## Negative ambiguity

This sounds like it should be a technical term in one discipline or another.  I did a Google search for "negative ambiguity" and received 42,800 hits, a negligible number of them false because of punctuation issues.  They occur in contexts that fall under psychology, economics, sociology, language and linguistics (grammar, syntax, scope, attachment, translation, etc.), sexuality, business and administration (leadership), investment, finance, tourism, education, biology, military science, politics, race studies (identity), etc.

One of the most prolific sources for the use of "negative ambiguity" is in this low key but still extraordinary paper by WANG Bo1, XIE Junwei1, ZHANG Jing2, and SUN Bosen3   in Journal of Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics ›› 2020, Vol. 46 ›› Issue (1): 122-132., "Negative ambiguity function characteristics simulation of FDA", where it occurs frequently.

1. Air and Missile Defense College, Air Force Engineering University, Xi'an 710051, China
2. Shaanxi College of Communication Technology, Xi'an 710018, China
3. School of Information, Xi'an University of Finance and Economics, Xi'an 710100, China

• Received: 2019-03-27 Published:2020-01-21
• Supported by:

National Natural Science Foundation of China (61503408)

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## Further mystification of the Japanese writing system

KYODO, STAFF REPORT
The Japan Times (May 19, 2022)

What’s in a name? In Japanese, that’s complicated.  [VHM:  You can say that again!  One of the hardest tasks in my graduate training as a Sinologist was learning how to pronounce Japanese proper nouns correctly.  This is one of the reasons I wrote the dictionary described in this post.]

An advisory body to the justice minister has compiled a draft proposal on whether and how to accept — and record on the family register — unconventional kanji readings of names for newborns and naturalized citizens. In one cited example of so-called kirakira (sparkly) names, it would be acceptable for the kanji characters 光宙 read as pikachū, which could be a hit for fans of the Pokemon universe.

The proposal is part of the ministry’s push for digitalization of the family register, an effort that would be better facilitated by adding hiragana and katakana readings to kanji names.

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## Mosey

This is both one of my favorite words and one of my most enjoyable modes.  Although I am normally very active and highly goal oriented, and walk almost as rapidly as a Singaporean (fastest in the world), occasionally I simply want to unwind a bit, especially when I'm with a like-minded friend, and just stroll about in a leisurely fashion.  Thus, for example, I will say, "Let's mosey on over to the Art Museum", and it will take us an hour or two, whereas if we walked at a normal pace and went straight to our destination, we might get there in half an hour.

Since "mosey" is a curious sounding word, one might well be tempted to look up its exact meaning and etymology.  If you do so, you'll likely be surprised and flummoxed, for its derivation and definition are both fuzzy, like the word itself.

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## Used as a place of safety by the D.A.R.

From Julian Hook:

I don’t suppose nominations are still open for Best Attachment Ambiguity of 1920, but if they are, I’d like to nominate this historical marker in Galena, Illinois.

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## The Scalia/Garner canons: Departures from established law

In my last post, I talked about the precursors of the canons from Reading Law that are the primary subject of this series of posts. As I explained there, the Last Antecedent Canon and the Nearest Reasonable Referent Canon are adapted from what is generally known as the Rule of the Last Antecedent (which you should remember not to confuse with the Last Antecedent Canon). And the Series Qualifier Canon was inspired by the pronouncement in a 1920 Supreme Court case that “that “[when] several words are followed by a clause which is applicable as much to the first and other words as to the last, the natural construction of the language demands that the clause be read as applicable to all.”

The purpose of that exercise in intellectual history was to provide the background that’s necessary in order to understand the present post, which will talk about the ways in which the three canons depart from the law as it existed before Bryan Garner and Antonin Scalia wrote Reading Law. Although those departures probably aren’t especially significant in the case of the Last Antecedent and Nearest Reasonable Referent canons (putting aside the confusion and complication they cause), the same isn’t true with respect to the Series Qualifier Canon.

As we’ll see, the default interpretation that is prescribed by the Series Qualifier Canon in a big category of cases is precisely the opposite of what would be prescribed by the Rule of the Last Antecedent. That change is, as far as I’ve been able to determine, unjustified by the caselaw (including the caselaw that was the Series Qualifier Canon’s inspiration). Nor is there any other justification I can think of.

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## The precursors of the Scalia/Garner canons (updated)

All three canons that are in play in Facebook v. Duguid (the Last Antecedent, Series Qualifier, and Nearest Reasonable Referent Canons) have precursors in U.S. and English caselaw. That’s no surprise, given that all 57 canons in Reading Law are presented as being  well established in the law. But as my last post noted, each canon departs from the previous caselaw in one respect or another. And in the case of the Series Qualifier Canon, the departure is quite substantial.

To lay the groundwork necessary in order to describe those departures, this post will summarize the prior law from which the three canons deviate.

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## Anaphoric ambiguity of the week

From David Axe, "How Trump Could Bypass a Key Vaccine Safety Valve", Daily Beast 10/1/2020 [emphasis added]:

If the Trump administration tries to push out a novel coronavirus vaccine before it’s fully tested, there are three committees of independent experts who could stand in its way. […]

These committees—two in government and one in the private sector—keep tabs on vaccine-testing, sign off on new drugs and vaccines, and advise the government on how to deploy a new inoculation. But it remains to be seen just how much clout they have if the government decides to skirt science and rush out an Election Year miracle. […]

Of course, it’s possible the Trump administration doesn’t care about the controversy that might result from pushing a vaccine before it’s ready. Even if all three committees voted against a vaccine, the FDA might approve and distribute the vaccine, anyway. The administration has steadily been consolidating control over the vaccine-approval process, all while Trump continues to promise a vaccine before most experts expect one to be ready.

The problem is that the advisory committees mostly derive their authority from government agencies’ rules—and the same agencies can, with varying degrees of effort, change those rules. “The FDA and CDC advisory committees are that—advisory,” Lurie said. “There’s no requirement for them to follow them.”

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## Headline ambiguity of the week

This one depends on word-sense ambiguity rather than on the structural and part-of-speech issues in the ambiguous headlines we've called crash blossoms. "After 9 months, women’s body to get new head", Times of India 8/26/2020:

Nine months after being headless and non-functional, the Goa State Commission for Women is set to get a new chairperson. Minister for women and child development Vishwajit Rane on Tuesday said that a formal notification is being moved to appoint Vidya Gaude to the post.

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## Who's seeking damages from whom?

"Chinese Citizen Files New Lawsuit Against Authorities Seeking COVID-19 Damages", by Frank Fang (August 13, 2020 Updated: August 13, 2020)

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## Never get stuck in a bunker again

Today this ad popped up for me on a newspaper site:

So I tried to figure out how the mysterious object on the left could be used to tunnel out through concrete and earth, and how it could safely be combined with C-3 plastic explosive, and what all this has to do with the woman on the right brandishing a stick amid the explosion. I also wondered why exploding their way out of bomb shelters should be on peoples' minds these days.

Then I realized that it was about golf.

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## What she said?

There's a bit of fuss on Twitter about what reporter Kimberley Halkett said when the press secretary Kaleigh McEnany cut off her follow-up question at yesterday's White House briefing (overall video here, official White House transcript here).

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## PP attachment of the week

"Trump Wanted to Sell Puerto Rico After Hurricane", Political Wire 7/11/2020:

President Trump raised the possibility of selling hurricane-devastated Puerto Rico to his Secretary of Homeland Security in late 2017, the New York Times reports.

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## Accidental filmic poetry

Tonight we're rewatching The Good, The Bad and The Ugly in honor of Ennio Morricone, the composer of its iconic score, who died today. Deediedeedledee nwah nwah nwaaaaahhh

And I've just had a thought about the title that turns on the quite different interpretations of the-Adj constructions in English and Italian, which I mainly know about from this paper by Hagit Borer and Isabelle Roy .

In English, "the Adj" generally only allows a generic reading, and often refers to the class of humans characterized by the adjective, as in the poor, the rich, etc. In Italian (and French, Spanish, etc.) this isn't the case; the construction, although based on the same syntax, can also receive a particular referential singular interpretation. Borer and Roy ascribe this to the presence of identifying number and gender features on the determiner in those languages.

In the original Italian title of the movie, Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo ('The good.masc.sg, The ugly.masc.sg, the bad.masc.sg.) these 'The-Adj' sequences are referential; they refer to the three main characters Blondie, Angel Eyes and Tuco. The Italian title is more or less equivalent to English "The good guy, the bad guy and the ugly guy".

In English, though, the grammatical structure of the title can only get the generic reading. The use of these forms in the film to refer to three protagonists, then, bestows an archetypal quality on those characters; they're metonymically interpreted as instantiating the whole classes of good people, bad people and ugly people respectively. And the kind of mythic force it imparts somehow fits so perfectly with the grandiose yet tongue-in-cheek quality of the whole film, to me it's really a fundamental part of its impact, humor and appeal.

My question is, do you think Leone and the scriptwriters understood this property of the English translation? Or did they read their English calque of the Italian grammatical structure just as they would have read the Italian? The Italian title, in fact, with its masculine singular marking, cannot be understood in the same way as the English is. To represent the English interpretation in Italian, apparently, the plural would be needed: i belli, i brutti, i cattivi. My guess is that neither the writers nor the director realized that the title read so differently in English.

According to Wikipedia, the Italian title was a last-minute suggestion of screenwriter Luciano Vincenzoni, and the title for the English version was determined by the studio after some alternatives were bandied about and rejected. I wonder if someone at United Artists recognized the different reading, and the epic quality it imparted, when they were discussing the choice!

Thanks to Roberta d'Alessandro and other Facebook linguists for Italian judgments and discussion!