## Half-vast ideas

A CNN interview with former National Security Adviser John Bolton about the January 6th hearings is getting lots of attention for his casual observation, "As somebody who has helped plan coups d'état — not here, but, you know, other places — it takes a lot of work."

Shortly before that (about 40 seconds into the above video clip), there was another notable line, in which Bolton dismissed the idea that Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election results constituted "a carefully planned coup d'état":

That's not the way Donald Trump does things. It's rambling from one half-vast idea to another. One plan that falls through and another comes up.

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## Changing times

Changing norms about public display of certain words, as exemplified in the display windows of a local store:

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## Pretend dog

Zabrina Lo has a new article in Zolima CityMag titled "Pop Cantonese: 裝假狗 – Installing a Fake Dog" (10/24/19).  It begins thus:

In film sets in Hong Kong, one often hears the phrase zong1 gaa2 gau2 (裝假狗) – literally “installing a fake dog.” It isn’t too implausible to associate the first two characters with installing props or faking an act for filming purposes, but surely not every movie is about dogs, and what does it even mean to install a fake one?

Dogs have long had a pejorative connotation in Chinese culture, as University of Pennsylvania sinologist Victor Mair notes in his paper “Of Dogs and Old Sinitic Reconstructions.” There are many derogatory expressions associated with dogs, such as zau2 gau2 (走狗, “go dog,” a traitor), keoi5 hou2 gau2 (佢好狗, “the person very dog,” the person is such an asshole), gau2 naam4 neoi5 (狗男女, “dog men and women,” awful men and women) and gau2 ngaan5 hon3 jan4 dai1 (狗眼看人低, “dogs’ eyes look people down,” powerless people looking down on others). In all these cases, dogs are frequently referred to a person’s vulgarity, unworthiness or lack of integrity.

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## Hong Kong anti-China graffiti

Graffiti painted by protesters in the Liaison Office of the PRC in Hong Kong:

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## 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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## Was it "getting" or "gay"?

Patrick Redford, "There's Nothing To Say About What Andrew Wiggins Said That's Not Conditional", Deadspin 1/9/2018:

Andrew Wiggins went off for 40 points on the Thunder last night in a lively game that featured 32-year-old interim coach Ryan Saunders getting his first win and Thunder guard Dennis Schröder getting ejected for shoving. Wiggins was asked about Schröder’s ejection after the game, and he either said, “He was getting—he was acting crazy,” or, “He was gay. He was acting crazy.” Those are obviously two very different quotes, and as much as I think he’s mumbling “getting,” the tape is ultimately inconclusive.

"Andrew Wiggins: Would never disrespect LGBTQIA community", ESPN 1/9/2018:

Hours after he called Oklahoma City Thunder guard Dennis Schroder "gay," Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins sought to clarify his remark, saying early Wednesday morning that he wouldn't use "any term to disrespect" the LGBT community.

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## Taking shit from the chancellor

Well, shitstorm, anyway: Melissa Eddy, "Some Words Defy Translation. Angela Merkel Showed Why." NYT 12/6/2018:

Some words can’t be translated easily. But they can cross national borders, lose their original context along the journey, assume different meanings and crop up in unlikely places.

This week, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany proved that point — memorably.

Speaking at a technology conference on Tuesday, Ms. Merkel, known as a staid, no-drama politician, told a self-deprecating anecdote about being widely mocked online five years ago after she described the internet as some mysterious expanse of “uncharted territory.”

She chuckled at the memory of the digital blowback.

“It generated quite a shitstorm,” she said, using the English term — because Germans, it turns out, do not have one of their own.

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## Insults, insults, and more insults

What's going on?  Lately everywhere you turn, especially in China, people are getting insulted — big league:

• Fashion house suffers high-profile resignations after ‘country of s***t’ storm
• D&G attempts damage control as Communist Party weighs in to row

Zhuang Pinghui, SCMP (11/22/18)

• Designer Stefano Gabbana says his Instagram account was hacked and apologised following screenshots of him apparently calling China ‘a country of s***’
• That followed an ad campaign that featured a Chinese woman struggling to eat pizza, spaghetti and an oversized cannoli with chopsticks

Zhuang Pinghui, SCMP (11/21/18)

• Insensitive and offensive adverts attract huge numbers of complaints online and in the mass media
• Advertisers say they are easy targets and people will complain about anything

Elaine Yau, SCMP (11/20/18)

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## Annals of unexpected bowdlerization

Emily Jane Fox, "Michael Cohen says Trump repeatedly used racist language before his presidency", Vanity Fair 11/2/2018:

After the first few seasons of The Apprentice, Cohen recalled how he and Trump were discussing the reality show and past season winners. The conversation wended its way back to the show’s first season, which ended in a head-to-head between two contestants, Bill Rancic and Kwame Jackson. “Trump was explaining his back-and-forth about not picking Jackson,” an African-American investment manager who had graduated from Harvard Business School. “He said, ‘There’s no way I can let this black f-g win.’” (Jackson told me that he had heard that the president made such a comment. “My response to President Trump is simple and Wakandan,” he said, referring to the fictional African country where Black Panther hails from. “‘Not today, colonizer!’”)

I puzzled for some time over what word "f-g" might be a disguised form of, and eventually decided it must be "fag" — though Vanity Fair usually publishes taboo words without disguise, including that one. And even the famously prissy New York Times freely publishes "fag". But does anyone have a better guess?

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## Sinographic taboo against Islam

Tweet by Timothy Grose, a specialist on Islam in China, especially in Xinjiang:

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## Chinaperson

When I started taking Mandarin in the fall of 1967, one of the first words we learned was "Zhōngguó rén 中國人".  A classmate of mine translated that as "Chinaman", provoking our teaching assistant to reprimand him severely, saying that it was a racist term, and to give him a stern lecture about the history of anti-Chinese discrimination in the United States.

Now a West Virginia candidate for the US Senate, Don Blankenship, has fallen into the same trap by referring to the Asian-American father-in-law of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as a "China person" (see here, here, and here for news reports).

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