Archive for December, 2018

"[He] is not going to not accept money"

Nicholas Fandos, "White House Budget Chief Says Shutdown May Extend Into January", NYT 12/23/2018:

Mr. Mulvaney outright rejected Mr. Durbin's offer. "The president is not going to not accept money for a border wall," he said.

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Quaker carol

Source here.

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An army and navy

See, I didn't even quote the whole quip, and you already knew that this post is about Max Weinreich's ubiquitous saying:  "A language is a dialect with an army and navy".  It may well be the most frequently invoked formula in all of linguistics.  Readers of Language Log are certainly no strangers to it, since we've written a number of posts that are about the adage or mention it prominently (see Readings below), and it is often cited in the comments, even when there is no conceivable rhyme or reason for doing so.

Actually, it wasn't Max Weinreich (1894-1969), a specialist in sociolinguistics and Yiddish, who dreamed up the army-navy quip, but — by his own testimony — someone who attended a series of his lectures and mentioned it to him after one of them.  Subsequently, however, Weinreich did make a point of popularizing the saying, so it is not entirely wrong to associate it with him.

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"Striving": domestic Chinese character of the year

Ladies and gentlemen, here it is:

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Radical emphasis

Tong Wang spotted this poster in a Beijing elevator:

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Seitan

From time to time during the past half century or so, I've heard of a food product called seitan.  Because the name sounds Japanese and it was associated with a natural food store in Cambridge, Massachusetts that I frequented called Erewhon (see here for the 1872 satirical Utopian novel by Samuel Butler whence it got its name) that was founded by Japanese macrobiotic advocates (see below for a bit more detail), I always assumed that it was both a Japanese word and a Japanese product.  As we shall find later in this post, I was (sort of) mistaken on both counts.

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Sino-English graphic tour de force

Jeff DeMarco saw this on Facebook:

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"We need wall"

Josh Marshall, "We need wall", TPM 12/20/2018:

For reasons that are not entirely clear to me the word has apparently come down from the White House that the wall, as in the wall to be built along the southern border, must now be called "wall". In other words, no definite article, no "the".

Here's DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen testifying in congress today:

From congress I would ask for wall. We need wall.

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Functional naming

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Chaos

From an anonymous reader:

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NLLP: bag-of-words semantics?

The First Workshop on Natural Legal Language Processing (NLLP) will be co-located with NAACL 2019. The phrase "natural legal language processing" in the title strikes me as oddly constructed, from a syntactic and semantic point of view, though I'm sure that NAACL attendees will interpret it easily as intended.

Let me explain.

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Fanciful etymologies on an "ancient history" site

"Lost in Translation? Understandings and Misunderstandings about the Ancient Practice of 'Sacred Prostitution'",  Ancient Origins:

Ishtar was sometimes called the Goddess Har since she was the mother of the harlots. These "harlots" were not prostitutes as we know them, but priestesses and healers. These harlots were holy virgins serving goddesses such as Ishtar, Asherah, or Aphrodite.

The Hebrew word hor means "a cave" or "dark hole" and the Spanish word for "whore", puta, derives from the Latin term for "a well". In turn, the Latin term for "grave" is puticuli, which means "womb of rebirth". The root of the word came from an early Sanskrit language where puta is defined as pure and holy. The cave, the hole and the bottomless black lake were metaphors for the Great Goddess— the primordial darkness from which all life is born.

The Ancient Origins "about-us" page says that

We're the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives

But the etymology in those two paragraphs is not just out-of-the-box, it's out-of-its-mind.

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Automated transcription-cum-translation

Marc Sarrel received the following message on his voicemail:

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