25 January 2012 by Vitali Vitaliev
Just a quick reminder: the column in question was about creating new technology terms, which in some countries, like say, the Faroe Islands, are based on local traditions and linguistic roots rather than on Americanisms, Anglicisms and other widely accepted, yet alien to native languages, foreign borrowings...
"Vitali, like yourself, I tend towards 'purism' in language," writes my veteran correspondent Brian Ellis from Cyprus. He carries on to say that, contrary to what I assert in my column, "France detests anglicisms, almost to the point of paranoia" and insists that in France "it is a criminal offence to write a single word in English in certain classes of documents if a French word exists." This may well be true, but I can't help remembering the now-ubiquitous for so many French towns tongue-breaking, if not-too-appetising, sign "Sandwicherie" as well as a recent engineering conference in France during which I witnessed a peculiar panel discussion, with all six participants being French and addressing a predominantly French audience, yet all talking in stilted and heavily accented English, resplendent with Anglo-American technical terms...
"Hello, Vitali! The Hungarians had quite a go at inventing their own technological terms," remarks John Talbut before referring me to the following web link as a proof:
Now, if any of you, my dear readers, have just tried to follow this link (as I did), you will realise it is all in Hungarian. And I have to confess that, with several tongues on finger tips (as my late friend Peter Ustinov used to reply when asked how many languages he spoke, "I make mistakes in eight"), Hungarian is not one of them. In fact, Hungary is probably the only country in Easter and central Europe when would invariably end up with a copy of unreadable (to me that is) local newspaper in response to a modest request for a bottle of mineral water ("l'eau minerale, aqua minerale, "mineral'naya voda" etc.). I will never forget how I once got hopelessly lost in the small Hungarian town of Sarospatak trying to find a railway station from where the day's only train to Budapest was about to depart. Having exhausted all my languages while asking for directions, I started making hooting and puffing sounds impersonating an outdated steam engine. As a result, a passing granny offered me a dried red paprika, having probably mistaken me for a street busker... I did make it to the train, after all, but only due to the fact that the vasutallomas, or the station in Hungarian (I should have guessed!), was just round the corner!
In line with the above, Mr Talbut's unspoken assumption that I should be as fluent in Hungarian as he is, sounds extremely flattering, if somewhat tongue-in-cheek...
He goes even further and suggests that in E&T we should "use Cyrillic when writing Russian words rather than transliterating them" and adds that "engineers should know enough of the Greek alphabet to get the idea..."
If that last statement is true, I am happy to start writing my "After All" columns in Russian from now on, but as a true democrat will have to put this to vote first and encourage all "After All" readers to express their agreement or disagreement with the above by emailing me in Russian, Ukrainian or Greek.
Interestingly, two of the readers simultaneously take exception to the term "Random Access Memory". "Contrary to what many engineers think, there is nothing random about random access memory, or there had not better be," writes Peter Chapman, MIET from Canada. And David Watson remarks that "Random Access Memory, or RAM, should be 'Memoir Vive' (living memory), while Read Only Memory, or ROM, should be 'Memoir Morte' (dead memory)" - all according to an ancient French Academy decree. "There was, of course, the famous Intel seminar where the unprepared simultaneous translator rendered RAM as 'male sheep' throughout," he concludes.
In the end of my 11/11 "After All", I asked the readers to send in foreign technology terms they thought were interesting. Below are some of the contributions:
"peer-seer" - a colloquial word for "computer" in Afrikaans originating from "PC, but pronounced in a "true" Afrikaans fashion, with the stress on the "P" (Tony Fischer MIET)
"mahshev" - Hebrew for "computer" and "mikledet" - for "keyboard (Slava Petrov)
"logisiel" - French for "software" and "materiel" - for hardware (Brian Ellis).
"harmonogram" - Czech for "schedule" (Richard Selby, Prague)
And last but definitely not least:
"Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitän" - a German term that simply means "captain of a steamship company working on the Danube river" (Richard Selby again).
A huge thank-you (merci, danke, gracias, grazie, dekuji and "takk" - in Faroese!) to everyone. And do keep all these foreign terms coming in!
Post your comments on this blog or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted By: Vitali Vitaliev @ 25 January 2012 12:45 PM General
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