Archive for Style and register

"The old man at the pass loses his horse"

For many years, Melinda Takeuchi, professor of Japanese art history at Stanford, regularly competed with horse and carriage in combined driving events.  Here's an example of what the sport looks like.

Not long ago, her carriage driving days came to an abrupt end due to an accident, which she describes thus:

I had a horrendous carriage wreck a couple of years ago — 5 dashing deer spooked my horse and she bolted. carriage flipped. i was life-flighted to stanford emergency where they discovered 8 broken ribs and a malignant cyst in the pancreas. by one of those crazy serendipitous miracles, the cancer was discovered in time to blitz it. so i survived against all odds, but my daredevil days are over. thank the goddess for horses in these days of shelter in place.

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Ladies' room

Photograph taken at the Los Angeles International Airport:

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"With all due respect"

If someone prefaces a sentence by saying "with all due respect", it's a sign that they are likely to unleash something negative or critical, and sometimes quite vulgar and highly disrespectful.  The result, then, is to intensify, rather than to mitigate, their criticism.

Paul Gogarty, a member of Ireland's Green Party, unloaded some fairly colourful language on Labour Party member Emmet Stagg during a debate using this term.

"With all due respect and in the most unparliamentary language, f**k you Deputy Stagg, f**k you…". He then added, "I apologize now for my use of unparliamentary language."

Source

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Please stoop

Photograph from Paul M in Taipei:

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be;eza

Sign on the front of a fashion store (shoes and handbags) in Taipei:

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Literary Sinitic / Classical Chinese dependency parsing

We are keenly aware that, while advances in machine translation of Vernacular Sinitic (VS) (Mandarin) are quite impressive and fundamentally serviceable, they cannot be applied directly to the translation of Literary Sinitic / Classical Chinese (LS/CC).  That would be like using an Italian translating program for Latin, a Hindi translation program for Sanskrit, or a Modern Greek translation program for Classical Greek, probably even less useful than these parallel cases, because the whole structure and nature of LS/CC and VS are different from each other.

However, now there is available a LS/CC parsing program that takes us on a major step toward a functional system for the machine translation of the literary / classical written language (it is only a written / book language, not a spoken language).  It was developed by  YASUOKA Koichi 安岡 孝一 of Kyoto University's Institute for Research in Humanities (Jinbun kagaku kenkyūjo 人文科学研究所) and is available here.

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Four infinitives in search of an object

Brendan O'Leary's A Treatise on Northern Ireland, Volume I starts with a quotation from Spinoza's Tractatus Politicus:

Sedulo curavi, humanas actiones non ridere, non lugere, neque detestari, sed intelligere.

I have labored carefully, not to ridicule, or detest, but to understand.

That's Brendan's translation, which captures the relevant essence, although it leaves out the second of Spinoza's four infinitives (ridere, lugere, detestari, intelligere) and also their object (humanas actiones). Reading this yesterday afternoon, on a train returning from a committee meeting in DC, I mentally supplied the missing English words, and realized that the result is problematically awkward, in a way that punctuation can't fix:

I have labored carefully not to ridicule, not to lament, and not to detest, but to understand human actions.

This led me to ponder (not for the first time) the stylistic advantages — or at least differences — of Latin's inflectional morphology and free word order.

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Blindly busy

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Stylistic preferences in English and Chinese

This is from an ad for a new apartment building in University City next to Penn:

Wèi nín xià gè rénshēng jiēduàn ér zuò de gōngyù

为您下个人生阶段而作的公寓

"Apartments made for the next stage of your (honorific) life"

Here's the English version from the same website:

Apartments for the next phase in life

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Language registers in spoken Chinese

Dave Cragin writes:

Throughout my years of learning Chinese, I’ve been surprised at the number of times I’ve been told by various Chinese that a specific Chinese phrase is:

    • only something foreigners say

and/or

    • Chinese NEVER say that phrase

or

    • only old Chinese women or only old Chinese say that phrase.

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From "reach out" to "outreach"

In response to "May I ask you a question?" (6/12/17), we've been having an energetic discussion about the origins and meaning of the expression "reach out", culminating (as of this moment) in Nick Kaldis' good question:

This topic causes an interesting related neologism to come to mind: when did “outreach” come into currency? Our campus has, for instance, a “Community Outreach” office.

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May I ask you a question?

Lately my more formal, stiff students (mostly undergrads) have been using the expression "reach out to you" when they want to ask me a question.  I also notice that I'm receiving random inquiries from people I don't know who approach me with this opening.

There's definitely a surge of "reaching out".  Two or three years ago, I only received messages with that beginning rarely, almost never, but now I get at least one a week.

Does anyone know when this way of couching a question started to become popular?  Any idea of the context in which it began to be used so routinely?

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Why electronic machine translation services sometimes seem to fail

The inability of Google Translate, Microsoft Translator, Baidu Fanyi, and other translation services to correctly render jī nián dàjí 鸡年大吉 ("may the / your year of the chicken be greatly auspicious!") in various languages points up a vital distinction that I have long wanted to make, and now is as good a time as ever.  Namely, just as you could not expect these translation services to handle Cantonese, Shanghainese, Taiwanese, etc. (unless specifically and separately programmed to do so), we should not expect them to deal with Literary Sinitic / Classical Chinese (LS / CC).

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