Archive for September, 2018

Diacriticless Vietnamese on a sign in San Francisco

Charles Belov sent in this photograph of a sign posted on the Pho 2000 restaurant on Larkin Street in San Francisco:

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Barring no misnegations

Seung Min Kim, John Wagner, and Josh Dawsey, "Kavanaugh vote: Senate Republican leaders agree to new FBI background investigation of Kavanaugh", WaPo 9/28/2018 [emphasis added]:

President Trump on Friday ordered the FBI to reopen the investigation of Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh's background, a stunning turnaround in an emotional battle over sexual assault allegations that has shaken the Senate and reverberated across the country.
[…]
Late Friday, by voice vote, the Senate took an initial step to move ahead on the nomination. Barring no major revelations from the FBI, the Senate could vote on confirming Kavanaugh next weekend, days after the start of the high court's session.

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"OK Google/Siri/Alexa/Cortana, What's Next?"

Penn's School of Arts and Sciences sponsors a series of "60 Second Lectures", where

Penn Arts and Sciences faculty take a minute out by the Ben Franklin statue in front of College Hall to share their perspectives on topics ranging from human history and the knowable universe to fractions and fly-fishing.

This past week, they asked me to do it, and I chose the title

"OK Google/Siri/Alexa/Cortana, What's Next?"

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Hungarian trenching

From Adrian Bailey:

Although Google Translate isn't too bad now for the big 8 languages, the results for other languages can still be quite bizarre and/or disappointing. I used to do some Hungarian-English translation 15-20 years ago, and the machine translation available then hardly seems much worse…

Engedjetek meg nekem a tegezést. Angolként bajom van a magázással.

Google's translation: Let me do the trenching. I'm an English guy with shit.

Actual meaning: Let me tegez you (ie. use the informal forms for "you"). As an Englishman, I have trouble with the formal forms.

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Storage, transmission, whatever

Mike Ives, "Charles Kao, Nobel Laureate Who Revolutionized Fiber Optics, Dies at 84", NYT 9/24/2018 [emphasis added]:

Working in Britain in the late 1960s, Dr. Kao and a colleague played a crucial role in discovering that the fiber optic cables in use at the time were limited by impurities in their glass. They also outlined the cables' potential capacity for storing information — one that was far superior to that of copper wires or radio waves.

As commenters on the NYT obit point out, optical fiber (like copper wires and radio waves) is used for transmitting information, not storing it.

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Pronouns in physics

Madeleine Ngo, "Penn's physics department has started listing gender pronouns on its website", The Daily Pennsylvanian 9/26/2018:

Penn's Physics and Astronomy Department now lists gender pronouns on its website for some of its student, faculty, and staff members in an effort to combat stigma, encourage respectful communication, and promote the department's inclusivity.

The Diversity and Inclusion in Physics group initiated the project last semester with graduate students at the helm. In April, students and members of the department were emailed and given the option to submit their pronouns to be publicly shared on the website.

The department has been updating its website to include the responses. Physics and Astronomy Administrative Coordinator Glenn Fechner, who manages the department's website, collected people's pronouns and added them to each individual biography.

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Japanese readings of Sinographic names

Eoin Cullen wrote in:

I recently learnt that although Taipei  たいぺい is generally used as the Japanese reading for Taipei 台北, NHK still uses the colonial form Taihoku たいほく.  Is this still true in 2018? Why would the national broadcaster persist in using an archaic term? To me, it seems it would be comparable to the BBC insisting on using the name Ceylon to refer to Sri Lanka.

I asked several colleagues who are specialists on Japanese what the significance of this usage might be.

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Trent Reznor Prize nominee

Today's nomination for the Trent Reznor Prize for Tricky Embedding:

Other examples here.

[h/t Ben Zimmer]

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Khmerlish

I found this by chance while surfing on Pinterest:

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Thailish

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Arablish

Adrian Bailey sent in this Yemeni restaurant menu from @wokeeth's Twitter account:

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Egg tarts around the world: a brief survey

When I was in Hamburg, Germany a few months ago, I was pleasantly surprised to come upon a pastry shop that sold egg tarts warm out of the oven.  They were just divine!  I think they were called pastéis de nata from the term used for them in Portugal, which seems to be the homeland (or one of the homelands) of this heavenly dessert.  Here the word pastéis is translated into English as "pastels", but it's something altogether different from the art medium, and it has a broad spectrum of manifestations as different types of pies and cakes.

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Generic plural nurses

Following up on Kai von Fintel's post "Nurses say yes and no" — the (mis-)interpretation of generic plurals has been a frequent topic here. "Generic comparisons", 11/7/2011, surveys some of this material, starting from a presentation by Sarah-Jane Leslie of her work in "Do all ducks lay eggs? The generic overgeneralization effect", Journal of Memory and Language 2011. And going back a bit further, in "Mandatory treatment for generic plurals?", 9/13/2009, I proposed "a voluntary ban on the use of generic plurals to express statistical differences, especially in talking to the general public about scientific results in areas with public policy implications".

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