Archive for the ‘Translation’ Category

Once more on background knowledge in the comics

October 10, 2014

Two of today’s cartoons — a Bizarro and a Zippy — bring us back to recurring questions on this blog: what do need to know to make sense out of what’s going on in a cartoon, and then what do you need to know to see why it might be funny? It’s all about background knowledge.



#1 brings back the clowns from an earlier posting on background knowledge. #2 is more intricate.


In style

June 4, 2014

This morning’s Bizarro:

The diner is asking for eggs in one of the handful of standard named American styles — scrambled, poached, fried (over or sunny side up), boiled (hard- or soft-) — and not in some “fancy” style, whether in French (eggs/oeufs à/a la Florentine), in English with postposed modifier (eggs Florentine style, eggs Florentine), or in English with preposed modifier (Florentine-style eggs, Florentine eggs).


Two cards

May 29, 2014

On Tuesday, Ned Deily and I were investigating the workings of my scanner, after it had behaved  oddly for me on several occasions (garbage on scanning some black-and-white images, very odd colors when scanning some Jane Austen colored cards). The problem was traced back to some scanner settings I hadn’t known were there, so we re-set those and tried scanning one card of each type, using items I’d gotten in the mail (from Chris Ambidge). Herewith the results.


A Zippy Czech

October 12, 2013

Today’s Zippy continues the traditional Czech triplecoat theme from here:

Though there’s an asterisk on that bit of Czech, suggesting that there’s a translation somewhere, I haven’t found it (though Oh, bože is ‘Oh, God’) — but a commenter on the Zippy site suggests ‘freak’ as a translation of śilenec, and Google offers ‘madman’. So, roughly: ‘Oh God, a crazy!’

Vocabulary surprises

May 17, 2013

For some purposes, you can function fairly well with material in another language, so long as the topic stays within domains that are familiar to you — like linguistics, say. But when you wander into other domains, especially those that are closely tied to sociocultural conventions, things get messy, even if you stick to nouns; there’s just so much to know about cultural artifacts and customs, for example, and a huge vocabulary to acquire in these areas, in the names of animals and plants, etc.

I can deal pretty well with technical material in French, for example, but I’m easily stumped when it comes to artifacts, animals, plants, and the like. By way of illustration: my daughter gave me a big box of postcards on The Art of Instruction, with images of school materials from the 1950s, from mostly French but also some German sources. The German items have no text, but the French material (from Éditions Rossignol — the name is great; rossignol means ‘nightingale’) is heavy with text. For animals and plants, much of the vocabulary is technical teminology from zoology, anatomy, or botany, and that’s fascinating, but I can’t be expected to know these expressions. However, there are also the common names for animals and plants, and they contain many surprises.

That brings me to the tadpole.


The wonders of spam

December 28, 2012

I get huge amounts of spam, both in e-mail and in blog comments, so I mostly don’t even look at the stuff. But here’s one (lightly edited to remove links) that caught my eye as I was deleting spam from my mail:

The Better Business Bureau has been recorded the above mentioned plaint from one of your users as regards their business relations with you. The information about the consumer’s uneasiness are available at the link below. Please give attention to this issue and notify us about your glance as soon as possible.

We amiably ask you to click and review the [Grievance Report] to respond on this grievance.

We awaits to your prompt rebound.

It has been coming in multiple copies, with small variations in form. The text looks like it’s inexpertly translated from another language, but whether that effect is inadvertent or intentional I cannot tell.

I am, however, considering using “We awaits to your prompt rebound” in my own writing, or possibly working it into a piece of light verse.

Wong Huang Butterfly Hwang

November 13, 2012

A rerun of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit went past a little while ago, featuring BD Wong as forensic psychiatrist George Huang. That gives us Wong and Huang so far, but then on to Wong in his breakout role as Song Liling in David Henry Hwang’s play M. Butterfly on Broadway.

Then D. H.  Hwang turned up in the NYT Magazine on Sunday, in Alex Witchel’s profile, “The Man Who Can Make Bruce Lee Talk: For his next feat, the playwright David Henry Hwang reimagines an icon”.


translating, interpreting

May 28, 2012

From a NYT editorial (“Lost in Translation”) on the 24th:

A persistent problem in American courts is the lack of translators to ensure that litigants who don’t speak or read English can take part in their cases. That’s the purpose of the Court Interpreters Act of 1978, which allows federal courts to order losing parties to pay prevailing parties the cost of interpreters.

In a disappointing 6-to-3 ruling, the Supreme Court defined “interpreter” narrowly to mean “one who translates orally from one language to another.”

This takes us into a thicket of complexities surrounding the verbs interpret and translate and the nouns interpreter, interpretation, translator, and translation.


Language instruction fun

February 28, 2012

In my “Language shards” posting, I looked at some entertaining examples from language teaching materials — entertaining because of the absurdity (“Just you dare, zebra!”) or poetry (“The wind has come, bearing with it the scent of amber”) in them. This is a rich vein of material.



December 30, 2010

In Harper’s Magazine for January 2011 (p. 17)

a September 2010 open letter to French president Nicolas Sarkozy by the Committee for the Defense of Versailles concerning an exhibition of work by the Japanese artist Takashi Murakami at the palace last fall.

signed by Pierre Charie-Marsaines, Honorary President, and Arnauld-Aaron Upinsky, President. A piece of hysterical outrage,