The English language is rich in vocabulary. It is not uncommon to have a choice of two or three or more words for the same concept. Some would argue it has the most words of any language, but that is not strictly true because some languages accept compound words – in other words, you are allowed to make new words by sticking old words together. Or even just make up new words altogether – think COVID-19 and all the new ones there!
Whilst some languages or countries are perfectly happy to accept the latest English word for a new item of technology, other languages are more particular. For example, the French have a whole committee devoted to deciding which words are allowed to enter their language or not. Technology has caused the welcoming committee a great deal of headaches. The latest controversy was the “smartphone”. After much deliberating, a few failures (“terminal de poche,” [pocket terminal/device]) various thing’s and froing’s, the committee have decided upon the neat little phrase, “le mobile multifunction”.
We here in the UK are less meticulous. Many might like there to be a little committee to build a big wall across the Atlantic to stop the Americanisms that inevitably slip in through our borders but where would we be without the term e-mail?
As a translator, I am regularly forced, perhaps more often than your average person, to think carefully about the words I choose to express concepts and ideas. One wrong choice of word can change the entire meaning of a phrase (so too can punctuation, but we’ll leave that conversation for another day!)
Here are a few of the “worrisome” or perhaps even downright wrong expressions and words that we use on a daily basis:
- You and a friend are having a discussion a discussion AROUND dogs. Really? Did the dogs got dizzy as we circled them? Haw about having a discussion ABOUT dogs?
- How about some directors discussing company strategy GOING FORWARD? Hopefully they didn’t collide with the table and presumably this is not a conversation that can be had going in any other direction. Perhaps discussing company strategy (after all, strategy already implies something starting now and heading into the future) would be better.
- 24/7. Perhaps a good name for a shop! But “all day, every day” is so much more pleasant to the ears.
- Would love a HEADS UP on that one… I guess you must have been looking down at the ground before I asked you the question?! Maybe if you could give me AN IDEA we’d all be less confused.
And finally, a pronunciation issue: HOW do you say debris? DE-bree, DAY-bree or the cheese way, de-BRIE?!
Stay tuned for our next blog post coming next week!