Green needle vs. brainstorm

Remember "Yanny vs. Laurel", the viral acoustic sensation (28.2M views) of mid-May, 2018?  It was covered extensively on Language Log (see the items under "Selected readings" below).  Now we have another supposedly ambiguous recording that has gone viral (5.3M views [posted 7/3/21]):

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Keyboarding and typing

From Barbara Phillips Long:

When did the word "keyboarding" replace "typing" in my vocabulary? I don't remember. It was hard to look up, because mostly my searches defaulted to "keyboard," which in this case is not helpful. But apparently it is a less common term than I thought. Take a look at these comments at Ask a Manager, where Alison Green provides workplace advice:

 
Richard Hershberger     *September 21, 2021 at 11:48 am

As an aside, when did the word “keyboarding” enter the language, and “typing” drop out? I’m not complaining about it. I am genuinely curious. About five years back I was at Back to School night where my kid’s teacher mentioned instructing in “keyboarding.” She was probably in her mid-twenties. I didn’t know the word, so I asked her if that was what we used to call “typing.” She was befuddled. She had never heard the word.

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The only rex

From a Chinese fish market:

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Speaking Taiwanese as a Second Language in Taiwan

Provocative Twitter thread:

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Meng Wanzhou's "model essay", "parallel prose", and Pinyin for the masses

Meng Wanzhou 孟晚舟 is the Chief Financial Officer of Huawei (the PRC communications technology giant), who was arrested on financial fraud charges at Vancouver International Airport on December 1, 2018.  Nearly three years later, in exchange for two Canadian citizens (the "two Michaels", Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who had been summarily taken prisoner and held in Chinese jails for 1,020 days), she was released from detention and flew back to China on September 24, 2021.  The text quoted below was supposedly written by her on the flight from Canada to China.

Also provided is a photograph of people gathered in the Shenzhen airport to welcome her with red banners, two of which have Hanyu Pinyin phonetic annotations on them.

Questions have been raised about the nature and quality of the essay attributed to Meng.

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Cantonese ad for teppan steak

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New expressions for karaoke: the phoneticization of Chinese

My first acquaintance with the word "karaoke" was back in the 1980s, when I was visiting my brother Denis, who was then a translator for Foreign Languages Press in Beijing.  He lived in the old Russian-built Friendship Hotel, a very spartan place compared to today's luxury accommodations in big Chinese cities. There wasn't much unusual, interesting, or attractive about the place (though they had bidets in the bathrooms, as did many other Russian style accommodations in China at that time), but I was deeply intrigued by a small sign at the back of one of the buildings that led to a basement room. On it was written "kǎlā OK 卡拉OK". The best I could make of that novel expression was "card pull OK," and I thought that it might have something to do with documentation. I asked all my Chinese scholar friends what this mysterious sign meant, but not one of them knew (remember that this was back in the mid-80s). It was only when I returned to the United States that I realized kǎlā OK 卡拉OK was the Chinese transcription for Japanese karaoke. It took a lot more time and effort before I figured out that karaoke is the abbreviated Japanese translation-transliteration of English "empty orchestra," viz., kara (空) "empty" and ōkesutora (オーケストラ). When I reported this to my Chinese linguist friends (Zhou Youguang, Yin Binyong, and others) back in Beijing the next year, they were absolutely flabbergasted. They had been convinced that the OK was simply the English term meaning "all right," but they had no idea what to make of the kǎlā portion.

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Indigenous languages and medicinal knowledge

New article in Mongabay (the critter in the banner at the top of the page who serves as their logo reminds me of our little friend, the gecko):

"Extinction of Indigenous languages leads to loss of exclusive knowledge about medicinal plants", by Sibélia Zanon on 20 September 2021 | Translated by Maya Johnson

Key points:

  • A study at the University of Zurich in Switzerland shows that a large proportion of existing medicinal plant knowledge is linked to threatened Indigenous languages. In a regional study on the Amazon, New Guinea and North America, researchers concluded that 75% of medicinal plant uses are known in only one language.
  • The study evaluated 645 plant species in the northwestern Amazon and their medicinal uses, according to the oral tradition of 37 languages. It found that 91% of this knowledge exists in a single language, and that the extinction of that language implies the loss of the medicinal knowledge as well.
  • In Brazil, Indigenous schools hold an important role in preserving languages alongside cataloguing and revitalization projects like those held by the Karitiana people in Rondônia and the Pataxó in Bahia and Minas Gerais.

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Sino-French language lessons

Chinese signs from Quora.  Since they are rather lengthy and come with French explanations, I will depart from my usual Language Log treatment of providing Romanizations, transcriptions, and translations for the Chinese.  Instead, I will only give English translations (based mainly on Google translations of the French, with slight modifications).

En raison de la population nombreuse et du nombre insuffisant d'agents de police, les Chinois ont développé une culture unique en matière de panneaux d'avertissement intimidants :

Panneau de signalisation : "Veuillez conduire en toute sécurité, il n'y a pas d'hôpital à proximité".

Due to the large population and insufficient number of police officers, the Chinese have developed a unique culture of intimidating warning signs.

Warning sign: "Please drive safely, there is no hospital nearby".

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Magical Penis Wine

Victor Steinbok reports:

This made the rounds on Reddit a few times. The screenshot of a 2019 Reddit thread popped up on my FB feed today. It might even come in white and red 😈


Source:  NV Debao Winery Magical Penis Wine

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Boris Johnson: "prenez un grip", "donnez-moi un break"

Spectacular code-switching:

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Another early polysyllabic Sinitic word

In various publications and Language Log posts over the years, I have collected scores of old polysyllabic words (e.g., those for reindeer, phoenix, coral, spider, earthworm, butterfly, dragonfly, balloon lute, meandering / winding, etc.), which proves that Sinitic has never been strictly monosyllabic, although that is a common misapprehension, even among many scholars.  The reason I call the one featured in this post "another early polysyllabic Sinitic word" is because I don't think I've ever pointed it out before.

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Fat Otaku Conversation Generator

To comprehend what's going on in this post, you have to understand the basics of what an "otaku" is.

DEFINITION: 

(fandom slang) One with an obsessive interest in something, particularly anime or manga.

ETYMOLOGY:

From Japanese オタク (otaku, nerd, geek), from お宅 (otaku, honorific for “you”), originally the honorific version of (taku, home).  [VHM:  reminiscent of "homebody".]

SYNONYMS:

(source)

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