31 May 2016

Dashing through and other punctuation points, take #1

From Lingua Franca (Language and writing in academe.)

Ben Yagoda on My Favorite Shibboleth.

In language, a shibboleth is a usage that members of a certain group engage in not for meaning or elegance but in order to recognize each other (and exclude everybody else). Sometimes it reflects the state of the language decades or centuries before; other times it doesn’t have even that justification.
What are your shibboleths, and, more importantly, are you at least aware of them?
Mine include em-dashes with spaces (see below), minimal capitalization, and, when writing for specialist readerships, the uninhibited use of the sorts of acronyms and abbreviations that my readers use in their own writings.

Here's Ben again:
As it happens, the Quartz article included my own personal favorite shibboleth: “Farther refers to physical distance, while further describes the degree or extent of an action or situation. ‘I can’t run any farther,’ but ‘I have nothing further to say.’” True to form, M-WDEU demurs, pointing out that further and farther are historically the same word, and that both have been used by the best writers in both contexts for centuries. (However, the most recent citation for farther-meaning-additional is Edith Wharton, 1920: “He became aware that Mr. Jackson was clearing his throat preparatory to farther revelations.”)

Anne Curzan on Dashing Through.

Once you start using the dash in your writing, it can be hard to stop. I’m talking about the em-dash here — that punctuation mark that is so helpful at linking phrases and clauses that don’t seem well served by a comma, semi-colon, or colon.
Most style guides provide a good amount of leeway in terms of how the dash can function — it can function like a colon (as it did right there), parentheses (as it did in the first sentence of this paragraph), or a comma (as it did in the second sentence of this post).
The dash has a certain flair to it in its informality and its versatility. It makes a parenthetical a bit more prominent — a bit less parenthetical — than parentheses. It adds more sentential importance to an additional thought or an afterthought than a comma can do.
Note that Anne uses em-dashes with spaces — one of my shibboleths.

Lucy Ferriss on Language Shrapnel or how to present obscenities in formal writing. 

30 May 2016

Terminology in journalism

In “Why Terminology matters in Journalism” Jessica Mariani (a Study Visitor at Termcoord and PhD Candidate in English Language and Translation at the University of Verona) informs us:
  • Reuters, one of the leading news agencies on a global scale, was given birth (sic) as a translation agency in 1851. 
  • Bielsa and Bassnett report in their book Translation in Global News (2008), “news agencies are effectively vast translating organizations with the technology and skills required for the production of fast and accurate translations”.
Thank you Jessica.

04 May 2016

Mary Norris clarifies "mic" vs "mike"

In her TED Talk entitled Mary Norris: The nit-picking glory of The New Yorker's Comma Queen, Mary clarifies "mic" vs "mike" as follows:
The music industry spells it "mic" because that's how it's spelled on the equipment. ... New Yorker style for "microphone" in its abbreviated form is "mike."
I found this both interesting and instructive.

01 May 2016

Australian poet Les Murray was once a technical translator

The latest issue of the Paris Review includes, in the Interviews section, an interview (by Dennis O'Driscoll) with Australian poet Les Murray. The article is entitled simply The Art of Poetry No. 89. The link is to a scanned and OCRed version (including a number of OCR typos) of an article published on 1 April 2005. Recommended reading. A fascinating article about a fascinating and extraordinarily gifted man who is also an Australian National Living Treasure.

We learn that Les as a young man, and before going on to much greater things:
Later, as a student at Sydney University, he concentrated less on prescribed reading lists than on a serendipitous exploration of the university's library stock, and was, he says, blase about the examination system. Nonetheless, his brilliance as a linguist won him a position as a scientific and technical translator at the Australian National University in Canberra.
Later, in response to the question: What aspects of your life were most crucial to your development as a poet? Les says:
I was a freak, but happily my freakishness was in language—not, say, in classifying antique crankshafts. We seem to get a word-freak once or twice a century in the Murray family. Sir James Murray of the Oxford English Dictionary was my cousin, for example. When I'd argue points in the OED with my Russian fellow-translator at the National University in Canberra, I'd tell him we Murrays owned the damn language! Being some other kind of freak has its attractions, mind you. I envy painting its impasto and sheer color-play, how it's not held in by that stubborn insuspendable lexicality that words have. I get out into nonsense as far as I can. Lord knows, though never for nihilist ends . . . There's also the wonderful advantage of music and painting and sculpture, that they don't have to be translated.
Here's a particularly perceptive comment about rural Australians:
Probably half of longer-established Australian rural families have some Aboriginal admixture; and yet most are still in denial about it, dead scared of it, even as educated town folk start gingerly to yearn after that connection. An immense common property of black and white rural folk is what we've been learning to call "country," an intense connection with one's home region as a resource not just of survival but of the spirit. That has probably saved my life, more than once.
On Ezra Pound:
I realize now that poor Pound was mainly a man like Howard Hughes, one who slid so gradually into insanity that people were slow to detect it. He was a resourceful translator of languages he half knew.
I have no real superstitions, except that if I ever start doing a lot of translating, it will signify that poetry has left me. It's a pity, because I'm not a bad translator ...
We then moved to Canberra, where I was a translator of scholarly material for the Australian National University for four years.
The Labor Party's minister of justice, Michael Tate, asked me to revamp the old Oath of Allegiance.

(Under God) from this time forward
I am part of the Australian people.
I share their democracy and freedom.
I obey their laws.
I will never despise their customs or their faith
and I expect Australia to be loyal to me.
"Under God" was optional; and by "their faith" I meant whatever tradition sustained them and underwrote their own good faith. The minister's public servants liked my text down to that line, but were scared stiff of the last line. Here was a social revolution in a paragraph; The people made themselves into citizens and immediately demanded loyalty from the nation, as if the premise of democracy were actually true and the people were sovereign. The contrast with subjecthood under a mighty crown could not be more absolute, or sudden. The first part of the pledge survived in the recasting. The citizen still makes the essential move and constitutes himself as such. But the last two lines fell away, as I expected, and every epithet was doubled to give an appearance of weight. It was turned into legalese, in fact, and the rhythm was gone along with the daring.

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La publi-info postée par Mer et Marine le 15 mai donne une indication du niveau de satisfaction du client. Voir  18ème édition du Lexique f...