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

From a linguistic perspective, the Oxford English Dictionary was unavailable for comment on the term luxury problem, which would suggest that it is not yet an ‘official’ (British) English term – unlike the German Luxusproblem, which the Duden defines as: Problem, das gegenüber anderen, gewichtigeren als unbedeutend angesehen wird. The other meaning, in case you are wondering, is: Problem, das im Vorhandensein mehrerer guter Lösungsmöglichkeiten in einer besonders günstigen Gesamtsituation besteht. Read more

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. Read more

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.

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bars of gold

Deleting emails – trash, treasure, or amnesia?

For some mysterious reason, a lot of people appear to be positively obsessed with deleting emails. The other day we referred one of our correspondents to a discussion which took place a couple of months earlier. Astonishingly, their reply was: “I don´t keep emails that far back“. Why???bars of gold

FWIW, our basic rule is to keep all non-spam emails, because any email can turn out to be useful for future reference (or indeed even used as “evidence”) at any point in time. For this reason, we regard our very comprehensive email archive (dating back to the 1990s) as an invaluable resource. Additionally, the process of regularly deciding which emails to keep and which to delete is both a tedious and unconstructive activity.

At one time webmail services had very tight storage limits and ruthlessly bounced new emails once we hit the limit, and computers had small hard drives which would often fill up.  Nowadays disk space is hardly an issue and we can just let stuff pile up in the cloud, unless a cloudburst sends it pouring down to earth. Read more

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. 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. Read more