15 September 2016

OSASCOMP in the news

OSASCOMP: Applied analysis is by far the most popular post on this blog.
Today OSASCOMP made, if not the front page of the Guardian, at least Tim Dowling's Reference and languages Notebook under the heading Order force: the old grammar rule we all obey without realising followed by:
I had no idea there was a specific order for adjectives until I read a viral post.
The viral post focussed on the following quote:

from  a book called The Elements of Eloquence by Mark Forsyth.


The paragraph concerned the order of adjectives – if you’re using more than one adjective before a noun, they are subject to a certain hierarchy. You know it’s proper to say “silly old fool” and wrong to say “old silly fool”, but you might never have thought about why – or if you did you probably imagined it was just some time-honoured convention you picked up by rote. But it isn’t. There’s a rule.

Unlike many laws of grammar or syntax, this one is virtually inviolable, even in informal speech. You simply can’t say My Greek Fat Big Wedding, or leather walking brown boots. 

In a piece for the BBC, ... Mark Forsyth examines a rare exception to the adjectival hierarchy: the Big Bad Wolf. Bad is opinion, and should therefore come first. However, as Forsyth points out, this phrase is too busy obeying another rule I’d never heard of: the rule of ablaut reduplication.

Other examples of the rule in action include chit-chat, singsong, flipflop and hip-hop. When you shift vowel sounds for effect this way, the vowels always follow a specific order: I, then A, then O.

If you’re a native speaker, the hierarchy is ingrained in you.

With moderation

Broadly I agree with everything both Dowling and Forsyth say and am very pleased to see that the topic is winning increased attention as it is often especially important to into-English translators and more particularly to those who translate technical journalism. I'm also pleased to have learned about the exception attributed to ablaut reduplication.

I would, however, like to make a couple of qualifying statements:
  1. The statement "If you’re a native speaker, the hierarchy is ingrained in you" sometimes fails when the OSASCOMP categories are difficult to assign or the subject matter is beyond the writer's comfort zone (as occurs often when good into-English translators tackle subjects they don't fully understand). On other occasions, OSASCOMP-attentive readers will observe that even good writers do occasionally slip up for whatever reason.
  2. For technical writers and translators, OSASCOMP is difficult to apply (a) because the categories are difficult or impossible to assign, or (b) because the challenge is to combine one or more adjectives with other types of qualifiers. This applies especially to noun qualifiers and things like prices or values combined with units of measurement as qualifiers.
Does '12-metre' before 'boat' or 'US$4-million' before 'ship' follow the rule as if it were a 'size' adjective?
I will follow this up with examples of (a) OSASCOMP slips by mother-tongue writers and journalists and (b) OSASCOMP challenges encountered in technical communication and the translation of technical journalism.

4 April 2017

  54 minutes ago54 minutes agoMoreOld language FAQ: Why Big black dog not Black big dog? New article, but answer goes back to 1950s "Vendler's Law."

English should have a word for ...

Here are two suggestions from The Atlantic's What Concept Most Needs a Word in the English Language? column:
We need a word for the mental suffering that results from someone else’s misuse of a word or phrase in one’s presence, the distress being magnified by an abiding sense of politeness that precludes correcting the other person—coupled with an intensifying melancholy about the confused changes that so many words are undergoing as a result of mass indifference to linguistic tradition. I suggest wordschmerz.
Bryan A. Garner, author, Garner’s Modern English Usage 
The fallacy of attributing every unfortunate outcome to deliberate intent,and neglecting the possibility of incompetence, unplanned by-products, or entropy.
Steven Pinker, author, The Blank Slate

09 September 2016

Workflow for low-tech .doc or .docx to .idml, #2

Since posting Workflow for low-tech .doc or .docx to .idml in July, I have an opportunity to put my own suggested workflow into practice.

It's certainly a pity we didn't follow step 1 to the letter.
After laying out far too many Word documents in InDesign, we noticed that the non-breaking hyphens (aka NBHs or hard hyphens) had apparently disappeared in InDesign.

McKee (@MacKeyComp), author of Moving Text From Word to InDesignexplained that, when importing a Word document into InDesign, NBHs are not recognising as such. Indeed, in his testing, they are treated as Bookmarks. If you open the Bookmarks Panel, you’ll likely find Bookmarks with names like “_GoBack” in place of where the NBH was entered in Word. You can’t search for Bookmarks in InDesign’s Find/Change, but you can use the Bookmarks Panel to go right to it and enter it manually. It helps if you have Type > Show Hidden Characters on in InDesign.

Jamie also reminded me that, had I wanted to, I could also have made changes to the Word documents already drafted with NBHs all over the place using Word’s Find and Replace to search for “^~”.

The next step was to ask Stanislav Okhvat, the developer of TransTools, about batch processing Word files. He's planning on adding this capability to his product, but it's not available yet.
He suggested two options:

  • a freeware Word add-in by Funduc Software (see here) for one replacement at a time in multiple files, and
  • for multiple replacements according to a replacement list, try Batch Replacer for MS Word, a shareware product that neither Stanislav nor I have tested to date, but which looks promising.


Jamie's finding (Word NBHs become bookmarks) only applies, apparently to certain combinations of hardware and software on the different computers.
Tests I conducted showed that on other occasions Word NBHs simply disappear into the ether leaving the InDesign document with the hyphenated elements contiguous.
Such is life!

Anyone out there got any workarounds?

01 September 2016

Le FMI juge incompréhensible le langage du gouvernement français

Thanks to Cath Cellier-Smart ‏@Smart_Translate  for flagging the following article in Le Figaro économie

One extended quote says it all:
Ces deux expressions (Crédit d'Impôt pour la Compétitivité et l'Emploi et Pacte de Responsabilité et de Solidarité) figurent bien sûr nommément dans le rapport d'une soixantaine de pages du FMI, mais elles n'ont pas été traduites en anglais. Et pourtant il s'agit de mots simples, «crédit, impôt, compétitivité, responsabilité, etc.». Leur équivalent anglais ne pose aucune difficulté. Il n'y a vraiment aucune complexité ni finesse littéraire qui serait impossible à retranscrire dans une autre langue. Mais les économistes de Washington ont préféré renoncer. Et on les comprend assez bien.
A quoi bon aurait servi de traduire «Pacte de responsabilité et de solidarité» par «Solidarity and Responsability Pact»? Le lecteur anglophone n'aurait pas mieux saisi ce que cela signifie dans sa langue, car cela ne veut en réalité rien dire. C'est de la langue de bois, ampoulée et opaque, qui ne se comprend pas mieux d'ailleurs en français qu'en anglais. Que veut dire «responsabilité», «solidarité» dans un tel accouplement? Il faut deviner les intentions, plus ou moins démagogiques, de leurs auteurs qui sont derrière. Mais à la lettre, de tels assemblages de mots n'ont aucun sens. De même la mélasse sémantique que renferme le CICE est incompréhensible et donc intraduisible.
Writing to impress rather than express I'd say!
Wonderful, however, that Le Figaro wrote this up in this way and agreed in full with the IMF's views.

For more information or to download the report entitled France: Selected Issues; IMF Country Report No. 16/228; June 24, 2016, go here.

French-English glossary of naval defence, v17

Below you will find a link to v17 of my  French-English Glossary of Naval Technology  dated October 2019. This glossary or lexicon is ...