The Volfefe Index

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Hong Kong taxi lingo

If you're interested in going to Hong Kong to witness the earthshaking events that are taking place there, prepare yourself by learning a few useful Cantonese phrases.

Luisa Tam, "Learn these Cantonese phrases on your next Hong Kong taxi ride to avoid being ripped off":

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Pixie shoes

A stylish clothing company comes up with sexy new shoes worthy of an elf or a pixie, and look at their ad:

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Hong Kong protesters' argot

The whole world is transfixed by the gutsy rebellion of Hong Kong citizens against the militarily powerful PRC imposed government under which they live.  Language — spoken, written, and gestural (see the "Readings" below for examples of all three types) — plays an important role in maintaining their solidarity and camaraderie and in emphasizing their identity as Cantonese citizens.  Their common mother tongue of Cantonese already sets them off from Mandarin speakers from the north, but their development of a unique jargon further distinguishes them from Cantonese speakers who are not part of their movement:

"Hong Kong's Protestors Have Their Own Special Slang. Here's a Glossary of Some Common Terms", Hillary Leung, Time (9/6/19):

Although many would accuse the protesters of making light of violent unrest, the use of slang "keeps people sane," argues Wee Lian Hee, a language professor at Hong Kong Baptist University. "If [protestors] talk formally all the time, I suspect the movement would soon become tiresome," he tells TIME.

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Mongolian and Manchu translations of Chinese classics

Xinhuanet has a feature article on a "Mongolian sinologist devoted to translating Chinese classic works" (8/31/19).  His name is Menerel Chimedtseye, and he is a professor at the National University of Mongolia in Ulan Bator.  The scholar's Mongolian Cyrillic edition of The Book of Mencius was just published this past Saturday.  With the appearance of his Mencius, Chimedtseye has now completed the translation of all of the Four Books, which also include the Great Learning, the Doctrine of the Mean, and the Analects of Confucius, and constitute the foundation of the core belief system of Confucianism.  He has also translated Sun Zi's Art of War and other early Chinese works into Mongolian.

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Another Illusion Shattered: "leprechaun" not native Irish

So we learn from this article:

"Leprechaun 'is not a native Irish word' new dictionary reveals", by Nuala McCann BBC News (9/5/19)

Leprechauns may be considered quintessentially Irish, but research suggests this perception is blarney.

The word "leprechaun" is not a native Irish one, scholars have said.

They have uncovered hundreds of lost words from the Irish language and unlocked the secrets of many others.

Although "leipreachán" has been in the Irish language for a long time, researchers have said it comes from Luperci, a group linked to a Roman festival.

The feast included a purification ritual involving swimming and, like the Luperci, leprechauns are associated with water in what may be their first appearance in early Irish literature.

According to an Old Irish tale known as The Adventure of Fergus son of Léti, leprechauns carried the sleeping Fergus out to sea.

A new revised dictionary created from the research spans 1,000 years of the Irish language from the 6th to the 16th centuries.

A team of five academics from Cambridge University and Queen's University Belfast carried out painstaking work over five years, scouring manuscripts and texts for words which have been overlooked or mistakenly defined.

Their findings can now be freely accessed in the revised version of the online dictionary of Medieval Irish.

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"Big girl's blouse"

Americans following recent U.K. political antics have been able to learn a piece of British slang that's probably new to them — Martin Belam, "'You great big girl's blouse' – Johnson appears to insult Corbyn during PMQs", The Guardian 9/4/2019:

Boris Johnson's first Prime Minister's Questions was immediately embroiled in controversy after footage appeared to show him gesticulating towards Jeremy Corbyn, saying: "Call an election, you great big girl's blouse." […]

Johnson has form for previously using the phrase. In June 2017 he called Labour's election campaign chief a "big girl's blouse". And in 2007, when Gordon Brown was tipped to be on the verge of calling a general election in an era before the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, he reportedly told a fringe meeting at the Conservative party conference in Blackpool that if Brown didn't act: "We will say he's wimped out, we will say he's a big girl's blouse."

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Goropius Becanus Award nomination for 2019

It's been a while since the last Goropius Becanus Award — see "The envelope, please" and "The Language of Eve" (1/3/2007). But a worthy nominee has recently appeared, as reported by  Zin Kao, "English is actually Chinese, scholars claim", The Taiwan News 8/31/2019 ("World Civilization Research Association academics also believe all European history before 15th century is fake"):

"World Civilization Research Association" (世界文明研究促進會) scholars are claiming that Western civilization originates from China and all European languages are merely Mandarin dialects, the Liberty Times reports.

World Civilization Research Association Vice President and Secretary-General Zhai Guiyun (翟桂鋆) said during an interview with Sina Online that some English words derive from Mandarin. For example, "yellow" resembles Mandarin for "leaf falling" (葉落, yeluo) because it is the color of autumn, while "heart" resembles "core" (核的, hede).

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ESL spam scam? (updated)

I just got an email from WordPress notifying me of a comment awaiting approval at LAWnLinguistics. Here is the comment, in full:

This is Pam, and English is my 1st language. I'm for real, and would like you to get back in touch with me.

The comment makes four assertions:

  1. This is Pam
  2. English is my 1st language.
  3. I'm for real,
  4. and would like you to get back in touch with me.

It's almost certain that three of those four assertions are false. Does anyone want to guess which is the one that is true?

CLARIFICATION (after reading the first five or six comments, all guessing wrong): For the benefit of those who want to submit a guess, note that what prompted this post was the content of the comment, not anything about its word choice, syntax, punctuation, etc.

HINT (after reading more wrong guesses): Pragmatics.

HINT IN THE FORM OF A QUESTION (after reading still more guesses that are not only wrong but aren't even close): How often have you encountered a situation in which, upon your initial contact with someone who is a complete stranger, the first thing they say after introducing themself is "English [or some other language] is my 1st language?

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The Cantonese slang term for "gas mask"

In case you were wondering, it's "zyu1 zeoi2 豬嘴" (lit. "pig snout").  You can see pictures of them here and here.

Since the police have fired thousands of canisters of tear gas at the protesters, "zyu1 zeoi2 豬嘴" ("pig snout [gas masks]") — not to mention yellow helmets to protect your skull from being cracked by the police and hired thugs — have become almost essential items of apparel if you wish to venture on the streets these days.

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Hong Kong protesters messing with the characters, part 2

Among the new polysyllabic characters (called hétǐ zì 合體字 ["compound / synthesized characters"] in Chinese) created by the Hong Kong protesters is this one (see below in the "Readings" [especially the first item] for other examples).  It is preceded by this note: "Hongkongers will remember 721 & 831", which are references to the extreme brutality wreaked on the people of Hong Kong by hired gangsters on July 21 and by "police" on August 31, for which see 721 Yuen Long Nightmare and #831terroristattack (also here).  This new polysyllabic character is widely circulating on the internet and has come to me from many sources (here's one).

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"Add oil," Kongish!

Speakers of Kongish have three ways to write their equivalent of English "Go!":  1. "ga yao" (Cantonese Romanization of the wildly popular term), 2. 加油 (the Sinographic form of the Cantonese expression), 3. "add oil" (Chinglishy equivalent of the former two forms).

See this excellent article by Lisa Lim for a brief introduction to Kongish:

"Do you speak Kongish? Hong Kong protesters harness unique language code to empower and communicate:  The mixed code of romanised Cantonese and English has helped popularise phrases such as 'add oil', from Cantonese 'ga yau'", SCMP (30 Aug, 2019).  [VHM:  Includes a nice summary of Romanization efforts for Sinitic topolects from the late 16th century (Matteo Ricci) to the present.]

Illustration from the article:

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Vocabulary of Hong Kong protest slogans and new characters

The Hong Kong extradition bill protesters have developed a vocabulary of slogans and newly invented polysyllabic characters which they wield deftly.  Here are two instances from the Twitter feed of Ryan Ho Kilpatrick documenting this weekend's protest activities on the way to and in the Hong Kong International Airport.  If you scan through the photographs and short videos from the top to the bottom (there are some pretty rough, raw scenes), you can get a sense of the tension that continues to build after 11 weeks of protests that have convulsed Hong Kong, at times with hundreds of thousands or even millions of people on the street expressing their firm opposition to the heavy-handed policies of the Beijing government.

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