Archive for April, 2015

How to pronounce the surname "Tsien"

A prominent scholar of early Chinese writing and books at the University of Chicago recently passed away:

"T.H. Tsien, Scholar of Chinese Written Word, Dies at 105" (4/19/15)

The New York Times "pronouncer" for "Tsien" is "chee-AHN".  That is very far from the mark.  Even for those who are not familiar with the niceties of Chinese consonants and vowels, "chee-AHN" doesn't sound remotely right because "Tsien" (like the vast majority of Chinese surnames) is one syllable, but "chee-AHN" makes it seem to have two syllables.  Moreover, Chinese is tonal, whereas the "AHN" of the pronouncer makes it seem to have emphasis on the second, (non-existent) syllable.

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It's not for (lack of (not)) trying

Andrew Hood, "With second at Amstel Gold, Valverde confident for remaining Ardennes races", Velo News 4/19/2015 (emphasis added):

Perhaps Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) will never win the Amstel Gold Race. It’s not for trying. And for the third time in his career, he was on the final podium Sunday, behind a superb Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-Quick-Step), who relegated Spain’s “Green Bullet” to second in the Dutch classic.

Francisco Almeida writes to suggest that there's an under-negation here, since the usual expression is "It's not for lack of trying".

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In a daze

Photo taken on a lane leading from Beijing's Nanluoguxiang:

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Suffer the consequences

Sign in Guilin, China:

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No striding

Another photo from Dean Barrett:

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Please micturate in the urinal

We have just emerged from a discussion of how to refer to dog excrement on public notices: "Scoop the poop" (4/15/15). The same sort of uncertainty surrounds notices concerning public urination by humans.  From a men's room in the West Beijing Railway Station:

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Black Mighty Sub-Package

From Mia in Shenzhen, China:

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Couque D'asse

Nathan Hopson sent in this photograph of a package of cookies:

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Japanese cocktail list

Tim Leonard sent in this most intriguing Japanese cocktail list, spotted by Regular Sandwiches:

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Kelly Dwyer, "Mark Cuban on his beloved Rockets, save James Harden: 'That’s not a very good team'", Yahoo Sports 4/17/2015:

What better voice than Cuban’s, a man who inherited a perennial loser in 2000 before proceeding to act as the top-of-the-fish leader of a club that has made the playoffs in 14 out of 15 full seasons in the years since?

Bradley Sherman sent the link with a request for top-of-the-fish enlightenment. I got nothing, except maybe olive oil, pepper, thyme, and lemon juice.


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Wasn't haven't it, ain't haven't it

Renditions of "wasn't having it" as "wasn't haven't it" are pretty common. Some examples from web search:

yeah, he tried but seen that I wasn't haven't it.
Rookie wasn't haven't it.
Richard wasn't haven't it today.
Ms. Claudia wasn't haven't it lol you started it & Claudia finished it.

And from twitter:

He was trynna touch up on the girls b4 practice someone told the coaches & they  wasn't haven't it AT ALL bruh.
Had to relax my hair by force!  The comb wasn't haven't it lol
I tried to tell you Mike Wallace wasn't haven't it!!
Great game from Linden tonight… RC tried to play bully ball but Linden wasn't haven't it#uctfinals

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Text by the bay

I'll be spending next Friday and Saturday in San Francisco at Text By The Bay, billed as "A new NLP conference bringing together researchers and practitioners, using computational linguistics and text mining to build new companies through understanding and meaning."

With 46 interesting-looking talks and a couple of panels, this seems like an excellent way to get a sense of the opportunities and activities in this area. There are talks from people at Microsoft, Wikimedia, AirBnB, Trulia,, Bloomberg, OpenTable, Twitter, LinkedIn, Verizon, etc., and from people at Berkeley, Stanford, Penn, and Purdue. And some of the presentations by people from smaller, newer, less-familiar outfits may be the most interesting of all.

Registration is not cheap — "new companies", an expensive venue, and all — but the organizer, Alexy Khrabrov, tells me that the discount code TEXTMARK will get you 50% off, and students who email to from their university account may be able to negotiate further reductions.


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"A year ago, we don't win tonight".

Ron Stack writes:

Here is Manager Terry Collins on the Mets' victory over the Marlins last night: “A year ago, we don’t win tonight. It’s a different mentality in our clubhouse now."  

I'm almost certain LL has covered this time-shifted present tense but since I don't even know what to call it I couldn't do much of a search.  

So, what is it? And why does it sound right but look strange? And why does it seem (anecdotally, anyway) to be so popular among coaches and managers?

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