## Chinese language jokes

These are jokes circulating on the Chinese internet.  Not all of them have to do with Chinese languages per se in the narrowest sense.

Mandarin

Guānhuà 官話 (lit., "officials' talk", "Mandarin")

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## Cat names from GTP-2

Janelle Shane, "Once again, a neural net tries to name cats", 6/3/2019:

Last year I trained a neural net to generate new names for kittens, by giving it a list of over 8,000 existing cat names to imitate. Starting from scratch, with zero knowledge of English or any context for the words and letter combinations it was trying out, it tried to predict what letters might be found in cat names, and in which order. Its names ranged from the strange to the completely nonsensical to the highly unfortunate (Retchion, Hurler, and Trickles were some of its suggestions). Without knowledge of English beyond its list of cat names, it didn't know what letter combinations to avoid.

So I decided to revisit the cat-naming problem, this time using a neural net that had a lot more context. GPT-2, trained by OpenAI on a huge chunk of the internet, knows which words and letter combinations tend to be used together on the English-language internet. It also has (mostly) figured out which words and letter combinations to avoid, at least in some contexts (though it does tend to suddenly switch contexts, and then, yikes).

Read the whole thing — with pictures! Apparently the Morris Animal Refuge is using this algorithm to name the animals it offers for adoption.

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## "Brexit quiz": blank…

It's a good joke, but probably just an accidental one — "Quiz: What kind of Brexit are you? MPs can't agree on what form, if any, Brexit should take. Can you do better?", Politico.eu 4/1/2019, as of 14:30 Philadelphia time, is just a few inches of blank space, with no questions, no answers, no links, no way forward…

## The birth of obscenicons

Back in 2010, I went in search of the earliest examples of cartoon cursing characters — those playful typographical symbols that have been called "grawlixes" (a term coined by "Beetle Bailey" creator Mort Walker) but which I prefer calling "obscenicons." I detailed my quest in two Language Log posts: "Obscenicons a century ago" and "More on the early days of obscenicons." (The posts were later adapted for Slate's Lexicon Valley blog: "How Did @#$%&! Come to Represent Profanity?") I was able to find obscenicons going all the way back to Dec. 14, 1902 in Rudolph Dirks' pioneering comic strip "The Katzenjammer Kids," followed shortly thereafter by Gene Carr's "Lady Bountiful" comic starting in Feb. 1903. I was pleased to learn that my obscenicon posts inspired Phil Edwards of Vox to do his own searching on newspaper databases, and the results can be seen in an entertaining new video, "How #$@!% became shorthand for cursing." Turns out obscenicons can be pushed back even further, to 1901.

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## Corgi fighting words

Viral video of two corgis exchanging angry barks:

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Source here.

## An army and navy

See, I didn't even quote the whole quip, and you already knew that this post is about Max Weinreich's ubiquitous saying:  "A language is a dialect with an army and navy".  It may well be the most frequently invoked formula in all of linguistics.  Readers of Language Log are certainly no strangers to it, since we've written a number of posts that are about the adage or mention it prominently (see Readings below), and it is often cited in the comments, even when there is no conceivable rhyme or reason for doing so.

Actually, it wasn't Max Weinreich (1894-1969), a specialist in sociolinguistics and Yiddish, who dreamed up the army-navy quip, but — by his own testimony — someone who attended a series of his lectures and mentioned it to him after one of them.  Subsequently, however, Weinreich did make a point of popularizing the saying, so it is not entirely wrong to associate it with him.

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## Vulgar language: "arsehole" geese

Article in ABC News (Australia) today (11/20/18):

All Leslie Du Preez wanted was to add a little tranquillity to her small southern Queensland farm.

"We got these beautiful geese and thought they'd be a wonderful addition to our beautiful zen-like property," she said.

It did not go to plan.

"They terrorised our poor sheep, they made little kids cry. The roosters got pecked and the peacock's tail feathers got pulled out by them. There was no peaceful free-ranging and having a good time. It was mayhem."

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## So much for Big Data

This has been a busy week for me, wherefore no posts — a full day at Penn on Monday; Tuesday and Wednesday at Baidu in Sunnyvale; Thursday at Apple in Cupertino; Friday at ETS in San Francisco; lunch with Geoff Nunberg on Saturday; and then an afternoon at Scale By The Bay 2018. There were a lot of instructive and productive exchanges, but by far the most amusing moment was the point in the final Scale-By-The-Bay panel when one of the participants observed that "Big Data is so 2012"…

## Annals of cross-linguistic advertising blunders

Or maybe it was a genius move — the coverage hasn't quantified the effect on brand recognition and sales.  Jelisa Castrodate, "Mountain Dew Mistakenly Tells All of Scotland to Masturbate for 'Epic Thrills'", Vice 8/29/2018:

Not terribly long ago, The Scotsman newspaper printed a helpful list of 15 words that have alternate meanings in Scotland. It pointed out that pudding has nothing to do with a Jell-O mix but is often a sausage made from pigs' blood, that messages means grocery shopping, and that if you mince something, you've pretty much effed it up.

Unfortunately, the paper failed to include chug on the list, which is why Mountain Dew UK is being dragged across Scottish Twitter for inadvertently telling everyone that they're chronic masturbators.

On Monday, Mountain Dew UK tweeted a .gif of a visibly sweating twentysomething downing a bottle of neon yellow soda. (He's tanning it, if you want to dust off another piece of Scottish vocab.) "Epic Thrills Start with a Chug," it says—which is why everyone from Elgin to Dumfries started giggling to themselves.

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## Artsy-fartsy

Japanese artists depicted almost anything imaginable concerning humans, animals, and the natural world, and they did so with great skill and emotional power.  One sub-genre of Japanese painting that I recently became aware of is that of the fart battle (hōhi gassen 放屁合戦):

"21 Classic Images Of Japanese Fart Battles From The 19th Century", by

As soon as I perused this astonishing scroll, I could not get the expression "artsy-fartsy" out of my mind, and I wondered how and when English acquired such a peculiar term.  Merriam-Webster says that it's a rhyming compound based on "artsy" and "fart", and that its first known use is 1962.

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## Oh, 18!

Robert Hay writes:

There's a Korean pitcher in the majors named Seung-Hwang Oh who was just traded to the Colorado Rockies. Both his previous uniform numbers, 26 and 22, were already taken, so he got number 18, leading to this realization by Sung Min Kim on Twitter:

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