What’s the most irritating blog entry in the English language?

It’s this one from The Telegraph.
This is actually via a post on Language Log, but we have this <span class = “übersarcastic-pronunciation”>gem</span> from the Telegraph asking for readers to nominate the most annoying phrases in English. Betsy Jones comments in outrage
If I read or hear otherwise educated people say “myriad of…” I will scream! That word is an adjective, not a noun.
An adjective? Let’s have a look at the Greek, shall we?
Cardinal: μύριοι, -αι, -α 10,000
Ordinal: μυριοστός 10,000th
Adverb: μυριάκις “in tens of thousands”
So a couple of adjectives and an adverb, but I know what you’re thinking. The morphology looks similar to myriad, but what’s the deal with the -d? Where did that come from? Williams White writes
300. Above 10,000 δύο μυριάδες, 20,000, τρεῖς μυριάδες, 30,000, etc., may be used.
That’s looking rather, er, nominal to me. WW also writes
383. 2. Μύριοι means ten thousand; μυρίοι, innumerable. Μυρίος sometimes has the latter sense; as μυρίος χρόνος, countless time; μυρία πενία, incalculable poverty.
(I’m just filling out the picture.) The word we’re really looking for is μυριάς, -άδος (f) the number ten thousand, myriad. What’s that, Betsy? You’re going to be very quiet so that you can contemplate how foolish you’ve made yourself look in a public forum? I could mention that in Greek the vowel of the initial syllable is long, and also that primary stress fell on the final syllable of the stem (perhaps Betsy says “m[ai]ri[æ]d”), but I don’t want to rub it in.
Michael H. Caplan says
Adding the Americanism -ize to the end of a noun as in “Hospitalize”.
Then, sir, how am I to criticize you? The only American thing about -ize is that this is the preferred spelling in the States. I fear I may be ostracised for my observations.
Baxter, who is perhaps a Caledonian gentleman, says
The poor pronunciation of “Loch” as “Lock”. Disgusting.
I review the phonemes of Standard English, but can’t find the voiceless velar fricative [x] in the set. It’s probably in there somewhere. I do know that it’s to be found in Liverpudlian English. Next time I want to say “loch” without laying myself open to a charge of linguistic ineptitude, I’ll phone some from Liverpool and have them say it for me.
Peter Leeming isn’t afraid of a little ineptitude himself.
How about tortologies like “reduce down”, “past history”. Or there the politicians’ favourite: “absolutely right”.
I know that there are occasions when I type in an overexcited fashion, when Mr Brain says one thing, and Messers Fingers type another.
Well, there’s a myriad of examples in the comments which you can read for yourselves.

Welcome to the Shop of Vivid

Beauty Chinglish.
 
As I was walking back along 江滨中大道 (Jiāngbīn Zhōng Dàdào; roughly, Riverbank Central Boulevard), I spotted the sign below outside yet another shopping complex. Since the English says "Balance Beauty And Shop Of Vivid", I was curious to find out what the Chinese itself said. It reads 和颜悦舍 (hé yán yuè shè) which means (and I’m having to do this literally because I don’t quite understand exactly what the Chinese is trying to say) "Harmonious look – happy house". The first part of the Chinglish phrase roughly matches the first part of the Chinese. I’m not sure quite how "vivd" comes out if this since none of the Chinese words for "vivid" in my dictionaries include 悦.

At last we have mastery

I’m sure the practical applications are limitless.

From The Register we have the story Chinese develop remote-controlled pigeons. I must admit that when I see stories like this which have a slightly surreal feel to them, I begin to suspect that they’re hoaxes perpetrated by some prankster. I remember a story many years ago about people who would get fake stories planted in newspapers. I read this story in a newspaper, I should add.

I haven’t noticed that many pigeons here in this part of China. In Beijing, there were flocks of pigeon-like birds whose wings emitted a whistling sound as the flock turned to and fro. Here, however, I’ve seen a few dove­cotes. There’s one attached to a house not far past the school (see the picture below), and I’ve seen another during my travels in the past couple of days.

Of course, the question is what use this technology might be. Perhaps remote-controlled aeroplanes are about to be displaced by remote-con­trol­led pigeons and other sorts of birds. I suppose there will be potential military applications. Some soldier is advancing when suddenly a pigeon craps on him. He can’t fight any more because now he has to get his uni­form dry-cleaned.

[28.07.14. Seven years later it’s not remote-controlled pigeons, but drones. So far, I’ve never understood the fuss about them, but they seem to be regarded as for more pernicious than fighter aircraft out on sorties to kill homicidal religious fanatics. I assume that people hear “drone” and think they’re like the robots in the Terminator films, or the destroyer droids in Star Wars, autonomous killing machines sent off to indiscriminately slaughter people. Au contraire, there’s always someone controlling the drone and indiscriminately slaughtering people.]

A relic of a bygone age?

The writing on the wall.

A picture of a wall slogan in Fuzhou.I went for another long walk this afternoon over Minjiang Bridge to the north side of the river and then along that bank towards Ao­feng Bridge. As I walked along the river front towards Minjiang Bridge, I took quite a few pictures of the derelict buildings. On the inside wall of the remains of one place some characters had been painted. I took a picture of them (see below), but only found out when I got home that it’s a saying of Chairman Mao. I’m guessing it dates from the Cultural Revolution.

What caught my eye was the fifth character (针; zhēn “needle”; the word is actually 方针 fāngzhēn “policy”) which has the traditional form of the metal radical (left-hand side). When I checked the character in the dictionary, I found the right-hand part is simplified, the traditional form being 鍼.

Flats on the River Min, Fuzhou 2007Where I ended up isn’t exactly the most inter­esting part of Fuzhou. There are some blocks of flats out that way that wouldn’t look out of place in Hong Kong. Makes me feel a little jealous when I look at these places and then consider my delightful, salubrious accommodation. Nonetheless, the tower blocks out there look rather bleak (see other picture) because they stick out of the landscape like sore thumbs.

Are you looking at my bird?

fz168I’ve never managed this before.
When I went to buy something for lunch, I took the camera with me because I wanted to see whether I could do something about im­proving the contrast. The answer to that little question at the moment is, er, no. I got back to the flats and decided to take a couple of shots north across the river to compare different settings. I could hear some bird chirruping away and spotted it flitting along the fence railings which are about 5m away from me. It sat still just long enough for me to zoom in and get a picture of it. With the old camera, I would’ve expected the shot to be blurred, but you can see the amazing image I got below. It’s merely cropped from the larger one, not resized.
I’ve never seen this particular species before, but I’d say from all the noise it was making, it was after some hot lovin’.
Meanwhile, I was passing the ten don’ts sign last night and noticed that part of one of the injunctions – the ninth about not smoking at public venues, I think – had been gouged out by some vandal.

Out of the picture

And in.

I’ve deleted the pictures of Hong Kong and uploaded a few new images from the pictures I took today using the new camera. Someone was looking for Sanxian Zhou Bridge; now there are pictures. [12.06.14. I assume that I’m referring to pictures on OneDrive (which are probably still there).]

I see that I’m going to have to work out how to adjust things such as the contrast. I find that with auto exposure the camera doesn’t handle the contrast between light and dark areas very well. Where there’s enough light, it seems to even out the difference leaving a picture that looks somewhat washed out overall; but where there’s a greater contrast, the bright area is washed out even if to the naked eye, the contrast isn’t that great. The camera has a whole dial of modes to play with.

During the course of my wandering this afternoon, I must’ve run into three churches I hadn’t seen before, including one just across the other side of the intersection from the Yonghui Supermarket. Actually, come to think of it, I had seen the last of these before very early on after I arrived in Fuzhou, but I’d forgotten it was there.


Hit parade.

Penelope CruzI was just looking at my stats and find that I’ve had another hit for “Sicilian grammar”; also there was one for “Siân Lloyd naked” again, although I never said anything about her being naked when I happened to mention the story about Lembit Opik, (form­er) Lib Dem man-about-town, who, after he left Siân Lloyd, took up with some skinny Romanian girl who’s nearly half his age. I don’t think the latter precipitated the former, though. Somehow “muscle bear” and Spain ended up together in the same search. I think the searcher was probably looking for Penelope Cruz, but you know how hard it is to spell foreign names correctly.

27.02.07 I checked my stats just before, and flick me with a damp towel if there wasn’t another hit for “Siân Lloyd naked”. Do people out there have some sort of fetish for naked meteorologists in their late forties?

31.12.13 There, a more recent picture of Penelope Cruz.

You don’t gotta have

Faith, faith, faith.
 
Stuart Jeffries has written a lengthy article (Faith) in today’s Guardian about the spat between the religious and secular worlds which has suddenly featured in the media in recent months.
 
The debate is really between vocal atheists such as Richard Dawkins on one side and, on the other, vocal religionists such as, er, that guy who wears that weird hat or the other one who seems to be wearing a dress. In between, by and large, is that oblivious secular mob, the British public who tick the Christian box on the census forms because of their general obliviousness to the whole issue (such is the nature of inherent secularism).
 
I’m reminded of what Dryden said about the English in his political satire, Absalom and Achitophel.[1]
The Jews,[2] a headstrong, moody, murm’ring race, [45]
As ever tri’d th’extent and stretch of grace;
God’s pamper’d people whom, debauch’d with ease,
No king could govern, nor no God could please;
(Gods they had tri’d of every shape and size,
That god-smiths could produce, or priests devise:) [50]
These Adam-wits, too fortunately free,
Began to dream they wanted liberty:
And when no rule, no precedent, was found
Of men, by laws less circumscrib’d and bound,
They led their wild desires to woods and caves, [55]
And thought that all but savages were slaves.
They who, when Saul[3] was dead, without a blow,
Made foolish Ishbosheth[4] the crown forego;
Who banisht David[5] did from Hebron[6] bring,
And, with a general shout, proclaim’d him king: [60]
Those very Jews, who, at their very best,
Their Humour more than loyalty exprest,
Now, wonder’d why, so long, they had obey’d
An idol-monarch which their hands had made:
Thought they might ruin him they could create; [65]
Or melt him to that golden calf, a state.
But these were random bolts: no form’d design,
Nor interest made the factious crowd to join:
The sober part of Israel[7], free from stain,
Well knew the value of a peaceful reign: [70]
Notes.
1. The poem was a consequence of the Popish Plot in which Titus Oates made various accusations about a Catholic conspiracy to overthrow the English government by force. The Earl of Shaftesbury (Achitophel; the villain of the poem) became Oates’ patron and tried to have the Catholic James, Duke of York, excluded from the succession in favour of Charles II’s highly popular bastard son, the Duke of Monmouth (Absalom). The Exclusion Bill was passed by the Commons, but narrowly defeated by the Lords. (See the notes with the link above for the full version of the story.)
2. The Jews: the English.
3. Saul: Oliver Cromwell.
4. Ishbosheth: Richard Cromwell, son of Oliver Cromwell.
5. David: Charles II.
6. Hebron: Scotland.
7. Israel: England.

petite anglaise

The secret is in the Tadpole.
 
I have occasionally visited petite anglaise, a blog by a woman who lives in Paris with her daughter Tadpole. Having arrived late to this particular party, I wasn’t really aware of the story behind it. It was only when I saw a story about her on The Independent (Ooh la la: blogger sacked from Paris job signs six-figure deal) that I found out about the details. The accountancy firm she worked for sacked her because she’d been blogging, their claim being that she’d brought the firm into disrepute even although she was strictly anonymous online. From a recent entry, the case of her dismissal is going to be held before an industrial tribunal later next month.
 
Some of her early entries are a little disparaging, but since it’s impossible to tell who she worked for, the foibles of the firm remained secure in their anonymity. However, another entry reveals that she did blog from work. Well, I translated passages from The Aeneid and versified them, or would write short pieces in imitation of Paradise Lost when I was first working in Cambridge because at one stage, there was almost nothing for me to do and I loathe sitting around idly. However, although petite anglaise may have blogged from work, the response from her employer does seem a little excessive.
 
I wonder when the first expat blog from China will be on the receiving end of a six-figure publishing deal. It won’t be me, of course, since I don’t have any contacts in the publishing industry nor, in spite of all the nice links I have to them, is The Guardian likely to mention Green Bamboo, except as a misprint or with the phrase "Don’t even go there." Also, I lack human interest. With Belle du Jour or girl with a one-track mind, there’s all the sex. I glanced at the book written by the former when I was in Hong Kong last year, but nothing pulled me in; I occasionally visit the latter’s blog, but it’s not on speed dial. If I tried human interest here, there wouldn’t be much.
班14 were slightly better than usual today. Even the nuisances were reasonably subdued although they did absolutely nothing as usual. 班13 still sit there and I talked to myself once again.
The letter then goes
Dear Sir/Madam,
 
I have writted a blog and it is about China and I want my six-figure deal.
 
Love,
 
Mr Bamboo.
The reply:
Dear Mr Bamboo,
 
After consulting with our people in the marketing department, it seems that there’s currently no interest among readers for the book of the blog unless it has an element of "human interest".
 
Yours sincerely,
 
Darius Oyster-Pearl.
My response:
Dear Mr Oyster-Pearl,
 
I have now writted the blog with the human interest.
 
Love,
 
Mr Bamboo.
The revised entry:
班14 were slightly better than usual today. Even the nuisances were reasonably subdued although they did absolutely nothing as usual. 班13 still sit there and I talked to myself once again.
 
After school I went down to the university and had all the sex with the undergraduate girls. I think they were girls. Sometimes in China, it’s a bit hard to tell.
Mr Oyster-Pearl’s answer:
Dear Mr Bamboo,
 
Now that you blog has a human interest element, your six figure deal is in the post. We will be paying you in Japanese yen.
 
Yours sincerely,
 
Darius Oyster-Pearl.
Japanese yen, eh? I’m going to be so rich.

The new camera

Enough was enough.

Since it was rather pleasant this afternoon, I thought I’d take a walk to Sanxian Bridge (三县洲大桥) and get some better pictures of it. Every­thing was going quite well until I tried to get a shot of the central pylon and the camera decided to have a tantrum. I went to Suning on Gutian Lu (古田路) and bought a Sony DSC H-5 and a 512Mb memory stick.

It looks like a cross between a digital instamatic and an SLR camera. It should be easier to keep steady than the P92 was, and the view screen is huge. The biggest nuisance I can see is all the buttons. Although there’s a thumb rest, I can imagine it’s probably quite easy to hit some button by accident.

The manual was in Chinese, but I managed to get it in English from the Sony website.

If it’s going to be fine tomorrow (apparently will be according to Google), I’ll try getting the pictures I didn’t get today.

[28.07.14. It was a decent camera while it lasted, but eventually there were power problems. I’d recharge the batteries only for them to be apparently drained of power in a very short space of time. I replaced this model with a DSC HX200, which is something like the great-great-grandson of the DSC H5. I hasten to add, though, that the camera on my Nokia 920 actually does a pretty decent job of taking photos. However, the bulkiness of the Sony camera makes it awkward to take places with me if I’m also tooled up with my laptop.]