Archive for the ‘Language and politics’ Category

Eskimo N in Britain

May 3, 2018

Yesterday’s Matt cartoon by Matt Pritchett, alluding to the travails of Brexit:

(#1) Eskimo words for snow, leading to the the ur-snowclone Eskimo N

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Song for the day: rabbit rabbit rabbit

May 1, 2018

Rabbits round the workers’ maypole,
Rabbits round the workers’ maypole:
Máy-ó, may-yáy-ay-ay-ó
Maylight come and me wan’ go home

Trochaic tetrameter to welcome in the month of May. Allegro agitato, then andante desideroso.

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Sein Dopelgänger

April 19, 2018

Not a typo. The man in question is the elusive David Dennison, a pseudonym of the notorious American sociopath Helmet Grabpussy (who is generally referred to on this blog as [REDACTED]). And his Dopelgänger is the distinguished David Denison, Professor Emeritus of English Linguistics at the University of Manchester (on the other side of the Atlantic).

There’s the 2-n DD and the 1-n DD, and they are laughably, horribly, distinct. The 2-n DD is a creature, the 1-n DD is a teacher. (Apologies to Ogden Nash, llamas, and lamas.)

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It was 53 to 55 years ago today

March 26, 2018

A bit of intellectual and social history, plus a lesson in the fragility of memory. Set off by the British scholar Chris Knight on his Science and Revolution website, in two postings there:

from 2/18/18, “Chomsky’s Students Recall their Time at the MITRE Corporation”

from 3/4/18, “The MITRE Corporation’s project to use Chomsky’s linguistics for their weapons systems”

I come into this because I was one of those students of Chomsky’s who worked at the MITRE Corp. (in Bedford MA), in 1963-65 (53 to 55 years ago). Some of us have been trying to reconstruct those days, for Chris’s sake but also for our own.

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100 years of independence

December 6, 2017

Though today is one of the dark days of early December alluded to in my recent posting — it’s Mozart’s death day, a sad occasion indeed — it’s also St. Nicholas’s day (gifts!), and Chris Waigl’s birthday (eggcorns, remote sensing of wildfires in the Arctic, Python, knitting, and more, in three languages!), and Independence Day in Finland. As Riitta Välimaa-Blum reminds me, this year’s Independence Day is something spectacular: the centenary of Finland’s declaration of independence from Russia.

(#1) The Finnish flag

So raise a glass of Lakka (Finnish cloudberry liqueur) or Finlandia vodka, neat, to honor that difficult moment in 1917 — the year should call to your mind both World War I (still underway then) and the Russian revolution, and these enormous upheavals were in fact crucial to Finland’s wresting its independence from Russia.

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Two magazine covers

August 18, 2017

… in response to neo-Nazi and white supremacist demonstrations in Charlottesville VA. Yesterday’s posting “Two cartoonists take on Charlottesville” had a striking Jon Berkeley cover for the Economist. Now: a David Plunkert cover “Blowhard” for the New Yorker (alluding, like Berkeley’s cover, to a KKK hood) and an Edel Rodriguez cover for Time (alluding to the Nazi salute).

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Gay slurs in New Zealand

August 16, 2017

… with quotations from a Stanford linguist.

The story: “Garry Mallett’s explanation of the F-word falls short” by Jeremy Olds yesterday in the NZ website Stuff (stuff.co.nz), about fag(got), beginning with events in Hamilton City NZ (south of Auckland on the North Island):

OPINION: It’s unclear why Hamilton City councillor Garry Mallett believes pink is a “homo colour”. Perhaps he thinks it’s effeminate; perhaps he thinks it’s cute.

Whatever the case, when Mallett described a pink piece of paper from an agenda last week as a “homo colour”, before using the word “fags”, his comments were perceived as homophobic by his colleagues, including councillor Angela O’Leary.

While he apologised for his language this morning, Mallett was last night defending his comments, saying gay people are comfortable with the labels, and to think otherwise is to be “sucked into this politically correct vortex,” The Spinoff reported.

“Many homosexuals freely and willingly identify with these words. Indeed, to some extent, homosexuals have ‘commandeered’ these words such that many non-homosexuals feel uncomfortable using them,” he said.

Ah, the right to use fag openly and proudly as a slur, threatened by the pansies, fruits, and fairies who have begun reclaiming fag for their own use.

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Rodeos and sword dances

May 27, 2017

(Warning: there will be talk of penises and mansex.)

On The Hill site on 5/21, “Tillerson: ‘Not my first sword dance’ in Saudi Arabia”, by Jill Manchester:

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday that his sword dance the previous night in Saudi Arabia was not his first.

“I hadn’t been practicing, Chris, but it was not my first sword dance,” Tillerson told Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace.

Tillerson and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross linked arms during the dance with Saudi performers on Saturday night. [REDACTED] also took part, swaying to the music, and appeared to enjoy the ceremonial dance. The event took place on [REDACTED]’s first day visiting Saudi Arabia, his first stop on his first foreign trip as president.

(#1)

Ross and Tillerson sword-dancing among Saudis

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Pronouncing the 59th Street Bridge

April 10, 2017

In the latest (April 10th) issue of the New Yorker, Slight Headache Dept.: “I Say Koch” by Nick Paumgarten, on pronouncing the family name Koch. The lead-in has Apple Maps directing someone to the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge (which is really the Fifty-ninth Street Bridge — do honor to Simon & Garfunkel — or just the Queensboro Bridge),

pronounced Koch “coke,” as in the Koch brothers, Charles and David, the industrialists and underwriters of right-wing causes — rather than “kotch,” as in the Mayor. What a maroon.

Ed Koch contemplating the 59th St. Bridge (caricature by Tom Bachtell)

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Plus ça change

April 7, 2017

A Doonesbury cartoon reprinted in Doonesbury Dossier: The Reagan Years (1984):

Reproduced here without political comment. But one brief linguistic note.

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