Word Choice 2: Thanksgiving Edition

With Thanksgiving coming up, I’ve been thinking about a confusing situation: the difference between yams and sweet potatoes. At the grocery store recently, I saw root vegetables with orange flesh and brown skin (which I’ve always known as sweet potatoes) identified as yams. Next to them, similar root vegetables with purple skin and white flesh were called …

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Word Choice 1

(Part 1 of a series on sharing thoughts on words and their meanings.) I happened to be thinking recently of the English term “ne’er-do-well,” and how I like the old-fashioned word “ne’er.” Wondering how I would translate it into French, I thought of “bon à rien,” which corresponds to “good-for-nothing.” This got me thinking: is …

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What Does a Cost-Benefit Analysis of Art Look Like?

In the New York Times yesterday, economist Robert H. Frank attempts to apply a cost-benefit analysis to one of the most iconic works in the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts, The Wedding Dance by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. He thinks it would be great idea to sell it. But this approach is wrong — …

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How Bad is Buzzfeed in Translation?

For the past four months, Buzzfeed has been using students from the language-learning site Duolingo to translate its content into French, Spanish, and Portuguese. The bottom line, naturally, is that it’s cheaper: Duolingo (which claims to teach languages better than universities — a college education is really superfluous now that we have the Internet!) translates …

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“Hot. Cool. Yours.” Really?

The Sochi Olympics begin today, with the official slogan “Hot. Cool. Yours.” Really? It sounds like those old ads for the McDLT. What were they thinking? According to the Sochi 2014 website, the word “Hot” represents “the intensity of sporting battle and the passion of the spectators, and it emphasizes the location of the Games, the …

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City as Canvas, the Portrait of an Era

Seeing “City as Canvas” at the Museum of the City of New York, which opened yesterday and is up through August 24, was an unexpectedly rewarding, and even moving, experience. Not so much because of the quality of the art, some of which I was disappointed by, but because the show is so clearly a …

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Normal Or Not?

Translators always need to be aware of the nature of the message they’re translating. This may seem obvious, but different kinds of statements are aiming for different relationships to their audience. For instance, we usually think of clarity as a value in writing, and translators will even “clean up” the language a bit to make …

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Garfield Translated into Russian

According to the Moscow Times, the comic strip Garfield has now been translated into Russian for the first time by Mikhail Khachaturov and is being published by Elf Comics. “Russia practically doesn’t have any of its own comics,” publisher Elena Depeille told the paper. “Apart from just translating Garfield, we want to create a culture of comics in …

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