While I was eating dinner in a pub, the big screen was showing the preliminaries to a repeat of the USA v Wales football/soccer world cup game, with the sound turned down. The teams came out and lined up and the two national anthems were played and sung. Looking very carefully, I could just see the USA team members’ mouths moving, but they clearly weren’t putting much effort into it. The Welsh team members, on the other hand, were actually singing. I even mouth-read the word Gwlad (country). It wasn’t lip-reading, it was mouth-reading, like, their whole mouth. Sing (or don’t (see the Iranian team before their match)). Just don’t be wishy-washy about it.
Travesties and farces
One sports headline quoted someone calling the end of the Australia v China women’s basketball match, in which China was awarded a foul with with 0.6 seconds remaining, a “travesty”. Another quoted someone calling the end of the men’s high jump, in which Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim and Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi decided to share the gold medal rather than jump off for gold and silver, a “farce”. I’m not familiar enough with the rules of either sport to be able to comment on the sports angle, but I’m familiar enough with words to know that travesty and farce were both originally theatrical words.
Travesties (trans + vestire) were ridiculous parodies of serious works. The actors may or may not have cross-dressed (compare transvestite). Farces (farcīre, farsus, stuffed) were “fillings”, light, humorous plays between more serious works, or standalones (which sometimes made serious points about eg the relationship between masters and servants, or men and women). Farce still (possibly just) bears its original meaning (“My new play is a farce”), but travesty doesn’t (“My new play is a travesty”).
This is another example, if one is needed, that the meanings of words change over time. People who say “This word means that (and can only mean that), because the etymology of X means that” are almost certainly wrong. Silly people. (I thought I’d blogged about silly before, but apparently not.)
“Swimming dancing to music”
Nine years ago I used the then-current London Olympics to talk about the Olympic Games, Olympic sports in particular and other sports in general, especially those popular in the students’ countries or which they played, which also gave a lot of opportunities for asking questions with who, what, where, when, how, how much, how many, how many times, how long and why. At the time, I had two students from Greece in my class, who actually lived within sight of Mount Olympus. One of them especially said “Oooh, is Greek word” any time we encountered a Greek word, which was obviously a lot during this class. The other one thought very carefully and said “swimming dancing to music” as an Olympic sport. With a little bit of knowledge of Greek I was able to guide him towards swimming with (σύν, sún, syn-) music and in time (χρόνος, khrónos, chron-) to it.
“Swimming dancing to music” is actually a very good attempt to communicate when he didn’t know the actual word.
English is an international language, but each speaker, community and country stamps its own idiosyncrasies on it. Today’s front page of a well-known search engine had an image related to the 2018 Asian Games, about which I knew nothing, so I searched online using the well-known search engine, and the first result was a headline from the Times of India:
From sweeping a dhaba floor to playing for gold at Asiad
I infer that a dhaba is a building of some sort, rather low on the prestige scale. (Is sweeping a floor ever high-prestige?)
The story itself is about a kabbadi player named Kavita Thakur, who:
[f]or most of her life … lived in a cramped dhaba at her village [in northern India].
The 24-year-old … spent her childhood and teen years washing utensils and sweeping floors at the dhaba, which is run by her parents. Father Prithvi Singh and mother Krishna Devi still sell tea and snacks at the dhaba …
Utensils, tea, snacks — a small eatery or drinkery, maybe? Yes, a roadside restaurant or café. The Times uses the word in the headline and seven times in the article, fully expecting its readers to know what it is.
Casting the first stone
The South Korean women’s curling team has done unexpectedly well, and will compete in the final tonight against Sweden. Australia’s affiliated broadcaster didn’t show last night’s semi-final against Japan in its entirety, or even give updates during the men’s ice hockey semi-final, so my wife and I downloaded the tv station’s app and watched on her mobile phone. The game finished after 1 am Australian Eastern Daylight Savings Time (11 pm Korean time), so I went downstairs to get a drink of water. I briefly posted on Facebook “Oh, the excitement. Last throw (?terminology) win to Korea.” “Throw” just didn’t look right, but I couldn’t think of any other word. Given that the projectile is called a stone, maybe they could use “cast”. Before the game starts, the two teams need to ascertain who will cast the first stone – the player without sin, presumably.
This morning, I set out to find the terminology. Wikipedia doesn’t help, using terminology inconsistently. I found the webpage of the World Curling Federation, which uses “deliver(y)” throughout, so I could/should have written “last delivery win to Korea”, but that doesn’t sound as dramatic. (Cricket also uses the term delivery, alongside ball: “last delivery win to Australia” or (probably more likely) “last ball win to Australia”. Continue reading
Auto-subtitling of winter olympics broadcasts
The auto-subtitling for the broadcasts of the winter olympic games on Australian television (provided by an independent company) seems to have three approaches to rendering the many different names of competitors from many different countries.
The first is to leave them out completely, which sometimes leaves a gap in the sentence. The second is to take a wild guess at it. Several times. It tried four times to spell the surname of the eventual winner of the men’s luge David Gleirscher before, obviously, a human overrode it, after which it was rendered correctly. The third is obviously when a human has provided the names already, for example Saturday night’s speed skaters Carlijn Achtereekte, Sjinkie Knegt and the unfortunately named Semen Elistratov. (It’s a perfectly good Russian/Ukranian equivalent of Simon. Most sources give his name as Semen, but Wikipedia renders Семён as Semion.)
So obviously there is some level of human programming of some different names from some different countries. The competitor list has been available for days or weeks or months (and these people have been on the competitive circuit for years), so why don’t they use it?
In 2012 Victoria Azarenka won the Australia open tennis championships. During the presentation ceremony, the auto-subtitling referred to her as ‘Victoria as a drinker’. Surely it (or the humans behind it) can do better than that.
(I’d like to make it clear that I don’t fully understand how auto-subtitling of live programs works, and that the humans behind it do a much better job than I would be able to do.)
(added 17 Feb: last night in the women’s aerials, the commentators were saying the names of the Chinese competitors family name first, but the autosubtitling was giving them given name first.)
“Nice Korea” and “Naughty Korea”
For some years there was a free commuter newspaper on Sydney’s and Melbourne’s trains, generally focusing on lighter news and popular culture rather than incisive journalism. Each day of the 2012 summer olympics in London, it published a medal table and stories of interest. After several days of competition, South and North Korea were fourth and fifth on the medal table. The paper named them “Nice Korea” and “Naughty Korea” respectively. The (North) Korean Central News Agency was not impressed, issuing a statement accusing the paper of “a bullying act little short of insulting the Olympic spirit of solidarity, friendship and progress and politicising sports”. (I think there should be a comma after “progress”.) It went on, seemingly without irony, “Media are obliged to lead the public in today’s highly-civilised world where [the] mental and cultural level of mankind is being displayed at the highest level”. Including, presumably, the (North) Korean Central News Agency. It might have been worse; they might have referred to them as “nasty Korea”.
On Thursday, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea held a military parade. Last night, the Republic of Korean hosted the opening ceremony of the winter olympic games. Take your pick.
PyeongChang v Pyeongchang
The Winter Olympic Games open on Friday this week in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The venue is officially styled as PyeongChang, but is better transliterated as Pyeongchang. There is no reason for the second capital letter, and no other Korean city, town or geographical feature is given with a capital letter in the middle (sometimes called camel case (or CamelCase)). The 1988 Summer Olympic games were not in SeoUl. (That just looks weird.) Wikipedia states that this style has been adopted to prevent confusion with Pyeongyang (citing Agence France-Presse). The most common transliteration of the northern capital’s name is Pyongyang (possibly following the DPRK’s own use) while that for the southern county* is Pyeongchang (following Revised Romanisation). It’s the same spelling in hangeul. Searching for ‘Pyeongyang’ and ‘Pyongchang’ automatically reverts to the official/most common transliteration.
*Pyeongchang is not even officially a town, let alone a city. Gangneung, the venue for most of the skating events, is city.
Chung Hyeon, or Hyeon Chung
The Australian Open tennis tournament is currently being played in Melbourne. I’m not particularly a tennis fan, but the tournament, players, matches, results, future matches and extreme weather conditions are in the news.
Last night my wife came home with the news that a South Korean player Chung Hyeon, or Hyeon Chung had beaten former champion and world number one Novak Djokovich.
Korean names are given family-name first. Chung’s family name is Chung. Korean given names are usually two syllables, but one or three are not unknown. In fact, Wikipedia reports that there is a law requiring given names to be no longer than five syllables. I have never encountered a Korean with a five-syllable given name, or even a three syllable one. In one class at a Korean high school, I had one student with a three syllable given name and another with a one syllable name. (There are also a handful of two-syllable surnames.) Continue reading