24 June 2013

LK on corporate titles

Excellent article by Lucy Kellaway on the recent history and meaning of corporate titles, particularly in the UK. Excellent.

22 June 2013

Arabic 101

The Economist's highly regarded language columnist Johnson posted an excellent overview of the Arabic language on 21 June under the heading Arabic
A language with too many armies and navies?

Highly recommended.

Language services for (almost) every special need

On 3 June, I posted under the heading Terms for (almost) everything. Today, we're in a similar vein under the heading Language services for (almost) every special need. The 21 June issue of Slate includes an article entitled How Do You Say Shaolin in Sign Language? by Amy K. Nelson. It's subtitled Meet the interpreter who has signed for the Wu-Tang Clan, Killer Mike, and the Beastie Boys. The Browser's summary reads:
Profile of Holly Maniatty, sign-language interpreter for rock and rap concerts. Translates hip-hop in real time. “Her prep work includes researching dialectal signs to ensure accuracy and authenticity. An Atlanta rapper will use different slang than a Queens one, and ASL speakers from different regions also use different signs, so knowing how a word like guns and brother are signed in a given region is crucial for authenticity”

15 June 2013

Make it sparkle

Reading a review of Mark Miodownik's book Stuff Matters: The Strange Stories of the Marvellous Materials that Shape Our Man-Made World by Clive Cookson, I was struck by the sentence: "This sounds dull but Miodownik writes well enough to make even concrete sparkle."

When a science writer can make a subject like concrete 'sparkle', he or she has really achieved something. Similarly, when a translator can make a customer's text on anything potentially dull 'sparkle' or 'sing' (I think I prefer 'sing'), then he or she has really achieved something. 

14 June 2013

When words really count

The Financial Times of 14 June 2013 featured an article by Henny Sender entitled Central bank oracles must choose their words carefully and subtitled When Bernanke spoke of ‘tapering’, the markets heard ‘tightening’.

The second paragraph reads:
"Today, virtually everything trades more on fundamentals than on the markets’ interpretation of the words of the oracles at the world’s central banks. And as developments since May 22 have made clear, the markets often put a different slant on their words than the central bankers intended. Thus when Mr Bernanke spoke of “tapering”, the markets heard “tightening”. (my bold)

So spare a thought for the people who translate the pronouncements of central bankers and how much they must think about (a) the bankers intended meaning and (b) how the markets are likely to interpret the translated message. The translator needs first the requisite level of understanding; second the market and language awareness to second guess the markets' interpretations. Sound challenging?

Come to think of it, spare a thought also for the translators of any number of delicate or challenging corporate communications. We all appreciate that few pronouncements are subject to the same level of scrutiny applied to the those of central bankers, but do translation buyers give enough thought to such issues when they ask their suppliers to turn around critical press releases and the like in record time.

03 June 2013

Terms for (almost) everything

The Jargon Of Junk Food by Paul McFedries appeared in IEEE Spectrum on 31 May.
The Browser summarised it like this:
Manufactured foods need manufactured words. Food companies strive to increase stomach share by cranking up the pillar ingredients — salt, sugar, and fat — to a bliss point of overwhelming flavour. The optimal mouthfeel is a vanishing caloric density at which the food melts in your mouth so quickly that the brain is fooled into thinking it’s hardly consuming any calories at all, so it just keeps snacking, or auto-eating.

The Mysteries Of The Cereal Box by Paul Lukas  appeared in  The New Republic on 28 May 2013. The Browser summarised it like this:

 Irresistible. A feature-length piece in a major publication on a taxonomy of cereal-box closure mechanisms, and their respective strengths and weaknesses. You never thought about it before. And now, every time you see a cereal box, you will say to yourself: “Aha! Slotted!” Or, “No! Slotless”. Conclusion: The slotless closure is by so much the better that it’s a mystery why any manufacturers still persist with the slotted.
Surprisingly enough, the two versions of cereal closures don't have separate names, which is rather disappointing. You'd think the packaging industry would have come up with endearingly geeky terms for them, no? But no. So we'll keep calling them slotted and slotless, at least until someone comes up with something better. (my bold)

Switching to Mac, take #2

I've now worked on my MacBook Pro for at least a couple of hours a day for over three months. I'm happy with the hardware and amazed...