Drunk [on] US dollars

On June 9, 2012, Clement Larrive wrote:

I stumbled upon this sign while on a trip from Wuhan, Hubei to Shanghai.
Do you have any idea about what it really means ?

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So WHAT rolls to the UK again?

[h/t Ian Preston]

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"Academician who survived Stalin's purges… fish"

Dmitriy Genzel sent in this photograph of an item on a Chinese menu:

(From here.)

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Baby tracks down a nurse

Several people sent me links to this headline. One submitter wrote "I’ve enjoyed many ambiguous headlines in my few years of following Language Log. Today I ran across this one, which I read entirely wrong at first (how does a baby track down a nurse?):"

"Woman burned as a baby tracks down nurse who cared for her", Chicago Tribune 9/30/2015.

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Royal language

Anyone who has studied more than a year of Japanese will have a sense of the elaborate system of honorifics employed in the language.  But there's a very high level of honorific speech that not even advanced students are required to learn, viz., the language used exclusively by the imperial family.

Last month, there was an article in The Daily Beast about MacArthur's translator, George Kisaki, a nisei (second generation Japanese):

"Exclusive: From Internment Camp to MacArthur’s Aide in Rebuilding Japan " (8/8/15)

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Jim Breen snapped this photograph in the departure lounge at Guangzhou airport:

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Beauty-protecting box

Nathan Hopson sent in this photograph of a trash can / rubbish bin in Nagoya, Japan:

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BAHfest: Linguistics under-represented?

Upcoming editions of the Festival of Bad ad Hoc Hypotheses will take place in San Francisco, Seattle, and London. If you're not sure what these are like, here's a winning entry from BahFest West 2014:

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Reversal of meanings

From Cecilia Segawa Seigle (9/18/15):

Yesterday morning's Asahi Shinbun reports that some Japanese words (or argot in certain cases) seem to be changing (reversing) meanings.

For example "yabai" (やばい), originally an argot used by criminals (thieves) meaning "not good" or "not propitious," seems to have changed its meaning among teenagers. 90% of the teens use the word "yabai" to express "wonderful," "good," "delicious," "smart-looking."  Only 5% of the people above 70 years of age used "yabai" for positive meaning; in other words the older people still use the word for negative situations.

For the word "Omomuroni" (おもむろに), an adverb meaning "unhurriedly," "slowly," 44.5% answered with the traditional meaning "slowly." 40.8% answered that "omomuroni" meant "suddenly."

This is only a small part of the phenomena revealing the breakdown of the Japanese language according to the recent survey made by Bunkacho (文化庁), Japanese government's Agency for Cultural Affairs.

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Inverting inversely

Paul Kay wrote to point to a sexist joke that inverts a scalar predicate, in a way that's similar to what happens in the "No head injury is too trivial to be ignored" / "No wug is too dax to be zonged" type of misnegation:

The speed in which a woman says "nothing" when asked "What's wrong?" is inversely proportional to the severity of the shit storm that's coming.

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Fox redux

Melvin Jules Bukiet, "What's Your Pronoun?", The Chronicle Review 9/21/2015:

[H]aving learned to adapt to unexpected or previously unknown pronouns, I am confronted by a new wrinkle in the language of identification. As one of the staff members at the college where I teach recently informed the faculty, "Some of the students will prefer to be referred to as ‘they.’ "  

Really? Or rather, no, because here my problem is practical. Specifically, it’s what verb to use in those pesky evaluations. I cannot bring myself to write, "They is a good student." Nor can I write, "They are a good student." And I simply won’t write about an individual, "They are good students," because "they" are not Walt Whitman. "They" do not contain multitudes. They are entitled to their own identity, but not to their own grammar. Therefore, in lieu of any pronoun, I will use whatever name a student provides. This will lead to a stilted paragraph, but it won’t be wrong.

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Bèibèi panda

Bloix asked:

Can someone tell me if the name of the new panda cub, Bei Bei, really means "precious treasure"? If it does, how does that work? Does Bei mean treasure and the duplication is emphasis? Or what?

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Cantonese and Mandarin are two different languages

From Mengnan Zhang:

I found this very interesting image on Facebook. The three columns stand for how to write various terms in Cantonese, their pronunciation, and the meaning of the words listed. As a native speaker of Mandarin, I have no idea what these words are talking about even after reading the meaning of each. Linked back to what our professor had talked about in class, Cantonese is a language, which both script and speech have no correspondence with Mandarin at all.

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