WT[bleep]?

Those LLog readers who aren't already Radiolab listeners should give their latest episode on translation a listen. There are 8 stories packed into this one episode, a few about language and a few not-so-much, but all of them well-worth the price of admission.

But I'm not just here to promote Radiolab. I'm also here to comment on something that happened in this episode that I am now very curious about (curious-enough-to-blog-and-solicit-comments curious, not curious-enough-to-do-some-real-research-of-my-own curious). There's a point in the show where one of the show's hosts (Jad Abumrad) warns listeners that there's going to be some raunchy language used and discussed for the next several minutes; even though the putatively offensive words were bleeped out in the version I listened to (via my iTunes podcast subscription), it was clear that I wouldn't have wanted my 5-year-old child to hear the piece so I appreciated the warning.

But at the very end of the episode, something very different happens. With no warning whatsoever, long strings of uncensored expletives assaulted my ears. I was wearing headphones and nobody else was around, but still I wondered: where was the warning? Why was there no bleeping? And then I realized that I wasn't listening to people speaking English anymore, but rather people swearing in other languages — and the first one was Spanish, which I am also a native speaker of.

But still: is Radiolab's audience (and their innocent children!) not at least potentially multilingual? Why the bleeping of English words and the elaborate warning preceding a story about their use, but no warning or bleeping whatsoever about the same sorts of words in other languages? It's not like I ever understood this sort of censorship and prudishness in the first place, but now I'm royally confused.

Comments?

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They haven't proven they're not afraid of anyone not named Bumgarner. Or have they?

Bob Nightengale, "Forget 1985, these Royals on verge of their own history", USA Today 10/29/2014:

It's been a wild ride for these two teams. They had to win an elimination game as a wild-card entrant just to get into this dance. Now, one will be hoisting the World Series championship trophy.

The Royals certainly haven't proven they're not afraid of anyone not named Madison Bumgarner. Considering that he just threw 117 pitches in Game 5, Giants manager Bruce Bochy reiterated, that he will not be starting the game. He likely won't be available to pitch more than two, perhaps three innings of relief.

I'm not sure whether "The Royals certainly haven't proven they're not afraid of anyone not named Madison Bumgarner" comes out right or not, because I can't figure out what it's supposed to mean, much less whether it succeeds in meaning it. Either way, it belongs in our misnegation archive. Commenters are welcome to enlighten us all.

[h/t Jack Maloney]

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Ben Zimmer: Linguistics Journalism Award

My first thought upon reading the following announcement is that my colleagues and I here at Language Log headquarters hasten to claim Ben as one of ours (he doesn't just belong to the WSJ!):

"WSJ's Ben Zimmer receives first LSA Linguistics Journalism Award"

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Chow Yun-fat

Hong Kong movie star Chow Yun-fat has fallen afoul of the authorities on mainland China for supporting the Occupy Center democracy protesters.

It's interesting to see how the media report what he said about having his films banned on the Mainland.

"'I'll just make less then': Actor Chow Yun-fat responds to alleged PRC ban for supporting HK protests"  (10/27/14)

The Shanghaiist report was picked up by reddit and other outlets: "Banned from mainland China? Chow Yun Fat doesn't care" (10/27/14)

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Linguist jokes (5)

I walked into the 7th-floor common room in the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences building at the University of Edinburgh yesterday and saw this message on the shared whiteboard:

The past, the present, and the future walked into a bar. It was tense.

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Ikea: Peppered Caca for the holidays

John Brezinsky writes:

I used to live in Moscow, where everyone has long been amused that Ikea chose to name a line of wine glasses "svalka". свалка can either mean a garbage dump or a dumpster.

I was very amused when I saw the name of the official Ikea ginger cookies at the location in Red Hook, Brooklyn.They're called "pepparkaka". Everyone who saw them did a double-take, and several people (adults and children) were joking about how the last thing they wanted to eat was peppered caca. Is there a word for this kind of fail? Wikipedia calls them brand blunders.

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Cantonese protest slogans

We've been following the tumultuous Hong Kong democracy protests closely, e.g., "'Cantonese' song" (10/24/14), "The umbrella in Hong Kong" (10/19/14) and "Translating the Umbrella Revolution" (10/3/14), with plenty of additional material in the comments to these posts.

Now there is a new article in Quartz that focuses on the most popular slogans used by the protesters: "The backstory to seven of the most popular protest slogans in Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement" (10/23/14).

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Another dumb Flesch-Kincaid exercise

E.J. Fox and Mike Spies, "Who was America's most well-spoken president?", vocativ.com 10/10/2014:

Using the Flesch-Kincaid readability test—the most well-known reading comprehension algorithm—Vocativ analyzed over 600 presidential speeches, going back to George Washington. We measured syllables along with word and sentence counts, and gave each speech a numerical grade. For instance, a grade of four means the content is accessible to a fourth-grader, while a grade of 12 corresponds to that of a high school graduate, a 15 to that of a college graduate and a 21 or higher to that of a PhD. Ultimately, we drew five conclusions, each of which was analyzed by Jeff Shesol, a historian and former speechwriter for Bill Clinton.

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Logic from the voice of the earth itself

On Friday, I gave a talk at the 46th Algonquian Conference. As the conference web page explains,

The 46th Algonquian Conference will be held in Uncasville, Connecticut, on the reservation of the Mohegan Tribal Nation.  This is the first time in 46 years that the conference will be held on sovereign Native territory.

The 46th Algonquian Conference coincides with the 20th Anniversary of the Mohegan Tribe winning its sovereignty through federal recognition.  The conference itself will be held in the Mohegan Sun Hotel and Convention Center at the Mohegan Sun Casino.

In our registration packet was a copy of Melissa Jayne Fawcett, The Lasting of the Mohegans, 1995.

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Aquatory

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"Cantonese" song

This hauntingly beautiful song is the unofficial anthem of the Hong Kong democracy protest movement:


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Oh no!

[h/t Amy de Buitléir]

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RIP Frank Mankiewicz, coiner of "retronym"

Frank Mankiewicz at DARE press conferenceFrom the New York Times obituary for Frank Mankiewicz (son of Herman, nephew of Joseph):

Frank Mankiewicz, a writer and Democratic political strategist who was Senator Robert F. Kennedy’s press secretary, directed Senator George S. McGovern’s losing 1972 presidential campaign and for six years was the president of National Public Radio, died Thursday at a hospital in Washington. He was 90.

Mankiewicz was also a bit of wordsmith and coined a useful word now found in many dictionaries: retronym, defined by the OED as "a neologism created for an existing object or concept because the exact meaning of the original term used for it has become ambiguous (usually as a result of a new development, technological advance, etc.)."

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Zuckerberg's Mandarin

The world is abuzz: "Zuckerberg Wows Beijing Audience With Fluent Mandarin", PCMag (10/22/14). Also on Facebook (of course), and many other sites, including this AP article that called Zuckerberg's pronunciation "far from fluent." See and hear for yourself:

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No word for father

Last week I read this article about the Mosuo people of southwest China:   "The Ethnic Group in China That Doesn’t Have a Word for Father" (10/13/14).

The Mosuo are indeed famous for having a matrilineal society, and I had long been aware of their unusual marriage customs, but I was innately suspicious of this sensationalist claim that there was no word for father in their language.

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