Archive for September, 2017

Crisp

Today's Frazz:

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Sibe: a living Manchu language

While it is generally acknowledged that Manchu language is nearly extinct, with only a handful of elderly speakers in the original territory of Manchuria, a very close cousin survives in the far northwest of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of the PRC.  This language is called Sibe (MSM transcription Xíbó 锡伯), and it is spoken by about 30,000 individuals among a population of about 200,000 whose ancestors were sent by the Manchu emperor to garrison the region in 1763-1764.  They never returned to their original homeland in the northeast of the empire, but have stayed continuously in the Ili Valley area of Eastern Central Asia (ECA), especially Qapqal Xibe Autonomous County / Chapchal Sibe Autonomous County.  Although the origin of the name "Siberia" is contestedPamela Crossley suggests that the Russians who were moving toward the Pacific named that vast region after the Sibe, who were well known to them.

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Obscene license plate

License plate of a car in Beijing:

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Hebrew mystery

[This is a guest post by Adam Levine]

A friend noticed this plaque while attending a wedding in New England:

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Looming epidemic of total inability to even?

"Millennial Diagnosed With Tragic Inability To Even", Babylon Bee 9/30/2016:

BOTHELL, WA—According to reports, local 22-year-old Chloe Kowalski's world was torn apart Thursday morning, as the millennial barista was diagnosed with a rare disease that prevents her from having the ability to even. […]

"We've never seen a case quite like this before," Dr. Elizabeth Eden told reporters gathered outside the clinic where Kowalski's devastating diagnosis was handed down. "Many millennials will experience short bouts of not being able to even for several seconds, often triggered by a cute video of a cat or other small animal, or perhaps something online that's 'so relatable.'"

"But Kowalski—she just can't even. She may never even again, at least not without assistance," she said, shaking her head grimly, according to reporters.

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Bubble tea blooper

That's all, folks.

[h.t. Jichang Lulu]

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Imperial miscommunication

[This is a guest post by Krista Ryu]

I came across a fun anecdote from The Annals of the Joseon Dynasty,  which is the annual records of the Joseon Dynasty from 1413-1865, a national treasure of Korea. It is full of interesting, authentic records, since no one, including the kings themselves, could revise the records.  Consequently, even funny mistakes made by the Kings will be recorded in detail.

The story of failed communication between a Goryo Dynasty diplomat and the Hongwu Emperor (1368-1398; r. 1328-1398) of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

The story is as below (I have translated into English what I read in Korean, so what was actually said in Chinese at the time could be slightly different but the meaning should be the same):

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Headlinese grammaticality

"Saudi king decrees women be allowed to drive", Reuters 9/26/2017:

Elika Bergelson writes:

This feels wrong — I can't substitute any other verb in to make it okay.
Saudi king announces/says/declares/rules all fall short…

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East Asian Trumponyms

Last year, we looked at various transcriptions of Trump's surname:

Now, in "Why China Won't Pressure North Korea as Much as Trump Wants," New Yorker (Sept. 19, 2017), Evan Osnos writes:

Chinese intellectuals have taken to joking that "Telangpu"—which is one of the Chinese pronunciations of Trump's name—sounds like "te meipu," which means clueless or lacking a plan.

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A brief history of "taking a knee"

With dozens of NFL players "taking a knee" during the national anthem as a form of silent protest, the very phrase "take a knee" has been invested with new significance. "Take a knee" or "take the knee" now expresses solidarity against racial injustice and defiance against Donald Trump's attacks on protesting players. As the phrase dominates the headlines, it's worth taking a look at its history in football and beyond. While The Dictionary of American Slang dates the expression back to the 1990s (as noted by John Kelly on his Mashed Radish blog), I've found examples in football going all the way back to 1960. And while "taking a knee" may have also become a military tradition, the phrase's origin is firmly rooted in football, with a number of interlocking uses.

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"National backbone"

I. J. Khanewala writes:

While visiting the tomb of the first emperor, I saw a sign in Mandarin which read minzu jiliang and translated as "National backbone". It left me quite mystified.  Here's a photo of the sign:

Source ("Utterly lost in translation").  Any idea what it could mean?

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Stigmatization of dialects

[This is a guest post by Krista Ryu]

I was reading the book, Language Change in East Asia, and one of the articles, "Dialects versus the Standard Language in Japan," talked about the standardization of Japanese and its consequence on the many "hougen" (方言) of Japan. I thought it was very interesting and related to what we talked about in class regarding the various Chinese languages (topolects).

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When taking a stand involves sitting

The most pervasive metaphor in English may be the use of "higher" to mean "better" (e.g., stronger or more moral), which has spawned endless figures of speech.  It's hard to avoid those metaphorical phrases, although that might be wise in situations in which "higher" also has a relevant physical meaning.  The New York Times on Saturday ran the following headline:

(1) As Trump Takes On Athletes, Watch Them Rise

Indeed, these athletes may be rising metaphorically as a political force.  But they're refusing to rise physically for the singing of the U.S. national anthem.  On the same day, the New York Times wrote (in this article, though it has now been edited away):

(2) Some people urged more players to kneel or sit during the anthem at football stadiums on Sunday as a way to reinforce their First Amendment rights. Others urged more white players to stand with black players who have knelt or sat during the anthem.

How confusing!  White players are urged to stand metaphorically with their black teammates … by physically kneeling or sitting with them, or by speaking out afterwards.

But how do we readers know that "stand with" in (2) is metaphorical?  Why couldn't the second sentence be about white players standing physically?

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