test, Trace, Isolate and Support").

Not to mention mass prescription of mRNA and other medicines, plus masks.

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Super color Doppler

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Garbler of spices

A couple of days ago, we had occasion to come to grips with the word "garble":  "Please do not feel confused" (8/19/22).  This led Kent McKeever to write as follows:

Your recent use of "garble" has prompted me to pass on something I recently stumbled on.  I have been poking at the digital files of the Newspapers of Eighteenth Century English newspapers and ran across a reference to the London city government position of "Garbler of Spices."  From the context, it seems to be an inspector, perhaps processor, of spice imports.  Totally new to me.

Totally new to me too.

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Cat got your tongue? Or do you have its?

[This is a guest post by Nathan Hopson]

If you’re Japanese, chances are it’s the latter.

Nekojita (猫舌 lit. “cat’s tongue”) is a phrase in Japanese most commonly used to describe people who can’t or don’t like to eat or drink hot things. The word means both the actual tongue itself and, by extension, a person with a cat’s tongue. In other words, it is a synecdoche.

The term is common in Japan, reflecting the fact that many people consider themselves to be/have cat tongues; in a 2018 survey of 10,000 Japanese of all ages, about half described themselves as nekojita. The results are summed up in the accompanying image, in which pink indicates those who answered yes to the question, “Are you nekojita?” As you can see, more than half of 10-49-year-olds consider themselves to have heat-sensitive tongues.

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Mi experiencia como Team Leader de compras vecinales

[This is a guest post by Conal Boyce]

[VHM:  watch as much or as little of this 24-minute video as you wish; the most pertinent portion runs from 2:17 to 3:40]

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Dynamic zero

We've been hearing about "zero Covid" since early in the year 2020.  Even though such an approach never seemed feasible to me, it was always fairly clear what the Chinese authorities meant by it:  through "public health measures such as contact tracing, mass testing, border quarantine, lockdowns, and mitigation software in order to stop community transmission of COVID-19 as soon as it is detected." (source)  In other words, "Find, Test, Trace, Isolate, and Support" (FTTIS).

The Chinese term for such a policy is "qīng líng zhèngcè 清零政策", where "qīng 清" means "clear; clean; thoroughly; completely", "líng 零" means "zero", and "zhèngcè 政策" means "policy".  Fair enough, though, as I indicated above, I never thought that, in dealing with a communicable virus, it was a practicable approach.  Apparently, in due course, the PRC authorities — though they strove, through the most stringent application of FTTIS measures — came to the same conclusion.  Eventually, they started to refer to their modified "qīng líng 清零" ("zero [COVID]") policy as one of "dynamic zero", the Chinese for which is "dòngtài qīng líng 動態清零", where "dòngtài 動態" signifies "dynamic".  Here they lost me, because, for the life of me, I simply could not comprehend how "zero" could be "dynamic".

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Midwife

"A person, usually a woman, who is trained to assist women in childbirth."  AHDEL

But not always a woman:

Men rarely practice midwifery for cultural and historical reasons. In ancient Greece, midwives were required by law to have given birth themselves, which prevented men from joining their ranks. In 17th century Europe, some barber surgeons, all of whom were male, specialized in births, especially births requiring the use of surgical instruments. This eventually developed into a professional split, with women serving as midwives and men becoming obstetricians. Men who work as midwives are called midwives (or male midwives, if it is necessary to identify them further) or accoucheurs; the term midhusband (based on a misunderstanding of the etymology of midwife) is occasionally encountered, mostly as a joke. In previous centuries, they were called man-midwives in English.

(source)

I have often wondered about the meaning and origins of the term "midwife".  My wonderment was piqued recently by several comments on this post:  "Wondrous blue" (5/9/22).

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