Archive for April, 2022

"C’est carré comme en Corée" / It's square like in Korea

Article by Clara Cini in Le Monde (4/27/22):

« C’est carré comme en Corée », de la fascination des rappeurs pour la dictature au tic langagier

"It's square like in Korea", from the fascination of rappers for the dictatorship to the language tic

[The above French to English translation is from Google Translate.  Since the entire article is in French, I will provide selected English translations done by Google Translate, with minimal editing by me.]



The expression from rap referred to the North Korean regime. Decontextualized, devoid of its “from the North”, it has lost its meaning and is now used mechanically.

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Tongji University's creative Sinographic design

Some amazing happenings at Shanghai's Tongji University, one of China's top institutions of higher learning.  It seems that, as part of the general lockdown of Shanghai, the students — locked in their dorm rooms for weeks on end — have been suffering like everyone else.  Not only do they lack sufficient food and water, the food that they are given is full of tapeworms and other such unwanted ingredients.  So they complained on Weibo, WeChat, and other social media platforms.  The authorities scrubbed and censored the complaints as fast as they could, but when things got out of hand, they decided to hold a large scale Zoom meeting with students, faculty, and administrators all together.

Then the students became really upset because the administrators not only did not reveal their true identities, they threatened students who complained with dire consequences.  Whereupon some students hacked the Zoom meeting and spread it all over the internet, to the point that the government could not keep up with all the postings, postings that elicited the sympathy of the public at large.

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Subtitles matter

"American Sci-fi film 'Everything Everywhere All at Once' subtitles come under fire in Taiwan"

By Lyla Liu, Taiwan News, Staff Writer


TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — American science-fiction film “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” starring Michelle Yeoh (楊紫瓊) and Jamie Lee Curtis, received criticism from Taiwanese audiences because of its subtitles after its Taiwan premiere on April 22.

The American drama has won the one-day championship for three consecutive days since Monday (April 25), according to the chart released by Taipei Box Office Observatory. In addition, it was selected as the opening movie for the 2022 Golden Horse Fantastic Film Festival.

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"Translational symmetry breaking is antagonistic to static fluidity"

This is physics, not surrealist poetry — K Kinjo et al., "Superconducting spin smecticity evidencing the Fulde-Ferrell-Larkin-Ovchinnikov state in Sr2RuO4", Science 4/21/2022:

Translational symmetry breaking is antagonistic to static fluidity but can be realized in superconductors, which host a quantum-mechanical coherent fluid formed by electron pairs. A peculiar example of such a state is the Fulde-Ferrell-Larkin-Ovchinnikov (FFLO) state, induced by a time-reversal symmetry–breaking magnetic field applied to spin-singlet superconductors. This state is intrinsically accompanied by the superconducting spin smecticity, spin density–modulated fluidity with spontaneous translational-symmetry breaking. Detection of such spin smecticity provides unambiguous evidence for the FFLO state, but its observation has been challenging. Here, we report the characteristic “double-horn” nuclear magnetic resonance spectrum in the layered superconductor Sr2RuO4 near its upper critical field, indicating the spatial sinusoidal modulation of spin density that is consistent with superconducting spin smecticity. Our work reveals that Sr2RuO4 provides a versatile platform for studying FFLO physics.

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Today's Crash Blossom

From the Guardian's front page:

The linked story is here.

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Character amnesia yet again: game (almost) over

Last week, I witnessed a palpable, powerful, poignant demonstration of tíbǐwàngzì 提筆忘字 ("forgetting how to write sinographs; character amnesia").  This happened in a colloquium where, during the discussion period, someone mentioned the standard eight-volume Historical Atlas of China (1982-1988) edited by the renowned geographer Tan Qixiang (1911-1992).  A member of the gathering requested that the name be written on the whiteboard in sinographs.  A colleague — a tenured professor of medieval Chinese history — popped up and said they could write the name in characters.

Already a little bit wobbly on the semantophore / radical on the left side of the first character (the surname), with a little bit of kibitzing from colleagues, the volunteer managed to produce the requisite semantophore after several false starts and erasures.  After that great achievement (producing the semantophore amid much embarrassment), they turned to the phonophore on the right side but were getting nowhere fast, even with suggestions from colleagues who were looking on.

Finally, someone looked up the name on their phone and presto digito*, the correct writing emerged:  譚其驤 / 谭其骧 (the group — scholars all — collectively preferred the traditional form over the simplified one).


[*VHM:  I remember hearing this expression when I was young, but it barely exists on the internet, and I can't find it in dictionaries either.]

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Why is Facebook's Chinese translation still so terrible?

[This is a guest post by Jenny Chu]

Has Language Log been following up on the great sorrow that is Facebook's (Chinese) translation feature? The last reference I found was this one

It came up today when I was reading this somewhat viral post on Facebook

I switched on the auto-translate option to help me understand. The results were not just astonishingly bad, but had a surprisingly medical bent.

今天這個主權政府作承諾的時候大辭炎炎,七情上面,結果又是如何?–> "Today, when the private government is working, the weather is colon inflammation, above the sentiment, what is the result?"

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Whole wheat partially

Package on a grocery store shelf:

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Dumpling ingredients and character amnesia, part 2

This post follows in the path of its classic predecessor, "Dumpling ingredients and character amnesia" (10/18/14), must see.  Here we begin with this provisions list:


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On how (not) to learn Latin via French

And how (not) to learn Literary Sinitic / Classical Chinese via Mandarin

A "Little Horatian Satire" by E. Bruce Brooks

A section of Classical Chinese Primer by E. Bruce Brooks and A. Taeko Brooks

The dominance of modern-Chinese based curricula may be inevitable in the present political climate, but it is objectively strange all the same. In practice, it prevents the classical language from being acquired by anyone who does not have a use for the usual prerequisite: two or three years of the modern language. The comparative philosophers and historians, the students of ancient technology, and those moved by mere intellectual and literary curiosity, are thus excluded at the outset. Is it healthy for the field, to have nobody to talk to in these neighboring disciplines? And what of the future Chinese classicists themselves, whose linguistic antennae are being tuned, by arduous toil, to a point 2,000 years later than the texts of primary interest to them?

What if the Mediterranean Classicists did as the Sinological Classicists do? An American college freshman with perfect SAT's and a burning desire to investigate the metrics of Horace walks into the Classics program advisor's office and announces her goal. She expects a welcome, and a fast-track Latin class. Instead, she gets the following:

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The birth of Spanish

New article by Johnson in The Economist (4/23/22):

On the origin of languages
It is tempting to think that they have clear beginnings. They don’t

First two paragraphs:

IN A CHURCH hewn out of a mountainside, just over a thousand years or so ago, a monk was struggling with a passage in Latin. He did what others like him have done, writing the tricky bits in his own language between the lines of text and at the edges. What makes these marginalia more than marginal is that they are considered the first words ever written in Spanish.

The “Emilian glosses” were written at the monastery of Suso, which was founded by St Aemilianus (Millán, in Spanish) in the La Rioja region of Spain. Known as la cuna del castellano, “the cradle of Castilian”, it is a UNESCO world heritage site and a great tourist draw. In 1977 Spain celebrated 1,000 years of the Spanish language there.

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Hokkien at UCLA, part 2

Referring to the first post in this series, "Hokkien at UCLA" (4/20/22), Chau Wu writes:

I totally agree with you about the Chinese prerequisite.

When I was younger (no, a lot younger) back in Taiwan, I had known a few grandmotherly Christian ladies who were illiterate in Sinitic script but perfectly at home in reading the Taiwanese Bible in Pe̍h-ōe-jī (POJ), i.e., Church Romanization (see below at * for further discussion). The following pictures appeared in the Taiwanese newspaper 自由時報 (Liberty Times) (Hokkien POJ Chū-iû-sî-pò; Hanyu Pinyin Zìyóu Shíbào) a few years ago about a Mrs. Lin (unrelated to any of the ladies I knew of) reading the Bible (Note the Bible shows signs of having been heavily used):

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New official night market sign with Taiwanese

The Shalu district of Taichung (Taizhong) is opening a new night market:

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