Archive for April, 2017

Wade-Giles Romanization and Chinese food

From Clarissa Wei, "The Struggles of Writing About Chinese Food as a Chinese Person", Munchies (4/24/17)

I hold myself to high standards when it comes to writing about Chinese food, yet I live in a world that can be quite insensitive in their approach to the cuisine.

For example, many writers (especially on the East Coast) still use the Wades-Giles spelling of Chinese locations, a phonetic system that was invented by British diplomats Herbert Giles and Thomas Wade. It is a dictionary that is largely outdated and widely inaccurate in its representation of Chinese phonetics. In the Wade-Giles system, Sichuan is Romanized to Szechuan. Nanjing is Nanking. Beijing is called Peking. These writers are the same people who still refer to Guangdong province as Canton.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (44)

More Deep Translation arcana

At Riddled, sometime LLOG commenter Smut Clyde has posted an impressive series of Goofle Translate experiments. You can read them at the links below — I've added locally-stored images, based on previous experience with bit rot as well as recent advice from James Angleton.

"Mayor Snorkum will lay the cake" [Snorkum1]
"Reveal to me the unknown tongue": [UnknownTongue1, UnknownTongue2, UnknownTongue3, UnknownTongue4, UnknownTongue5]
"Go home, Google Translate. You are drunk.": [Lovecraft1, Lovecraft2, Lovecraft3]

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (13)

Because of course PRO BE|DO

Ordan Buckley asked:

I'm curious if you have any thoughts on the slangy headline trend "X because of course X". Some examples:

World's largest Lamborghini dealer is in Dubai, because of course it is
Rob Gronkowski crashes Sean Spicer's briefing because of course he did
Seattle just broke a 122-year-old record for rain — because of course it did
Google Daydream doesn't work on the Galaxy S8 because of course it doesn't

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (16)

Luv u

My wife had an aversion to the first person pronoun.  She would do practically anything to avoid saying "I".  She thought it was egotistical to make frequent, direct reference to herself, whether in speech or in writing.  Among traditional Chinese, she probably was not entirely unique in that regard, but she was extreme in her first person avoidance, and it was through her that I became aware of the lengths to which someone might go keep from saying "I".

I do not fully comprehend the psychological reasons why some people shy away from use of the first person pronoun, but my sense is that it has to do with not wanting to be assertive.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (35)

Your gigantic crocodile!

One more piece of Google Translate poetry, contributed by Mackenzie Morris:


Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (24)

Secret bilingual language

My wife and I used to have a private language that was full of bilingual, cryptic references such as the following:

Yáo Shùn Yǔ 尧舜禹 (the names of three ancient, wise, Chinese rulers) || sānmíngzhì 三明治 ("three wise rulers"), the Chinese transcription of English "sandwich".

Thus, if we wished to ask each other, "Do you want to eat a sandwich?", we might say "Nǐ yào bùyào chī yī ge Yáo Shùn Yǔ? 你要不要吃一个尧舜禹?".  That sort of word play was usually just for fun or to avoid a word that was transcribed into Mandarin from some other language.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (27)

Those TED audiences expect to be entertained

And tickets are expensive, so they can be brutal if you offend them — "Pope warns powerful to act humbly or risk ruin in TED talk", ABC News, 4/26/2017:

[h/t Michael Leddy]

Comments (3)

Explosive semantics

"New images of MOAB denotation damage", Fox News 4/25/2016:

The denotation damage has been estimated at nearly 20 kiloreferences. And the connotation damage, though not yet measured, is believed to be larger than from any explosion in recent decades.

[h/t Glenn Bingham]

Comments (8)

"I have gone into my own way"

In a series of recent posts we've explored the fun side of recursive weighted sums and point nonlinearities as a translation algorithm: "What a tangled web they weave", "A long short-term memory of Gertrude Stein", "Electric sheep", "The sphere of the sphere is the sphere of the sphere". But the featured translations have all involved inputs of characters in kana, hangul, Thai script, and other non-Latin alphabets, and it's natural to wonder whether this is an essential part of the game.

No — here are various repetitions of "è ", "îî ", and "îè "  translated from Greek:

è è è è è è è è è è Things to Do
è è è è è è è è è è è Date of Issue No.
è è è è è è è è è è è è May 2009
îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî I have forsaken myself for it to be with you
îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî îî I have resuscitated myself for my own sake I have forgiven myself for myself
îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè You're going to be yours
îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè You'll be out of your way
îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè You're on your way out of the sun
îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè You're on your way back to your day
îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè You are on your way back to the day you are in your country
îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè You have been signed in. You have signed in. You have signed in.
îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè You are on your way to the last day of your stay. You have reached the last day of your stay.
îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè You have finished your call and have signed in.
îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè îè You have been signed in. You have made a call. You are on your way. You are on your way. You have signed in.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (20)

Dialect readers redux?

In a recent article Patriann Smith, a professor of Language, Diversity and Literacy Studies at Texas Tech, makes a bold proposal: that "nonstandard Englishes" such as African American English (AAE) and Hawai'i Creole English be used as the primary language of instruction in educating children who speak them. ("A Distinctly American Opportunity: Exploring Non-Standardized English(es) in Literacy Policy and Practice", Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 9/12/2016) Smith reviews evidence that speaking "nonstandard English" (her term) as a first language interferes with children's educational progress, given the way children are taught and progress is assessed. She also questions the privileged status accorded to the "standard" (aka mainstream, higher status) dialect of English (SAE) used in education, business, government, and other institutions, and the traditional view of literacy as the ability to read that dialect. Hence the proposal that children be taught in their native dialect whether "standard" or not.

In this post I'll look at some implications of this proposal for learning to read. The idea that children who speak AAE (or another nonstandard dialect) might benefit from being taught to read using materials written in their dialect isn't new.  Some 40 years ago there was a brief, a mostly-forgotten educational experiment with "dialect readers".  They weren't widely accepted then.  Has their time finally come?

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (26)

E.B. White and quotative inversion

For some documentation and discussion of the New Yorker magazine's curious aversion to quotative inversion, see "Quotative inversion again", 10/29/2009. And against that background, consider this sentence from E.B. White's 1957 piece "Letter from the East", quoted in my earlier post:

"Omit needless words!" cries the author on page 21, and into that imperative Will Strunk really put his heart and soul.

A careless slip of the red pencil? Or was E.B. White exempt from the dictum? Or was the no-quotative-inversion diktat imposed by a post-1957 New Yorker style maven? Perhaps someone who knows more about the history of that publication's quirks can tell us.

Comments (1)

Removing needless words

Yesterday I was skimming randomly-selected sentences from a collection of English-language novels, and happened on this one from George Orwell's 1949 novel Nineteen Eighty-Four: "It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words." This brought to mind two things I had never put together before, Orwell on Newspeak and Strunk on style.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (29)

Biscriptal juxtaposition in Chinese, part 3

Christopher Alderton saw this flyer on his way to work a few days ago:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (11)