Archive for Language play

"Tigger Chen" and "Instant Noodle Sister"

In "Fly High, Frog Princess! Well Done, Chen No. 3!  The world’s most popular Olympians are household names. But to Chinese fans who delight in creating nicknames, they’re different characters entirely", Andrew Keh and John Liu (NYT, 2/15/22) highlight some of the affectionate monikers that have been applied to athletes at the Beijing Winter Olympics.  Here I extract several of the favorites:

Chén Sān 陈三 ("Chen No. 3") = Nathan Chen (figure skater), three-time World champion, three-time Grand Prix Final champion.

[This nickname] requires some understanding of international figure skating history. In the eyes of Chinese skating fans, he is the third prominent skater from North America with the Chinese surname Chen, which, in English, can also be spelled Chin, Chan or Tan, depending on the original dialect. Before him came Tiffany Chin, who was the U.S. national champion in 1985, and Patrick Chan, the 2018 Olympic gold medalist from Canada.

Chen's Chinese name is Chén Wēi 陈巍; some fans call him “Tigger” (Tiàotiào hǔ 跳跳虎), using the Chinese translation for the Winnie the Pooh character.

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Pinyin vs. characters

From Dotno Pount:

I received this poster in Chinese and thought you would enjoy it! It captures the Catch-22 of talents and careers very nicely, I think.

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Englishy Chinese

In a moment of whimsy, I concluded a note to a friend thus: 

wǎng qiánmiàn kànzhe 往前面看著 ("looking forward")

Whereas, the usual way to express that idea in idiomatic Chinese would be:

qídài 期待 ("expect; look forward to; await; wait in hope")

I referred to my intentionally deformed Chinese as Yīngshì Zhōngwén 英式中文 ("English style Chinese") and asked some friends what they would call that kind of writing (I was searching for a parallel to "Chinglish").

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Parenthetical, alphabetical, ironical commentary in Sinographic texts

Occasionally I see pinyin (spelling) interspersed with Sinographs (usually for phonetic annotation), but this one threw me for a loop:

Yěxǔ (jué duì) shì, gāi lǐngyù zuì qiángdà de jiǎngzhě zhènróng.

也许(jué duì)是,该领域最强大的讲者阵容。

"Perhaps (definitely) it's the case that this is the strongest lineup of speakers in this field.

It occurs about two thirds of the way down in this Chinese article.

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Another multilingual, multiscriptal sign in Taiwan

Mark Swofford sent in this photograph of a clever, curious sign at an automobile repair shop in Taiwan:

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Sumomomomomomomomo

That's the name of a three-year-old filly who had a maiden win at a Tokyo racecourse on November 1, 2021, as described in "Japanese Tongue Twisters", by Richard Medhurst, nippon.com (Nov 17, 2021).

The horse takes her name from the following Japanese tongue twister: Sumomo mo momo mo momo no uchi (スモモも、モモも、モモのうち), meaning “Both sumomo and peaches are kinds of peaches.”

A sumomo is a kind of plum (Prunus salicina), sometimes called the “Japanese plum,” although not to be confused with the famous ume. Botanically, it cannot really said to be a kind of peach (momo), which is only a close relation (Prunus persica). Still, the linguistic connection might be enough; at the word level, at least, we could say a sumomo is a kind of momo.

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Data, information, knowledge, insight, wisdom, and Conspiracy Theory

The relationships among these different types of knowing has always been something that intrigued me.  Now it's all spelled out diagrammatically:

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Please stoop

Photograph from Paul M in Taipei:

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Go protest on Causeway Road

From the Facebook page of the Hong Kong poet, Tammy Ho Lai-Ming, president of PEN Hong Kong, as reproduced in Andrea Lingenfelter, "At This Moment, Everyone Is a Revolution: The Poems of Tammy Ho Lai-Ming and the Hong Kong Crisis", Blog // Los Angeles Review of Books (8/4/19):

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Wo'men's'da'y

Tong Wang ran into this picture today in Beijing:

image.png

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The Bureau of Linguistical Reality

No, The Bureau of Linguistical Reality is not something dreamed up by Borges, or the Firesign Theatre. It actually exists, or at least it exists in the same state of electronic virtual actuality as Language Log, YouTube, and the Wayback Machine.

The Bureau of Linguistical Reality was established on October 28, 2014 for the purpose of collecting, translating and creating a new vocabulary for the Anthropocene.

Our species (Homo Sapien) is experiencing a collective “loss of words” as our lexicon fails to represent the emotions and experiences we are undergoing as our habitat (earth) rapidly changes due to climate change and other unprecedented events. To this end the The Bureau of Linguistical Reality is solemnly tasked generating linguistic tools to express these changes at the personal and collective level.

Cartographers are redrawing maps to accommodate rising seas, psychologists are beginning to council people on climate change related stress, scientists are defining this as a new age or epoch. The Bureau was thus established, as an interactive conceptual artwork to help to fill the linguistical void in our rapidly changing world.

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Toward a recursive meta-pragmatics of Twitterspheric intertextuality

A few days ago, I posted a post consisting of…

a screenshot of a tweet (by me) consisting of…

a screenshot of a Language Log post (by me) consisting of…

a screenshot of a tweet (by me) consisting of…

a screenshot of a tweet by Lynne Murphy, a linguistics professor, quote-tweeting* an earlier tweet by Benjamin Dreyer, who is (although I didn’t know it at the time) a vice president, Executive Managing Editor, and Copy Chief at Random House.
* retweeting and adding a comment

The post was titled, "There's a fine line between recursion and intertextuality."

A screenshot of the post is provided below the fold—but I hasten to add that I am providing the screenshot solely as a convenience to the reader, to save them the trouble of having to leave this post in order to look at that one, should they be so inclined.

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The American Dialect Society in the New York Times crossword

The American Dialect Society gets a nice shout-out in Tuesday's New York Times crossword. More than a shout-out, in fact: the puzzle is actually ADS-themed.

Subscribers to the Times crossword can download the puzzle in Across Lite format or as a PDF. After you've solved it, you can read my commentary in the NYT's Wordplay column. (Or just skip to the column if you don't mind the spoilers. You can also see the clues and completed grid on XWord Info.)

Wordplay also quotes Greg Poulos, the crossword's creator (making his debut in the Times), who revealed that he came up with the theme while reading Language Log. Great to see, especially after Tom McCoy's grammatical-diversity-themed puzzle back in March. Linguisticky crosswords are all the rage!

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