LINGUIST List 2.212

Saturday, 11 May 1991

Disc: Tongue Twisters; More info on Shoebox

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  1. David Leip, Mandarin Tongue Twister
  2. Joe Giampapa, tongue twisters/naming anecdote
  3. John E. Koontz, Shoebox Workaround

Message 1: Mandarin Tongue Twister

Date: 9 May 91 11:37 -0600
From: David Leip <>
Subject: Mandarin Tongue Twister
 I'm not a native speaker of mandarin, there might well be more
difficult tongue twisters than the following. It is difficult, of course, to
write the tongue twister in a concise manner, since I obviously can't transmit
wenzi (chinese characters) over e-mail networks, and am therefore limited to
pinyin (mandarin phonetic spellings), but again I can't show tone. (In mandarin
any syllable can have up to four different tone, each conveying a different
meaning). I will therefore show the second tone or raising tone as: / and
the forth or falling tone as: \

 si\ shi/ shi\ si\ shi/
 shi/ si\ shi\ shi/ si\

The translation is: Forty is forty. Fourteen is Fourteen.

It is interesting to note that four (si\) and ten (shi/) are so phonetically
similar, since they typically can't be differentiated according to context.
I have heard that native mandarin speakers sometimes confuse the two.

- David Leip; Brock University
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Message 2: tongue twisters/naming anecdote

Date: Fri, 10 May 91 10:40:26 +0200 (MET)
From: Joe Giampapa <>
Subject: tongue twisters/naming anecdote

In response to Michael Covington's request for various language tongue
twisters, here are three popular Italian "scioglilingua":

1. Sopra la panca la capra campa. Sotto la panca la capra crepa.
(Above the bench the goat lives. Under the bench the goat dies.)

2. Trentatre Trentini entrarono in Trento trotterellando allegramente.
(Thirtythree Trentini <people from Trento> enter Trento trotting happily.)

3. for (i=0; i<30; i++)
 say("Tigre contro tigre");
(Tiger against tiger.)

To add to Charles Hoequist's anecdotes about naming laws: Some government
offices in Italy have been having difficulties keeping track of all the middle
names of people. Apparently it has been a convention that children are given
the names of their grandparents as middle names. In the region of Liguria,
this has been such a problem that (at least) the Comune di Savono decided to
unilaterally delete all middle names of people. Unfortunately, this caused
problems of confused identities and incompatibilities among government
documents. I believe that now they accept at most one middle name (if you can
prove that you have used it, which would be difficult because all your new
government documents no longer have the middle name you have used, etc. But
this is another story.)

On the compression of names, one university roommate I had claimed that his
surname was an acronym: "Ritvo", for "Rabbi ... etc." (I forgot the rest.)
Before him, I have never heard of such instances.

-Joe Giampapa
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Message 3: Shoebox Workaround

Date: Fri, 10 May 91 09:53:00 MDT
From: John E. Koontz <>
Subject: Shoebox Workaround
Subscribers interested in Shoebox may recall that Tom Payne was experiencing
an odd behavior of the next and previous record functions. After he located
a record with a search, next and previous seemed to work with respect to the
point from which he began the search, not with respect to the record
located. On the other hand, in my work I had found next and previous to
work with respect to the record located in the search. 

Tom and I have looked into this odd difference in observations, and it
appears that the problem occurs because Tom's database has more than one
blank between the key field name (marker) and the contents of the key field.
That is, he had his database set up in the format: 

\key stuff
\fld1 stuff
\fld2 stuff
\x stuff

This results in his keys having leading blanks. The manual recommends only
one space between field name and field contents, in order to avoid this, but
has examples in this format on the very page where the recommendation occurs,
and it is easy enough to set up a database this way withoput thinking if you
format it yourself with a text editor or some other tool separate from

However, if there is more than one blank between the key field name (marker)
and the contents of the key field, next and previous will work as Tom
described them to work for him, and not as they should. I suspect this is
some side effect of having leading blanks in the keys, perhaps even a
bug, but I haven't tried to figure out the details. 

The solution is to make sure that there is only one blank between the key
field name (or marker) and the contents of the field, in the format:

\key stuff
\fld1 stuff
\fld2 stuff
\x stuff

As illustrated with the x field in the example, the number of blanks between
non key names (markers) and text [probably] doesn't matter.

John Wimbish has explained to me that users have differed in their
preferences for the treatment of leading blanks in keys, and that he will see
what he can do to resolve the problem and eliminate the ambush in future
versions of Shoebox. 

[End Linguist List, Vol. 2, No. 212]
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