Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Come Again?

Language teachers spend a lot of time persuading accuracy-obsessed students that it is not only OK, but very important, to resort to paraphrase when the exact English word for their purpose is unknown or temporarily eluding them. Many students, used to being slapped down for the slightest inaccuracy, need some persuasion that a little circumlocution is perfectly acceptable. A friend from Cambridge has just e-mailed me a brave attempt:

Here is a nice paraphrase from one of my oriental ladies: unable to recall the word “vacuum-cleaner”, she said “She has a machine in her house for sucking dirty things.”

Do please contribute any more such valiant efforts you have heard.


From my nephew, who's about to start a Ph.D. in Hard Sums & Joined-Up Writing , comes this report written by a group of Chinese scientists who have developed the copper nanotube, for which no doubt we should all be grateful. Scan the pdf and see by what unfortunate term they have elected to designate (repeatedly) their copper (Cu) nanotubes (NTs) . To be fair, in the name of scientific objectivity, a spade a spade and all, I think they are stuck with it.


Anonymous said...

I personally liked 'fire-machine' for the humble (cigarette)lighter...

Vilges Suola said...

Nice one, thanks for that. Wish I could remember more of the dozens I've heard.

ydnacblog said...

This is one I heard, but I have no idea what it is:

Gelatinous mutant coconut

I only mentioned it because I wanted to tell you that your blog posts are quite brilliant. I have laughed long and oft at most of them and return in quiet moments to marvel at your linguistic dexterity.
Many thanks for keeping me chortling even on the grimmest days.

Vilges Suola said...

Now there's a thing - I have heard that one too, not long ago, but can't recall where. Is it one of those Chinese translations by Babel fish?

Thanks for the kind words - very much appreciated. Glad it amuses you!

Vilges Suola said...

Seems that 'gelatinous mutant coconut' is an daft rendering of halo-halo , a Philipino desert.


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