Archive for November, 2019

A Chinese analog to English "you know"

It's only recently that I've heard a lot of students from mainland China say "nà shà 那啥" (lit., "that what").  At first it was hard to figure out exactly what they meant by it, but as I become more familiar with the contexts in which they deploy this phrase, I wonder if it is functionally something like the "you know" that is used so ubiquitously in English.

I think that 那啥 is basically a northeasternism that has swept across many other parts of China in the last few years.  It is a characteristic expression in comedic sketch (xiǎopǐn 小品 ).  Since this regional type of comedic skit has only lately become phenomenally popular outside of the northeast, that would account for the explosive spread of this term among my students, who come from all parts of China.  Prior to this year, I barely ever heard anyone not from the Northeast say it, but now I hear it spoken quite a bit by students from many different parts of China, although a few from southern China say they are not familiar with it.

Xiǎopǐn 小品 ("comedic sketch") is the Northeastern equivalent of xiàngsheng 相声 ("crosstalk; comic dialog"), centered in Beijing, but also much loved in Tianjin, Nanjing, and elsewhere, particularly in the north.  See "'Rondle it!'" (2/25/19) for an example.

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1 day since big-font misnegation

A sign displayed at yesterday's congressional impeachment hearing:


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"Sondland implicates Trump, says Pence"?

This headline sent me down the garden path for a couple of seconds:

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Word rage and word aversion on Subtitle

The latest episode of the new podcast Subtitle is about "Words we love to hate". Full disclosure: Kavita Pillay interviewed me for the program, and so you can hear my voice from time to time.

More later — I'm off to Washington DC for a workshop on "Digital Cognitive and Functional Biomarkers" organized by the Alzheimer's Association.

Meanwhile, you can find links to some Language Log posts on word aversion in "Word aversion science", 6/24/2015, and posts about word rage in "Annals of word rage", 5/2/2009.

 

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Bear words

In "Dynamic stew" (10/24/13) and the comments thereto, we had a vigorous discussion of words for "bear" in Korean, Sinitic, Tibetan, and Japanese,  And now Diana Shuheng Zhang has written a densely philological study on “Three Ancient Words for Bear,” Sino-Platonic Papers, 294 (November, 2019), 21 pages (free pdf).

Let's start with the basic word for "bear" in Sinitic:  xióng (MSM) 熊.

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Annals of stacked negation

Garrett Wollman writes:

Not sure if this really belongs in LL's misnegation files, but I found this sentence hard enough to parse (despite knowing exactly what the author meant) that I stumbled over it on a re-read:

"The really troubling thing," Zora says to the rain, "is that I can't convince myself I'm not in a life where knowing someone who can do that isn't purely a good thing."

Graydon Saunders, A SUCCESSION OF BAD DAYS

The context here is that one of the other characters makes a rather creepy magical barrier around the people in the scene while waiting for medical attention after a disease outbreak.  So what the character is (I believe intended to be) saying is that they think it's entirely good to know someone who can do that, but they are troubled by the thought. 

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English incorporated in a Sinograph

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Writing English with Sinographs and Chinese with numbers

All in one sign!  Here it is:


(Source: Pinyin News)

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Mare, mǎ ("horse"), etc.

[This is a guest post by Robert Hymes]

I just happened to be reading your Language Log post from April, “Of horseriding and Old Sinitic reconstructions.” I too have always been sympathetic to the possibility of a mare-馬 connection, which I’ve tended to assume would have happened through a Chinese borrowing from Indo-European either directly or mediatedly, though as you point out the problem of the “mare” root’s presence in only Germanic and Celtic is, well, a problem.

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"Gremlin"

"Jennifer Arcuri: Boris Johnson cast me aside as if I were a gremlin", ITV News 11/17/2019:

The businesswoman at the centre of a controversy involving Prime Minister Boris Johnson says she wished he had declared their personal relationship as a potential conflict of interest to avoid her "humiliation".

In an interview with ITV’s Exposure to be broadcast on Sunday evening, Jennifer Arcuri claimed Mr Johnson cast her aside as though she was a "gremlin" after she tried to contact him for advice on how to handle the media interest.

See also "Jennifer Arcuri says Boris Johnson 'cast me aside like some gremlin'", BBC News; "Jennifer Arcuri: ‘I’ve kept Johnson’s secrets – now he’s cast me aside like a one-night stand’", The Guardian; "Jennifer Arcuri says Boris Johnson cast her aside like a ‘gremlin’", The Irish Times.

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"God bless his heart"

Alex Isenstadt, "Louisiana delivers Trump a black eye", Politico 11/17/2019:

President Donald Trump campaigned hard in three conservative Southern states this fall, aiming for a string of gubernatorial wins that would demonstrate his political strength heading into impeachment and his own reelection effort.

The plan backfired in dramatic fashion.

The latest black eye came on Saturday, when Trump's favored candidate in Louisiana, multimillionaire businessman Eddie Rispone, went down to defeat. The president went all-in, visiting the state three times, most recently on Thursday.

See also Rick Rojas and Jeremy Alford, "In Louisiana, a Narrow Win for John Bel Edwards and a Hard Loss for Trump", NYT 11/16/2019.

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Pronouncing Kiev / Kyiv

The Wikipedia article on Kiev or Kyiv gives this as the pronunciation of the Ukrainian form Київ, transliterated as Kyiv:

And here's a lesson from Twitter:

https://twitter.com/wiczipedia/status/1194686620097826821

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-ant, -ent, whatever

This Washington Post item confused me for a few seconds:

I first interpreted the headline as "Donald Trump is confident that Roger Stone is guilty on all counts, and" (whoops) "he (=Trump) faces up to 50 years in prison"?

I was sent down this particular garden path by the recent flurry of news stories about the president throwing various supporters under the metaphorical bus. But the whole -ant v. -ent mess didn't help.

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