Archive for Language and fashion

Sun Yat-sen, Chiang Kai-shek, Mao Zedong

Under the rubric, "An Odd Question", Doug Adams (the Tocharianist) asked:

Why do we always refer to Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925) and Chiang Kai-shek (1887-1975) in Cantonese (?) phonological form rather than Mandarin?

Simple reply

Before about 1975, Cantonese was by far the most widespread and prevalent Sinitic language around the world outside of China, and Sun's Cantonese art name, Yat-sen, was so deeply ingrained and familiar in English for decades — both in speech and in writing — that it would have been very difficult to change it to Mandarin Yìxiān 逸仙 ("Liberated Transcendent").  Anyway, he had many other different names for different purposes, and some of them were as popular as Yat-sen, e.g., Chung-shan / Zhongshan, which actually derives from a Japanese pseudonym / nom de guerre (Nakayama Kikori [see below]) given to him by a Japanese friend.  Chung-shan / Zhongshan 中山 was / is so widespread in China that his hometown was renamed after it, making Zhongshan one of the few cities in China to be named after a person.  Zhongshan is also used as the name of the style of jacket that Sun Yat-sen liked to wear:  Zhongshan suit (simplified Chinese: 中山装; traditional Chinese: 中山裝; pinyin: Zhōngshān zhuāng), but in the PRC it came to be known as the Mao suit.  (I'm the proud owner of a Zhongshan suit, which I had tailor made in Taipei in 1971.)  There are dozens of other things and places called Zhongshan in China, a few of them referring to states from much earlier times that are completely unrelated to Sun Yat-sen / Zhongshan, for which see here.

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Sally Rooney bucket hat; Hittite, Ugaritic, and the alphabet

Earlier this week, my brother Thomas sent me the following note:

I recently read Beautiful World, Where Are You?, the latest novel by Irish millennial author Sally Rooney. As soon as I finished the book I started finding articles about her, including the famous Sally Rooney bucket hat. If you don't yet know about it, put Sally Rooney bucket hat into Google and you'll feel like you've been shipwrecked on a deserted island since the book came out in September.

I'm not sure if SR will go down in literary history, but I will say I can't stop thinking about the book. It's one of the few books I've read lately in which the characters discuss the big ideas: politics, religion, sex, and the collapse of civilizations.

The last is of great importance because the two main female characters are unmarried single women, and they're wondering why they don't yet feel the need to settle down and start families. Will they ever?

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Miss Lin on "fashion"

When I first mentioned this remarkable video on Language Log nine years ago, it was buried in this post, "The Westernization of Chinese" (9/6/12), under "this phenomenal video".  I always regretted that I didn't make it more accessible (didn't know how to post YouTubes directly back then), so now here is Miss Lin in all her glory:

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be;eza

Sign on the front of a fashion store (shoes and handbags) in Taipei:

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Exotic letter in Taipei

Paul M. sent in this photograph of the front of a fashion shop on Yongkang Street, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan:

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Riotous hat

Marlon Hom took these photographs on Tuesday in San Francisco:

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Snobbery

There's a salon / spa in Japan called "snob®".  Bill Benzon asks:  "Is 'snob' free of the negative connotations it would have here?"

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Chaos

From an anonymous reader:

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Gender bending in the Sinosphere

Don Clarke has called to my attention a new bilingual, digraphic expression:  “娘man结合”.  That's "niáng man jiéhé ('woman man [the English word] combination')".

It’s a women’s fashion style that combines femininity in one part of the outfit with manliness in the other — like wearing a colored print dress with an army jacket.  Supposedly, “man” is read in the first tone.

Don remarks:

This expression must have the authorities very distressed; not only does it contain foreign words spelled in letters, but it also has the disfavored style "niáng 娘" ("mother; woman; mum; ma; a woman; young girl / woman; young lady; a form of address for an elderly married woman; effeminate [coll.]") . No less than the Xinhua News Agency recently inveighed against the sissified “娘炮”之风 (basically, the Korean boy-band look) as unmanly.

Here’s an account of the controversy (in Chinese).

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"I am a cat" t-shirt

Thorin Engeseth sent in these two photographs of a Zara brand shirt that his wife bought yesterday:

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Aunt Perilla

Photograph of a packet of seeds purchased by Dara Connolly's wife in a Daiso 100-yen shop in Japan:

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"Language Log" — a request

As you are aware, our fans in China and elsewhere around the world would like to translate "Language Log" into their own languages.  The problem is that there are different words for "language" and "log" in the many languages that they wish to cover.

For example, the Romance languages distinguish between the faculty of language—the human capacity to communicate, using spoken or written signs—from specific oral or written natural languages (French, Mandarin, etc.). One chooses between one word or the other depending on the subject under discussion. In English, the same word can be used for both phenomena.

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Japanese "Yankee" ("juvenile delinquent")

"Japanese start-up helping ‘delinquents’ compete against college graduates for city jobs with new internship:  The company Hassyadai has so far helped 100 youth from outside Tokyo to land employment", SCMP (12/2/17):

Dubbed the “Yankee internship”, the programme, whose participants range in age from 16 to 22, is unique in that it includes the category of Yankee – Japanese slang for delinquent youth.

How did English "Yankee" come to mean "delinquent youth" in Japanese?

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