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August 2017

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Collops and Fíbíns.

Aug. 21st, 2017 12:16 am
[syndicated profile] languagehat_feed

Posted by languagehat

Manchán Magan writes about “the lost language of Ireland’s landscape”:

Do you understand the sentence: the banbh was hiding out in the clochán from the brothall? Or how about: I took the boreen over the bawn and down the congár through the cluain beyond the esker to fetch some dillisk on the cladach.

The language we use to describe landscape, farming and the natural world in Ireland is changing so fast that a person can be aged to within a few decades by their understanding of a single sentence. Your grandfather would likely know what biolar, caonach and bundún mean; while you probably understand bawn, kesh and crubeen, but your children mightn’t understand any of these. They mightn’t even know what a gandal is, or have ever been chased by a furiously hissing one.

The English spoken in Ireland (Hiberno-English) even 40 years ago was so speckled with residual Irish words that it can appear today like another tongue. Each of us holds fond memories of words our grandparents used that are now largely meaningless. Cróinín always held a particular fondness for me – it means the first run of small autumn salmon; and branar, which refers to a stretch of broken lea. Nowadays, even the English word “lea” is understand by few: in Britain it refers to meadow or arable land, while in Ireland it normally describes land that has been ploughed, or grubbed before seeding. As to what “grubbed” means, well, that’s a whole other story.

If you’re wondering, collop is “the old count for the carrying power of land” (“The grazing of one cow or two yearling heifers or six sheep or twelve goats or six geese and a gander was one collop”), and fíbín is “the running of cattle caused by the sting of a gadfly.” It’s a great read, and it quotes PW Joyce, the great-great-uncle of Trevor Joyce, who sent me the link — thanks, Trevor!

Posted by Mark Liberman

Here the source of the inversion corrects it within a few minutes:

For discussion see
"'Cannot underestimate' = 'must not underestimate'?", 11/6/2008
"Misunderestimation", 4/4/2009
"Underestimate, overestimate, whatever", 3/23/2011
"'…not understating the threat", 6/5/2012
"Overestimating, underestimating, whatever", 1/11/2013
"'Impossible to understate' again", 3/1/2014
"The Estimation Game", 4/3/2014

…and many more

Annie Dillard's Classic Essay: 'Total Eclipse'

Instead of starting this week's picks looking backward at the barfing horror show of a week that proceeded it, let us turn our attention to the heavens, to the cleaving of our nation by a shadow stripe which will wend its way from west to east, a direction opposite the sun's travel (therefore significant, symbolically), and in that unearthly darkness (the shadow of which, for a minute or three, reminds us of one necessary constant in our lives that we barely pay enough heed to, the mostly unhidden sun) may the sins of our forbearers be purified in the birth of a new sun, a post eclipse sun, a sun whose rays pierce madness and bring succor to pain and horror and fear. Let this moment our country is experiencing be but a symptom of misunderstood celestial psychology; for ask any emergency room worker and they will tell you that things are worse at a full moon. Surely, then, there is a possibility that the madness we are amidst, this unhinged and unbalanced carnage of irrationality could be tied to the heavens and the gravitational bodies swinging against each other, drawn by the magnetism of our dense inflamed nuclear center. Let it be so. Let us be free of this terror.

Apparently, eclipses inspire great awe. Don't take my word for it, listen to Annie Dillard:

I had seen a partial eclipse in 1970. A partial eclipse is very interesting. It bears almost no relation to a total eclipse. Seeing a partial eclipse bears the same relation to seeing a total eclipse as kissing a man does to marrying him, or as flying in an airplane does to falling out of an airplane. Although the one experience precedes the other, it in no way prepares you for it. During a partial eclipse the sky does not darken—not even when 94 percent of the sun is hidden. Nor does the sun, seen colorless through protective devices, seem terribly strange. We have all seen a sliver of light in the sky; we have all seen the crescent moon by day. However, during a partial eclipse the air does indeed get cold, precisely as if someone were standing between you and the fire. And blackbirds do fly back to their roosts. I had seen a partial eclipse before, and here was another.
The White Lies of Craft Culture

Lauren Michele Jackson argues that the explosion of white-owned "craft" businesses are built on privilege and appropriation. You will not be surprised to learn this is not a new phenomenon. As Jackson points out, Jack Daniels himself learned how to distill from an enslaved black man named Nathan "Nearest" Green. Jackson visits barbecue and coffee as well, bringing forth the black history so readily ignored.

Craft culture looks like white people. The founders, so many former lawyers or bankers or advertising execs, tend to be white, the front-facing staff in their custom denim aprons tend to be white, the clientele sipping $10 beers tends to be white. Craft culture tells mostly white stories for mostly white consumers, and they nearly always sound the same: It begins somewhere remote-sounding like the mountains of Cottonwood, Idaho, or someplace quirky like a basement in Fort Collins, Colorado, or a loft in Brooklyn, where a (white) artisan, who has a vision of back in the day, when the food was real and the labor that produced it neither alienated nor obscured — and discovers a long-forgotten technique, plucked from an ur-knowledge as old as thought and a truth as pure as the soul.
Here’s What Really Happened In Charlottesville

Can you believe it hasn't even been a fucking week since that shitshow? A moment so present and intense in cultural life, that it will be the point they talk about in history books. You could feel how palpable it was, the needless and horrible deaths, the nazi inciting to violence, the militias armed to the teeth and ready to defend...something.

But of all the reports I've read from the ground, Blake Montgomery's coverage for BuzzFeed News is the clearest and most well laid-out. It's a nice companion piece to the Vice Media video that has been so widely shared.

Yes, you can blame the Nazis.

The race-fueled chaos that wracked Charlottesville, Virginia, finally came to rest on Sunday night. And the hundreds of people who spent the weekend fighting in streets — and the millions who watched them — began what has become a new American ritual: arguing about what really happened, and what a spasm of localized political violence means.

Was this an assault by racist extremists on innocent, rightly outraged Americans? Was it a clash between “many sides,” as President Trump notoriously said? Was the scale of the white supremacist threat blown out of proportion? Was the violence of the black-hooded “antifa” understated?

The answers are clearer on the ground than they are in the filter bubbles driven by fierce partisan argument on social media and cable news. They are complicated but not ambiguous. Here are a few:

An Open Letter To Our Fellow Jews

Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman draw the stark line in the sand for Jews who either support, or think they have found common cause with our president. There is no middle ground here, now that he has unequivocally showed his truth. The time to oppose him is now.

So, now you know. First he went after immigrants, the poor, Muslims, trans people and people of color, and you did nothing. You contributed to his campaign, you voted for him. You accepted positions on his staff and his councils. You entered into negotiations, cut deals, made contracts with him and his government.

Now he’s coming after you. The question is: what are you going to do about it? If you don’t feel, or can’t show, any concern, pain or understanding for the persecution and demonization of others, at least show a little self-interest. At least show a little sechel. At the very least, show a little self-respect.

Posted by Victor Mair

Jonathan Benda posted this on Facebook recently:

Reading [Jan Blommaert's] _Language and Superdiversity_ in preparation for my Writing in Global Contexts course in the fall. Does anyone else think the following conclusions about this sign are somewhat wrongheaded?

Written with a calligraphic flair, the notice says:

gōngyù chūzū
shèbèi yīliú
shuǐdiàn quán bāo
měi yuè sānbǎi wǔshí yuán

公寓出租
設備一流
水电全包
每月三佰伍十元

apartment for rent
first-class furnishings
water and electricity included
450 Euros per month


Michael (Taffy) Cannings' response:

Wow, that's very thin evidence for a conclusion like that. The simplified diàn 電/电 is common in handwriting in Taiwan, and presumably among the diaspora too. Yuán 元 as a unit of currency is not unique to the PRC either, and the simplified form used here is really common in traditional characters (i.e., instead of 圓). Both handwriting simplifications predate the PRC character changes and indeed were probably the basis for those changes. The author may be right that the intended audience is made up of younger PRChinese, but that's simply an extrapolation of demographics rather than something implicit in the sign.

Mark Swofford provides an older example of this sort of confusion in this post:

"Mystery of old simplified Chinese characters?" (10/7/05)

I haven't lived in Taiwan continuously for a long period of time since 1970-72, but I still go back occasionally.  I can attest that almost no one except an obsessive compulsive like myself writes 臺灣 for Taiwan.  Nearly everybody writes 台灣 or 台湾.  It really doesn't matter, because the name does not mean "Terrace Bay" as the characters seem to indicate.  They are simply being used to transcribe the sounds of a non-Sinitic term, as I explained here:

"How to Forget Your Mother Tongue and Remember Your National Language"

The very name "Taiwan" is perhaps the best example to begin with. Superficially (according to the surface signification of the two characters with which the name is customarily written), "Taiwan" means "Terrace Bay." That sounds nice, even poetic, but it is an inauthentic etymology and has nothing whatsoever to do with the actual origins of the name. (This is a typical instance of the common fallacy of wàngwénshēngyì 望文生義, whereby the semantic qualities of Chinese characters interfere with the real meanings of the terms that they are being used to transcribe phonetically.) The true derivation of the name "Taiwan" is actually from the ethnonym of a tribe in the southwest part of the island in the area around Ping'an.4 As early as 1636, a Dutch missionary referred to this group as Taiouwang. From the name of the tribe, the Portuguese called the area around Ping'an as Tayowan, Taiyowan, Tyovon, Teijoan, Toyouan, and so forth. Indeed, already in his ship's log of 1622, the Dutchman Comelis Reijersen referred to the area as Teijoan and Taiyowan. Ming and later visitors to the island employed a plethora of sinographic transcriptions to refer to the area (superficially meaning "Terrace Nest Bay" [Taiwowan 臺窝灣], "Big Bay" [Dawan 大灣], "Terrace Officer" [Taiyuan 臺員], "Big Officer" [Dayuan 大員], "Big Circle" [Dayuan 大圓], "Ladder Nest Bay" [Tiwowan 梯窝灣], and so forth). Some of these transcriptions are clever, others are fantastic, but none of them should be taken seriously for their meanings.

As my Mom used to say when she couldn't get things through our thick skulls, "I can tell you till I'm blue in the face, but you just won't listen":  the sounds of Chinese words are more important than the characters used to write them, since the latter are comparatively adventitious and secondary, whereas the former are absolutely essential.

Posted by Jen

A friend once told me, "I love all your posts, but I have to admit, on Sundays you could really write anything. I'm just there for the gorgeous cakes."

Hey, works for me! So, let's see, all I need is to pull together a bunch of amazing cakes, like this:

(By BMT Cake Designs)

...and then fill up the page with whatever I want. It's a Sweets filibuster!

 

Does anybody have a copy of Green Eggs and Ham?
No? Ok, never mind. I'll improvise.

(By Jessicakes)

But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun. Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon, Who is already sick and pale with grief, That thou her maid art far more fair than she.

 

(By Mike's Amazing Cakes)

A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V ... and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

 

(By Mishelle Handy Cakes, pic by David Baxter Photography)

I read some 4 and 5 star reviews by those who used this device successfully to change a baby while driving. On that basis, I bought one. I put my baby on it and drove for over an hour. It did not change. Same baby. I am glad it worked for some people but I will be returning mine.

 

(By Cotton and Crumbs)

I have six locks on my door all in a row. When I go out, I lock every other one. I figure no matter how long somebody stands there picking the locks, they are always locking three.

 

(By Iced and Dazzle, pic by Erin Schaefgen Photography)

I hated her... SOOO... much, it - flame, flames? Flames, on the side of my face, breathing - breath, heaving breaths. Heaving breaths... Heathing...

 

(By Cakes Decor member Ria123)

Up up down down left right left right B A start.

 

(By Lovely Cakes)

"You are using Bonetti's defense against me, ah?"
"I thought it fitting, considering the rocky terrain."
"Naturally, you must expect me to attack with Capo Ferro."
"Naturally, but I find that Thibault cancels out Capo Ferro, don't you?"

 

(By Rosebud Cakes)

...and I believe you should put a woman on a pedestal.. high enough so you can look up her dress. And I believe in equality, equality for everyone.. no matter how stupid they are, or how much better I am than they are. And, people say I'm crazy for believing this, but I believe that robots are stealing my luggage.

 

(By Cakes By Beth)

A king cake is a type of cake associated in a number of countries with the festival of Epiphany at the end of the Christmas season, and in other places with the pre-Lenten celebrations of Mardi Gras / Carnival. The cake often has a small plastic baby (said to represent Baby Jesus) inside (or sometimes placed underneath), and the person who gets the piece of cake with the trinket has various privileges and obligations.

 

(By Party Flavors Custom Cakes, photo by Amanda McMahon Photography)

1. Take ice tray over to the sink and fill it with cold water.
2. Place the water-filled ice tray back in the freezer.
3. Shut the door to the freezer.

 

(By Neli Josefson)

During the rectification of the Vuldrini, the traveler came as a large and moving Torg! Then, during the third reconciliation of the last of the McKetrick supplicants, they chose a new form for him: that of a giant Slor! Many Shuvs and Zuuls knew what it was to be roasted in the depths of the Slor that day, I can tell you!

That's it! The filibuster's over.

Thank goodness these Sweets speak for themselves.

*****

Thank you for using our Amazon links to shop! USA, UK, Canada.

Posted by Mark Liberman

From P.D.:

Long time reader, first time caller, etc. etc. As an armchair linguistics fan and someone who gets his news primarily online rather than from cable news, I've been wondering how one ought to go about pronouncing the word "antifa." I'd like to discuss current events with friends without putting my foot in it, like the friend I once had who pronounced "archive" as though it were something you might chop up and put on a bagel with some cream cheese.

My impression is that Norma Loquendi in America seems mostly to have decided on [ˌæn'ti.fə] — first syllable "Ann", second syllable "tea", third syllable rhymes with "uh", with the main word stress on "tea", as in this 8/19/2017 ABC 20/20 segment:

But there's an alternative — so in this 8/19/2017 CNN story, Jake Tapper has something like ['æn.ti.fɐ], with intitial-syllable stress and more of a full vowel on the final syllable:

It's easy to see why people come out different ways on this one. The source word anti-fascist has primary stress on the third syllable and secondary stress on the first syllable. One approach would is to trim the pronunciation of anti-fascist to the portion corresponding to the spelling "antifa" — but this runs into the problem that  [æ] doesn't normally occur in English final open syllables. So the solution is to remove the stress from the third syllable, which shifts the main stress to the first syllable, and then either change the final vowel to one that can end a stressed syllable in English, or reduce it to schwa, or leave it in some kind of quasi-reduced limbo as Tapper does.

In the other direction, there's strong pressure to apply penultimate stress to vowel-final borrowed or constructed words in English, as in "Tiramisu" or "Samarra" or "NATO". So I'm predicting that  [æn'ti.fə]  is going to win in the end. But for now, at least, you can take your pick.

On a related note: is there a term of art for a mispronunciation borne of learning a word solely from written context, a sort of spoken eggcorn?

It's called a "spelling pronunciation".

Update — there's a third option, from later in the same ABC 20/20 segment, where Lacy Macauley, self-identified as an Antifa activist, uses the pronunciation [ˌɑn'ti.fə], with penultimate stress but a low back vowel in the first syllable — perhaps taken from a European version of the movement?:

 

Traveling: Visions

Aug. 20th, 2017 09:57 am
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Posted by Heather Rose Jones

Sunday, August 20, 2017 - 02:57

Just a quick note this time. Yesterday we did a little more wandering around Durham. Checked out the stalls in the Old Market Hall looking for gifts, but didn't see anything that really grabbed me. Went off to look at Sara & Joel's new house that they're gradually getting fixed up for moving in and had serious Old House Envy. (18th century beams! 0.5 meter thick back wall (now an interior wall of the house)! Cute postage-stamp back garden with sheds!) Had lunch and a pint in the pub right around the corner from the new (old) house.

Spent the afternoon resting up for the jaunt to York today, plus doing a bunch of exporting, formatting, and annotating of my files from the Great Welsh Name Database which I'm handing over to Sara for use in the DMNES project (Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources). This is, to some extent, an acknowledgement that I'm unlikely to do more work on the database in the near future. But I've always meant to ask if she wanted the data to use and this was a chance to talk about how the current files are structured and what some of the analytic data was trying to do.

Major category: 

Sunday Secrets

Aug. 19th, 2017 08:56 pm
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Posted by Frank

I love the mystery of this secret. It might be a cantankerous response to the previous postcard. The next mega-exhibition at the American Visionary Art Museum will be “The Great Mystery Show”. Several dozen mysterious PostSecrets will be included when it opens, however, this week is your last chance to see the current exhibit and secrets.  If you have never been to the AVAM it is so worth a road-trip.
-Frank

Classic Secrets

Aug. 19th, 2017 08:08 pm
[syndicated profile] post_secret_feed

Posted by Frank

  (back)     

Dear Frank-
My family and
I came across a picture that was hidden in my Great-Grandfathers wallet. He passed away 9 years ago. He was a solider in the Korean War and retired from the service after 20 years. The lady in the picture is not my Great- Grandmother to whom he was married to for 57 years. It has also come to light in the recent weeks, that he may have fathered a child while he was stationed in Fort Irwin.

My family and  I are not sure if the woman in the picture is of his supposed child. However, there is a cryptic message written on the back of the photo that none of us can out how to go about translating it. We are unaware what language it is written in. My best friend told me to seek your help in finding out what the message is. I really hope you can help us!

Posted by Mark Liberman

Patrick Radden Keefe, "Carl Icahn's Failed Raid on Washingon", The New Yorker 8/28/2017, mentions the title of Icahn's Princeton senior thesis:

In 1960, after studying philosophy at Princeton (where he wrote a thesis titled “The Problem of Formulating an Adequate Explication of the Empiricist Criterion of Meaning”) and a stint in medical school (he was a hypochondriac, which did not help his bedside manner), Icahn shifted to Wall Street.

But Keefe doesn't mention what is now my favorite correction of all time — 2/12/2006 in the New York Times:

An interview on June 5, 2005, with Carl Icahn misstated a word of the title of a thesis he wrote while he was an undergraduate at Princeton. As a reader informed The Times two weeks ago, it is "The Problem of Formulating an Adequate Explication of the Empiricist Criterion of Meaning," not "Imperious Criterion."

In fact "the imperious criterion of meaning" fits much better with Mr. Icahn's subsequent career, as well as evoking Humpty Dumpty's philosophy of language:

'I don't know what you mean by "glory",' Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. 'Of course you don't — till I tell you. I meant "there's a nice knock-down argument for you!"'

'But "glory" doesn't mean "a nice knock-down argument",' Alice objected.

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'

'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master — that's all.'

Alice was too much puzzled to say anything; so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. 'They've a temper, some of them — particularly verbs: they're the proudest — adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs — however, I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability! That's what I say!'

'Would you tell me please,' said Alice, 'what that means?'

'Now you talk like a reasonable child,' said Humpty Dumpty, looking very much pleased. 'I meant by "impenetrability" that we've had enough of that subject, and it would be just as well if you'd mention what you mean to do next, as I suppose you don't mean to stop here all the rest of your life.'

'That's a great deal to make one word mean,' Alice said in a thoughtful tone.

'When I make a word do a lot of work like that,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'I always pay it extra.'

'Oh!' said Alice. She was too much puzzled to make any other remark.

'Ah, you should see 'em come round me of a Saturday night,' Humpty Dumpty went on, wagging his head gravely from side to side, 'for to get their wages, you know.'

Pomyalovsky‘s Molotov.

Aug. 19th, 2017 07:25 pm
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Posted by languagehat

A couple of months ago I reported on Nikolai Pomyalovsky’s Мещанское счастье [Bourgeois happiness]; now I’m on the sequel, Молотов [Molotov]. Forewarned by my earlier experience, I decided to post about this one before it went off the rails; now, halfway through, the plot is about to kick in (a father is going to force his daughter to marry a man she doesn’t love and doesn’t want to marry), so I figure it’s time. Pomyalovsky is excellent in his unique way, but plot is not his forte.

What he’s very good at is observing Russians and their society from an unusual angle and writing about it and them convincingly and entertainingly (in this he resembles Pisemsky). The book begins with a description of a large Petersburg apartment building and its inhabitants: the most important and richest people on the middle floors facing the street, the somewhat less important ones on the middle floors facing the courtyard, the poor but honest on the top floor, and the poor and dishonest (with their connections to nearby Haymarket Square) below street level. In one of the better apartments lives the Dorogov family that is the focus of the novel (along with Molotov, of course). There is a long passage explaining in detail how this comfortable bourgeois family took a century to arrive at its current status, having started with a man making bad shoes and a woman making bad pies; his description of the constant striving to squirrel away every spare kopeck and keep the children profitably occupied until they can be married off reminded me strongly of the recent TV series “Victorian Slum House” (which I highly recommend). What is particularly remarkable here is that he neither condemns nor idealizes any of this; he presents this middle stratum of society (minor bureaucrats, lesser administrators, doctors, the occasional artist or writer) as being just as important and interesting as any other, if mostly limited in their views and ambitions. It’s very refreshing after reading so many stories about aristocrats and serfs; Russian culture in general has been hostile to the petty bourgeoisie.

After that, Pomyalovsky focuses in on Nadya, one of the Dorogov daughters (she was mentioned in the earlier novel as a childhood friend of Molotov’s). She spent years at a boarding school for young ladies that is portrayed with a horrified intimacy that suggests the author had a sister or good friend who had done time in such an institution. The hypocrisy and brutality make the reader ache in sympathy (wealthy girls are treated with kid gloves, of course, while the poor are punished by being put in straitjackets and having to spend prolonged periods of time on beds in the “infirmary”); Nadya rejects it all spiritually but has no desire to be treated like the openly rebellious girls, so she keeps her head down, does her tedious classwork, and waits. Here is a passage from this section (the Russian, available at the link above, begins “Не диво, что Надя встала в стороне от этой жизни”):

No wonder Nadya stood aside from this life and waited impatiently for the time when she could return to her family. When she complained to her parents, they told her “There’s nothing to be done, you have to be patient”; needless to say, such admonitions did nothing to reconcile her with the people around her. She endured, kept to herself, behaved circumspectly, watched her every step so that she would not (god forbid) somehow wind up in a straitjacket, and she never did, but malicious people sensed that she was afraid of them and did not like them. “Well,” you ask, “why didn’t she make friends?” But think about it: how could she make them? The closed-in life, removed from society, the lack of those interests common to all mankind — these things created artificial, false, institutional characters.

For instance, in this environment there flourished what is called adoration. This is not friendship, not caprice, not children’s games or imitation of older people — it is a false development of the growing need to love, a development inevitable in a closed institution, and from this misfortune there is no salvation even by henlike decorum and manuscripts softened by a woman’s hand. They adored teachers and visitors. It might happen that a girl would be attracted to a father, brother, or other relative who visited her friend, and she would lavish all her caresses and love on her friend if she resembled her guest even a little. And they adored girls with a manly face, tall girls with loud voices and courageous characters. The adoring girl would keep on her breast a ribbon belonging to the one she adored, would kiss books and notebooks she had touched, would take delight in kissing her, would drink the water remaining in a glass she had drunk from, would write love letters and arrange to meet her in corridor or bedroom. If the adored girl did not return her love, she would weep, pine, suffer visibly and grow thin. Sometimes a girl would have twenty such followers.

The strangest thing of all was that the schoolmistresses themselves, while maintaining a henlike morality, made it possible for their favorites, most of whom had lent them money or had influential relatives, to see and talk with their adored teachers. And in this period of adoration many of the girls, wanting to seem interesting — and some of them from some diseased organic disposition — would eat chalk and coal, drink vinegar and ink, suck on plaster, bricks, and slate pencils… In all this there was very little that was divine or unearthly and a great deal that was purely institutional, created by a life set almost completely apart from society.

All this has been familiar stuff since, say, the 1920s, but it must have been fairly shocking in 1861.

Probably the most original and interesting character is Molotov’s artist friend Cherevanin, who is dissatisfied with himself and life and whom Molotov tries to talk into getting away from his worthless, drunken companions and leading a more orderly existence. At one point Molotov says “In our day it’s shameful to drink,” which leads to a discussion I found striking enough to translate at length (the Russian starts with “Покажи-ко ты мне хоть одного отсталого человека”; the passage after the break “О ком же заботиться, для кого хлопотать?”); it begins with Cherevanin speaking:

“Show me even one backward person.”

“All the devotees of olden times are backward people,” answered the surprised Molotov.

“He’s poking into olden times! Listen, it’s our own age that created them — those olden times never existed, they’re new olden times… If our grandfathers came and looked at these olden times, they wouldn’t recognize them, they’d start to spit at them and wouldn’t have anything to do with them. It’s only in this age that you’ll find these olden times… What kind of olden times are they, anyway? They’re a novelty, a product of contemporary life, the latest hour, the present moment… And it turns out to be another empty word, of which there are so many in the world, a dialectical trick! Who has been left behind by the age?

“But aren’t there new people and a new life?”

“You think so?! Who on earth doesn’t know that? Everybody now alive was born in our age; they didn’t crawl out of graves or return from the other world, and they’re all living a new life. For example, up to this point nobody has lived as I’m living, and nobody had the outlook on life that I have. If you’re talking about drunkenness, well? That’s not something out of olden times, it’s new, progressive…”

[…]

“Who should we worry about and take trouble for? Aren’t we toiling on behalf of the future generation? That’s another dialectical trick, a point of lunacy, high-minded nonsense! We often hear the best people say they’re working for the future — isn’t that strange? I mean, we’re not going to be around then, are we? Is the future generation going to be grateful? But we won’t hear their gratitude, because our ears will be stopped by earth… But no, the future generation won’t even be grateful; it will call us names, because it will have gone beyond us, it will be squeezed in its strivings by people of the former age — that is, by people our age, who think like us. And everything we call backward was advanced in its day, fresh, bold, and it fought in its turn with long past routine of which not even the rumor has come down to us. Even those old men of bygone days were called by the flattering name of Voltaireans, even though they too just idled their lives away. And our time will pass! For all you know, the very youngest generation, the one that’s sitting on school benches now, might already be feeling some awkwardness in relation to us, and is cultivating a protest against you. Are they going to live just like you and me, nurse the same ideas? Is it going to move forward or not? And mark my words, when people your age are pushing sixty and you, with God’s help, have risen to a high rank, you’ll squeeze the younger generation, you will, really… It’s customary in this world that as soon as a son gets old enough to have a son himself, he starts to curse his father. Eternal moving forward makes old people feel full; we get so used to the good things we’ve already gotten that we lose our taste for them. We make use of all the goods that have been prepared for us, but we’re still unhappy; it’s just like our bellies — we fed them yesterday, but they don’t remember that, today they’re asking for bread again. People get what they’re after and they’re satisfied, but then, just look, new questions, new desires, new forces rise up, and the old life squeezes the younger generation, because a person can’t live two lives. And the new generation will get old in its turn, and will start constricting the strivings of our grandchildren. Our grandchildren will make our great-grandchildren cry, and so on to infinity. What absurdity! Let’s drink, shall we?”

“To the future generation?”

“To all generations, because they’re all the same. Is the younger one better than the older, or the older better than the younger? Is either of them happier, more moral, more reasonable? They’re all the same!”

It’s often the talkative cynics, like Prince Valkovsky in The Insulted and Injured and Baron Charlus in Proust, who are the most memorable characters.

Incidentally, I’ve picked up some random bits of Russian culture, like the wedding song “Исаие, ликуй” [Isaiah, rejoice] and Daziaro’s establishment publishing and selling art graphics; you can see a bunch of examples of the latter here, and they give a good idea of midcentury Petersburg.

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What's your favorite fair? Everybody thinks of the Washington State Fair ("the Puyallup"), around our parts, but that one is so big and crowded. Just north, in Monroe, is the smaller, but no less exciting, Evergreen State Fair, right at the Speedway, so you can watch drag races while eating your cotton candy. My personal favorite, since I spent a lot of time in Bellingham, is the Northwest Washington Fair, up in Lynden, Washington.

What makes the fair so great? It's surely not the junk food, the queasy-making rides, or the big concerts (in Lynden, you can see Night Ranger, in Monroe, Joan Jett — she puts on a mean show — but at the Puyallup, you can see Modest Mouse, the Beach Boys, Earth, Wind, and Fire, just to name a few of the major headliners). It's a kind of homespun insanity of 4H farm kids, mixed with cowboys and functional western fetish-wear, mashed into a rock 'n roll carny factory, that always has a tinge of a Stephen King story. Like, something could go terribly wrong at any minute.

It's the barnfuls of ribboned swine, next door to hucksters selling the latest gadget in a small booth, their microphones broadcasting their prattle to the walkers-by. It's the dress horses, and at least in Lynden, the Clydesdales, all hitched in a train to an open-back wagon that they high-walk around the ring. It's the John Deere tractors out for sale, and the little area where the RV dealer sets up so you can walk through your mobile dream.

Sure, it's the rides. It's getting whipped around on a ride where half the seats are closed, and the whole thing is shored up on the grass by some old boards. It's wondering what must have happened for that handwritten sign that says "no open toed shoes" to be made and stuck up. It's the weird math trying to figure out how many ride tickets you'll need to do everything you want. Then, it's those blissful few moments being tossed around and given a thrill, before coming back down to your own two feet and a desire to eat more.

Every bit of food is big at the fair, and not as expensive as you might find at a year-round amusement park. If it's not deep fried, it could be, and if it couldn't be, somebody has surely tried. Ice cream sandwiches the size your head, and so many hamburgers you have to wonder if they have a butcher tent out back of the beef barn to keep them supplied.

It's the change in the air as the sun goes down, and the little kids go home to bed. The teenagers rule the midway, as the parents go off to watch some country music. It's the pubescent explosion of promise, that oversized stuffed animal roped high above the games that could be won but for trying, and that first stolen kiss, sweet with sno cone syrup still on the lip.

The state fairs are many things to many people, and maybe that's why I love them so much. I never feel like I belong, in truth, but I always feel like I'm wandering through a thousand other stories, and getting to see so many parts of it. Makes it fun to think about what kind of things are happening there.

Today's prompts
  1. They stuck her on the kiddie roller coaster again. Taking tickets. Getting the little shits in the cars, every other seat broken and unsafe. But as the kids went around the boring little track, she was watching across the way, at the Thrill-O-Wheel, where her connection was running the show. She was starting to get a bit antsy. The delivery was supposed to happen an hour ago, and the little shits might just drive her to madness before the fix came in. That's when the princess stepped up with her tickets and demanded entrance to the car in front, one of the broken ones.

  2. It was a dare. When the person you have a crush on is going on a stomach-turning ride, and your friends volunteer you to go with, you can't say no. And maybe you can hold in the milkshake and fries you just ate and not throw up on your crush, and maybe they will reach out to grab your hand, like in your most feverish dream. But neither of you look at each other as the bars come down. Only after it's too late and they say "I really, really don't want to do this" and you say "oh god me neither" do you notice how both sets of your friends are laughing out loud. You both were set up.

  3. They got a shipment of three thousand units before the fair. Balance boards, of all the goddamn things. "We'll do the health angle. Good for aging, agility, strength, that kind of bullshit. I'll get banners printed up tonight," Mark said. Desi thought it was better than last year, hawking those stupid juicers, but how good are they gonna do next to the fidget spinner booth? Maybe Desi was getting to old for the game. Maybe

  4. Nobody pays attention to the meet-cute of best friends. Unless it's a romantic thing, nobody talks about anniversaries, or years together. Friendships outlast the marriages, sometimes, go through the illnesses and children and everything together. But nobody talks about how special they are, not really. But one started that day, all because of two coincidences. First, being next to each other on the giant slide, and chatting on the way up. Then, second, finding out they were working in the same ice cream booth. The story has yet to unfold, but one thing is worth saying up front: this friendship will span their whole lives, and they will never be closer to another than they are to each other.

  5. "It's gonna be you," she said, leaning down and petting the side of her soon-to-be prize pig. "It's gonna be you. I know it. You're gonna take blue." The pig, dappled with black and pink, leaned into the hand and snorted, turning its head, its wet snout glistening in the morning light. "You're the prettiest pig, the smartest pig, the best all around pig, and I know you're gonna win." The pig looked up at her, seemed to cock an eyebrow, as if waiting for the but ... Then it came: "just so long, that is, as you don't let them know you can talk."

Posted by Mark Liberman

The so-called Free Speech Rally that's about to start in Boston will probably be better attended, both by supporters and opponents, than the one that was organized by same group back in May. But some of the featured speakers at the May rally, including "Augustus Invictus", have decided not to attend today's rerun. So I listened to the YouTube copy of the May rally speech by Austin Gillespie (Augustus's real or at least original name). And since this is Language Log and not Political Rhetoric Log (though surely political rhetoric is part of language), I'm going to focus on YouTube's efforts to provide "automatic captions".

Overall, automatic captioning does both amazingly well and hilariously badly. The audio quality is poor, with a lot of background noise and also distortion caused by an overloaded low-quality sound system, so it's a tribute to advances in ASR technology that the automatic captioning gets quite a few words right. But still, it starts out by allowing the speaker to self-identify as "my name is Olga sticks invictus on for sweater" rather than "my name is Augustus Invictus I'm from Florida":

0:04 my name is Olga sticks
0:12 invictus on for sweater

A little later, Gillespie blames his commitment to armed revolution, curiously, on the fact that the police saved him from an attack by "kids in black" (line divisions from the automatic captioning):

Automatic Captions My Transcription
but it is a year ago these kids in black
upon the hill they surrounded the border
who are doing a meet indeed and they
build my supporters with a two-by-four
bash in their colleges and then they try
to take me out when I floated the power
and the lactulose where the cops showed
up before they could get from me but
from that point
in business is usually more
but then about a year ago these kids in black
up on the hill they surrounded a bar
where we were doing a meet-and-greet and they
beat up my supporters with a two-by-four
bashed in their car windows uh and then they tried
to take me out when they flooded the bar
and miraculously the cops showed
up before they could get to me ((but))
from that point
we didn't do business as usual any more.

So, like I said, amazingly good and hilariously bad.

In particular, I wonder what the system's language model was thinking of. "Olga sticks"? "The power and the lactulose?" Maybe there's some connection with those "local milk people".

There's more fun where that came from, for example:

Automatic Captions My Transcription
every generation
matru Gooding must be refreshed with the
Board of patriot and timing
With every generation
the tree of liberty must be refreshed with the
blood of patriots and tyrants.

 

Posted by Victor Mair

If you use the right tools, that is, as explained in this Twitter thread from Taylor ("Language") Jones.

Rule number 1:  Use all the electronic tools at your disposal.

Rule number 2:  Do not use paper dictionaries.

Jones' Tweetstorm started when he was trying to figure out the meaning of shāngchǎng 商场 in Chinese.  He remembered from his early learning that it was something like "mall; store; market; bazaar".  That led him to gòuwù zhòngxīn 购物中心 ("shopping center").  With his electronic resources, he could hear these terms pronounced, could find them used in example sentences, and could locate actual places on the map designated with these terms.

I agree wholeheartedly with Jones.  Even though I began the learning of Mandarin half a century ago when Chinese language pedagogy was in a primitive state, I resisted it to the best of my ability and instinctively came up with means for learning Chinese that approximated the best practices employed today, but without all the wonderful electronic devices available now.  See the following posts for descriptions of the make-do methods I used to learn Chinese from the very beginning.

"How to learn to read Chinese" (5/25/08)

"How to learn Chinese and Japanese" (2/17/14)

"The future of Chinese language learning is now" (4/5/14)

"Chineasy? Not" (3/19/14)

"Chineasy2" (8/14/14)

"Chinese without a teacher" (2/6/16)

"Backward Thinking about Orientalism and Chinese Characters" (5/16/16)

"Firestorm over Chinese characters" (5/23/16)

"Learning to read and write Chinese" (7/11/16)

"How not to learn Chinese" (4/16/17)

Do not use flashcards!  Do not emphasize memorization of the characters (bùyào sǐbèi dānzì 不要死背单字). Learn words in their proper grammatical and syntactic context.  Learn grammatical patterns and practice them in substitution drills (that was one of the best ways Chang Li-ching used to train her students, and she was extremely successful in getting them up to an impressive level of fluency in a short period of time).

Above all, do not tolerate any teacher who says that they suffered to learn Chinese so that you should suffer too or that suffering while learning a language is good for you.

fèihuà 废话 ("balderdash / blather / bullshit / rubbish / garbage / nonsense / malarkey / hooey / trash / tripe / guff / stuff / bunk[um] / blah / bald-faced lies") húshuō bādào 胡说八道 /
Pernicious Garbage

[h.t. Ben Zimmer]

Posted by languagehat

Bruce Allen writes:

Oedipus Schmoedipus — so long as he loves his mother.

Years and years ago, I had a professor of Greek who said that this particular kind of reduplicated rhyming compound (schm-) originated not in Yiddish, but in Turkish.

I don’t find anything to substantiate this and he died years ago, but I figure if anyone can shed light on it, it’s LH readers, if not yourself.

I can’t shed light myself, so I turn it over to the assembled illuminators.