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Oxford’s Word of the Year

19 Nov

is…*drums roll*…


Explaining why that word won the crown, Oxford editors note that usage of selfie has gone up 17,000% since this time last year. That’s according to their new word monitor, which scans web content and collects 150 million words each month. A dedicated team of editors thumbs through that data, which help determine when words should be welcomed into Oxford’s dictionaries. Though it so far hasn’t made the cut in the venerable Oxford English Dictionary, selfie was added to the hipper Oxford Dictionaries Online this August.

The Oxford research team traced the usage of selfie back to 2002, when an Australian described a photo he or she had taken after landing “lip first” on a set of steps. What may have been the coinage of a hungover Aussie rambling in an online forum exploded over the past decade, helped along by the widespread adoption of smartphones. And the biggest bang in that explosion came this year. Just take a gander at this Google Trends chart showing search volumes for the term.

Oxford also released a shortlist of other words that didn’t quite make the cut. Among them are reminders of how digitally focused our lives have  become and proof that Miley Cyrus‘ death grip on the world’s attention doesn’t extend to lexicographers—yet. Some might even argue that “twerk” was robbed.

bedroom tax: (n., in the UK)a reduction in the amount of housing benefit paid to a claimant if the property they are renting is judged to have more bedrooms than is necessary for the number of the people in the household, according to criteria set down by the government.

binge-watch: (v.)to watch multiple episodes of a television program in rapid succession, typically by means of DVDs or digital streaming.

bitcoin: (n.) a digital currency in which transactions can be performed without the need for a central bank. Also, a unit of bitcoin.

olinguito: (n.) a small furry mammal found in mountain forests in Colombia and Ecuador, the smallest member of the raccoon family.

schmeat: (n.) a form of meat  produced synthetically from biological tissue.

showrooming: (n.) the practice of visiting a shop or shops in order to examine a product before buying it online at a lower price.

twerk: (v.) dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance.


I’ve always found this kind of word interesting. “Squeezed middle”, “Occupy ____”, “Frankenstorm”, “mommy porn” & “nomophobia”, etc. were the past popular additions.



NCKU Researchers Turn Waste Cooking Oil into Biodiesel

4 Nov

After grease was turned into biofuel (a recycling program started by 14-year-old Cassandra Lin (林心瑜), a US citizen of Taiwanese descent, helped by an oil-processing company),  here is another discovery on making biofuel:

Using microwave heating, researchers at National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) said they have developed a way to turn waste cooking oil into biodiesel and hope to commercialize the technology within a year through cooperation with local businesses.

NCKU distinguished professor Liao Jiunn-der (廖峻德) and visiting professor Aharon Gedanken of Israel announced their finding, which relies on strontium oxide as a catalyst, on Thursday.

With the catalyst, used cooking oil can be transesterified into biodiesel and glycerol in a modified microwave oven in 10 to 40 seconds, they said.

The strontium oxide can then be reused, making the recycling method highly efficient, Liao said.

The process can turn waste into a resource that contributes to the environment and economy, especially in Taiwan, where cooking and eating habits mean restaurants, homes and schools produce a considerable amount of waste oil, Gedanken said.

Liao said he hoped the method would help Taiwan, where diesel fuel currently consists of 2 to 3 percent biodiesel, to meet the EU’s target of having biodiesel make up 20 percent of all diesel used by 2020.

The university is working on applying a patent for the technique, he said.


Washington Post’s Recent Interview with Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou

25 Oct


It’s a five-page interview. What intrigues me the most is this:

Washington Post: Even though you have improved cross-strait relations, expanded international participation and signed many agreements, some people are still criticizing you for what is referred to as maitai, or selling out Taiwan. What would your response to that be?
President Ma: From the question you just asked, they say that we are “selling out Taiwan,” saying that we have given up something, but they are unable to say what it is that we have given up.


Indeed~ What has been given up under Ma’s “peaceful” across-strait relationship? Something tacit? Something intangible that underlines the China-inclined policies? I actually like this analysis written by American Enterprise Institute (AEI) researcher Shannon Mann:

In the past five years, Beijing has used its influence to dissuade other countries from signing trade agreements with Taiwan and Taipei has been led into deep economic ties with China, while Chinese leaders have openly stated that economic relations with Taiwan are part of an “embedded reunification” strategy, Mann says.

“Today, the American punditocracy believes that Taiwan’s reunification with China through intensifying economic reliance is inevitable,” Mann says. “If Taiwan integrates with China, however, US strategic interests in Asia will be greatly diminished both for the US and for our regional allies.”


Very straightforward, no word-playing, isn’t it?



The Dangling “So”

24 Sep

Why do people end sentences with “so”? What effect does it have on conversation?

If someone ends a sentence with so, the speaker is making the assumption that the listener will understand what the speaker would say, had the speaker continued. Look at the following example:

Speaker 1: How was your date?
Speaker 2: Well, he didn’t show up, so…

In this example, Speaker 2 ends her sentence with so because even without verbalizing her thought, there is a tacit understanding that her evening did not go as planned. From the incomplete spoken information alone, Speaker 1 knows that the date did not go well, or in fact, happen at all.

An article in Crain’s Chicago Business looks at a subset of the dangling so; writer Lisa Bertagnoli suggests that sometimes when people end sentences with so, they’re bragging. “Unofficially, it has become a way to boast without outwardly bragging,” Bertagnoli writes. Linguist Betty Birner tells Bertagnoli,”‘So’ said with a downward, final-sounding pitch tells listeners they don’t have to respond, while and upward or rising pitch begs a response.” Often that response will be congratulatory, like “That’s great!”

Last week, Terry Gross interviewed writer/director/actor Lake Bell about her new film, In a World. Lake Bell uses the dangling so when talking about her accomplishments:

Bell: We won an Emmy last year and we got nominated again this year. So we’re really proud because it’s a little—it’s sort of this mini comedy family that we’ve been—we’ve taken this little web series that was a–that was actually the pilot for the web series which was five-minute episodes.
Gross: Right. Right.
Bell: And then it upgraded itself to Adult Swim at 11-minute episodes. So…

Here, Bell is boasting—in the most humble way—about the success of a web series. She could have continued her sentence, but Terry Gross and her listeners knew where she was going with that thought. Bell retains her humility by implying that she’s been very successful without having to say it forthright.


In Chinese, I guess there is sort of equivalent of dangling “so”. “所以…(嗯…)你也知道的” is often said to show mutual understanding without having to state something specifically.


Samsung’s Cooking Up a Tablet You Control with Your Thoughts

20 Apr

Earlier, we just saw electroencephalograms (EEGs) are a reliable-enough  indicator of individuality to substitute for a password ( and now Samsung is cooking up a tablet you control with your thoughts after they launched eye scrolling technology on S4~

While EEG-monitoring electrodes have previously been used to help enable individuals with mobility issues to interact with electronics, Samsung is aiming to offer this sort of functionality to anyone who wants it.

We should emphasize that there are, as of yet, no plans to begin marketing these EEG skullcaps and that Samsung’s research is still in an embryonic stage. So far tests have been conducted on how well people can turn their tablets on and off, launch applications and navigate to specific songs in a music app.

There is also the hurdle of having to wear a specially designed bit of headgear so as to use your tablet, phone or what-have-you with “ease.” Still, there’s a lot of ground yet to be covered as far as Samsung’s research is concerned. Who’s to say that they won’t have solved that sort of problem before the tech reaches the market.


So, an era of thought controlled gadgets is coming?~