For notifications of new posts on language, translation, energy and culture, you can subcribe to our blog, with comments and discussion of articles very welcome on our social media accounts.
HET logo icon

Vorerst ausschließen?

Das Drama, das sich gestern Abend in Leicester abspielte, wirft auch linguistische Fragen auf. Laut Tagesschau schloss die Polizei “einen Terroranschlag vorerst aus“, was einem in Deutschland ansässigen HE Translations Teammitglied zu denken gab. Zitat:

Als Unbeteiligter an diesem tragischen Ereignis habe ich, bei allem ehrlichen Mitgefühl für die Opfer, dabei jedoch vor allem folgende Frage: Ist die oben genannte Pressefloskel eigentlich eine neu-deutsche Flachsinns-Redensart journalistischer Sprachprofis, oder gibt es dazu auch ein englisches Äquivalent? Oder sind es gar tatsächlich Polizisten, die offenbar weltweit eine seltsame Auffassung vom Ermitteln angenommen haben?
Denn: Seit wann schließen Ermittlungsbehörden Dinge vorerst aus?? Bin ich da irgendwie verwöhnt von unrealistischen Krimis, oder dürfen Behörden nicht erst dann etwas ausschließen, wenn sie sich sicher sind, dass es als Ursache nicht in Frage kommt??
Diese sprachliche Lauluft weht m.E. erst seit begrenzter Zeit durch allerlei Polizeimeldungen in der Presse (z.B. auch bei Verkehrsunfällen), dafür aber umso penetranter.

Der “schwachsinnige” Ausdruck vorerst ausschließen war uns bisher noch gar nicht so recht aufgefallen. Er scheint in der Tat auf deutschem Boden gewachsen zu sein, denn der entsprechende, offenbar mehr oder weniger offizielle englische Ausdrucksweise lautet:

Dass die Medien immer wieder negative Vorkommnisse in den Vordergrund stellen kann als recht deprimierend bzw. ärgerlich und wenig hilfreich angesehen werden. Dabei hätte es in den letzten Jahren so viel Positives aus Leicester zu berichten gegeben:

Engine House in Cornwall in the mist

Fret – but not to worry

Engine House in Cornwall in the mist

Today we undertook another little linguistic research jaunt as a result of the Cornish weather and its sea mists.

An old friend from Yorkshire, (sadly no longer with us), always used the term sea fret when he was talking about the rather eerie and somewhat depressing sea mist on the north coast of Cornwall.

We assumed it to be a northern term, which indeed seems to be the case, with Oxford dictionaries giving the noun fret’s fourth definition as a Northern English term for a “mist coming in off the sea; a sea fog”, mid-19th century of unknown origin.
Continue reading full article…

A fresh croissant

Das Luxusproblem

One of the key questions in Britain these days is: should croissants be curved or straight? Forget people on the breadline, the Brexit saga, the refugee crisis or Trump – in a move that can only be described as bold, Tesco decided to lift the burden of choice from customers by abandoning the traditional curved version. See Guardian article here. The French President was unavailable for comment.A fresh croissant

According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the English term for this kind of situation is First World problem, defined as: a cause of frustration or dissatisfaction regarded as trivial, and arising only as a result of the economic and social privilege, access to technology, etc., associated with the First World. An alternative term is luxury problem. Although the OED editors have so far been reluctant to include this term, it is listed in the popular Urban Dictionary. Perhaps it found its way into English as a verbatim translation of the German term Luxusproblem, which the Duden defines as: Problem, das gegenüber anderen, gewichtigeren als unbedeutend angesehen wird. Another meaning, in case you are wondering, is: Problem, das im Vorhandensein mehrerer guter Lösungsmöglichkeiten in einer besonders günstigen Gesamtsituation besteht.Continue reading full article…

Madhouse Effect book jacket

Translating the Madhouse Effect into German

Madhouse Effect book jacket

We are currently translating The Madhouse Effect, a popular and very readable illustrated book on climate change, by leading climate scientist Michael E Mann and cartoonist Tom Toles. The book, originally published in 2016, was motivated by the authors’ urgent desire to clear a fog of manufactured and self-interested climate scepticism around the greenhouse effect. The full original English language title is The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy. The German translation is a collaboration between Herbert Eppel and project initiator Matthias Hüttmann.

So  far the best working title for the German language translation has been Der Tollhaus-Effekt. The English word madhouse suggests a place of chaos, lunacy and foolishness, as well as clinical mental illness, but not fun or enjoyment. Tollhaus might suggest to an Anglophone a toll-taking station, such as in the book The Phantom Tollbooth, but the German adjective toll actually means “splendid” or “super!” The compound word Tollhaus can indeed describe a madhouse, both in the colloquial sense of a locus of lunacy, and in the technical sense of a mental hospital, but in the present day some businesses are using this word as a name for a themed safe play area or nightclub. That might sound a bit like the innocuous English term funhouse, so in this case the book’s cover illustration may ease the translator’s task by hinting at what sort of madness the book concerns.Continue reading full article…

Dog waste bin Berlin

Translating Trump: are you rising to the challenge?

Donald Trump’s recent description of Caribbean and African countries as shitholes has creaDog waste bin Berlinted a shitstorm in the translation world, with translators and censors struggling to find words to convey Trump’s meaning. The need for a German language translation of the term has seen the media popularise the term Drecksloch, a previously little used noun, which denotes literally a hole of, or for, muck. Technically Dreck does not exclusively refer to excrement, as it may also describe dirt, mud, rubbish, and manure. Interestingly, Drecksloch was previously recognised by dictionaries Dict.cc and Leo.org but not yet by the authoritative Duden.

Continue reading full article…

Meerkat family speaking meerkat language

Simples – how a Russian rat hacked the OED with western ads

Or how to buy a place in the good book – a report from TastyWebDesign.com

Author holding book in English
The Oxford English Dictionary has recognised a new phrase imported into English from English by an animated cartoon character who appears to be a wealthy Russian rodent trading in insurance protection, though a meerkat is in reality a mongoose and eats rodents.  Simples? What does that mean? You might ask that if you don’t watch UK commercial television, and even then you might not know that it took expenditure of over £90,000,000 to get this word into the OED.Continue reading full article…

Sennen Cove Webcam thirt message

Sea on the thirt in Cornwall

Observations from HE Translations linguist and researcher Chris Mawer

Having been a lover of, and visitor to, Cornwall since childhood holidays throughout the 1960s, the decision to retire to the end of the land (I now live less than a mile from Land’s End) seemed a natural choice.

As a linguist the Cornish language has always been of interest to me; over six decades many words now seem very familiar and relatively easy to understand, with similarities to other languages e.g. eglos and église – apparently Breton and Cornish fishermen in the 18th century could converse in their respective languages and understand each other.

Although Dolly Pentreath, who died in 1777, is often cited as the last known person to speak Cornish as a first language, Cornish persisted as a local dialect through the 19th century. Despite this, the language was officially declared “extinct” in the early 21st century. However, there was a gradual and growing movement to revive the language, and indeed a conscious investment in keeping it alive, with the result that Cornish was recently reclassified as “critically endangered“.
Continue reading full article…

A brown squirrel on a tree with an acorn in its mouth

From eggcorns to Lady Mondegreen and Monty Python

A recent Guardian article under the heading “That eggcorn moment” reminded me of an unforgettable “toothcomb moment” resulting from my 2009 article on Linguee (which, in case you are wondering, is an online “translation tool combining an editorial dictionary and a search engine”, to quote from the Linguee website).
A brown squirrel on a tree with an acorn in its mouth

Eggcorn is the term coined by linguists to describe the error that results from a mistaken analysis of commonly heard words and phrases.

I decided to start a discussion on this in a an e-group for professional translators, during which I learned about Lady Mondegreen (allegedly common knowledge, but it turned out that several translator colleagues hadn’t come across her either – see Google, if you haven’t a clue what it is about) and, courtesy of Wikipia, an unexpected connection with Monty Python. Doune Castle is now on my list of places to visit on one of our journeys to or from Scotland.

Continue reading full article…

difference between logo

Tell the difference between an icon and a symbol

If the difference between icon and symbol is obvious to you, you can ignore this blog post. If not, this page on the DifferenceBetween.com website seems to describe the difference very well.

difference between logo

In essence (quoting from the DifferenceBetween.com page):

  • Both symbols and icons represent other things, but icon is a pictorial representation of the product it stands for whereas a symbol does not resemble what it stands for.
  • A symbol represents products or ideas, whereas icon represents only items that are visible.
  • Icons are restricted to graphical representation of objects and one can easily understand what they stand for. On the other hand, one has to learn what a symbol stands for, as it is not similar to what it stands for.
Mathematical treatise showing Pi

How a farm boy from Wales gave the world pi/π

Did you know that name/symbol for pi/π, one of the most important numbers in maths, was ‘invented’ by William Jones, who was born in 1674 in the Welsh parish of Llanfihangel Tre’r Beirdd, and that the symbol wasn’t adopted universally until as late as 1934?

Read all about it in a fascinating Conversation article by Gareth Ffowc Roberts, Emeritus Professor of Education, Bangor University.

Mathematical treatise showing Pi

Extract from Synopsis Palmariorum Matheseos
or: a New Introduction to the Mathematics (1706)
by William Jones