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What did Duterte call Obama?

A diplomatic rift between the United States and the Philippines was precipitated by comments that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte made about President Obama at a Sept. 5 news conference. Duterte's offensive comment was made in Tagalog (though most of his news conference was in English). Show More Summary

An old name for Singapore

This is the back side of a 1901 envelope sent from Hong Kong to Singapore: (Source) The Chinese equivalent of "Singapore" on the back of the envelope is ?+??.  Since both characters have Kangxi radical 30 ("mouth"), they must be used for transcriptional purposes.  Cf. "Spelling with Chinese character(istic)s, pt. 2" (6/16/16), which has to […]

Italy is one big grain

Venya sent in this photograph of an ice-cream parlor's sign taken in December 2014.  It was in the Anping district of Tainan, near the old Dutch fort. It says: Y?dàlì ??? ("one big grain / granule / particle / tablet / pellet / kernel / bead / seed") And right below that it says "Italian" […]

Non-traditional Olympic equipment

I would have suggested they just use a regular volleyball, but I guess the Olympics are special. — Jessie (@NicCageMatch) June 30, 2016


Ray Norris, "Why old theories on Indigenous counting just won’t go away", The Conversation 9/5/2016: Last year researchers Kevin Zhou and Claire Bowern, from Yale University, argued in a paper that Aboriginal number systems vary, and could extend beyond ten, but still didn’t extend past 20, in conflict with the evidence I’ve mentioned above.   […]

Pure conversation

In "Annals of literary vs. vernacular, part 2" (9/4/16), we saw how Chairman Xi badly bungled a literary quotation.  Now we find that, in the same speech, the Chairman may be said to have misinterpreted a literary term, q?ngtán ?? ("pure conversation"). On the Btime news website, there's an article titled "Xí zh?xí su? shu? […]

Garden of the Forked Tongues.

Meg Miller reports on what sounds like an interesting exhibit: The acrylic mural of a Queens map that greets visitors to the Queens Museum, in New York, is enormous, abstract, and angular, rendering the borough in a colorful array of polygons. Inside the shapes is the word for “tongue” in each of the endangered languages […]

Living Daylights

Scott asked about the origin of the threat, “I’ll beat the living piss out of you.” It actually started out as, “I’ll beat your daylights out” or “I’ll darken your daylights.” Over the centuries, additions and substitutions sprang up. Show More Summary

Please read this Language Log product

Hurricane Statement Issued: 5:25 AM EDT Sep. 5, 2016 – National Weather Service This product covers southern New England Northeast wind gusts of 30 to 50 mph expected from 10 am to 8 PM this evening on the South Coast… Tim Leonard is quite right to point out that when the National Weather Service refers […]


Back in June, I started a post with this sample of quoted phrases: "Ask the gays what they think and what they do" "The Muslims have to work with us" "I will be phenomenal to the women" "I think the Mexicans are going to end up loving Donald Trump" "I'm the only one in the world […]

Still populating

Adam Rosenthal told me in an email recently: While trying to enter my address into American Airlines' horribly designed phone app, I was asked to wait, because "States/Provinces are still populating for the first time". What the hell was going on? I'm sure you regular readers will be able to guess. It's nerdview! A classic […]

Review of FlashAcademy

It has been a while since I’ve been able to write a proper review of a truly awesome language learning app so I’m really exited to show you my review of FlashAcademy. This new application […] The post Review of FlashAcademy appeared first on Languages Around the Globe.

Annals of literary vs. vernacular, part 2

Misreading "agriculture" as "clothing" This video of Chairman Xi making a horrendous gaffe was just posted on YouTube: For convenience of listening, the blunder (near the end of this video clip) is repeated several times. The Chairman should have read: q?nggu?n yìdào t?ngsh?ng ku?nnóng ???????? ("reduce taxes and make roads easy [to travel on], facilitate […]

Big bad modifier order

Things native English speakers know, but don't know we know: — Matthew Anderson (@MattAndersonBBC) September 3, 2016 This is a quote from Mark Forsyth's book The Elements of Eloquence: Secrets of the Perfect Turn of Phrase. And Nicholas Feinberg asks This claim seems iffy to me, but it's interesting – have you heard of […]

Days of the week in Nagoya

In "Hybrid writing in East Village, New York" (9/1/16), we looked at the playful combination of a Chinese character with Roman letters in the name of a Korean-Japanese restaurant, ?hursday, and we expanded our field of vision to encompass the names of the days of the week in languages across Eurasia. Now Nathan Hopson takes […]

Mixed literary and vernacular grammar

Radio Free Asia has published an article about a wheelchair ridden human rights activist named Li Biyun: "Rights Activist 'Takes Refuge' in U.S. Embassy in Beijing: Relatives" (9/1/16) The article is accompanied by this extraordinary photograph: The photograph was taken on September 6, 2013 in Foshan city, Guangdong province.  Of course, it is remarkable that […]

Meaning good

Corey Williams, "Donald Trump to visit Detroit Saturday", AP: For Trump, courting black voters is a challenge. Most polls show his support among black voters is in the low single digits. Many blacks view some of his campaign rhetoric as insulting, and racist. "Donald Trump does not mean any black people any good," said Crystal […]

Dobro Lyudi.

Having finished Sergei Aksakov‘s wonderful memoirs ???????? ???????, which I had read years ago in its English translation as The Family Chronicle, I’m now reading his follow-up, ???????????? [Memoirs] (translated as A Russian Schoolboy), which oddly uses real family names instead of the “Bagrovs” of the earlier book — it must have been an odd […]

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