Archive for November, 2015

Mea culpae? Meae culpae? Meis culpis? Mea culpas?

The following is a guest post by frequent LLOG commenter J.W. Brewer:

Someone forwarded me a link by a distinguished emeritus professor (I recognize the name, think I once saw him speak at a conference, have the impression his scholarly work is generally well-regarded by people whose judgment I trust) writing about current campus turmoil, and I was caught short by the sentence. “Reflexive mea culpae may buy temporary peace and goodwill but only invite more extreme demands.”

I got distracted from the substance of the piece (with which I largely agreed, give or take some matters of tone or emphasis) by the notion that this was not only pretentious but Wrong Wrong Wrong (so serves him right for letting pretension lead him into error).  Google books, however, suggests that it’s not an original error, and there are instances in English going back at least to the 1870’s.

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That should work well

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Technical Sauna at Buddy Hair

Another intriguing sign from Nagoya, Japan sent in by Nathan Hopson:

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Mind your manners at the urinal, won't you?

Nathan Hopson sent in this photo of a sign that is posted above the urinals at the Atsuta Shrine in Nagoya, the #2 shrine in Japan's Shinto hierarchy:

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Clogged drains and "Uncle Hanzi"

I spotted this photograph in an article that I'll describe below:

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The shawm and its eastern cousins

I have long been intrigued by the Chinese instrument called suǒnà 嗩吶 (double-reeded horn).  Because of the sound and shape of the name, and the fact that the characters used to write it both have mouth radicals, indicating that they are being used to convey pronunciation rather than meaning, I have always suspected that suǒnà 嗩吶 was the transcription of a foreign word.  This suspicion was underscored by the time (medieval period) and direction (from the Western Regions [as attested in wall paintings and plastic art]) that it entered the panoply of Chinese musical instruments.  There are at least half a dozen different combinations of various characters for transcribing the sound of this word (see Hànyǔ dà cídiǎn 漢語大詞典 [Unabridged Dictionary of Sinitic], 3.461b]).

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WOTY 2015

According to a press release sent out earlier today,

Today Oxford Dictionaries announces the emoji, commonly known as “Face with Tears of Joy,” as its “Word” of the Year for 2015.

They explain that

This year Oxford University Press partnered with leading mobile technology business SwiftKey to explore frequency and usage statistics for some of the most popular emoji across the world. “Face with Tears of Joy” came out a clear winner. According to SwiftKey’s research, “Face with Tears of Joy” was the most heavily used emoji globally in 2015. Their research shows that the character comprised 20% of all emoji used in the UK in 2015, and 17% of all emoji used in the US. This compared to 4% and 9% respectively in 2014. In the US the next most popular emoji was “Face Throwing a Kiss,” comprising 9% of all usage.


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Cloud Conversations

David Donnell writes:

My initial thought was that there was a climate-related "cloud conversation" that the French were oppposing — Michele Kelemen, "Paris Attacks Cloud Conversation At Summit Of World Powers", NPR 11/15/2015.


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Pronouncing "Daesh"

In the comments on yesterday's post, the question arose about how the  Arabic-based acronym "Daesh" (from al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham, "the islamic state of Iraq and the Levant", maybe better rendered as "Da’ish") would be pronounced in English.

We now know what Barack Obama's choice is — [dæʃ], as in "dash":

Turkey's been a strong partner with the United States and other members of the coalition in going after uh the activities of ISIL or Daesh uh both in Syria and Iraq
 uh to help to fortify the borders between Syria and Turkey that uh allowed Daesh to operate
and to eliminate uh Daesh as uh a force that can create uh so much pain and suffering

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The city of Seoul, South Korea, has a new slogan.  This is what it looks like:

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According to Merriam-Webster, a weasel is

: a small animal that has a thin body and brown fur and that eats small birds and other animals
: a dishonest person who cannot be trusted

It's the second sense — and the alliteration with winner — that leads a local sports talk radio show to offer "winner of the week and weasel of the week" pseudo-awards. The  Watcher of Weasels web site similarly has a "weasel of the week" award:

Every Tuesday, the Council nominates some of the slimiest, most despicable characters in public life for some deed of evil, cowardice or corruption they’ve performed. Then we vote to single out one particular Weasel for special mention, to whom we award the statuette of shame, our special, 100% plastic Golden Weasel.

But a couple of days ago, I saw something in the Daily Pennsylvanian that made me wonder whether there's some semantic bleaching going on, washing out the implications of dishonesty, evil, cowardice, and corruption, and thereby leaving weasel as nothing more than mildly derogatory epithet.

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C'est la vie ~

Chris P sent in the following emojis from WeChat:

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Bakugai ("explosive buying"): Japanese word of the year nominee

The tension is building.  On Tuesday, December 1, the Japanese Word of the Year for 2015 ( will be chosen from among a list of 50 nominees.  It's a good group, with each of the nominees having intrinsic character and worthy credentials.  In this post, however, the focus is on just one of the more interesting candidates:  bakugai 爆買い ("explosive buying").

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