A crossword clue is like a little program

Sunday, 9th February, 2020

Masterpieces from cooks badly overdue (5-7)

masterpieces (from)
"cooks"         : "chefs", synonym of "cooks"
badly "overdue" : jumble letters of "overdue" => "doeuvre"
=> "chefsdoeuvre"

Cook once stuffing spring chickens in here (3,4)

cook "once" : jumble letters of "once"    => "enco"
stuffing    : insert previous into following
"spring"    : "hop", synonym of "spring"  => "h enco op"
-: chickens in here
=> "hencoop"

Hot Finnish sauna ultimately designed to inspire love (2,7)

hot :-
"finnish"          :                             => "finnish"
"sauna" ultimately : last letter of "sauna"      => "s"
designed           : jumble previous             => "infashin"
to inspire         : insert following into previous
"love"             : "o"  # 0, synonym of "love" => "infashi o n"
=> "infashion"

As the programming language and the data to be processed are both English, much of the challenge is deciding which words are data and which code.

A word can represent an instruction (a transformation or function), itself (“raw data”) or a synonym of itself (a zero-argument function). Synonyms do not respect part of speech.

Any word can play any role in any clue. “Hot” is a good candidate for a jumble instruction; “cook” often stands for itself or its synonyms (e.g. “chef”).

(All clues are from recent FT crosswords.)

内观不识因无相 / 外合明知作有形

Thursday, 2nd January, 2020

This couplet from a “testimonial poem” about the Monkey King from Journey to the West struck me:


nèi guān bù shí yīn wū xiàng,
wài hé míng zhī zuò yǒu xíng.

Anthony Yu’s translation is:

Formless inside he yields no image known;
His outward guise coheres in action shown.

A clunky but more literal gloss might be:

The inside view [内观] is not known [不识] because [因] it is without appearance [无相],

The outside whole [外合] is clearly known [明知] through its tangible [有形] work [作].

The couplet is an antithetical couplet with the two lines having exactly the same pattern and contrasting meanings:

内观 不识 无相
nèi guān bù shí yīn wū xiàng
Inside view not know because without appearance
外合 明知 有形
wài hé míng zhī zuò yǒu xíng
outside whole clear know work has form

内观 (nèi guān, “inside view”) is translated by Google (but not by Bing) as “Vipassana”, “one of two qualities of mind which is developed in Buddhist meditation” (according to Wikipedia). See this footnote in the Wikipedia page. There is also a branded form of yoga called “内观流” (Inside Flow) [https://insideflow.yoga/].

There’s been various gossip around the web this past week about Baidu’s forthcoming mobile operating system, (yì, easy).

  • Reuters wrote that Baidu Yi is “modelled” on Android.
  • 山寨机 (Shānzhài Jī, cottage machine or kind of home made) wrote about its compatibility with Android.
  • The English-language rumour mill says Yi is built on / based on / a fork of Android.

Without a decent grasp of Chinese, it’s quite difficult to get beyond the chatter. 搜狐IT (Sōuhú IT) has a couple of articles from the 6th September:

  • 百度易手机11月上市 戴尔负责硬件制造 (Baidu Yi mobile phone, devices from Dell, coming in November): quotes Baidu CEO on the importance of compatibility with Android (百度CEO李彦宏在接受搜狐IT采访时 … 百度•易“刚开始做,需要兼容现有流行的操作系统——Android系统”。).
  • 外媒解读百度易:剥离安卓应用 封装自己的服务 (Foreign media interpretation of Baidu Yi: Android with Baidu applications): has a passage mentioning Yi as a fork of Android, but the paragraph does start with “allegedly” (据称,实际上在中国销售的部分安卓手机上,百度的网络服务开始取代谷歌的服务,不过百度此次将更加深入,将在安卓操作系统基础之上推出一个独立的分支。).


Friday, 26th August, 2011

Some time ago there was a post on Sinoglot about Chinese script on signs, noting how compact it could be. I recently saw a good example of this by one of the lawns in one of the Cambridge colleges:

The Chinese is in Traditional script. Here it is in Traditional, Simplified, and pinyin (assuming a Mandarin-speaking reader):

trad: 請勿踐踏草地

simp: 请勿践踏草地

py: qǐng wù jiàn tà cǎo dì

A literal translation might be, “request not trample lawn”.

I found a few variations of this request on the web: some without 请 (qǐng, request); some using 踩 (cǎi) or just 踏 (tà) instead of 践踏 (jiàn tà). I like 践 (jiàn): it means trample or tread, but it also means to fulfill or act on or carry out — 践约 (jiàn yuē) means to keep a promise or an appointment — so 践踏 (jiàn tà) carries an extra dimension of purpose.

Of all the variations I found, this one from the University of Cambridge was by far the most polite and considered.

Chinese input methods for Mac OS X

Saturday, 18th April, 2009

This will be quick. Mac OS X Leopard comes with full online help for its Chinese input methods.

Using the Input Menu tab of the International pane of the System Preferences window, select the Chinese input methods you want. A flag icon appears in the menu bar at the top of the screen. This gives access to the different input methods, and accessories like a character palate and keyboard viewer. The Chinese input methods have extra options for preferences and help:

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Chinese input methods for Emacs

Sunday, 8th February, 2009

From the llaisdy blog archives.

This all feels a bit antiquated now I’m working on a Mac (I use the Mac input methods instead of the emacs input methods), but it’s useful whenever I have to work on a Windows machine. The notes below are not complete and I’d appreciate any comments to help fill in the gaps.


Emacs provides 25 input methods for Chinese. Although each input method has its own describe-input-method page, these pages can be rather terse. There is also no overview or comparison between the different input-methods, neither have I been able to find one on the web.

Here I have gathered together the information I’ve been able to find. I’d be pleased to hear about any errors I’ve made, and where I can find further information to correct my omissions. I’ll keep this page up-to-date.

I’m learning Mandarin Chinese, I’m interested in simplified script, and for the moment I find a pinyin-based approach to the written language easiest. For my own current requirements, chinese-tonepy is fitting the bill, but I’m interested in learning a structural input method (i.e., not based on pronunciation). See the Conclusion for further discussion.

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Polisi Iaith S4C

Sunday, 16th November, 2008

Yn ôl Golwg [1] mae S4C yn “bwriadu adolygu” ei bolisi iaith. Dyma rhai cysylltiadau perthnasol:

Mae’r erthygl Golwg yn sôn am ymateb gan Cylch yr Iaith (grŵp sy’n arolygu defnydd ieithoedd Cymraeg a Saesneg yn y cyfryngau) i’r dogfen S4C, ond nes i methu darganfod eu ymateb ar y wê.


[1] Golwg cyf. 21, rh 11. (13/11/2008 ) Rhybudd rhag gostwng safonau’r Gymrag.


Friday, 7th November, 2008



Borsley et al. (2007) describes ddaru as "historically a verb meaning ‘happen, finish’, but … now just a marker of past tense." (p. 42). Ddaru is used similarly to gwneud but without agreeing with the following subject. The following examples (22 & 23 from Borsley et al.) can both be translated as "Elin bought a loaf of bread":

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