English Verb-Particle Constructions

Jul. 26th, 2017 02:59 pm
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Posted by Spencer Caplan

Lately I've been thinking about "optionality" as it relates to syntactic alternations. (In)famous cases include complementizer deletion ("I know that he is here" vs. "I know he is here") or embedded V2 in Scandinavian. For now let's consider the English verb-particle construction. The relative order of the particle and the object is "optional" in cases such as the following:

1a) "John picked up the book"
1b) "John picked the book up"

Either order is usually acceptable (with the exception of pronoun objects — although those too become acceptable under a focus reading…)

1c) "John put it back"
1d) *"John put back it"

For something like (1a) and (1b) the semantic interpretation seems largely the same, and so the "optionality" refers to the grammar allowing the generation of more than one syntactic variant. In practice however, even if multiple syntactic arrangements are permitted only one can actually be produced at a given time in a given context. Acceptability judgments tend to be more delicate or varied than would be desired here. So if we'd like to investigate what factors govern the production of one form (particle-first) over another (object-first) we may examine the overall rates of use of either variant in a corpus under different conditions. Much has been written about these sorts of phenomena, including particle placement in particular (Stefan Gries has written a whole book on the topic), yet technical constraints often limit the scope of such investigations.

For instance, two factors which have been found to correlate with/against particle-first order are the heaviness of the DP-object (heavy objects tend to follow the particle), and whether or not the object had been recently referred to in context (discourse familiar objects tend to precede the particle). Stefan finds these effects over a few hundred sentences, but because the space of lexical combinations is so large there's simply not way to control for word-level effects which may be co-variate to NP-heaviness of discourse familiarity.

To get around this I wrote a script which extracts instances of verb-particle constructions from the spoken portion of COCA and tags them for particle-order. This requires a few hand-written heuristics so as not to erroneously include prepositional phrases whose order is in fact not option (e.g. "Walk down the path" is possible but not *"Walk the path down"), but nothing too technically involved. Overall, I find a particle-first rate of approximately 60% over a very large sample of roughly 50,000 such sentences. This is in line with previous work dating all the way back to the late 1970's on this topic. However, if we zoom into rates within various predicates, things appear far more varied on a lexical level. Below is a plot showing the rates of particle-first order for the twelve most frequent verbs (each verb appearing in a few thousand sentences in my sample.) The red vs. blue colors simply represent the particle-first ratio being below/above 50%.

Some verbs (Pick, set) show nearly categorical particle-first order, while others (help, get) are majority object-first.

Subsequently zooming in to look at the behavior under "bring" (since it shows a good split around 70/30), the picture remains varied. For instance, there is a near categorical gap in ordering for "bring about" compared to "bring over".

Notice that "bring back" is roughly 50/50, so conditioning on that and splitting over the head of the object DP there is again frequently categorical split in particle ordering. There are between 10 and 100 sentences for each condition below.

None of this of course explains what's driving these large, lexically conditioned gaps, but it would be interesting to keep digging into it.

shakespeare screwed up, son

Jul. 26th, 2017 12:00 am
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July 26th, 2017next

July 26th, 2017: San Diego Comic Con was AMAZING: I met so many great and interesting readers, got to meet some people that I really admire, and won two (TWO!) Eisner Awards, for my work on Squirrel Girl and Jughead! IT WAS PRETTY AMAZING!!

– Ryan

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Posted by Mark Liberman

As I mentioned last month ("My summer", 6/22/2017), I'm spending six weeks in Pittsburgh at the at the 2017 Jelinek Summer Workshop on Speech and Language Technology (JSALT) , as part of a group whose theme is "Enhancement and Analysis of Conversational Speech".

One of the things that I've been exploring is simple models of who talks when — a sort of Biggish Data reprise of Sacks, Schegloff & Jefferson "A simplest systematics for the organization of turn-taking for conversation", Language 1974. A simple place to start is just the distribution of speech segment durations. And my first explorations of this first issue turned up a case that's relevant to yesterday's discussion of "significance".

In Neville Ryant and Mark Liberman, "Automatic Analysis of Speech Style Dimensions", InterSpeech 2016, we found systematic differences among individuals and contexts.

In that paper, we found that speech segments generally tend to be shorter in spontaneous/conversational speech than in fluent reading. The graph below compares density plots for speech-segment duration in three sources of read text and three sources of conversational speech. The largest read collection is  LibriSpeech, 1,571 hours of text reading by 2,484 speakers. The distributions for Bush and Obama are from their weekly addresses, about 14 hours in total. From spontaneous/conversational speech, we have  8.5 hours of the interview program Fresh Air, with the data for the guests and the host (Terry Gross) plotted separately; and 14 hours from YouthPoint, a radio program produced by students at the University of Pennsylvania in the late 1970s.

This should not be a surprise — there are several sources of shorter speech segments specific to spontaneous/conversational speech, including backchannels and evaluations ("mm-hmm", "yeah", "right", "I know", "no kidding", "OK", "maybe", …), and pauses that reflect the process of composition, often with repetition or self-correction across the gap.

If we look more closely at individual conversations, we see some where the participants' distributions of speech-segment durations are pretty much the same, and others with significant differences. Here are the distributions for two two-party conversations from the Fisher (English) collection:

In the second case, Speaker A is doing most of the talking: 412.5 seconds in 200 segments, compared with 269.9 seconds in 213 segments for Speaker B.

This reflects an asymmetry in conversational roles — much of the dialogue is like this:

103.70 110.54 A: (( )) here and we have i think it's more healthy too you know the fat and more veggies greens
110.99 111.52 B: yeah
111.65 112.52 B: yes yeah
113.07 115.40 B: certainly more so than like the fast food
116.02 119.18 A: yeah i mean i i gained here uh
119.47 125.98 A: how many like thirty poun- uh pounds or so but then i started on this diet eating
123.29 123.62 B: yeah
126.33 127.96 A: in a at home and
128.39 129.89 A: lost lots of weight even i'm
130.02 130.76 A: thinner than
131.08 132.65 A: than when i came here you know
132.77 133.08 B: yeah

This naturally raises the question of how to quantify such differences, and how to relate them to individual characteristics and social or conversational roles. The Fisher collection is fairly large (23398 conversational sides) and relatively uniform in interactional context (short telephone conversations between strangers on assigned topics). There's no variation in interactional role, and our information about individual characteristics is limited (sex, age, years of education, region), but some of those characteristics are stereotypically related to speech styles.

The simplest way to parameterize the distributions of speech-segment durations is just to look at their means or medians. And if we look at the median length of speech segments by sex in the Fisher dataset, we see something interesting.

The mean value of the median speech-segment durations of women talking with women is longer than the comparable value of men talking with men. This difference is highly significant (in statistical terms), p-value = 6.734e-05 according to Welch's t-test, or less than one chance in ten thousand that the difference is due to sampling error. But the speech-segment durations of women talking with men and men talking with women are essentially the same by this measure (p-value = 0.2211):

And the differences between the Same Sex and Cross Sex conditions are also "significant". At this point we could wave our hands at various gender stereotypes and talk about accommodation theory.

But if you've looked at the numbers on the y-axis, you'll realize that this is an excellent object lesson in the difference between "(statistically) significant" and "meaningful", as discussed a couple of days ago. The differences, although unlikely to be the result of sampling error, are tiny — and also are small relative to within-group variance.

If we re-plot everything with a y-axis that starts at 0, this become clearer:

There's plenty of interesting and meaningful structure in conversational dynamics — but the effect of speaker and interlocutor sex on the distribution of speech segment durations is not a good example.

 

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I grew up around racehorses. One day, my father told me the story of how his application to call one of ours "Little Lemon", after Laika the space dog, was rejected by the Board. The reason was not that the name was unavailable; and one could speculate that there was some Cold War paranoia involved.

Here's another example of space-themed racehorses:


How about that? This is from Louise A. Ackerman's 1958 discussion about variants of the word Sputnik in American English.

According to Racing Australia, a horse cannot receive the same name as another horse until 17 years after the original horse has retired. So I am here to tell you that in Australia and New Zealand, the name Sputnik will become available again in 2026. Rocket becomes available in 2028. 

If your naming needs are more urgent, One Giant Leap is available in 2019, and Laika and Skylab are currently free! Perhaps Skylab isn't a great name for a horse, though. It does somewhat imply crashing and burning.

If you want to combine your racing and Star Trek passions, here is a list of racehorse names inspired by the cult classic.

And here is the cutest spacehorse ever, inspired by British astronaut Tim Peake.

Image courtesy of Attic Photographic



References
Ackerman, Louise A. 1958 Facetious variations on 'Sputnik'. American Speech 33(2): 154-156.




FMK #18: Writers of Color

Jul. 25th, 2017 07:11 pm
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
[personal profile] melannen
Last week's F win was a tie between The Dragon and the George and Goblin Quest. I am waffling over which one to pick. Goblin Quest had discussion in the comments, but on the other hand, reading it would break my unbroken streak of not having read any of the many Hines novels I own.

K winner was the Callahan. I am going to keep Callahan's Crosstime Saloon but this may be the nudge I needed to just drop the rest.


Anyway, this week's FMK theme is SF by Anglophone Writers of Color. We will pretend the reason it was tough to get a set of ten together for this is that when I get one of these it doesn't linger as long on the to-read pile. (Actually, it was tougher than I expected because finding out race for a lot of SF writers - especially older and more obscure ones - is not simple. There does not seem to be an easily accessible and accurate masterlist of SF Writers of Color out there. And at some point, for some of then, I found myself thinking that if they aren't interested in making their ancestry part of their public bio, I need to not be looking this hard. I never did figure out if Philip Jose Farmer is actually in any way Hispanic.)

How FMK works, short version: I am trying to clear out my unreads. So there is a poll, in which you get to pick F, M, or K. F means I should spend a night of wild passion with the book ASAP, and then decide whether to keep it or not. M means I should continue to commit to a long-term relationship of sharing my bedroom with it. K means it should go away immediately. Anyone can vote, you don't have to actually know anything about the books.

I pick a winner on Friday night (although won't actually close the poll, people can still vote,) and report results/ post the new poll on the following Tuesday, and write a response to the F winner sometime in the next week.

Link to long version of explanation (on first poll)

Poll: Butler, Delany, Hamilton, Hurston, Martinez, Mosley, Reynolds, Takei, White, Wilson )

FMK: Discount Armageddon

Jul. 25th, 2017 07:25 pm
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
[personal profile] melannen
Poll post coming soon! But first, I have finished Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire!

It was fun! I enjoyed it! The characters were great! Much like the other McGuire I have read, I felt like the more I thought about it, the less there there was there! (I can't think of a single piece of internal evidence other than Verity's word that it took place in Manhattan instead of, like, Columbus, Ohio. The Price-vs.-Covenant thing really doesn't work with the logistics that are set up in the book. Verity's main character note is that ballroom dance is the most important thing to her, she tells us this at least every fifth page, and yet at no point does she ballroom dance, even as practice. Etc.)

And I did really like the variety of cryptids and the cryptid community, but the "cryptozoologist" thing still bothers me, in that a cryptozoologist is a very specific thing situated in a very specific time and culture - it is not something like "witch" that has enough meanings with enough history you can basically go with whatever - and I would really really love to read an urban fantasy about cryptozoologists - and Verity Price is really really not one. (I mean, you could make a cool backstory about how the Prices and allies adopted the terminology ironically in the 60s to further distinguish themselves from the Covenant - or that Sanderson got himself in WAY over his head with a Price girl at some point and came out very confused, which is a fanfic I would definitely read - but she does not seem to be doing that.)

But! It is a urban fantasy in which ALL OF THE SEX IS UNAMBIGUOUSLY AND EXPLICITLY CONSENSUAL, and I didn't even know that was a thing that existed, so I will forgive it A LOT for being that. (I would also enjoy the fanfic about how Price family sex education includes a unit about how part of their mission is to introduce the urban fantasy community to the idea of "affirmative consent" which it had previously lacked entirely.)

I have Down Among The Sticks and Bones on its way from the library, but I have learned it is NOT about the Skeleton Girl (with that title how is it not about the Skeleton Girl?) so I find I am not that excited about it coming.

Real life

Jul. 24th, 2017 02:51 pm
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Posted by Mark Liberman

Today's SMBC:

For a more complex but pointed analogy, see "The Pirahã and us", 10/6/2007.

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July 24th, 2017next

July 24th, 2017: NON-CANON

San Diego Comic Con was AMAZING: I met so many great and interesting readers, got to meet some people that I really admire, and won two (TWO!) Eisner Awards, for my work on Squirrel Girl and Jughead! IT WAS PRETTY AMAZING!!

– Ryan

(no subject)

Jul. 24th, 2017 07:48 am
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[personal profile] copperbadge
Good morning everyone, and welcome to Radio Free Monday!

Ways To Give:

Anon reminds us that the 2017-18 school year is coming, and [tumblr.com profile] positivelypt has a post up with links to wishlists for underserved classrooms. You can check out the list, give, and reblog here.

[tumblr.com profile] rilee16 is struggling to cover medical expenses after two head injuries last year, and has a fundraiser running to cover living expenses, previous medical bills, and a recent rent increase. You can read more and help out here.


Help For Free:

Anon linked to [tumblr.com profile] globalsextrendsproject, who are working on an independent research projected aimed at establishing whether there are global trends in stimuli for sexual arousal and the content of sexual fantasies. You can read more and reblog here or fill out the form here. I took a quick breeze through the form and it's primarily short-answer rather than multiple choice, once you get past the demographic stuff.


Activism:

[tumblr.com profile] stabulous has a post up about Welcome Blanket, a project initiated by the Smart Museum of Art in Chicago and anti-Trump craftivists. They are asking people to send handmade blankets to be exhibited at the Smart and afterwards distributed to refugees and immigrants arriving in the US. The hope is to create 3200 blankets to equal the length of the wall Trump wants to build across the US-Mexico border. You can read more at the link above, and find out how to participate at the official site, which includes activism resources whether you want to actually send in a blanket or not.


News To Know:

[personal profile] brainwane linked to Creative Commons, which is offering grants of up to USD$1000 for small projects ("Salons, campaigns, translations, e-books, printing, collaborations, and more") which grow the global commons. They want help increasing discovery, collaboration, and advocacy towards their mission. You can read more and apply for a grant here.

Anon linked to [tumblr.com profile] dr-kara's new comic available on ComixOlogy, [Super]Natural Attraction! Kara is well-known to me as a groovy artist who does cool stuff so while I haven't read this yet I wholeheartedly recommend her work. She has a rebloggable post about it here and you can buy and read it here.

And this has been Radio Free Monday! Thank you for your time. You can post items for my attention at the Radio Free Monday submissions form. If you're not sure how to proceed, here is a little more about what I do and how you can help (or ask for help!). If you're new to fundraising, you may want to check out my guide to fundraising here.
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Posted by Victor Mair

President Xi Jinping is fond of calling on the Chinese people to "roll up our sleeves and work hard" ( qǐ xiùzǐ jiāyóu gàn 撸起袖子加油干 / 擼起袖子加油幹).  No sooner had Xi uttered this stirring pronouncement in a nationwide address at the turn of the year (2016-17) than it became a viral meme (here and here) that has inspired countless signs, songs, and dances; enactment; and also this one, presumably in a poorly-heated environment

Xi didn't just encourage people to roll up their shirt sleeves.  He himself famously rolled up his pantlegs:

"Why This Seemingly Innocuous Photo of Xi Jinping Is So Important:  A simple act of rolling his pants up — and holding his own umbrella — shows a president eager to show a common touch."

Matt Schiavenza, The Atlantic (Jul 23, 2013)

The picture, which shows Xi standing in the rain holding his own umbrella and with his pantlegs rolled up and looking very derpy, was taken by the official Xinhua News Agency during the president's trip to Wuhan, in Hubei province, in July 2013.  It might not seem like a particularly noteworthy photograph –- neither dazzling technically nor artistically framed.  But even when it was first released, foreign observers were surprised by the photograph, and it went swiftly viral on Chinese microblogging sites.  This image was particularly notable for the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement that arose during the Hong Kong protests of 2014 (see here and here).

Although, as is his wont with umbrella, pantlegs, steamed buns, favorite jacket, and so forth, Xi wanted it to come across as folksy, his choice of vocabulary and manner of expression put him on precarious ground.

In the first place, the normal, most common and straightforward way to say "roll up sleeves" in Modern Standard Mandarin (MSM) is juǎn qǐ xiùzi 卷起袖子 / 捲起袖子.  Xi, however, used a Northeastern Mandarinism which has nuances that are just asking for trouble:

 

 

Liāo 撩 and lū 撸 are two of those mysterious "physical action" verbs with initial liquid and first tone in Mandarin — untraceable to Middle Chinese.  Someone must hav written about that. The topic has come up on LL: see this comment by Bill Baxter.

The word for "sleeve" (xiùzǐ 袖子), in this context, might also be thought by some to have unwelcome overtones, since "cut sleeve" (duàn xiù 断袖) is an old euphemism for male homosexuality.  It doesn't help that a synonym for xiùzǐ 袖子 ("sleeve") is xiùguǎn 袖管 (lit., "sleeve-tube / pipe / duct"), which invites one to think of lūguǎn 撸管 ("rub the pipe", slang for male masturbation).

Next comes jiāyóu 加油, which literally means "add oil / gas"), but which is a common cheer at sporting events and in other situations where people exhort others "to make an all-out / extra effort" (see here and here).

And then there is the monumentally problematic gàn 干 / 幹 ("do; fuck" — frequently confused with gān 干 / 乾 ["dry"]), with which long-term Language Log readers will be intimately familiar.

"The Etiology and Elaboration of a Flagrant Mistranslation" (12//09/07)

"The further elaboration of a flagrant mistranslation" (8/31/13)

(and many other posts)

Taking the last two elements together, jiāyóu gàn 加油干 ("add oil and do it") in this context makes one think of personal lubricants (rùnhuá yóu / jì / yè 润滑油 / 剂 / 液).  (Since we're at it — milestones in the history of lube branding include things like júhuā yóu / yè 菊花油 / 液, or in [faux?] Japanese kiku no eki [??] 菊の液, playing on the Chinese [and apparently also Japanese] chrysanthemum~anus metaphor.)

Xi's phrase in its original context (8:44):  notice the extremely heavy stress on the gàn 干 / 幹 ("do; fuck").

With all of these suggestive hints prompting him, it was inevitable that a snarky wit would do something salacious with Xi's dorky call to action.  Few, however, would have expected that the person who rose to the challenge was a ranking member of the CCP, Zhang Haishun, top official of the Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.  And he did it not once, but twice, after which he was promptly dismissed from office.

Here's how Zhang ridiculed Xi:  liāo qǐ qúnzi shǐjìn gàn 撩起裙子使劲干 / 撩起裙子使勁幹 ("life up [your] skirt and do it for all [you're] worth").  The story is reported (in Chinese) here and here, and here.

A picture and fuller account is provided by Radio France Internationale.

Notice how the news items focus on the impropriety or indecency of Zhang's words, and on how it violates Party discipline, perhaps by mocking Xi's motto and exerting a "bad influence".  I see no mention of how disturbing a call to "lift up skirts" during a meeting he chaired can be to any female (or skirt-wearing) subordinates. Even if he wears a skirt to work himself, his position of power makes participation in the skirts-up implementation he advocates sound non-consensual. That Bureau might not be the ideal workplace for such a campaign.

The fuller context of Xi's slogan is as follows:

`Zǒng shūjì hàozhào “ qǐ xiù zǐ jiāyóu gān”, wǒ jú yào rènzhēn luòshí! Yào “liāo qǐ qúnzi shǐjìn gàn”!'

「总书记号召『擼起袖子加油干』,我局要认真落实!要『撩起裙子使劲干』!」

"The General Secretary called for 'rolling up sleeves to work harder', which our Bureau [of Quality and Technical Supervision] must conscientiously implement. Time to 'lift up skirts for a hard shag!'"

Who is this Zhāng Hǎishùn 张海顺, so full of chutzpah?  I haven't been able to find any English language description of the man, but there's a brief Wikipedia article on him in Chinese.  From all that I can glean, he is 59 years old, a Han from Shanxi.  He went to Inner Mongolia as a rusticated youth and studied in Qiqihar. Zhang majored in Chinese, and it shows: he has now achieved international fame as a poet-official.

The "rolling up" doesn't have to stop at sleeves. Now that "sumer is icumen in", everyone's rolling up their shirts. Western commentators never tire of commenting on that (the "Beijing Bikini") (witness the Gray Lady), which Chinese metacommentators then metacomment on.

A Beijing Bikini makes you a half bǎng yé 膀爷 ("shirtless dude"), which of late has been eliciting some Puritanical backlash.

Courtesy of Jichang Lulu, here are half a dozen Tibetan translations of Xi's " xiù gàn 撸袖干" ("roll up the sleeves and do it") slogan, from various official-ish sources:

ཕུ་ཐུང་བརྫེས་ནས་ངར་ཤུགས་སྒྲིམས།
phu thung brdzes nas ngar shugs sgrims

ཕུ་ཐུང་བརྫེས་ནས་ནུས་ཤུགས་འདོན།
phu thung brdzes nas nus shugs 'don

ཕུ་ཐུང་བརྫེས་ནས་ཧུར་ཐག་བྱེད།
phu thung brzes nas hur thag byed

ཕུ་ཐུང་བརྫེས་ནས་འབད་བརྩོན་བྱད།
phu thung brdzes nas 'bad brtson byed

ཕུ་ཐུང་བརྫེས་ནས་འབད་བརྩོན་བྱས་ཏེ།
phu thung brdzes nas 'bad brtson byas (te)

ཕུ་དུང་བརྫེས་ནས་ལས་ལ་འབུངས།
phu dung brdzes nas las la 'bungs

All the translations agree on the qǐ xiùzǐ 撸其袖子 ("roll up sleeves") part (phu [th|d)ung rdze), although they use two different spellings for "sleeve". For the second part (jiāyóu gàn 加油干), there are many different interpretations: 'bring forth power/energy', 'exert oneself'….

In Mongolian (from PRC sources, both in traditional script for domestic consumption and in Cyrillic for ("Outer") Mongolia):

ᠬᠠᠨᠴᠤᠢ ᠰᠢᠮᠠᠯᠠᠨ (ᠴᠢᠷᠮᠠᠢᠢᠨ) ᠠᠢᠯᠯᠠᠶ᠎ᠠ
Qancui simalan (cirmayin) ajillay-a

Ханцуй шамлан хичээн зүтгэ[е]
Ханцуй шамлан гавшгайлан ажилла[я]

where again there's universal agreement on the rolled-up sleeves, but the second half can be "exert ourselves", "work" in some gung-ho way, or just "work".

[Thanks to Jichang Lulu, Melvin Lee, Meiheng Dietrich, and Yixue Yang]

Unmasking Slurs

Jul. 23rd, 2017 01:36 am
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Posted by Geoff Nunberg

I'm sympathetic to many of the arguments offered in a guest post by Robert Henderson, Peter Klecha, and Eric McCready (HK&M) in response to Geoff Pullum's post on "nigger in the woodpile," no doubt because they are sympathetic to some of the things I said in my reply to Geoff. But I have to object when they scold me for spelling out the word nigger rather than rendering it as n****r. It seems to me that "masking" the letters of slurs with devices such as this is an unwise practice—it reflects a misunderstanding of the taboos surrounding these words, it impedes serious discussion of their features, and most important, it inadvertently creates an impression that works to the advantage of certain racist ideologies. I have to add that it strikes me that HK&M's arguments, like a good part of the linguistic and philosophical literature on slurs, suffer from a certain narrowness of focus, a neglect both of the facts of actual usage of these words and the complicated discourses that they evoke. So, are you sitting comfortably?

HK&M say of nigger (or as they style it, n****r):

The word literally has as part of its semantic content an expression of racial hate, and its history has made that content unavoidably salient. It is that content, and that history, that gives this word (and other slurs) its power over and above other taboo expressions. It is for this reason that the word is literally unutterable for many people, and why we (who are white, not a part of the group that is victimized by the word in question) avoid it here.

Yes, even here on Language Log. There seems to be an unfortunate attitude — even among those whose views on slurs are otherwise similar to our own — that we as linguists are somehow exceptions to the facts surrounding slurs discussed in this post. In Geoffrey Nunberg’s otherwise commendable post on July 13, for example, he continues to mention the slur (quite abundantly), despite acknowledging the hurt it can cause. We think this is a mistake. We are not special; our community includes members of oppressed groups (though not nearly enough of them), and the rest of us ought to respect and show courtesy to them.

This position is a version of the doctrine that Luvell Anderson and Ernie Lepore call "silentism" (see also here). It accords with the widespread view that the word nigger is phonetically toxic: simply to pronounce it is to activate it, and it isn’t detoxified by placing it in quotation marks or other devices that indicate that the word is being mentioned rather than used, even written news reports or scholarly discussions. In that way, nigger and words like it seem to resemble strong vulgarities. Toxicity, that is, is a property that’s attached to the act of pronouncing a certain phonetic shape, rather than to an act of assertion, which is why some people are disconcerted when all or part of the word appears as a segment of other words, as in niggardly or even denigrate.

Are Slurs Nondisplaceable?

This is, as I say, a widespread view, and HK&M apparently hold that that is reason enough to avoid the unmasked utterance of the word (written or spoken), simply out of courtesy. It doesn't matter whether the insistence on categorial avoidance reflects only the fact that “People have had a hard time wrapping their heads around the fact that referring to the word is not the same as using it,” as

Norður

Jul. 22nd, 2017 09:24 pm
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It's that time in the summer when I start to dream about being somewhere far to the north, with a view of the sea. To be fair, I also dream about the north in the depths of winter. To be even fairer, the weather here has been cool and rainy, so maybe that's made me think about northern climes.

If I were for some reason forced to spend a ridiculous amount of money on a hotel, I would go to the Fogo Island Inn, off the northern coast of Newfoundland.

Or maybe a less ridiculously posh place with bonus icebergs, the Hotel Arctic in Ilulissat, Greenland.

I remind myself that I've already got a weekend booked in Iceland on my way home to the States in December. And I can sit and enjoy views of the cold sea from a lovely steaming hotpot at any number of municipal pools. And my room probably has a view of the harbor!

But that's a long ways off. I'm pondering whether to plan an August long weekend somewhere in the UK, and whether it would be worth the faff to travel somewhere more northerly, as opposed to just going to Brighton or something. I'm very fond of Scarborough. I also have this weird desire to see the Isle of Man after watching the national road race championships a few weeks ago.

Also worth pointing out that I'm going to Saint Petersburg at the end of August, and perhaps that counts as northerly if not quite with an unobstructed ocean view? I'm rather tempted by Kronstadt...

07/21/17 PHD comic: 'Weekend Plans'

Jul. 21st, 2017 04:23 pm
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Piled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham
www.phdcomics.com
Click on the title below to read the comic
title: "Weekend Plans" - originally published 7/21/2017

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SHREW

Jul. 22nd, 2017 12:36 pm
rydra_wong: Lee Miller photo showing two women wearing metal fire masks in England during WWII. (Default)
[personal profile] rydra_wong posting in [community profile] common_nature
Yesterday I got to see a tiny shrew very close-up and it was very exciting.

So I was sitting on a muddy path in a wooded area because of reasons (ok, exhausted after climbing) when I saw movement and a tiny thing scurrying past me. I figured that glimpse was all I'd see, but I turned round to see where it'd gone and it was on the path on the other side of me, and with great caution so as not to startle it I managed to dig my phone out of my coat pocket:

longshot in which a tiny shrew may be visible among rocks and moss

(There's nothing to give a sense of scale, but the shrew is a few centimetres long. It makes mice look big.)

THEN --

Cut for blurry close-ups and blurry worm death )

Fossils We Want to Find

Jul. 23rd, 2017 08:00 pm
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Posted by Darren Naish

There’s a list of fossils I’d really like you to go out and find. Good luck.

-- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

One more cat on the couch

Jul. 21st, 2017 05:23 pm
erinptah: (pyramid)
[personal profile] erinptah
This guy is safely back at the local shelter where he came from.

(Full details in locked posts -- if you didn't see them, and would like to be on a filter that includes stuff like cat drama, feel free to comment.)

The name on the shelter paperwork is Eli, so that's what I'm going to call him, not the name picked out by the roommate who brought him home and then wasn't around to take care of him.

Eli is super shy and super timid, but also totally mellow -- even when he was scared he never bit or scratched, just hid. In the three weeks he was at the flat, there was literally one time when he felt safe enough to approach a human on his own volition. Then he got spooked again, and there weren't enough days to re-reassure him before returning him to the professionals.

But I did get photos of him on the couch.



Petting for a sweet boy.



I hope he gets adopted by someone he can climb all over.
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[personal profile] copperbadge
I still have to review Extra Virginity as well, but I actually liked that one, so it will take longer to compose….

One of the things I did get done yesterday between work, the ball game, and the Epic Sunburn, was finish a slim book of short stories called A City Equal to My Desire by James Sallis. This wasn’t a book that was recommended to me, which means I don’t have to feel bad about truly disliking it. I found it in a keyword search on the library website for books about ukuleles, and it has a short story called Ukulele And The World’s Pain, which admittedly was one of the better stories in the book despite still not being very good.

From what I can tell, he did pick the best story out of the book to develop into a novel, “Drive”, but it is very obviously unfinished in short-story form. Sallis has a couple of ongoing problems in the short story collection, one of which is that he tends to skip the vital information you need in order to know what the fuck is going on. And not in a “the blanks slowly get filled in” way, or in a “your imagination is more terrible” way (though there is a little of that) but just in a way where like…he says something that you understand to be vital to the story but which is missing context, then spends like a page describing the fucking diner someone’s sitting in, and by then any context forthcoming doesn’t get linked back. It’s like being in the middle of a paragraph when you hit the photo plates in an older book – yes the photos are very interesting thank you but I need to finish the thought you were sharing with me before I go back and look at them. I think maybe he thinks this is challenging the reader but it’s not, it’s just annoying and makes what are otherwise interesting premises totally opaque. I shouldn’t need to work this hard for a story about a hit man who decides not to kill a politician. 

If the book had a more cohesive theme in terms of the stories, it might be more readable – he clearly enjoys building worlds and then doesn’t quite know what to do with them once he’s built them, so if this was an entire book of “weird and different worlds” ala Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, I would buy in more fully and I think he would have put a little more elbow in. But it’s not. It’s mostly “here’s a really interesting world and a person living in squalor in it does something while being in it”. Also he appears to be fascinated by describing things that are shaped like pi. And a lot of times it feels like he read a wikipedia article on something and wanted to share some knowledge, so he just kind of built a half-assed story around his wikiwander. 

And all of this I would probably let go if say, it was something I was noticing in a fanfic writer, or someone who was just starting out, or someone I felt was genuinely trying to get a point across. But there’s this inexplicable sense of arrogance to the collection, a sort of smugness to it that in professional writers drives me up the goddamn wall. Stephen King sometimes falls into the same trap, where it feels like the author believes they don’t have to respect their readers because they are The Writer. 

The thing about volumes of short stories is that you keep reading it because sometimes there is a real gem. And there are one or two good stories in the volume, but I don’t know if they’re worth the rest of it. 

So my review I guess is mostly me being annoyed, but it boils down to “If you like short stories in the SFF Noir genre, give it a whirl, but if you’re bored with a story none of them get better, so feel free to skip to the next one.” 

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July 20th, 2017next

July 20th, 2017: This comic is inspired by... THE PLANET MARS!!

Thanks to everyone who backed my Kickstarter! I'm super stoked about the book and I can't wait to get it out there. Hooray!

– Ryan

Response to Pullum on slurs

Jul. 20th, 2017 10:45 pm
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Posted by Barbara Partee

This is a guest post by Robert Henderson, Peter Klecha, and Eric McCready in response to Geoff Pullum's post of July 10. My only role was offering in advance to post a reply if the authors would like me to. I'm a good friend of Geoff Pullum and a friend of the authors. What follows is theirs.

We were quite surprised to read the LL post by Geoff Pullum of July 10. In this post, GP discussed the suspension of Tory MP Anne Marie Morris for using the phrase “n****r in the woodpile” at an event held at the East India Club. After her use of this phrase was recorded and publicized, she was suspended by the Tories for what the Financial Times described as a racist remark. According to GP, this punishment was excessive, as the remark in question was not racist; he proceeds “reluctantly” to defend Ms. Morris, as the idiom in question was merely “silly.” While we offer no comment on the appropriateness of the specific punishment Ms. Morris received, we do find this characterization problematic on both moral and empirical grounds, together with many other commentators on social media, and we want to suggest that the author should have been (much) more careful when dealing with such an important topic.

What counts as a racist remark? The range of possibilities is broad, from direct attributions of racial slurs to covert dog-whistles, and it’s ultimately not for us as white individuals, or for anybody outside of the oppressed group in question, to declare exactly what is or is not a racist act. However, it does seem clear to us that the category of racist statements isn’t limited to saying things like “X is a [slur].” Thus GP’s claim that the MP’s statement doesn’t count as a racist remark because she didn't call anyone by the slur is off the mark. Utterances which are judged to be racist remarks even include saying positive things about non-people, e.g., "I love [slur] food!" This fact shows that GP’s definition of racist remarks is far too narrow.

Once we allow racist remarks to include more than predicating a slur of an individual, the ground for defending Morris's remark shrinks substantially. The only such defense is to argue that the appearance of the n-word in an idiom is enough to neutralize its racist meaning component. GP tries this route, but here the post runs into empirical problems given well-known facts about slurs. There is a consensus in the semantic/pragmatic and philosophical literature on the topic that slurs aggressively attach to the speaker, committing them to a racist attitude even in embedded contexts. Consider embedded slurs; imagine Ron Weasley says “Draco thought that Harry was a mudblood”, where attributing the thought to Draco isn’t enough to absolve Ron of expressing the attitudes associated with the slur. Indeed, even mentioning slurs is fraught territory, which is why the authors of most papers on these issues are careful to distance themselves from the content expressed. While we aren’t aware of work on slurs in noncompositional idioms in particular, a moment’s thought is enough to show that just putting a potentially offensive word into an idiom doesn’t defuse it; we would feel uncomfortable saying “the shit hit the fan” in formal situations, for example, although here “shit” lacks its literal meaning. Thus we should expect that the slurring meaning of the n-word survives in the idiom.

Slurs are generally words which have a history of being used to inflict serious emotional distress. Setting aside how it is that they come to do that in first place (which surely must have something to do with both their literal meaning and with their issuers’ hateful intent), they come to have a perverse second effect, as we understand it: they viscerally remind their victims of the hurt they have experienced due to prior use of the word, as summed up by the Langston Hughes quotation excerpted by Geoffrey Nunberg’s post, or by Ice Cube in his recent discussion with Bill Maher: “When I hear a white person say it, it feel like that knife stabbing you, even if they don’t mean to.” And importantly, what we have read and heard from people who have been victimized by these words suggests that any depiction can be such a reminder, whether it is use, mention, quotation, or even just phonetic overlap, as in the very obvious case of an idiom containing a slur, or less obvious cases like similar-sounding but historically unrelated words.

As an analogy, consider someone who has been the victim of repeated axe-violence — someone who has been attacked with axes over and over again over the course of their life, and has been threatened with such attacks even more often. If such a person were to come into contact with even just a depiction of an axe or axe-violence, it would be responsible to assume that the person may well become upset, and maybe even re-traumatized. And importantly, this is independent of anyone’s intent — it wouldn’t matter if I showed such a depiction to such a person with the virtuous intent of wanting to rob these depictions of their power to hurt the victim, for example — it would still very likely cause pain. There would be no reason to expect that that pain would be in any way a function of the depicter’s intent.

Likewise, any depiction of a slur creates the risk of causing hurt to those people who have been historically victimized by the slur, regardless of speaker intent. In this way, the slurring effect of a slur is more like Grice’s (1957) natural meaning than his non-natural (communicative) meaning; it is something the hearer derives from the utterance independent of grammatical convention or of their recognition of the speaker’s intent. See also this discussion of research on the physiological effects “mere words” can have.

These considerations defuse the central claim of GP's linguistic defense of Morris's remark, namely that the meaning of the idiom is "a hitherto concealed unpleasant surprise". Instead, racial slurs are terms that both predicate racial categories of people, and also denigrate those categories (technically, they are “mixed content bearers”). The idiom thus means "a hitherto concealed unpleasant surprise" while at the same time committing the speaker to a racist attitude. It is this second component that we expect to attach to the speaker, even in idiom. That this is the case is also shown by the fact that people have to keep apologizing for using the phrase. In fact, the fact that the MP was suspended and the reporting of the suspension makes use of the term “racist remark” is itself evidence that people naturally get the racist interpretation.

We think that GP's defense of Morris is not tenable on linguistic grounds, but there is a second aspect of the post in question that we find disturbing and important to address. Throughout the post, GP repeatedly mentions the n-word in its uncensored form. In a follow-up to the original post, he says that his refusal to censor is a strategy to avoid giving that word its power. If you take the standard linguistic analysis of slurs, though, the word’s power does not come from mere taboo (i.e., a social prohibition on using or mentioning the word as we see with expletives like "shit"). The word literally has as part of its semantic content an expression of racial hate, and its history has made that content unavoidably salient. It is that content, and that history, that gives this word (and other slurs) its power over and above other taboo expressions. It is for this reason that the word is literally unutterable for many people, and why we (who are white, not a part of the group that is victimized by the word in question) avoid it here.

Yes, even here on Language Log. There seems to be an unfortunate attitude — even among those whose views on slurs are otherwise similar to our own — that we as linguists are somehow exceptions to the facts surrounding slurs discussed in this post. In Geoffrey Nunberg’s otherwise commendable post on July 13, for example, he continues to mention the slur (quite abundantly), despite acknowledging the hurt it can cause. We think this is a mistake. We are not special; our community includes members of oppressed groups (though not nearly enough of them), and the rest of us ought to respect and show courtesy to them.

The sad fact is that linguistics as an academic field has severe diversity issues. These problems are not helped by the strategy above, which, while in the abstract might have its merits, in practice is only hurtful, and only serves as a barrier to those who might find its use painful or insensitive. Certainly, the taboo-ignoring strategy exemplified by GP’s original post is not going to be helpful in solving the problems our field has with lack of diversity. These problems are further evidenced by the fact, mentioned above, that we, the authors, are white, so we cannot directly understand what it feels like to be affected by the slur under discussion. Writing this post discomforts us in light of this fact, but we feel that we have a responsibility to try to further this discussion, and acknowledge that our understanding of the actual harm that comes from the n-word is indirect. For all of us who are not targeted by particular slurs, understanding can only really come from listening to those who have been harmed by them. We strongly encourage everyone to do so.

We want finally to emphasize that it’s not our intention to hang GP from the nearest flagpole, or to implicate in any way that he is himself a racist. We mention this only because some people we have talked about this issue with felt the need to defend him on this count. It hadn’t even entered our minds; we know that language behaviors are deeply ingrained and don’t always reflect our values. Indeed, one of the main points of this note is that speaker intention is not always relevant to these matters. (What’s more, we don’t even believe that debating which individual people may or may not be “racists in their heart of hearts” is a productive way to take on racism.) We are, in fact, fans of GP’s; but we are not fans of this post, for the reasons above.

We are grateful for helpful comments on this note by Carissa Ábrego-collier, Chris Davis, Mitcho Erlewine, Julia Goldsmith-Pinkham, Prerna Nadathur, and Betsy Pillion.

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Piled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham
www.phdcomics.com
Click on the title below to read the comic
title: "The Mysteries of SPACE" - originally published 7/19/2017

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Rescued debate

Jul. 20th, 2017 12:40 pm
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Posted by Mark Liberman

Yesterday Sharon Klein wrote to ask about the 2010 debate on Language and Thought hosted by The Economist:

Some colleagues in other departments (notably in philosophy) have been asking to talk about the hypothesis, linguistic relativism, and the actual research around the issues. While I can (and have begun to) collect relevant papers for a casual reading group (a good way to reach out…), I remembered that the debate provided a very helpful clearinghouse for the discussion that had developed in this area.

But she found that the Economist's intro page on this debate  leads only to an debate archive site that doesn't include this one; and the links in old LLOG posts are now redirected to the same unhelpful location.

A source at the magazine explained:

We vastly over-designed the debate platform (and over-thought it generally, in various ways), and when we stopped running the debates that way, we stopped running that bit of the website. The old debates are now unavailable online.

A bit of poking around at the Internet Archive turned up a copy:

Opening statements (with Derek Bickerton as "Featured guest")

Rebuttal statements (with Dan Slobin as "Featured guest")

Closing statements (with Lila Gleitman as "Featured guest")

As I noted at the time ("Shellacked by Boroditsky", 12/22/2010), the voting audience overwhelmingly supported Lera Boroditsky's argument that "the language we speak shapes how we think".

I've always been fond of Lane Greene's assessment:

If I had to sum up in plain English my conclusion would be not "language shapes thought" (much less "language restricts thought"), but probably "language nudges thought" (in certain circumstances).

Lane's final zinger in that comment:

What if silly Whorfian thinking were something we were innately prone to? Wouldn't that just blow [Lera Boroditsky's] and Steven Pinker's minds at the same time?

Or, as Lila Gleitman likes to put it, less speculatively, "Empiricism is innate".

See also "Never mind the conclusions, what's the evidence?", 8/30/2010 , and if you have a robust appetite for quasi-Whorfian explorations, the whole "'No word for X' archive".

There's a relevant (Whorf-skeptical) review article by Lila Gleitman and Anna Papafragou in the Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Psychology, "Relations Between Language and Thought" (preprint here). And for a deep dive into language and space, see Peggy Li et al., "Spatial Reasoning in Tenejapan Mayans", Cognition 2011.

 

 

Wood Pidgeon, York

Jul. 20th, 2017 11:43 am
highlyeccentric: A seagull lifting into flight, skimming the cascade (Castle Hill, Nice) (Seagull)
[personal profile] highlyeccentric posting in [community profile] common_nature
I get the impression these are perfectly normal birds in the UK, but they're quite a novelty to me. Those fancy collars! There were three in the yard of the pub we stayed in, but they wouldn't sit still to be photographed. Here's one from the walk into town:

Tawny owl

Jul. 20th, 2017 08:50 am
nanila: wrong side of the mirror (me: wrong side of the mirror)
[personal profile] nanila posting in [community profile] common_nature
Short-eared owl
[Grainy photo of a short-eared tawny owl sitting on a lawn]

I know this isn't the greatest photo of all time. In my defense, I did take it from behind a dusty windowpane in an upstairs bedroom where I was crouched breathlessly lest I frighten it off.

There've long been barn owls living at my partner's parents' home in rural Norfolk, but I'd never seen any other type of owl there. I was surprised, therefore, to see this tawny owl (h/t to [personal profile] shapinglight for corrected identification) sitting on their lawn at dusk a couple of weeks ago. I worked out that it was watching a group of four partridges who were pecking through the pebbles in the drive, closer to the house. They seemed a rather optimistic target, given that the owl wasn't much bigger than they were.

The owl flew off and returned to the lawn several times whilst I watched, but never made a move on the partridges, who eventually moved onto the roof of the house and over to the other side.
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[personal profile] copperbadge
I am like….90% sure I’m going camping this Friday. 

It depends a bit on the weather, but I’m mostly packed, I’ve cooked food that’s currently waiting in the freezer, and I have acquired the third Diane Mott Davidson book to read. 

The plan is to leave work early, catch the train to the campground, camp overnight, and in the morning hike out to a different train station further down the line, about a seven-mile trek, to do a longer endurance test than last weekend’s. Then I’ll catch the train home around noon on Saturday.

If something goes wrong, I can catch an evening train home on Friday until eight o’clock, or starting in the morning at 5:30, with little to no exertion. It’s pretty low-risk and I’m well stocked. I don’t have a sleeping pad, but my backpack has a partial one built-in, and I have one arriving tomorrow (though it might be too bulky, we’ll see). And honestly in this heat, I might just sleep on top of my sleeping bag in any case. 

Worst case scenario, the campground has heated, lockable shower cubicles with nice big floors. I’ve slept on worse. 

Caaaaaaamping! *jazz hands*

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FMK: Mélusine and Juniper Time

Jul. 19th, 2017 01:50 pm
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
[personal profile] melannen
Mélusine by Sarah Monette is a very long, very good, very fucked-up H/C darkfic in a canon I don't know.

That's not necessarily a criticism, by the way, it's enough my id that I have spent many a delightful lost weekend voluntarily reading exactly that sort of thing.

Read more... )

Anyway, I enjoyed it enough that it is getting kept (after all, some day I might not be able to find fanfic like this on the internet anymore) but I don't think I care enough about the non-id parts to go looking up the canon. (If I did I would probably just end up really liking Shannon, anyway, and like I said it's really obvious there is like 0 fic about him.)

And still very annoyed that it had exactly nothing to do with Mélusine; if someone tried to name a fantasy novel Cinderella and then not have anything to do with Cinderella except, like, the ruling family having a shoe in their heraldry and also there was a fairy godmother as a minor character in one chapter, nobody would let you get away with that.

Also, it got me re-reading a bunch of old Doctor/Master fic just in time for me to be mildly optimistic about the show again, so there's that.


Juniper Time by Kate Wilhelm was not a bad book, and I'm glad I read it, but I also don't think I need to keep it, and I didn't particularly like it. It gets the "if you like this sort of thing, this is probably the sort of thing you will like" rating, with a caveat for me being unsure about its portrayal of First Nations people. The first thing that struck me is that it didn't feel like a SF novel, or even a genre novel at all really. I spent a lot of time thinking about why. It's a story about the building of an international space station and first contact with aliens set amid the collapse of Western capitalist civilization, so it ought to be an SF novel. It's definitely at least partly just the writing style. But I think it's mostly a question of what the book thinks is important, fr. ex: not the space station or the aliens or even particularly the collapse of civilization except as they affect the two main characters' many personal issues, which are the only thing the narrative actually seems to think we might be interested in. Whic isn't to say I don't like a character-focused SF novel, but an SF novel where one of the main characters is an astronomer who spends half his time in space, a) I would expect it to spend more than five pages actually in space, and b) I would expect him to not spend all of those five pages thinking about nothing but his marital issues. Also, you know, I 100% don't care about the dude's personal issues and am only mildly interested in hers.

Read more... )

I am glad I have read this but am pretty sure I will never desire to read it again, so K pile it is. And it inspired me to finish Always Coming Home, so it was definitely worth it.
erinptah: Cat in a backpack (cat)
[personal profile] erinptah
Linguistics links:

Nothing new under the sun: "in tibullus 1.8 (a poem about his boyfriend Marathus) has this line about “pugnantibus linguis” (literally battling tongues) which means that the idea of tongues battling for dominance in homoerotic fiction has been going on since at least the 1st century bce"

From Seaspeak to Singlish: cool English dialects and English-based creoles.

Hawaiian pidgin has a great all-purpose noun -- it's "you-know-what", "whatchamacallit", "so-and-so", and "the thing" all at once.

Cat links:

Before there were laptops, cats were happy to sit on our portable typewriters.

"I was right there in case he got upset — I was expecting him to hiss or growl or slink away. But then one of the ginger kittens started licking Mason’s ear, and Mason sort of leaned into it and closed his eyes like it was the most amazing thing ever."

FMK #17: Humorous SF

Jul. 18th, 2017 05:51 pm
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
[personal profile] melannen
Last week's winner was Enchantress From the Stars! Looking forward to it. From discussion in the comments, I think I attempted to write that story once when I was about twelve.

The loser on overall K votes was Pebble in the Sky, but I'm invoking the rule that says a K winner must also have a majority for K votes, which Pebble in the Sky didn't have, and giving it to the Stasheff instead.

(I also just noticed that I never announced a K for the LGBT-themed week. No book in that poll had a majority of K votes - or anything close to a majority, even - so I'm not calling a K. The overall most K votes was the David Gerrold book, but it had almost twice as many f/m votes as K, so I have added it to the F pile instead.)

Responses to Mélusine and Juniper Time coming later today, I promise.

This week, a friend assigned me Humorous SF, so here we go!

How FMK works, short version: I am trying to clear out my unreads. So there is a poll, in which you get to pick F, M, or K. F means I should spend a night of wild passion with the book ASAP, and then decide whether to keep it or not. M means I should continue to commit to a long-term relationship of sharing my bedroom with it. K means it should go away immediately. Anyone can vote, you don't have to actually know anything about the books.

I pick a winner on Friday night (although won't actually close the poll, people can still vote,) and report results/ post the new poll on the following Tuesday, and write a response to the F winner sometime in the next week. That will leave me only four books behind, whoo.

Link to long version of explanation (on first poll)

Poll: Brust, Dickson, Doctorow, Foster, Gardner, Hines, Jones, Laumer, Martinez, Moore J, Moore MJ, Pinkwater, Pratchett, Robinson, anthologies )

Pigeon!

Jul. 18th, 2017 08:16 pm
rydra_wong: a woman wearing a bird mask balances on her arms in bakasana (yoga -- crow pose)
[personal profile] rydra_wong posting in [community profile] common_nature
I had to check the comm profile to try to decide if this was legit, as this was clearly not a wild pigeon; it was obviously someone's sleek, well-fed and well-cared-for homing/racing pigeon.

However, it was definitely "unsupervised", as it was hanging out at a gritstone crag eating bilberries and watching the climbers.

It wouldn't quite let people touch it, but was otherwise very comfortable with humans and happy to let you get very close.

I took a lot of photos of it trying to get a shot of the tags on its legs, as I was worried it was someone's beloved pet and lost. But when I got home, I found out that the "report a found pigeon" websites (they exist, naturally) say in rather weary tones not to even bother unless the pigeon's been around for at least 48 hours; apparently they like to take pit stops.

Pigeon with beautiful iridescent neck

Cut for more pigeon )

Helpful Google

Jul. 17th, 2017 10:44 pm
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Posted by Mark Liberman

The marvels of modern natural language processing:

Michael Glazer, who sent in the example, wonders whether Google Translate has overdosed on old Boris and Natasha segments from Rocky and Bullwinkle:


But it seems that the Google speech synthesis systems are not in on the fun, because if I accept Helpful Google's suggestion that I might mean "I vud be grateful if jou vould čonfirm rečeipt of this email so that I čan be sure that is has reačed jou", and then use the synthesize button, what come out sounds less like Boris Badenov and more like a bad reconstruction of proto-indo-european:

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Posted by Darren Naish

There’s a giant, weird space in the skulls of big horned dinosaurs—haven’t you heard?

-- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

Insect Season

Jul. 17th, 2017 10:43 am
redsixwing: Two water lily leaves with smaller plants between (stems)
[personal profile] redsixwing posting in [community profile] common_nature
Cattails and water skippers in a local ditch.

skippers and cattails

A very vivid ladybug on a maple tree.

ladybug on maple

Great crested grebe

Jul. 17th, 2017 04:18 pm
nanila: wrong side of the mirror (me: wrong side of the mirror)
[personal profile] nanila posting in [community profile] common_nature
Urban great crested grebe nest
[Macro image of a great crested grebe sitting on its nest.]

I spotted this great crested grebe brooding on its nest in the canal at Westerdok in Amsterdam. I thought its nest was a remarkable construction: the usual twigs, but also bits of plastic rubbish, and finishing touches of hollyhock. I was also impressed by the two female mallard duck bodyguards who immediately rushed over when I started taking photos. They didn't quack, but eyed me up silently as they circled the nest at a careful distance.

We were staying on a barge nearby for three nights and I checked on the grebe morning and evening. I don't believe it stirred from the nest in that time, so hopefully soon there will be some freshly hatched urban grebes learning to navigate the Dutch canal system!

(no subject)

Jul. 17th, 2017 08:48 am
copperbadge: (radiofreemondaaay)
[personal profile] copperbadge
Good morning everyone, and welcome to Radio Free Monday!

Ways to Give:

[tumblr.com profile] readera's partner, J, has been in the ER multiple times in the past three months, and their finances are very strained because of it. They're raising $300-$500 for transportation costs and medicine; you can read more and reblog here or give directly here.

[tumblr.com profile] sleepyheathen needs to make next month's rent and is selling items, offering commissions, accepting donations, and has an Amazon wishlist up. You can read more, purchase, or reblog here, or donate via paypal here.

[tumblr.com profile] tony-in-distress is trying to escape an abusive situation and hoping to take her siblings with her. She needs to raise enough money for a deposit on a safe house for her and her siblings to live in. You can read more and help out here.

Anon is raising funds to help a friend cover debt and pay for legal bills after her abusive husband took custody of their youngest son. You can read more and give here; unfortunately due to Australian law apparently they can't provide much information.

Sarah Sadat had to leave her job recently due to stress and is facing mounting medical bills for a failing kidney and previous hospitalization; she has surgery scheduled for next month, and is fundraising to help cover medical and other bills. You can read more and give to the fundraiser here.

[tumblr.com profile] ohstephyy was let go from a job three months ago and hasn't been able to get another one; there are also other costs coming up to cover. You can read more and reblog here; a paypal address is available at the post.

[personal profile] laurashapiro linked to a fundraiser for [personal profile] kuwdora, a talented vidder who is trying to become a professional editor. She has an opportunity for professional coaching from the editor of Burn Notice and Empire, but can't afford the expenses on her own. You can read more and help out here.

Anon linked to [tumblr.com profile] tiarasnteakettles who is looking for work as a harpist, including attempting to purchase a harp that would be a massive upgrade from her current instrument and allow her more freedom in performance. You can read more about her situation and reblog here, including links to her Patreon and online store and Paypal donation address.

[tumblr.com profile] rilee16 is struggling to cover medical expenses after two head injuries last year, and has a fundraiser running to cover living expenses, previous medical bills, and a recent rent increase. You can read more and help out here.

News To Know:

Anon linked to [tumblr.com profile] wanderlust-anthology, an upcoming anthology of reimagined myths, legends, and folklore based on the theme Quests and Journeys. They are looking for creators for this anthology, which will be a full-color printed book with stories, comics, and artwork. You can read more at their tumblr or at the FAQ here; sign-ups close July 30th.

Housing:

Riel is looking for a roommate in Austin, TX to share a townhouse; she and the other roommate (male) are both grad students, and they do have a cat. Riel is very fandom-friendly. Lease starts in August. You can check out the townhouse here and get in touch at ariellayendler at gmail.com.

And this has been Radio Free Monday! Thank you for your time. You can post items for my attention at the Radio Free Monday submissions form. If you're not sure how to proceed, here is a little more about what I do and how you can help (or ask for help!). If you're new to fundraising, you may want to check out my guide to fundraising here.

climate change comix

Jul. 16th, 2017 12:00 am
[syndicated profile] dinosaur_comics_feed
archive - contact - sexy exciting merchandise - search - about
July 16th, 2017next

July 16th, 2017: There's THREE DAYS LEFT to get WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE PUNCHES A FRIGGIN' SHARK and/or other stories! You should because it's gonna be great, in my not-at-all-biased opinion!!

– Ryan

Annals of redundancy and masochism

Jul. 17th, 2017 05:20 am
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Victor Mair

Two gems from Chris Brannick via Facebook (the first is from the site of the Immortality Pills in Guangzhou and the second is from the Langham Place Hotel, also in Guangzhou):


1.

yánjìn xiédài 严禁携带 ("it is forbidden to carry")

wéijìn wùpǐn 违禁物品 ("prohibited items")

2.

xǐngshén zhī xuǎn 醒神之选 ("wake up selection")

dāndiǎn zǎocān 单点早餐 ("à la carte breakfast")

In making effective translations, one must not only not slavishly follow dictionaries and machine translators, one must also exercise common sense.  Unfortunately, that means one must have a good command both of the language from which one is translating and of the language into which one is translating — a combination that requires extensive training in both languages.

Annals of poor translation

Jul. 17th, 2017 05:12 am
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Victor Mair

Below are two pages from the instruction book for a small point and shoot digital camera (the original in Chinese and the corresponding page translated into English). As you can see, the language display has a couple of strange choices.


jiǎn Zhōng 简中 ("simplified Chinese [characters]")

fán Zhōng 繁中 ("traditional Chinese [characters]") — fán 繁 literally means "complex; complicated; numerous", referring to the number of strokes compared to the simplified characters

For the first, the instruction manual follows Google Translate in giving "Jane", roughly approximating the sound of jiǎn 简.  For the second, it give "numerous", whereas Google Translate gives "traditional".

It's ironic that the manual messes up only the Chinese when that is the language of the original text, and handles all the other languages correctly.

[Thanks to Rob Perez]

Serious earworm infection

Jul. 17th, 2017 02:32 am
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Victor Mair

I had heard "Let Me Love You" by D J Snake featuring Justin Bieber many times on the radio and was intrigued by several things:

1. Who / what is D J Snake?

2. In what way is the super famous Biebs "featured" on a record by a D J named Snake?  In other words, what was the nature of their collaboration?

3. Above all, who was making that manic, beyond yodeling sound in the background (was it Biebs? D J Snake? somebody else? a machine / instrument?), and how were they making it?

So I went looking for a music video in hopes that I might be enlightened.

Yesterday, by chance, instead of one of the various three and a half minutes or shorter versions, I watched this 9'20" video first:

"LET ME LOVE YOU" – DJ Snake ft Justin Bieber Dance

The combination of repetitive musical phrases and frenetic dance moves caused these words and the associated notes to become lodged in my brain:

Don't you give up, nah-nah-nah / I won't give up, nah-nah-nah / Let me love you / Let me love you….

For the next three hours, though I tried to do some earnest work, I couldn't get that song out of my mind.

Fortunately, I did fall asleep and didn't hear the music in my dreams (I'm one of those people who almost never dream, or perhaps I should say that I'm seldom aware that I dream), but I woke up the next morning and the worm was right there in my ear!

Those who have experienced earworms, especially of banal phrases / tunes will know how annoying, almost maddening, they can be.

When it gets really bad, the only first aid I can use to cope with them is to strive very hard to shift to another musical phrase.  Unfortunately, then I'm usually stuck with a replacement earworm that goes on an endless repeat loop of its own, or the two phrases get jumbled and alternate with each other.  As a last resort, the only solution I know of is to engage in vigorous physical activity (running, basketball, exercise, etc.).  One can only hope that, after the energetic physical activity is over, the earworm will not return.

A couple of earlier posts:

"Earworms and white bears" (9/1/13)

"Musical maggots" (9/5/13)

One commenter informed us that "Absurd Macaronic Earworm" is the name of his band's debut album.  They could only hope that would be true.

The InGretable Hulk

Jul. 16th, 2017 04:11 pm
cyprinella: Picture of my dog Greta with a big doggie grin and her tongue hanging out (Greta yay)
[personal profile] cyprinella

I was cleaning off a memory card the other day and realized I never posted Greta’s Halloween costume from 2015.

The mild mannered Greta Banner. Greta in a white lab coat with a name tag that says Banner and wearing glasses.

The mild mannered Greta Banner. Greta in a white lab coat with a name tag that says Banner and wearing glasses.

The mild-mannered Greta Banner was just engaging in some research, as Gretas do. Her glasses didn’t fit very well.

Then she went outside and there were PEOPLE JOGGING. OMG, PEOPLE WERE JOGGING.

Oh no, she got angry! Greta mid bark and jumping.

Oh no, she got angry! Greta mid bark and jumping.

Oh no, she got angry! Greta mid bark and jumping.
And the InGretable Hulk was released!

The InGretable Hulk. Greta painted green and wearing a purple harness.

She was so mad she rampaged on Stark Industries and Embassy of Sokovia.

The InGretable Hulk on top of a box with the sign Stark Industries on it.

The InGretable Hulk on top of a box with the sign Embassy of Sokovia on it

She even got into it with Captain America but then they decided to work together against the Canada Geese.

The InGretable Hulk boxes with Captain America. Greta on her back legs next to me in a Captain America dress

The InGretable Hulk sitting and looking at me

The InGretable Hulk and Captain America looking out and up

The end.

The InGretable Hulk. Greta painted green and sitting on the porch with a doggie smile.

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