Archive for August, 2016

The em-dash candidate

Daniel Libit, "Transcribers' agony: Frustrated not by what Trump says but how he says it", CNBC 8/15/2016:

Few conventions in political campaign coverage are as straightforward and unassailable as quoting a public figure verbatim. After all, how can there be any doubt when you are putting down the exact words someone says?

And yet, as with many other parameters of the process, Donald Trump has complicated this, too.

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Blue domain

On 8/13/16, the Editorial Board of the New York Times published an editorial titled "China's Defiance in the South China Sea" that began with this colorful photograph:

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Go China

Jason Cox sent in the following very brief video from the USA-China basketball game at the Rio Olympics, showing a man holding a sign that says "Go USA".

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Jones and Palin on noun-pile headlines

From "Dr. Fegg's Encyclopedia of All World Knowledge", by Terry Jones and Michael Palin:

[h/t Don Porges]

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You know, I mean

Almost a decade ago, Matt Hutson asked me whether "there are underlying personality differences between people who punctuate (litter?) their speech with 'you know' versus those who use 'I mean' more frequently" ("I mean, you know", 8/19/2007). I wasn't able to offer any insight into personality associations, but looking in the LDC conversational speech corpus, I did find some associations with age, education, and gender.

Recently I've been transcribing some political speeches and interviews, and I've noticed that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are rather polarized on this dimension.

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Pinyin memoirs

Chang Li-ching (my wife) wrote her childhood memoirs in Hanyu Pinyin (Romanized Mandarin):

Pīnyīn Rìjì Duǎnwén (Pinyin Diary Essays).

Li-ching specifically did NOT want her memoirs published in hanzi (Chinese characters).  She was passionately devoted to farmers and workers — like John DeFrancis — and she wrote her memoirs in Pinyin as a testimony of her devotion to them.

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Vaina == jawn?

Philly has jawn — see Ben Zimmer on "The Etymology of Jawn", or listen to this story from WHYY:

According to Philly native Mary Seaborough, who works at Cook-Wissahickon elementary, where my kids attend school, "It really can mean anything you want it to mean."  Seaborough grew up in South Philly. She uses "jawn," and she helped me understand the word's versatility. It is used mainly to refer to places and things, but it can even be a person, specifically a pretty woman. "A guy might say, 'Man, did you see that jawn over there?'" Seaborough said.

Or there's Dan Kelley's article "Jawn — it's the new 'Yo'", Metro 12/1/2015:

“Creed might be the movie that introduces jawn to the rest of America,” said Taylor Jones, a linguistics graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania who uses social media to study how words, and slang, change.  In the film, “Jawn” is introduced by actress Tessa Thompson, who plays the Philly-born female love interest opposite Michael B. Jordan, who plays the film’s title character, Adonis Creed.  She drops the j-word, while ordering a cheesesteak — “put some peppers on that jawn.”

But according to Joanna Hausmann, Venezuela has vaina:

Some of the many other meanings of vaina in other places (sheath, scabbard, husk, shell, problem, snag, nuisance, bore, fluke, piece of luck, swindle, screw, twit, nitwit, dork, …) are listen here.

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Mo River Spengler

Rachel Kronick has a knack for finding strange foreign equivalents for Chinese toponyms on Baidu, China's foremost online encyclopedia.  See "The city of Mr. Andreessen, South Korea" (4/22/14).

Now she has struck paydirt again with "Mo Ri River Spengler" for Mòrìgélè hé 莫日格勒河 in the Baidu encyclopedia.

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Prosody posts

In the context of the current political season, I've started taking a look at rhetorical styles, including the aspects of rhythm, pitch, and voice quality for which linguists generally use the cover term "prosody". Our enormously over-long list of topic categories didn't include "prosody", so I've added it — and in the process of labeling relevant posts, I made a (probably still incomplete) list of linked titles and dates, which is reproduced below.

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Furigana-like glossing in Mandarin

On Language Log, we have often touched upon the use of furigana ruby to gloss kanji (Chinese characters) for various purposes, most recently in the comments to "Roman-letter Mandarin pronoun of indeterminate gender " (8/9/16).

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Pig Sanskrit

[This is a guest post by Jichang Lulu]

Victor's recent analysis of a certain Antibacterial Lotion of Woman ("Know your bird", 7/29/16) made me wonder what other felicitous Chinglish its purveyors might have come up with. I'd like to report on one mysterious product I found. Although no Chinglish is involved, another language is, more perfect than the Greek, more copious than Pig Latin.

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The Second Amendment people

The controversial words about the Second Amendment that Donald Trump uttered at a rally in North Carolina yesterday are as follows:

Hillary wants to abolish
— essentially abolish —
the Second Amendment.
By the way,
if she gets to pick her judges… [long pause]
Nothing you can do, folks. [long pause]
Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don't know.

Trump defenders are denying that this was an oblique encouragement to gun-possessing supporters to shoot Mrs Clinton. His own defense is that he was suggesting people should go to the polls and vote. Utter bullshit. This is perhaps Trump's most outrageous remark yet. He couldn't have blown the dog whistle much louder without being in danger of arrest for encouraging violence.

The three key linguistic points are (1) the reference of the noun phrase "the Second Amendment people", (2) the meaning of the modal adjunct "maybe", and (3) the function of the "I don't know" on the end.

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"Love in Translation" (with footnotes)

In the Aug. 8 & 15 issue of The New Yorker, staff writer Lauren Collins has a "personal history" piece entitled "Love in Translation" (subtitled, "Learning about culture, communication, and intimacy in my husband's native French"). It's very nicely written and will surely be of interest to Language Log readers. But Collins relies on some linguistic research without giving proper credit, an oversight I've tried to rectify below.

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