Archive for March, 2018

NIMBY in Chinese

On her blog today retired U. Wisconsin law Prof. Ann Althouse asks some interesting questions about local Nanjing reactions to a nursing home (possibly with a morgue and a kindergarten) being located nearby.  She cites this article by Fan Liya in Sixth Tone (3/30/18):  "Nanjing NIMBYs Oppose Hospice, Fearing Death in Their Midst/Nursing home offering end-of-life services is one of a string of facilities to encounter opposition due to superstition".

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Mud season in Russia: Putin, Rasputin

A couple of years ago around this time I wrote about the "Schlump season" (3/21/15) at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.  Now, as Dartmouth is becoming enmired in the early spring mud, Pamela Kyle Crossley, who teaches there, told me that she thought of the Russian word for this season:  rasputitsa.  And that made me think of the Russian word for "way; path; pathway; route; track; road":  путь, which I suppose is cognate with "path".  Another form of the word is путин, which reminds me of "Putin" ("road" — I think [see below]) and "Rasputin" ("broken / obliterated road").

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Vowels are the souls of consonants

And a consonant without a vowel is a body without a soul.

So says Spinoza in his Hebrew Grammar (Compendium grammatices linguæ hebrææ), as published postumously in 1677.

At least, that's sort of what he says.

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Another use for Mandarin Phonetic Symbols

A couple of weeks ago, we asked:  "The end of the line for Mandarin Phonetic Symbols?" (3/12/18)

The general response to that post was no, not by a long shot.

Now, in addition to all the other things one can do with bopomofo, one can use it to confound PRC trolls, as described in this article in Chinese.

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"…but only despite…"?

I have a feeling that I'm coming at this sentence wrong, somehow — Laurie Garrett, "Meet Trump's New, Homophobic Public Health Quack", Foreign Policy 3/23/2018:

Outside of his work with the military, [Robert] Redfield, a devout Roman Catholic, was associated with Americans for a Sound AIDS/HIV Policy (ASAP), a Christian organization headed by W. Shepherd Smith Jr. ASAP backed the idea of mandatory testing for HIV and isolation or identification of those infected with HIV. […]

H.R. 2788, sponsored by arch-conservative Rep. William Dannemeyer (R-Calif.), would have revised many aspects of the Public Health Service Act, allowing for testing, loss of licensing, and quarantine of HIV-infected individuals. It ultimately failed to pass but only despite Redfield's advocacy.

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Able to read and write, yet illiterate

In the course of doing research for a series of posts I plan on doing, I was listening to an interview from a few years ago with Bryan Garner, and something he said bothered me. Well, actually, I was bothered by more than one thing that he said, but this post is only about one of them: Garner's use of the word literate. And truth be told, that's something that's bothered me for a while.

Garner doesn't usually use literate to mean 'able to read and write'. Rather, he uses it as a term of praise for the kind of people and publications that use the expressions he approves of and avoid those he condemns. Thus, his usage guides tell us that the double comparative is uncommon "among literate speakers and writers," that irrelevant is sometimes misspelled irrevelant in "otherwise literate publications," that singular they "sets many literate Americans' teeth on edge." In contrast, pronouncing the –p– in comptroller "has traditionally been viewed as semiliterate," as is the word irregardless and writing would of instead of would have. Saying where's it at is "a badge of illiteracy."

Garner would say that he's using literate to mean 'educated' or 'cultured.' Although there's no entry for the word in his usage guides, there is one for illiterate, which obviously illuminates Garner's understanding of literate:

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Awful offal

The following YouTube presents "25 Crazy Things You'll Only Find In Chinese Walmarts".  If you have 4:14 to spare and want to know what special sorts of things are sold in Chinese Walmarts, you can watch the whole video.  If you're pressed for time, then skip to 3:13, which is what I'll be discussing in this post.

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Syntactic analysis and folding fitted sheets

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New online American English dialect survey

From Bert Vaux:

I hope that if you're American you'll consider taking my new American English dialect survey, which is now available at dialectsofenglish.com. You can answer as few as 30 and as many as 60 questions, and immediately see heat maps for where your answers are most popular. Please pass this along to your American students, friends, and family– especially if they've never taken any of my surveys before–as I'm trying to get as many respondents as possible in order to increase the accuracy of the localization algorithm our team is working on. It's free, and no registration is required.

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Peeving and changes in relative frequency

What follows is a guest post by Bob Ladd.


When I lived in Germany in the early 1980s, I bought a few style guides in the hope of improving my written German. One of them turned out to consist primarily of what I would now (as a long-time Language Log reader) recognize as 'peeving' – short essays about clichés, neologisms, and trendy new expressions that drove the author crazy. Among many other supposed novelties, the guy hated the expression ich gehe davon aus, which (as I had noticed myself) is used to mean 'I assume'. Literally, ich gehe von X aus just means 'I go from X out', i.e. 'I start from X', but the grammar of German is such that X can be a clause. The 'assume' meaning comes from 'I start from [the assumption that] CLAUSE'.

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Naming Nihonium

The naming of the recently discovered synthetic chemical element Nihonium offers an interesting opportunity to reflect upon the policies, practices, and principles of scientific terminology.  Nihonium has the atomic number 113.  It was first reported to have been created in 2003, but it did not have a formal name until November, 2016, when "nihonium" was made official.

"Nihonium" is an internationally recognized term, but what is it called in various languages having diverse phonological and scriptal characteristics?

French — Nihonium

German — Nihonium

Italian — Nihonio

Spanish — Nihonio

Vietnamese — Nihoni

Russian — Nikhoniĭ Нихоний

Japanese — Nihoniumu ニホニウム

Korean — Nihonyum 니호늄

Chinese — Nǐ 鉨

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More on "Could <verb-phrase-of-minimal-concern>"

Jeff Goodman, "Dan Hurley, front-runner for UConn job, hasn't thought about openings 'for a second'", ESPN 3/18/2018:

"Listen, I could give a crap about who's got an opening anywhere," Hurley said. "I haven't thought about it for a second. I could care less what any other school in the country that's looking for a coach or talks about me on social media — I could give two craps about that. My heart, my mind is with this program and these players that just lost a brutal game after having an amazing last couple seasons, and for me it's easy."

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Latin Caesar –> Tibetan Gesar –> Xi Jinpingian Sager

From Shawn Zhang's Twitter account:

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