Archive for Errors

China rules

For the last few weeks, the New York Times has been running a hyped-up, gushing series of lengthy articles under the rubric "China rules". On a special section in the paper edition for Sunday, November 25, they printed this gigantic headline in Chinese characters — and made a colossal mistake:

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The wrong way to write Chinese characters

This is one of the best, general, brief introductions to the challenges of the Chinese writing system I know of:

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"Major political error"

What was it?

Instead of writing "Xí Jìnpíng xīn shídài Zhōngguó tèsè shèhuì zhǔyì sīxiǎng 习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想" ("Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era"), two Shaanxi Daily editors wrote "Xí Jìnpíng zǒng shūjì xīn shídài Zhōngguó tèsè shèhuì zhǔyì sīxiǎng 习近平总书记新时代中国特色社会主义思想 ("General Secretary Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era").

For this "major political error", the editors were respectively fined 10,000 and 5,000 yuan (US1,440 and US720).  Luckily, the proofreading team caught this gross miswording the next morning before publication.

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Pinyin for the Prez

Watch what happens at the tail end of the 24 second video clip in this Twitter post:

https://twitter.com/sszyz1758/status/1054376432762216448

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Reanalysis, Jackie Chan edition

Photograph of a high-backed chair that has gone viral on Chinese social media (as reported in this Taiwan newspaper):

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Nepal, Naple(s), Naipul, nipple, whatever

We at Language Log are no strangers to Nepal:

"'Bāphre bāph!' — my favorite Nepali expression" (8/12/18)

"Learn Nepali" (9/21/16)

"Dung Times" (3/14/18)

"Royal language" (9/29/15)

"Oli ko goli" (10/13/15)

"Unknown Language #7" (2/27/13)

"Unknown Language #7: update" (5/12/13)

Being linguists and language specialists, we know how to pronounce this deceptively simple name, right?

"Nepal":  /nəˈpɔːl/ (About this sound listen); Nepali: नेपाल About this sound Nepāl [neˈpal]

But the general public is not so sure.

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Spectral Sinographs

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Massive miswriting

"Can Chinese Write Their Own Language?" | ASIAN BOSS (7/19/18)

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Seismic solecism

Tangshan, in Hebei Province, was the epicenter of what is considered to the deadliest earthquake of the 20th century, with more than 650,000 of its million inhabitants perishing as a result of this July 28, 1976 disaster.  I still remember clearly the day that it happened, because the news came when I was attending a conference on Chinese philosophy at Harvard University, and many of the participants volunteered to assist the people of Tangshan one way or another (our offers were spurned by the Chinese government).

Two days ago, a linguistic upheaval jolted Tangshan, and the tremors were felt throughout the whole of China.

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Office of Mayhem Evaluation

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Really weird sinographs, part 2

Some of the commenters to the first part of this series seem to be making the case that many of the characters chosen by Scott Wilson for his SoraNews24 article are not so weird after all.  I beg to differ.  I think that all of the characters he chose are truly strange, awesomely odd.  Even those who are skeptics admit that the loopy and curvy ones are unusual.  But I think that Wilson has done a good job of picking out weird characters from Morohashi, and as noted in the o.p., there are thousands more that might be thought of as weird.

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Peking University president misreads an unobscure character: monumental implications

In an address celebrating the 120th anniversary of Peking University, the president of said institution, Lin Jianhua, misread hóng zhì 鸿鹄志 ("grand, lofty aspiration") as hónghào zhì 鸿皓志 (doesn't really mean anything).  The blunder swiftly spread on the internet, leading Lin to issue an apology.  See this article in Chinese.

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Able to read and write, yet illiterate

In the course of doing research for a series of posts I plan on doing, I was listening to an interview from a few years ago with Bryan Garner, and something he said bothered me. Well, actually, I was bothered by more than one thing that he said, but this post is only about one of them: Garner's use of the word literate. And truth be told, that's something that's bothered me for a while.

Garner doesn't usually use literate to mean 'able to read and write'. Rather, he uses it as a term of praise for the kind of people and publications that use the expressions he approves of and avoid those he condemns. Thus, his usage guides tell us that the double comparative is uncommon "among literate speakers and writers," that irrelevant is sometimes misspelled irrevelant in "otherwise literate publications," that singular they "sets many literate Americans' teeth on edge." In contrast, pronouncing the –p– in comptroller "has traditionally been viewed as semiliterate," as is the word irregardless and writing would of instead of would have. Saying where's it at is "a badge of illiteracy."

Garner would say that he's using literate to mean 'educated' or 'cultured.' Although there's no entry for the word in his usage guides, there is one for illiterate, which obviously illuminates Garner's understanding of literate:

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