Archive for May, 2023

"Quid pro crow"

In Maria Bartiromo's recent interview with James Comer (R-KY), there's an interesting speech error — "quid pro crow" for "quid pro quo":

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CCP scamming with a Taiwanese-like accent

Topolects matter:

Taiwanese buys anti-CCP book, gets scam call from Chinese propagandist:

Caller posing as Eslite Bookstore’s ‘marketing department’ tells consumer book content inappropriate

By Stephanie Chiang, Taiwan News, Staff Reporter (5/14/23)

Before delving into the substance of this report, I should mention that Eslite is a huge, and hugely influential, bookstore in Taiwan.

AntC, who called this article to my attention, remarks:

A 'scammer' (not sure that's the right term here) called someone who'd bought a book at Eslite book store, Taipei. Then proceeded with a fake 'customer survey' about the purchase. The customer's facebook post (in Chinese) relating the interaction is here.

The linguistic interest: "despite the caller’s Taiwanese-like accent, it became apparent to her that she was not truly a Taiwanese native."

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AI Anchorman "@EdisonGPT"

The future of news?

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Sperm whale talk

Animal communication is not a favorite topic here at Language Log, but according to the following account, one project concerning it seems serious and is being conducted by credible scientists.  Although their claims for its ultimate significance may be inflated, I believe the research they are undertaking is worth considering, especially after hearing the clicks and codas of the sperm whales, which do appear to be communicating data.

Can Understanding Whale Speech Help Us Talk to Aliens?

Biologist David Gruber thinks decoding the language of whales could be just the first step in understanding what other lifeforms are saying—in this world and out of it.

Alexandra Marvar, The Daily Beast (5/13/23)

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"Mama ŠČ!"

Among the entries in the  2023 Eurovision Song Contest,  there's one of particular linguistic and political interest — from Croatia, Let 3's Mama ŠČ!:

[The video of the song's final Eurovision performance is blocked (at least for now) in the U.S. … but there seems to be a version of it here…]

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Mathematical parking

Sign on the campus of Zhōngguó kēxué jìshù dàxué 中国科学技术大学 (University of Science and Technology of China) telling people how to park:

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Iowa town names

I'm in Ames, home of Iowa State University.  The next town down the road is Nevada.  What?  Yes, but it's /nəˈvdə/ nə-VAY-də, not /nɪˈvædə/ nih-VAD; Spanish: [neˈβaða], and the locals I've met know the difference.  The same thing holds for Madrid, which is on the other side of Ames; it is /ˈmædrɪd/, not /məˈdrɪd/ mə-DRID, Spanish: [maˈðɾið].

From what they told me, Iowans do the same thing with many other exonyms.

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Last weekend, I was in Omaha for the annual Berkshire-Hathaway Shareholders Meeting.  Not that I am a shareholder of Berkshire-Hathaway, but simply because I was curious to see two nonagenarian financial wizards hold forth in front of 20,000 enthusiastic fans for a whole day.  I wasn't disappointed, though I must confess that I didn't understand half of what Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger were saying about value investing.

Since I was staying in Council Bluffs and the meeting was held at the CHI Health Center across the river in Omaha, I had to go back and forth across the Missouri River several times, so I became curious about the relationship between the two cities.  I asked a taxi driver from Council Bluffs, who was born and grew up there, what local people thought of the twin cities.  "We're the one with all the problems," he said.  "So much so that they call us Counciltucky.

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Signs of the phonetics of Moroccan French

[This is a guest post by Scott Mauldin]

I recently visited Marrakesh and was fascinated by the signs that I submit in the attached photographs. Ostensibly these were originally a kind of business sign that artisans and professionals could hang on their businesses or homes to advertise their profession, but they have evolved into something slightly different for touristic consumption as they now sometimes feature the faces of celebrities or even items.

They're interesting in themselves as a cultural item, but if you look closely at the photos the truly fascinating bit are the "errors" and deviations from standard French spelling. These signs are often made by artisans without a formal education in French and sometimes are phonetic renderings that encode Maghrebi French pronunciations.

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Clean Up After Your Dog

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Retraction Watch: Swamp Man Thing

A recent Dinosaur Comic features a passionate investigation into alleged philosophical plagiarism:

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Crappy metaphor: slippers that make you feel like you're stepping on shit

Sign on the elevator doors of a Taipei department store:

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TEAR here

The hotel where I'm staying in Morgantown, West Virginia kindly gave me a complimentary rectangular packet of freshmint toothpaste.  At the top right corner of the packet, there was a dotted, diagonal line with the words "TEAR HERE" printed above it.  Alas, no matter how hard I tried, I could not tear it open.

Then I thought that maybe I could RIP it open by pulling on the serrations along the upper edge of the packet.  No luck.

Then I tried to BITE and GNASH the packet with my teeth.  Abject failure.

Of course, I've been through all of this countless times before, and not just with toothpaste, but with packets of ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, and all sorts of other things.  It is especially dismaying when — after making a supreme effort — the packet bursts open and the contents spurt all over the place, including your clothing.  The worst case is when soy sauce flies out and drips everywhere.

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