Here they go again for the 59th time

Yes, it’s China’s National Day.
 
Once again, it’s the National Day, when China celebrates the occasion in 1949 when Chairman Mao addressing the chattering crowd uttered those immortal words, "Sorry I’m late, but parking’s a bitch at this time of revolution."
 
No, I haven’t disappeared, but life has been a little on the dull side. The weather has been particularly grey of late. We saw blue sky and sunshine today for the first time in, er… I think Gladstone was the PM when we last saw the sun in Chengdu. It didn’t last and by late afternoon the sun had become a disk obscured behind the clouds.
 
renminbeilu This is the current state of 人民北路 a few hundred metres north of Tianfu Square where they’re busy building the Metro line. I assume the line itself is underneath this lot. The road is completely blocked off at the moment.
 
And if that picture isn’t exciting enough, I got a new loo on Monday. The mechanism in the old one had been getting cranky and was going to be replaced, but it turned out the the old loo was an old model, although it didn’t look it. So the school replaced the whole thing. The new loo is one of those models with two buttons: Dripping Tap when you want to conserve water and Biblical Deluge when you want to make the neighbours start building full-sized replicas of Noah’s Arc.
 
We had to work last weekend, which I hated doing even more than usual. I hear from various sources that that may be the last time that happens. Saturday and Sunday ended up being Monday and Tuesday, which meant that we had class the last two periods of the day. I observed a whole bunch of kids heading off at the end of the penultimate period, but it turned out that the Senior 1s were being dispatched early.
 
¶ My amusement de jour is messing around with vectors in PSP 12. I’ve been designing pilcrows (¶; alt+182; U+00b6) today, although the whole thing is really just an exercise in self education. I also wonder whether anyone uses pilcrows much at all these days. According to various articles I’ve read online, they started life marking out new ideas and then became paragraph marks. Originally, the thing started as a C meaning capitulum "chapter", but then obviously needed to be made distinct through the addition of a stroke or two.  As for their use, I suppose that I could omit the gaps between paragraphs and mark each new one off with a pilcrow. I think, though, I prefer gaps between paragraphs or indents at the start of the line.
¶ You can do all sorts of things with the design of a pilcrow I find, although the manual creation of vector objects in PSP is a little laborious.
¶ Meanwhile, in The Story of the Bagman’s Uncle by Charles Dickens, I came across one of those lines which was harmless in the 19th century, but is unintentionally comical in the 21st:
But, who can look in a sweet soft pair of dark eyes without feeling queer?
All right, anything to relieve the dullness of recent weeks.
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The long and the short of it

Using long s.
 
I was wondering when long-s (ſ; U+017f) ceased to be used in English, but came across this entry on blogspot about the use of long-s. I thought the rule was "long-s initially and medially, short-s finally", but it was a little more complicated than that.
 
One answer to my original query is also supplied. The Times ceased to use long-s and other antiquated orthographic paraphernalia in 1803. That’s about the period I suspected that form of the letter had ceased to be used.
 
03.10.08. Via Google Books I’ve found a copy of Paradise Lost published in 1795 with not an antique long-s in sight. I wonder whether that date can be pushed back any further.

The Further Tale of Miſtreſs Milk.
 
As I was heading home after tea this evening, there was the woman with her milk cart sitting outside the door to our building. No one was buying.

Lactose intolerant

"Move along. There’s nothing to sell here."
 
I’m off to tea this evening when I see the commercial police telling the woman who sells milk out of her three-wheeler to move along. She was probably complaining that they were ruining her livelihood. There are quite a few people like her who appear on the streets in the late afternoon selling milk. This woman sets up shop just near the door to our building.
 
I’d also assume that the shops which sell milk are also out of business either because they’ve been shut down or because no one’s buying. I also note that most of the milk-based products on the shelves of the local Red Flag Supermarket are untouched but not being removed, and there are cartons of milk in the fridge near the door. Presumably these are considered fit to be sold for one reason or another.
 
After such a stormy start to the day, which lasted well into lunch time, it was nice to see the sun through hazy cloud this afternoon at about the time I went to class.

Time for some unrelated news.
 
In The Guardian’s book blog (Science fiction doesn’t have to be gloomy, does it?) I read
How many more totalitarian states would persist today if Nineteen Eighty-Four had not warned generations against the threat they represented, both abroad and at home?
Not the most intelligent statement, methinks.

Let Observation with extensive View,
Survey Mankind, from China to Peru;

And if we did observe mankind, extensively, would we find any reason to assume that Nineteen Eighty-Four had improved humanity’s lot? How many people on this planet (with a generous margin of error) are not governed by corrupt, unaccountable regimes which tolerate little or no internal dissent, or are violently opposed by some other group who are merely fighting to become the new oppressors? I the lot of mankind in general ever really going to improve in the foreseeable future?
 
A touch of irony I suppose that the bright, shiny future, which was once a staple of sci-fi, might’ve been the American Dream projected into the future, until the people in the car saw the people in the queue.
 
But a utopian future does seem to be contrary to the usual view, that the past was better. The Golden Age was succeeded by the Silver, and that by the Bronze, each being regarded as inferior to the one that preceded it. I suppose a few people might swap the modern world for Bronze Age Greece, but I wouldn’t want to live there myself. Might be nice for a holiday, though.

You want extreme weather?

I’ll give you extreme weather.
 
As I said below, the day before yesterday was very humid. That night, I was woken up at some stage by a hissing sound. I thought that the air con had somehow and miraculously come on, until I realised that I was hearing the sound of very heavy, very steady rain. Yesterday morning was dry, although there was plenty of evidence of the rain from the previous night.
 
Last night I was sitting here when through the sound from my headphones I heard the hiss again. This time it was accompanied by thunder which was strong enough to set car alarms off and lighting which was, at one stage, almost continuous. The thunder seems to have rumbled on all night and now at nearly 10am (about eleven hours or so since it started), Zeus is still shaking "the sacred honours of his head". I don’t know whether the rain has stopped in all that time either.
 
It wasn’t so humid yesterday (well, relatively speaking) as it was the day before, and there was nothing to suggest that such a storm would break over the city last night.

Richard II’s cookbook

And seyde his tale, as ye shul after heere.
According to this story on The Guardian, the John Ryland’s Library in Manchester (the old one, I assume) is digitising various medieval manuscripts including a recipe book compiled by Richard II’s chefs in 1390. There’s a HQ picture here.
Not being trained in palaeography, I find parts of the text difficult to read. For example, this word appears to be a verb and looks like it starts ways-, but the rest is illegible to me. It seems to be a verb, but that’s about it.
I think it's a verb
According to the article, other medieval manuscripts are going to be reproduced for online viewing.
The style of writing got me wondering whether anyone had ever made a computer font. I found a couple of likely candidates on dafont.com. One is called Wir Wenzlaw Rough by Pia Frauss (on page 8 of Scripts > Calligraphy) and the other is Herman Decanus AH (page 9 of Scripts > Calligraphy). On further investigation, I find that Pia Frauss, the designer of Wir Wenzlaw, has an updated version of the font, which is available from her website. Her other fonts are also worth checking out.
In one of those nostalgia moments which, I suppose, I might be permitted at my age, the site reminds me that when I was at primary school I used to design alphabets now and then. In those days, I didn’t even know the word “font” and I don’t recall ever using my creations. I do remember that it took some time to create a uniform set of characters. These days it’s take even longer because I’d also be thinking about the design of accented characters and punctuation. I suppose you can get software and turn your own handwriting into a font if you so desire; but I’ll spare the world my somewhat medieval-style hand writing, and leave font design to the experts.

“Humider and humider,” Cried Mr Bamboo

(He was so much surprised, that for the moment he quite forgot how to speak good English).
I remember that it was still warm this time last year, but I don’t recall it being so humid. I sweated my way through both classes this morning in a room which has only one working ceiling fan, although that doesn’t help me at all at the front of the class. In fact, the ceiling fans are little more than medium-sized fans and give a poor range of coverage.
 
On top of that, I spotted a trail of water from the air con running across the floor of our office, which means that the rats have been gnawing on the pipes again. The newspaper on which the cleaner had put out some bait to kill the vile rodents (clearly not effective stuff) was also saturated.

“It’s a determinative.” I see. But it still looks like a good old English adverb to me.
I had no idea that the use of once as a subordinating conjunction[1] caused fits o’ th’ vapours in certain members of the English-speaking world until I read this post on Language Log. I also had no idea that once is allegedly no longer an adverb but is a determinative.[2] Yeah, right. I have no way of reading the article in which this claim is made, but I’m not wholly convinced. Or even slightly.

Sentences like Once is enough are clearly somewhat problematic for the traditional view: they appear to have an adverb as subject.

But I don’t think it does. I think the sentence is a circumlocution which has become idiomatic. Question: How often should I do this? To do it once is enough; or Doing it once is enough. Note that the subject has to (always?) be a verbal noun. I can say Applying it once is enough, but not, I think, ?Application once is enough.[3] You’d more naturally say A single application is enough. All right, I’d more naturally etc.

2. Singulative once. We separate this use off because it is limited to certain contexts where it means “even one single time”: Not once did he speak to me, or If you once let him in, he’ll never leave.

It’s not whether once is an adverb or determinative, but what’s going on in that second sentence. I don’t believe I’d ever place once in that particular locale. I might say Once you let him in etc. or If you let him in once etc. I could do it if once is introducing a parenthetic statement such as If, once you let him in, he doesn’t leave… (Though ’tis not quite the same thing.) Is it some American idiom? Is it a Victorianism or some other antique usage?

4. Term-of-office once. There is yet another use of this word of many disguises, and it occurs in such phrases as the once mayor of New York David Dinkins.

This is another weird sentence in my grammar. Here I’d use one-time. If I say the title of T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, I normally omit the article and find the utterance just acceptable because once is being kept away from the noun. Another antique usage?
As I said, I’m not convinced that once is anything but an adverb for the most part and a subordinating conjunction (otherwise known as a preposition) now and then.[4] Do these claims have any cross-linguistic support? (Especially in related languages or more generally among the IE languages of Western Europe.) What about the history of the word and the fact that it started life as the gen sg masc/neuter of Old English ān “one”? (Thus does it behave like alike and one or two other words in English which are derived from prepositional phrases and don’t conform to the patterns of their current word class?) Although I might find If you once let him in… to be rather odd, if once isn’t an adverb, then what’s it doing in a classic location for adverbs? (Yes, I know. If you all let him in etc.; not that that’s exactly the same.) If once isn’t an adverb, then why is it the answer to an interrogative adverb? (How often…?)[5]
But who am I to argue the toss with their Lordships?
Notes.
1. Though the fashionable term is preposition, but one that takes a clause.
2. Presumably a general class label where determiner was regarded as too specific. 不知道 for certain.
3. Doesn’t sound completely ungrammatical, but I don’t think I’d ever use a deverbal noun in this sort of construction.
4. In my grammar. I can’t really speak for others.
5. It’s not clear whether once is a determinative with an adverbial function; but even if it is, I’d still call it an adverb.

Chinglish is to English

As ? is to French.
 
I’m out and about earlier when I see a woman wearing a T-shirt which says C’est un idiot on the back. I tried to get a picture, but she was on her bike; I was on mine. My phone isn’t up to those conditions, but someone got a picture of un autre idiot (my best Franglais) in Beijing which you can see here (flickr).
 
But there’s a question. What’s the French equivalent of Chinglish? Chinçais? Knowing the French and Toubon’s Law, you probably have to say le français au chinois, because Chinçais is Franglais.
 
I also happened to pass by the football stadium as one team exited. The fans were not happy, and were throwing tickets at the bus and shouting things out. I’m sure they were encouraging the team to do better next time.

Je ne regrette rien

Which means, “The guard never surrenders”.

I was the last man standing today. Yesterday, Glen came down with the dreaded lurgi and Row and I took over his classes. Row said she was feeling seedy as well, and this morning I found that I was the sole survivor. Hwær comon colleagues? as the Anglo-Saxon poet said. I’m hoping that one or both of them will be well enough to resume teaching on Monday. If not, we may be looking at Mr Bamboo’s Last Stand, a heroic tale as the unenlightening attempts to teach the unenlightenable. The film version, if it’d been made about fifty years ago, would’ve starred Charlton Heston armed with a high-powered rifle, driving a chariot, and impaling Egyptians with famous lines such as “Eat javelin, Pharaoh bin Laden!” They just don’t make films like that any more.

Since it was a media studies day today, the only arduous aspect of it was repeated viewings of the latest Mummy film. In fact, I read some of the tales from Classic Victorian and Edwardian Ghost Stories, which include The Spectre of Tappington. I don’t know whether the author was paid by the word for his work, but the story rambles on and on until it’s revealed that the trouser thief is the sleep-walking Lieutenant Seaforth who’s been burying them in a grave. It’s a shaggy dog story without the merits of brevity.

Meanwhile, Chengdu seems to be looking about as awful as Glen and Row probably feel. By the time school finished, it’d turned very grey, gloomy and hazy, which contributed to my inclination that it’s time to hibernate.

Hands up if you can spell

Taiwan.
 
Victor Mair reports on Language Log that got his students to do what should’ve been a partly straightforward exercise by asking them to write Taiwan in both simplified and traditional characters and state the meaning or origin of the name. But although this was a class of students whose Chinese should’ve been up to the job of writing it, the majority were unable to do so. I could’ve written the simplified form of the first character (台 tái). I guessed that the second character was 湾 (wān) "bay", but it’s one of those characters (both simplified and traditional) that I recognise, but can’t write. I certainly didn’t know what the name meant, although I might’ve guessed that it was possibly Austronesian in origin.
 
I’m not even certain why I know 台 at all unless it’s from 台风 (táifēng) "typhoon"; nor do I know how I know it’s the first element of Taiwan; nor did I have any idea that it meant "terrace; platform; stage".
 
Thus you learn something new every day so that you have something to forget tomorrow.

So long and thanks for

All the unnecessary sequels.
The universe is so bizarre that events which most people would consider highly improbable are actually the most likely outcome given any random starting point. If, for example, you go and buy a newspaper, you should not be surprised to find yourself in Cuba and married to Barry Manilow two days later. Therefore, when it was announced that Eoin Colfer was going to be writing a new book in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, Arthur Dent, had he known this, would not have been surprised to find that although he had been blown to pieces millions of years earlier, gravity had eventually reconstituted him and his alien friend, Ford Prefect, along with the rest of Planet Earth. Arthur had enjoyed the first novel, but had found the sequels had departed too far from the original vision. And when he recalled the dreadful film which had starred the guy who played Colin in The Office, he felt that the destruction of the Earth could be justified without the resentment which you might feel when someone demolishes your house.
“Do you think Marvin will be back?” asked Arthur picking up the paper.
“Bound to be,” said Ford.
“Why was he called Marvin the Paranoid Android? He was always seemed rather depressed to me.”
“I don’t know, Arthur; but if this sequel is better than the previous ones, perhaps he can be paranoid about the quality of subsequent sequels.”
“Subsequent sequels? That is depressing. In that case, I guess I could play Marvin’s part as well.”
I enjoyed the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but was disappointed with the sequels. I’m sure I’ve read at least two of them and possibly the third. Don’t think I’ve ever read Mostly Harmless and don’t think I was tempted to. I have no problems with Eoin Colfer doing the writing, but why another sequel? Is this because someone of our generation who thought that the Hitchhiker’s Guide was the Best Book Evah™ is in a position of power in the publishing industry and wants us to go on some nostalgia trip? “Penguin hopes that Belson’s choice of Colfer will bring a new generation of readers to Adams’s work.” Don’t hold your breath. The most likely audience is going to be old bastards such as me or Colfer. But let’s hear from the articulate voice of today’s young people.
ςтυpί∂ chάrάcтєrz iи τhε тϊтℓє вℓóğ
My DaD iZ tOtAlLy GoInG oN aBoUt ThIs BoOk WhAt He BoUgHt!!!!! He SaYs I sHoUlD rEaD iT… bUt It LoOkS dEaD bOrInG, aBoUt A mAn wHo WeArZ a DrEsSiNg GoWn AlL tHe TiMe. I fInK hE mUsT bE a PeRv. ThE mAn WeArInG tHe DrEsSiNg GoWn, NoT mY dAd!!!!!! LoL!!!!!!! AnYwAyZ, mE, sHeZzA, bAz etc.
Perhaps Colfer will produce something decent, but is there really any demand from any quarter (apart from the publishing industry who are in it for the anticipated profits) for another sequel in this series?