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March 2014

Where Did Those English Words Come from, Anyway?

If you've never heard of the word 'eponym' before, you might turn to a popular resource like Webster's to look up words. Yet you may not realize that the act of using 'Webster' as a synonym for dictionary is actually an eponym. Why? Because an 'eponym' is a common word derived from the name of a person or place.

So what other common terms used every day are actually eponyms? Certain eponyms are both familiar and popular. The term 'pasteurization', for example, came from the famous French chemist Louis Pasteur, who invented the process of using heat to kill germs. 'Valentine' is another common term, derived from the name of an early Christian martyr, St. Valentine, associated with the holiday.

Other common examples of eponyms include:

Leotard - This word is attributed to Jules Léotard, a French aerialist who introduced this tight-fitting one-piece garment in his circus act.

Teddy bear - Named after former US president Theodore Roosevelt, the famous stuffed toy bear was so named because of Roosevelt’s nickname, 'Teddy'. As a hunter, President Roosevelt was once depicted in a cartoon sparing a bear cub's life while hunting, giving rise to the cuddly childhood companion.

Watt - The source of this word for electric power is James Watt, a Scottish inventor who introduced the concept of horsepower.

Casanova - Any man known for his seduction of women might be dubbed a 'Casanova'. The term derives from Giovanni Giacomo Casanova, an Italian adventurer who frequently bragged about the number of sexual conquests he had, as described in his famous autobiography.

Salisbury steak - The name of popular menu item came from James H. Salisbury, an American doctor who invented this dish as part of his unique all-meat diet.

So the next time you order something from a restaurant menu or pick out a garment from a clothing store, take a moment to ponder whether its name comes from a popular figure of our rich past!

How Clients Can Help Ensure the Best Quality Translation

Whenever a client awards a translation service provider a project, there are a few things that can be done to ensure the highest overall translation quality. The following best practices will make for a smoother integration of a multilingual strategy and successful project.

Would the translator benefit from knowing about particular terms that you’ve used in prior translations that are specific to your business/industry? Providing a glossary of these specialized terms will increase the consistency of a translation, not just for this project but for future projects as well, ensuring all translators work from the same definitions of key terms.

Translation Memory
Do you have a translation memory file? This can help the translation vendor ensure a smooth and consistent translation across all spectrums.

Agreement to Technical or Proprietary Terms
Once the agency has organized the translation team that will undertake your project, it’s essential for both the client and the translation team to agree on how to translate technical or proprietary terms native to the client’s business or industry. Agreeing to specific translations of these terms before translation commences will make the rest of the translation smoother. The client can also provide the vendor with a glossary of frequently used technical terms, as described above.

Giving Yourself Time
The most important part of a project is to give yourself enough time. Asking for a project on the day you need to unveil it to your distributors is not ideal. You want to give yourself some time to review your project after it is returned to you and time to make changes if any are needed.

Ensure Your Document is Complete before Translation Begins
It’s very important that your document is complete before beginning the translation process. If the translation has started and you decide to make changes to the original document, it may compromise or delay delivery of the rest of the project. Changing even a few words may well cause a cascading change in meaning that can delay completion of your project, so it’s always best to have your final document ready in the source language before translating it into the targeted language.

Following these few simple steps can help to ensure not just a smoother translation experience but a more consistent and higher quality final product. The more information you can provide about your document and your project upfront, the easier it will be for the translation team to deliver exactly what you’re looking for, with the quality you expect and deserve. We all know that time is money, so every second that you spend working with the translation team upfront saves time during the translation and delivery phases, getting you your translation faster, with the exact fluidity and quality you need.

Language Translation: The Roadmap to a Culture

"If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart."
Nelson Mandela

It goes without saying that being able to communicate with a person or business in their native tongue is beneficial on many levels. The late, great Nelson Mandela said it best in his inspirational quote given above. People appreciate the effort that goes into taking the time to show you care about who they are and the language they speak.

Translating word for word from one language to another is simply not enough; what needs to happen is a transmission of the meaning and cultural significance behind what is trying to be communicated. This is why it's essential to ensure that the original context remains intact after translation.

Another great figure of the 20th century, English writer and composer Anthony Burgess, also summed up the language and translation process eloquently:

"Translation is not a matter of words only: it is a matter of making intelligible a whole culture."

Words don’t just have literal meanings; they also have cultural significance and importance. Having the ability to translate and understand more than one language opens up doors and opportunities along the journey of life.

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Did you know?

The German language is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union, but did you know that German is also a pluricentric language? This means that there is more than one official version considered standard. Germany, Austria, and Switzerland each have distinct standard forms of German.


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