Archive for September, 2022

Annals of Artificial Stupidity

Katie Deighton, "What Can’t the Internet Handle in 2022? Apostrophes", WSJ 9/29/2022:

Sybren Stüvel is an Amsterdam-based software developer with a fairly uncommon name and a surprisingly common predicament.

As he completes the tasks of daily life, computers refuse to accept his name as valid or mangle it entirely. A credit card provider rejected his moniker, a Vancouver hotel hit bumps locating his reservation—as he stood there exhausted from a nine-hour plane trip—and an airline wouldn’t let him check into a flight. “You can imagine my stress level,” he said.

While buying insurance, he said, “They asked me to confirm that my last name is indeed Stüvel.”

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The dynamics of talk maps

Over the years, across many disciplines, there have been many approaches to the analysis of conversational dynamics. For glimpses of a few corners of this topic, see the list of related posts at the end of this one — today I want to sketch the beginnings of a new way of thinking about it.

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Winnie the Pooh in a bottle

Netizens in Taiwan are having fun sharing a photo of a beverage promotion that comes with a Winnie doll in a bottle.


(source of photo and article in Chinese)

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Tea map

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RUN = wrong

Last spring, when Shanghai was in the midst-of a harsh, months-long lockdown, so many people were thinking of running away from the city that they even developed a "RUN-ology" (rùnxué 潤學, i.e., how to escape and go abroad), where "RUN" is a Chinese pun for English "run".

Original meanings of Mandarin rùn 潤:

  1. wet; moist
  2. sleek
  3. to moisten; to wet
  4. to polish (a piece of writing, etc.); to touch up
  5. profit (excess of revenue over cost)

(source)

"RUNning away from Shanghai" (5/13/22)

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Calligraphy as a "first level discipline" in the PRC

I am making this post because I think it is something that we should be aware of and try to understand in terms of the motivations of the Chinese government in enacting and carrying out these policies.

"First-level discipline a new starting line of calligraphy", China Daily (9/28/22)

The Chinese term for "first level discipline" is "yī jí xuékē 一级学科".  Here's a recent list of the first level disciplines in the Chinese educational system.  You will note that the disciplines are arranged from sciences at the top (with math at the very top), then moving down through history, engineering, agriculture, medicine, military science, management, philosophy, economics, law, educational science, literature, and art.  Calligraphy (shūfǎ 書法) was not included on this list of first level disciplines, which accords with the great commotion its addition to the list is currently causing.

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What 'IPA' means now…

I have mixed feelings about the International Phonetic Alphabet. It's good to have standard symbols for representing phonological categories across languages and varieties. You need to know the IPA in order to understand books and papers on many speech-related subjects, as well as for practical things like learning to sing the words of songs in languages you don't know. And the IPA is certainly better than the various clunky alternatives for (symbolic) dictionary pronunciation fields. So I teach it in intro courses.

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Look-see-watch

As native speakers of English, we have a direct, non-analytical understanding of the differences among "look", "see", and "watch", the three main verbs for expressing visual perception.  The first indicates that we have a purposive gaze at / toward / for something; the second that our sight focuses on what we were looking for; and the third adds a durative aspect of observing what we were looking for and saw.

A few days ago, I came across a mention of the term "look-see", and it brought back the memory of when I first learned the Mandarin word kànjiàn 看見 ("see") half a century ago, which struck me powerfully as having the same construction as "look-see".  Moreover, I knew enough about pidgin English to realize that "look-see" had a strong pidgin Gefühl to it.

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Jichang Lulu

That's the name of a treasured Language Log reader and contributor (see under "Selected Readings").  When I asked him how to write that in Sinoglyphs, he told me that it is this:

飢腸轆轆 / simpl. 饥肠辘辘

Wanting to get the tones, I typed "jichanglulu" into Google Translate (GT), but forgot to click the space bar to make the conversion to characters with Hanyu Pinyin transcription complete with tones.  When I pressed the speaker button to hear how that sounded, what came out was something like Mandarin with an English accent, but still perfectly intelligible:  "jichanglulu".  It resembled the Mandarin produced by the strangers on the street who read off the Pinyin texts handed to them by my wife, Li-ching Chang.  She was always delighted when she heard them pronouncing Mandarin without ever having studied it.  "Jichanglulu" — see, you can say it too!

Adding the tones, we get jīcháng lùlù.  What does this somewhat odd assortment of sounds signify?

GT says "hungry", more literally, "hungry intestines are rumbling".

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New Russian Newspeak

The author of this article is Michele A. Berdy, who writes under the byline The Word's Worth.  Berdy, born in the US but a resident of Moscow for over 40 years, has been doing this language column for a couple of decades.  It is usually light-hearted, even whimsical.  Not this one.  She departed Moscow after the invasion of Ukraine, and may now be in the U.S.  As per this March article in Politico.

"Newspeak in the New Russia:
George Orwell must be spinning in his grave."

The Moscow Times (9/23/22)

Новояз: Newspeak

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Triplex negatio ferblondiat

Julian Hook sent in this quote and link, from "Chris Christie mocks ‘disaster’ Donald Trump at upstate biz conference", NY Post 9/23/2022:

“There is a sector of our party, which cannot find themselves genetically unable to not defend Donald Trump,” Christie said at another point in his hour-long address while criticizing fellow Republicans for backing the ex-president’s evidence-free claims of mass voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

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Toilet culture in Xi’an

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How to say "We don't have any pickled pigs' feet"

I have a terrible hankering for pickled pigs' feet and have been to about a dozen stores in the Philadelphia area looking for a bottle of them.  So far no luck.

But I'm learning a lot about how store personnel tell me they don't have any.

Mostly, of course, they just say, "No(, we don't have any)".

If they're not sure, they usually say (regretfully), "I don't think we have any."

Today, however, I received the same answer four times in one store, "(It's possible) we may / might not have any" — as they walked me around to different parts of the store looking for the pickled pigs' feet.

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