Sunday, 27 January 2013

Burns Night

A tongue-in-cheek tale of a translation from the Scots into German then retranslated into English.

The Scots is from the poem by Robert Burns 'Address to a Haggis' and begins

'Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the pudding-race!'

The second line, retranslated from the German became:

'Great Führer of the sausage people!'

Doesn't have the same ring to it, does it?

Monday, 14 January 2013

The wonder that is the wood pulp information system

Wood pulp missive collection point

Having completed a piece of work for a client and sent them an electronic copy of the invoice I was most surprised a few days later to get a request to send, i.e. post an invoice to their address.

Their accountants or some such money counting trade needed it for their files. And it needed to be an original.

And it needed to be sent in a paper container made of wood pulp, like itself, subjected to a long and time consuming process involving a lot of water, then a lot of dewatering and a lot of heavy machinery.

The paper bag needed to have the address written on it with pen and ink so that I could then take it to a little shop and hand it to someone who could weigh it and ask me for some money. In exchange for the money this person would then hand me some other little pieces of paper with glue on them to be stuck to this paper bag. This operation would allow my paper to be conveyed to the address I had written.

Then I would be able to take the invoice in its bag festooned with little pieces of sticky paper sporting brightly coloured images, including a silhouette of the Queen's head, to a large red cast-iron cylinder with a slot cut into it (see photo). I would slip the whole thing inside and later someone in a van would stop by and using a special key open the cylinder and take my, and many other missives, on the first stage of the mysterious journey to their destination...

In its time the above was an extremely efficient document transmission system which helped make our modern world. In the present age of electronic documents and transmission over digital networks it seems a bit of a palaver all the same.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Oops, fell off the cliff, wall or into the abyss!

Cliff, chasm or abyss?

Well we nearly did anyway.

At least in English it was the cliff, or rather falling off it, which threatened us with oblivion.

In Spanish, commentators chose to speak of 'un abismo', the abyss.

The French offered a choice of a wall 'mur' (either financial or budgetary), altogether less dangerous; or an abyss or chasm 'gouffre fiscal'; but did not choose 'abîme' which is also an abyss or chasm.

Perhaps just to avoid confusion with '(en) abyme' which refers to a story containing another story, or a diamond in which another diamond is mounted, if my memory serves me well.

In any event it has been entertaining to see how journalists and others have been attempting to make an endless series of budgetary discussions sound exciting, particularly as everyone knew some compromise would eventually be reached.

Unless it has all driven you up the wall.