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"Jesus talk" and "human speech" in Hong Kong

Editorial by Geremie Barmé in China Heritage (10/6/20): "Hong Kong & 講耶穌 gong2 je4 sou1".  Here are the opening paragraphs of this installment of "Hong Kong Apostasy": The Cantonese expression 講耶穌 gong2 je4 sou1, literally ‘to give a sermon about Jesus’, or ‘to preach’, means to prattle, or to speak in a boring and vacuous fashion. When I worked for The Seventies Monthly in Hong Kong in the...

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The order of surnames and given names in East Asian languages

From Frank Chance: I have complained for years about the reversal of Japanese names in the Western – and Japanese – media. If China can dictate pinyin, as it essentially did in 1979, Japan can lead in the change to respect the original language. Here's an article that speaks to this issue: "Japan asked the international media to change how we write their names. No one listened", by James Griffiths, CNN Business...

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Finland's national radio broadcaster pulls the plug on the news in Latin

During the last few decades, I have served as the "opponent" in several Scandinavian doctoral defenses.  I wore a tuxedo, top hat, and silk socks, plus gleaming black shoes.  Much of the ritual was conducted in Latin, so I was quite aware of the high place accorded that ancient language in Scandinavian academia, especially in Finland, where all of my colleagues, no matter what their field, had received extensive training in...

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"Major political error"

What was it? Instead of writing "Xí Jìnpíng xīn shídài Zhōngguó tèsè shèhuì zhǔyì sīxiǎng 习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想" ("Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”), two Shaanxi Daily editors wrote "Xí Jìnpíng zǒng shūjì xīn shídài Zhōngguó tèsè shèhuì zhǔyì sīxiǎng 习近平总书记新时代中国特色社会主义思想...

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"Bigfeet"?

Dana Millbank, "Goodbye, Republican Party. Hello, Bigfoot Party.", WaPo 7/31/2018: By now, there are few in the political world who have not yeti heard about what’s going on in the 5th Congressional District of Virginia. The Republican candidate in the race, Denver Riggleman, was discovered to have posted images of “Bigfoot erotica” on Instagram, with the furry fellow’s ample nether regions obscured. The candidate is...

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FLAMEFLAMEFLAMEFLAMEFLAMEPLAMEFLAME

Absence-of-spoiler alert:  This post contains no further speculation about the Lanny (laurel-yanny) phenomenon, which should be entering its memetic death spiral about now, but may be of interest nonetheless. The Lanny clip is an ambiguous stimulus that affords two seemingly very different interpretations. Language is full of ambiguities at every level—sounds, words, phrases, sentences, texts—and figuring out how people manage to...