Archive for February, 2022

Drive my car / Doraibu mai kā

Questions from Nancy Friedman:

I'm writing something about the Best Picture nominee "Drive My Car," whose Japanese title is "Doraibu mai kā." Is there a name for this sort of transliteration from English into Japanese? Why would a Japanese writer–the source story was written by Haruki Murakami–choose a transliteration instead of a translation? (Beatles reference, maybe?)

From David Spafford:

It’s definitely a Beatles reference. I don’t know this particular Murakami work, but he’s well known for his Beatles references: think "Noruuei no mori", which is an obvious reference / mistranslation of the Beatles song, "Norwegian wood".

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Taipei 101 and the I ching

From Tom Ace:  "It looks like hexagram 43 is at the top of Taipei 101 in the attached photo.  I remember you saying in 2017 that you and your brother hoped to complete a translation of the I Ching. I hope that's still possible."

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Ginger tea

[This is a guest post by Mark Swofford]

Those who have never lived in northern Taiwan during the winter may scoff at the idea that 11 °C (52 °F) can seem miserably cold. But cold it is here nevertheless, especially during a week of seemingly endless rain.

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Etymologizing and fantasizing: economy and relish

Figuring out the etymologies of words has always been one of my favorite things in life, almost as much as eating flavorful food.  All the way back in second grade of primary school, my Mom gave me a Merriam-Webster dictionary, and I treasured it above all my other belongings because of its etymological notes.  Much later, when The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language became available, I was euphoric, since then I was able to trace words to their Indo-European and Semitic roots.

In between, though, I came up against the pseudo-science of Chinese character etymology, which should better be called "Chinese character construction".  Despite almost universal misunderstanding to the contrary, Chinese characters have no direct connection to the sounds and meanings of words.  If you want to analyze the history of the development of how individual Chinese characters acquired their shapes and sounds, all well and good, but that's a different matter from how the sounds and meanings of Chinese words evolved through time.  Always and ever, I emphasize over and over the primacy of sounds for conveying meaning, the same as with all other living, spoken languages.  The writing systems are only there as a makeshift, always catching up and inevitably imperfect means for recording the sounds of the languages.

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Can't work because of the Ukraine crisis

Article by Manya Koetse:

"Chinese Term ‘Wuxin Gongzuo’:

Can’t Focus on Work Due to Russia-Ukraine Crisis

Chinese netizens are so focused on the Russian attack on Ukraine that nobody can focus on work (wuxin gongzuo)."

What's on Weibo (2/24/22)                                                                         

Here's the new expression that has gone viral:

wū xīn gōngzuò


lit., "U[kraine] heart-mind work"

This is word-play for:

wúxīn gōngzuò


"don't have a mind to work; not in the mood for work")

where wū 乌 is short for "Wūkèlán 乌克兰" (transcription of "Ukraine") and stands for "wú 无" ("no; not; without; do not have"), hence "wúxīn gōngzuò 无心工作" ("do not have the mind for work")

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Gratitude to the Party

Posted on Twitter by Xi Van Fleet (click on the "X" in the black circle at the top right of the photo to see the whole sign):

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Miniature Votive Stupa

One enigmatic artifact combines so many of my favorite things:  Dunhuang, Yi jing, Buddhism, cosmic symbols (e.g., Kunlun)….

[For an enlargement, click on the photograph to go to the thread, then click on the photograph again. It will be large enough to make the inscription legible.]

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Register + Registration had a word-baby

Yesterday I got an email from the Voice Foundation with this header:

The body of the email started this way:

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Writing Teochew

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A linguist's advice about the Ukraine situation

The linguist is Krišjānis Kariņš, the current prime minister of Latvia. And among other recent news stories, there's "West must brace for years of Putin pressure on Ukraine, Latvian PM says", Politico 2/18/2022:

Whether or not Moscow launches an attack on Ukraine in the coming days, the West must gear up for years of heightened Russian pressure on the country and on Europe as a whole, Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš said Friday.

In an interview with POLITICO, Kariņš said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s goal was to suppress Ukraine’s independence and bring it back into “the Russian fold.” Putin could pursue his strategy of “neo-imperialism” not just through a direct military attack but also by ramping up efforts to destabilize the Ukrainian economy and society, Kariņš warned.

“In the best-case scenario — best-case meaning no war — we will be facing long-term pressure from Putin on Ukraine and on Europe as a whole,” said Kariņš, whose Baltic nation borders Russia and Belarus, where Moscow has massed tens of thousands of troops as part of a huge buildup of forces around Ukraine.

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Headline words

The current xkcd:

The mouseover title: "Roundly-condemned headlinese initiative shuttered indefinitely."

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Ten different ways to pronounce -ough

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Sogdians and Xiongnu / Huns

The ethnicity and language of the Xiongnu / Huns (the names are related, but that is not to say they are exactly the same peoples across the stretch of time during which they existed) have long been enigmas for scholars of Chinese and Inner / Central Asian history during the late first millennium BC and early first millennium AD.  Recently discovered archeological evidence may shed new light on these puzzles.

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