Archive for Language and sports

Palestra: wrestling of the mind

I played college basketball for Dartmouth for four years.  That means I had ample opportunity to play in Penn's hallowed Palestra.  All of the Ivy League schools had unique, distinctive gymnasia, and they remain sharply etched in my mind.  But the Palestra was something else altogether, as though it belonged in a different league, a different world.  Entering the vaulted space was intimidating enough by itself, but the fact that the bleachers (in)famously came right down to the edge of the floor, with no separation of the fans from the game, made it all the more nerve-wracking to play there, not to mention that the Penn teams were always extremely well coached and fiercely determined.

Since I do not know of any other sports arena in America that is called by such a classical, Greek sounding name, nor of any other that has such a distinguished history, it would be worth our while to inquire how it became so.

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World record gathering of people with same name

"Hirokazu, meet Hirokazu: 178 Hirokazu Tanakas set record for gathering of people with same name", Kyodo (10/29/22):

A 178-strong group of people all named Hirokazu Tanaka broke the Guinness World Record for the largest gathering of people with the same first and last name in Tokyo on Saturday.

The Tanaka Hirokazu association organized the successful attempt in Shibuya Ward, which saw them outdo the 2005 record set by 164 people called Martha Stewart, who were brought together by the famous American businesswoman of the same name.

A representative of the association, Hirokazu Tanaka, 53, said it was the group’s third try after two failed attempts in 2011 and 2017, when 71 and 87 Hirokazu Tanakas turned up, respectively.

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Diacritics: Iga Świątek

"Iga Swiatek Teaches Everyone How To Say (Pronounce) Her Name Properly" 

Youtube (6/4/22)

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Oleomargarine: rituals and litany

In the previous post ("Oil: a partial paradigm" [6/19/22)]), we have been discussing the origins and ramifications of the derivation of the word "oil" from the ancient Greek word for olive.  The last comment (before I wrote this post), by Coby, states:  "Spanish also has the word óleo, which can mean either oil paint or the oil used in church rituals."  Reading Coby's reference to óleo immediately sparked fond childhood memories of the Mair family ritual of mixing margarine.

We were a large and not well off family, so we seldom could afford real butter.  Consequently, we used oleomargarine to spread on our bread rather than butter.  We referred to it as "oleo" instead of "margarine", since the latter seemed too fancy-fussy in our household, and "oleomargarine" would have taken too much time to pronounce and would have been considered archly pedantic among us rural Ohio folk.

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Chinese nationality

[This is a guest post by Bob Ramsey]


Eileen Gu is the face of at least 23 brands in China
She Made $31.4 Million in Endorsement Deals Last Year

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How to pronounce the surname "Mair" and other Doggie talk

People pronounce my surname all sorts of different ways — Myer, Mare, Meer, Mire, as in Golda Meir, etc., etc., with the number of syllables (one or two), accent, and vowel quality varying almost limitlessly  — but I've never once in my life "corrected" anyone, because I think they're all legitimate.  Think of the different ways to pronounce Sun Yat-sen's and Chiang Kai-shek's names, and how to pronounce 陈 (Chen, Chin, Chan, Tan).

After all, people in the same family may pronounce their own surname differently, e.g., Boucher ("Butcher, Boochez"), Naquin ("Na-can, Næ-kwin"), and the famous Penn Sinologist Derk Bodde (1909-2003) introduced himself as "Derek Bod", whereas most other people called him "Durk Bod-de").

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Black hair and cattle

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"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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“Who Dey?”

You'll be hearing a lot of that Cincinnati Bengals chant today.

What does it mean?  How did it originate?

To understand the meaning, you have to put it in the context of the whole chant:

"Who dey, who dey, who dey think gonna beat dem Bengals?" Fans then roar: "Nobody!"

So it's a rhetorical question.

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Nominations for Japanese words of the year

Mezurashii / めずらしい / 珍しい ("amazing; wonderful; rare").  Love 'em!  Such creativity!  Such imagination!

"Japan’s Words of 2021: Nominees Announced for Annual List"
Language Nov 4, 2021

On November 4, the publisher Jiyū Kokumin Sha announced its list of nominees for the words and phrases best representing the year 2021. Our complete list of the nominees with explanations.
New Words for a Pandemic Year

Each year Jiyū Kokumin Sha, the publisher of Gendai yōgo no kiso chishiki (Basic Knowledge on Contemporary Terminology), an annual guide to the latest terms in use in the Japanese language, holds its contest to decide the Words of the Year. For 2021, the nominating committee selected a list of 30 terms that have made themselves a part of the spoken and written landscape in Japan this year.

….

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Judo: martial arts neologism or ancient philosophical term?

The term "judo", which sport / martial art ("as a physical, mental, and moral pedagogy" [source]) was only created in 1882 by Jigoro Kano 嘉納治五郎 (1860-1938).  What I find amazing is that jūdō / MSM róudào 柔道 ("soft / flexible / gentle / supple / mild / yielding way") comes right out of the Yìjīng 易經 (Book / Classic of Change[s]).  Of course, traditional Japanese scholars have always been learned in the Chinese classics, so it shouldn't be too surprising that they would draw on the classics for terminology and ideas that had great meaning for them.  But I'm curious whether Jigoro Kano explicitly referred to the Yìjīng in any of his writings about jūdō 柔道.

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Om, sumo, and the universality of sound

From Zihan Guo:

A Japanese expression I came upon in a reading from Takami sensei's class reminded me of the "om" you mentioned weeks ago in our class.

阿吽の呼吸(aun'nokokyū あうんのこきゅう)
 
It refers to the synchronization of breathing of sumo opponents before a match. I read about this in an article about an interview with a sumo wrestler. But the "aun あうん" part lingered in my mind. Then I realized that it was the Japanese transliteration of the "om" that you were telling the class that encompassed all sounds:  "a" and "un" signify the beginning and end of the cosmos respectively, or so wikipedia explains. The Japanese phrase means a harmonious, non-verbal communication.

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The African origins of the name of a black samurai

[The first part of this post, giving the historical background of the central figure, is by S. Robert Ramsey.]


Two joined panels of a Japanese folding screen painted in 1605

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