Was recently googling to find out the etymology of the Chinese idiom ‘马后炮‘ (ma hou pao, or ‘cannon behind horse’), when I stumbled onto this old discussion on a local forum. Someone wanted to know how to translate that Chinese idiom into English, and someone else suggested ‘Monday morning quarterback‘. I had never heard this term before, and after checking it out, I concluded it summed up the essence of ‘cannon behind horse’ perfectly! :D
Archive for the 'linguistics' Category
the grammar of a dinner
let’s have chicken for dinner.
somewhere else, someone else utters:
let’s have john for dinner.
we are alarmed by the latter
but a dinner, too, has its own grammar
& we are assured by grammarians
both utterances are in order.
john, + animate, + human,
couldn’t be passed off as repast.
chicken is + animate, – human,
& can end up in any oven.
if we combine the items of grammar
the way things in cooking are,
we would then have:
let’s have chicken for john for dinner,
let’s have chicken for dinner for john,
let’s have for john chicken for dinner,
let’s have for dinner for john chicken;
but probably not:
let’s have john for chicken for dinner,
let’s have for dinner john for chicken.
john is a noun holding knife & fork.
chicken collocates with the verb eat.
grammarians favour such words
as delicious & john eats happily,
but in a gastronomic dinner
taxonomic john isn’t to eat deliciously.
Was at the MRT station near my house this afternoon, when I spotted a young man in a Tiffany blue tee emblazoned with these words in bold black:
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. :)
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, perhaps…… or maybe not?
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.”
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!
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!
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.”
But, what exactly is a Singaporean name?
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
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
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?
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 tuhao — tu 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!