Monday, May 04, 2009

The Headaches of conversions, virgules and ellipsis

" purpose here is to assure my colleagues, who will forever be accused of treason, that English is like any other language: a language in constant change, whose users will do what they please, stylebooks and scolding editors notwithstanding. Translators of non-fiction documents, if lucky, will have access to people who will be able to clarify texts that have hard to crack nuts in them.." - Anne Jones, legal and technical translator

If you do technical translations, then you should read the Ever-Changing English: A Translator’s Headache by Anne. Just to whet your appetite, here are a few gems:

(1) “If there is no data, NA it.” As it turned out, the idea was for the person to write NA (N/A or Not Applicable) in the space provided for writing the data. (This is an example of "verbing")

(2) "place on a table and/or rack.” Here the issue is really of a physical impossibility: you cannot place the same object on a table and a rack at the same time. (An example of a nonsensical virgule)

(3) A “temperature EN” was explained to me as a device with an Equipment Number that is used to measure temperature. And the engineer triumphantly informed me that “temperature is not a noun!” (elliptic ellipsis enough to make you want to give up translating and go on dole!)

Do read it. Long as it is, it is very entertaining (and elliptically useful).

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