peroquial and ineaningfrrl

I have written several blog posts with the tag ‘lost in autosubtitling’, most recently three days ago, so you may think I have a dim view of technological approaches to language. But sometimes technology gets it right, even when humans have made the mistake in the first place.

Yesterday morning I read a Facebook post in which someone complained about the “peroquialism” in a certain book sometimes considered an Australian classic. My first thought was that it was related to colloquialism – that is, “characteristic of or appropriate to ordinary or familiar conversation rather than formal speech or writing”, but the lack of a first l made that unlikely. (All the speech-related words have loqu– or loc-, from Latin loquī to speak.) When I searched for it, a well-known search engine suggested “Did you mean: parochialism” – that is “excessive narrowness of interests or view” Continue reading


Write on queue

A few days ago I had to ring a government department. I hate ringing government departments, but I couldn’t find anything on their website about this particular issue. The call took an hour and 44 minutes in total, being about one minute talking to the first person, about one minute talking to the second person who the first person put me through to, about three minutes talking to the third person who the second person put me through to, and about an hour and 39 minutes listening to ‘on hold’ music, announcements about the information I could find on the website, and automated recordings telling me that I was now the [number]th caller in the queue, starting from 59th between the first person and the second person, and 68th between the second and the third  and gradually counting down.

I mentioned this on Facebook, and one online friend who lives in another English-speaking country commented, using the spelling que three times in an otherwise perfectly written comment. I sent her a private message asking whether that was her usual spelling, or was widely used in her English-speaking country. Continue reading

Harry Potter and the Overworked Translator

A few days ago the topic in the textbook was books, especially translating books between languages. Most of the students I’ve ever taught read very few books, and this class was no exception. Some of them had read books in English. I asked about Harry Potter, probably the most famous set of novels in English in the recent past, and available in many languages. Some had read at least some of the books either in their language or English, but not both. I asked about the titles. The first book is usually either ‘magic stone’ or ‘magician’s stone’, but the Korean word translates as ‘wizard’. The Nepalese students conferred, then said ‘shining stone’. Continue reading

Legal editing bloopers

For some years I worked as a editor at a legal publishing company. Along the way I jotted down some instances of typos, incongruities and bizarrities. I knew I had this document somewhere, but found it accidentally yesterday. I originally italicised the relevant words and made snarky comments about many, but decided to present them “straight” here. I have added a small amount of explanation though.

Some of the usual suspects are here: typos, prepositional phrase attachment, dangling modifiers, and meanings or usage changing over time or between legal and general use (eg intercourse), as well as witnesses, lawyers and judges speaking on-the-spot. Some I edited before publishing; others I had to leave because of the limits of our publishing agreement with the court, or because they were in existing published sources. I hope I haven’t included things which aren’t on public record somewhere. I have edited a few names. Continue reading

gugak and gagaku

Many years ago, possibly before I went to Korean the first time, I came across a reference to gugak, or Korean traditional music. In the Korea the first time, I saw and heard various performances of traditional music, but did not encounter the word. In Korea the second time, I wandered around the regional city I was living in on various occasions. One day, I saw a museum of traditional arts and crafts. I had always thought that gugak was gu+gak, but the hangeul at the museum read 국악 or gukak. (One advantage of hangeul is that it tells you where the syllables are.) Guk by itself means (among other things) nation (most often found in words like 대한민국 (dae-han-min-guk, the official name of the Republic of Korea), 한국 (han-guk, the short name) and 외국 (oi-guk [way-guk], any foreign country). Ak by itself is related to 음악 (eum-ak, the general word for music) (which I incorporated into my Korean name, which I rarely use). So gugak is literally “national music” (국가 음악).

Last night I came across a reference to gagaku, or the classical music of Japan. Are the words gugak and gagaku related? Possibly, but after some research this morning, it’s impossible to be sure, working across Chinese characters, Japanese kanji, hangeul, pronunciation, transliteration and translation of all three language into English, and dictionary and encyclopedia entries. Gagaku is 雅楽, literally “elegant music”. The syllabification seems to be ga+gaku, because there is a related word bugaku, or “dance music”. Gugak includes court music, folk music, poetic songs, and religious music used in shamanistic and Buddhist traditions. Gagaku is primarily court music and dances, but also Shinto religious music and folk songs and dance. Continue reading

이레 sennight

Last week we bought some food at a Korean takeaway in Lidcombe called 이레. (We have been there before but I hadn’t noticed the name.) The simplest transliteration is ire (two syllables i-re), but the shop sign had irae (which of course reminds me of Latin) and the server’s apron had irea.

Neither my dictionary app or Google Translate has this word, so I asked my wife. She had to think long and hard before answering “seven days”. The usual way to say “seven days” is 칠일 (chil-il), but I thought of two words I know from one of my Korean textbooks 하루 (ha-ru) and 이틀 (i-teul), meaning “one day” and “two days”. I asked her if 이레 was related to those, and she said yes. (The textbook introduced those words in the context of taking medicine after a medical appointment.) Continue reading

Grammarbites part 9 – Latin, Greek, French, Norse and English words

Part 1 – introduction

Part 8 – Building words, prefixes and suffixes

Part 9 – Latin, Greek, French, Norse and English words

Part 6 – sentence types

Part 5 – nouns

Part 2 – auxiliary and modal verbs

Part 3 – regular and irregular main verbs

Part 7 – pronunciation – the basic sounds of English

Part 4 – pronunciation – consonant clusters

The word manage might look like it is made up of man and age, but it isn’t – the meaning of manage has nothing to do with the meanings of those two words. Instead, it is related to the Latin word manus, meaning hand. Other English words with similar meanings are maintain, manifest, maneouvre, manner, manual, manipulate, manuscript, manufacture, manure, manicure.

Similarly, the Latin word for foot is pes/pedis, from which we get words with meanings related to feet or travel: biped, expedition, impede, pedal, pawn, pedestrian, pedestal, pedigree, pioneer, pedicure.

At the same time, the Greek word for foot is podós, from which we get the very similar words podiatry, podium and tripod, and the word for hand is kheír, from which we get chiropractic/chiropractor.

Many English words are built on a root taken from Latin or Greek, sometimes a whole word, but often just part of it. Sometimes the connection and meaning is clear, other times people know only by looking in dictionaries or on the internet. Sometimes the Latin and Greek roots are very similar (pes/pedis and podós) and sometimes they are very different (manus and kheír).

But not all man– words are related to hands, or ped-/pod– words to feet. Some man– words are related to Latin manēre, meaning stay (permanent, remain), or Greek mania, meaning crazy (manic, maniac), and some ped– words are related to Greek paîs, paidós, meaning child (p(a)ediatric, pedagogue, pedant). Continue reading