Archive for November, 2017

"Sexual harassment dried bamboo shoot"

Given the bevy of shamed politicians and celebrities who have been paraded before the public in recent weeks, it may be of interest that the word for "sexual harassment" in Chinese is quite a colorful one:


(Source)

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Le Sud Food

In Paris for this workshop, I'm glad to see that cultural diffusion is alive and well on l'Avenue des Gobelins:

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Ask Language Log: Looking up hanzi for ignoramuses

From Mark Meckes:

I'm a regular Language Log reader, completely ignorant of Chinese languages.  I was just wondering whether there exist worthwhile online tools to help someone like me figure out the meaning of something written only in hanzi.  (The question is occasioned by my looking at a package of tea given to me by a Chinese student; the writing on the package is mostly hanzi, with a little English and no pinyin.)  I'm perfectly competent to use Google Translate and similar tools (and know how much skepticism to approach the results with) for the last stage of the process.  But starting from written hanzi on a physical object, I first need some way to translate that image into either pinyin, Unicode, English, or something equivalent to one of the above — and something that relies on no knowledge of the meaning or pronunciation of the characters, or knowledge of the structure of Chinese characters in general.  Do you have any suggestions?

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Greetings of the times

The following are new forms of greetings that are circulating in Beijing on the heels of a major child molestation scandal at an elite school, the forced eviction of migrant workers, the convictions and suicides of ranking politicians, and perpetual fears of social instability.

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Ask Language Log: Unnecessary disyllabism?

From Thorin Engeseth:

I was doing some reading this morning on the magpie, and the Wikipedia page states:

Similarly, in China, magpies are seen as an omen of good fortune. This is even reflected in the Chinese word for magpie, simplified Chinese: 喜鹊; traditional Chinese: 喜鵲; pinyin: xǐquè, in which the first character means "happiness".

I'm almost entirely illiterate when it comes to the languages of China, so I took to Google Translate just to see how it would translate the two characters from both simplified and traditional script. In both, the first is translated as "like; to be happy", while the second is "magpie". My question is: if the second character itself can be translated as "magpie", if Google Translate is correct here, then is the first character still necessary?

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Evangelical over/under

Ross Douthat, "Is There an Evangelical Crisis?", NYT 11/25/2017 (emphasis added):

But it's also possible that evangelical intellectuals and writers, and their friends in other Christian traditions, have overestimated how much a serious theology has ever mattered to evangelicalism's sociological success. It could be that the Trump-era crisis of the evangelical mind is a parochial phenomenon, confined to theologians and academics and pundits and a few outlier congregations — and that it is this group, not the cultural Christians who voted enthusiastically for Trump, who represent the real evangelical penumbra, which could float away and leave evangelicalism less intellectual, more partisan, more racially segregated … but as a cultural phenomenon, not all that greatly changed. […]

Correction: November 26, 2017
An earlier version of this column misstated a possible belief among some Christians about how much a serious theology matters to evangelicalism's sociological success. They may have overestimated it, not underestimated it.

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Toilet Revolution!!

Wunderbar!

China had a toilet reform movement already a decade or two ago. I remember reading a whole, serious book about how to improve toilet construction and behavior.  In fact, I bought a copy and studied it assiduously, but can't put my hands on the volume at this moment.

Apparently the toilet improvement campaign is still going on.  In this "Dictionary of Xi Jinping's new terms", it is number 9 out of 20 key items in the imperial lexicon extracted from President Xi's "Important speeches he made in conferences, inspections and state visits [that] set the tone for China's reform, development agenda and diplomacy."  This "dictionary" was issued by The State Council Information Office of the People's Republic of China.  Here's the entry for "Toilet revolution":

Along with agricultural modernization and new rural construction, local governments will ensure that villagers have access to hygienic toilets.

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Recording-stable acoustic proxy measures

Behind yesterday's post about possible cultural differences in conversational loudness ("Ask Language Log: Loud Americans?" 11/25/2017), there's a set of serious issues in an area that's too frequently ignored: the philosophy of phonetics. [This is an unusually wonkish post on an eccentric topic — you have been warned.]

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Ask Language Log: Metaphors for megabytes?

From Bob Ladd:

I have recently become aware that files that in English are too "big" (for example, to send as email attachments) are too "heavy" in French (lourd) and Italian (pesante). Any chance you can post a note asking for the metaphors in all the other languages that LgLog commenters speak?

Update — Based on the comments, there are several other languages where files can be too "heavy". But what about "long", as in tl;dr? That would be another natural metaphor, either in the spatial or the temporal sense.

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Ask Language Log: Loud Americans?

From Federico Escobar:

An old but ongoing comment/joke among several Spanish speakers I know says that English speakers are particularly loud. It's a gross generalization, I know, but one borne out by countless times in which the voices booming over everyone else's in a restaurant comes from the one table with American tourists. A friend says that she feels that Americans can't help but shouting when they talk.

So, the silliness aside, does this hold water? Would this be, on average, true of English speakers or at least of American speakers of English? A friend theorized off-the-cuff that it may be because of the sound system in English, which perhaps needs a higher volume to tell the phonemes apart than, say, Spanish. Is that at all possible?

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Ho Hou2 Ho!: English / Cantonese combo

Seen today by Jeff DeMarco in the IFC mall in Hong Kong:

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Woo

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Bump of Chicken

Photo by Ross Bender, taken near Osaka Castle last month:

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