Updates from January, 2012 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Sandeep Prasanna 12:34 pm on January 17, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: academy, , , precision   

    The English literature academy’s glorification of “elegant variation” in which one attempts to vary one’s nouns and adjectives when referring repeatedly to the same thing is anathema to the law. Kuney and Lloyd. Contracts: Transactions and Litigation. 2011: 40.
  • The Diacritics 6:43 pm on October 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , maxim, proverb,   

    Language: When auspicious and charming, like a luxuriant vine creeper, whose minds does it not win over? भाषा प्रशस्ता सुमनो लतेव केषां न चेतांस्यावर्जयति |

    Sanskrit sūkta (traditional maxim)
    • The Diacritics 6:57 pm on October 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      An example of how translations can sometimes ruin the aesthetics of poetic language: the Sanskrit word “latā” literally means “creeper” — a type of beautifully lush vine common in Asia. In this quote, it appears in the inflected form “lateva” लतेव to describe words that are luxuriant and quick to gain hold in one’s mind (like a fast-growing creeper).

      “Latā” is a recurring image in Sanskrit poetry, often used to describe the curves of a voluptuous woman. But having a body “like a creeper” just sounds terrible in English — especially in modern slang, where a “creeper” describes any sort of shady character.

      Can you think of any other particularly bad translations in poetry from one language to another?

    • Ambarish 9:29 pm on October 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Just a minor nit – the words are केषान्न (or केषां न).

  • The Diacritics 3:53 am on October 3, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: clarity, communication, federal government, hippocrates, plain language,   

    The chief virtue that language can have is clearness, and nothing detracts from it so much as the use of unfamiliar words.

    Hippocrates (Source: PlainLanguage.gov [“Improving Communication from the Federal Government to the Public”])
    • Alon 5:31 am on October 4, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Funny. For me, ‘clearness’ is utterly unfamiliar in this sense; in my idiolect, it’s reserved for the physical senses of ‘clear’ (≃’transparency’), while the metaphorical ones use ‘clarity’.

      A quick search on COCA does not fully support my intuition, but shows that ‘clarity’ is two orders of magnitude more frequent, which makes the quote (as translated) very much a fumblerule.

      In a more serious vein: the assertion is, as far as I can see, empirically testable and very likely to be false. Unclear discourse and sentence structure are much more likely to induce misinterpretation than unfamiliar words, whose meaning can often be effortlessly recovered from context. And then, of course, unfamiliarity varies widely across speakers; many criticisms of jargon fail to notice that the jargon in question is perfectly clear to the intended readers of the text.

  • The Diacritics 7:01 pm on September 2, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: classy, ,   

    I like the word “indolence.” It makes my laziness seem classy.

    Bern Williams
  • The Diacritics 8:35 pm on August 28, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , perception,   

    The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.

    Ludwig Wittgenstein (Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus)
  • The Diacritics 5:32 pm on August 25, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Fat people eat accumulates.

  • The Diacritics 10:48 am on August 23, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

  • The Diacritics 8:25 pm on August 21, 2011 Permalink | Reply

    “The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.”

    James Nicoll, author
  • The Diacritics 6:36 am on August 21, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Like its nouns, Latin continues to decline.

    “Vivat Latinitas!” Slate Magazine (http://www.slate.com/id/2302020/)
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