The PRC censors its own national anthem

The people are outraged at what happened to a doctor named Li Wenliang at Wuhan Central Hospital who called attention to the outbreak of the coronavirus on December 30, 2019, before it became an epidemic.  Instead of the government praising him, they sent police to threaten and harass him, as part of their effort to cover up the burgeoning contagion.  While treating patients, he contracted the disease himself and succumbed to it on February 7, 2020.  To add insult to death, the government first denied that he had died, then admitted it and began a propaganda campaign to promote him as a hero.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (8)


Oral vs. written rhetoric

Megan McArdle ("Four things Democrats need to understand about beating Trump", WaPo 1/31/2020) has something important to say about the style of Donald Trump's extemporized speeches:

Trump is a good public speaker. "Nails on a chalkboard" doesn't quite capture how educated urbanites feel about Trump's speaking style. A closer analogy would be having your teeth drilled — without Novocain.

His fragmented sentences, simplistic formulae (see those insults above) and rambling style would drive them wild even if the content and partisan ID were more to their taste. They like "polished" candidates who speak in complete sentences that read well when written down.

Trump, by contrast, sounds like … well, actually, he sounds a lot closer to how most people talk than a "good" public speaker. He speaks in short sentences and uses a small vocabulary. He makes up names for stuff to aid listener memory. He repeats himself. He digresses at random.

Trump talks, in short, the way people talk when they aren't expecting their words to be written down. This informal approach horrifies those of us who love reading enough to do it on weekends. But one way to think about this is that it is not so much the difference between good and bad; it is the difference between an oral culture and a written one.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (15)


Year of the muroid

Many people have asked me, should it really be the lunar new year of the rat?  Such a disgusting creature!  Or should it be the year of the mouse?  Although we do our best to trap them and otherwise keep them out of our living spaces, mice are much cuter than rats, and some people even have special mice as pets, plus there are folk tales and songs and proverbs about adorable little mice, and who doesn't love Mickey and Minnie?

In contrast, in lore and literature, rats are invariably cast as tricky at best and villainous, criminal types at worst.

So, if I had to choose between Year of the Rat and Year of the Mouse, I would definitely pick Year of the Mouse.  Alas, most people choose otherwise (I know not why):

Year of the Rat — 44,000,000 ghits

Year of the Mouse — 6,300,000 ghits

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (22)


Budgets on Mars

Comments (1)


Topless meeting

From Nathan Hopson:

Can't believe I had never heard this marvelous Japanglish until now:

トップレス‐ミーティング(toppuresu mītingu = "topless meeting")or トップレス会議 (kaigi = meeting)

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (13)


Kanji or not?

Stone artifact from around the beginning of the first century AD, excavated at the Tawayama remains in Matsue, capital of Shimane Prefecture:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (6)


Security guaranteed by the laws of physics

Comments (2)


The standard deduckling

Comments (5)


Arrogant squid, ch. 2: the mystery deepens

Four days ago, we were treated to the "Arrogant squid of North Texas" (2/2/20).  The longer we pondered this conundrum, the more puzzling it became.  We know exactly where the sign is located (23 miles southeast of Houston and about 10 miles west of Trinity Bay, which joins with Galveston Bay to the south), but we couldn't figure out how and why the "arrogant squid" was connected with North Texas, Southwest District, East Location.

Reader Sarah S. kindly took it upon herself to do a bit of research and reached out to the representative of the building's owner.  Surprisingly, he replied with a (very strange?) message from the tenant:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (21)


Edwin's re-sonnets

Email today from Edwin Williams:

I constructed "new" sonnets from Shakespeare's sonnets by this formula: from a set of 7 randomly selected Shakespeare sonnets (a…g) I made a new sonnet "a b a b c d c d e f e f g g", which means, the first line is taken from the first line of sonnet a, the second line from sonnet the second line of sonnet b, etc. So no two adjacent lines were from the same sonnet, except the last two. I made 154 of these (same number as S made).

I did it for fun but was startled by the result–the new sonnets were sonnetlike, felt syntactically coherent, and begged for interpretation. People I sent them to were fascinated by them, even when they saw what I had done, or after I told them. One of them, Craig Dworkin, a poet I got to know when he was at Princeton in the 90s, asked to include them in his e-poetry site, and there they sit: http://eclipsearchive.org/projects/EDWIN/.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (15)


IP — a new and much used word in Chinese

Message from Stoyan Gegovski:

I am editing parts of the "Xi'an Investment Guide" (every major city in China issues one of these every year) and I came upon an interesting use of the abbreviation "IP" which might interest you:

"Xīn shídài xīn Xī'ān xīn IP 新时代 新西安 新IP"

It is placed on the third page of the handbook, right after a short introduction of the city and a map of the ancient Silk Road.

I have never encountered such a use of "IP" and I find it quite interesting. The Graduate students tasked with the translation rendered it as "New Era, New Xi'an, New IP", which obviously does not truly represent its meaning. Apparently, even the Chinese are not too sure what it means, as they were also unable to define it.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (9)


Arrogant squid of North Texas

Joe Tello sent me this funny sign:

The line of Chinese at the top says "àomàn yóu 傲慢鱿" ("arrogant squid").  That's puzzling enough by itself, but I actually found the English to be even more mystifying.  It seems to be telling us that this place is in the East Location of the Southwest District of North Texas.  When I try to figure out on a map of Texas where that would put it, my imagination fails me.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (21)


Super Bowl Dialectology

One of today's Super Bowl commercials features Boston r-lessness:


Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (25)