Joel Martinsen reports on a Chinese publication that makes me wish I knew Chinese:
Among all of the copycat urban lifestyle magazines, the paparazzi rags, and the ever-changing array of undistinguished special-interest publications that make up China’s periodicals market, Yaowen-Jiaozi (咬文嚼字) stands out as one of the most delightfully peculiar magazines available. With a title variously translated as “Correct Wording,” “Verbalism,” and “Chewing Words,” it turns a critical eye to the misuse and abuse of language in Chinese society…
Perhaps there’s a bit of guilty pleasure to be had in unmasking the usage foibles of major papers, but it’s done with a wink rather than a warning of impending social breakdown. The strongest condemnation is reserved for those who should know better: copyeditors who let malapropisms slip by, sign-makers who splash typos across storefronts, and monks in TV shows who mispronounce their Sanskrit transliterations.
In 2005, the magazine featured a different evening paper’s errors in each issue, while this year the scheduled targets are television stations. In addition to biting the popular media over language misuse, Yaowen-Jiaozi also chews on pressing usage questions: What’s the pronunciation of 峠, which appears in names in translations of Japanese novels? What’s the correct usage of · ? What are the usage differences between 三部曲 and 三步曲?
What fun! But lest you think they’re nothing but “a curmudgeonly group of conservative language pedants,” they’re quite willing to accomodate change when it makes sense to them:
On the subject of Internet slang, for example, the magazine has no issue with its use online, although it cautions against its use in more conventional communication. Other areas of language change and development are given the same sort of consideration. After an examination of the term “since all along” (一直以来), the editors conclude:
Back in 2000, this magazine mentioned “since all along.” At the time we took a position against the term, and we maintain that position now. We believe that there is a semantic contradiction between “all along” and “since.”
….However,….in practice, we cannot find another term to replace “since all along.” Although in many circumstances, “since all along” is used to indicate “all along” or “for a long time,” they are in fact not identical. We ought to respect society’s power of choice in language. As we have not found any words to replace it, this magazine will no longer criticize the use of “since all along.”
Oh, and the answers to those “pressing usage questions”:
峠 has the provisional pronunciation shà, though some people pronounce it kǎ. The separator · should be allowed in titles—the editors conclude: “To say that if there is no rule in Punctuation Usage then it must not be used means that punctuation usage would never develop, and it would be unable to satisfy real usage needs.” 三部曲 is a foreign import for “trilogy” that applies to literary works; it has been tweaked to apply to three-step processes using the homophone 三步曲.
Many thanks to P. Kerim Friedman for the link!