Bilibili (bīlībīlī 哔哩哔哩; B zhàn B站 ("B site / station") "is a video sharing website themed around anime, manga, and game fandom based in China, where users can submit, view, and add commentary subtitles on videos" (Wikpedia). When you register for this site, you're supposed to declare whether you're M(ale) or F(emale), in which case your posts will be referred to respectively as "tā de 他的" ("his") and "tā de 她的" ("hers"). If you do not specify your gender, your posts will be referred to as "ta的" or "TA的", i.e., neither M(ale) (tā de 他的) nor F(emale) (tā de 她的).
Here's a screenshot of a friend's bilibili page showing this usage:
- "The degendering of the third person pronoun in Mandarin " (12/12/13)
- "Roman-letter Mandarin pronoun of indeterminate gender " (9/9/16)
- "Sweden's gender-neutral 3rd-person singular pronoun " (4/13/17)
- "Gender bending " (10/6/15)
What seems to have happened over the long haul during the last century has been first a gendering of the third person pronoun, then a degendering, then a regendering accompanied by another degendering…. It's enough to make your head spin. But all of that is in the written language: 他她它 ("he, she, it"), etc. In the spoken language, they remain constant: tā.
[Thanks to Alex Wang]
Does Spanish paramilitar have a different meaning than English paramilitary, or at least stronger negative connotations? This question has recently become the focus of reaction to a New Yorker article by Jon Lee Anderson, "The increasingly tense standoff over Catalonia's independence referendum", 10/4/2017.
The first paragraph of Anderson's article (emphasis added):
Voting rights have been under siege in the U.S. in recent years, with charges of attempted electoral interference, legislation that seeks to make access to the polls more difficult, and gerrymandering, in a case that reached the Supreme Court this week. But no citizens here or in any democracy expect that they may be attacked by the police if they try to vote. Yet that is what happened on Sunday in the Spanish region of Catalonia, where thousands of members of the Guardia Civil paramilitary force, and riot police, were deployed by the central government in Madrid to prevent the Catalans from holding an “illegal” referendum on independence from Spain.
In El País, Antonio Muñoz Molina accused Anderson of lying ("En Francoland: En Europa o América, les gusta tanto el pintoresquismo de nuestro atraso que se ofenden si les explicamos todo lo que hemos cambiado"):
Pocas cosas pueden dar más felicidad a un corresponsal extranjero en España que la oportunidad de confirmar con casi cualquier pretexto nuestro exotismo y nuestra barbarie. Hasta el reputado Jon Lee Anderson, que vive o ha vivido entre nosotros, miente a conciencia, sin ningún escrúpulo, sabiendo que miente, con perfecta deliberación, sabiendo cuál será el efecto de su mentira, cuando escribe en The New Yorker que la Guardia Civil es un cuerpo “paramilitar”.
Few things make a foreign correspondent in Spain happier than the opportunity to corroborate our exoticism and our brutality. Even the renowned Jon Lee Anderson, who lives or has lived among us, is deliberately lying, with no qualms he is aware that he is lying and aware of the effect his lies will have, when he writes in The New Yorker that the Civil Guard is a “paramilitary” force. [translation from the El País web site]
This has resulted in an energetic discussion on Twitter (Twitzkrieg?), in which Anderson's position is that many English-language sources call the Guardia Civil "a paramilitary police force" or something similar, e.g.
From Collins Dictionary: "The Guardia Civil…A paramilitary force like the French Gendarmerie, it was set up in 1844… https://t.co/jXqbRzx63x
— Jon Lee Anderson (@jonleeanderson) October 14, 2017
and that Antonio Muñoz Molina is using a meaning difference between English and Spanish in a disingenuous way, e.g.
I wrote my article in English.The Guardia Civil is a paramilitary police force, i.e. a police force organized along military lines. Period. https://t.co/Zf4Mypb6oi
— Jon Lee Anderson (@jonleeanderson) October 14, 2017
— Jon Lee Anderson (@jonleeanderson) October 14, 2017
Before looking into it, my understanding of the English word paramilitary aligned with Anderson's, namely that it means "organized along military lines", whether in reference to governmental organizations that are not part of the military, or to civilian militia-like entities. It's easy to find examples in English where paramilitary is applied to non-military governmental organizations, e.g. these examples from Google Books:
Correctional officers (C.O.s) were organized in accordance with a rigid paramilitary chain of command.
There is an obvious need to change the bureaucratic paramilitary structure of police organizations, so prevalent in the majority of police organizations around the world.
But on looking into it, I found that things are more complex. I was surprised to find that the OED's only relevant gloss would specifically NOT apply to a police organization like Spain's Guardia Civil:
Designating, of, or relating to a force or unit whose function and organization are analogous or ancillary to those of a professional military force, but which is not regarded as having professional or legitimate status.
The OED's earliest citation is from 1935, but seems to originate in the 1934 "Reply of the United Kingdom Government" at a League of Nations "Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments". The OED citation is the first sentence of the following:
A difficult problem has been raised in regard to the so-called " paramilitary training" — i.e., the military training outside the army of men of military age. His Majesty's Government suggested that such training outside the army should be prohibited, this prohibition being checked by a system of permanent and automatic supervision, in which the supervising organisation should be guided less by a strict definition of the term " military training" than by the military knowledge and experience of its experts. They are particularly glad to be informed that the German Government have freely promised to provide proof, through the medium of control, that the S.A. and the S.S. are not of a military character, and have added that similar proof will be furnished in respect of the Labour Corps. It is essential to a settlement that any doubts and suspicions in regard to these matters should be set and kept
The earliest use of the term in the New York Times is in a report about the same discussions —
"Simon to the Commons", 4/9/1935: (Following is the text of the account given to the House of Commons today by Foreign Secretary Sir John Simon of conversations recently held by him and Anthony Eden, Lord Privy Seal, with leading officials in Berlin, Moscow, Prague and Warsaw)
Regarding land armaments, Herr Hitler stated that Germany required thirty-six divisions, representing a maximum of 550,000 soldiers of all arms, including a division of Schutzstaffel and militarized police troops. He asserted that there were no paramilitary formations in Germany.
The next example has the same negative connotations and the same association with fascist groups — "France suspects Klan counterpart", NYT 11/17/1937:
The question or whether a French counterpart to the Ku Klux Klan really exists was again raised today through the arrest of a wealthy Lille contractor, Rene Anceaux, M. Vosselm, one of his employes, and Gerard de ia Motte-Saint Pierre on charges which remain unspecified, but are in the case of M. Anceaux plotting against the security of the State and for the others possessing weapons of war and "association with wrongdoers." […]
M. Anceaux served as an officer during the World War and was wounded. He was the president of the Lille branch of the dissolved Rightist "Paramilitary League."
The 1939 New Jersey statutes contain a law using the term in a similar way:
Any 2 or more persons who assemble as a paramilitary organization for the purpose of practicing with weapons are disorderly persons.
As used in this act, “paramilitary organization” means an organization which is not an agency of the United States Government or of the State of New Jersey, or which is not a private school […]
So in English as well as in Spanish (and French and presumably other languages), the term paramilitary and its cognates seem to have originated in the 1930s in reference to fascist groups "whose function and organization are analogous or ancillary to those of a professional military force, but which [are] not regarded as having professional or legitimate status", as the OED put it.
At some point, the "not regarded as having professional or legitimate status" clause seems to have faded away — though perhaps without being totally lost, since the term continues to be used to refer to non-governmental as well as governmental but non-military organizations. Thus "Charlottesville Joins Suit Against Paramilitary Groups Connected to August 12", NBC News 10/12/2017:
Charlottesville is joining a suit to prevent what it calls unauthorized paramilitary groups from returning to the city.
Georgetown Law Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection filed a complain Thursday, October 12, asking Charlottesville Circuit Court to, "prohibit key Unite the Right organizers and an array of participating private paramilitary groups and their commanders from coming back to Virginia to conduct illegal paramilitary activity."
And my impression is that when someone uses the word "paramilitary" in connection with police forces, their attitude is often a critical one. Thus "Paramilitary police: Cops or soldiers?", The Economist 3/20/2014, begins with the subhed "America's police have become too militarised", and notes that
Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams (ie, paramilitary police units) were first formed to deal with violent civil unrest and life-threatening situations: shoot-outs, rescuing hostages, serving high-risk warrants and entering barricaded buildings, for instance. Their mission has crept. […]
Kara Dansky of the American Civil Liberties Union, who is overseeing a study into police militarisation, notices a more martial tone in recent years in the materials used to recruit and train new police officers. A recruiting video in Newport Beach, California, for instance, shows officers loading assault rifles, firing weapons, chasing suspects, putting people in headlocks and releasing snarling dogs.
This is no doubt sexier than showing them poring over paperwork or attending a neighbourhood-watch meeting. But does it attract the right sort of recruit, or foster the right attitude among serving officers? Mr Balko cites the T-shirts that some off-duty cops wear as evidence of a culture that celebrates violence (“We get up early to beat the crowds”; “You huff and you puff and we’ll blow your door down”).
Anyhow, there can be little question that Spain's Guardia Civil is a "paramilitary police force" in the current English-language sense of the word.
And it's not clear to me that the current Spanish usage is actually different. Thus the Real Academia's Diccionario de la lengua española defines paramilitar as
1. adj. Dicho de una organización civil: Dotada de estructura o disciplina de tipo militar.
without any stipulation of illegitimacy. And since the same dictionary defines civil in the relevant sense as "Que no es militar ni eclesiástico o religioso", and since the Guardia Civil is self-defined as "civil", it seems that paramilitar ought to apply to that organization without any untruthful intent or effect.
[h/t David Lobina]
I've noticed recently that there's a tendency for things in the media to come in fives. Thus recently at The Hill (warning – autoplay videos): "Five things to know about Trump and NAFTA", "Five things to know about Trump’s controversial ObamaCare decision", "5 things to watch for at campaign cash deadline", "Five things to know about Trump’s immigration principles", "Five things to watch as Trump visits Puerto Rico", etc.
At the Washington Post: "Five things to watch in Alabama’s special election", "Five story lines to watch as NBA training camps get underway", "If Trump really wants to fix troubled schools, here are five things he could do", "Why are there protests in Poland? Here are the five things you need to know", "Five things I learned about Russia last week", etc.
At the New York Times: "Esteem, Money and Mystery: 5 Things to Know About the Nobels", "Five Things I Hate About New Cars", "Five Things to Remember Before You Renovate", "Five Things to Do This Weekend", "Five Things T Editors Are Really Into Right Now", etc.
At Politico: "5 things we learned from the Senate's Russia probe update", "Five things to watch in the Alabama runoff election", "Virginia governor's primary: 5 things to watch", "SESSIONS TESTIFIES TODAY – Five things to watch during today’s hearing", "5 things to know about Trump's FBI pick Christopher Wray", etc.
At The Independent: "Five things we learned from Crystal Palace's stunning upset victory over Premier League champions Chelsea", "Five things to look out for when the IMF and the World Bank meetings happen in Washington this week", "Five things we learned from Watford's superb comeback win against a misfiring Arsenal", "Five things to look out for in the economy this week", "Five things to bear in mind as Hurricane Irma hits the US", etc.
Things come in other cardinalities, of course, but in general five sticks out:
|two things||three things||four things||five things||six things||seven things|
I wonder when the press turned pentatonic?
Anyhow, these days the ratio of "five things" to "four things" seems to be a kind of click-baitiness index.
Ever since people started inputting Chinese characters in computers, I've had an intense interest in how they do it, which systems are more efficient, and why they choose the particular ones they adopt. For the first few decades, because all inputting systems presented significant obstacles and challenges, I remained pretty much of an onlooker because I didn't want to waste my time struggling with cumbersome methods. It's only after I discovered how simple and fast it is to use Google Translate as my chief inputting method that I became very active in entering Chinese character texts.
Because of the above considerations, during the last three to four decades, I have developed the habit of closely and carefully scrutinizing friends, colleagues, students, and others as they enter Chinese characters in their computers, cell phones, tablets, and other digital tools. I have written about my observations in many Language Log posts, including the following:
"Chinese character inputting" (10/17/15)
"Stroke order inputting" (10/30/11)
"Cantonese input methods" (1/20/15)
"Google Translate Chinese inputting" (1/27/13)
"Creeping Romanization in Chinese" (8/30/12)
"Chinese Typewriter" (6/30/09)
"Chinese typewriter, part 2" (4/17/11)
"Zhou Youguang, Father of Pinyin" (1/14/14)
"Zhou Youguang, 109 and going strong " (1/13/15)
"Swype and Voice Recognition for mobile device inputting" (1/22/14) — esp. ¶¶ 3-5
"Language notes from Macao and Hong Kong" (6/22/14) — search for "Starbucks"
Usually I just watched what people did as they entered characters and drew my own conclusions from what I saw, not wanting to interrupt their typing. Lately, however, as in the last post in the above list, I've had more opportunities to ask people how they choose from among the many inputting methods that are available to them. The answers I've been receiving are quite revealing.
I shan't go through all possible methods, but will focus only on the two most popular means for inputting characters. By far the most common method for inputting Chinese characters — especially for people who are around forty or younger — is Hanyu Pinyin. The next most common method — particularly for those who are over forty or so — is to write the characters with the tip of one's finger on a glass touch screen or pad. In several of the above posts, I have described the frantic flailing one witnesses when people input Chinese characters this way.
From my earlier observations, I noticed that people who entered Chinese characters via the tip of their index finger (less often with a stylus) frequently seemed frustrated and aborted the effort to produce a desired character because what they wanted was not showing up in the list of characters displayed. Some would try again and again till they got what they wanted, or they would shift to Pinyin to call up the character they were after.
Recently, I have asked some of the people who were switching back and forth between writing the characters with their fingertip and typing them via Pinyin why they didn't just use Pinyin all of the time if they often had to resort to it anyway. The usual answer was that they would start out writing with their fingertip on the glass screen or pad of their electronic device because, especially for very simple and common characters like nǐ 你 ("you") and hǎo 好 ("good"), because they felt it was the path of least resistance, but would switch to Pinyin when they were frustrated at calling up more complex and difficult characters such as lài 癞 / 癩 ("scabies") and pēntì 喷嚏 / 噴嚏 ("sneeze").
As I watched some of these individuals inputting a variety of characters and being stymied when their software proved incapable of quickly retrieving recalcitrant characters, I asked them precisely why they would change over to Pinyin. The answer was that the fingertip writing offered too many possibilities for them to have to choose from (and many times none of the proffered characters was the one they were after), whereas when they switched over to Pinyin and typed by words in context, the choices presented by the software were much fewer, and, in many cases, were narrowed down to precisely the exact combinations they were after.
I wish to emphasize that the majority of people who are inputting Chinese text do use Pinyin exclusively or nearly so for inputting characters, and they do so because it is faster, more convenient, more accurate, and more efficient than other methods, and above all it does not require them to learn any special codes, mnemonics, or non-intuitive techniques for decomposing the characters.
I continue to be astonished by the sheer volume of the junk email I get from spam journals and organizers of spamferences, and by the linguistic ineptitude of the unprincipled responsible parties. I have been getting dozens per month, for a year or more: journal announcements, calls for papers, requests for conference attendance, subscription information, and invitations to editorial boards. Today I got a prestige invitation that began thus:
After careful evaluation and reading your article published in Journal of Logic, Language and Information entitled “On the Mathematical Foundations of", we decided to send you this invitation.
Clearly the careful evaluation and reading did not enable them to get to the end of my title (it does not end in of). And what was the invitation?
In light of your remarkable achievements in Critical Care, we would like to invite you to join the Editorial Board of Journal of Nursing.
Nursing. I'm an expert in critical care nursing, apparently. And they have ascertained this from their careful reading of a paper called "On the mathematical foundations of Syntactic Structures," an analysis of the formal aspects of Noam Chomsky's first book on linguistic theory.
Almost all of the hundreds and hundreds of new rip-off journals who send me spam are based in China. This one "is supported and partially financed by the hosting organization, Beijing Spring City Educational Publications Research Center."
The support of this research center has allowed the publishers "to reduce the OA article publishing charges from $800 to $150 (additional $50 applied if print version is required)." So if you want to see your article about nursing in print, you send them $200. And I suspect that when choosing whether to publish your paper they will exercise all the care they showed in reading my syntax paper and confirming my credentials in critical care.
There are many things to worry about in connection with the birth of flocks of spam journals, scores at a time: confusion for students, pollution of the scientific literature, degrading of the concept of a refereed journal, publication of ill-reviewed junk science, and (if even a few libraries occasionally take out misguided subscriptions to these crap journals) waste of library budgets.
Gross syntactic errors in promotional material provide an almost infallible indicator of spamhood in a journal. Not many journals send unsolicited email to advertise themselves, but the few promotional emails I occasionally get from proper journals are always at least literate. Whereas this one says:
Our journal, Journal of Nursing, is a new journal which urgently needs professional like you to join our editorial board and help and support the journal to a healthy grow.
I hope none of you professional will support it to a healthy grow. You don't need to be much of a sleu to know they are not telling the tru; their journal is not wor one twelf of the paper that it costs an extra $50 for it to be printed on.
Joining a crowd of other recent fraudsters, Paul Roberts and Deborah Briton returned from their Spanish vacation and subsequently turned in a completely fake claim against the Thomas Cook package-vacation company, alleging that their time in Spain had been ruined by stomach complaints for which the hotel and the company should be held liable. They sought more than $25,000 in damages for the fictional malady. The judge sentenced them to jail. And in this report of the case my colleague Bob Ladd noticed that Sam Brown, the prosecuting attorney, showed himself to be so terrified of blundering into a singular they that he would not even risk using they with plural reference, preferring to utter a totally ungrammatical sentence:
*Sam Brown, prosecuting, said: "Both defendants knew that in issuing this claim he or she would be lying in order to support it."
Beware of struggling to obey prescriptive injunctions that don't come naturally to you; they can warp your ability to use your native language sensibly.
And also beware of trying to cheat Spanish hoteliers with spurious claims of stomach trouble. They're onto the scam. One hotel in Mallorca (see this story) became suspicious about the way about 200 claims from among 9,000 guests were distributed among nationalities:
Notice also this statistic concerning when the illness was first reported:
|While staying at hotel||After returning to UK|
And these data about exactly who did the reporting and made the claim:
|Reported by guest||Professional claims company|
Somewhat improbable statistically, the hotelier thought.
Pro-Cantonese sign in Hong Kong:
The sign says (in Cantonese):
ngo5 oi3 gwong2dung1waa2 ("I love Cantonese")
m4 sik1 bou1dung1gwaa1 ("I don't know Putonghua [Modern Standard Mandarin / MSM]").
Note that Pǔtōnghuà / Pou2tung1waa6*2 普通話 ("MSM") is here written punningly as bou1dung1gwaa1 煲冬瓜 ("stewed winter melon").
It could also be written with another pun: paau4*2dung1gwaa1 刨冬瓜 ("shaved winter melon")
The above photograph and caption are from this sensible article by Lisa Lim in the South China Morning Post, "Language Matters" (9/29/17):
To a linguist ‘the Chinese language’ is a family of languages – not dialects – that for the most part are mutually unintelligible and written different ways; an appreciation of this variety would help discussions about language policy.
Biographical note in the SCMP:
Lisa Lim has worked in Singapore, the UK, Amsterdam, and Sri Lanka, and is now Associate Professor and Head of the School of English at the University of Hong Kong. She is co-editor of the journal Language Ecology, founder of the website linguisticminorities.hk and co-author of Languages in Contact (Cambridge University Press, 2016).
Although some things the author says may be open to discussion (e.g., "Chinese" is comparable to the Romance or Germanic "families", is a branch of the Sino-Tibetan family, etc.), much of what she says is spot on (e.g., most of the "Chinese" language groups are mutually unintelligible, her calling into question referring to these groups as "dialects", and so forth).
Modern written Chinese is technically not bound to any specific variety, though it mostly represents the grammar and vocabulary of Mandarin. But Cantonese has its own written forms, for both formal (“High”) and colloquial (“Low”) varieties. The latter flourishes in Hong Kong, where, for instance, one finds 瞓 (fan) for “sleep” in addition to the more formal 睡 (sèoih).
[VHM: Nobody would understand you if you used the term fan3 瞓 in Mandarin, even if you pronounced it fèn à la mandarin.]
In classrooms, Chinese texts are often taught using H Cantonese, with Putonghua pronunciation having little currency – for example, the word for “no, not”, realised as 唔 (m̀h) in colloquial Cantonese, is written as 不 in Standard Chinese, pronounced bù in Putonghua, but the formal H Cantonese pronunciation b¯ a t is likely to be used. There is even Hong Kong Written Chinese, influenced by Cantonese and English.
Official references to these various systems are often blurred and confused under the label “Chinese language”. Parents’ and policymakers’ worries about students’ “Chinese language” proficiency, as well as the medium-of-instruction debate, will continue, with issues of mother-tongue-based education and national-vs-local identity at their core. A more nuanced appreciation of all that “Chinese language” encompasses will go a long way towards more fruitful discussions.
[VHM: These are the last three paragraphs of the article.]
What a breath of fresh air Lisa Lim's article is!
[Thanks to Bob Bauer and Abraham Chan]
Fairies in ads! Yes, even products with the name Fairy, wide interpretation as always!
Ads adjusted for inflation! Ads with prices, also will need a year--or approximate one, and then see how much it'd cost today via an inflation calculator.