Archive for April, 2013

Cupertino of the year (?)

Alex Baumans asks, "Could this be a Cupertino?" Liz Rafferty, "Oops! Zooey Deschanel Captioned as Boston Marathon Bombing Suspect", TV Guide 4/21/2013:

Who's that girl? It's … the Boston Marathon bomber?

During the intense lockdown and manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombing suspects Friday, a local Fox affiliate in Dallas, Texas misidentified one of the suspects as none other than New Girl star Zooey Deschanel. The closed-captioning error came as the station was attempting to name Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the second suspect in the attack who was being hunted by police on Friday.

"He is 19-year-old Zooey Deschanel," the caption faux pas read.

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Dungan: a Sinitic language written with the Cyrillic alphabet

The Dungan people are a group of Sinitic speakers whose Muslim ancestors fled to Central Asia (mainly in parts of what are now Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan) over a century ago when the Qing (Manchu) government suppressed their revolt (1862-1877), one of many Muslim uprisings in the course of Chinese history since Islam arrived in East Asia during the Middle Ages.

When they came to Central Asia, the Dungans were mostly illiterate peasants from northwest China who spoke a series of topolects from Shaanxi, Gansu, and other areas.  From 1927 to 1928, they wrote their language with the Arabic alphabet, and from 1928-1932 they used the Latin alphabet.  In 1952-53, the Soviet government created for the Dungans a writing system based on the Cyrillic alphabet, which they continue to use till today.

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Chechens, Czechs, whatever

"Statement of the Ambassador of the Czech Republic on the Boston terrorist attack", 4/19/2013:

As many I was deeply shocked by the tragedy that occurred in Boston earlier this month. It was a stark reminder of the fact that any of us could be a victim of senseless violence anywhere at any moment.

As more information on the origin of the alleged perpetrators is coming to light, I am concerned to note in the social media a most unfortunate misunderstanding in this respect. The Czech Republic and Chechnya are two very different entities – the Czech Republic is a Central European country; Chechnya is a part of the Russian Federation.

As the President of the Czech Republic Miloš Zeman noted in his message to President Obama, the Czech Republic is an active and reliable partner of the United States in the fight against terrorism. We are determined to stand side by side with our allies in this respect, there is no doubt about that.

Petr Gandalovič
Ambassador of the Czech Republic

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He / she / it / none of the above

I missed this article in the Chinese edition of China Daily when it first appeared on June 20, 2012, but it raises an issue that is sufficiently important to warrant addressing now that William Steed has kindly called my attention to it:

"Qián Jīnfán:  84 suì hòu kuà xìngbié 'rénshēng de cànlàn qī cáigāng kāishǐ'" 钱今凡:84岁后跨性别 "人生的灿烂期才刚开始" ("Qian Jinfan:  'the most glorious period of a person's life only begins' after age 84 when one transcends gender")

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Cupertinos in the spotlight

About seven years ago, in March 2006, I wrote a Language Log post about "the Cupertino effect," a term to describe spellchecker-aided "miscorrections" that might turn, say, Pakistan's Muttahida Quami Movement into the Muttonhead Quail Movement. It owes its name to European Union translators who had noticed the word cooperation getting replaced with Cupertino by a spellchecker that lacked the unhyphenated form of the word in its dictionary. Since then, I've had occasion to hold forth on the Cupertino effect in various venues (OUPblog, Der Spiegel, Radiolab, the New York Times, etc.). Now, Cupertinos are getting yet another flurry of publicity, thanks to a new book by the British tech writer Tom Chatfield called Netymology.

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Importance of publishing data and code

J.W. writes:

In connection with some of your prior statements on the Log about the importance of publishing underlying data, you might be interested in Thomas Herndon, Michael Ash, and Robert Pollin, "Does High Public Debt Consistently Stifle Economic Growth? A Critique of Reinhart and Rogoff", PERI 4/15/2013 (explanation in lay language at "Shocking Paper Claims That Microsoft Excel Coding Error Is Behind The Reinhart-Rogoff Study On Debt", Business Insider 4/16/2013). In sum, a look at the data spreadsheet underlying a really influential 2010 economics paper reveals that its results were driven by selective data exclusions, idiosyncratic weighting, and an Excel coding error [!].

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On the other hand, alone

My faith in the possibility of integrity and self-criticism in humankind got a real boost the other day when I read a post on Lingua Franca in which an editor (who is also a professor in an English department) stopped to think about whether she was in the right about a construction she had been proscribing for years in the journal papers she edited, and decided that she wasn't.

Is it legitimate to say "On the other hand, …" in a text where you have not first used "On the one hand, …"? Professor Anne Curzan thought the answer was no. And for years she told authors to change on the other hand to something like in contrast if they hadn't got a preceding instance of on the one hand somewhere nearby. But then one day she got to thinking: Am I right? Is it really an error to use on the other hand alone? So she did what people interested in grammar only rarely do: she started looking at the evidence, and decided that it refuted her rule.

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Boostez votre carrière

R.S. writes:

Remember when using English words to create French counterparts was considered (I believe this is the technical term) a shonda?

Me neither. Still the case in Quebec, apparently, where the STOP signs say ARRET, but in the Hexagon apparently not so much.

In support of his case, he sends along this ad from Le Monde:

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Keep it vague

The buses run by Lothian Buses in Edinburgh currently have a prominent sign near the entrance that says "REVISED Adult Fare".

Revised. I will leave it to you to guess whether the fare has been revised upward or downward.

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Digital media cause shallowing of scientific research

From the University of Winnipeg News Centre, a press release dated 04/11/2013, "Study Supports Theory On Teen Texting And Shallow Thought":

A University of Winnipeg study finds that students who are heavy texters place less importance on moral, aesthetic, and spiritual goals, and greater importance on wealth and image. Those who texted more than 100 times a day were 30 per cent less likely to feel strongly that leading an ethical, principled life was important to them, in comparison to those who texted 50 times or less a day. Higher texting frequency was also consistently associated with higher levels of ethnic prejudice. […]

The main goal of the study was to test the so-called "shallowing hypothesis," described in the Nicholas Carr bestseller, The Shallows, and by some social neuroscientists. According to the shallowing hypothesis, ultra-brief social media like texting and Twitter encourages rapid, relatively shallow thought and consequently very frequent daily use of such media should be associated with cognitive and moral shallowness.

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Diagramming sentences

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Jumbled Chinese

I knew it wouldn't be long before someone came up with a Chinese equivalent to alphabetical typoglycemia:

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Attachment ambiguity in "Frazz"

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