Say what?

Mike Miller received the text below via WeChat recently, where it seems to be making the rounds:

Gěi dàjiā jiǎng yīgè gǎnrén de gùshì: Yīgè qiāng kōng hé jī shè jī cǎn chǐ dú ē, túrán, chài yī líng diàn máo bīn qǐ, lí yuè miè chán…ránhòu jiù sǐle. Tài gǎnrénle…! Zhè gùshì jiào “yīgè wénmáng de bēi'āi”. Dàjiā wǎn'ān, míngtiān jiàn!

给大家讲一个感人的故事: 一个戗箜翮齑歙畿黪褫髑屙 ,突然,虿黟囹簟蟊豳綮,蠡瀹蠛躔…然后就死了。 太感人了…! 这故事叫《一个文盲的悲哀》。大家晚安,明天见!

Let me tell everybody a touching story:  A blah blah blah blah.  Suddenly, blah blah blah, blah blah….  After that he died.  This is so touching.  This story is called "The sorrow of an illiterate".  Good night, everybody.  See you tomorrow.

VHM:  Pinyin transcription and translation added by me.

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One can't deny that it isn't comforting

Jordan Hoffman, "Mother's Day review — almost transcendentally terrible", The Guardian 4/28/2016:

One can’t deny, however, that this sort of badness – this transcendent, almost unearthly badness – isn’t oddly comforting.

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Ted Cruz's "basketball ring" — or was it "rim"?

Ted Cruz has gotten a lot of very creative grief for apparently messing up the re-enactment of a scene from the movie Hoosiers by referring to the height of a "basketball ring":

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"I think __"

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Tones and the alphabet

The question of whether tones are added to alphabet words used in Sinitic languages arose in the discussion that followed this post:

"Papi Jiang: PRC internet sensation" (4/25/16)

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Dictionaries can be dangerous

From the Hydraulic Press Channel on YouTube:

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Slowed speech

This is pretty funny. Rob Beschizza, "Trump slowed 50%", BoingBoing 4/19/2016:

Everyone sounds drunk or stoned when slowed down 50%, but doing so to Trump reveals that his bizarre, digressive speech patterns are uncannily like a drunk sped up 200%.

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LipsyncHK

Near the Star Ferry terminal on the Hong Kong Island side, Bea Lam noticed a number of fantastic, huge, colorful posters plastered on the walls as part of a “LipsyncHK” project that showcases Cantonese phrases and encourages visitors to try them out.  Bea was (very happily) surprised to see this large and open demonstration of Cantonese pride in a government-sponsored project, given the political environment.

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Papi Jiang: PRC internet sensation

Tom Mazanec wrote in to call Papi醬 (jiàng means "thick sauce; jam-like or paste-like food") to my attention.  Tom explains:

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Cactus Wawa revisited

One of the most intriguing and enthralling Language Log posts is this one:

"cactus wawa: the strange tale of a strange character" (11/1/14)

I spent months doing the research for that post and, although it garnered 80 helpful comments, I still felt that there were some loose ends.  Consequently, I was delighted to receive last week (4/13/16) the following message from Robert Cheng, the brother of the owner of the teashop:

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Turkish animal sounds

This is too cool not to share:

Sounds That Animals Make
Hayvan Sesleri

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(Not) too P to Q

Peter Howard sent in a listicle at NotAlwaysRight, "10 scams we're not too stupid to fall for", which describes ways that customers will try to fool cashiers, for example by switching price labels:  "it doesn’t take a genius to realise that a $50 bottle of liquor would not be mislabeled as $0.99 cheese-balls in any universe."

Peter observes that the headline "10 scams we're not too stupid to fall for" is not exactly over-negation, in the sense that removing the negation makes things worse rather than better — but still, there's something wrong.

This case is quite similar to the original "No head injury is too trivial to ignore" example — see "No detail too small", 11/27/2009, and "No wug is too dax to be zonged", 11/28/2009. Like may other examples of what we've taken to calling misnegation, such cases illustrate the fact that the interaction of negation and scalar predicates is hard enough for people to analyze that they easily jump to an interpretation that makes sense, even if it isn't the correct compositional analysis of the phrase in question.

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Obama and the end of the queue

Over the past few days the British media (newspapers and BBC news programs) have been talking about a crucially linguistic argument that President Obama is being manipulated, and literally told what to say, by the UK prime minister's office. (Links seem superfluous: the Google News UK edition will give you thousands of references.) The evidence comes from a single choice of lexical item.

During the two working days Obama spent in Britain, the main news-generating event was a news conference in which he directly addressed the issue of whether the UK should remain in the European Union or leave it. A key argument for those who believe in leaving the EU (the proponents of Brexit) has been that new trade agreements could readily be set up once the country was free from the shackles of EU membership. Specifically, a trade agreement could be readily set up with the USA. Not so fast, said Obama: the USA will continue its negotiating efforts aimed at setting up a trade agreement with the whole EU, and if the UK left that grouping (the largest single market in the world) it would "be in the back of the queue" if it applied to get a special UK/US trade agreement established.

The Brexit crew jumped on the use of the word queue. Americans talk about waiting in line, not waiting in a queue or queueing up. "The back of the queue" is characteristic British English, and no American would say any such thing, they insisted. Obama's remarks must have been prepared for him by British pro-EU politicians. Are the Brexiteers right?

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