Archive for May, 2020

NYC crotch

News you can use, from The Forward: "Etsy vendor who doesn’t know Yiddish accidentally sells 'NYC crotch' face mask" (Aiden Pink, May 26, 2020).

A vendor on the e-commerce site Etsy wanted to sell facemasks that said “NYC Strong” in Yiddish – but the final product said “NYC Crotch” instead.

The vendor Tees Go Bling, based in Wyoming, offers dozens of glittery facemask designs for sale, including images of the American flag and the Disney logo, as well as slogans of support for various cities like “Detroit Strong” and “Chicago Strong.”

The trouble began when they tried to sell a “NYC Strong” mask using the Yiddish word for strong, shtark. But while Yiddish is written right-to-left, like Hebrew, the Yiddish letters in shtark [שטאַרק] were printed left-to-right [קראַטש], meaning that anyone looking at it the correct way would read shtark backwards – as “crotch.”

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Heirs to the dragon / cage

Circulating on social media:

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Audible endogenous motoric activity

D. Kimbrough Oller et al., "Infant boys are more vocal than infant girls", Current Biology May 2020:

Female humans appear to have an advantage in language, from early childhood through late adulthood, reported to include a larger vocabulary, more complex utterances, greater expressive language, and better verbal and pragmatic language comprehension [1]. Wakeful infants produce ‘protophones’ — precursors to speech that include vowel-like sounds, squeals, and growls — at a rate of four or five utterances per minute, more than five times the rate of crying, throughout the first year [2]. The massive number of protophones is in itself surprising, but equally surprising, given the presumed female language advantage, we found that, in the first year, boys produced 24% more protophones than girls. This sex bias was true of infants either at high risk (HR) or low risk (LR) for autism. Both genetic and cultural factors may be involved in this bias, and additional research is clearly called for to investigate the origins of the strong tendency of infants to produce protophones and the unexpected tendency for boys to do so to a greater extent.

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"Literally" legality

Ken Stone, "OAN to Appeal Judge’s Ruling to Toss Rachel Maddow Defamation Suit", Times of San Diego 5/22/2020:

A San Diego federal judge Friday dismissed a $10 million defamation lawsuit filed by the owners and operators of San Diego-based One America News Network against MSNBC and political commentator Rachel Maddow.

Last summer, the liberal host told her viewers that the Trump-friendly conservative network “really literally is paid Russian propaganda.”

U.S. District Judge Cynthia Bashant dismissed Herring Networks’ suit with prejudice, ruling “there is no set of facts that could support a claim for defamation based on Maddow’s statement,” made during a July 22, 2019, segment of her show.

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Hong Kong: language, art, and resistance

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WFH Tech Issues

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Instant divorce

Board in front of a Hūnyīn dēngjì chù 婚姻登记处 ("marriage registration office") in Chongqing, China:


(source)

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Singapore circuit breakers

From a colleague in Singapore:

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Quarantine Cats

Some forms of religious observance have increased during our time of social distancing, especially this one:

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Noam'n copies

This is a guest post by Corey Miller.


Sometime in the course of my Zoom Russian class, I brought up Chomsky. I thought enough to say /xomski/, but the teacher surprised me when he said /naum/. I checked out his Russian Wikipedia entry and sure enough it says Ноам (Наум). I must say one of the advantages of Zoom language class is that you can Google (translate)—for the serious student I think it’s more enrichment than cheating.

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Visual mondegreen?

[This is a guest post by Stephen Plant]

I came across 'connorant' the other day, as in “gannets, connorants, vultures” in Ulysses. It was on the Guardian website. In my Penguin copy of Ulysses (p 526) it's spelt 'cormorant' (perhaps editions differ?). There are a surprising number of references to 'connorant' on line. I suppose the Ulysses connorants have a common ancestor, but the word connorant crops up in scientific journals too — here and here.

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Coronavirus slang and the rapid evolution of English

People describe the experience of living through COVID-19 lockdowns and extreme social distancing as being "weird", "strange", "unsettling", "disturbing", and so on.  As such, the current circumstances give rise to all sorts of new expressions to express their feelings and activities which are so different from "normal" times, one of the most common terms for what we're going through often being called "the new normal".

Jason Kottke, meister of one of the most venerable blogs, kottke.org, has written about these changes in "Covid-19 Slang and How Language Evolves Quickly in Stressful Times" (5/13/20). He draws on two other articles.  From Tony Thorne's "#CORONASPEAK – the language of Covid-19 goes viral – 2", language and innovation (4/15/20), he garners the following:

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Khmer historical phonology

[This is a guest post by John Whitman]

I have a Thai student writing a dissertation on Khmer historical phonology who wrote a qualifying paper using the Zhenla Fengtuji 真臘風土記, a late 13th century gazetteer on Cambodia written by one Zhou Daguan, who was sent to the Angkor court as an emissary. The most cited source on this text is a 1951 translation by Pelliot There is a more recent English translation by Harris (2007), but it relies on Pelliot for linguistic matters. Pelliot identifies and transcribes 37 of the 44 Khmer words in the text.

Like Chinese (but probably slightly later), Khmer was undergoing loss of its voicing distinction in obstruents, but in a different way: Old Khmer voiceless obstruents became implosives, and voiced obstruents voiceless. For reasons that he doesn’t explain very well, Pelliot assumed that Zhou was using early Mandarin values for his Chinese transcription characters, with aspirated Chinese initials representing Old Khmer voiceless initials, and unaspirated initials to represent OK voiced initials. This leads to chaotic correspondences with the Khmer material.

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