Archive for translation

Words for anger

Lisa Feldman Barrett has an article on "The Varieties of Anger" in last Sunday's NYT.  Most of it consists of reflections on pre- and post-election anger in our society.  But Barrett has one paragraph in which she makes some rather dubious claims about the number of words for “anger” in several languages:

The Russian language has two distinct concepts within what Americans call “anger” — one that’s directed at a person, called “serditsia,” and another that’s felt for more abstract reasons such as the political situation, known as “zlitsia.” The ancient Greeks distinguished quick bursts of temper from long-lasting wrath. German has three distinct angers, Mandarin has five and biblical Hebrew has seven.

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Hokkien-Tagalog-English-Spanish phrasebook

Page of a phrasebook published in 1941 (click to embiggen):

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Intriguing Chinese sign spotted in London

From Donald Clarke:

The sign seems straightforwardly to be a warning that this is a "dangerous construction site".  The more you look at it, however, the more questions arise.

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Bilingual paronomasia in Literary Sinitic and Korean

The United States of America and Great Britain / United Kingdom are not the only countries in the midst of political crises.  South Korea has a nasty one of its own involving the undue influence of a shamaness over their President.

"Tens of Thousands Call on South Korea's President to Quit" (ABC News, 11/5/16)

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The mystery of "mouthfeel"

Helen Wang writes:

I have a question – what's the etymology of the English word "mouthfeel"? In the last few weeks in the UK I have heard the word "mouthfeel" several times, spoken very naturally as though it's an established English word. I was surprised because I remember kǒugǎn 口感 (lit. "mouth-feel") as being "untranslatable" or an "awkward translation". So I looked up "mouthfeel" online to see when this direct translation made its way into English. It even has a Wikipedia entry! But no mention of kǒugǎn 口感 or any etymology. It seems to have just appeared in English – earliest usage in the 1930s.  See The Big Apple, "Mouthfeel" (4/10/12) by Barry Popik.

So I tried looking up kǒugǎn 口感 in Chinese and found it was not as ubiquitous as I'd remembered. My very quick and basic search gave the impression that kǒugǎn 口感 might be a translated term in Chinese, most examples being related to drinks such as wine or tea. I wondered if you knew more?

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China's "core" leader

I've been reading countless reports about how Xi Jinping was made the "core" leader of China during the recently concluded meeting (6th Plenum) of the CCP, e.g.:

"China’s Communist Party Declares Xi Jinping ‘Core’ Leader

"China's Ruling Party Endorses Xi as 'Core Leader' After Meeting" (RFA, 10/27/16)

"Down to the core:  Xi Jinping gets a new label, but no more power: In China, a year of political infighting lies ahead" (The Economist, 10/27/16)

"China’s Xi Jinping Tightens His Hold on Communist Party:  Officials at conclave designate the president as the ‘core’ of the leadership, using title conferred on Mao Zedong " (WSJ, 10/27/16)

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*Notice, in the photograph accompanying this article (and many other articles), all the members of the Standing Committee, seated at the front of the hall facing us, raise their hands in exactly the same way (angle, height, position of thumb versus other fingers, etc.).  The other members of the Politburo, with their backs to us, also match the posture of the Standing Committee members, but not with such exactitude.

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Phono-semantic rebranding

There's a new article on linguistic borrowing by Jane C. Hu in Quartz (10/23/16):  "The genius and stupidity of corporate America are on display when companies rebrand for new countries".  The article originally had a better title:  "Phono-semantic matching is corporate America's best option when trying to rebrand for new countries".

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Multilingual beach ball warning

I spotted this very impressive warning at Siesta Key beach in Sarasota, Florida yesterday morning:

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"People's Re-fu*king of Chee-na"

The following video was posted to YouTube on 10/11/16:

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"Arrival is a tree that is still to come"

Thanks to Chinese characters, we are inundated with such preposterous profundities.

In the day before yesterday's UK Observer, there is an article by Claire Armitstead titled "Madeleine Thien: ‘In China, you learn a lot from what people don’t tell you:  The Man Booker-shortlisted writer on a solitary childhood in Canada and daring to question the Chinese regime" (10/8/16).

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Trump's vulgarities rendered into Chinese

Judging from these recent Language Log posts and the comments thereto, it is not always easy for native speakers of English to understand what Donald Trump says, especially when he is making lewd remarks:

"A non-apology for the ages" (10/7/16)

"'Like a bitch'?" (10/8/16)

"Trump translated" (9/31/16)

"Trump's aphasia" (9/5/15)

There have been many other attempts on Language Log to clarify Trumpian rhetoric.

If those who are born to English have difficulty comprehending the Donald's utterances, you can well imagine how hard it must be to grasp their nuances in another language.  Let's take a look at some of the Chinese translations of Trump's latest crudities.

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Please prevail in kind

Anne Henochowicz found this on the menu at Panda Gourmet, an incredible dìdào 地道 ("typical; authentic") Shaanxi restaurant in a Days Inn on the outskirts of DC:

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Google Translate is even better now

According to these two articles, Google Translate is taking a quantum leap forward in the quality of its services, starting with Mandarin to English:

"Google says its new AI-powered translation tool scores nearly identically to human translators" (Quartz, 9/27/16)

"An Infusion of AI Makes Google Translate More Powerful Than Ever" (WIRED, 9/27/16)

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