Friday, July 30, 2004

My latest Tribune language column:
On the blogging linguists at Language Log, which just turned one year old.
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Here's more from LL on measuring Google hits, or Ghits, as I mentioned at the end of the column.

My column last week (temp link/perm.preview) was on the 25th anniversary of the Plain English Campaign. Here'sPEC founder Chrissie Maher's op-ed in the Guardian; more from the Gdn here and here. Here's more from the BBC on Britain's recent civil court reforms.

From the PEC's weekly e-mail, 7/2:

Thanks to everybody who has sent examples of foreign equivalents for the term 'gobbledygook'. (By the way, one reader pointed out that the Dutch word 'onzin' is actually a literal translation of 'nonsense'.)

Josi Luis Iparraguirre D'Elia suggested 'galimatmas' or 'jerigonza' in Spanish. Another reader told us that 'beliberda' was the Russian term. Jarka Dvorakova gave us 'kecy' and 'blaf' (both plurals) from Czech.

And another Czech speaker, Daniel Deyl gave an interesting alternative.

"The Czech equivalent is 'ptydepe', pronounced 'pteedehpeh'. The word doesn't sound Czech at all; in fact, it doesn't sound like anything, and neither should it. It was devised by Vaclav Havel, the Czech playwright-turned-president, specifically for the purpose of being utterly incomprehensible. He used it in his play 'The Memorandum' (1965) to denote an artificial language designed to prevent rather than facilitate verbal communication; it is used by omnipotent authorities and their officials. The word, its meaning slightly broadened to denote any excessive officialese, outlived the play and has become part of regular Czech vocabulary. After almost four decades, Havel's compatriots still find it useful. Unlike the communist system which produced it, gobbledygook is still alive and kicking."

From a recent Hagar the Horrible' cartoon: "As your lawyer, allow me to clear up this matter for you... in most cases, the defendant supersedes the pro bono factors unless and until the plaintiff decides to coagulate the judicial pontification of all parties involved..."

Finally, here's more on plain English in air traffic control, and here's more on the meaning of "al Qaeda."

- Sports Illustrated, July 12
In English we have a word for disillusionment but not, oddly, for its opposite: that moment when you meet a person whom you've admired from afar, and he turns out to be kinder, more decent, more heroic than you'd ever imagined.

- "Dumb is just not knowing. Ditsy is having the courage to ask." Jessica Simpson, qtd in the Syracuse Post-Standard, via The Week

- "Under certain circumstances profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer." Mark Twain, qtd in the WSJ, via The Week

- The NYT on interpreters and business travel.

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