Archive for the 'linguistics' Category

arrange by colour

Israel is 以色列 (Yiselie) in Chinese. 以 (yi) can mean ‘by'; 色 (se), ‘colour'; and 列 (lie), ‘arrange’.

The very first time I encountered the term ‘以色列’ was in a cloze passage from a Chinese exam paper in primary school. I did not realize that it referred to a country and simply thought that it meant ‘arrange by colour’. Which did puzzle me a little bit, as that intepretation did not seem to fit into the context of the entire sentence. I only found out what it was quite some time later. :)

in a land of homemade names, tiffany doesn’t cut it

Hatred got his name the way millions of other children here have — as a means of recording an event, a circumstance or even the weather conditions that accompanied their births.

“For instance, if it was windy, the name may be Wind. If it was rainy, it may be Rain,” said Matole Motshekga, the founder of the Kara Heritage Institute, based in Pretoria. “If there are problems in the family, they will use the appropriate name. So you cannot just name someone out of the blue. It has to relate to something.”

Thus a Zimbabwean baby born to parents who had spent years trying to start a family might be named Tendai, which expresses thankfulness, and a child born in a time of troubles may be named Tambudzai, which literally means no rest.

Or, just as likely these days, a baby will be named Givethanks or Norest. If a Sotho-speaking girl becomes pregnant before marriage, her unhappy parents may name the baby Question or Answer — an answer to the question of why their daughter was behaving so strangely before the pregnancy became known.

Read about a man called Hatred and other intriguing Zimbabwean names here!

a metaphor for our time

A metaphor for our time, perhaps…… or maybe not?

张无忌再也忍耐不住,从雪橇中一跃而起,拦在静玄身前,叫道:“且住!”静玄一怔,退了一步。张无忌大声道:“这般残忍凶狠,你不惭愧么?”

众人突然见到一个衣衫褴楼不堪的少年挺身而出,都是一怔,待得听到他质问静玄的这两句话理正词严,便是名派的名宿高手,也不禁为他的气势所慑。

静玄一声长笑,说道:“邪魔歪道,人人得而诛之,有甚么残忍不残忍的?”张无忌道:“这些人个个轻生重义,慷慨求死,实是铁铮铮的英雄好汉,怎么说是邪魔外道?”静玄道:“他们魔教徒众难道还不是邪魔外道?那个青翼蝠王吸血杀人,害死我师妹师弟,乃是你亲眼目睹,这不是妖邪,甚么才是妖邪?”

张无忌道:“那青翼蝠王只杀二人,你们所杀之人已多了十倍。他用牙齿杀人,尊师用倚天剑杀人,一般的杀,有何善恶之分?”

金庸《倚天屠龙记》第十八回

the grand budapest hotel

I enjoyed comedy film The Grand Budapest Hotel (though I disliked the ending, which was too Life Is Beautiful for my tastes) and was therefore quite amused to see this article in the Telegraph:

At the time of writing, the Grand Budapest Hotel was rated 1 of 1 hotels in The Republic of Zubrowka, having received 46 reviews which described it as “excellent” and only five that found it “terrible”.

Someone calling himself TheSamSolomon said: “My only complaint is the staff seem to be living in a different century- no one could find me an iPhone lightning cable nor did they know what an iPhone was. Also, the internet connection was almost non-existent. Zero was a great help though and he had many great ideas, he seemed a little bit deluded at time. But that must be the altitude.”

Click here to read the article, and click here to read the TripAdvisor reviews on this amazing institution! :D

hong kong loves weird english names

Devil. Whale. Chlorophyll, Violante, Treacle — you name it, Hong Kong probably has someone who goes by it. The former British colony is obsessed with weird English names.

Unusual appellations have been found on people of all kinds. The secretary for justice is Rimsky Yuen and the previous secretary for food and health was York Chow. Among celebrities, there is a Fanny Sit, Moses Chan, and Dodo Cheng. Models? We have a Vibeke, Bambi, Dada, and Vonnie. But lawyers take the prize. There is a Magnum, John Baptist, Ludwig, Ignatius, Bunny and four — yes, four — Benedicts.

Odd names make for odder situations. Last July, police arrested a woman named Ice Wong with 460 grams of ice — the drug, not frozen water. Months earlier, the law caught up with Devil Law when he was brought before a judge for drug possession and crashing his car into a bus. In 2010, a woman called Cash Leung was jailed for paying cabbies with fake cash.

I agree that most of the monikers that the writer mentioned are pretty peculiar, but why ‘Moses’ or ‘Benedict’? Anyhow, check out other unusual English names that Hong Kongers gives themselves here!

his friends know him as petroswickonicovick

Then there is Petroswickonicovick Wandeckerkof da Silva Santos, a 12-year-old soccer prodigy who has begun training with Corinthians, one of Brazil’s leading teams. Even in a country flooded with amazing names, his 19-letter first name and 12-letter middle name have raised eyebrows.

The boy said it took him awhile to learn how to pronounce his own name. His father, José Ivanildo dos Santos, a soccer coach, has been repeatedly questioned about the choice.

“The woman at the notary public’s office thought it was terrible and called me crazy,” Mr. dos Santos said in a televised interview. “But I told her I’d name my son my way.”

Read about the weird and wondrous variety of Brazilian names here!

evolving a singaporean culture

The Straits Times recently published an interview with local dance pioneer Goh Lay Kuan. This part made me do a double take……

As a pillar in the arts community, do you think we have evolved a Singaporean culture as we approach 50 years?

Someone said to me: “I’m not Chinese. I’m Singaporean.” I asked for his name and said: “Sorry, that’s a Chinese name. Give me a Singaporean name.” Do you think by singing Geylang Sipaku Geylang, you’re a Singaporean?

When we first came back, we were proactive in working with Malays and Indians, to have a basic understanding of each other’s culture. This will create mutual understanding. Today, our “basic” is: “We all like laksa and char kway teow.”

Goh Chin Lian, The ballerina who overturned tables, The Straits Times, 3 May 2014 (available online in two parts, here and here)

But, what exactly is a Singaporean name?

eastern health alliance

Eastern Health Alliance – now that’s a name straight out of a martial arts novel (translated into English, of course)!

Incidentally, they are called 东部医疗联盟 in Chinese, which (in my opinion) sounds a little way too modern to be a term that could be possibly used in a wuxia story…… :P

you learn something new every day

I came upon an old blog post (published in 2011) of someone I don’t know earlier today. She wrote about visiting Open Door Policy and named the dishes they tried, including a dessert called ‘white chocolate mousse with a raspberry headache’.

Raspberry headache? I had never heard of the term before, so it naturally piqued my curiosity. Googled and unearthed this 2012 blog entry. This blogger had also visited the same restaurant, tried the same dessert, and also wondered about its name. She had googled and then found a century-old article on ‘about raspberry (and other summer fruit) headaches‘. But the best part was her conclusion: ‘Well, well, we learn something new everyday!’

What can I say? Truly, great minds think alike! :D

you learn something new every day

I was editing a travel piece on Iceland this morning. Googled the title and  found out that the country is also known as the Land of Fire and Ice.

Further googling revealed that incidentally, Robert Frost wrote a famous poem titled ‘Fire and Ice‘ (more info here).

downward-facing dog

Had my last yoga class on Monday. I find this instructor pretty good, so I signed up for her new class, which will be starting next Monday. It’s once again a beginner’s course, but I think it’d be good for me to reinforce my fundamentals before thinking about moving to intermediate level.

Incidentally, why is that particular yoga pose called downward-facing dog? Why not cats? Cows? Or even monkeys?

they are the tuhao

Gotta love Rachel Lu’s ‘Meet China’s Beverly Hillbillies’, not just for its amusing sociocultural content, but even more for its brilliant linguistics. For example, this paragraph is sheer genius:

They are the tuhaotu means dirt or uncouth; hao means splendor — and they are the Beverly Hillbillies of China. Or something like that: A crowdsourced translation call on China’s social media yielded “new money,” “slumdog millionaire,” the “riChinese” and “billionbilly.” When English falls short, French is on hand to help: Tuhao have the artistic sensibilities of the arriviste, the social grace of the parvenu, and the spending habits of the nouveau riche.

And you can read the rest of the article here!

caught in the web of love

Is this the most imba (first time using this word! :D) press release published by a local governmental agency ever? (Hat tip to friend Mel for the link!)

Prologue: True love…seriously?

It was May 2012 when a married Singaporean man was attracted to a female Chinese national and the couple decided to develop their illicit relationship further.  Unfortunately, as with many heart-rending love stories, they did not live happily forever as both were married, but not to each other.

Click HERE to read the rest of the press release! There’s even a photo montage at the bottom of the page!!!

Shared the link with a couple of other friends, and SY commented that ‘the corp comms must have psycho-ed the perm sec [permanent secretary]‘, haha!

Last but not least, check out other press releases by the same organization here! Most of them start with corny titles and introductions!!! :P

losing a language

A pretty meaningful bit from Last Chance to See……

I watched the gorilla’s eyes again, wise and knowing eyes, and wondered about this business of trying to teach apes language. Our language. Why? There are many members of our own species who live in and with the forest and know it and understand it. We don’t listen to them. What is there to suggest we would listen to anything an ape could tell us? Or that it would be able to tell us of its life in a language that hasn’t been born of that life? I thought, maybe it is not that they have yet to gain a language, it is that we have lost one.

Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine, Last Chance to See

squee!

Wow Oxford Dictionaries has just added squee to their online dictionary late last month!!! How cool is that?

squee

from here

Click to read an enlarged version!

And click here to check out the other words which were added at the same time! :)


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