Blog Profile / Language Log

Filed Under:Academics / Linguistics
Posts on Regator:4404
Posts / Week:9.4
Archived Since:February 24, 2008

Blog Post Archive

One last (?) piece of nonsense

Callum Borchers, "Count Obama’s references to ‘I’ and ‘me’ while you can, conservative media", WaPo 1/18/2017: For eight years, tracking Obama's use of the personal pronouns "I" and "me" has been a cherished ritual in the conservative media — one small way to promote the idea that the president is self-centered and therefore out of […]

Japanese hi-tech toilet instructions

Big news! "Japanese toilet industry agrees to standardize complex bidet controls" (The Verge, 1/17/17) Here follows a complete transcription and translation of all the Japanese writing in the photograph. The banner behind: ??????????????????????...Show More Summary

"Nothing could be further than the truth"

The linguistic highlight of Steven Mnuchin's confirmation hearing: Your browser does not support the audio element. The context: Your browser does not support the audio element. I'm eager to share with you why I believe I will serve well as America's next secretary of the treasury. But first I want to correct the record about […]

"Denying that he was not anti-gay or anti-women"

Matt Apuzzo, "Under Trump, Approach to Civil Rights Law Is Likely to Change Definitively", NYT 1/19/2017: At this confirmation hearing, Mr. Sessions harkened to the era of segregation in arguing that there was no need for the federal government to become involved in prosecuting crimes against women or gay people that were already being prosecuted […]

"Do I not like that"

Graham Taylor has died at the age of 72, after a long and varied career as a manager and coach of English football teams. But this is Language Log, not English Football Log, and so we'll leave the obsequies to others and focus on Mr. Taylor's best known quotation, "Do I not like that": Your […]

New York high school Chinese test

Zhuang Pinghui, in the South China Morning Post (1/18/17) has an article that is truly baffling:  "US high school Chinese test stumps internet users in China". A high school in New York has produced an exam paper for its pupils learning Chinese which features questions that have daunted internet users in China and even a […]

Particle amnesia

[This is a guest post by Nathan Hopson] I know you've written a lot about character amnesia in the greater Sinosphere. But I think I witnessed the related, but significantly different, phenomenon of (grammatical) particle amnesia (or perhaps, "drift") during a recent trip to Hawaii. As you know, Hawaii has a large nikkei population. This […]

Coffee Yao, Finger Chen, Doy Chiang, and colleagues

Thorin Engeseth noticed that, at the end of the Taiwanese video game "Detention", there are some interesting adopted Western names among the people involved in the game's creation — especially Coffee, Finger, and Smiler: Lord knows how or why they picked all of these particular names.  For the record, though, here are the original Chinese […]

The perils of pronunciation

Distinguishing between "four" and "ten" in rapid, slurred MSM is not always easy:  sì ? vs. shí ?.  Try saying sìshísì ??? ("forty-four") quickly and it starts to feel like the beginning of a tongue twister.  Now, when speakers from the various topolects, even within the so-called Mandarin group, come together and tones, vowels, and […]

Après Babel in Marseilles

At La Musée des Civilizations de l'Europe et de la Méditerranée in Marseilles, there's an exposition called "Après Babel, Traduire", which includes a translated version of "The directed graph of stereotypical incomprehensibility", 1/15/2009: From LLLOG: From MuCEM:

MLK day: Pitch range

In honor of MLK day, I've replicated something that Corey Miller did for a term paper in an introductory phonetics course in the early 1990s. The point of the exercise is that any given speaker can exhibit a wide variety of different pitch ranges. 25 years ago this was a somewhat complicated business, involving digitization of tape recordings, […]

Supply spiders

Barbara Philips Long writes: Apple and other autofill writing software have contributed a lot to eggcorns, I suspect. I enjoyed this comment about supply-siders, which called them "supply spiders": I am now imagining Carl Icahn as a supply spider. I suspect that Barbara is right to attribute this coinage to someone's autocorrect function, in which […]

Backstroke of the West

Patrick Shanley, "'Revenge of the Sith' Dubbed With Bootleg Chinese Dialogue Is a Fan-Made Masterpiece", The Hollywood Reporter 1/3/2017: YouTuber GratefulDeadpool has done the unthinkable: He's made Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith cool. Show More Summary

Zhou Youguang 1906-2017

Zhou xiansheng, You were my dear friend for decades.  I wish that you had gone on living forever.  You will be sorely missed, but yours was a life well lived. As the "Father of Pinyin", you have had an enormous impact on education and culture in China.  After you passed the century mark, you spoke […]

The perils of literacy

I see this on zdic (online dictionary of Literary Sinitic / Classical Chinese) from time to time: The inscription says: Rénsh?ng shìzì y?uhuàn sh? ??????? ("misery / suffering / worry / hardship begins when one becomes literate"). The man who wrote this enigmatic line, Su Shi (1037-1101), has a towering reputation as a "writer, poet, […]

"You have foraged relationships with many presidents"

Here's the transcript of that John Lewis exchange w @chucktodd, via @SZilberstein — Mark Murray (@mmurraypolitics) January 13, 2017 According to the OED, the verb forge originally meant "To make, fashion, frame, or construct (any material thing)", derived via French forger from Latin fabricare. Show More Summary

IBM's "THINK" motto

Photograph taken by Hervé Guérin in the main lobby of IBM France: First we have to determine what IBM means by its famous slogan.  Here are some of the many meanings of "think":  "ponder; reflect (on); believe; consider; cogitate; feel; deem; hold; suppose; imagine; remember; recall; conceive; deliberate; recollect; evoke", etc.  Thomas J. Watson, who […]

Monumental laughing face

From an anonymous reader, who spotted this photograph on Instagram, where it was posted by nanorie, who has given her permission to repost it: The LL reader says: [I] was amused by the peculiar blend of communication modes in the comment "???????www". The meaning is clear enough, but despite its colloquial tone I fail to […]

Trump tea

A friend of mine who does research on the history of tea in China recently shared the following photo in a WeChat group that focuses on Chinese food culture: Here is a complete translation of all the writing on the wrapper: [red seal at the top] P?'?r g?shù ???? Pu'er ancient tree Note:  Pu'er / […]

Chinese lung cancer poeticizes in English

For several days I've been aware of a strange poem that has gone viral in China: "Read The Smog-Inspired Poem That China Can't Stop Talking About" (NPR, 1/12/17) The strangeness of the poem is due to its being written from the perspective of lung cancer and addressed to the patient.  You judge for yourself — […]

Copyright © 2015 Regator, LLC