Archive for July, 2018

Broken English

Just called a taxi from the Graduate Club at 155 Elm St. in New Haven, CT.  The service was completely automated.  I did not speak to any human being.  The taxi arrived within one minute, before I could walk out to the street!  It was uncanny!  The taxi driver had no contact with a human either.  He simply saw on his monitor that a customer was waiting for him at the Graduate Club.  He turned the corner from the street he was on and was waiting for me when I came out.

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Conversation starter

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Yet more double negative jokes

Following up on "Clarification by misnegation" and "More double negative jokes", here are some tweets I missed:

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Cut his finger out into

Further brilliant discoveries of Chinglish by Harry Asche, who several weeks ago sent us the dashboard prayer wheel featured in "Spiritual high tech" (7/14/18):


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"I love you too"

Dave Holmes, "To Whom Did Donald Trump Say 'I Love You, Too' During Wednesday's Cabinet Meeting?", Esquire 7/18/2018:

Listen: the crazy bullshit is coming fast and furious these days. Weird moments that would have permanently stained whole careers only years ago are allowed to sail right past, because we lack the mental bandwidth to really process them. […]

I bring this up because on Wednesday, a gorgeously awkward moment unfolded in front of us, and it would be a crime on the level of treason if I didn’t allow you to savor it the way I have. It was from Wednesday afternoon’s cabinet meeting, after our president was asked whether Russia was still targeting the United States, as our country’s entire intelligence apparatus has concluded that it is, and he replied “No.” […]

The weird thing happens right when he starts talking about how well we are doing with Russia: both very well and very well, probably as well as anyone has ever done, […]

You guys, just after disavowing the findings of his own government’s intelligence community, the President of the United States says, to nobody in particular, “I love you, too.” Seriously.

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40% of Republicans consider Russia anally?

Brad Bannon, "Trump effect: Republican support for Russia has doubled", The Hill 7/18/2018 [emphasis added]:

Times have changed and so have Republican attitudes towards Russia.

The GOP is no longer the party of Ronald Reagan. The Grand Old Party is now a wholly owned subsidiary of the Trump Organization. NBC News just released a survey that illustrates the transition. Only 10 percent of Republican partisans saw Russia as the greatest immediate threat to the United States. Five times as many Democrats (47 percent) saw Russia as the biggest threat to American national security.

The results of a recent Gallup Poll make the same point. Since 2014, the percentage of Republicans who consider Russia anally has almost doubled from 22 percent to 40 percent. 

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The truth of falling rocks

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"Better Dance Than Never"

Jonathan Smith just saw this sticker in 798 Artzone in Beijing:

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Clarification by misnegation: The view from pragmatics (updated and semi-retracted)

In a comment on Mark Liberman's post "Clarification by misnegation", Stephen Hart makes a point that the rest of us have missed (or at least haven't raised), and that deserves wider attention:

I may be missing something here.

Slightly restated, Trump said, originally:
US Intelligence says it is Russia. Putin says it isn't Russia.
I don't see any reason why it would be Russia.
(What would Russia have to gain?)

The new statement seems to be:

US Intelligence says it is Russia. Putin says it isn't Russia.
I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be Russia.
(Everybody does it.)

Update: Now that I think about this, I may have misinterpreted the point of this comment, in which case the point it makes was not something others have missed and that deserves wider attention, but rather was something of a restatement of the obvious. My initial impulse was to delete the post, but on reflection I'm leaving it up, as an object lesson in the way that this multiple-negation stuff can make your head spin.

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More double negative jokes

I think this one is the funniest:

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Ask Language Log: "Incredible"?

Stephen Mendenhall asks:

That word is in the news again. Putin made an offer to Trump, to have US investigators visit Moscow, (and other stuff).

Trump thinks the offer is “incredible”, meaning “good”. Nobody else thinks the offer is “credible”, so it’s literally “incredible”.

Does anybody use “incredible” to mean “not credible” any more? Do even police investigators use the word for its literal meaning?

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Clarification by misnegation

There were several aspects of President Donald Trump's recent news conference with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki that sparked strong negative reactions, for example leading former CIA director John Brennan to call Trump's performance "nothing short of treasonous". One of the controversial parts of Trump's remarks was this answer to a question about whether he would denounce the Russians' role in the 2016 election, and warn Putin never to do it again:

All I can do is ask the question
My people came to me
Dan Coats came to me and
some others, they said they think it's Russia —
uh I have uh President Putin
uh he just said it's not Russia.
I will say this, I don't see any reason why it would be.
I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful
in his denial today […]

So in a 7/17/2018 meeting with congressional Republicans, the president laid out an unusual explanation for the fuss — it was that old devil misnegation, which caused him to seem to say the opposite of what he now says he meant:

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How to learn Mandarin

In "Pinyin story" (7/16/18), we became acquainted with the language teaching theory called CI (Comprehensible Input) and the language learning method referred to as TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling).  If you read through the post and the comments, plus look at some of the embedded links, it becomes apparent that, using CI and TPRS, students can learn to write interesting little tales in Mandarin after only an hour or two of instruction.

Now, in conventional "Chinese" language classes, students spend most of their time memorizing how to write characters, and they also devote a lot of effort to mastering grammatical rules and syntactic paradigms.  Even after months of hard labor, students who follow the traditional way will have difficulty expressing themselves in a lively, imaginative manner.  What a breath of fresh air to learn that there are actually enthusiastic, smart teachers out there who offer a more humane and effective way to learn languages, including Mandarin!

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