Cultural invasion

Sep. 20th, 2017 01:44 am
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Victor Mair

Article in South China Morning Post (9/19/17) by Jasmine Siu:

"Activist fined HK$3,000 for binning Hong Kong public library books in ‘fight against cultural invasion’ from mainland China:  Alvin Cheng Kam-mun, 29, convicted of theft over dumping of books printed in simplified Chinese characters"

A radical Hong Kong activist was on Tuesday fined HK$3,000 for dumping library books in a bin in what he said was an attempt to protect children from the “cultural invasion” of simplified Chinese characters.

Alvin Cheng Kam-mun, 29, had told the court during trial that he had become angry after learning from newspapers that the Hong Kong government had “wasted public funds” to stock the city’s libraries with 600,000 books written in the simplified characters more commonly used in mainland China. Hong Kong uses traditional characters.

Kowloon City Court magistrate Wong Sze-lai, who convicted Cheng of theft, slammed his conduct as “selfish and stupid”, adding that the purpose behind the crime did not matter. She said English folk hero Robin Hood would similarly be found guilty of theft even for robbing the rich to help the poor.

Outside court, Cheng said the conviction made him feel “quite helpless” since he had never held any desire to obtain the property of others yet had been found guilty of an offence involving dishonesty.

He did not comment on whether he would continue his campaign against simplified characters, save for saying: “I hope Hongkongers will cherish and defend our language.”

Cheng, the vice-chairman of localist political party Civic Passion, went to a public library in Ho Man Tin on March 29 last year in the hope of “protecting libraries” and drawing attention to his cause. He filmed himself dumping nine children’s books into a library rubbish bin. The books cost HK$505 in total.

Cheng said that since children would not be able to tell the difference at a young age between the two versions of characters, the simplified books might affect their cognitive learning and confuse them. He also said the “effects and poisonous influences” of such books went beyond just the different shapes on a page.

The recorded stunt was uploaded to his Facebook page, where he called on others to follow suit during his campaign to run for a seat in Hong Kong’s legislature in elections last September.

I have quoted the article extensively because the issues at stake are of such profound importance for the people of Hong Kong that it is best to have as much of the background to the story as possible.  Alvin Cheng Kam-mun was motivated not by greed or dishonesty; his act was one of civil disobedience to the imposition of an alien writing system and mode of thought, using public funds, on the people of Hong Kong, without their consent or consultation.

The matter of what many Hong Kongers viscerally consider to be a degraded writing system pertains to culture and is particularly sensitive since the books were directed toward children at a malleable, formative stage of their life, but it is also linked to potent political issues that have the potential to cause tremendous social conflict.  Indeed, during the past week we have seen the universities of Hong Kong, especially the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) and the Education University of Hong Kong (EdUHK), engulfed in controversy and chaos over whether students have a right to put up posters and banners mentioning independence.

Talk like a pirate

Sep. 19th, 2017 09:13 pm
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Mark Liberman

It's Talk Like A Pirate Day again, but I've got nothing to add to our past coverage:

"R!", 11/03/2003
"Type like a pirate day", 9/9/2004
"R!?", 9/19/2005
"Type like a pirate", 9/18/2006
"Pirate R as I-R-eland", 9/20/2006
"Powarrr law", 9/20/2006
"Post like a pirate", 9/19/2007
"R", 9/9/2008
"Said the Pirate King, Aaarrrf", 9/27/2010
"R R R", 9/19/2012

 

copperbadge: (Default)
[personal profile] copperbadge
Come in, please, come in. I can’t entertain you shipboard as I once could, but there is tea and plenty of food, and I understand you’ve done well for yourself at the gambling tables. I suppose I can afford to lose a little now and then. My late first husband was a wealthy man and I magnified his wealth – well, you know how.

I think there should be discipline in everything, you know, even lawlessness. When I ruled the sea and the Red Flag Fleet, no one disobeyed me. Literally. Those who did were beheaded. But, on the other hand, I think my rule was mainly benificent. Did you know I forbade those under my command to steal from villagers who supplied us? That only made sense, of course. Death was also the sentence for any assault on a female captive. One makes these laws when one grows up as I did.

I also insisted that anything taken from town or ship was to be presented, registered, and given out amongst all – oh, the original taker got a percentage, and twenty percent is better than nothing, you know. That’s how you keep a sailor happy.

My dear second husband, he also issued some laws, I suppose, but they weren’t written down or very well enforced. What were they? Who knows. What does it matter? My laws were what mattered.

Eventually, of course, it became easier just to tax the local cities than to keep sacking them. Nicer for all concerned and not so much work for us. Bureaucracy will have its day, sooner or later, always.

That is how I came to be here, you know; several years ago, after I defeated their entire Navy, the government offered amnesty to pirates. Well they might; what other option did they have? But I was wealthy, so why should I continue to work when I was no longer a criminal? It was in 1810 that I left crime behind forever and opened this little gambling house. Here I am content, you know, and I think I will be until I die. Hopefully not for a long, long time!

Oh, I am called many things. I was born Shi Xianggu, and I am called Cheng I Sao, sometimes, but mostly I am known as Ching Shih – the Widow Ching, wife of two pirates, but a pirate empress myself.

(After all, it’s Talk Like A Pirate day, not Talk Like Every Pirate day. I chose Ching Shih.)

(Also if you enjoyed this, consider dropping some spare change in my Ko-Fi!)

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Distributed confusion

Sep. 19th, 2017 11:34 am
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Mark Liberman

Tweeted yesterday by the magazine Bon Appétit (which is apparently not the same as the restaurant management company):


Extensive commentary ensued —

https://twitter.com/joe___nelson/status/909873028644900866

 

Excited and Somewhat terrified.

Sep. 19th, 2017 12:15 pm
aedh: a plushie triceratops (Default)
[personal profile] aedh
This weekend for the first (and quite possibly only) time in my life. I have work in a show. Specifically in the Sackler Gallery of the V&A. The summary of what is going on is here: http://www.vam.ac.uk/blog/network/digital-design-weekend-2017

So, if you have time this weekend and are in London. Come see my werewolf story that I've been threatening for years. In the form of a game, that I built with my own two hands and enough brackets to finally fill the desperate need in my heart. Coding is great if you have an unholy need for brackets.

I'll be around for some of Saturday, probably the afternoon. (Will firm up when under lock once I actually know). I have just remembered I'm terrified of crowds, so I'm trying to contribute heavily during the set-up phase.

If you're specifically looking for my work, it has my legal surname attached and will be in the code liberation section. Equally, black and bright neons are its calling card. Also, come see the cool things people I've been on the course with have made, because honestly, the work they've made is really cool.
[syndicated profile] nickelinthemachine_feed

Posted by nickelinthemachine

Comedian Dickie Henderson uses a stool as a prop while he waits for his plane at London Airport.

Comedian Dickie Henderson uses a stool as a prop while he waits for his plane at London Airport.

When the last chord of ‘Twist and Shout’ came to an end, the Beatles grouped together at the front of the Prince of Wales Theatre stage. The blue curtain swished closed behind them and, from the waist and in unison, they bowed  first to the ‘cheap seats’, then turned and bowed again to the ‘jewellery wearers’ in the Royal Box. With the orchestra playing and the audience still applauding they skipped and ran off  the stage with boyish energy.

It was the comedian Dickie Henderson, unenviably, who was next to perform, and after the applause had died down he said: ‘The Beatles … young … talented … frightening!’ The audience laughed, but it had been said with feeling. He, like most of the other acts on the bill of the Royal Variety Performance in November 1963, including Marlene Dietrich, who couldn’t understand why all the camera lenses had been pointing at the four young men from Liverpool, suddenly felt very old-fashioned.

The Beatles relax backstage at London's Prince of Wales Theatre, before the Royal Variety Performance, 4th November 1963. They are supporting Marlene Dietrich in the show. (Photo by Mark and Colleen Hayward)

The Beatles relax backstage at London’s Prince of Wales Theatre, before the Royal Variety Performance, 4th November 1963. They are supporting Marlene Dietrich in the show. (Photo by Mark and Colleen Hayward)

Henderson’s fame was at its peak that November, and it was on purpose and as a reassuringly safe pair of hands that Bernard Delfont had asked him to follow the Beatles that night. The theatre impresario had had too many bad experiences with pop groups dying in front of indifferent mink-wearing Royal Variety audiences,and when he had booked the Beatles earlier that year, on the advice of his daughter Susan, he had never heard of them. The primetime Dickie Henderson Show had recently finished on ITV (it was a staple on the channel between 1960 and 1968) and that summer Henderson had been top of the bill of a popular show called Light Up the Town at the Brighton Hippodrome.

Today you would almost have to be a pensioner to remember Henderson in his prime, but he was once described by Roy Hudd as ‘perhaps the most versatile and certainly the smoothest, most laid-back comedian it had been my pleasure to see’, adding that ‘he danced, sang and delivered one-liners wonderfully, and even his prat-falls were, somehow, classy … He was, without doubt, the best I ever saw.’

Dickie had come from a ‘showbiz’ family. Before the First World War his sisters, Triss and Winnie, were a pair of popular dancers and singers called the Henderson Twins, while his father, Dick Henderson, was a rotund, bowler-hatted comedian and singer known in the music halls, where he had made his name, as ‘The Yorkshire Nightingale’. His trademark was his breakneck banter, salty and censorious, and delivered in a strong Hull accent. Part of his act was to tell the audience that he didn’t want any applause because he was there ‘strictly for the money’. He is perhaps most famous for the first British recording of ‘Tiptoe Through the Tulips’, with which, accompanying himself on the ukulele, he usually entered and exited the stage.

Dick Senior, like his son, also performed at Royal Variety shows, the first of which was in 1926 when King George V laughed at: ‘I went to get married and asked the vicar how much it was. He said, “What do you think it’s worth?” I gave him a shilling. He took one look at the bride and gave me twopence back!’

Henderson was a fat man and he usually started his performance by standing sideways, showing o his large belly, saying: ‘I was standing outside a maternity hospital, minding my own business … ’ He died in 1958, just a few days before what would have been his third Royal Variety show. Dickie Henderson’s first job in show business was, as a ten-year-old, playing Master Marriott in the 1933 film of Noël Coward’s play Cavalcade, a movie made while his father was in California performing in vaudeville.

Henderson Senior, despite losing most of his life savings in the Wall Street Crash, was earning reasonably good money in the States where he was commanding top billing in the smaller houses, and was a much appreciated feature act in the bigger circuit halls. Even though the popularity of vaudeville was on the wane, Henderson Senior often earned an impressive $1,000 per week. Dickie tells a story in his half-finished autobiography that Hal Roach had once offered his father, a stout gentleman who never performed without his bowler hat, to ‘test’ with Stan Laurel, another Englishman from the north of England. His father turned him down, however, as the money was only half of what he was earning on stage. Henderson Senior always regretted this decision but later admitted that, compared with Oliver Hardy, ‘I would never have been as good.’

Henderson Senior did make a few films, however, including The Man from Blankley’s in 1930, which starred Loretta Young and John Barrymore, now unfortunately lost. It wasn’t necessarily an easy life in Hollywood at that time, despite the warm Californian sunshine. Noël Coward, unhappy that everyone seemed to ‘work too deuced hard’, once described a typical day while working on Cavalcade: ‘They get up at 6.30 … stand around all day under the red-hot lights … eat hurriedly at mid-day, and because they are too tired to sit up, late at night have their supper served on trays. That’s no way to live, and certainly no way to work.’

Calvacade 1933

Young Dickie on the left in a lobby card for Cavalcade released in 1933

The Henderson Twins and Dick copy

Dickie and the Henderson Twins, c1936

2. Dick Jnr with his father and Max Miller in Things are Looking Up 1934 copy

Dick Jnr with his father and Max Miller in Things are Looking Up, 1934

After the young Dickie had completed his part on Cavalcade, for which he earned $400 for the month’s work, the whole family returned to England on the liner RMS Lancastria. Ten years later, on 17 June 1940, the Lancastria, sank in twenty minutes after it was bombed by the Luftwaffe near the French port of Saint-Nazaire. The sinking of the Lancastria has almost been forgotten but it was the largest loss of life from a single engagement for British forces in the Second World War – about 4,000 men, women and children died. It was also the largest loss of life in British maritime history – greater than the Titanic and Lusitania combined.4 Dickie left school at fifteen, and became ‘prop boy’ with Jack Hylton’s Band, with whom his twin sisters, two years his senior, were singing.

Two years later, the twins had become ‘headliners’ throughout the country and Henderson was learning everything about stagecraft, which he would put to good use for the rest of the career. Looking back at this time he once wrote:

The time on the road, when not performing, we spent learning. Every morning jugglers, acrobats, dog acts and dancers rehearsed. Always rehearsing. In exchange for dance steps from dancers, the jugglers taught dancers how to twirl a cane. Acrobats put you in a harness and taught you back-somersaults. That is why performers, then, could do a bit of everything. I was fortunate to have been part of it, before ‘that school closed’, to quote the great Jacques Tati.

In September 1939, at the start of the Second World War, all the theatres were instructed to close. Dickie became a messenger boy with Air Raid Precautions (ARP), given a bicycle and told to await instructions. There never were any instructions, and when the theatres reopened, after just two weeks, he was back to his pre-war life and travelling around the country as a junior touring performer.

Lieutenant Henderson, 1942

Lieutenant Henderson, 1942

Just as he was about to appear, along with Naunton Wayne and the Hermiones Gingold and Baddeley, in A La Carte, his first West End show, Henderson was called up. It was 1942 and he was nineteen. In the next three years he had, in his own words, ‘an extremely cushy war’. He didn’t have to leave Britain and he saw no action.

Second Lieutenant Dickie Henderson wasn’t able to re-join civilian life until 1946. He was just one of over 4 million servicemen who were demobilised between June 1945 and January 1947. Like thousands and thousands of others, he made his way to Olympia to swap his service uniform for the ubiquitous ‘demob’ outfit. Most of the servicemen in the queues were grumbling about the length of time it had taken for them to get there. The first illustration in the book Call Me Mister! – A Guide to Civilian Life for the Newly Demobilised was a cartoon of an old and decrepit man holding his release book and saying, ‘To think I should really live to see myself demobbed.’

Call Me Mister! A Guide to Civilian Life For the Newly Demobilised published in 1945

Call Me Mister! A Guide to Civilian Life For the Newly Demobilised published in 1945

Demobilisation_of_British_Service_Personnel._H42442

Demobilisation_of_the_British_Army_BU8067

Demobilisation_of_the_British_Army_BU8063

By the end of 1945, 75,000 de-mob suits were being made every week and supplied by tailors such as Burtons, a company founded by Montague Burton and where, perhaps, the phrase the ‘full Monty’ came from – meaning the full set of demob clothes supplied by the firm. Anthony Powell, who served in the Welch Regiment and later the Intelligence Corps during the war, used a scene set in the demob centre at Olympia in the closing passages of his 1968 novel The Military Philosophers: ‘Rank on rank, as far as the eye could scan, hung flannel trousers and tweed coats, drab mackintoshes and grey suits with a white line running through the material’. He pondered whether the massed ranks of empty coats on their hangers somehow symbolised the dead.

The ‘full monty’, as it were, included socks, a shirt, a tie, a hat, cu links and collar studs and came in a ‘handsome box bound with green string’. The accompanying label featured the magic word – to men who had been in the services for six or more years anyway – ‘Mr’, followed by their name. The de-mob suit, often ill-fitting due to the lack of the right sizes available, was a subject to which literally millions of people could relate and became an important ingredient of much post-war comedy. The comedian Norman Wisdom, whose suits were always far too tight with ‘half-mast’ trousers, had been demobilised in 1946 and was once described by John Hall in the Guardian as ‘Pagliacci in a demob suit’.10 Frankie Howerd, yet another of the generation of British comedians who came to prominence in the years after demobilisation, performed in a badly fitting demob suit, probably because, like countless others, he had nothing else to wear.

Dickie himself described his new demob clothes as a ‘grey double- breasted three-piece pinstripe suit, snap trilby hat and a flannelette shirt a air, rather like pyjamas’. He also mentioned his ‘cumbersome shoes’, and it was often joked by the new civilians that the footwear provided by the government needed to be particularly stout and rugged to stand up to the constant wear and tear as they tramped around endless pavements in search of suitable employment.

After his visit to the Olympia De-Mob Centre, Dickie later wrote about how embarrassed he was of his new civilian clothes when, walking down Piccadilly on his way to see his sister Triss, he bumped into a snappily dressed Jack Hylton, who was wearing a suit from Hawes and Curtis in Jermyn Street, a Sulka shirt from the shop on Old Bond Street, and shoes by Walkers of Albermarle Street. Triss Henderson, who had sung with Hylton but was now dancing solo after her sister had met and married a GI during the war, was appearing in a revue called Piccadilly Hayride at the Prince of Wales Theatre. The same theatre, located on Coventry Street between Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square, where Dickie would be compering the 1963 Royal Variety show seventeen years later.

Triss Henderson, Dickie's sister from the Piccadilly Hayride programme.

Triss Henderson, Dickie’s sister from the Piccadilly Hayride programme.

The Ross Sisters, from the Piccadilly Hayride programme

The Ross Sisters, from the Piccadilly Hayride programme

Sid Field performing as Slasher Green the spiv in Piccadilly Hayride.

Sid Field performing as Slasher Green the spiv in Piccadilly Hayride.

The Piccadilly Hayride revue at the Prince of Wales Theatre, where Dickie’s sister Triss Henderson was performing, was actually the comedian Sid Field’s triumphant return to the stage after the disappointment of the expensive technicolour film London Town released the previous year. Much to Field’s relief, the disastrous reception of the movie didn’t at all damage the mutual love affair he now had with the West End audiences and theatre critics and it cemented his reputation as perhaps one of the greatest comedians ever to appear on the West End stage.

Preceding Field’s first sketch of the show, entitled The Return of Slasher Green, Triss Henderson performed the opening song called ‘Let’s Have a Piccadilly Hayride’ with fellow performer Pauline Black, the daughter of the theatrical producer, George Black. At Al Burnett’s nightclub The Stork, just off Regent Street, Pauline introduced Dickie to a young woman called Dixie Ross, part of an extraordinary American singing, dancing and contortionist act called the Ross Sisters (‘Pretzels with Skin’ said some of their posters).

Dixie Jewell Ross was just sixteen and along with her two elder sisters, Veda Victoria Ross and Betsy Ann Ross, eighteen and twenty years old respectively, had travelled to Britain on the RMS Queen Mary, docking at Southampton on the 10 September 1946. Each sister, presumably so they could perform ‘legally’ in clubs in the US and subsequently the UK, had assumed the identity and birthday of the next older sister, and carried passports to this effect. The eldest of the trio, Eva, managed this by taking the name and birth date of Dorothy Jean Ross, the first-born sibling, who had died just a few months old of whooping cough in 1925. Informally the sisters continued to use their original given names, but formally their ‘legal’ names became Dorothy Jean, Eva V and Veda V. Confused? You will be, because the Ross Sisters often used the stage names of Aggie, Maggie and Elmira.

1th September 1946:  Actress sisters Betsy, Vicky and Dixie Ross at Waterloo Station, on arrival in London on the Queen Mary boat train. They are to appear in the new Sid Field show 'Piccadilly Hayride'.

1th September 1946: Actress sisters Betsy, Vicky and Dixie Ross at Waterloo Station, on arrival in London on the Queen Mary boat train. They are to appear in the new Sid Field show ‘Piccadilly Hayride’.

 

US Promotional photograph of the Ross Sisters c.1944

US Promotional photograph of the Ross Sisters c.1944

Dixie Ross

Dixie Ross, c.1944

Whatever they were called, just four years previously the girls and their parents were all living in a trailer near New York. The Ross Sisters’ parents were originally very poor dirt farmers from west Texas. When the dust storms drove them off the land,Mr Ross started working on the Texan and Mexican oil fields, while the girls’ amateur acrobatics were good enough to perform at county fairs and such like. Eventually they were good enough to appear in theatres around the country, and they pooled their money and bought a trailer.

In 1942 they got their big break, being asked to join the cast of Count Me In, a musical starring Charles Butterworth at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on Broadway. In the evenings the girls were appearing in a Broadway show while living in a trailer parked at Ray Guy’s Trailer Park, Bergen Boulevard, which is about a mile across the George Washington Bridge in New Jersey. American syndicated newspapers reported that they were ‘thrilled about their first trip to New York. “But,” says Betsy, who is twenty and the eldest, “we certainly aren’t going to give up our trailer until we are sure of the future.”’

The Texan-born sisters had been invited to the West End by Val Parnell, the managing director of the Moss Empire theatres network, who thought they’d work really well in Piccadilly Hayride. Parnell had seen the Ross Sisters’ performance in a film called Broadway Rhythm, an MGM hodgepodge of a musical released in 1944. It starred Ginny Simms and George Murphy, who played a Broadway producer looking for big-name stars, while ignoring the talent around him from his family and friends. The film was essentially a pageant of various MGM speciality acts, including impressionists, nightclub singers and tap dancers.

The short New York Times review of the film included the line: ‘Three little girls, the Ross Sisters, do a grand acrobatic dance.’ The ‘grand acrobatic dance’ is pretty well all that’s remembered of the  lm these days, and seventy years or so after the  lm was released, their remarkable performance has been seen by millions on Youtube and certainly by many more people than on its original cinema release in 1944.

The extraordinary performance by the Ross Sisters in Broadway Rhythm

Snapshot of the Ross Sisters in the US, c.1944.

Snapshot of the Ross Sisters in the US, c.1944.

Dixie Ross doing what she did best, c.1944.

Dixie Ross doing what she did best, c.1944.

If Broadway Rhythm wasn’t particularly successful, Piccadilly Hayride, riding on Sid Field’s incredible popularity, certainly was, and it ran for an incredible 778 performances and took over £350,000 at the box office. The original songs for the revue were written by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne, one of which, ‘Five Minutes More’, was sung by the Ross Sisters, and a version by Frank Sinatra became one of the most popular songs of the year.

Dickie fell in love with young Dixie, and although he was performing in a touring revue entitled Something to Shout About (a title it didn’t live up to, according to Dickie) when he was in London he took her to nightspots such as the Coconut Grove at 177 Regent Street – a club where the Latin American bandleader Edmundo Ros had performed during the war. Dickie would later appear in cabaret there, and describes it in his autobiography: ‘It was like all night-clubs at the time: a cellar where one could drink scotch or brandy after hours out of a cracked co ee cup in case of a police raid. It was never raided during the three months that I was there, and with Savile Row police station only one hundred yards away, I drew my own conclusions regarding the dogged efficiency of the police surveillance.’

When Piccadilly Hayride closed, Dixie and her sisters went to France to perform at the glamorous Bar Tabarin on rue Victor Massé with the likes of Edith Piaf and Maurice Chevalier. Meanwhile, Dickie went into pantomime in Brighton with the double-act Jewel and Warriss. After the six-week run, a broke Dickie used up his last £10 for a flight to Paris and immediately proposed to Dixie. He assumed that, if she accepted, he had time to save some money as she and her sisters had planned to tour Australia for six months.

The next morning they strolled down the Champs-Elysées and Dixie turned to Dickie and said, ‘Darling, I have some wonderful news… ’ The middle sister, Vicki, had fallen in love with the French ventriloquist Robert Lamouret (who performed with a Donald Duck-a-Like called Dudulle and was also part of Piccadilly Hayride). He had proposed to her but she didn’t want to break up the act. ‘But she can now, as we are getting married too!’ said Dixie. Henderson and Dixie Jewell Ross married in the summer of 1948 at Westminster Cathedral, with the comedian Jimmy Jewel as the best man.

Entertainment - Dickie Henderson - London Airport

Dickie leaping over Dixie at home in Kensington on his 37th birthday, 1959.

Dickie leaping over Dixie at home in Kensington on his 37th birthday, 1959.

Exactly fifteen years later, on 10 July 1963, a few weeks before he followed the ‘frightening’ Beatles on to the Royal Variety stage at the Prince of Wales Theatre, Dickie Henderson arrived at his home in Kensington, only to be told his wife had died on the way to hospital. Dixie Henderson, at the age of thirty-three, and according to the coroner, had taken fifteen or sixteen barbiturate sleeping pills. She had left a note for the ‘daily’ saying that she wasn’t to be disturbed. Whether it was suicide or a tragic cry for help, the coroner gave an open verdict and it was noted that it had been Dickie and Dixie’s fifteenth wedding anniversary.

In fact Dickie hadn’t seen his wife for two weeks, and would write in his unfinished autobiography that they were on a trial separation at the time, and that he was actually returning home to discuss a reconciliation. Dixie was buried in Gunnersbury Cemetery in Acton. On the gravestone it says ‘Dixie’, but the marriage and death certifcate both have her name as Veda Victoria – the name she borrowed from her older sister twenty years before and never officially relinquished.

Dixie Henderson's grave in Gunnersbury Cemetery in Acton.

Dixie Henderson’s grave in Gunnersbury Cemetery in Acton.

Invariably a safe pair of hands, the ‘classy’ Dickie Henderson went on to perform in eight Royal Variety shows. After making his television debut on Arthur Askey’s Before Your Very Eyes in 1953, he became a much-loved national star during the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s. Some forty-seven years after making his inauspicious stage debut as an ‘eccentric dancer’, the always neat and dapper Dickie succumbed to pancreatic cancer in 1985.

Dickie Henderson on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1959

This is an excerpt from my new book called High Buildings, Low Morals and due to be published on 15 October 2017. Contact me by email or twitter if you’d like a signed copy.

High Buildings, Low Morals - Another Sideways Look at 20th Century London

High Buildings, Low Morals – Another Sideways Look at 20th Century London

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Samuel Johnson's birthday

Sep. 19th, 2017 10:01 am
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Mark Liberman

One of yesterday's Google Doodles commemorates Samuel Johnson's 308th birthday:

A partially-transcribed digital edition can be found here. The lexicographer entry is here (transcribed) and here (page scan):

Neo-Nazi kanji

Sep. 18th, 2017 03:49 pm
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Victor Mair

Tattoo on the shoulder of a marcher in Charlottesville on Saturday, August 12:

Source: "A lot of white supremacists seem to have a weird Asian fetish," Vice News, Dexter Thomas (9/12/17)

People who know only the Chinese forms of the characters are puzzled by this tattoo.  It is a Japanese kanji, not a Chinese hanzi.

It can mean English "real": riaru リアル.

The on (Sinitic style) reading is jitsu the kun (Japanese style) reading is mi.

See the etymologies here.

The Chinese simplified equivalent is shí 实; the traditional form is 實.

Check out the definitions here: "real; true; honest; solid"   I think the guy is wearing this tattoo to indicate his dedication to "truth" and "reality".

[h.t. Ben Zimmer, Lane Greene; thanks to Fangyi Cheng]

Patriarchal homestead

Sep. 18th, 2017 01:43 pm
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Victor Mair

A tweet by Alex Gabuev:

The first translation on the panel (Northern Landscapes) seems all right, but both the Chinese and the English of the second are laughably off the mark.

The word “патриаршее” means “something that belongs to the Patriarch (of the Russian Orthodox Church)”. The original meaning of “подворье” is “inn”, “guest house”.  However, in this context it means “residence” (the temporary residence) rather than a “farmstead”.  Together, the phrase “патриаршее подворье” may be rendered as “Patriarch’s residence”.

For the Chinese, "zhòngnán qīngnǚ de nóngzhuāng 重男轻女的农庄" is a direct translation of the English, but taking the wrong meaning ("androcentric") of the mistranslated English word "patriarchal".  A better translation of “патриаршее” (from Greek Πατριάρχης) would be zōng zhǔjiào 宗主教 (Patriarch).

[h.t. Don Clarke; thanks to Nikita Kuzmin]

note that sting!

Sep. 18th, 2017 04:20 pm
manuleanders: (Default)
[personal profile] manuleanders posting in [community profile] common_nature
I met this one on a walk the other day.

caterpillar

(no subject)

Sep. 18th, 2017 07:45 am
copperbadge: (radiofreemondaaay)
[personal profile] copperbadge
Good morning everyone, and welcome to Radio Free Monday!

Before we start, a quick note because I've had a handful of issues with this lately -- if you want to bring a cause to my attention the best way to go about it is to fill out the Radio Free Monday form (also linked from the sidebar of my tumblr page). It's not just that I might not see a post tagged to me or that it saves me a ton of time, but also that it makes sure I get the information I need to describe the situation, link the appropriate pages, and name and gender people correctly.

The form doesn't ask many questions, doesn't pull any metadata (literally it doesn't even record the date you entered the information), and is as anonymous as you want it to be -- there are options for complete or partial anonymity for the person submitting the item.

Ways To Give:

[tumblr.com profile] prismatic-bell linked to a fundraiser for Congregation Beth Yeshurun and their attached day school, which were flooded by Hurricane Harvey, which hit two Jewish neighborhoods in Houston especially hard. The families are currently attending Temple Brith Israel, and the children from the day school have had to scatter among several schools temporarily. You can read more about the damage here, reblog here, give directly to the rebuilding fund, or purchase toys and learning materials or replacement books for the school directly through Amazon.

[tumblr.com profile] reesa-chan is preparing for surgery and gathering supplies to make recovery go as smoothly as possible, but they're coming up short on a few things and surgery is looming. They have a Amazon Wishlist available here and have their paypal giving page here.

Anon linked to a fundraiser for [tumblr.com profile] poplitealqueen, who is trying to help her mother get some experimental medical treatment which might allow her mobility without the use of a wheelchair. You can read more and reblog here (including links at the top to Patreon and Ko-fi) or give directly to their Ko-Fi here.

[tumblr.com profile] quinfirefrorefiddle linked to a fundraiser for [tumblr.com profile] niines9s, who is trying to escape an abusive home and needs funding for housing after graduation. They are offering commissions and also taking donations; you can read more, reblog, and find paypal information at their post.

Anon linked to news about a Christian group, Faithfully LGBT, who are fundraising to aid transgender people with gender-confirming surgeries as a way of atoning for religious discrimination against transgender people. You can read and reblog the story here or give directly to the Tithe Campaign 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.

News To Know:

Anon linked to a post called Saving Your Grades From A Mental Health Crisis, which is about what to do if you're in college and dealing with mental illness.

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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September 18th, 2017next

September 18th, 2017: LOOK WHAT ME AND MY NEW FRIENDS MADE, I GOT SLOPPY DRUNK FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE EXCLUSIVELY FOR THIS:

– Ryan

The Fourth TetZooCon

Sep. 18th, 2017 10:40 am
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Posted by Darren Naish

It’s time once again for a unique conference experience, and it happens in London on October 21…

-- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

09/15/17 PHD comic: 'Inner Gollum'

Sep. 17th, 2017 12:25 pm
[syndicated profile] phd_comics_feed
Piled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham
www.phdcomics.com
Click on the title below to read the comic
title: "Inner Gollum" - originally published 9/15/2017

For the latest news in PHD Comics, CLICK HERE!

copperbadge: (Default)
[personal profile] copperbadge
Wow, you guys, the me of 2014 was such a good bro, he bought an extra three years of premium-level warranty coverage on his laptop.

I wasn’t even looking for whether I was still covered by warranty, I just assumed I wasn’t, but I went to Dell’s website to get the model number of my laptop so I could look up how to open it up properly and fix the terrible groaning noise my fan is making. And Dell was like hey, here’s your model number, also your warranty is good through June of 2018. 

I’m still gonna try to open it up and fix the fan myself, but if I can’t, I can send it in and get the fan fixed AND get a repair on the housing that’s starting to crack. 

Good job, 2014 Sam. You had no idea the crazy shit that was ahead of you but by god you knew you’d need three years of warranty. You and me, buddy, we’re fucking killing it in the adulting department lately. 

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Bichetr

Sep. 16th, 2017 02:46 pm
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Posted by Victor Mair

Receipt for yesterday's lunch:

The Ethiopian server asked for my name.

"Victor," I said.

"What?" she asked.

"Vic-tor," I enunciated as clearly as possible.

I paid for my order, then stood by the side to wait for my name to be called.

After about four minutes, she called out, "Bichetr!"

I claimed my burger, amidst the smiles of the other customers and the people working behind the counter.

Cf.:

[Thanks to Gypsy Gal]

What were they thinking?

Sep. 16th, 2017 01:18 pm
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Mark Liberman

Alex Baumans writes:

Perhaps no news to you, but I just discovered that the new Range Rover model is called the Velar. I wonder if the Uvular will be next.

To be followed by the Range Rover Pharyngeal and the Range Rover Glottal. (Or maybe a hybrid version called the Range Rover Labiovelar?)

And Jeep could fight back with the Jeep Ergative and the Jeep Grand Optative…

 

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Posted by Victor Mair

In "Impromptu biscriptalism on a Starbucks cup" (9/8/17), we encountered a Starbucks cup from Shenyang, northeast China that had the following handwritten notation on the side:  wài's 外's ("foreigner's").  I referred to the "'s" as impromptu because I thought that it was essentially a one-off phenomenon.  Nonetheless, I considered the "'s" to be linguistically significant in two major ways:  1. evidence of biscriptalism; 2. incorporation of an English morpheme in Chinese.

It turns out that that this use of "'s" on a Starbucks cup in the far northeast of China was by no means a unique or rare occurrence.  One of the commenters, Nicki, wrote in:

My coffee usually comes labeled like that, although I order in Chinese and do have a Chinese name, they never ask. They do ask my Chinese (or Chinese looking) companions for their names, and I have a few photos of our cups sitting together, labeled 王's and 欧's and 外's.*

Yes, all three with the apostrophe s, from a Starbucks in Haikou, Hainan. As I recall, I ordered last.

[*VHM:  "Wang's", "Ou's", and "foreigner's".]

Nicki mentioned that she had posted a photo that documents what she wrote in the first paragraph of her comment.  With the help of others who are more familiar than I with the ways of Facebook, I tracked the photo down.  Here it is:

Can you guess which one is mine? #Starbucks #laowai #foreigner

Posted by Erik-Nicki Johnson on Saturday, August 2, 2014

So here, from Haikou in the far southeast of China, which is roughly 1,500 miles to the southeast from Shenyang, we have not one Starbuck's cup using the "'s" suffix, but using it with Chinese surnames as well as with the Chinese word for "foreigner".  All the more, this shows how widespread and natural this usage is.

[Thanks to TK Mair, Yixue Yang, Jinyi Cai, and Frédéric Grosshans]

erinptah: (daily show)
[personal profile] erinptah
"A self-described "email prankster" in the UK fooled a number of White House officials into thinking he was other officials, including an episode where he convinced the White House official tasked with cyber security that he was Jared Kushner and received that official's private email address unsolicited."

"Among [McMaster's] biggest challenges was holding the attention of the president. [...] Trump had little time for in-depth briefings on Afghanistan’s history, its complicated politics or its seemingly endless civil war. Even a single page of bullet points on the country seemed to tax the president’s attention span on the subject, said senior White House officials."

From August: "Residents told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that at least 100 civilians had been killed [by US-led airstrikes on Raqqa] since Sunday, with 55 civilians killed in the eastern neighbourhoods of Bedou and al-Sukhani on Monday."

"And my eleven-year-old asked me what that sticker meant, and what did it have to do with Trump, and weren’t we not supposed to use words like that."

Meanwhile, when people were lining up for a Hillary Clinton book signing (starting the night before), she sent her staff to deliver them pizzas. Imagine having someone like that in the Oval Office. Imagine.
copperbadge: (Default)
[personal profile] copperbadge
Me: R’s in town this weekend so we may meet up.

Mum: Send me a picture of you and R when you’re hanging out!

Me: Not sure when it’ll be yet but I’ll do my best. It’s a little uncertain right now.

Mum: If it were certain, I’d be worried it wasn’t really R.

She knows us both so well. 

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Posted by Ben Zimmer

This head-scratcher of a headline from the Belfast Telegraph was brought to our attention by Mike Pope: "Ed Murray: Sex abuse claim US mayor's time in Northern Ireland 'should be probed'".

Ed Murray, the article explains, recently resigned as the mayor of Seattle under a cloud of allegations of sexual abuse. Amnesty International has asked for a police investigation into Murray's time in Northern Ireland (he worked on a peace project in Belfast in the '70s) to see if there are any further allegations.

The headline is remarkably opaque, especially for those not familiar with the details of the Murray case. First, "Ed Murray" followed by a colon might suggest that Murray is the source of the information in the headline rather than the topic of it. Then we get the noun pile "Sex abuse claim US mayor", which is supposed to be understood as "US mayor tied to sex abuse claim". As if that wasn't bad enough, the noun pile is then put in a possessive construction with the 's clitic, upping the opacity even more.

The noun pile here surely rivals some of the other specimens we've examined from the British and Irish news media. It also continues the running theme of baffling "sex" headlines, such as "Corpse sex kill threat prisoner gets 45 year sentence", "China Ferrari sex orgy death crash", and "Blindfold sex knife attack ex-wife jailed for murder attempt".

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September 15th, 2017next

September 15th, 2017: Thanks to everyone you came out to Carleton Wednesday night! I had a great time and I was COMPLETELY SURPRISED by the cookies they had for all of us. Here's hoping that all future events have free cookies with my characters on them forever. Yes please!

– Ryan

sketchdump.

Sep. 14th, 2017 10:42 pm
syntheid: a person perched on a windowsill with tea (wren(ish))
[personal profile] syntheid

ruffled blue heron sitting on a rope in ballpoint pen and tombow markers

a mouse sitting in a flowerpot with sorrel

doodle of Tykket

ballpoint pen value study of a japanese iris

wip shot of an attempted fanart of atomic blonde

portrait of a person laying on their side merging into fungi



In... order of posting, either L to R or Top to Bottom or something depending on where you're viewing this, but. (Click on them for full size.)

1. Just some random blue heron from a ref on pixabay. Turned out surprisingly well for a sketch that took about an hour, using markers I have no idea how to use with a very limited color selection.
2. My mouse on Mouse Guard is named Sorrel, and a friend of mine was talking about planting sorrel, the plant, in pots, and it just made me think of "potted Sorrel" so. I keep trying to color this and failing.
3. My Asuran mesmer on Guild Wars 2, Tykket. Someday I'll try to tackle the armor but I was just trying to work out how to customize her hair a bit to make her less generic.
4. An iris I decided to try to make a value study of using... ballpoint pen. It took me basically a full day, it was kind of ridiculous, and I regretted the decision one petal in, but it did turn out pretty neat.
5. WIP of fanart of Atomic Blonde that I'm failing to figure out how to actually color. I wanted to watercolor it, but I really am not good enough at watercolor yet and also still couldn't figure out how I actually wanted to color it, so I'm trying digital. Someday I'll finish it?
6. Left-handed drawing in ballpoint and colored pencil. Started out just as a doodle of fungi, then I got lazy about finishing the trunk and put a face on it instead.

I kind of hilariously got a couple more paints so I could have a better range of colors for watercolor and then... haven't managed to do anything.

(ETA: ughhh browser incompatibilities rendering flexbox, I'll try to fix the wrapping again tomorrow, sorry for the overflow.)
(ETA2: fixed, I think, hopefully isn't overflowing on anybody's system now... unless you're still on IE11, then I'm sorry)

A Bite of Russia

Sep. 15th, 2017 03:25 am
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Posted by Victor Mair

From Nikita Kuzmin:

Nikita writes:

This evening I found the above photo in my cellphone image gallery, which you may find rather interesting. I took this picture in August during my summer visit to Sergiyev Posad, a small town in the Moscow Region. It is considered as the spiritual center of the Russian Orthodox Church, because the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius – one of the most influential monasteries in Russia, is situated there.

Just in front of the monastery, there is a Russian-cuisine restaurant, with a puzzling inscription in English, Russian, and Chinese. First, the inscriptions in three languages do not completely correspond with each other. Actually, only the Russian – Русский дворик (Russian courtyard) stands for the restaurant’s name.  Secondly, I am sure that the Chinese Phrase “体验舌尖上的俄罗斯”* originates from a famous Chinese TV program 舌尖上的中国**, which is devoted to different Chinese dishes and cuisines. Last, but not the least, the final phrase, “A bite of Russia”, reminds me of the English name of the program “A bite of China”. I was amazed how the owners of the restaurant transformed the original name of the Chinese TV program into an advertisement for their own establishment.

———

[VHM: *tǐyàn shéjiān shàng de Èluósī 体验舌尖上的俄罗斯 ("experience Russia on the tip of your tongue"); **shéjiān shàng de Zhōngguó 舌尖上的中国 ("China on the tip of your tongue") — incidentally, shéjiān 舌尖 is the Chinese equivalent of "apical"]

Next time I go to Moscow, I will definitely want to make a day trip to Sergiyev Posad to experience the cuisine at Русский дворик (Russian courtyard).

Chicken paws and King Kong

Sep. 15th, 2017 02:54 am
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Posted by Victor Mair

A friend of Rebecca Hamilton saw this at a local market in Dundee Scotland:

On the right side of the package it says:

dà dòng jījiǎo 大冻鸡脚

The last two characters mean "chicken feet", but these are more commonly referred to as jīzhuǎ 鸡爪 ("chicken claws").

The first two characters literally mean "big freeze".  Several correspondents to whom I showed this were not sure what that signified:

1.

dà dòng jījiǎo 大冻鸡脚 indeed sounds strange, but I think dà 大 ("big") probably means the size of the chicken feet, as in dà 大 ("big, medium, small"), zhōng 中 ("medium"), xiǎo 小 ("small").

2.

This sounds and looks very odd. I guess it refers to the big size of the frozen chicken feet? Maybe it should be interpreted as dòng dà jījiǎo 冻 大鸡脚 ("frozen big chicken feet").

On the left side of the package it says jīngāng 金刚 (Cant. gam1gong1; Hakka kîm-kông; Minnan kim-kong; Jap. 金剛), which can mean:  "diamond; warrior attendant in Buddhism; vajra (Tib. dorje [thunderbolt]); King Kong", etc.

Here's the real origin of the name (for more, see Ben Zimmer's 2006 post, "Nias, Komodo, and 'Kong'"):

Merian C. Cooper was very fond of strong hard sounding words that started with the letter "K". Some of his favorite words were KomodoKodiak and Kodak. When Cooper was envisioning his giant terror gorilla idea, he wanted to capture a real gorilla from the Congo and have it fight a real Komodo dragon on Komodo Island. (This scenario would eventually evolve into Kong's battle with the tyrannosaur on Skull Island when the film was produced a few years later at RKO.) Cooper's friend Douglas Burden's trip to the island of Komodo and his encounter with the Komodo dragons there was a big influence on the Kong story. Cooper was fascinated by Burden's adventures as chronicled in his book Dragon Lizards of Komodo where he referred to the animal as the "King of Komodo". It was this phrase along with Komodo and C(K)ongo (and his overall love for hard sounding K words) that gave him the idea to name the giant ape Kong. He loved the name as it had a "mystery sound" to it.

When Cooper got to RKO and wrote the first draft of the story, it was simply referred to as The Beast. RKO executives were unimpressed with the bland title. David O. Selznick suggested Jungle Beast as the film's new title, but Cooper was unimpressed and wanted to name the film after the main character. He stated he liked the "mystery word" aspect of Kong's name and that the film should carry "the name of the leading mysterious, romantic, savage creature of the story" such as with Dracula and Frankenstein. RKO sent a memo to Cooper suggesting the titles Kong: King of BeastsKong: The Jungle King, and Kong: The Jungle Beast, which combined his and Selznick's proposed titles. As time went on, Cooper would eventually name the story simply Kong while Ruth Rose was writing the final version of the screenplay. Because David O. Selznick thought that audiences would think that the film, with the one word title of Kong, would be mistaken as a docudrama like Grass and Chang, which were one-word titled films that Cooper had earlier produced, he added the "King" to Kong's name to differentiate.

Kong-size chicken feet!

Yuletide nominations and stuff

Sep. 14th, 2017 08:54 pm
naraht: (other-Yuletide squee)
[personal profile] naraht
How can the Yuletide season be starting already? Usually I'm on top of these things but this year I was caught without even a potential nominations list.

So, in a fit of absence of mind, I have nominated:

Return to Night - Mary Renault
Hilary Mansell
Julian Fleming
Lisa Clare
Elaine Fleming

Figure Skating RPF
Evgeni Plushenko
Stéphane Lambiel
Johnny Weir
Evan Lysacek [not so attached to him, does anyone have someone they'd like me to nominate instead?]

Cycling Commentator RPF
David Millar
Ned Boulting
Carlton Kirby
Sean Kelly [ditto... does anyone want Gary Imlach or Matt Stephens or Brian Smith?]

I'll be in North Wales for work tomorrow (!) and staying into Saturday for a mini-break, so I thought it was best to get things tided away now, lest I forget.

Confronting abuses of power

Sep. 14th, 2017 04:38 am
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Posted by Eric Baković

[This post was written with input from Emily M. Bender, Claire Bowern, Andrew Garrett, Monica Macaulay, David Pesetsky, Leslie Saxon, Karen Shelby, Kristen Syrett, and Natasha Warner.]

Many linguists, and probably also many regular Language Log readers, will have by now heard about the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint recently filed by a set of faculty members currently or formerly associated with the University of Rochester’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. The complaint alleges a long-term pattern of sexual harassment and other abuses of power by another member of the BCS faculty, the mishandling of investigations into this pattern of abuse by the BCS and UR administrations, and evidence of retaliation against the complainants. Some key links, for those who haven’t yet seen them:

[Update, 9/18/2017: here are some more reports.

… plus lots of reporting from the University of Rochester Campus Times, just two links to which Mark Liberman provided in a comment below. (end update)]

While we process the horror and come to terms with the publicity of this particular case, linguists everywhere are also mobilizing both to discuss and to do more to address the widespread problem of academic abuses of power, and sexual harassment in particular. We do not pretend to think that academia is somehow unique in any particular regard, but a key point that is emerging in these discussions is the recognition that its promotion procedures and incentives, its models of supervisory relationships, and its institutional structures may unfortunately serve to play mutually-reinforcing roles in attracting, fostering, and protecting abusers of power. We need to recognize that the whole field suffers when such abuse goes unchecked. Actions taken by those who would protect abusers distort the learning and research environment for victims, their allies, and our entire community.

Among the very first and most productive public discussions was this one initiated by Lauren Hall-Lew on her blog (9/9/2017). We know many department chairs have already addressed all members of their departments to express their strong commitment to working against sexual harassment and other abuses of power, and we think that this is an important discussion to begin in every department. A group of Linguistic Society of America members has been brought together by Claire Bowern to help draft an open letter to the LSA calling for attention and action from the Society, given the failures of our institutions (9/12/2017, with over 700 signatures as of this writing). The LSA, in turn, has responded to calls from both the Committee on the Status of Women in Linguistics and the Executive Committee and has announced a special workshop on “Sexism, Harassment, and Title IX Rights” for the 2018 Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City in January (9/12/2017).

And, of course, there are countless other discussions, some private, some more open, happening everywhere. Personal stories are being shared, from heartbreaking to horrific, and expressions of support for victims of abuse are everywhere. There is now a grassroots movement to foster an environment where linguists can have open discussions of this sort, sharing anonymously (or not) these kinds of stories so that the message gets out to our colleagues and junior members of the field that the problem affects more than just young women, and that there are options for responding.

All of this in just a few days. Linguists are good people. We can and will do better.

09/13/17 PHD comic: 'Impostor Attack'

Sep. 13th, 2017 07:41 pm
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Piled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham
www.phdcomics.com
Click on the title below to read the comic
title: "Impostor Attack" - originally published 9/13/2017

For the latest news in PHD Comics, CLICK HERE!

Red intestines

Sep. 13th, 2017 08:11 pm
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Victor Mair

Tweet from Igor Denisov:

красная площадь ("Red Square")

Red Square

hóng cháng 红肠 ("intestines") — should be Hóng chǎng 红场 ("Red Square")

Red to the core!

[h.t. Jichang Lulu]

Learn from President Learn

Sep. 13th, 2017 02:01 pm
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Posted by Victor Mair

By itself, the phrase "xuéxí lù shàng 学习路上" means "on the path / way / road" of learning.  However, when you see it in large characters at the top of a lavish website devoted to the life and works of President Xi Jinping, you cannot help but think that it also punningly conveys another meaning.

Another way to parse the four characters is "xué Xí lù shàng 学习路上" ("On the way / path / road of learning from Xi").

Never mind that punning has been outlawed in China (some relevant posts and articles as of the end of 2014):

I doubt that the Chinese communist government will ever be able to outlaw the ubiquitous injunction to "hǎohǎo xuéxí tiāntiān xiàngshàng 好好学习 天天向上" ("Study hard and make progress every day"), which has been enshrined in this immortal Chinglish translation:

The concept of xuéxí 学习 "learn; study" is sanctified for both Confucians and Chinese Communists by virtue of its derivation from verse 1 of chapter 1 of the hallowed Analects (here in the Victorian translation of James Legge):

Zǐ yuē:`Xué ér shí xí zhī, bù yì yuè hū? Yǒu péng zì yuǎnfāng lái, bù yì lè hū? Rén bù zhī ér bù yùn, bù yì jūnzǐ hū?'

子曰:「學而時習之,不亦說乎?有朋自遠方來,不亦樂乎?人不知而不慍,不亦君子乎?」

The Master said, "Is it not pleasant to learn with a constant perseverance and application? Is it not delightful to have friends coming from distant quarters? Is he not a man of complete virtue*, who feels no discomposure though men may take no note of him?"

[*VHM: "jūnzǐ 君子" is often translated into English as "superior man; gentleman; person of noble character; man of honor"]

It's in the was

Sep. 13th, 2017 08:04 am
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum

The marvellous New Zealand-born opera soprano Kiri Te Kanawa announced that she has now retired from performance. Talking to the BBC about it this morning, she said of her voice: "It's in the was."

It's not a foreignism (she's a native speaker of English, not Maori). It was an on-the-fly playful way to say "It's something that should henceforth be referred to using the preterite tense." She followed "It's in the was" by "It's in the past" to gloss it. But it was a cute turn of phrase. I can almost imagine it catching on.

Not-exactly-fmk: Gor and Yuletide

Sep. 12th, 2017 07:05 pm
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
[personal profile] melannen
So in FMK reading adventures, I finally finished the first Gor book, that was voted K early on but I decided I wanted to read before dumping just so I could say I had.

I should have trusted y'all: it was mostly just incredibly pointlessly bland, occasionally rising to actively annoying. It wasn't even really bad enough to be interestingly bad. There was a lot more flying around on giant soulbonded warbirds than I expected, tbh (somehow I had though that Tarnsman meant "man of the mountain lake country" but I think that was giving him too much credit for having a vocabulary,) but the warbirds are so badly wordbuilt and lacking in individual personality and the flying scenes so lacking in joy that the only time I actually cared about them was when the abused half-starved ones were about to eat the MC and I roused enough to cheer them on. The plot is built on bad characterization and improbable coincidences; the language aspires to basic competence; you can very easy disassemble it into its component stereotypes; and all sense-of-wonder or hints that the MC is not a sociopath are missing. Also amused that the author refuses to comment on whether it's John Carter of Mars fanfic (it's really badly done John Carter of Mars fanfic, omg.) I understand the series gets far more batshit later, but I don't think I need to read far enough to find out.

Also, thank you all for your help with picking a yuletide nomination! I shall be ignoring the clear preference of the poll, and nominating Mr. Trash Wheel RPF. He didn't win, but he did win the vote of everybody I know who has taken a selfie with him, and their votes count 10x, sorry.

(this is Mr. Trash Wheel: )

I will also be nominating Professor Trash Wheel and a five foot long West African Ball Python as characters, of course. I am stuck on who should be my fourth nom, though. A modular robotic eel that hunts for water pollution? Lynyrd Skymmer? Some other celebrity of the waters that I don't yet know about?


Clearly there's a market for Always Coming Home, though. Someone else should nominate it. (If I requested it, it'd just be as "tell me a story of the Valley", so I don't care about characters.)


Meanwhile, I re-read The Girl With The Silver Eyes to prepare to nominate. That one does hold up very well! Things I had forgotten about this book: the muumuu wearing old fat lady who lives alone with her cats and her books and gives no fucks and is #rolemodel. The fact that Katie can TALK TO CATS. The constant references to other YA fantasy/sf novels by the same imprint that she is reading. How much this book distrusts all adult men. How much this book also distrusts all non-readers. How yes they have psi powers and are super-smart, but they're also explicitly non-neurotypical in a way that read a lot more Autism Spectrum than any of the books about supposedly autistic kids that I was reading at the time, and that's more of an issue for them than the psi powers.

The book really needs an active fandom if only so we can have epic fanwars about whether they spoilers )

Anyway I am stuck for character noms there too, because I want all the kid characters but I also want Mr. C, Mrs. M, Miss K and Jackson Jones.

FMK #23: Long Book Is Long

Sep. 12th, 2017 01:51 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 F winner, after a very close race, was a tie between Beguilement and Daughter of Witches! I picked Beguilement because I know I'm keeping the rest of Lyra regardless, so Beguilement is more likely to lead to me dumping several books at once. K winner was The Death of Sleep, so goodbye Lunzie!

The comics bonus round winner was Asterix le Galois. Of course the bonus round I threw in because "comics are fast and easy!" gets won by one where I'm going to have to review a whole other language first... There was no K majority for the comics round, although I'm curious about the fact that Maison Ikkoku nearly got it, because I had not idea there was active dislike for Maison Ikkoku out there.

I am going to spend two days of next week trapped in a car with a couple of cats and almost no luggage space, so it's time to finally roll out the LONG BOOKS ARE LONG poll. That way I can only pack one and be reading it all week. :P

I don't know if I'll have internet next Tuesday but likely not (we are helping sister move) so there may be another break in fmk next week.

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: Adams, Asaro, Clarke, Coville, Delany, Hobb, Hunt, Jemisin, Lynch, Melville, Michalson, Pynchon, Stephenson, Williams, Williamson )

M & W WC

Sep. 12th, 2017 05:50 pm
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Victor Mair

Zeyao Wu took these two pictures in Guangzhou. She found these signs in a small market which sells vegetables and fruits.


This question is for those readers who are not familiar with Chinese characters:

Which would you trust more, the male and female figures or the English words?

Here's what the Chinese says:

#1 nǚ xǐshǒujiān 女洗手间 ("women's toilet")

#2 nán xǐshǒujiān 男洗手间 ("men's toilet")

Are my English translations correct?  It would probably be more common to say "women's room" and "men's room".  Is there any better way?

Of course, the usual way would be just to write "Women" and "Men" or "W" and "M", or to use some other clever designations such as those depicted herehere, and here.

[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Mark Liberman

A tip from Twitter:

The headline: "Man who urinated on woman at Drake concert before drink-drive killer girlfriend started brawl over avoids jail", The Mirror 9/11/2017:

Ben Zimmer writes:

Even after reading the article I'm not sure how this headline is supposed to work. What's the complement of "over" supposed to be?

Maybe the killer girlfriend started the brawl over, i.e. started it again after it had ended. It's true that the article doesn't really support this idea, but whatever.

Update — David Beaver figures it out:

My best pre-reading-the-article parse of “drink-drive killer girlfriend started brawl over”  was that it meant “the drink drive killer that the killer’s girlfriend started a brawl over”. I was proud of that parse. But I was in fact wrong. I suffer from the same problem as Ben here, namely that I speak English.

So here’s the apparent intention: There was a man who urinated on a woman at a concert by Drake, and later, the man's drink-drive-killer girlfriend started a brawl over him, but she avoided jail.

A resumptive pronoun is a pronoun that occurs where you might expect a gap. So this example illustrates (among other things) a resumptive gap, the inverse of a resumptive pronoun. The gap is sitting in what is supposed to be an extraction island in a subordinate clause, which is itself in some sort of attempted unbalanced subordination relation with a previous gapped clause. If we pop enough acid we should be able to parse it eventually.

And Geoff Nunberg commented:

“Resumptive gap”! PhDs have been awarded for less.

More twitter commentary here.

Toe-ly gumby a sound change

Sep. 12th, 2017 11:47 am
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Mark Liberman

On Sunday 9/10/2017, Steve Bannon was interviewed on 60 Minutes. Looking at the interview from the perspective of a phonetician, I was struck by pervasive evidence of a little-studied sound change in progress. Word-internal intervocalic coronal consonants — /t/, /d/, /n/ — in weak positions (i.e. not followed by a stressed vowel) are deleted, and the surrounding vowels are merged. This process is increasingly common in American English, and is frequently exemplified in Steve Bannon's speech, at least in this sample.

Let's look at a few examples. Early in the interview, Charlie Rose says "You are attacking on many fronts people who you need to help you, to get things done", and Bannon responds:

They- they're not gonna help you
unless they're put on notice they're gonna be held accountable

if they do not support the president of the United States.
Right now there's no accountability.

They have totally
they do not support the president's program, it's an open secret on capitol hill,
everybody in the city knows it.

I've put in bold nine words where this process might apply. Let's take them one at a time.

(1) In the first example, "gonna" (which I'll assume is a lexicalized reduction of "going to") is pronounced as [ˈɡʌ.nə] — the intervocalic /n/ is a short (25 msec.) ballistic tap, but it's clearly there, and the syllable coalescence doesn't happen:

they're not gonna help you

gonna help

(2) The second example goes the other way — coalescence applies, and the sequence "gonna be" becomes just two phonetic syllables, [ˈgʌ̃.bi]. The /n/ leaves a nasalized vowel as its residue, and the second syllable of "gonna" is gone, with maybe some additional shading of the vowel following the [g]:

put on notice they're gonna be held accountable

gonna be

(3-4) The third and fourth examples are more striking, because some additional reductions some into play, and the whole sequence "president of the United States" comes out as something like [ˌprɛz.juˌnɑʲˈsteʲts]. To get this, we need not only to merge the second and third syllables of "president" and of "united" and reduce to nothing their final consonants, but also to elide "of the". Presumably for Mr. Bannon, "president of the United States" has become a low-entropy fixed expression, subject to extreme reductions like those that turn "Worcester" into [ˈwʊ.stɚ]:

if they do not support the president of the United States

president of the United States

(5) In the fifth example, coalescence applies, and "totally" become [ˈtoʷ.li]:

They have totally

totally

(6) In the sixth example, "president's" becomes something like [ˈprɛ.zɪ̃z]. This exemplifies not only coalescence of the second and third syllables, but also simplification of the final consonant cluster, which is partly due to loss of the nasal murmur and partly to the loss of the /t/ closure. Both of these last phenomena are also widespread and almost obligatory — for example, Americans rarely pronounce the /t/ in final /sts/ clusters (as in "artists").

they do not support the president's program

president's

I'll leave you to check the remaining three cases — "capitol", "everybody", and "city" — but my evaluation is that none of them show coalescence, so that the final score is five out of nine.

There's obviously more to be said. Are coalescences of this kind the end point of gradient phonetic reductions, or instances of an essentially quantal or symbolic "phonological rule", or new pronunciations entered in the mental lexicon as a result of either phonetic or phonological changes? Or maybe all three? For more discussion (than you probably want to read), see my paper "Towards Progress in Theories of Language Sound Structure", in a forthcoming festschrift for John Goldsmith.

 

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[personal profile] copperbadge
You guys today I researched someone who is such a rank evil motherfucker that the person who was going to meet them to ask for money came over to my desk after seeing my research and was like “What a rank evil motherfucker.” 

And I was like I DIDN’T EVEN PUT THE WORST OF IT IN BECAUSE WE CAN’T PROVE THE WORST STUFF SINCE IT’S ALL TECHNICALLY SPECULATION BY LIBERAL WATCHDOG GROUPS BUT I KNOW THEY DID IT. They gave millions of dollars to climate-change denial (which I learned today is referred to as CLIMATE INACTIVISM) two weeks ago. 

But I am heartened that a) the fundraiser saw through my VERY CAREFULLY professionally neutral report to the truth of the matter and b) they called their boss and were like “I’m not taking this meeting” and THEIR BOSS read my report and said “Yeah this is a PR disaster waiting to happen, don’t take the meeting.”

And normally I’d be like “yes take their money, take it all, take them for everything you can wring from them” but what makes this one so unsettling is that their donations always come with creepy post-contract strings. If we take the money, we’re gonna pay for it down the line, so I’m just as glad we aren’t. 

Once in a while in my profession I come across someone who is such a force for destruction on an international scale that I genuinely hope they will die in some very public and ironic way. I yearn for the day I read of their demise.

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Weird thoughts

Sep. 11th, 2017 10:35 pm
aedh: a plushie triceratops (Default)
[personal profile] aedh
I was paging through my sketchbook and for some reason, it clicked in my head that this was a real sketchbook. Which, arguably, is sort of ridiculous. There's no qualifying condition for a sketchbook, and this is not even close to my first sketchbook, but it feels more real for some reason. I have a lot of bad art lying around.

The drawing in it is still questionable by the way, in case you were concerned, but there is a lot of it.

DolphinAttack

Sep. 11th, 2017 04:02 pm
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Mark Liberman

Guoming Zhang et al., "DolphinAttack: Inaudible Voice Commands", arXiv 8/31/2017:

In this work, we design a completely inaudible attack, DolphinAttack, that modulates voice commands on ultrasonic carriers (e.g., f > 20 kHz) to achieve inaudibility. By leveraging the nonlinearity of the microphone circuits, the modulated lowfrequency audio commands can be successfully demodulated, recovered, and more importantly interpreted by the speech recognition systems. We validate DolphinAttack on popular speech recognition systems, including Siri, Google Now, Samsung S Voice, Huawei HiVoice, Cortana and Alexa.

This suggests a more insidious version of the "Two tons of creamed corn" ploy:

Rather than the creamed-corn scenario, Zhang et al. suggest (and test) the following possible "sneaky attacks":

(1) Visiting a malicious website. The device can open a malicious website, which can launch a drive-by-download attack or exploit a device with 0-day vulnerabilities.
(2) Spying. An adversary can make the victim device initiate outgoing video/phone calls, therefore getting access to the image/sound of device surroundings.
(3) Injecting fake information. An adversary may instruct the victim device to send fake text messages and emails, to publish fake online posts, to add fake events to a calendar, etc.
(4) Denial of service. An adversary may inject commands to turn on the airplane mode, disconnecting all wireless communications.
(5) Concealing attacks. The screen display and voice feedback may expose the attacks. The adversary may decrease the odds by dimming the screen and lowering the volume.

In all of Zhang et al.'s experiments, the maximum effective distance at which various attacks were effective ranged from 2 to 175 cm, and it's not clear that versions of this technique can be made to work under inverse-square attentuation at greater distances, given the presumably low efficiency of the non-linear microphone effects that they're relying on to produce signals in the frequency range appropriate for speech. But still…

[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Mark Liberman

Following up on "Citation crimes and misdemeanors" (9/9/2017), Breffni O'Rourke sent in a link to Michel Paradis, "More belles infidèles — or why do so many bilingual studies speak with forked tongue?", Journal of Neurolinguistics 2006:

This note reports misquotations, misinterpretations, misrepresentations, inaccuracies and plain falsehoods found in the literature on the neuroscience of bilingualism. They are astounding in both number and kind. Authors cite papers that do not exist, or that exist but are absolutely irrelevant to, or even occasionally argue against, the point they are cited to support; or they attribute a statement to the wrong source, sometimes to a person who has vehemently and persistently argued against it. Obvious errors are quoted for years by numerous authors who have not read the original paper, until somebody blows the whistle — and even then, some persevere. As Darwin [Darwin, C. (1872). The origin of species. 6th edition. New York: A. L. Burt.] put it: ‘great is the power of steady misrepresentation’.

A footnote explains the French phrase in the title:

Les belles infidèles (literally, ‘the unfaithful pretty ones’) refers to a literary practice popular in 19th century France, whereby translators would ‘improve’ on the source text and thus not be very faithful to the original (Zuber, 1968). The simile is that often facts or statements are reported in a light that makes them look favorable to one’s hypotheses, sometimes calling for some inadvertent embellishment. Sometimes, of course, the facts reported are simply blatantly false, for no apparent reason but lack of rigor on the part of the writer.

And in case you're curious, as I was, about the source of the Darwin quote, it comes from the start of chapter XV "Recapitulation and Conclusion" in later editions of The Origin of Species, e.g. from the 1872 edition (emphasis added):

I have now recapitulated the facts and considerations which have thoroughly convinced me that species have been modified, during a long course of descent. This has been effected chiefly through the natural selection of numerous successive, slight, favourable variations; aided in an important manner by the inherited effects of the use and disuse of parts; and in an unimportant manner, that is, in relation to adaptive structures, whether past or present, by the direct action of external conditions, and by variations which seem to us in our ignorance to arise spontaneously. It appears that I formerly underrated the frequency and value of these latter forms of variation, as leading to permanent modifications of structure independently of natural selection. But as my conclusions have lately been much misrepresented, and it has been stated that I attribute the modification of species exclusively to natural selection, I may be permitted to remark that in the first edition of this work, and subsequently, I placed in a most conspicuous position–namely, at the close of the Introduction–the following words: "I am convinced that natural selection has been the main but not the exclusive means of modification." This has been of no avail. Great is the power of steady misrepresentation; but the history of science shows that fortunately this power does not long endure.

It often seems to me that Darwin might have underestimated the endurance of misrepresentation, and Paradis certainly  supports this doubt, with a barrage of shocking examples. You should read the whole thing — I won't recapitulate its content here. But  I will take issue with one quantitative point. Paradis writes:

Massina et al. (2000) may hold the world record for cockeyed citations. These authors manage, in one single paper, to cite two nonexistent articles and another three that are absolutely irrelevant to the issue in support of which they are cited. They also refer to two nonexistent journals and three fictitious authors.

I believe that the world record in question still belongs to Brizendine (2006). In "Open-access sex stereotypes", 9/10/2006, I found nine (of nine) irrelevant articles listed in just one of that work's hundreds of end-notes. And in several other posts, I found other end-notes to be similarly irrelevant or empty, leading me to wonder whether the author or editor had hired a research assistant who coped with the long list of unsupported (and often unsupportable) assertions by throwing in whatever references some scientific information-retrieval system turned up.

But Paradis deserves the last word:

The reader will notice that the title of this article ends not with a period, but with a question mark. It is therefore not a promise to give the reasons why. What follows is thus not an attempt to answer the query. Rather, it is a rhetorical question of the type ‘why on earth?’ and has the elocutionary force of an imprecation to the gods. Nor will there be any attempt on my part at double guessing the intentions of the authors concerned. What is reported speaks for itself. Readers are free to reach their own conclusions. The proposed message is that nothing should be read uncritically—including this article. This is not an exercise in pedantry. It is a serious exhortation to readers to read with a critical eye whatever is found in print, even by reliable authors in prestigious publications. It is also a denunciation of certain practices, such as citing something that someone else has cited, without checking the source. One may be surprised to find out that the author in whose article the citation is found had not checked it either, sometimes with very unfortunate consequences: misinterpretations, misrepresentations, inaccuracies and plain falsehoods. This is why it is important to refer to the original sources and beware of secondhand reports, as the few examples below will illustrate.

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