Archive for Language and the military

New Russian Newspeak

The author of this article is Michele A. Berdy, who writes under the byline The Word's Worth.  Berdy, born in the US but a resident of Moscow for over 40 years, has been doing this language column for a couple of decades.  It is usually light-hearted, even whimsical.  Not this one.  She departed Moscow after the invasion of Ukraine, and may now be in the U.S.  As per this March article in Politico.

"Newspeak in the New Russia:
George Orwell must be spinning in his grave."

The Moscow Times (9/23/22)

Новояз: Newspeak

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War-induced language change

For those who read Russian, with commentary for those who do not:

Грешный мой язык

«Прибалтика», «На Украине» и «Белоруссия»: теперь это моветон. А «санкционка», «рашист» и «путиноид» — новые слова. Как война изменила русский язык

13:03, 30 августа 2022 Максим Пушкарев , «Новая газета Балтия»

—–

Greshnyy moy yazyk

«Pribaltika», «Na Ukraine» i «Belorussiya»: teper' eto moveton. A «sanktsionka», «rashist» i «putinoid» — novyye slova. Kak voyna izmenila russkiy yazyk

13:03, 30 avgusta 2022 Maksim Pushkarev , «Novaya gazeta Baltiya»

—–

Sinful my tongue

"Baltic States", "In Ukraine" and "Belarus": now it's bad manners. And “sanction”, “rashist” and “putinoid” are new words. How the war changed the Russian language

13:03, August 30, 2022 Maxim Pushkarev, Novaya Gazeta Baltiya

Link to whole article in Russian

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Archaic Greek in a modern world, part 3

As the art historians Richard Barnhart (Yale) and Lukas Nickel (Vienna) have shown, Greek elements, images, and techniques reached into the mausoleum of the First Emperor of the Qin (259-210 BC) and the massive terracotta army entombed there.  See "Of jackal and hide and Old Sinitic reconstructions" (12/16/18) and the many references thereto.  The continuing research of Lucas Christopolous has cemented the presence of things Greek in East Asia even more securely.  Here we present just one significant finding documented by Lucas' investigations, namely, the crouching position of warriors in the First Emperor's army and in my favorite artifact from Eastern Central Asia, a kneeling bronze statue from the south bank of the Künäs River, Xinyuan (Künäs) County, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Museum Collection, exhibited in the University of Pennsylvania Museum in 2011.  See object 44 on p. 155 of Victor H. Mair, ed., Secrets of the Silk Road (Santa Ana, CA:  Bowers Museum, 2010).  See also p. 47 here and p. 163 of Mallory and Mair, The Tarim Mummies (London:  Thames and Hudson, 2000).

Notice that the bronze warrior is bare-chested, has a long nose and round eyes, is wearing a pleated kilt and helmet in a Trojan or other Greek style, and has additional Greek attributes.  Since another similar figure was found nearby, this is not a one-off fluke.  He is often said to be from the 5th c. BC, but see below for Lucas' slightly later dating.

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"Everything is in English"

Quotation is at 1:43 / 2:59; article below the break.

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Sailor's bed

If I were a cruciverbalist, I might use that as a clue for "hammock", though it didn't turn up here:

https://www.wordplays.com/crossword-solver/sailor%27s-bed

nor here:

http://crosswordtracker.com/clue/sailors-bed/

but it was first here:

https://crossword-solver.io/clue/sailor%27s-bed/

With somer a-comin' — though spryng has barely sprung, at least not in these parts — it's time to drag out our dusty, trusty hammocks and hang them between two trees.  But, historically, just what is a "hammock", and where did the word come from?

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Malign Woodpeckers and Other Hegemonic Behavior

With this stunning journalistic masterpiece, Global Times, China's official, nationalistic, daily tabloid newspaper under the CCP, has outdone itself in exposure of truly insidious "Western" (U.S., British) linguistic behavior:

"Twisted in translation: Western media, social groups set up language barriers by intentionally misreading, misinterpreting Chinese materials", by Huang Lanlan and Lin Xiaoyi, GT (4/14/22)

Here's one gem from the article:

Professor Tang from Fudan University noted that anti-Chinese forces are now mature enough to use the internet to self-organize – actively plan anti-Chinese issues to infiltrate and mobilize some netizens, driving them to act like woodpeckers to find a few rare, extreme statements and then embellish them.

Gosh!  Who knew that woodpeckers could be trained to do that?  Every day is an education. 

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Japanese orthography of Ukrainian city names

[This is a guest post by Nathan Hopson]

Like many around the world, I have been deeply saddened by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. I have been watching news from around the world, including Japan. In addition to the actual war itself, and to the sometimes inane (studio talking-head) coverage of the war as some kind of horse race, I have been disturbed by the Japanese media’s failure to update the orthography of Ukrainian cities such as the capital, Kyiv.

Not a single domestic news outlet I am aware of―including the public broadcaster, NHK―has dropped the Soviet-era Russian name “Kiev” (キエフ) to replace it with Kyiv. CNN’s Japanese site, for instance, has similarly failed to revise its choice of katakana.

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Chinese attack / barrage

[This is a guest post by Mark Swofford]

I recently stumbled upon a slang term from World War I: "Chinese attack," or sometimes "Chinese barrage." Perhaps LL readers would be interested in this and might even have some info on its origins.

One website on the war gives the following definition of "Chinese attack":

"a faked attack. When a preliminary bombardment ceased, the defending troops would return to their trenches to meet the presumed attack, whereupon the artillery would start firing again and catch the defenders out of their shelters."

The term appears to have been adopted primarily by the British.

I haven't been able to discern, though, why "Chinese" was used, and if this was meant as a compliment or a slur to the Chinese — or perhaps was simply considered neutral.

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Girlie men in the PRC

Hot topic in China these days:

"China bans men it sees as not masculine enough from TV", AP, By JOE McDONALD (September 2, 2021)

BEIJING (AP) — China’s government banned effeminate men on TV and told broadcasters Thursday to promote “revolutionary culture,” broadening a campaign to tighten control over business and society and enforce official morality.

The main term used to describe such persons is "niángpào 娘炮" (slang for "sissy; effeminate man").  The article quoted above says it means "girlie guns".  That is a literal translation of the two constituent characters, but I have my doubts that it reflects the true derivation of the word, since it is also written with the homophonous characters 娘泡, which mean "girlie bubbles / froth / lather".

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How much language capability does a Green Beret need to have?

In War on the Rocks (5/26/21), Tim Ball has an informative, thought-provoking article:  "Talking the Talk: Language Capabilities for U.S. Army Special Forces".  It begins:

In the mid-2000s, a series of U.S. Army Special Forces recruiting posters began appearing on Army installations across the country. One particular poster prompted more than a few eye rolls and laughs from the Special Forces community (commonly known as the Green Berets). The poster showed a Special Forces soldier conducting a military free-fall parachute jump. The caption stated, “The HALO [high altitude, low opening] jump wasn’t the hard part. Knowing which Arabic dialect to use when I landed was.”

From a recruiting standpoint, the poster hit all the marks. It took the excitement of a commando-style free-fall jump, combined it with the lesser-known expectation for a Green Beret to be a culturally adept warrior, and pushed it over the edge by portraying the jumper as a suave polyglot, capable of switching in and out of complex dialects at will.

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Of precious swords and Old Sinitic reconstructions, part 7

[This is a guest post by Chau Wu, with additions at the bottom by VHM and others]

On the akinakes* (Scythian dagger / short sword) and Xiongnu (Hunnish) horse sacrifice

Chinese historical records suggest that the akinakes, transliterated from Greek ἀκῑνάκης, may be endowed with spiritual significance in the eyes of ancient Chinese and Northern Barbarians, for it was used in solemn ceremonies.  Let me cite two recorded ceremonies and a special occasion where an akinakes is used to “finesse” an emperor.

In the Book of Han (漢書), Chapter 94 B, Records of Xiongnu (匈奴傳下), we see an akinakes is used in a ceremony sealing a treaty of friendship between the Han and Xiongnu.  The Han emissaries, the Chief Commandant of charioteers and cavalry [車騎都尉] Han Chang (韓昌) and an Imperial Court Grandee [光祿大夫] Zhang Meng (張猛) visited the Xiongnu chanyu** (單于) [VHM:  chief of the Xiongnu / Huns] in 43 BC.  Han and Zhang, together with the chanyu and high officials, climbed the eastern hill by the river Nuo (諾水)***, killed a white horse, and the chanyu using a jinglu knife (徑路刀) and a golden liuli**** (金留犁, said to be a spoon for rice) mixed the horse blood with wine.  Then they drank the blood-oath together from the skull of the King of Yuezhi, who had been defeated by the ancestor of the chanyu and whose skull had been made into a goblet.  Essentially, this jinglu knife was a holy mixer.

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Horse culture comes east

In Friday's New York Times:

"A Record of Horseback Riding, Written in Bone and Teeth:  Close examination of horse remains has clarified the timeline of when equestrianism helped transform ancient Chinese civilization", by Katherine Kornei (11/13/20)

More archeological evidence that the horse, horse riding, and related equestrian technologies and culture came to East Asia from the Eurasian interior before the rise of extensive trade along the Silk Road during the Han Dynasty (202 BC-9 AD), and that these developments had a profound impact on the civilization and political organization of East Asia.

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When is a Qaghan really a Qaghan?

When is a Qaghan really a Qaghan?

It matters, so let's familiarize ourselves with the meaning of the term right off the bat.  In Chinese Studies, we call this "zhèngmíng 正名" ("rectification of names").

Confucius was asked what he would do if he was a governor. He said he would "rectify the names" to make words correspond to reality. The phrase has now become known as a doctrine of feudal Confucian designations and relationships, behaving accordingly to ensure social harmony. Without such accordance society would essentially crumble and "undertakings would not be completed." Mencius extended the doctrine to include questions of political legitimacy.

Wikipedia

So, what is a "qaghan"?

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