Metaglossia: The Translation World
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News about translation, interpreting, intercultural communication, terminology and lexicography - as it happens
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Is That a Fish in Your Ear? by David Bellos - review

Nicholas Lezard marvels at the translator's art...

After only a few short chapters, I had my first uncomfortable moment: "Reviewers … have customarily declared in order to praise a translation to the skies that it sounds as if it had been written in English. This is hollow praise ..." At which point I became all too conscious that only last week I had praised Sophie Lewis's translation of Marcel Aymé's The Man Who Walked Through Walls in almost exactly that fashion. "Where," asks Bellos, "is the bonus in having a French detective novel for bedtime reading unless there is something French about it?" I then remembered that I had also said that Lewis's translation retained the Gallic flavour, so consider myself mostly off the hook. Towards the end of the book, Bellos gives a scornful list of the meaningless adjectives used by book reviewers to describe translations they think are good: fluent, racy, stylish ... I have used "damned fine", which doesn't feature in the list. Is that OK?

Is That a Fish in Your Ear?: Translation and the Meaning of Everything
by David Bellos

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Bellos has used this book, in part, as a means of demolishing received ideas about translation. I am all in favour of demolishing received ideas but, as Gloria Steinem said, the truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off. I would have lazily assented to the proposition that a translation is no substitute for the original, but this, as Bellos points out, is a stupid thing to say when you consider that, in fact, a substitute for the original is exactly what a translation is. And if we didn't have translations, then we would, as he points out, have no knowledge of the Bible, the works of Tolstoy, or Planet of the Apes.

People have always been saying daft things about translation. José Ortega y Gasset said "almost all translations done until now have been bad ones", which Bellos demonstrates is ludicrous by experimenting with replacements, eg "Almost all firefighters up till now have been bad ones." Referring to the "extravagant" amount of attention that has been paid by scholars to the story of the tower of Babel – our search for an original, unitary human tongue being its testament – he says "it is far from obvious that their time is well spent." (If anything, the idea of there being one original language and now many is exactly the wrong way round.)

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Review: Lexicography; Sociolinguistics: Green (2011) » Applied Linguistics » Blog Archive » Boston University

AUTHOR: Jonathon Green
TITLE: Green’s Dictionary of Slang
PUBLISHER: Oxford University Press
YEAR: 2011

Amy Coker, Archaeology, Classics & Egyptology, University of Liverpool UK

SUMMARY
This award-winning three-volume work is a dictionary of English slang. It
purports – and indeed appears to be – the most comprehensive account of such
language available, encompassing many varieties of English as spoken around the
world and traces as far as possible the origins of each slang word included. One
example of a short entry follows, to give an idea of the kind of information
this dictionary contains and how it is presented (typography simplified):

BUDMASH n. [Hind. badmash, a rascal] (orig. Ind. army) a villain, a rascal. 1888
KIPLING ‘The Three Musketeers’ in Plain Tales from the Hills 67: Says the
driver, ‘Decoits! Wot decoits? That’s Buldoo the budmash.’ 1925 (con. WWI)
FRASER & GIBBONS Soldier and Sailor Words 38: Budmash: (Hind. -badmash). A
rascal. A thief.

Green thus gives the etymology of each word as far as possible, a usage label
(e.g. ‘con. WWI’ = context First World War), a definition in ‘standard’ English,
and dated citations for the appearance of the headword. Alternative spellings
are given at the start of the entry. Some words are of course much more complex:
for example, DINGBAT as a noun is split into seven distinct lemmata according to
meaning (a strong drink; a ball of dung on the buttocks of sheep or cattle; a
coin, pl. money; one of various types of muffin or biscuit; a term of
admiration; anything for which one cannot specify the proper name; a fool, an
idiot) and DOG as noun or verb extends over several pages, with each split into
uses in compounds, in phrases, in exclamations and derivatives (we find among
many others STROKE THE DOG, DOGWAYS and DOG-BOOBY). Some phrases or sayings are
indexed alphabetically by their first word, e.g. ARRESTED BY THE BALIFF OF
MARSHLAND (stricken with ague/malaria) is under A. Full use is also made of the
witness of historical dictionaries of slang or cant. As one might expect, a
great number of entries refer to sex acts of various kinds and the reproductive
organs, excretion, insult, alcohol and drugs. However, it remains difficult to
review a dictionary, even one as engaging as Green; reference works like this
belong to a class of books which are rarely read from start to finish and thus
any comments made about the contents will necessarily be selective. This review
therefore has the modest aim of describing the work and its background, and
offers a small amount of comment on the reviewer’s experience of the work.

 

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Review: Historical Linguistics; Sociolinguistics; Text/Corpus Linguistics; Spanish: Garcia Godoy (2012) » Applied Linguistics » Blog Archive » Boston University

Review: Historical Linguistics; Sociolinguistics; Text/Corpus Linguistics; Spanish: Garcia Godoy (2012)

EDITOR: García-Godoy, María Teresa
TITLE: El español del siglo XVIII
SUBTITLE: Cambios diacrónicos en el primer español moderno
SERIES TITLE: Fondo hispánico de lingüística y filología. Vol. 10
PUBLISHER: Peter Lang
YEAR: 2012

André Zampaulo, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, The Ohio State University

SUMMARY

The edited volume “El español del siglo XVIII” (’18th-century Spanish’) is a
collection of studies dedicated to diachronic change in the first stage of
Modern Spanish. Following the editor’s introduction, the book features ten
chapters organized as four parts: ‘Periodización’ (‘Periodization’), ‘Léxico’
(‘Lexicon’), ‘Morfosintaxis’ (‘Morphosyntax’) and ‘Variedades diatópias’
(‘Diatopic Varieties’).

In her introductory chapter, editor María Teresa García-Godoy reflects on the
importance of the 18th century to the history of Spanish. After major linguistic
changes documented in the 16th and 17th centuries (e.g. the devoicing and
dissimilation of medieval Spanish sibilants), the 1700s have been traditionally
viewed as a flavorless period in the diachrony of Spanish (Lapesa 1981:
400-401). External factors such as the foundation of the ‘Real Academia
Española’ (‘Spanish Royal Academy’) in 1713 and the publication of prescriptive
documents such as the ‘Gramática de la lengua castellana’ (‘Castilian Language
Grammar’) in 1771 contributed to the standardization of Spanish in this century,
overshadowing relevant linguistic changes. As their ultimate goal, the papers in
the current volume shed light upon these changes by revealing and analyzing new
sets of data from both Peninsular and Hispanic American varieties and opening up
a relatively unexplored field of research within Spanish historical linguistics.

Part I features a chapter on the periodization of the history of Spanish and the
general contribution from research on 18th-century texts.

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Bunch Translate: Book Review: "Why Translation Matters"

I just finished reading Edith Grossman's book "Why Translation Matters". Grossman is a major literary translator, and translated Cervantes from Spanish into English. Her book is short (124 pages), and can be read in one or two sittings. I found it highly readable and very interesting.

Some main points:.....

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