Archive for May, 2024

Nine quid for two?

The Daily Mail explains that this viral video features "Marnie and Mylah, from Burnley, [who] hit out at the ice cream van for high prices":

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A crack in the hegemonic edifice of hanzi

Stunning report from Pinyin News:

"Chinese characters no longer required for Taiwan Aborigine names" (5/21/24)

Last week Taiwan’s legislature passed an amendment stating that members of Taiwan’s tribes will no longer be forced to adopt names written in Chinese characters. Instead, their names can be presented solely in romanization if so desired. Thus, at least in this specialized category, Chinese characters have been stripped of their primacy and romanization is officially allowed to stand on its own (not appear only in conjunction with Chinese characters).

Source: Lìyuàn tōngguò: yuánzhùmín shēnfen zhèngjiàn — kě zhǐ xiě pīnyīn zúmíng (立院通過:原住民身分證件 可只寫拼音族名), United Daily News, May 15, 2024

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Don't tell les immortels

Avmeric Renou, "À VivaTech, la French Tech s’offre un nouveau coup de boost", Le Parisien 5/21/2024.

"la French Tech"? "un nouveau coup de boost"?

The obligatory screenshot:

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Diplolingo: "stern representations"

This is a typical headline emanating from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the PRC:

Furious mainland China slams Taiwanese leader’s ‘blatant’ call for independence

People’s Daily commentary blasts William Lai Ching-te’s inauguration speech for ‘inciting hatred against the Chinese people’
Beijing also objects to US secretary of state’s congratulations to Lai

Xinlu Liang in Beijing
Published: 2:05pm, 21 May 2024

During the last decade or so, the Chinese foreign ministry has developed such a distinctive, confrontational brand of diplomatic jargon that I thought it deserved a neologistic portmanteau designation of its own, though I think the expression could be used for different styles of diplomatic language that are quite different from the harsh rhetoric of the current Chinese approach.

Overall, contemporary Chinese diplomats are instructed by their government to adopt a "wolf warrior" approach.

Wolf warrior diplomacy is a form of public diplomacy involving compellence adopted by Chinese diplomats in the late 2010s. The term was coined from the title of the Chinese action film Wolf Warrior 2 (2017). This approach is in contrast to the prior diplomatic practices of Deng Xiaoping and Hu Jintao, which had emphasized the use of cooperative rhetoric and the avoidance of controversy.

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AI based on Xi Jinping Thought

It's hard to believe they're serious about this:

China rolls out large language model based on Xi Jinping Thought

    Country’s top internet regulator promises ‘secure and reliable’ system that is not open-sourced
    Model is still undergoing internal testing and is not yet available for public use

Sylvie Zhuang in Beijing
Published: 7:57pm, 21 May 2024

It's the antithesis of open-sourced, i.e., it's close-sourced.  What are the implications of that for a vibrant, powerful system of thought?

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Brazilian eggcorns

From André Vítor Camargo De Toledo:

Original: "Ideia de Jerico" (An ass's idea)
Eggcorn: "Ideia de Girino" (A tadpole's idea)
Why it happened: "Jerico" is almost a fossil word, and, to most people, only ever shows up when used in that idiom. It's an old word for "ass", which, as an animal, is associated with intellectual dullness here, so the idiomatic expression translates to "a dumb idea." Its meaning is preserved in the misheard version, as one would suppose tadpole's aren't much brighter than asses.

Original: "internet discada" (dial-up internet)
Eggcorn: "internet de escada" ("staircase internet")
Why it happened: Millennials like me tend to use the term "dial up internet" to refer to any kind of bad internet connection. Younger generations, not knowing what dial-up internet is, interpret it as "staircase internet", which makes sense, as people are generally much slower walking up staircases than we normally walk.

Original: "Não é da minha alçada" (not of my jurisdiction)
Eggcorn: "Não é da minha ossada" (not from my skeleton)
Why it happened: just a misheard expression. It means "that trouble doesn't belong to me" in both cases; one is a legal analogy while the other is an anatomical analogy, perhaps influenced by the idea that Eve was originally one of Adam's bones.

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Language Log asks: Mari Sandoz

In preparation for my run across Nebraska during the month of June, I'm boning up on the land, culture, and history of the state.  It wasn't long in my researches before I encountered the esteemed writer Marie Sandoz (1896-1966).  Hers is one of the most touching stories about a writer, nay, a human being, that I have ever read.  She has much to tell us about her language background and preferences, and how she had to struggle with her publishers to retain them in the face of standardization.

She became one of the West's foremost writers, and wrote extensively about pioneer life and the Plains Indians.

Marie Susette Sandoz was born on May 11, 1896 near Hay Springs, Nebraska, the eldest of six children born to Swiss immigrants, Jules and Mary Elizabeth (Fehr) Sandoz. Until the age of 9, she spoke only German. Her father was said to be a violent and domineering man, who disapproved of her writing and reading. Her childhood was spent in hard labor on the home farm, and she developed snow blindness in one eye after a day spent digging the family's cattle out of a snowdrift.

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Bloom filters

Today's xkcd:

According to Wikipedia,

A Bloom filter is a space-efficient probabilistic data structure, conceived by Burton Howard Bloom in 1970, that is used to test whether an element is a member of a set. False positive matches are possible, but false negatives are not – in other words, a query returns either "possibly in set" or "definitely not in set". […]

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Linguistic capture errors

Back in 2008, Arnold Zwicky described a category of typos that he called  "completion errors":

…a "completion error", a typo that results you start writing or typing a word and then drift part-way in to another word.  I do this all too often with -ation and -ating words — starting the verb COOPERATING but ending up with COOPERATION, for instance.  And several people have reported on the American Dialect Society mailing list that their intention to type LINGUISTS frequently leads them into LINGUISTICS, which then has to be truncated.  (This discussion on ADS-L followed my typing "original Broadway case", with CASE instead of CAST, and commenting on it.) 

26 years earlier, David Rumelhart and Donald Norman used the term "capture errors" for this phenomenon ("Simulating a skilled typist: A study of skilled cognitive-motor performance", Cognitive Science 1982:

This category of error occurs when one intends to type one sequence, but gets "captured" by another that has a similar beginning (Norman, 1981). Examples include:

efficiency – > efficient
incredibly – > incredible
normal – > norman

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Google AI Overview has a ways to go

…or maybe I should say, "is deeply stupid, so far".

At least, that's the verdict from my first encounter with this heralded innovation.

I updated a Chromebook, re-installed Linux, and thought (incorrectly) that I might need to add repositories in order to install some non-standard apps like R and Octave and Emacs. (Never mind if that's all opaque to you — AI supposedly knows its way around basic tech stuff…)

So I googled "how to install R in linux on a chromebook", and got this:

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Linguistic evidence for migration to the Americas from Siberia

1st Americans came over in 4 different waves from Siberia, linguist argues:  The languages of the earliest Americans evolved in 4 waves, according to one expert.

By Kristina Killgrove, Live Science (May 3, 2024)

Killgrove reports:

Indigenous people entered North America at least four times between 12,000 and 24,000 years ago, bringing their languages with them, a new linguistic model indicates. The model correlates with archaeological, climatological and genetic data, supporting the idea that populations in early North America were dynamic and diverse.

Nearly half of the world's language families are found in the Americas. Although many of them are now thought extinct, historical linguistics analysis can survey and compare living languages and trace them back in time to better understand the groups that first populated the continent.

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One more for the "passive voice" files

There have been many LLOG posts on misuse of the term "passive voice", going back to 2003. As far as I can tell, the most recent post was "'Is it the passive voice you don't like?'", 8/11/2021.

In "'Passive Voice' — 1397-2009 — R.I.P", I wrote that

the traditional sense of passive voice has died after a long illness. It has ceased to be; it's expired and gone to meet its maker, kicked the bucket, shuffled off this mortal coil, rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. It's an ex-grammatical term.

Its ghost walks in the linguistics literature and in the usage of a few exceptionally old-fashioned intellectuals. For everyone else, what passive voice now means is "construction that is vague as to agency".

Today, Ambarish Sridharanarayanan sent me a link to a piece of writing that illustrates the issue perfectly:

The press release makes heroic use of the passive voice to obscure the actors: “an unprecedented sequence of events whereby an inadvertent misconfiguration during provisioning of UniSuper’s Private Cloud services ultimately resulted in the deletion of UniSuper’s Private Cloud subscription.”


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Retraction watch: Irish roots of "french fries"?

It's been a while since we had a post in the Prescriptivist Poppycock category. This example is more a case of badly-researched etymology, but we'll take what we can get, courtesy of Florent Moncomble, who writes:

In the May update of the prescriptive « Dire, ne pas dire » section of their website, in a post condemning « carottes fries » (for « carottes frites », as the past participle should go), they contend that the ‘French’ of ‘French fries’ has nothing to do with France but comes from an ‘Old Irish verb’ meaning ‘to mince’.

Sensing that that was absolute nonsense, I debunked the assertion on X in a thread that you can find here.

Specialists in Old Irish on X have joined in my (to remain polite) bemusement. Evidently the Immortels trusted the first page of a Google search and did not bother to actually fact-check this (apparently popular) myth. These are the people, paid with tax money, who we trust the official dictionary of the French language with.

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