Japan’s Use of English Raises Some Questions

Peace People Japan advertisementHere’s a smiling young Japanese woman, and on her t-shirt (partially obscured by some overprint) are the words "Peace People Japan."

Now, I’m not sure if they intended for viewers to add punctuation, so that it would read, "Peace, People, Japan"–three different words, or whether it was more like "Peace People for Japan."

When I tell you what the poster is advertising, you’ll get a better idea.

Any guesses on what this is all about?

Sorry, but you’ll have to scroll to the continuation page for the answer.

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‘Makku’: Iraqis Come Up With Perfect Word for Bad Times

I stumbled upon a report by someone named Deborah Amos, who was returning to visit Baghdad for the first time in four years.

While the details were revealing in that the mainstream media report only the gory details to discredit Bush–and now only successes to burnish Obama–what really struck me was Ms. Amos’s discussion of everyday life in the Iraqi capital. Here:

The word makku unites Sunnis and Shiite alike. It means "there isn’t any." This was the first Iraqi Arabic word I learned back in 2003 and is still uttered in almost every discussion. Makku jobs, makku water, makku electricity. These complaints have only gotten stronger in my four-year absence.

Here in America, we can say, "Makku money, makku jobs, makku future."

Don’t Leave Home Without It

From the city of Belvedere, Calif.:

City Council order reads: “No dog shall be in a public place without its master on a leash."

Now, I realize it often seems like my dog is pulling me while I’m walking him, but the leash is on his neck, not mine. I’d never make it in Belvedere.

Welcome to the New World of Abbreviated SubSpeak

Okay, so SubSpeak doesn’t really describe what’s happening to the English language in the new world of instant electronic communication, but I was (vainly) trying to come up with a variation on George Orwell’s famed DoubleSpeak (the language politicians use). I mean, if we went around talking in text abbreviations, then SubSpeak might apply, but TextSpeak might even be better.

However, my whole point in creating SubSpeak was to castigate the texting phenomenon as something sub-human, or at least as sub-human communication–a sign of 1) irreversible decay in interpersonal relationships and 2) the imminent demise of the English language and people who know how to use it to beautiful effect.

Anyway, I got on this topic after reading an article in today’s Wall Street Journal entitled "Quick! Tell Us What KUTGW Means." Through the course of the article, I learned many abbreviations, but being someone who sees no purpose in texting and uses cell phones only for emergency calls, I was definitely a parvenue to SubSpeak (which I intend to remain).

Anyway, KUTGW means "keep up the good work."

Gee, I’d really love to see that as a subject line in an e-mail after working my  butt off on a project for six weeks. How about coming over and telling me in person?

Here’s my contribution to the subject: URE.

Translation: Use Real English. (Another:  CIP, Communicate In Person.)

(The article must’ve been widely read. It mentioned a site where one could find translations of electronic abbreviations, and each time I went there, NetLingo.com was not operating. It might’ve crashed from the sudden onslaught of visitors. Another site, dtxtr.com, allows you to enter either the abbreviation for a translation or the full English for an accepted abbreviation.)

Story So Good, ‘Times’ Runs It Twice

I wonder if anybody at the Los Angeles Times realizes that today the newspaper ran an article twice.

Well, not exactly, the articles were written by different people, but both the Calendar (page D4) and the Business (B3) sections featured articles on a new Web site called RunPee.com that alerts moviegoers to appropriate spots in films to run to the bathroom and not miss anything.

As for RunPee.com and moviegoers, I’ve got a better idea–don’t bother wasting your money on the movies Hollywood wastes your time on. Try reading a book instead.

Difference Between ‘Don’t Do Evil’ and ‘Don’t Be Evil’

Those of you who follow all things Google because of your work or involvement in the Web will no doubt know the name of Matt Cutts, who has become the ubiquitous spokesperson for the search giant, especially in matters of SEO (search engine optimization).

I’d always heard that Google had an official policy on avoiding evil, that is, on not doing evil. In a recent online discussion, however, the same Matt Cutts corrected someone who cited the Googlian policy as "Don’t do evil."

Wrong, said Cutts. The official policy is "Don’t be evil."

This struck me as a bit curious because, in my reasoning anyway, one could follow the dictum of "Don’t be evil" but still "do evil."

You know, one could justify an action that resulted in harm, perhaps even deliberate harm, by using the "white lie" logic that parents use when they don’t tell their kids the unvarnished truth. Or one could even live in denial about one’s action while still claiming one is not evil, like those who throw coworkers under the bus to save their jobs while justifying it as "he had it coming," or whatever the excuse du jour might be.

My sentences are getting a little convoluted here from using one too often, but I hope my point gets across. Most of us live by situational ethics and we’ll do whatever is necessary, even if it’s wrong or evil, to further ourselves or to protect our lives, livelihoods and loved ones. In short, we’re totally capable of doing evil and convincing ourselves that we’re not being evil.

That’s why I find Google’s choice of words peculiar–and full of wiggle room to actually do evil.

Dennis Kneale Is Right, Except in His English Usage

CNBC host Dennis Kneale, who appears at 5 p.m. PDT and 8 p.m. EDT, etc., is taking a lot of heat from the blogosphere for proclaiming the recession over. I happen to agree with him that we’ve come out of the depths and are moving back up, and in fact I date it earlier than Kneale dpes. I say the depth was reached in February, but it had nothing to do with Obama or his inauguration. Right about the time of Puxatawny Phil’s spring-into-action on Feb. 2, the depths had reached us as the Lehman/GM shock began taking perspective. In fact, about a month later (a lagging indicator, as they all are except for us sages), the stock market started going up in fairly dramatic fashion, and consumer confidence started returning.

Lately, however, we’ve had a lot of Obama arbitrage and profit-taking from other people’s woes–investors and companies hunkering down and hoarding up on profits (or money however they can get it–think layofrfs) as a hedge against maniacal Obamaic plans to raise taxes, raise the minimum wage, rip off corporations in the name of nonexistent global warming, socialize the banking and auto industries, unionize every firm in America, and turn health care back to the dark ages when it was cheap (because nonexistent).

All that being said, my main point is that Kneale was right in calling the recession over. For the next months, or years, until Obama comes to his senses, the arbitrage and profiteering will be the logical response to illogical governmental actions. The recovery will stay on hold until then, but it’s over if we can get the government to realize it and take a two-year vacation.

Where I part with Kneale is in his choice of words when he was fighting back against bloggers who were calling for everything from his dismissal from the network to decapitation on public television. At one point, he referred to "homoerotic" bloggers who accused him of being gay (which he denies). However, that was surely the wrong word. What he meant was "homophobic," unless he was referring to bloggers who get orgasms by blogging against him. Then, that would truly be "homoerotic." Sadly, though, it may also be close to the truth.

Quotes from the King of Pop Show Some Soul

I was no doubt born a century too late and on the wrong side of the pond. I would’ve been perfect in 19th-century Italy–spending my evenings at Verdi operas.

That being said, you must realize that I know next to nothing about the music of Michael Jackson–just the lurid headlines.

However, I stumbled upon a page of quotations today from the King of Pop, and I was impressed.

Two really struck me:

If you enter this world knowing you are loved and you leave this world knowing the same, then everything that happens in between can be dealt with.

The meaning of life is contained in every single expression of life. It is present in the infinity of forms and phenomena that exist in all of creation.

Shakespeare a Plagiarist and Copyright Scofflaw?

Consider this from Michael Masnick at TechDirt:

If the current US Copyright Law had been in effect over Shakespeare, I think he could have been sued by many authors for copyright infringement for writing that masterpiece.

Count how many lawsuits there could have been just for King Lear alone:

Shakespeare’s play is based on various accounts of the semi-legendary Celtic mythological figure Lear/Lir. Shakespeare’s most important source is thought to be the second edition of The Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande by Raphael Holinshed, published in 1587. Holinshed himself found the story in the earlier Historia Regum Britanniae by Geoffrey of Monmouth, which was written in the 12th century. Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, published 1590, also contains a character named Cordelia, who also dies from hanging, as in King Lear.

Other possible sources are A Mirror for Magistrates (1574), by John Higgins; The Malcontent (1604), by John Marston; The London Prodigal (1605); Arcadia (1580-1590), by Sir Philip Sidney, from which Shakespeare took the main outline of the Gloucester subplot; Montaigne’s Essays, which were translated into English by John Florio in 1603; An Historical Description of Iland of Britaine, by William Harrison; Remaines Concerning Britaine, by William Camden (1606); Albion’s England, by William Warner, (1589); and A Declaration of egregious Popish Impostures, by Samuel Harsnett (1603), which provided some of the language used by Edgar while he feigns madness. King Lear is also a literary variant of a common fairy tale, in which a father rejects his youngest daughter for a statement of her love that does not please him.

The source of the subplot involving Gloucester, Edgar, and Edmund is a tale in Philip Sidney’s Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia, with a blind Paphlagonian king and his two sons, Leonatus and Plexitrus.

Found: A Living, Breathing Proofreader

I stumbled across a real, live proofreader today writing about her profession for an online publication called MedPage Today. Not only was it refreshing to read about someone’s plying an honorable but almost extinct journalistic trade, but Liz O’Brien also had two great links. (I wonder if Ms. O’Brien would catch what’s seriously wrong with my previous sentence.)

First, she linked to a story about a proofreader who died at his desk and wasn’t discovered for five days. His legendary name is George Turklebaum, and you can read about him here.

What’s even better is a collection of un- or mis-proofread headlines that are worth more than a few chuckles.