Archive for June, 2019

Ask Language Log: "matriculate" meaning "move"

From Jeffrey Kallberg:

Has anybody tracked down the origins of the sports (mostly American football, afaik) usage of the word "matriculate" to mean something like "to move from one place to another" (either physically or in a descriptive sense)? I ran into a recent example of this in a recent NBC Sports column — "FMIA Guest: Rich Eisen On The NFL's Ultimate Course Correction On PI", 6/17/2019:

So when Riveron stepped to the mic at the NFL Network gathering last week and finally matriculated his way to the pass interference replay portion of his two-hour presentation to the group, it was like a large piece of filet mignon steak being plated for the whole room to consume.

A little googling suggests a possible origin in a malapropism uttered by Hank Stram during a Super Bowl, in a conversation inadvertently picked up by a microphone:

But the Urban Dictionary isn't necessarily decisive on such questions.

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Finland's national radio broadcaster pulls the plug on the news in Latin

During the last few decades, I have served as the "opponent" in several Scandinavian doctoral defenses.  I wore a tuxedo, top hat, and silk socks, plus gleaming black shoes.  Much of the ritual was conducted in Latin, so I was quite aware of the high place accorded that ancient language in Scandinavian academia, especially in Finland, where all of my colleagues, no matter what their field, had received extensive training in Latin already in high school back in the fifties, sixties, and seventies.  It seems, however, that Latin education has been rapidly declining since that time.

Now, one of the last holdouts for general knowledge of Latin in Finland is being terminated:

"Requiescat in pace: Finland's Yle radio axes Latin news show after 30 years:  Public broadcaster cancels weekly summary Nuntii Latini as original presenters retire", AFP in Helsinki, The Guardian (6/24/19)

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Uyghurstan or Uyghuristan?

Many countries in Central Asia are named with words that end in -stan, which is a Persian term (ـستان [-stān]) meaning "land" or "place of", thence "country"; it is synonymous and cognate with the Sanskrit word sthāna स्थान (from Indo-Iranian *stanam "place," literally "where one stands," from PIE *sta-no-, suffixed form of root *sta- "to stand, make or be firm." Source).   Consequently, we refer to these countries as "the stans":

Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan

Note, however, that five of these names have an -i- before the -stan, while two — Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan — lack the -i-.

Since the Uyghurs may one day have a country of their own with a name ending in -stan, I wondered whether there is a rule governing whether it should be "Uyghurstan" or "Uyghuristan".

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Negative concord of the week

[h/t Neal Goldfarb]

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Alice Mak Addresses the Hong Kong Chief Executive with Vulgar Language

Four days ago, rumors and reports were flying fast and furious that Alice Mak Mei-kuen, a member of Legislative Council of Hong Kong for the New Territories West constituency, representing the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, swore at the Chief Executive (CE) of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) of the People's Republic of China (PRC), Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, using the most vile language imaginable:

"Swear words heaped on Carrie Lam as pro-establishment lawmakers express fears of election rout over Hong Kong extradition bill fracas:  Lawmaker hurled expletives at Lam as she tearfully explained her decision to suspend the bill; Many fear electoral backlash in November's district council elections", by Gary Cheung and Tony Cheung, SCMP (6/20/19)

Although the language employed by Mak was, shall we say, quite colorful, I held off on posting on it until I could get better confirmation of her actual words.  That came through yesterday evening in the form of these notes from Bob Bauer:

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"Eastoxification" supersedes "Westoxification" in Persian

One never ceases to be amazed at the articles one comes upon in Wikipedia.  First, in this comment to a discussion on anti-Westernism in China ("War on foreign names in China" [6/22/19]), I encountered the notion of "Westoxification" in contemporary Iranian discourse.  Reading the Wikipedia article on this subject is so interesting that I copy passages of it here for Language Log readers (the whole article is fascinating and well worth reading):

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Trump's "cocked and loaded": A tangled history

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War on foreign names in China

AP News report (6/21/19) by Fu Ting:  "Chinese crackdown on foreign names draws protest".  The article begins thus:

The Manhattan neighborhood, Venice Garden, the Vienna hotel chain — to the ears of the Chinese government, the names are too foreign-sounding and must go.

Provinces and cities across China have been issuing notices pressuring both private and public officials to rename businesses, bridges and neighborhoods, reflecting renewed efforts by President Xi Jinping's government to "sinicize" China.

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Double-barrelled surnames: ask Language Log

Eoin Cullen writes:

For a while I've been familiar with the fact that there is an established set of two-character surnames in Chinese including Sīmǎ 司馬 and Ōuyáng 歐陽, but I was interested to see the novel two-character surname of the head of the SAR government in HK, Lam4zeng6 Jyut6ngo4 林鄭月娥.

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"Der große Clusterfuck der Tories"

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"The curse of Jeremy Hunt"

Alison Flood, "The curse of Jeremy Hunt: why his name is hard to say", The Guardian 6/21/2019:

Linguistics experts have been picking over a particularly juicy problem for the last few weeks: why do presenters from James Naughtie to Nicky Campbell keep replacing the first letter of Jeremy Hunt's surname with a C?

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Katakana nightmare

Bob Sanders writes from Kanazawa, Japan:

Today I bought some mouthwash at a national pharmacy chain and received a coupon for a discount on any two future purchases made later this month, with certain items excluded from this offer. In fact, it is this list of exclusions which immediately caught my attention (see photo below), because it so graphically highlights why for me, at least, as someone who came to Japanese much later in life with a background in Chinese language studies, katakana, rather than kanji or hiragana, is the most difficult of the three orthographies to process orally in my brain.

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Hong Kong protest puns

A truly amazing chain of Cantonese puns has sprung up from last Wednesday's protests in Hong Kong.

As police were about to shoot tear gas at them (virtually point blank), Hong Kong reporters shouted out, "gei3ze2 記者!" ("Press! [Don't shoot!]).

Applying the norm that you can insert virtually anything into the initial slot in the phrase "diu2 lei5 lou5 mou5*2 屌你老母" ("fuck your mother") to mean, roughly, "fuckin' X" or "X my ass," one of the police shouted back "gei3 lei5 lou5 mou5*2 記你老母" ("fucking journalists," "fuck you / fuck your mother, journalists," or "journalists my arse").

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