Anyone who travels beyond Delhi and Mumbai to India’s provincial cities will notice English words cropping up increasingly in Hindi conversation,” writes BBC. While some of these terms fell out of use in the UK decades ago, others are familiar, but used in bold new ways.
Picture the scene. I’m chatting to a young man named Yuvraj Singh. He’s a college student in the Indian city of Dehra Dun. We’re talking in Hindi. But every so often there’s an English word. It’s Hindi, Hindi, Hindi, and then suddenly an English word or phrase is dropped in: “job”, “love story” or “adjust”.
What should we make of this? It’s not that Hindi lacks equivalent words. He could have said the Hindi “kaam” instead of “job”. Why mention the English words? And what’s Yuvraj speaking? Is it Hindi, English, an amalgam “Hinglish”, or something else?
In 1886 Henry Yule and Arthur Burnell published Hobson-Jobson, a guide to words from Indian languages that had passed into English.
You can search through it for references to the origins of words such as “shampoo” and “bungalow”. But now many Indian citizens are using English words in the course of talking Hindi – or Tamil, or Bengali etcetera.”
Read on at the BBC.
- BBC: Hobson-Jobson – The words English owes to India
On Wikipedia: Hobson-Jobson
– Digital Dictionary – Hobson-Jobson: A glossary of colloquial Anglo-Indian words and phrases, and of kindred terms, etymological, historical, geographical and discursive.
- Digital Book at archive.org:
The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows is a compendium of made-up words written by John Koenig. Each original definition aims to fill a hole in the language, to give a name to an emotion we all feel but don’t have a word for.
Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows
n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.
n. an image that inexplicably leaps back into your mind from the distant past.
Test your American dialect down to your hometown
Based on your responses, the map at right shows the overlap between your speech and the various dialects of American English, as measured by data from the Harvard Dialect Survey, conducted by Bert Vaux and Scott Golder. Try it here.
“Whether the broader meaning of a text – the jokes, philosophies, and cultural peculiarities of its language – is translatable depends almost entirely on the individual with their nose in the dictionary (not to mention the dictionary itself).” (The Oxford Dictionary Blog)
When we say that a word is untranslatable, we tend to mean that it lacks an exact or word-for-word equivalent in our own language. In our desire to make everyone and everything understood, we sometimes forget that languages are living, writhing beasts: they evolve and mutate at such a rate that their genetic make-up is by nature very different, and it is almost impossible to pin them down. Although we can spot many commonalities between languages (just ask a friendly polyglot), there are also countless words that resist comparison. We are attracted to these outliers because they seem to fill the gaps in our own language and – if they originate from lands that are unfamiliar to us – they appear to unlock the secrets of other, distant cultures.”
– Wikipedia: Untranslatability
- BBC News: The world’s most difficult word to translate has been identified as “ilunga” from the Tshiluba language spoken in south-eastern DR Congo.
– Blog: Better than English - “We post words and phrases that don’t have direct English translations.”
– 11 Untranslatable Words From Other Cultures
– Book: Dictionary of Untranslatables: A Philosophical Lexicon (Translation/Transnation)
– Book: How to Translate The…Untranslatable from English (from American) Into French and Vice Versa?: Comment Traduire…L’Intraduisible D’Anglais (D’Americ
Jacques Lezra: Dictionary of Untranslatables
Presentation by Jacques Lezra, Professor of Spanish, Portuguese and Comparative Literature at NYU.
This is an encyclopedic dictionary of close to 400 important philosophical, literary, and political terms and concepts that defy easy–or any–translation from one language and culture to another. Drawn from more than a dozen languages, terms such as Dasein (German), pravda (Russian), saudade (Portuguese), and stato (Italian) are thoroughly examined in all their cross-linguistic and cross-cultural complexities. Spanning the classical, medieval, early modern, modern, and contemporary periods, these are terms that influence thinking across the humanities.
Originally published in French, this one-of-a-kind reference work is now available in English for the first time, with new contributions from Judith Butler, Daniel Heller-Roazen, Ben Kafka, Kevin McLaughlin, Kenneth Reinhard, Stella Sandford, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Jane Tylus, Anthony Vidler, Susan Wolfson, Robert J. C. Young, and many more.The result is an invaluable reference for students, scholars, and general readers interested in the multilingual lives of some of our most influential words and ideas.
Image from New Zealand-based designer Anjana Iyer’s “Found in Translation” series of images
“Dictionaries are pretty solid authorities about what words mean, but they overextended themselves when reaching a bit in the definition for the word siphon,” writes Mashable. “The Oxford English Dictionary and many others have erroneously claimed that atmospheric pressure makes siphons work for 99 years, so Dr. Stephen Hughes did some research to set them straight.
Dr. Hughes noticed that the OED misidentified atmospheric pressure as the thing that makes siphons work back in 2010. Really, it’s gravity that causes liquid to flow up the short side of a siphon and down the long side, but the original definition for a siphon read,
A pipe or tube of glass, metal or other material, bent so that one leg is longer than the other, and used for drawing off liquids by means of atmospheric pressure, which forces the liquid up the shorter leg and over the bend in the pipe.
So, Hughes set about helpfully correcting the dictionary, but of course, he needed some proof. So, he tested a siphon inside a hypobaric chamber where he could change the level of atmospheric pressure and see if it had any effect on the siphon. As we’ve all (hopefully) learned, if you’re going to correct someone, you should really be sure you’re right first.
In Hughes’s experiments, the varied air pressure had a small effect on how the water flowed, but it didn’t have any effect on how much water traveled through the siphon over time. So Hughes concluded in a paper, published in Scientific Reports (that he somehow managed not to title “Neener Neener”), that he is smarter than the dictionary, and gravity is the real driving force.
The OED has changed its definition to remove the reference to atmospheric pressure, but Hughes isn’t fully satisfied with how ambiguous they’ve left the actual driving force behind a siphon. That’s still better than the rest of the world’s dictionaries, as he said,
But at least the reference to atmospheric pressure has been removed. The vast majority of dictionaries of all languages still incorrectly assert that siphons work through atmospheric pressure and not gravity.
Hopefully, the others will come around and change their ways. Sorry, dictionaries, but no book is safe from being proven wrong by science.”
“Staphylococci,” “esquamulose” and “feuilleton” are perfectly acceptable words to misspell on the first (or fifth) try.
But when it comes down to everyday writing, the most commonly misspelled words are a lot simpler than you might expect.
Guess what? They’re a lot shorter than “antidisestablishmentarianism” — and totally shameful.
Bradley Hall writes, “I am trying to get funding via Indiegogo so that I can spend more time translating old public domain German sci-fi books. So far I have translated Robert Heymann’s ‘Der Rote Komet’ (The Red Comet) and am currently working on Bernhard Kellerman’s ‘Der Tunnel’ (The Tunnel). Neither of these books have been translated to English before.”
James Somers thinks you should switch to the Websters 1913 dictionary, and he cites John McPhee’s composition method of looking up synonyms for problematic words as the key to his peerless prose style. Somers makes a great case for the romance of historical dictionaries, but for my money (literally — I spent a fortune on this one), the hands-down best reference for synonyms and historical language reference is the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary, whose magnificence cannot be overstated.
It makes sense: there was, and is, something remarkable about his 1828 dictionary, and the editions that followed in its line (the New and Revised 1847, the Unabridged 1864, the International 1890 and 1900, the New International 1909, the 1913, etc.). You can see why it became cliché to start a speech with “Webster’s defines X as…”: with his dictionary the definition that followed was actually likely to lend gravitas to your remarks, to sound so good, in fact, that it’d beat anything you could come up with on your own.
Take a simple word, like “flash.” In all the dictionaries I’ve ever known, I would have never looked up that word. I’d’ve had no reason to — I already knew what it meant. But go look up “flash” in Webster’s (the edition I’m using is the 1913). The first thing you’ll notice is that the example sentences don’t sound like they came out of a DMV training manual (“the lights started flashing”) — they come from Milton and Shakespeare and Tennyson (“A thought flashed through me, which I clothed in act”).
You’ll find a sense of the word that is somehow more evocative than any you’ve seen. “2. To convey as by a flash… as, to flash a message along the wires; to flash conviction on the mind.” In the juxtaposition of those two examples — a message transmitted by wires; a feeling that comes suddenly to mind — is a beautiful analogy, worth dwelling on, and savoring. Listen to that phrase: “to flash conviction on the mind.” This is in a dictionary, for God’s sake.
The answer depends on where you live. Many people in Newfoundland find that sentence perfectly grammatical.
By taking this quiz from gameswithwords.com , you will be helping train a machine algorithm that is mapping out the differences in English grammar around the world, both in traditionally English-speaking countries and also in countries like Mexico, China, and India.
At the end, you can see our algorithm’s best guess as to which English you speak as well as whether your first (native) language is English or something else.
BBC: “The first German settlers arrived in Texas over 150 years ago and successfully passed on their native language throughout the generations – until now.
German was the main language used in schools, churches and businesses around the hill country between Austin and San Antonio. But two world wars and the resulting drop in the standing of German meant that the fifth and sixth generation of immigrants did not pass it on to their children.
Still the biggest ancestry group in the US, according to Census data, a large majority of German-Americans never learned the language of their ancestors.
Hans Boas, a linguistic and German professor at the University of Texas, has made it his mission to record as many speakers of German in the Lone Star State as he can before the last generation of Texas Germans passes away.
Mr Boas has recorded 800 hours of interviews with over 400 German descendants in Texas and archived them at the Texas German Dialect Project. He says the dialect, created from various regional German origins and a mix of English, is one of a kind.
“We have found no two speakers that speak roughly alike,” Mr Boas told the BBC at his office in Austin.
The BBC’s Franz Strasser went to Weimar, New Braunfels and Austin to find the last speakers of this dialect.”