Around the web – June 2020

Not surprisingly given the current news context, many of June 2020’s articles and stories about language and translation focused on inequalities.

Criticism of tone is generally a distraction strategy

  • “Girl boss”, “mompreneur” “she shed” … Are (previously neutral) words that have been made feminine patronising or empowering?

The origins of the term “she shed” are a bit murky, but it seems to have first appeared around 2015

When a speaker uses “dog-whistle” language they’re often passing a message which they intend listeners to hear, without saying things explicitly

In the US, ‘buzzard’ is another name for the turkey vulture, while in British English it’s used for birds of the genus Buteo.

 

Further reading:

Around the web – May 2020

Do you know how the month of May got its name? It may (pun intended) seem a simple word, but the origin is actually fairly complex and interesting. We could say the same about several articles listed here in the May 2020 round-up of this month’s most popular stories about language, translation and interpreting.

was Maia a Greek or Roman goddess?

Off-colour and on the mend

Esther Kim interviews the translator of “Friend”, Immanuel Kim

#ThatTranslatorCanCook week 41: Sausage Rougail

 

Further reading:

Around the web – April 2020

Just like last month, I’ve divided this round-up of April’s stories about language and translation into two sections: links that are either related or unrelated to COVID. Take your pick, or read both parts!

Non-COVID:

  • During lockdown you may find yourself at a loose end (if you’re in the UK) or at loose ends (if you’re in the US). Lynne Murphy took a closer look. She also examined how the expression “on the up-and-up” means different things in the two countries.

Are you at a loose end or at loose ends?

Things that don’t change? Leopards and their spots

Have you found your ‘power song’?

COVID-related:

What has a hamster got to do with pandemic parlance?

 

Further reading:

Around the web – March 2020

Although we were all aware of COVID-19 when I posted my last round-up on 29th February, I think few of us could have imagined the situation we’re living through right now. Today, instead of listing articles by order of popularity as I normally do, and in case you’re fed up of hearing about the coronavirus, I’ve divided this blog post into two sections: links that are either related or unrelated to COVID. It’s interesting to note in this (longer-than-normal) post that the majority of March’s most popular articles were actually the latter.

Links unrelated to COVID-19:

A message to our sponsors

A senses of vastness

Many see “social distancing” to be the greatest pandemic-era addition the vernacular yet.

COVID-19-related posts:

When language goes viral

What’s the difference between “quarantine” and “isolation”?

 

Further reading:

Around the web – February 2020

Although February is a short month even in a leap year, there were plenty of language-related news stories and articles. Here’s your round-up of the most popular:

Interpreters work in a booth in Singapore.

How do you say “quidditch” in Yiddish?

Boiled eggs, British (left) and US style

Hare’s breath or hair’s breadth?

 

Further reading:

Language podcasts

A recent request from a colleague on Facebook looking for interesting podcasts to listen to got me compiling the following list. I’ve listed podcasts that are about language, translation and/or interpreting, but none about language learning (there are plenty out there if that’s what you’re looking for). Depending on how much time you have available you might want to listen to all of a podcast’s episodes or just cherrypick here and there. The list is in alphabetical order and, with one exception, only includes podcasts in English.

Other language podcasts*:

  • ATA also has a more general podcast
  • The History of English is a chronological history of the English language examined through the lens of historical events that shaped the development and spread of the language
  • Lexicon Valley is hosted by linguist John McWhorter
  • Lingthusiam by Gretchen McCulloch and Lauren Gawne is enthusiastic about linguistics
  • Three Percent podcasts is a weekly(ish) conversation about new books, the publishing scene, international literature in translation, and many other random rants and raves
  • Caroline Alberoni hosts the TradTalk podcast (mainly in Portuguese)
  • Troublesome Terps is subtitled “The podcast about things that keep interpreters up at night”. Also by Alexander Drechsel along with his  fellow interpreters Sarah Hickey, Jonathan Downie, and Alexander Gansmeier as well as the occasional guest
  • Long-running A Way With Words looks at language through family, history, and culture

*podcasts that I don’t or no longer listen to, mainly due to lack of time!

Further reading:

What language-related podcasts do you listen to? Let me know in the comments!

 

Around the web – December 2019 & January 2020

Here’s a round-up of popular articles about language and translation you may have missed over the past two months:

Triumph and ovation are two other words from Ancient Rome

How young queer people are identifying their sexual and romantic orientations is expanding—as is the language they use to do it

The political struggle over impeachment involves both emotive vocabulary and the legalistic kind

Un point médian, un seul, et c’est toute la phrase qui se casse la figure.

 

Further reading:

 

Around the web – November 2019

Here’s your round-up of the penultimate month of the year’s most popular stories about language, translation and interpreting.

It is hard to tackle a problem you are afraid to name.

In 2019, dozens of emojis showed up in legal cases.

Icelander Kristjan Asgeirsson lost $68,000 in an online scam. The people of Iceland are no longer protected from online fraud because of their linguistic isolation.

What does “milkshaking” refer to?

Further reading:

What’s In A (Plant) Name?

Research for a recent plant-related project led me down some rabbit holes of word etymology, and I thought I’d share with you here a few of the most intriguing facts I learnt:

  • The name basil comes from the Greek word basilikon phuton meaning ‘royal/kingly plant’ probably because it was believed to have been used in making royal perfumes.
  • Bergamot is named after the hilltop Italian city of Bergamo in Lombardy where this species of orange tree was originally cultivated. The city was called Bergamum in Roman times after the German word ‘berg’.
  • Called kamai melon (‘ground/earth apple’) by the ancient Greeks, the botanical name of chamomile, matricaria, refers to its role as a herb used to treat gynaecological symptoms like menstrual cramps and PMS.
  • The botanical name of geranium, pelargonium, derives from the Greek pelargos, meaning ‘stork’, either in reference to the herb’s long, bill-like seeds or because the seed head looks like a stork’s beak.

A species of geranium growing in Reunion Island

  • The name grapefruit comes from the grapelike cluster in which the fruits grow, although some say it’s so called for its taste.
  • Jasmine is derived from the Persian yasameen, which means ‘fragrant flower’ or ‘gift from God’ (depending on sources).
  • Lavender supposedly takes its name from the Latin lavare, meaning ‘to wash’, as it was said to have been used to scent baths, cosmetic waters, and natural deodorants in Roman times. However this could be apocryphal and the name may come from Latin livere meaningblueish’.

Lavender growing near Traverse City, Michigan, USA

  • Belonging to the same family as tarragon (see below), mugwort is derived from the Old English mucg wyrt, meaning ‘marsh plant’ or ‘midge plant’ depending on sources. (Wort is an old English word for ‘root’). When I lived in South Korea, Korean mugwort was commonly used as a culinary herb.

Ssuktteok (Korean mugwort rice cakes)

  • The word myrrh entered the English language from the Bible, and the name of this natural resin native to the Horn of Africa comes from Semitic sources (e.g. the Arabic word murr) meaning ‘[was] bitter’.
  • Narcissus possibly derives from the Greek narkao – to be numb – due to the plant’s sedative, narcotic properties.
  • Neroli – an expensive essential oil produced from the blossom of the bitter orange tree and reportedly one of the ingredients in Coca-Cola – takes it name from the influential 17th-century Princess of Nerola who reportedly used it as her trademark fragrance to perfume her gloves and bath.
  • The name oregano derives from the Greek words gános and óros meaning ‘joy/brightness/ornament of the mountain’
  • The botanical name of the herb sage is salvia officinalis (salvia means ‘healthy’ in Latin); the older common name originates from the Latin salvare which means ‘heal’.
  • St John’s Wort is so named because the species blossoms near the summer solstice and the feast day of St John the Baptist on 24 June.

St John’s Wort flowers

  • The name mandarin comes from the fruit which was a traditional gift to Chinese mandarins (imperial bureaucrat-scholars)
    • Tangerine was first used to describe mandarin fruit shipped from Morocco’s third-largest city, Tangier.
  • Tarragon‘s name is related to that of dragons, either as a description of the way the root seems to coil up like a dragon, or from an ancient use as antidote to the bites of venomous creatures. Its botanical name is Artemisia dracunculus.
  • Although we mainly know thyme as a culinary herb, the word actually derives from the ancient Greek thymos meaning ‘to smoke/perfume/burn’ as they used it to fumigate against infectious illnesses.
  • Although commonly – but poetically – mistranslated as ‘flower of flowers’, Ylang-ylang actually means “wilderness” in Tagalog, alluding to the tree’s natural habitat.

Ylang-ylang in my garden

With a few exceptions, these plants have existed since long before humans first started using, and then talking about them, and in some cases we may never know the true origin of some names, lost in the mists of time.

Related posts:

Around the web – October 2019

October 10th marked a minor milestone for me, as I celebrated the 10th birthday of my Twitter account. Partly based on results from my Twitter feed, here’s your monthly round-up of October’s most popular stories about language, translation and interpreting.

A collection of Native American utensils and weapons. (source: Getty)

The polarisation of politics has led to a new lexicon of insults

Going greener in your office

Could Brexit translate into a comeback for the French language?

Further reading: