Around the web – February 2018

This month I had the pleasure – and honour – of spending a morning at the Careers Fair of a local high school talking to final year pupils about my profession. Whether or not you’re also a professional translator I hope you’ll find something of interest in February’s round-up of popular stories about language and translation.

  • With February commonly being associated with love, not surprisingly the most popular article I shared listed a dozen pet names in other languages that don’t work quite so well when translated into English.

Sparrows, elephants, microbes, and potatoes … some pet names don’t work quite so well in English

  • February 21st was International Mother Language Day, and UNESCO reiterated its commitment to linguistic diversity as a reminder that linguistic diversity and multilingualism are essential for sustainable development.
  • This Economist article looked at the the painful origins of many creole languages, which have often – but not always – evolved from slavery.

“Those unfamiliar with creoles, thinking them mere patois, argot or vernacular, are missing a glorious display of the ingenuity of those speakers who turned old languages into something brilliantly new”

Elle France asked if “souping” was a new trend, but critics disagreed, and others queried the use of “ing” on French words

L’académicien Pierre Nora et la secrétaire perpétuelle de l’Académie française Hélène Carrère d’Encausse, en janvier 2016. © Jacques Demarthon / AFP


Further reading:


Around the web – January 2018

On a semi-professional note I appreciate being named last week as one of Reunion Island’s top digital influencers. Anyway here is your first round-up of the new year with January’s most popular news stories about language and translation.

Cigarette pie refers to the shape, but it doesn’t translate well.

The French are told not to say ‘smartphone’ in an ongoing battle against English

How words come to be used tells you a lot about different cultures

Pseudo-anglicisms are not your average English loanwords

A few announcements:

  • Participate in Nikki Graham‘s survey concerning blogs about translation & interpreting  
  • The Banff International Literary Translation Centre program offers working and professional literary translators a period of uninterrupted work on a current project. Apply by February 7 →
  • Ouverture des inscriptions et lancement du site dédié à la 12eme edition du SAM (Séminaire d’anglais médical)  
  • Call for application: Paul Celan fellowships for translators 2018/2019 (deadline: 18 March 2018)  

Further reading:

Most popular tweets of 2017

Here, in ascending order, are the ten most popular* tweets about translation and language that I shared during 2017 on my @Smart_Translate Twitter account:

* ‘most popular’ = most clicked on, according to Hootsuite.

Do you have a favourite article published in 2017 you’d like to share? Don’t hesitate to leave it in the comments below.

Related articles:

Around the web – December 2017

Every year end brings its attempts at summing up the past 12 months in a single word or two. In terms of frequency, a quick check of my Twitter account tells me – unsurprisingly – that language and translation were my most used words in 2017! Here is your round-up of popular news stories for December on those very subjects.

The Guadalajara International Book Fair. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).

  • Staying with literary translation, here is an interview with Allison M. Charette, whose translation of Beyond the Rice Fields by Naivo became the first Malagasy novel to ever be published in English.
  • How is an Iraqi translation project helping to rebuild science in the Arab world?

Aristotle teaching astronomy. © Topkapi Palace Museum, Istanbul

  • Charles Dickens wrote about the plight of impoverished & destitute members of UK society. So how come ‘Dickensian‘ is a synonym for rosy-cheeked, full-stomached, fattened-goose, hearty merry “God bless us every one” Christmas?
  • Check out this holiday season list from Words Without Borders of some Reading in Translation.

A Holiday Gift Guide for Reading in Translation

What in the Word?! Mining the roots of ‘cobalt’

Happy New Year 2018!

Further reading:

Around the web – November 2017

Here is your round-up of popular news stories about language and translation for November.

Kazakh Facebook users have adopted the carrot example to express their views on the alphabet change


From The Red Lion to the Bucket of Blood, how did your local get its name?

Now that really takes the biscuit.

Why do the French exclaim “Oh la vache!”?

Further reading:

Around the web – October 2017

Here is your round-up of popular news stories about translation and language for the month of October.

Photo from the Facebook post that mistranslated ‘good morning’ to ‘hurt them’

  • Why is Argentinean Spanish seemingly so different to a lot of other dialects of Spanish? Find out here.

Buenos Aires market (Credit: Michael S. Lewis/Getty Images)

EU flags outside the European Commission building on October 24, 2014 (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

HSBC’s “Assume nothing” slogan was translated to “Do nothing” in several countries before a costly rebranding.

  • What are the (inflated) origins of the word ‘blimp‘?

A blimp is a non-rigid airship that takes its distinctive shape from – and is, of course, held aloft by – the gas inside its envelope.


Further reading:

Around the web – September 2017

Despite International Translation Day being celebrated by the International Federation of Translators since 1953, this year marked a milestone as it is the first since the 71st United Nations General Assembly declared September 30th to be the official UN International Translation Day, celebrated across the entire UN network, and unanimously adopted a resolution recognising the role of professional translation in connecting nations, and fostering peace, understanding and development. Without further ado, here is your round-up of popular news stories about language and translation for the month of September.

  • The European Commission has published an updated English Style Guide for its authors and translators, which is available for download.
  • Do you talk about a ‘glossary’ when you actually mean a ‘list of terminology’? Find out here.
  • K International has updated their list of favourite books about translation – covering both fiction and non-fiction.
  • Often a bugbear for French to English translators, why do the French use the umbrella term ‘Anglo-Saxon’ so much?

Not just American or British, the Anglo-Saxon is a mirror to Frenchness: the country’s alter-ego and most feared enemy

  • Blog posts comparing US and UK English are always popular, and Lynne Murphy published two this month: one about ‘sorted‘, and another about sightedness (as in far-, short-, long-, and near-).
  • This podcast episode by looked at how accents evolved, and why American and British accents are so different.

Your accent tells others where you’re from, who you identify with, and maybe even where you’re going.

You dirty lobster!

  • Here’s a list of 19 literary translations from Arabic being published this autumn.
  • In the UK, the pro-Brexit newspaper The Sun decided to publish an editorial in German on its website, justifying its position. Problem – it seems to have used Bing Translate, with predictably disastrous results.
  • Did you know that the word ‘tall‘ originally has nothing to do with height?

Tall originally had nothing to do with lattes either


Further reading:

Around the web – July & August 2017

As I was away in Australia (attending the FIT congress) for part of July and August, I’m doing a combined round-up of interesting stories about language and translation that you may have missed over the past two months, especially if you’ve also been away travelling.

  • Talking of Australia, what is the real story behind some of those Australian slang terms like ‘grommies’ ‘tea bags’ and ‘esky-lidders’?

‘Budgie smugglers’ have become synonymous with speedo-style swimwear (Credit: Stuart Westmorland/Getty Images)

You Say Melon, I Say Lemon: translator Deborah Smith as a brilliant sous chef who attempted to recreate the original chef’s recipe abroad with ingredients not found in her country.

John Trumbull’s Declaration of Independence (via Wikimedia Commons)

The plaque shows the lyrics of Galway Bay and three translations into Irish, Latin, and French

Photo of a page of « Jambonlaissé » (Davina Sammarcelli)


Further reading:

Around the web – June 2017

June 9th saw the announcement of the results of’s 2017 Language Lovers competition, and I was delighted to come 2nd * in the Twitter category! (Full results here). What else has been happening in the world of language and translation during the month of June?

What country is this, and where does its name come from?

A cuckoo, from whence the etymology of cuckold

Bugles were originally made from the horns of oxen

Recep Tayyip Erdogan takes a new step in his campaign against foreign influences


On a final note you might like to check out my latest podcast for English language learners, which is on a rather unusual subject (there are video and audio versions).

* Another milestone this month was the fact my Facebook page reached 1000 followers!


Further reading:

Around the web – May 2017

The major translation-related news this month has of course been that during its 71st session on 24 May 2017 the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 288 recognising “The role of professional translation in connecting nations and fostering peace, understanding and development“. Without further ado, here’s your May round-up of popular articles about translation and language.

  • Is the translation sector “undergoing a wrenching change that will make life hard for the timid”? asks Lane Greene in The Economist article Why translators have the blues.
  • In the Financial Times, prizewinning translator Deborah Smith writes about the pleasures and pitfalls of literary translation.

A copy of La Tour’s ‘Saint Jerome Reading’ (c1636), depicting the priest known for translating the Bible into Latin. © Getty

“Gift” means “poison” in German. This may lead to confusion.

Noah Webster portrayed in an 1886 print
(via Wikimedia Commons)

On a final note, don’t forget to vote for your favourite language-related blogs, Facebook pages, Youtube channels and Twitter accounts in’s annual Top 100 Language Lovers competition. I’ve been nominated in the Twitter category for the 5th year running. You only have until June 6th to vote (which you can do by clicking the red logo at the top right of the page)!

The 3 Phases of the Top 100 Language Lovers 2017 Competition: Nominations, Voting, Results


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