07 January 2014

Cutting-edge terminology

On 19 December 2013, under the heading Drone: Some thoughts on the term 'drone' and its use in general and technical journalism, I mentioned a Guardian article quoting an executive pointing out that his company, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, now considers that the word 'unmanned' in terms like 'unmanned aerial vehicle' is 'pejorative'.

Turns out the man is far from being alone. Several website, including that of UAS Vision and UVS International, are promoting a number of new terms using 'remotely operated' or 'remotely piloted' instead of 'unmanned'.

This raises a range of issues, some extending beyond jargon and marketing to ethics and beyond. For technical journalists and their translators the challenges are simpler but no less real. For them, the vast majority of decisions concerned terms of choice are determined by considerations like What is the most familiar to my readers?, What is the existing standard terminology? or What are most companies active in this area using?

On this occasion, the challenge is a little bigger. Some technical journalists and their translators will simply use terms that are likely to be the more familiar to their readers. Others, once aware of the efforts of UAS VisionUVS International and others, will be tempted to demonstrate that they are at the cutting edge of terminology by suggesting that their clients switch to a series of terms that are, for the moment, potentially ahead of the curve.

An interesting challenge for technical journalists and their translators working in this area and an excellent example of how important it is for both (a) to specialise and (b) to stay thoroughly up to date with the latest trends.

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