A note on the "basketbrawl"

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The infamous melee between the Georgetown Hoyas and the Bayi Rockets that took place this past Thursday has been widely covered in the American press, but has been mostly scrubbed from Chinese media.

It is unfortunate that this donnybrook happened while Vice President Joe Biden was visiting China, and that is one of the reasons often given as an excuse for the general effacing of this sorry event from Chinese news sources — so as not to embarrass the Vice President of the United States of America.  Another common explanation is that this was supposed to be a goodwill game, and it is a great loss of face for China that it turned out to be something altogether different — a full-court free-for-all in which the home fans participated by booing, throwing bottles (some of them full of water), and showering the Hoyas with other objects as they left the court.

To begin to grasp the real dynamics of what happened on Thursday, we need to understand that the Bayi Rockets are an army team.  Indeed, all of its players are members of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), and their very name (8-1) signifies the date (8/1[/1927]) of the founding of the PLA on August 1, 1927, which is still celebrated annually as PLA Day.  The Bayi Rockets have also perennially been one of the best professional basketball teams in China.  Because the Hoyas would have demolished any Chinese college basketball team that could have been put against them, they were made to play one of the premier professional basketball teams in China.  One can imagine the extreme frustration felt by the Chinese — players and fans alike — when the college boy Hoyas kept up with the professional Rockets.  The tension grew all the greater in light of the fact that the Chinese referees clearly were doing some home-cooking in the foul department, calling 28 fouls against Georgetown and only 11 against Bayi.  Nor did it help matters that the Rockets were all soldiers trained to fight.

Thus it was virtually inevitable that a skirmish would break out.  Some commentators even declared that — instead of being a show of goodwill, the now fabled Georgetown-Bayi "Basketball Brawl Symbolized Growing U.S.-China Tensions," as Max Boot wrote in Commentary (August 21, 2011).  At the very least, as Josh Chin declared in the online Wall Street Journal (August 19, 2011), "A Basketball 'Friendly' Fouls U.S.-China Mood."

It is not uncommon for basketball games in China to erupt into fisticuffs.  It seems that Chinese players do not quite understand that, unlike rugby or football, basketball is not supposed to be a brutal contact sport, and it certainly is not meant to be a boxing or wrestling match.  In one notorious instance that took place last October, a massive melee broke out early on between a visiting Brazilian team and a Chinese team during another supposedly "friendly" match.  If you type   brazil china basketball fight into Google, you can find plenty of accounts, photographs, and videos of the vicious combat that took place; here is one.

A self-confessed apologist for Chinese basketball, who cleverly calls his website "niubball" ("niub" [two syllables:  niúbī] is generally explained as meaning something like "awesome" or "fantastic," but actually is an extremely vulgar obscenity, as explained here), admits (August 22, 2011) that basketball as played in China is much more physical than anywhere else.  In any event, nearly everyone, including many Chinese commentators on microblogs and other venues, recognizes that the Chinese players both instigated and escalated the fight.  This is obvious from the the limited video footage and photographs that are available at many places on the web.  In one scene, a Chinese player pushes Georgetown's Aaron Bowen through a partition, then pins him to the ground and pummels him.

Taiwan's Next Media produced an animated version of the fight, available here, that emphasizes the pugilistic predilections of the Chinese players.

Georgetown Coach John Thompson III pulled his players off the court with 9 minutes 32 seconds left to go.  It is beyond a curious coincidence that the score was tied at 64-64 when the game was called off.  The symbolic significance of 64-64 has not been lost on some observers, for example, here and here, and there are many others who make the same point.  What such interpreters see in the 64-64 tie between the Georgetown Hoyas and the Bayi Rockets is the PLA suppressing students on June 4, 1989.  Naturally, no one is suggesting that either the Hoyas or the Rockets wished for the game to end at precisely 64-64 (certainly, the Rockets would not have wanted that to happen!).  Yet the fact remains that this was the score at the conclusion of the game, and it shall remain so forever.  Hence the desperate need for the custodians of the media to wipe it from the consciousness of Chinese citizens.  The intense humiliation surrounding such an unseemly occurrence on Chinese soil only adds to the desire on the part of the Chinese authorities for everybody in the PRC and abroad to forget that it ever happened.

Incidentally, CND or Chinese News Digest (source of the first item cited in the third sentence of the previous paragraph), is the oldest overseas electronic Chinese language news magazine/service first set up by Chinese students in the U.S., probably just before 1989.  It is considered the most serious and "mainstream" among the mainland Chinese community who came to the U.S. as students (now mostly professionals in various areas), and is still run by volunteers.  The authors of the posts are usually those living in the U.S., but it often carries important news items and articles from other sources.

The Independent Review 独立评论 is also based in the United States.  Its title is interesting in that it is borrowed directly from the name of a publication associated with the famous Republican scholar, Hu Shi 胡适, and carries on its masthead a 1932 statement of the ideals upon which the earlier journal was founded.

The fracas between Georgetown and Bayi has special meaning for me because I was the Dartmouth basketball captain in 1964-65 and for three years on the varsity team was assigned to guard Bill Bradley every time we played Princeton.  One of the most glorious moments of my basketball career was when I stole the ball from him at mid-court in the Princeton gym; one of the most inglorious moments was when — after being stunned for a moment — Bradley came roaring down the court to slap the ball off the backboard as I attempted an easy layup after stealing the ball from him.  (Bradley didn't tackle me after I stole the ball from him in front of thousands of people, and I didn't shove him after he ruined my layup.)  Now, with the Georgetown-Bayi mixup, my basketball and Sinology backgrounds have come together and compelled me to write this brief essay.

[A tip of the hat to Anne Henochowicz and Sanping Chen]


  1. Eric P Smith said,

    August 23, 2011 @ 9:20 am

    “To guard Bill Bradley” confused me for a moment. Here in the UK it could only mean “to protect Bill Bradley”. We should have said “to mark Bill Bradley”.

  2. jfruh said,

    August 23, 2011 @ 9:35 am

    @Eric P Smith – "guard" can definitely mean "protect" in US English too, but "mark" is to my knowledge never used in a sporting context in that way. In sports, "guard" used as a transitive verb is understood to mean "gaurd against [direct object] making an offensive play."

  3. jfruh said,

    August 23, 2011 @ 9:49 am

    Also, I just followed that link to the explanation of the obscene phrase, and I found it confusing! Specifically this paragraph:

    The real character for "bi1" is so graphic and profane that almost nobody uses it. The substitute character most often used is "逼", which is a homonym for the other word but actually means "to compel." Another substitute is the Roman letter "B."

    So, if I'm reading this right, there's a tendency to not write the character for the obscene word and instead substitute a homophone? This is confusing to me because (a) it seems weird that a obscene word so obscene that everyone's dancing around its meaning would even have a homophone (the closest I can come up with one in English is "dam" and "damn") and (b) isn't most use of obscenity spoken rather than written anyway?

    Another interesting fact this brings up: in a language with an alphabet like English, obscenities can be more or less easily transliterated into writing without feeling like you had to take ownership of the word, and outside of formal language use (which explains why there are lots of variant spellings of curse words); but in a language like Chinese, somebody somewhere had to come up with a specific character to represent this dirty word, and that knowledge of what that character meant had to percolate out somehow. How does that process work?

  4. Trimegistus said,

    August 23, 2011 @ 9:56 am

    Are we sure those Chinese players weren't UNLV in disguise?

  5. Georgetown linguist said,

    August 23, 2011 @ 10:02 am

    Thank you for this piece. Without it I wouldn't have known that "nearly everyone…recognizes that the Chinese players both instigated and escalated the fight." Certainly in what I've seen in the American media, reporters and commentators have gone out of their way to avoid attributing responsibility for the fight, implying that both sides were equally responsible, that the fight simply "broke out."

  6. James said,

    August 23, 2011 @ 10:22 am

    Eric, that's right, and there is a new (?? recency illusion?) usage too: sportscasters will say that the Knicks are having trouble "defending LeBron", meaning that the Knicks are having trouble defending their basket against LeBron. It still strikes me as wrong, though it's pretty well established now and I'm sure most listeners understand perfectly and don't give it a second thought.

    "Mark" is used in the US only for soccer, perhaps unsurpisingly.

  7. Nick Lamb said,

    August 23, 2011 @ 11:07 am

    Eric, I'm not sure you're right. I mean, it's true that we would say a football (soccer) player has been assigned to "mark Joe Smith" rather than "guard Joe Smith" or whatever, but it's not true that "guard" is never used this way in British English. If I tell you that "these three men are to guard notorious murderer Bill Smith" you will probably not expect that their primary role is to protect Smith (also that may be a subsidiary responsibility if Smith has been subject to death threats) but instead to prevent him from escaping.

  8. skorbyets said,

    August 23, 2011 @ 12:07 pm

    This is confusing to me because (a) it seems weird that a obscene word so obscene that everyone's dancing around its meaning would even have a homophone

    Chinese has such a limited number of morphemes that I can't think of any single-syllable word for which there aren't homophones. In many cases there are dozens of homophones. It's perhaps testament to the obscenity of bi1 that there are only a few for that particular morpheme.

    (b) isn't most use of obscenity spoken rather than written anyway?

    Well, yes. Most language is spoken, rather than written, but this doesn't mean we don't need to write it on occasion in everything from treatises to text messages. Contemporary Chinese are no more reluctant to use obscenities than contemporary Westerners are. The naughty character in question, by the way, is 屄.

  9. slobone said,

    August 23, 2011 @ 12:27 pm

    @James, shouldn't that be "defensing LeBron"?

  10. Henning Makholm said,

    August 23, 2011 @ 12:28 pm

    The symbolic significance of 64-64 has not been lost on some observers,

    It's utterly lost on me, I'm afraid, and the links, being in Chinese, do not help. Someone care to enlighten me?

  11. richard howland-bolton said,

    August 23, 2011 @ 12:46 pm

    I suppose the reference is to Tiananmen Square/

  12. Henning Makholm said,

    August 23, 2011 @ 12:48 pm

    But how is "64-64" a reference to Tiananmen Square? Is it a Mandarin pun?

  13. Mark F. said,

    August 23, 2011 @ 12:49 pm

    In ultimate frisbee in the US, the term "mark" is used, in particular for defending the player trying to throw the disc. If a player has caught the disc and isn't being guarded, you might hear "somebody put a mark on."

    And, Slobone, no, "defensing LeBron" would be an unusual way to put it.

  14. mollymooly said,

    August 23, 2011 @ 1:07 pm

    But how is "64-64″ a reference to Tiananmen Square?

    6/4 = June 4 [1989]. It took me a while too, Henning

  15. J-D said,

    August 23, 2011 @ 1:10 pm

    Tiananmen square occured on June 4th. It is also reffered to as the June 4th movement. June is the 6th month, hence 64 is significant. In Chinese months are all in numbers. June is literally translated from Chinese 6th month, which adds to the relevance.

  16. Mark Dunan said,

    August 23, 2011 @ 1:14 pm

    Here in Japan they use the English word "mark" in baseball to refer to infielders holding runners on base by standing closer to the bag, in position to catch a pickoff throw.

    Playing baseball in America, I'd always used the word "hold (the runner) on" or "cover" for that.

    I'll never forget my first at-bat with an amateur team I play on in Tokyo; I hit a double (got that first hit out of the way quick!) and took a lead off second as the next batter came up. The guys in my dugout communicated to me that the opposing shortstop wasn't covering second at all, and thus I could take a big lead, by saying "no mark!" (「ノーマーク!」) repeatedly.

    I understood it quickly enough but was momentarily confused, not least because Mark is my own name. ^^; Fortunately I was able to take that bigger lead, and score on the next batter's single.

    I'd never noticed the illogicality of how "guard" is used there, not even playing basketball as a child and knowing right away that the guy I'm "guarding" is the guy I'm matched against in a man-to-man defense.

    Has anyone ever heard "guard" used in baseball for a fielder keeping a baserunner close to his base, as in the situation above?

    (Aside: some brief Googling brings up thie 1914 example from American football in which "guard" is used to mean "protect someone on your own team":

    http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030193/1914-10-20/ed-1/seq-14/;words=runner+Runner+guard+baseball+Guard )

    @Henning – 64 (六四) is just the date of the incident: June 4, 1989. Since Bayi (八一)'s name is also a date (8/1), the connection is hard not to see, once you've seen it.

  17. Gene Buckley said,

    August 23, 2011 @ 1:27 pm

    @jfruh, regarding the "tendency to not write the character for the obscene word and instead substitute a homophone": The analogy in English would be writing f**k or the like, an alphabetic option that is not available with Chinese characters. Use of a homophone character similarly identifies the taboo word without presenting it visually in the most direct and "shocking" way.

  18. Mark Mandel said,

    August 23, 2011 @ 1:44 pm

    skorbyets said,
    Chinese has such a limited number of morphemes that I can't think of any single-syllable word for which there aren't homophones.

    Make that "limited number of syllables", and we're on the same page.

  19. Jon Weinberg said,

    August 23, 2011 @ 2:02 pm

    @Mark F. (and in defense of Slobone): "Defensing Lebron" sounds to me like pretty ordinary US sports-speak. I dunno that it's common: the most recent hit in the Lexis newspaper archive is a month old ("'Defensive coordinator Larry Marvin and our other defensive coaches really put together a great game plan in regards to defensing Sierra,' Brockman said."). "Defensing" seems to have appeared in newspapers substantially more often in the 90s than in the 00s, so its use may be declining.

  20. JMM said,

    August 23, 2011 @ 2:32 pm

    The word mark for defend (against) does show up on American sports pages occasionally, but it means 'to guard/defend (against) aggressively', at least with a fresh player every few minutes or, perhaps, a constant double or triple team. And it might get close to the point of unsportsmanlike guarding too (especially in hockey).

    Lebron was marked by many teams when he played for Cleavland; only the Mavs could do that once he was on the Heat (that's his own fans explanation for his total fail in the finals at any rate.)

    American football has different definitions. 'Mark' means read, or look to this player to get clues for the coming play. and 'guard' means protect (as the guy trying to pass the ball.) But American football even has a definition for 'foot' that I've yet to figure out.

  21. Keith said,

    August 23, 2011 @ 3:57 pm

    @ Henning Makholm

    Maybe 64 x 64 would be Tiananmen Squared…


  22. Ian F. said,

    August 23, 2011 @ 4:08 pm

    1.) The "naughty character in question", while it may be written 屄, I have never seen any Chinese person write it with this character. I have always seen it written

  23. Ian F. said,

    August 23, 2011 @ 4:27 pm

    (Edit: the character I used is apparently not supported by the UPenn's system, which deleted the rest of my post. Shame on you, UPenn! Perhaps it's just an encoding issue.)

    1.) I was simply saying that I've always seen the "naughty character in question" written as an uncommon graph consisting of the character for "woman" 女, with a small "dot" inside. Perhaps the character 屄 is only used by Northerners.

    2.) Prof. Mair quotes someone on NiuBBall as saying: " basketball as played in China is much more physical than anywhere else". That statement is utterly ridiculous. Chinese basketball is generally a great deal less physical than basketball in the US or elsewhere. The idea that the Georgetown and Brazil brawls are indicative of Chinese basketball as a whole for much of its history is very misleading – since 2008, there has been an enormous rise in physicality in upper-level Chinese basketball, and pretty much in nowhere else. The reason? Prior to the 2008-2009 Chinese Basketball Association season, Yao Ming gave a widely-disseminated interview in China in which he lamented the lack of physicality in Chinese basketball and how it put Chinese players going abroad at a distinct disadvantage against stronger, more aggressive players from, say, the US. Funnily, the CBA subsequently saw a record number of flagrant fouls and player ejections in that season.

    To all those who have lived in China: haven't you noticed how hopelessly not physical Chinese basketball is? As someone fairly large in stature, pickup basketball in China for me quickly became shooting jump shots and trying to get good passes to your teammates, because posting up or driving to the basket ended up as a lay-up or slam dunk nearly every time. I'm interested to see what people think.

  24. Alix said,

    August 23, 2011 @ 4:43 pm

    I just *love* "basketbrawl". It's beautiful. Encapsulates what an old friend probably would have described as "the whole deboskel".

  25. Mr Punch said,

    August 23, 2011 @ 6:21 pm

    I'm glad that European readers have eventually decoded 6/4; no doubt they'd been puzzled about why a Chinese army basketball team (8/1) was named for Elvis's birthday.

  26. ShadowFox said,

    August 23, 2011 @ 9:59 pm

    @jfruh–certainly US soccer terminology uses "mark", "marked", "marking" with considerable regularity, even where other English terms may lag. I've heard this also used in football ("mark your man" for blocking) and hockey. Not sure about basketball, but it does not strike me as being particularly unusual in man-to-man defense.

    @slobone–absolutely, +1. That was my first thought when I read the initial comments.

  27. Mark F. said,

    August 24, 2011 @ 12:39 am

    Yeah, I was wrong to be so categorical in saying that "defensing" someone would sound wrong. I still think "defending" has gotten to be more common though. Certainly "he's really hard to defend" sounds a lot more natural to me than "he's really hard to defense".

  28. Mark F. said,

    August 24, 2011 @ 12:41 am

    …and "defensing" someone sounds to me like working out the defensive plan for dealing with them, rather than just defending them.

  29. J. Goard said,

    August 24, 2011 @ 3:12 am

    It's interesting how many Westerners on LL were so confused by the use of the calendar date as a common metonym for a historical event, so pervasive in East Asia. In Korean, the "Korean War" is usually the "six-two-five" war, and the "Gwangju Massacre" is "five-one-eight".

    I thought about this a lot in the wake of "nine-eleven", which at the time was a pretty strange name in American English, where in recent history place is a much more common metonym ("Pearl Harbor", "Columbine", "Watts"). Before that, I don't ever remember a terrorist attack being referred to just by its date (even if the precise date was memorable — I vaguely remember that "Oklahoma City" was on the same date as "Waco", but have no clue what date that is), yet these days "7-7" and "11-M" seem to be the standard names for the events in London and Madrid.

    LL has surely covered this before, so my bad for not doing my homework.

  30. J. Goard said,

    August 24, 2011 @ 3:18 am

    Forgot to mention one of the most interesting examples: among many Korean-Americans the "L.A. Riots" are 사이구 ('four-two-nine').

  31. Alan Chin said,

    August 24, 2011 @ 3:43 am

    More notes on dirty words:

    屄(bi) for vagina is indeed Mandarin / northern. We Cantonese use the word 閪 which has no Mandarin pronunciation, in Cantonese it is Jyutping: hai1.

    "Contemporary Chinese are no more reluctant to use obscenities than contemporary Westerners are." — I would say this is true mostly of working class people in China only. Educated contemporary Chinese that I know are far more reluctant to use profanity than contemporary educated Americans. In fact, I would attribute this not only to class divisions but also to kind of a 1950s social conservatism that continues to pervade so much of Chinese society.

    More than once, as an educated American-born-Chinese of presumably good manners, I've been able to shock and intimidate otherwise intractable bureaucrats with a bit of well-directed, brutal Cantonese profanity. It retains a power that it really doesn't have any more in contemporary American English. This may not have been very nice of me, but as anyone who has lived or worked in China knows, or should know, sometimes it's necessary. Power flows out of the barrel of a gun, or the perception of the willingness to use a theoretical one.

  32. Tom said,

    August 24, 2011 @ 5:00 am

    @J. Goard

    As Mr Punch pointed out, I suspect it was confusing for most of us Europeans because of the date format used – although mm-dd apparently comes naturally in both China and the US, we use dd-mm along with much of the rest of the world. This difference obscures the connection to "June 4th", unless a little more thought is given.

    It took me AGES to get used to "9-11" = "11th September".

  33. Alan Curry said,

    August 24, 2011 @ 5:13 am

    I didn't get it either, and month/day is my native date order. The lack of a separator prevented any associate between 6 and June. "64" is not "six four", it's "sixtyfour". Two to the sixth power. The number of squares on a chess board. It's not a month/day combination because there's no punctuation in it. The "interpret 6 as June" module of my brain just wasn't activated. In a couple weeks you'll see a lot of "9-11" anniversary stuff, but hardly any "911".

  34. biagio said,

    August 24, 2011 @ 6:54 am

    Curiously, in Italian too we use " to mark" (actually, "marcare", which is probably a calque from English) to mean the action of a soccer player who is defending his team against the opponent forwards.

    My guess is that that usage may stem from the fact that soccer was introduced to Italy by some Britons a century ago or so.

  35. Jon Lennox said,

    August 24, 2011 @ 7:23 am

    @J. Goard: The problem is that place doesn't work as a metonym for the September Eleventh attacks — since they were multi-locus, saying "The World Trade Center" feels disrespectful to the victims at the Pentagon or on United 93.

  36. Keith M Ellis said,

    August 24, 2011 @ 7:33 am

    Nobody's much mentioned this, but I'd like to thank Victor for his anecdote about his steal from Bill Bradley. It's the sort of little story I'd have immediately related to my father when he was still alive—he was one of those lifelong sports fans with encyclopedic knowledge of sport. He subscribed to Sports Illustrated within its first year of publication and had never interrupted his subscription when he died in 2008. I always sort of felt they should have quit charging him for it. I was never much of a sports fan, but I learned a fair bit by inevitable osmosis. At any rate, he would have appreciated Victor's story—his excitement to have made the steal, Bradley's fury at it and his (seems to me) arrogant denial of Victor's scoring from it (but, hey, that's the game), that this is undoubtedly a story Victor's told ever since.

    Victor, I imagine that your anger at Bradley's disruption of your layup was relatively brief—then you went back to your delight at the fact of the steal.

  37. Mark Dunan said,

    August 24, 2011 @ 7:51 am

    @Alan – I too didn't notice the 64 – June 4 connection until seeing it in this blog entry for the same reason. Here in Japan, dates are used for events in that way, but there's usually a dot in the middle, so the February 26th Incident, an attempted military coup in which several people were assassinated, is called the 二・二六事件. Same for the anti-communist March 15 incident: 三・一五事件 in Japanese, with a dot.

    The Mandarin Wikipedia calls 2-26 this, but without the dot: 二二六事件:


    The "May 16 Notice" has a dot in Mandarin (五・一六通知) and no dot in Cantonese (五一六通知) on Wikipedia.


    "9-11" is referred to this way also, but I seem to see it in Western numerals a lot even when the numerals in the rest of the text are in Japanese. Presumably that's because readers are supposed to pronounce it ナイン・イレブン (nine-eleven) and not in Japanese.

  38. Mark Dunan said,

    August 24, 2011 @ 8:24 am

    Almost forgot to mention this — and, in fact, I'm hesitant to even descend into vulgarity given that some of my professors read this blog, but… I'm wondering if that word 屄 is the same one used (with the same meaning) in some of the Yaeyama islands in southwest Okinawa. They say it on Taketomi, and also on Yonaguni (where the initial [p], in this word and almost all others, has become [h]).

    It's not much of an obscenity there, though; I first learned it when a woman in her 60s told me that "the difficult thing about the Taketomi language is that we have lots of words that are pronounced the same; for example, pi means the shore, but it's also a certain part of a woman."

    I imagine that someone from northern China hearing that would have gone red with embarrassment!

  39. Victor Mair said,

    August 24, 2011 @ 9:27 am

    @Keith M. Ellis

    "Victor, I imagine that your anger at Bradley's disruption of your layup was relatively brief—then you went back to your delight at the fact of the steal."

    You bet, Keith! I still savor that moment. Someday I hope to run into Bill Bradley again and reminisce about the three seasons when I had to guard (= guard against) him — despite the fact that I was a short (6'1.5") *guard* and he was a taller (6'5") forward.

    BTW, the most amazing thing about Bradley as a player (well, I should say, one of the most amazing things about Bradley), was his incredible peripheral vision. He seemed to be able to look straight ahead while seeing clearly within a range that was greater than 180 degrees. I loved the way he could pass accurately to the left or right while looking straight in my eyes. It was a real treat — and quite a challenge! — to play against him.

  40. Alan Chin said,

    August 24, 2011 @ 7:11 pm

    Another note on 6-4:

    It was 1997, and I was in Hong Kong covering the handover. (I'm a photo-journalist) It was the very last day of British colonial races at the Happy Valley horse track, and though the HK racing form isn't particularly easy for an American tout like myself to read quickly, for the featured race of the day, I put my money on an exacta: 6 – 4.

    And yes, I did so in part silent commentary on the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre.

    It came in beautifully, I was a couple thousand Hong Kong dollars richer, and numerologically splendid. We'll see if the longer bet pays out.

  41. Janice Byer said,

    August 27, 2011 @ 4:10 am

    What Georgetown linguist said! The English-speaking MSM of three continents – the usual suspects – scanned daily by this news-junkie retiree all featured the above video, only to drop the ball in their reports. Thank you, Victor, for the scoop.

  42. Giacomo Ponzetto said,

    August 27, 2011 @ 10:28 am

    @J. Goard:

    I also have not done my homework on LL, but from personal experience I'd say the calendar date is a fairly common metonymy in Italy. I hardly think anyone calls the Italian armistice in World War II other than "l'8 settembre".

    There is an established custom of naming streets after dates rather than the respective events, though in many cases people do not necessarily recall anymore what event the date corresponds to.

    More than day-month ordering, I feel the difference is that in Italian the month is invariably spelled out. E.g., 9-11 is called "l'11 settembre". I wonder if this used to be the American usage too: I believe it is customary to call Independence Day "the 4th of July", but not 7-4, is it?

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