Archive for September, 2015

Scots words for snow

Several people have sent this in: "Scots 'have 421 words' for snow", BBC News 9/23/2015:

Academics have officially logged 421 terms – including "snaw" (snow), "sneesl" (to begin to rain or snow) and "skelf" (a large snowflake).

The study by the University of Glasgow is part of a project to compile the first Historical Thesaurus of Scots, which is being published online.

The research team have also appealed for people to send in their own words.

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Japanese nuances (nyuansu ニュ アンス) of "nuisance"

From Bruce Balden:

The link below (dated 1/29/15) concerns apparently incomprehensible behavior on the part of the father of a young Japanese man taken hostage and killed by ISIS recently.

The link contains the key phrase "for lack of a better translation", but I wonder how hard they tried to translate it. I'd be interested to know what exactly Haruna Yukawa's father said and if it's really so incomprehensible when taken in context.

The phrase in question was uttered by Yukawa’s father when he formally apologized to the people of Japan for his son “causing a nuisance”.

"Chinese netizens left reeling after father of slain Japanese hostage apologizes to the public" (1/29/15)

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Absolved of having done nothing wrong

Last month, the hockey star Patrick Kane was accused of rape, and investigations of the matter continue. Last week, he joined the Chicago Blackhawks' training camp, and at a press event organized by the team, he read a statement that addressed the accusations as follows:

While I have too much respect for the legal process
to comment on an on-going matter

I am confident
that once all the facts are brought to light
I will be absolved of having done nothing wrong

[Chris Hine and Stacy St. Clair, "Patrick Kane 'confident' he will be 'absolved' of wrongdoing", Chicago Tribune 9/17/2015.]

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Chinglish bumper crop

Depending on your attitude to Chinglish, it is getting better / worse all the time.  The latest batch I received comes from a Weixin (WeChat) site named "Sì dà fāmíng 四大發明" (translation:  "Four Great Inventions", though they simultaneously treat that as a transcription:  "Star Farming").

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Fake Obama, fake English

Earlier today, BBC News posted this article:

"Chinese Obama speaks 'fake' English" (9/21/15)

Embedded at the top of the article is this video in which actor Xiao Jiguo displays his talents at impersonating Obama:

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Smoot-Hawley on the web

[Warning: little direct linguistic content.] Apple's decision to allow ad-blocking in iOS-9 (Eric Griffith, "Apple iOS 9 Ad-Blocking Explained (And Why It's a Bad Move", PC Magazine 6/11/2015) has caused a recent flurry of stories as iOS-9 has been rolled out. A few examples: Casey Johnston, "Welcome to the Block Party", The Awl 9/14/2015; Katie Benner & Sydney Ember, "Enabling of Ad Blocking in Apple’s iOS 9 Prompts Backlash", NYT 9/18/2015; Andrea Peterson & Brian Fung, "Why the maker of a chart-topping ad blocker just pulled it off the App Store", WaPo 9/18/2015; Philip Elmer-DeWitt, "Let the iOS 9 ad block wars begin!", Fortune 9/20/2015; Jasper Jackson, "Can publishers stop the ad blocking wave?", The Guardian 9/20/2015; "Will Ad-Blocking Millennials Destroy Online Publishing Or Save It?", Forbes 9/20/2015.

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Promoting Chinese characters in Korea

Most of what is said below applies mainly to South Korea, since Hangul-only writing has been even more deeply entrenched in North Korea than in the south.

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Participles, conveying urgency?

The first two and last two panels of today's Doonesbury:

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Vanessa Ruiz

Fernanda Santos and Christine Hauser, "Arizona News Anchor Is Drawn Into Debate on Her Accent and the Use of Spanish", NYT 9/3/2015:

An Arizona news anchor defended her pronunciation of Spanish words during English broadcasts, saying she delivers them the way the language is intended to be spoken. […]

Ms. Ruiz, who was raised in a bilingual household, said some viewers had questioned her way of pronouncing Spanish words. Sandra Kotzambasis, the station’s news director, said viewers were asking why Ms. Ruiz “rolled her Rs.”

The most striking thing about this controversy is how small the issue really is, at least in terms of the number and type of words whose pronunciation is contested.

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Typical options like “he� and “she�

Collin Binkley, "He? She? Ze? Colleges add gender-free pronouns, alter policy", AP 9/18/2015

Welcome to Harvard. Feel free to pick a pronoun on this form: __ He. __ She. __ Ze. __ E. __ They.

During the registration process at Harvard University, students are now allowed to indicate which pronouns they use, with suggested gender-neutral options like "ze" or "they." Harvard isn't the first college to embrace gender-neutral pronouns, but it's among a wave of major institutions that are widening their policies and pronouns to acknowledge transgender students, as well as "genderqueer" students, who don't identify as male or female.

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Handwriting recognition

The website has a new article that piqued my interest:

"96.7% recognition rate for handwritten Chinese characters using AI that mimics the human brain" (9/17/15)

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Today's SMBC, oddly out of phase with the seasons, starts this way:

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Vocabulary display in the CNN debate

For fans of what we might call rhetoricometry — methods that let you analyze political discourse without having to listen to it or read it :-) — here's a type-token plot of the contributions to Wednesday's CNN debate of five of the eleven candidates who were featured in the prime-time round:

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