7.17.2017

Enjoy this "tastiness"

As a lot of people already know, especially people who've lived in Japan, Japanese English can be odd. It's almost like they're using weird phrases as in inside joke, to see if people can tell that the words are dorky or don't make sense for the context. At this point, if Japanese companies want to have sensical English (or English that makes sense), they could easily find a lot of native speakers to help out with such a task. But maybe they're just having fun (like my use of the non-word "sensical"). Or maybe they're making an earnest effort to communicate an idea that would make sense in Japanese. Anyway, there are a lot of examples, and entire websites are devoted to such oddities, such as Engrish.com

So here's something I found in Mitsuwa, which has an excellent selection of Japanese drinks. They're not cheap, but they're good and entertaining. Like the tagline of ハニップC. I only bought it because it had a plum at the bottom *and* weird English, thus was worth the higher price. Basically, I've never seen anything like it in the US, and I like novelties.

Hanippu-C Japanese drink

The label says "Hanippu C" (transliteration of the name), and below the picture of the fruit it says "plum and apple." But then the weird English appears: 
Please enjoy this "tastiness."
So let's deconstruct this for a moment. It's not totally weird English because it makes sense, sort of. American companies wouldn't use the word "tastiness" to describe a drink, but rather "flavor," and they'd use animated adjectives to modify "flavor" to entice the consumer to purchase the delicious drink. Or they'd just simply say the drink is "tasty."

But this Japanese company, プラム (Plum), not only uses "tastiness," but puts quotation marks around it. Why? Are they implying that the suggestion is "tastiness" but the reality is different? Are they using the quotation marks to admit to falling short of flavor expectations? Is it a textual version of a wink and a nod?

Also what's not typical English is the request "Please enjoy..." as if they're trying to be polite yet firm. It would be harsher, of course, to simply say "Enjoy this tastiness," especially in apologetic, self-effacing Japanese culture. Realistically, products don't usually have any kind of request, but boldly proclaim how great they are and how they'll make you feel, which should convince you to buy them. But in this case, the sentence is literal but awkward, because of the combination of words, ending with the quotes. Overall, it comes off as stilted and sarcastic, which was most likely not the company's intention.

Below the English sentence it says "Please enjoy the blended flavor of plum and honey." On the bottom it says "contains honey" on the left and "refreshing drinking water" on the right, though I'm wondering why they say "water" when it tastes like juice. Next to that it says "less than 10% fruit juice." Okay, so it's not technically juice, but it hardly tastes like mere flavored water.

Thus the mysteries are numerous, but it doesn't deter me from purchasing other weirdly-worded products, whose "tastiness" I'm willing to explore. So I might have something else to post on such a topic in the future.

6.29.2017

Nerdy site

The typical/average person would probably put me in the "nerdy/weird" category because I'm interested in ideas, language, thinking, reading, writing, observing, and basically doing things that aren't on a predictable track. But I was very surprised when a computer science student who's way smarter than I was at that age, or any age, asked me what a "differential equation" is. He said he had some downtime, and figured since I work on the same floor as extremely smart professors and grad students in an engineering department that I, too, understand science. I admitted my ignorance and he had no problem with that, but it made me curious just what it is.

What I found was an excellent site created by probably one of the smartest people in our generation, who hasn't merely jumped on the computer or data bandwagon, but was one of the early birds to that whole dominating phenomenon (or reality, since they're running the world at this point). 

The site is called My Physics Lab, and I assume anyone who studies that discipline knows it, because the computer student already knew about it when I told him that I found a decent explanation of differential equation there.

The creator of the site is Erik Neumann, who "was fortunate to get involved in the Macintosh software industry early on." He then describes an impressive resume of working in all kinds of computer stuff (my purposely non-technical word). Then, he "relearned calculus by doing all the problems in [his] old college text book and took further math classes at the University of Washington." He created the "website as a way to practice what [he] was learning," and he continues "to work on physics simulations, with several new ones in development." 

HUH? I'm still trying to figure out how to do basic things, like caulking a bathtub or avoiding bread. Meanwhile, Erik is creating *physics simulations* for the fun of it. Actually, you should check them out on the homepage...when you click on them they move/animate (for people like me, who just like sparkles and baubles). Or if you want the "explanations," you can look at the scientific/technical information. There's so much to describe, I took some screenshots because it's so incredible that this guy has done all this, in addition to his super-cerebral career/work, in addition to whatever else is going on in his life.

billiards animation
Billiards animation screenshot

billiards explanation
Billiards explanation and other nerdy info
I'm so simple-minded that it didn't occur to me to try to create a gif to represent his creations, and I'm so tired from reading science that I don't even want to try at this point.

Anyway, way to go, Erik, and remember us commoners on the prairie out here.

6.25.2017

I just learned about "meta"

I'm late to the party, but I just found out what "meta" means. I was at a writing group, and the other people kept saying "That's so meta," or described something as "meta." I had to ask them what they meant because I only knew "meta" as a prefix or adjective, or within the context of computer stuff, such as "metadata" or "meta tag," or "metaphysics," etc. 

They said, almost in chorus, that meta is "self-referential." I had to ask them again because it sounded so abstract, and was surprised that people would use such a concept in casual conversation. "It means 'self-referential'," they repeated with annoyance, as if it's no big deal that such a word exists, or they couldn't believe I didn't know the word.

I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the concept because people throw the word around without being precise or perhaps correct (like when a business "disrupts" an industry but not really, strictly speaking, which I'll discuss in a future post). 

In a "meta" discussion on Reddit, someone quoted an article with a prediction that's come true 30 years later, which I also found quoted in a decade-plus-old column in the New York Times
In an article in The New Republic of Sept. 5, 1988, titled "Meta Musings," David Justice, then editor for pronunciation and etymology at Merriam-Webster, was quoted as saying, "Meta is currently the fashionable prefix." The writer, Noam Cohen, added: "He predicts that, like retro -- whose use solely as a prefix is so, well, retro -- meta could become independent from other words, as in, 'Wow, this sentence is so meta.' If so, you heard it from me first."
I used to often watch old Hollywood movies on TV, and I noticed that a number of them took place in Hollywood. The most obvious is Singin' in the Rain. So now that I've learned what "meta" means, I know I have one word to describe them, a better shorthand than saying, "So many old Hollywood movies were stories about Hollywood and the movie business." Now I can just say those movies are "meta."

My prediction is that the word will no longer just mean "self-referential" but become something else that initially relates to the original meaning (or what purists now see as "evolved" because the word has already changed), or eventually mean something more diluted, such as what's become of "awesome," or something totally unrelated, like what's happened to "nice."

6.13.2017

Madrelingua or lingua madre? (Italian translation)

As I referenced in my last post, I found a linguistic blog, or what the the Corriere della Sera newspaper calls "forum," about the Italian language. I discovered it while I was trying to find out what the difference between "madrelingua" and "lingua madre" was. Here's my attempt at translating the explanation:
Madrelingua or lingua madre?
Last February 21, International Mother Language Day was celebrated throughout the world. It was established by Unesco in 1999 to commemorate a revolt that occurred in 1952 in Bangladesh, where many Bangladeshi students were killed in the capital, Dhaka, while protesting for their right to speak their native language, Bengali. 
Many newspapers confused madrelingua and lingua madre, using them as if they were synonyms, though they have two completely different meanings. Madrelingua is "a language that is learned first (Devoto Oli), "a language learned or spoken from parents or ancestors" (Treccani), "language of the native country, learned from birth" (Garzanti); not to be confused with lingua madre "parent of a language family" (Devoto-Oli), "what others are derived from, considered related to them" (Treccani), "a language that developed from another language" (Garzanti). Now here's a question: what is the madrelingua of those journalists?
All the best [many ways to translate this word] 
Ivana Palomba

6.05.2017

International Mother Language Day

On the way to trying to figure out if "mother tongue/language" in Italian was "madrelingua" or "lingua madre," I found a post at the Scioglilingua forum/blog (which hasn't been updated for a while probably because linguist Giorgio De Rienza passed away) that said "Lo scorso 21 febbraio è stata celebrata in tutto il mondo la giornata internazionale della madrelingua." [Last February 21 international mother language day was celebrated throughout the world.]

I had no idea such a day existed. The United Nations is the source of the day, and Wikipedia offers a thorough explanation
The date corresponds to the day in 1952 when students from the University of Dhaka, Jagannath College and Dhaka Medical College, demonstrating for the recognition of Bengali as one of the two national languages of East Pakistan, were brutally shot dead by police (then under Pakistan government) near the Dhaka High Court in the capital of present-day Bangladesh. 
Luckily, the Corriere della Sera newspaper hasn't deleted the blog/forum (I see it as a blog, but they categorize it as "forum"), so I'm going to go back to attempt to translate the post that explains the difference between those two words.

5.28.2017

Go to Milwaukee

When people think about Milwaukee, they probably don't think of it as a pleasant vacation destination. The last time I was there was to see Rush at Summerfest, and before that, I think I went there on a day trip when I was a kid. I had no idea what a great place it is, and it really feels like a nice getaway from Chicago, which is a lot more crowded, dirty, and full of hassles that Milwaukee doesn't seem to have.

The customer service also seems superior to Chicago. I don't know if that's because people are nicer up there, if they're better trained, or what, but wherever I went, people were friendly and pleasant. I'm not saying Chicago is full of rude people, but customer service didn't seem like an effort for the people I encountered in Milwaukee.

There are many reasons why Milwaukee seems like a fantastic city. First of all, the lakefront is clean and beautiful, and it seems like the city (or state) put a lot of money into developing it. Chicago's lakefront is also great, but Milwaukee's lakefront offers a natural experience within a manageable urban environment. It's like a scaled-down version of Chicago's Lake Michigan, but with more space and opportunities to walk around in freedom.

Milwaukee lakefront museum
Milwaukee lakefront

The downtown architecture was another surprising feature. I didn't know that they preserved their older architecture. Before going there, I thought the downtown area would have rundown buildings and seem like it was de-developing. But the city seems to want to maintain its history, and luckily, I was there for Historic Milwaukee's first walking tour of the season.

Mackie building
Mackie Building

Mitchell building
Mitchell Building

Plankinton building
The Plankinton was a hotel in the 1900s. 
Wells building
Wells Building
Images of the Milwaukee Art Museum are all over because of the famous "wings," which can also be seen from the Third Ward area (which is near Summerfest). In addition to the eclectic art collections, there's a really nice cafe and various areas to look at the lake from inside.
Milwaukee art museum

And luckily, we saw them installing public art along the street that stretches west from the museum (because the lake is east, just like in Chicago). This is the first piece that they unveiled.
Milwaukee public art

We didn't have time to go to the Third Ward, which has become a dynamic area converted from old warehouses; that's for the next trip (because I'll definitely be going back), in addition to brewery tours and other historical areas. But we did go to the Pabst Mansion, which was incredibly luxurious, and ate delicious food around the city. They really know how to do meat, cheese, and baked goods up there.

Basically, if you're assuming Milwaukee is a throw-away place that can be easily overlooked, reconsider that assumption, because it really has a lot to offer. I was pleasantly surprised, and I think others who haven't made that trip will be too.

5.19.2017

Adjunct professor or adjunct instructor?

Or adjunct faculty? A lot of people are caught up in titles. One title that gets thrown around the business world is "adjunct professor." A while ago, I did some work for a very talented person who has great advice about things (I want to be vague to not risk offending anyone). They were really an expert in their field. At one point, I had to help write a bio, and part of it said "adjunct professor" at a major university. I questioned someone else to see if that was truly the title, and since they didn't want to offend the expert, they didn't ask. So we went with that, since that's what they labeled themselves (excuse my misuse of pronouns, but I don't want to define the person as male or female).

Fine, if they wanted to call themselves that, it's their business, and their life to live. I'm more into accuracy than sounding impressive (though I have told people that I've written news for a top CBS Radio station, and they were impressed, which made me feel briefly important). I didn't really think about the "adjunct" label until I was looking at another successful businessperson's LinkedIn profile, where they called themselves an "adjunct professor." I did a search online including the person's name, "adjunct professor" title, and school. And guess what? I couldn't find it. I couldn't even find a syllabus or class listing, even though they're considered as prominent in the digital "space" (I use that term because it's a buzzword and I want to be pretentious). And at the school's website, they call such people overall "adjunct faculty" and label some individuals "adjunct instructor." No "professor" in that list!

I did some brief additional research on the term, which took like 5 minutes, and that's only because I texted a real academic who's a true professor at a prestigious university and is busy (I'm not naming them either because they didn't know that I was asking them for this blog post), and they didn't respond within seconds. Otherwise, without the wait time, the pure "research" time took possibly 30 seconds. I asked the person, who kindly took a few minutes out of their day at an academic conference at another prestigious university, what they thought of the "adjunct professor" label. They said (texted) that it's a real title, and to my follow-up question about people using the title who aren't academics but just teach at a university, Real Professor (RP) said they "don't attach much to the difference."

I was surprised, but then again, the RP isn't snobby and doesn't seem to feel like they're superior to anyone, whether they're educated or not. Even though they've achieved the impossible by securing a tenure-track position (purposeful fragment). It's like becoming a successful actor!

I would've done more "research" on this topic because I work in a robust department at a major research university, where professors, adjuncts, and students have impressive degrees or are participating in serious, world-changing projects. But the semester is over, so I didn't see any professors to ask. Even a super-smart, accomplished, PhD-plus 先輩 is out of town participating in some important worldwide conference or something as an internationally recognized expert, so I couldn't ask them either. Also, I didn't want to email them (I'm using the weird pronoun again) with such an insignificant question. To me, it's important, but people like that have way bigger fish to fry.

So is it wrong or inaccurate to use "professor" after adjunct? People in academia don't throw that label around (in my opinion), as evidenced by this adjunct's sad essay about the harsh lifestyle. They call themselves (no name or gender was given, thus weird pronoun again) "instructor" and use the word "adjuncts." That's what people at schools or in academia tend to do. But businesspeople tend to want to dress it up to impress clients or whatever.

There's also an interesting discussion about such terms at Metafilter, where I never post but often lurk to not feel alone in my queries.