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Posted by Victor Mair

President Xi Jinping is fond of calling on the Chinese people to "roll up our sleeves and work hard" ( qǐ xiùzǐ jiāyóu gàn 撸起袖子加油干 / 擼起袖子加油幹).  No sooner had Xi uttered this stirring pronouncement in a nationwide address at the turn of the year (2016-17) than it became a viral meme (here and here) that has inspired countless signs, songs, and dances; enactment; and also this one, presumably in a poorly-heated environment

Xi didn't just encourage people to roll up their shirt sleeves.  He himself famously rolled up his pantlegs:

"Why This Seemingly Innocuous Photo of Xi Jinping Is So Important:  A simple act of rolling his pants up — and holding his own umbrella — shows a president eager to show a common touch."

Matt Schiavenza, The Atlantic (Jul 23, 2013)

The picture, which shows Xi standing in the rain holding his own umbrella and with his pantlegs rolled up and looking very derpy, was taken by the official Xinhua News Agency during the president's trip to Wuhan, in Hubei province, in July 2013.  It might not seem like a particularly noteworthy photograph –- neither dazzling technically nor artistically framed.  But even when it was first released, foreign observers were surprised by the photograph, and it went swiftly viral on Chinese microblogging sites.  This image was particularly notable for the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement that arose during the Hong Kong protests of 2014 (see here and here).

Although, as is his wont with umbrella, pantlegs, steamed buns, favorite jacket, and so forth, Xi wanted it to come across as folksy, his choice of vocabulary and manner of expression put him on precarious ground.

In the first place, the normal, most common and straightforward way to say "roll up sleeves" in Modern Standard Mandarin (MSM) is juǎn qǐ xiùzi 卷起袖子 / 捲起袖子.  Xi, however, used a Northeastern Mandarinism which has nuances that are just asking for trouble:

 

 

Liāo 撩 and lū 撸 are two of those mysterious "physical action" verbs with initial liquid and first tone in Mandarin — untraceable to Middle Chinese.  Someone must hav written about that. The topic has come up on LL: see this comment by Bill Baxter.

The word for "sleeve" (xiùzǐ 袖子), in this context, might also be thought by some to have unwelcome overtones, since "cut sleeve" (duàn xiù 断袖) is an old euphemism for male homosexuality.  It doesn't help that a synonym for xiùzǐ 袖子 ("sleeve") is xiùguǎn 袖管 (lit., "sleeve-tube / pipe / duct"), which invites one to think of lūguǎn 撸管 ("rub the pipe", slang for male masturbation).

Next comes jiāyóu 加油, which literally means "add oil / gas"), but which is a common cheer at sporting events and in other situations where people exhort others "to make an all-out / extra effort" (see here and here).

And then there is the monumentally problematic gàn 干 / 幹 ("do; fuck" — frequently confused with gān 干 / 乾 ["dry"]), with which long-term Language Log readers will be intimately familiar.

"The Etiology and Elaboration of a Flagrant Mistranslation" (12//09/07)

"The further elaboration of a flagrant mistranslation" (8/31/13)

(and many other posts)

Taking the last two elements together, jiāyóu gàn 加油干 ("add oil and do it") in this context makes one think of personal lubricants (rùnhuá yóu / jì / yè 润滑油 / 剂 / 液).  (Since we're at it — milestones in the history of lube branding include things like júhuā yóu / yè 菊花油 / 液, or in [faux?] Japanese kiku no eki [??] 菊の液, playing on the Chinese [and apparently also Japanese] chrysanthemum~anus metaphor.)

Xi's phrase in its original context (8:44):  notice the extremely heavy stress on the gàn 干 / 幹 ("do; fuck").

With all of these suggestive hints prompting him, it was inevitable that a snarky wit would do something salacious with Xi's dorky call to action.  Few, however, would have expected that the person who rose to the challenge was a ranking member of the CCP, Zhang Haishun, top official of the Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.  And he did it not once, but twice, after which he was promptly dismissed from office.

Here's how Zhang ridiculed Xi:  liāo qǐ qúnzi shǐjìn gàn 撩起裙子使劲干 / 撩起裙子使勁幹 ("life up [your] skirt and do it for all [you're] worth").  The story is reported (in Chinese) here and here, and here.

A picture and fuller account is provided by Radio France Internationale.

Notice how the news items focus on the impropriety or indecency of Zhang's words, and on how it violates Party discipline, perhaps by mocking Xi's motto and exerting a "bad influence".  I see no mention of how disturbing a call to "lift up skirts" during a meeting he chaired can be to any female (or skirt-wearing) subordinates. Even if he wears a skirt to work himself, his position of power makes participation in the skirts-up implementation he advocates sound non-consensual. That Bureau might not be the ideal workplace for such a campaign.

The fuller context of Xi's slogan is as follows:

`Zǒng shūjì hàozhào “ qǐ xiù zǐ jiāyóu gān”, wǒ jú yào rènzhēn luòshí! Yào “liāo qǐ qúnzi shǐjìn gàn”!'

「总书记号召『擼起袖子加油干』,我局要认真落实!要『撩起裙子使劲干』!」

"The General Secretary called for 'rolling up sleeves to work harder', which our Bureau [of Quality and Technical Supervision] must conscientiously implement. Time to 'lift up skirts for a hard shag!'"

Who is this Zhāng Hǎishùn 张海顺, so full of chutzpah?  I haven't been able to find any English language description of the man, but there's a brief Wikipedia article on him in Chinese.  From all that I can glean, he is 59 years old, a Han from Shanxi.  He went to Inner Mongolia as a rusticated youth and studied in Qiqihar. Zhang majored in Chinese, and it shows: he has now achieved international fame as a poet-official.

The "rolling up" doesn't have to stop at sleeves. Now that "sumer is icumen in", everyone's rolling up their shirts. Western commentators never tire of commenting on that (the "Beijing Bikini") (witness the Gray Lady), which Chinese metacommentators then metacomment on.

A Beijing Bikini makes you a half bǎng yé 膀爷 ("shirtless dude"), which of late has been eliciting some Puritanical backlash.

Courtesy of Jichang Lulu, here are half a dozen Tibetan translations of Xi's " xiù gàn 撸袖干" ("roll up the sleeves and do it") slogan, from various official-ish sources:

ཕུ་ཐུང་བརྫེས་ནས་ངར་ཤུགས་སྒྲིམས།
phu thung brdzes nas ngar shugs sgrims

ཕུ་ཐུང་བརྫེས་ནས་ནུས་ཤུགས་འདོན།
phu thung brdzes nas nus shugs 'don

ཕུ་ཐུང་བརྫེས་ནས་ཧུར་ཐག་བྱེད།
phu thung brzes nas hur thag byed

ཕུ་ཐུང་བརྫེས་ནས་འབད་བརྩོན་བྱད།
phu thung brdzes nas 'bad brtson byed

ཕུ་ཐུང་བརྫེས་ནས་འབད་བརྩོན་བྱས་ཏེ།
phu thung brdzes nas 'bad brtson byas (te)

ཕུ་དུང་བརྫེས་ནས་ལས་ལ་འབུངས།
phu dung brdzes nas las la 'bungs

All the translations agree on the qǐ xiùzǐ 撸其袖子 ("roll up sleeves") part (phu [th|d)ung rdze), although they use two different spellings for "sleeve". For the second part (jiāyóu gàn 加油干), there are many different interpretations: 'bring forth power/energy', 'exert oneself'….

In Mongolian (from PRC sources, both in traditional script for domestic consumption and in Cyrillic for ("Outer") Mongolia):

ᠬᠠᠨᠴᠤᠢ ᠰᠢᠮᠠᠯᠠᠨ (ᠴᠢᠷᠮᠠᠢᠢᠨ) ᠠᠢᠯᠯᠠᠶ᠎ᠠ
Qancui simalan (cirmayin) ajillay-a

Ханцуй шамлан хичээн зyтгэ[е]
Ханцуй шамлан гавшкайлан ажилла[я]

where again there's universal agreement on the rolled-up sleeves, but the second half can be "exert ourselves", "work" in some gung-ho way, or just "work".

[Thanks to Jichang Lulu, Melvin Lee, Meiheng Dietrich, and Yixue Yang]

Unmasking Slurs

Jul. 23rd, 2017 01:36 am
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Posted by Geoff Nunberg

I'm sympathetic to many of the arguments offered in a guest post by Robert Henderson, Peter Klecha, and Eric McCready (HK&M) in response to Geoff Pullum's post on "nigger in the woodpile," no doubt because they are sympathetic to some of the things I said in my reply to Geoff. But I have to object when they scold me for spelling out the word nigger rather than rendering it as n****r. It seems to me that "masking" the letters of slurs with devices such as this is an unwise practice—it reflects a misunderstanding of the taboos surrounding these words, it impedes serious discussion of their features, and most important, it inadvertently creates an impression that works to the advantage of certain racist ideologies. I have to add that it strikes me that HK&M's arguments, like a good part of the linguistic and philosophical literature on slurs, suffer from a certain narrowness of focus, a neglect both of the facts of actual usage of these words and the complicated discourses that they evoke. So, are you sitting comfortably?

HK&M say of nigger (or as they style it, n****r):

The word literally has as part of its semantic content an expression of racial hate, and its history has made that content unavoidably salient. It is that content, and that history, that gives this word (and other slurs) its power over and above other taboo expressions. It is for this reason that the word is literally unutterable for many people, and why we (who are white, not a part of the group that is victimized by the word in question) avoid it here.

Yes, even here on Language Log. There seems to be an unfortunate attitude — even among those whose views on slurs are otherwise similar to our own — that we as linguists are somehow exceptions to the facts surrounding slurs discussed in this post. In Geoffrey Nunberg’s otherwise commendable post on July 13, for example, he continues to mention the slur (quite abundantly), despite acknowledging the hurt it can cause. We think this is a mistake. We are not special; our community includes members of oppressed groups (though not nearly enough of them), and the rest of us ought to respect and show courtesy to them.

This position is a version of the doctrine that Luvell Anderson and Ernie Lepore call "silentism" (see also here). It accords with the widespread view that the word nigger is phonetically toxic: simply to pronounce it is to activate it, and it isn’t detoxified by placing it in quotation marks or other devices that indicate that the word is being mentioned rather than used, even written news reports or scholarly discussions. In that way, nigger and words like it seem to resemble strong vulgarities. Toxicity, that is, is a property that’s attached to the act of pronouncing a certain phonetic shape, rather than to an act of assertion, which is why some people are disconcerted when all or part of the word appears as a segment of other words, as in niggardly or even denigrate.

Are Slurs Nondisplaceable?

This is, as I say, a widespread view, and HK&M apparently hold that that is reason enough to avoid the unmasked utterance of the word (written or spoken), simply out of courtesy. It doesn't matter whether the insistence on categorial avoidance reflects only the fact that “People have had a hard time wrapping their heads around the fact that referring to the word is not the same as using it,” as John McWhorter puts it—people simply don't like to hear it spoken or see it written, so just don't.

But HK&M also suggest that the taboo on mentioning slurs has a linguistic basis:

There is a consensus in the semantic/pragmatic and philosophical literature on the topic that slurs aggressively attach to the speaker, committing them to a racist attitude even in embedded contexts. Consider embedded slurs; imagine Ron Weasley says “Draco thought that Harry was a mudblood”, where attributing the thought to Draco isn’t enough to absolve Ron of expressing the attitudes associated with the slur. Indeed, even mentioning slurs is fraught territory, which is why the authors of most papers on these issues are careful to distance themselves from the content expressed.

The idea here is that slurs, like other expressives, are always speaker-oriented. A number of semanticists have made this claim, but always on the basis of intuitions about spare constructed examples—in the present case, one involving an imaginary slur: “imagine Ron Weasley says “Draco thought that Harry was a mudblood.” This is always a risky method in getting at the features of socially charged words, and particularly with these, since most of the people who write about slurs are not native speakers of them, and their intuitions are apt to be shaped by their preconceptions. The fact is that people routinely produce sentences in which the attitudes implicit in a slur are attributed to someone other than the speaker. The playwright Harvey Fierstein produced a crisp example on MSNBC, “Everybody loves to hate a homo.” Here are some others:

In fact We lived, in that time, in a world of enemies, of course… but beyond enemies there were the Micks, and the spics, and the wops, and the fuzzy-wuzzies. A whole world of people not us… (edwardsfrostings.com)

So white people were given their own bathrooms, their own water fountains. You didn’t have to ride on public conveyances with niggers anymore. These uncivilized jungle bunnies, darkies.…You had your own cemetery. The niggers will have theirs over there, and everything will be just fine. (Ron Daniels in Race and Resistance: African Americans in the 21st Century)

All Alabama governors do enjoy to troll fags and lesbians as both white and black Alabamians agree that homos piss off the almighty God. (Encyclopedia Dramatica)

[Marcus Bachmann] also called for more funding of cancer and Alzheimer’s research, probably cuz all those homos get all the money now for all that AIDS research. (Maxdad.com)

And needless to say, slurs are not speaker-oriented when they're quoted. When the New York Times reports that “Kaepernick was called a nigger on social media,” no one would assume that the Times endorses the attitudes that the word conveys.

I make this point not so much because it's important here, but because it demonstrates the perils of analyzing slurs without actually looking at how people use them or regard them—a point I'll come back to in a moment.

Toxicity in Speech and Writing

The assimilation of slurs to vulgarities obscures several important differences between the two. For one thing, mentioning slurs is less offensive in writing than in speech. That makes slurs different from vulgarisms like fucking. The New York Times has printed the latter word only twice, most recently in its page one report of Trump’s Access Hollywood tapes. But it has printed nigger any number of times (though in recent years it tends to avoid the word in headlines):

The rhymes include the one beginning, “Eeny, meeny, miney mo, catch a nigger by the toe,” and another one that begins, “Ten little niggers …” May 8, 2014

The Word 'Nigger' Is Part of Our Lexicon Jan. 8, 2011

I live in a city where I probably hear the word “nigger” 50 times a day from people of all colors and ages… Jan 6, 2011

In fan enclaves across the web, a subset of Fifth Harmony followers called Ms. Kordei “Normonkey,” “coon,” and “nigger” Aug 12, 2016

 Gwen [Ifill] came to work one day to find a note in her work space that read “Nigger, go home. Nov. 11, 2016

… on the evening of July 7, 2007, Epstein "bumped into a black woman" on the street in the Georgetown section of Washington … He "called her a 'nigger,' and struck her in the head with an open hand." Charles M. Blow, June 6, 2009.

By contrast, the word is almost never heard in broadcast or free cable (when it does occur, e.g., in a recording, it is invariably bleeped). When I did a Nexis search several years ago on broadcast and cable news transcripts for the year 2012, I found it had been spoken only three times, in each instance by blacks recalling the insults they endured in their childhoods.

To HK&M, this might suggest only that the Times is showing insufficient courtesy to African Americans by printing nigger in full. And it's true that other media are more scrupulous about masking the word than the Times is, notably the New York Post and Fox News and its outlets:

Walmart was in hot water on Monday morning after a product’s description of “N___ Brown” was found on their website. Fox32news, 2027

After Thurston intervened, Artiles continued on and blamed "six n——" for letting Negron rise to power. Fox13news.com, April 19, 2017

In a 2007 encounter with his best friend’s wife, Hogan unleashed an ugly tirade about his daughter Brooke’s black boyfriend.“I mean, I’d rather if she was going to f–k some n—-r, I’d rather have her marry an 8-foot-tall n—-r worth a hundred million dollars! Like a basketball player! I guess we’re all a little racist. F—ing n—-r,” Hogan said, according to a transcript of the recording. New York Post May 2, 2016

"Racism, we are not cured of it," Obama said. "And it's not just a matter of it not being polite to say n***** in public." Foxnews.com June 22, 2015

One might conclude from this, following HK&M's line of argument, that the New York Post and Fox News are demonstrating a greater degree of racial sensitivity than the Times. Still, given the ideological bent of these outlets, one might also suspect that masking is doing a different kind of social work.

Slurs in Scholarship

As an aside, I should note that the deficiencies of the masking approach are even more obvious when we turn to the mention of these words in linguistic or philosophical discussions of slurs and derogative terms, which often involve numerous mentions of a variety of terms. In my forthcoming paper “The Social Life of Slurs,” I discuss dozens of derogative terms, including not just racial, religious, and ethnic slurs, but political derogatives (libtard, commie), geographical derogations (cracker, It. terrone), and derogations involving disability (cripple, spazz, retard), class (pleb, redneck), sexual orientation (faggot, queer, poofter), and nonconforming gender (tranny). I'm not sure how HK&M would suggest I decide which of these called out for masking with asterisks—just the prototypical ones like nigger and spic, or others that may be no less offensive to the targeted group? Cast the net narrowly and you seem to be singling out certain forms of bigotry for special attention; cast it widely and the texts starts to look circus poster. Better to assume that the readers of linguistics and philosophy journals—and linguistics blogs—are adult discerning enough to deal with the unexpurgated forms.

What's Wrong with Masking?

The unspoken assumption behind masking taboo words is that they’re invested with magical powers—like a conjuror’s spell, they are inefficacious unless they are pronounced or written just so. This is how we often think of vulgarisms of course—that writing fuck as f*ck or fug somehow denatures it, even though the reader knows perfectly well what the word is. That's what has led a lot of people in recent years to assimilate racial slurs to vulgarisms—referring to them with the same kind of initialized euphemism used for shit and fuck and describing them with terms like “obscenity” and “curse word” with no sense of speaking figuratively.

But the two cases are very different. Vulgarities rely for their effect on a systematic hypocrisy: we officially stigmatize them in order to preserve their force when they are used transgressively. (Learning to swear involves both being told to avoid the words and hearing them used, ideally by the same people.) But that’s exactly the effect that we want to avoid with slurs: we don’t want their utterers to experience the flush of guilty pleasure or the sense of complicity that comes of violating a rule of propriety—we don't want people ever to use the words, or even think them. Yet that has been one pernicious effect of the toxification of certain words.

It should give us pause to realize that the assimilation of nigger to naughty words has been embraced not just by many African Americans, but also by a large segment of the cultural and political right. Recall the reactions when President Obama remarked in an interview with Marc Maron’s "WTF" podcast that curing racism was “not just a matter of it not being polite to say ‘nigger’ in public.” Some African Americans were unhappy with the remark—the president of the Urban League said the word "ought to be retired from the English language." Others thought it was appropriate.

But the response from many on the right was telling. They, too, disapproved of Obama’s use of the word, but only because it betrayed his crudeness. A commentator on Fox News wrote:

And then there's the guy who runs the "WTF" podcast — an acronym for a word I am not allowed to write on this website. President Obama agreed to a podcast interview with comedian Marc Maron — a podcast host known for his crude language. But who knew the leader of the free world would be more crude than the host?

The Fox News host, Elisabeth Hasselbeck also referenced the name of Maron’s podcast and said,

I think many people are wondering if it’s only there that he would say it, and not, perhaps, in a State of the Union or more public address.

Also on Fox News, the conservative African American columnist Deneen Borelli said, that Obama “has really dragged in the gutter speak of rap music. So now he is the first president of rap, of street?”

It’s presumably not an accident that Fox News’s online reports of this story all render nigger as n****r. It reflects the "naughty word" understanding of the taboo that led members of a fraternity at the University of Oklahoma riding on a charter bus to chant, “There will never be a nigger at SAE/You can hang him from a tree, but he'll never sign with me,” with the same gusto that male college students of my generation would have brought to a sing-along of “Barnacle Bill the Sailor.”

That understanding of nigger as a dirty word also figures in the rhetorical move that some on the right have made, in shifting blame for the usage from white racists to black hip hop artists—taking the reclaimed use of the word as a model for white use. That in turn enables them to assimilate nigger—which they rarely distinguish from nigga—to the vulgarities that proliferate in hip hop. Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough of Morning Joe blamed the Oklahoma incident on hip hop, citing the songs of Waka Flocka Flame, who had canceled a concert at the university; as Brzezinski put it:

If you look at every single song, I guess you call these, that he’s written, it’s a bunch of garbage. It’s full of n-words, it’s full of f-words. It’s wrong. And he shouldn’t be disgusted with them, he should be disgusted with himself.

On the same broadcast, Bill Kristol added that “popular culture has become a cesspool,” again subsuming the use of racist slurs, via hip hop, under the heading of vulgarity and obscenity in general.

I don’t mean to suggest that Brzezinski, Scarborough and Kristol aren’t genuinely distressed by the use of racial slurs (I have my doubts about some of the Fox News hosts). But for the respectable sectors of cultural right—I mean as opposed to the unreconstructed bigots who have no qualms about using nigger at Trump rallies or on Reddit forums—the essential problem with powerful slurs is that they’re vulgar and coarse, and only secondarily that they’re the instruments of social oppression. And the insistence on categorically avoiding unmasked mentions of the words is very easy to interpret as supporting that view. In a way, it takes us back to the disdain for the word among genteel nineteenth-century Northerners. A contributor to an 1894 number of the Century Magazine wrote that “An American feels something vulgar in the word ‘nigger’. A ‘half-cut’ [semi-genteel] American, though he might use it in speech, would hardly print it.” And a widely repeated anecdote had William Seward saying of Stephen Douglas that the American people would never elect as president “[a] man who spells negro with two g’s,” since “the people always mean to elect a gentleman for president.” (That expression, "spelling negro with two g's" was popular at the time, a mid-nineteenth-century equivalent to the form n*****r.)

This all calls for care, of course. There are certainly contexts in which writing nigger in full is unwise. But in serious written discussions of slurs and their use, we ought to be able to spell the words out, in the reasonable expectation that our readers will discern our purpose.

As John McWhorter put this point in connection with the remarks Obama made on the Marc Maron podcast:

Obama should not have to say “the N-word” when referring to the word, and I’m glad he didn’t. Whites shouldn’t have to either, if you ask me. I am now old enough to remember when the euphemism had yet to catch on. In a thoroughly enlightened 1990s journalistic culture, one could still say the whole word when talking about it.… What have we gained since then in barring people from ever uttering the word even to discuss it—other than a fake, ticklish nicety that seems almost designed to create misunderstandings?

Response to Pullum on slurs

Jul. 20th, 2017 10:45 pm
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Posted by Barbara Partee

This is a guest post by Robert Henderson, Peter Klecha, and Eric McCready in response to Geoff Pullum's post of July 10. My only role was offering in advance to post a reply if the authors would like me to. I'm a good friend of Geoff Pullum and a friend of the authors. What follows is theirs.

We were quite surprised to read the LL post by Geoff Pullum of July 10. In this post, GP discussed the suspension of Tory MP Anne Marie Morris for using the phrase “n****r in the woodpile” at an event held at the East India Club. After her use of this phrase was recorded and publicized, she was suspended by the Tories for what the Financial Times described as a racist remark. According to GP, this punishment was excessive, as the remark in question was not racist; he proceeds “reluctantly” to defend Ms. Morris, as the idiom in question was merely “silly.” While we offer no comment on the appropriateness of the specific punishment Ms. Morris received, we do find this characterization problematic on both moral and empirical grounds, together with many other commentators on social media, and we want to suggest that the author should have been (much) more careful when dealing with such an important topic.

What counts as a racist remark? The range of possibilities is broad, from direct attributions of racial slurs to covert dog-whistles, and it’s ultimately not for us as white individuals, or for anybody outside of the oppressed group in question, to declare exactly what is or is not a racist act. However, it does seem clear to us that the category of racist statements isn’t limited to saying things like “X is a [slur].” Thus GP’s claim that the MP’s statement doesn’t count as a racist remark because she didn't call anyone by the slur is off the mark. Utterances which are judged to be racist remarks even include saying positive things about non-people, e.g., "I love [slur] food!" This fact shows that GP’s definition of racist remarks is far too narrow.

Once we allow racist remarks to include more than predicating a slur of an individual, the ground for defending Morris's remark shrinks substantially. The only such defense is to argue that the appearance of the n-word in an idiom is enough to neutralize its racist meaning component. GP tries this route, but here the post runs into empirical problems given well-known facts about slurs. There is a consensus in the semantic/pragmatic and philosophical literature on the topic that slurs aggressively attach to the speaker, committing them to a racist attitude even in embedded contexts. Consider embedded slurs; imagine Ron Weasley says “Draco thought that Harry was a mudblood”, where attributing the thought to Draco isn’t enough to absolve Ron of expressing the attitudes associated with the slur. Indeed, even mentioning slurs is fraught territory, which is why the authors of most papers on these issues are careful to distance themselves from the content expressed. While we aren’t aware of work on slurs in noncompositional idioms in particular, a moment’s thought is enough to show that just putting a potentially offensive word into an idiom doesn’t defuse it; we would feel uncomfortable saying “the shit hit the fan” in formal situations, for example, although here “shit” lacks its literal meaning. Thus we should expect that the slurring meaning of the n-word survives in the idiom.

Slurs are generally words which have a history of being used to inflict serious emotional distress. Setting aside how it is that they come to do that in first place (which surely must have something to do with both their literal meaning and with their issuers’ hateful intent), they come to have a perverse second effect, as we understand it: they viscerally remind their victims of the hurt they have experienced due to prior use of the word, as summed up by the Langston Hughes quotation excerpted by Geoffrey Nunberg’s post, or by Ice Cube in his recent discussion with Bill Maher: “When I hear a white person say it, it feel like that knife stabbing you, even if they don’t mean to.” And importantly, what we have read and heard from people who have been victimized by these words suggests that any depiction can be such a reminder, whether it is use, mention, quotation, or even just phonetic overlap, as in the very obvious case of an idiom containing a slur, or less obvious cases like similar-sounding but historically unrelated words.

As an analogy, consider someone who has been the victim of repeated axe-violence — someone who has been attacked with axes over and over again over the course of their life, and has been threatened with such attacks even more often. If such a person were to come into contact with even just a depiction of an axe or axe-violence, it would be responsible to assume that the person may well become upset, and maybe even re-traumatized. And importantly, this is independent of anyone’s intent — it wouldn’t matter if I showed such a depiction to such a person with the virtuous intent of wanting to rob these depictions of their power to hurt the victim, for example — it would still very likely cause pain. There would be no reason to expect that that pain would be in any way a function of the depicter’s intent.

Likewise, any depiction of a slur creates the risk of causing hurt to those people who have been historically victimized by the slur, regardless of speaker intent. In this way, the slurring effect of a slur is more like Grice’s (1957) natural meaning than his non-natural (communicative) meaning; it is something the hearer derives from the utterance independent of grammatical convention or of their recognition of the speaker’s intent. See also this discussion of research on the physiological effects “mere words” can have.

These considerations defuse the central claim of GP's linguistic defense of Morris's remark, namely that the meaning of the idiom is "a hitherto concealed unpleasant surprise". Instead, racial slurs are terms that both predicate racial categories of people, and also denigrate those categories (technically, they are “mixed content bearers”). The idiom thus means "a hitherto concealed unpleasant surprise" while at the same time committing the speaker to a racist attitude. It is this second component that we expect to attach to the speaker, even in idiom. That this is the case is also shown by the fact that people have to keep apologizing for using the phrase. In fact, the fact that the MP was suspended and the reporting of the suspension makes use of the term “racist remark” is itself evidence that people naturally get the racist interpretation.

We think that GP's defense of Morris is not tenable on linguistic grounds, but there is a second aspect of the post in question that we find disturbing and important to address. Throughout the post, GP repeatedly mentions the n-word in its uncensored form. In a follow-up to the original post, he says that his refusal to censor is a strategy to avoid giving that word its power. If you take the standard linguistic analysis of slurs, though, the word’s power does not come from mere taboo (i.e., a social prohibition on using or mentioning the word as we see with expletives like "shit"). The word literally has as part of its semantic content an expression of racial hate, and its history has made that content unavoidably salient. It is that content, and that history, that gives this word (and other slurs) its power over and above other taboo expressions. It is for this reason that the word is literally unutterable for many people, and why we (who are white, not a part of the group that is victimized by the word in question) avoid it here.

Yes, even here on Language Log. There seems to be an unfortunate attitude — even among those whose views on slurs are otherwise similar to our own — that we as linguists are somehow exceptions to the facts surrounding slurs discussed in this post. In Geoffrey Nunberg’s otherwise commendable post on July 13, for example, he continues to mention the slur (quite abundantly), despite acknowledging the hurt it can cause. We think this is a mistake. We are not special; our community includes members of oppressed groups (though not nearly enough of them), and the rest of us ought to respect and show courtesy to them.

The sad fact is that linguistics as an academic field has severe diversity issues. These problems are not helped by the strategy above, which, while in the abstract might have its merits, in practice is only hurtful, and only serves as a barrier to those who might find its use painful or insensitive. Certainly, the taboo-ignoring strategy exemplified by GP’s original post is not going to be helpful in solving the problems our field has with lack of diversity. These problems are further evidenced by the fact, mentioned above, that we, the authors, are white, so we cannot directly understand what it feels like to be affected by the slur under discussion. Writing this post discomforts us in light of this fact, but we feel that we have a responsibility to try to further this discussion, and acknowledge that our understanding of the actual harm that comes from the n-word is indirect. For all of us who are not targeted by particular slurs, understanding can only really come from listening to those who have been harmed by them. We strongly encourage everyone to do so.

We want finally to emphasize that it’s not our intention to hang GP from the nearest flagpole, or to implicate in any way that he is himself a racist. We mention this only because some people we have talked about this issue with felt the need to defend him on this count. It hadn’t even entered our minds; we know that language behaviors are deeply ingrained and don’t always reflect our values. Indeed, one of the main points of this note is that speaker intention is not always relevant to these matters. (What’s more, we don’t even believe that debating which individual people may or may not be “racists in their heart of hearts” is a productive way to take on racism.) We are, in fact, fans of GP’s; but we are not fans of this post, for the reasons above.

We are grateful for helpful comments on this note by Carissa Ábrego-collier, Chris Davis, Mitcho Erlewine, Julia Goldsmith-Pinkham, Prerna Nadathur, and Betsy Pillion.

Rescued debate

Jul. 20th, 2017 12:40 pm
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Mark Liberman

Yesterday Sharon Klein wrote to ask about the 2010 debate on Language and Thought hosted by The Economist:

Some colleagues in other departments (notably in philosophy) have been asking to talk about the hypothesis, linguistic relativism, and the actual research around the issues. While I can (and have begun to) collect relevant papers for a casual reading group (a good way to reach out…), I remembered that the debate provided a very helpful clearinghouse for the discussion that had developed in this area.

But she found that the Economist's intro page on this debate  leads only to an debate archive site that doesn't include this one; and the links in old LLOG posts are now redirected to the same unhelpful location.

A source at the magazine explained:

We vastly over-designed the debate platform (and over-thought it generally, in various ways), and when we stopped running the debates that way, we stopped running that bit of the website. The old debates are now unavailable online.

A bit of poking around at the Internet Archive turned up a copy:

Opening statements (with Derek Bickerton as "Featured guest")

Rebuttal statements (with Dan Slobin as "Featured guest")

Closing statements (with Lila Gleitman as "Featured guest")

As I noted at the time ("Shellacked by Boroditsky", 12/22/2010), the voting audience overwhelmingly supported Lera Boroditsky's argument that "the language we speak shapes how we think".

I've always been fond of Lane Greene's assessment:

If I had to sum up in plain English my conclusion would be not "language shapes thought" (much less "language restricts thought"), but probably "language nudges thought" (in certain circumstances).

Lane's final zinger in that comment:

What if silly Whorfian thinking were something we were innately prone to? Wouldn't that just blow [Lera Boroditsky's] and Steven Pinker's minds at the same time?

Or, as Lila Gleitman likes to put it, less speculatively, "Empiricism is innate".

See also "Never mind the conclusions, what's the evidence?", 8/30/2010 , and if you have a robust appetite for quasi-Whorfian explorations, the whole "'No word for X' archive".

There's a relevant (Whorf-skeptical) review article by Lila Gleitman and Anna Papafragou in the Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Psychology, "Relations Between Language and Thought" (preprint here). And for a deep dive into language and space, see Peggy Li et al., "Spatial Reasoning in Tenejapan Mayans", Cognition 2011.

 

 

Helpful Google

Jul. 17th, 2017 10:44 pm
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Posted by Mark Liberman

The marvels of modern natural language processing:

Michael Glazer, who sent in the example, wonders whether Google Translate has overdosed on old Boris and Natasha segments from Rocky and Bullwinkle:


But it seems that the Google speech synthesis systems are not in on the fun, because if I accept Helpful Google's suggestion that I might mean "I vud be grateful if jou vould čonfirm rečeipt of this email so that I čan be sure that is has reačed jou", and then use the synthesize button, what come out sounds less like Boris Badenov and more like a bad reconstruction of proto-indo-european:

10 JULY - 17 JULY

Jul. 17th, 2017 10:23 pm
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Posted by kidmarathon

{American Gods}
{fic}
- run right back to her by doctorkaitlyn -Audrey/Laura .

{DC Universe}
{fic}
- Time to Regrow by katleept -Batgirl/Ivy (Batman and Robin).
{drabble}
- got those pretty little straps around your ankles by templefugate -Barbara Gordon/Dinah Lance (Birds of Prey).

{Golden Girls}
{drabble}
- Those Who Matter by katleept -Blanche/Dorothy .

{Harry Potter}
{drabble}
- Slither by swan_secrets -Hermione/Pansy .
{fic}
- Midsummer's Night Magic by kiertorata -Lavender Brown/Parvati Patil .
{art}
- I happen to like nice girls by digthewriter -Fleur/Tonks .

{Joss verse}
{fic}
- The Greatest Thing by katleept -Willow/Kennedy .
- We'll always Have Minsk by brutti_ma_buoni -Anya/Dawn .
{art}
It's Magic - One More Collab With My Good Friendhenartorinos -Willow/Tara .
{drabble}
- Nice Girls Don't Stay For Breakfast by <[personal profile] beer_good_foamy> -Faith/Buffy .

{Law and Order SVU}
{fic}
- "The 4th of July" by women_in_kevlar -Alex/Olivia .
- Gone by girlslash -Alex/Olivia .
- Hope by women_in_kevlar -Alex/Olivia .

{Power Rangers}
{drabble}
- Something Special With You by katleept -Trini/Kim .

{Spy}
{drabble}
- Sugar and Spice by reinadefuego -Rayna Boyanov/Susan Cooper .

{Teen Wolf}
{drabble}
- Five Times Malia Wants to Propose to Kira by doctorkaitlyn -Kira/Malia .
- Predictability by doctorkaitlyn -Kali/Violet .

{True Blood}
{fic}
- Show Me by dexstarr -Jessica Hamby/Pam Swynford De Beaufort .

{misc}
{challenge}
- femslash100 - Down
turlough: My Chemical Romance, photoshoot for Uncle Sally*s (German magazine) autumn 2010 ((mcr) away with the boys in the band)
[personal profile] turlough
"Admit it Frankie, your ideas for naming diseases are shit."

"Because your ideas are always so awesome, yeah?" Frank shoots back. "Who thought it was a good idea to kill all firstborns in Egypt, huh?"

"Oh for - Frank, that was forever ago!"

"Don't make me bring up the dinosaurs."

Gerard looks guilty for a moment. "They never proved that was me."

Frank jumps up and points. "HA! I knew it was you, you fucker. Those things were cool."

"I didn't mean to. Besides, it worked out. The humans and stuff."


- [archiveofourown.org profile] b_dsaint & [archiveofourown.org profile] pikasafire's Revelation 6: 1-8

Annals of redundancy and masochism

Jul. 17th, 2017 05:20 am
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Victor Mair

Two gems from Chris Brannick via Facebook (the first is from the site of the Immortality Pills in Guangzhou and the second is from the Langham Place Hotel, also in Guangzhou):


1.

yánjìn xiédài 严禁携带 ("it is forbidden to carry")

wéijìn wùpǐn 违禁物品 ("prohibited items")

2.

xǐngshén zhī xuǎn 醒神之选 ("wake up selection")

dāndiǎn zǎocān 单点早餐 ("à la carte breakfast")

In making effective translations, one must not only not slavishly follow dictionaries and machine translators, one must also exercise common sense.  Unfortunately, that means one must have a good command both of the language from which one is translating and of the language into which one is translating — a combination that requires extensive training in both languages.

Annals of poor translation

Jul. 17th, 2017 05:12 am
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Posted by Victor Mair

Below are two pages from the instruction book for a small point and shoot digital camera (the original in Chinese and the corresponding page translated into English). As you can see, the language display has a couple of strange choices.


jiǎn Zhōng 简中 ("simplified Chinese [characters]")

fán Zhōng 繁中 ("traditional Chinese [characters]") — fán 繁 literally means "complex; complicated; numerous", referring to the number of strokes compared to the simplified characters

For the first, the instruction manual follows Google Translate in giving "Jane", roughly approximating the sound of jiǎn 简.  For the second, it give "numerous", whereas Google Translate gives "traditional".

It's ironic that the manual messes up only the Chinese when that is the language of the original text, and handles all the other languages correctly.

[Thanks to Rob Perez]

Serious earworm infection

Jul. 17th, 2017 02:32 am
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Victor Mair

I had heard "Let Me Love You" by D J Snake featuring Justin Bieber many times on the radio and was intrigued by several things:

1. Who / what is D J Snake?

2. In what way is the super famous Biebs "featured" on a record by a D J named Snake?  In other words, what was the nature of their collaboration?

3. Above all, who was making that manic, beyond yodeling sound in the background (was it Biebs? D J Snake? somebody else? a machine / instrument?), and how were they making it?

So I went looking for a music video in hopes that I might be enlightened.

Yesterday, by chance, instead of one of the various three and a half minutes or shorter versions, I watched this 9'20" video first:

"LET ME LOVE YOU" – DJ Snake ft Justin Bieber Dance

The combination of repetitive musical phrases and frenetic dance moves caused these words and the associated notes to become lodged in my brain:

Don't you give up, nah-nah-nah / I won't give up, nah-nah-nah / Let me love you / Let me love you….

For the next three hours, though I tried to do some earnest work, I couldn't get that song out of my mind.

Fortunately, I did fall asleep and didn't hear the music in my dreams (I'm one of those people who almost never dream, or perhaps I should say that I'm seldom aware that I dream), but I woke up the next morning and the worm was right there in my ear!

Those who have experienced earworms, especially of banal phrases / tunes will know how annoying, almost maddening, they can be.

When it gets really bad, the only first aid I can use to cope with them is to strive very hard to shift to another musical phrase.  Unfortunately, then I'm usually stuck with a replacement earworm that goes on an endless repeat loop of its own, or the two phrases get jumbled and alternate with each other.  As a last resort, the only solution I know of is to engage in vigorous physical activity (running, basketball, exercise, etc.).  One can only hope that, after the energetic physical activity is over, the earworm will not return.

A couple of earlier posts:

"Earworms and white bears" (9/1/13)

"Musical maggots" (9/5/13)

One commenter informed us that "Absurd Macaronic Earworm" is the name of his band's debut album.  They could only hope that would be true.

[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Barbara Partee

Paul Kay offered the following item for discussion around the water cooler at Language Log central:

Here's an excerpt from the initial email from Rob Goldstone to Donald Trump, Jr.:

​"This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its  government’s support for Mr. Trump – helped along by Aras and Emin."​

Is it worth noting the use of the possessive determiner​? I guess it's generally accepted that possessive determiners involve  some kind of existence presupposition, though I'm aware that there's a lot more to that subject than I know. In the current instance, the presupposition would be that there is in fact Russian government support for Trump. …

Paul continues:

“Why this presupposition might be interesting is that Goldstone seems to be taking it for granted that Trump Jr. is aware of Russia's (active) support and Trump Jr.'s lack of objection to this apparent assumption on Goldstone's part suggests that he (Trump Jr.) finds nothing untoward in Goldstone's tacit assumption. Would the existence of tacit agreement between G and T that cooperation exists between the campaign and the Russian government constitute evidence that there is in fact cooperation between the campaign and the Russian government?”

Those of us who were by the water cooler agree that Paul is right about the presupposition. One has to be careful, because in some contexts, like "I want to see proof/evidence of your love", there is not a presupposition of the existence of love. The lack of presupposition is even stronger in examples like "I haven't seen any evidence of their involvement in the affair." "There's no evidence of his support for such measures." But those are contexts that actively question or deny the relevant existence claim; such contexts can cancel the presupposition of existence.

But the given context, which we can simplify to "This is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump", contains nothing that would conflict with the presupposition of the existence of support for Mr. Trump by Russia and its government, so the presupposition survives.

The fact that the existence of such support is presupposed and not asserted is of particular interest, as Paul notes, because it’s thereby presented as old, familiar information; Goldstone is not informing Trump Jr about the support, but assuming that that’s shared information both already have. What’s new is what preceded that sentence — news of an offer to provide documents which “would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.”

As Paul notes, Donald Trump Jr.’s lack of objection or reaction to that presupposition supports the impression that the existence of Russian government support is shared knowledge: there seems to be tacit agreement between Goldstone and Trump that the Russian government is supporting Mr. Trump. Of course that doesn’t follow absolutely; it’s always possible to be surprised someone’s presupposition but simply “accommodate” it, add it silently to the “common ground” without expressing your surprise. But at the very least, as Kai von Fintel notes, the presupposition is being accepted as unremarkable, even if not actually already taken for granted. The net result is still tacit agreement about the Russian support.

Paul wonders if that tacit agreement on the occasion of setting up a meeting would constitute evidence of cooperation between the campaign and the Russian government. But I’m just a linguist, so while I’m prepared to argue for the presupposition, I’ll stop with that and let the legal experts take it from there.

North America on the Belt and Road?

Jul. 16th, 2017 09:09 am
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Mark Liberman

I've spent the past couple of days at the "Belt and Road Forum for Language Resources", organized by the "Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Language Resources". There are other recently-founded Beijing Advanced Innovation Centers for "Future Education", "Genomics", "Soft Matter Science and Engineering", "Intelligent Robots and Systems", "Big Data and Brain Computing", "Future Visual Entertainment", and no doubt many others.

As for the "Belt and Road Forum" part, this is part of the "Belt and Road Initiative" (discussion e.g. here), which Christine Lagarde said "is about connecting cultures, communities, economies, and people, and about adding new economic flavors by creating infrastructure projects that are based on 21st-century expertise and governance standards". The "Belt" seems to be a set of land-based transportation projects, while the "Road" is the "Maritime Silkroad", all centered on China as illustrated here:

One thing that puzzled me about this workshop was its thematic image of an artistically pixelated globe  centered over the North Atlantic, roughly at the latitude of Philadelphia.

Here's an example from the cover of the Center's brochure:

And another from the backdrop on the stage in the auditorium:

Dialect maps get surreal

Jul. 15th, 2017 03:57 am
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Ben Zimmer

Everybody seems to enjoy sharing dialect maps displaying the boundaries of different American regionalisms. So it was only a matter of time before this enticing form of data visualization got satirized. On Twitter, Josh Cagan takes it in an absurdist direction.

Some background. As I detailed here back in 2013 ("About those dialect maps making the rounds…"), we had a burst of dialect-mania when Josh Katz, then a PhD student in statistics at North Carolina State University, created heat-map visualizations of regional variants. Katz originally based his maps on data collected in the early aughts as part of the Harvard Dialect Survey, conducted online by Bert Vaux and Scott Golder. Using Vaux and Golder's questionnaire, Katz created his own online survey, ultimately collecting about 350,000 unique responses, and displayed the results using the data analysis software RStudio. (See: "Beyond 'Soda, Pop, or Coke': Regional Dialect Variation in the Continental US.")

Katz's heat maps first went viral in June 2013 when Walt Hickey reproduced them for Business Insider. (The BI article currently registers nearly 43 million views.) Katz went on to create a wildly popular dialect quiz for the New York Times, which turned into an even bigger viral sensation at the end of 2013. After an internship at the Times, Katz joined the paper's analytic journalism team, creating data visualizations for The Upshot. He also turned his heat maps into a book, published last year under the title Speaking American: How Y’all, Youse, and You Guys Talk. (Full disclosure: I appeared with Katz at a book launch event.)

The latest flurry of interest in dialect maps is due to a piece that Katz created for the Reader's Digest site with some of the maps from his book: "Say These 9 Words, and We’ll Tell You Where You Grew Up." Those maps have been making the rounds on social media over the past week — sometimes with astonished reactions, such as this one from Elizabeth Minkel.

As for Cagan's spoof, he repurposed Katz's map for soda vs. pop vs. coke.

The nonsensical replacements in Cagan's map are reminiscent of a new strain of gibberish that's been popping up online, in which fast food logos get transmogrified.

The source of such twisted logos is Reddit, specifically the subreddit /r/sbubby. (See Know Your Meme for more background.) I wonder, can you get arpleparple at Applebapple's?

[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Victor Mair

[This is a follow up to "Preserved wife plum" (7/12/17), after which there ensued a vigorous and enlightening discussion on the terminology for plums, apricots, pastries, and so forth.]

My wife was born in Shandong in 1936, but fled from the Japanese with her family to Sichuan before she was one year old, and she spent the next eleven years of her life in Sichuan, before fleeing once again with her family, this time from the Chinese Communists, to Taiwan.

One of the last things Li-ching did before passing away in 2010 was write her childhood memoirs in Hanyu Pinyin (see here, here [three items], and here).  At this moment, I do not recall if she mentioned it in her memoirs, but one of her fondest recollections of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan where she and her family lived (it was also the wartime capital of the Republic of China — now on Taiwan) was the làméi 臘梅 / 腊梅 (Chimonanthus fragrans / praecox).  In English, the làméi 臘梅 is referred to as wintersweet, Japanese allspice (despite the attractive name, it is not edible), calyx canthus, and mistakenly — but still quite commonly — as "wax plum" (look it up on Google Images under this name for pretty pictures of the blossoms).   In Japanese this plant is called rōbai 蝋梅, although it used to be written 臘梅 and 蠟梅 (nowadays it is normally written in kana alone:  ろうばい · ロウバイ).

It would take me too far afield to get into the thorny relationships among 臘, 腊, 蝋, 蠟, and 蜡, but if someone else wants to attempt it, they're more than welcome.  On the Chinese side, là 臘 / 腊, refers to the twelfth month (year-end) sacrifice, or more generally to wintertime.  Pronounced xī, this same character means "dried meat", but the term 臘肉 / 腊肉, which refers to cured meat made during the last month of the year, is pronounced làròu.  (I clearly remember walking around the campus of Sichuan University in winter and seeing the làròu 臘肉 / 腊肉 hanging from the windows and balconies of people's flats as it cured.)  On the other hand, là 蠟 / 蜡 means "wax".  I leave it to others to sort out the relevant kanji.

Judging from its scientific classification, the làméi 臘梅 is completely unrelated to the Prunus genus, which includes plums, cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots and almonds.  This is proof that Sino-Japanese méi / kun ume, on bai 梅 spans across more than one genus.

Back to Sichuan.  I used to go there frequently in the late 80s and 90s to work on a massive dictionary of Middle Vernacular Sinitic with Zhu Qingzhi, who was teaching at Sichuan university in those years (we're still working on it, and hope to finish within two years).  One winter, my wife said to me, "Victor, if you see any làméi, please bring some back for me."

I knew how much Li-ching loved làméi, so I kept my eyes open for it as I walked through Chengdu in the gray, dreary cold.  One day, I saw some branches of blossoming làméi hanging over a courtyard wall, so I broke off a small sprig that extended far out into the alleyway (I knew how much it would mean to Li-ching).  Because the làméi is so delicate, yet flowers in the dead of winter on leafless branches, it has tremendous symbolic significance for those who struggle in adversity.

Fortunately, I managed to preserve that sprig with all of its petals intact.  When I delivered it to Li-ching, she was ecstatic, since she hadn't seen, held, and smelled làméi for more than half a century by that point.

The other greatest gift that I gave to Li-ching was a sprig of plum blossoms, the kind that julie lee wrote about in this comment, perfectly encased in a block of clear plastic, acrylic, I believe.  By chance, I found it in a small arts and crafts shop in Kyoto.  I do not know how the craftsman who made that work of art did it, but there are no bubbles or other imperfections in the block, and every tiny petal, stamen, and pistil retains its original shape, as fresh as the day when that block was created.

Because they are both called méi 梅 in Chinese, even though they are not in the same genus, the two gifts that I gave to Li-ching were intimately linked in her mind.

This leads me to a brief conclusion on the terminology for "wine" in Chinese.  We've discussed this many times on Language Log before (e.g., here, here, and here).  Suffice it to say for the moment that technically jiǔ 酒 is not "wine", but more akin to "brew" or "beer".  Countless poems have been written about drinking jiǔ 酒 and appreciating méi 梅, and these terms are almost always translated as "wine" and "plum", though technically those translations may not be correct in many cases.  Despite the title of this post, it is not my intention to embark on a campaign to change our customary renderings of jiǔ 酒 and méi 梅, except when it would clearly make more sense to do otherwise.  However, when it comes to fāngyán 方言, we really do need to stop using the mistranslation of that term as an excuse to call Cantonese, Taiwanese, etc. "dialects" (of what?  Mandarin?), when clearly they are bona fide languages.

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