Archive for August, 2023

"Don't speak Japanese loudly outside!"

Advisory to staff of the embassy of Japan in Beijing:

ALPS shori mizu no kaiyō hōshutsu kaishi ni tomonau chūi kanki (2023-nen 8 tsuki 25-nichi)


Warning regarding the start of ocean discharge of ALPS-treated water (August 25, 2023)

Kinō (24-nichi), fusoku no jitai ga hassei suru kanōsei wa haijo dekinai tame chūi shite itadaku yō onegai shimashitaga, ika no ten ni tsuite ryūi shite itadakimasu yō aratamete onegai itashimasu.

(1 ) Gaishutsu suru sai ni wa, fuhitsuyō ni nihongo o ōkina koe de hanasanai nado, shinchōna gendō o kokorogakeru.
(2 ) Taishikan o hōmon suru hitsuyō ga aru baai wa, taishikan shūi no yōsu ni saishin no chūiwoharau.



"Yesterday (24th), we asked you to be careful because the possibility of unforeseen circumstances cannot be ruled out.

 (1) When going out, try to be cautious in your behavior, such as not speaking Japanese in a loud voice unnecessarily.
(2) If it is necessary to visit the embassy, pay close attention to the surroundings of the embassy."

(source) (GT romanization and translation)

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No Japanese people or American dogs

From the Twitter / X account of the famous popular science writer and muckraker, Fang Zhouzi / Fang Shimin:

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"Get some linguists out here"

Email from John B.:

Writing to you about a never-expected-to-see sentence, in a novel I’m reading.

“And get some linguists out here as fast as you can.”

(Well, but why not?)

It’s a newly released off the wall novel, The Road to Roswell by Connie Willis. The heroine, Francie, has agreed to be maid of honor at her college roommate’s wedding. The fiancé is a UFO conspiracy nut and he has scheduled the wedding in Roswell NM. Francie is sure that her real task is to bring her friend to her senses and get her to call off the wedding. But Francie gets abducted by a real extraterrestrial alien. And then things get complicated.

The surprise sentence is on page 343 (of 399) in my copy, so things must be heading towards some resolution soon, but I stopped to send this note.

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Viral vibe

"Chinese Song Streamed Billions of Times for ‘Satirical’ Vibe"

Yomiuri Shimbun (August 29, 2023)

Here's the song, with the lyrics in characters, pinyin romanization, and a poor English translation:

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Korean words for "bottle gourd"

I spent much of the summer in Vermont ensconced in a hermit's cottage reading, writing, and, of course, running through the Green Mountains and verdant woods.  When I left last week to come back for the fall semester at Penn, I brought with me about fifty bottle gourds (Lagenaria siceraria) that had been abandoned by the side of the road.

My purpose in bringing so many bottle gourds back to Philadelphia is that I wanted to give them to the new graduate students in my department.  It has been my habit for many years to present something exotic / esoteric and regionally meaningful to the students in Asian studies.  Usually it's edible, such as camel's milk cheese from Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan, but sometimes it's more on the edifying side.  Such is the case with this year's bottle gourds. 

How so?

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Once in a blue moon

From the MIT International Student Office:

Blue moons are best known from the phrase “once in a blue moon,” which means “extremely rarely.” The first recorded use of this idiomatic phrase is in an anti-clerical flyer in 1528, published by William Roy and Jeremy Barlowe. In reference to the clerical corruptions, one said in Old English, “O churche men are wyly foxes […] Yf they say the mone is blewe / We must beleve that it is true / Admittynge their interpretacion.” The context is not one hundred percent clear; but a number of websites interpret this as a reference to priests who required laymen to believe in their statements regardless of how false or ridiculous these were.

A current example would be: “Once in a blue moon I go to a concert, only when there is a singer I really like.”


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De-Japanification of Japanese

This morning in the first class of my course on "Language, Script, and Society in China", I had just spoken about the most frequent morphemes in Mandarin, Taiwanese, and Japanese (the possessive particles de 的, e, and no の) and other common terms that had no fixed characters to write them or had to borrow characters with completely different meanings to be written (de 的 is a prime example).  When I came back to my office, I was greeted with this:

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"Re-Grand Opening"

From John Bell:

I thought of you and your interest in the oddities of linguistic expression a few days ago when I noticed that the local Safeway supermarket had large signs up saying "RE-GRAND OPENING".   They had recently done some renovation in a corner of the store — enlarging the self-checkout and the Starbucks counter, so I think that was the impetus for the sign, but I also liked the way it made sure you knew this was not the first GRAND OPENING.

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Language and politics in Hong Kong: National Security and the promotion of topolect

From the Hong Kong Language Learning Association:

Announcement Regarding Suspension of Hong Kong Language Learning Association

Given recent events, wherein personnel from the Hong Kong National Security Department (NSD) visited both my former residence and the residence of my family members for searches and inquiries, alleging a violation of the National Security Law in connection with an entry for the Societas Linguistica Hongkongensis (SLHK) ’s Cantonese essay competition, and demanding its removal, I have decided, with the guidance of legal counsel, to cease all operations of the Hong Kong Language Learning Association, effective immediately, in order to ensure the safety of my family and former members. Dissolution procedures are also initiated.

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Mugshot, racketeering, listless …

Over the past few months, U.S. political events have given Ben Zimmer opportunity for some fun etymologies in his WSJ column: mug shot, racketeering, listless. There are plenty more targets Out There — like candidate, from Latin candidus (“dazzling white, shining, clear”); or debate, originally from Latin dis- (“apart, in different directions”) + battuere (“to beat, to fence”).

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Core socialist values

"Chinese slogans on London wall hold mirror to society: artist"

Zhejiang-born Yique tries to find his place in UK after Brick Lane work

TAY HAN NEE, Nikkei Asia

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I recently learned about the lexical blend calimony, which refers to a planned multi-million-dollar annual payment from UCLA (the University of California, Los Angeles) to Berkeley (the University of California, Berkeley, known in athletic contexts as "California" or "Cal"). Why will this payment exist? And why is it a metaphorical form of alimony?

Short form: As of next year, UCLA is leaving the Pac-12 for the Big 10, and 7 others of the 12 schools that gave the Pac-12 its name are also leaving. As a result, the Pac-12 will probably vanish, at least as a source of broadcast revenue. Because UCLA and Berkeley are both part of the state of California university system, the budgetary consequences… …don't matter in detail to the history of the lexical blend, but help to explain why the alimony metaphor makes sense.

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Bilingual book takes top honors at New Zealand Children's Book Awards

Press comment:
"A bilingual book about the Māori creation story has won the highest accolade in children's literature."
Awards Announcement:
"Te Wehenga: The Separation of Ranginui and Papatūānuku presents the Māori creation pūrākau in a bold design using universal elements recognised across iwi. The bilingual text is poetic, and integrated into the artwork on each page in a way that draws readers into an interactive experience, inviting them to turn the book as they become immersed …"

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