Archive for February, 2014

Seeing past the moment

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What do the following phrases or sayings have in common?

  • first-year experience
  • fast-track MBA
  • be the difference
  • cure violence
  • student life
  • students with diabetes
  • one course at a time
  • touched by a nurse
  • we're conquering cancer
  • working toward a world without cancer
  • imagination beyond measure
  • tomorrow starts here

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Erdogan's phone conversations

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been the prime minister of Turkey for 11 years. On Monday, someone posted on YouTube what purports to be recordings of a series of phone conversations between Erdoğan and his son, discussing how to hide a billion dollars or so in cash: "Başçalan Erdoğan'ın Yalanlarının ve Yolsuzluklarının Kaydı"= "Recording of Erdogan's lying and corruption". Here's an acted version of an English translation, from "Full transcript of voice recording purportedly of Erdoğan and his son", Today's Zaman 2/26/2014:

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Eighty-one Cantonese proverbs in one picture

From the "Cantonese Resources" blog:

Ah To 阿塗, a graphic designer and part-time cartoonist who is concerned about the survival of Cantonese in Canton and Hong Kong, has just published a comic called "The Great Canton and Hong Kong Proverbs" on Hong Kong independent media "Passion Times".

(Click to embiggen.)

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Sushi in Sochi

David Craig sent in this picture which showed up on the Facebook Armchair Linguists page, originally posted by Olexa Stomachenko; no one seems to know what it means:

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Your morning dose of surrealism

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Phonemes, how do they work?

Robert Browning never had to apologize for his mistake, and no one asked him to resign. But he made it in a poem, and this was all before Twitter was invented, and he wasn't an American politician. (See "Twat v. Browning", 1/19/2005, for details.) Bob FitzSimmons, Virginia GOP treasurer, wasn't so lucky:

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Quick, short those kidney futures…

Unfortunate juxtaposition of the week, from today's MedPage teaser:

The last batch was hard to beat, but I think this one manages it.

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A variable, transcriptional Chinese character

Gloria Bien sent in the following photograph and asked what to make of the Chinese text in it, especially the unusual character 叻, which is pronounced lè in Modern Standard Mandarin (MSM; but see below for the Cantonese pronunciation and meaning). Wenlin says it's part of a name for Singapore, but not used alone, as it is in this picture. Google says Overseas Chinese use it for Singapore. But, as Gloria observes, "I'm the most Singapore" doesn't make sense.

This is from a package of noodles from Emeryville, CA, and says "Product of China," but complex characters are used throughout.

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Sale of chicken murder

This fine instance of Saudinglish is found, together with other prime examples, in the following article: "Vous avez aimé le 'chinglish', vous allez adorer le 'saudinglish'!"

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A weekend is not a surface

Last night at dinner, several Americans and a Canadian got into a discussion with an Irishman and an Australian about weekends. Since all of the participants were linguists, the discussion centered on prepositions: Were we having dinner on a weekend in February or at a weekend in February?  The North Americans voted for "on", a choice that the Irishman found preposterous. "A weekend," he observed, "is not a surface."

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Really lost in translation

Ray Girvan ("Ibong Adarna: Google Mistranslate", 2/17/2014) documents one of the more bizarre machine-translation oddities in recent years:

Ibong Adarna is the title of a massively popular epic fantasy in the mythology and culture of the Philippines; it originally went under the snappy title of Corrido ng Pinagdaanang Buhay nang Tatlong Principeng, Magcacapatid na Anac nang haring Fernando at nang Reina Valeriana sa Caharian ng Berbania ("Corrido of the Traveled/Travailed Life of Three Princes, Sibling Children of King Fernando and Queen Valeriana of the Kingdom of Berbania"). Despite the Spanish names, it evidently pre-dates the Spanish Era in the Philippines.

You should read Ray's post for more background on the history, form, and significance of this work, whose title means "The Adarna Bird".  Because somehow — mischance? malice? — Google Translate came up with this:

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Literate programming and reproducible research

From the Scientific and Technical Achievements section of last week's Academy Awards:

To Matt Pharr, Greg Humphreys and Pat Hanrahan for their formalization and reference implementation of the concepts behind physically based rendering, as shared in their book Physically Based Rendering.  Physically based rendering has transformed computer graphics lighting by more accurately simulating materials and lights, allowing digital artists to focus on cinematography rather than the intricacies of rendering. First published in 2004, Physically Based Rendering is both a textbook and a complete source-code implementation that has provided a widely adopted practical roadmap for most physically based shading and lighting systems used in film production.

I believe that this is the first time that an Academy Award has been given to a book. And this (ten-year-old) book was written in a way that deserves to be better known and more widely imitated.

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