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English at Work

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6.10.14 - 29.11.14
10.02.2015, 18:40

29.11.14 A Chinese tourist brochure will make you laugh by its translation into English:

Our representative will make you wait at the airport. The bus to the hotel runs along the lake shore. Soon you will feel pleasure in passing water. You will know that you are getting near the hotel, because you will go round the bend. The manager will await you in the entrance hall. He always tries to have intercourse with all new guests.

Can you explain what is wrong with units in red?

28.11.14 Avoid people who insist on communicating in highfalutin gobbledygook!!! In academic environment that's a disguise for shallow people and petty ideas.

Steven Pinker’s latest book is called The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. On one delightful page, he convicts fellow academics for “highfalutin gobbledygook” for insisting on ponderousness as proof of gravitas and illustrates his point — “their writing stinks” — with a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon.

highfalutin gobbledygook - употребление длинных непонятных терминов; неясное и витиеватое изложение мыслей; непонятная напыщенная речь, белиберда


27.11.14 The Ukrainian state set up in 1991 was illegitimate to sizeable fractions of its own population. No common Ukrainian identity has emerged. There was no political transformation: democracy has been a sham, with disputed elections and messy power transfers. In the economy, wealth is divided and redivided between alternating Russian and non-Russian oligarchic clans, to the accompaniment of stagnation, industrial decay and high unemployment. Ukraine was ripe for the manipulation of its politics by outsiders.


22.11.14 Read Andrew Critchlow's article about G20. Translate the expression blink first in this context: "Certainly, if the objective is to make Mr Putin appear isolated on the world stage in order to make him less popular at home, it isn’t working and also shows a profound misunderstanding of the Russian mind-set. A nation that endured the bloodbath of Stalingrad and almost half a century of economic isolation following the end of the Second World War is unlikely to blink first in its current standoff with the West. Indeed, Mr Putin’s popularity ratings at home have never been higher".  


20.11.14 One of the skills Business English is to arm you with is your survival skills. If you are unlucky enough to work in a dog-eat-dog organization, how good are your survival skills? Are you beaten down or silently planning your next ambush? Aggressive workplaces abound, but you can be humane and still succeed if you know what to look for and the signs that you will shortly be under attack. So, do you know what the one sign is your co-worker is going to stab you in the back?

dog-eat-dog ['dɔgiːt'dɔg] ; жестокий, беспощадный, непримиримый; звериный (об отношении к чему-л., конкуренции)

Our context requires the device of specification to be resorted to in the translation: организация с волчими законами. Mind the relationship of natural equivalence in "dog-eat-dog" - "волчий".


19.11.14 In case you missed it: OED Word of the Day: maven, n., an expert or aficionado

maven ['meɪvən] - голова; знаток; повёрнутый на чём-л. человек film mavens — заядлые синефилы Syn: freak

18.11.14 Eric Zuesse's translation on http://www.opednews.com/articles/Ukraine-s-President-to-th-by-Eric-Zuesse-Genocide_Obama-Administration_President-Barack-Obama-POTUS_Ukraine-141116-348.h

Ukraine's President, Petro Poroshenko, in an Odessa TV address to the nation, on November 13th, said:

"We will have our jobs. They will not. We will have our pensions. They will not. We will have care for children, for people, and retirees. They will not. Our children will go to schools and kindergartens. Theirs will hole up in basements [from our bombs]. Because they are not able to do anything. This is exactly how we will win this war! [I.e., we will starve and terrorize them into submission.]"

This is how the stylistic device of antithesis works: contrast is moulded into syntactical parallelism for the implication to sink in.

15.11.14 The Australian PM Tony Abbott promised  "to shirtfront" («жестко встретить») Vladimir Putin at the summit of G20 in Brisbane. Poor little Tony must have lost the sense of reality to have produced such a brilliant piece of nonsense! Take a shot at it, Mr Abbot! Your intention made the Guardian laugh: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/14/what-is-shirtfronting-a-guide-to-understanding-the-g20

The expression is a metaphor from the initial meaning пластрон (накрахмаленная нагрудная часть мужской рубашки): "The Macquarie dictionary makes it two words and puts it like this: shirt fronter, a head-on charge aimed at bumping an opponent to the ground. Although it looks like a perfectly normal, legitimate challenge in the rough and tumble world of AFL, it is increasingly frowned upon by the game’s authorities. The actual term is also less common with such incidents more often referred to as a “bump”(врезаться в соперника). Players trying it these days are likely to be find themselves banned rather than lionised as their predecessors were.

The diplomatic equivalent might be the gunboat variety (дипломатия канонерок), but no one would try that any more".

12.11.14 Read this article by Patrick Smith: The New York Times doesn’t want you to understand this Vladimir Putin speech (http://www.salon.com/2014/11/07/the_new_york_times_doesnt_want_you_to_understand_this_vladimir_putin_speech/)

Here is Schmemann on the Ukraine passages of the presentation: “In Mr. Putin’s version of the Ukrainian crisis, the United States was the instigator of the protests in Kiev that led to a ‘coup’ against President Viktor Yanukovych and the subsequent fighting. One American participant told Mr. Putin she was hard put to recognize her country as the one he was describing.”

Well, confused American participant, you make an interesting point. Washington has created a version of events in Ukraine that amounts to a parallel reality, and people such as Schmemann are paid to perpetuate it. If it is of any help: There was a coup, there were neo-fascists among its leaders, the State Department backed it, and the evidence of all this is indisputable.

11.11.14  The following statement is false: in terms of linguistics ALL people (not only Surkov!) try to manipulate other people with the help of words. It results in the shifting of meaning in many expressions that are semantically too vague to let them turn into "weasel words" (the term was coined by Lynn Visson in her book of the same name).

Effective manager,” a term quarried from Western corporate speak, is transmuted into a term to venerate the president as the most “effective manager” of all. “Effective” becomes the raison d’être for everything: Stalin was an “effective manager” who had to make sacrifices for the sake of being “effective.” The words trickle into the streets: “Our relationship is not effective” lovers tell each other when they break up. “Effective,” “stability”: No one can quite define what they actually mean, and as the city transforms and surges, everyone senses things are the very opposite of stable, and certainly nothing is “effective,” but the way Surkov and his puppets use them the words have taken on a life of their own and act like falling axes over anyone who is in any way disloyal.


8.11.14 We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square, and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig. There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins were not invented in England or French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies, while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat.

7.11.14 From Euronews.com: Russia’s Vladimir Putin is the most powerful person on earth, according to Forbes. The Russian president has edged US leader Barack Obama into second place for the second year running with Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the China’s Communist Party, in third.

5.11.14 You will be interested to know about the abuse of the word "alleged" by journalists from The Economist: "JOURNALISTS have a bad habit. Writing about people suspected of crimes is tricky in many ways, and one of them is conveying the level of facts legally proven to be true at the time of writing. Specifically, journalists too frequently use “alleged” as their own kind of get-out-of-jail-free card, attaching it to a noun that very much implies the suspect is guilty, without the journalist committing to it outright". http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2014/10/journalism-and-law?fsrc=scn/tw_ec/johnson_alleged_carelessness

31.10.14 One of the greatest challenges of translation is the song. Sometimes it is next to impossible to convey the message in such a way so that it should meet the rhythm of the original song. In the catalogue of files you will find the song "Господа офицеры" translated into English by A. V. Terenin. Miraculously, the translation can be sung!

27.10.14 Euronews is lying through its teeth when it says. "Another surprise was for those who believed claims fascists were in power in Kyiv. The far-right polled under 10 percent, with one radical group, the Right Sector, failing to enter parliament". More than 90 % of the new parliament are radicals of different shades who do not represent the interests of the South-East of the country. Under this parliament there is no chance of a lasting peace in the Ukraine.

19.10.14  In her Russophobic article “The myth of Russian humiliation” Anne Applebaum makes a very curious statement the first part of it being true, the second – false.

Anne Applebaum in Washington Post:

No treaties prohibiting NATO expansion were ever signed with Russia. No promises were broken.

Никаких договоров, запрещающих расширение НАТО, с Россией подписано не было. Никакие обещания нарушены не были.

It is a universally known fact that the leaders of the Western world moved heaven and earth to persuade Gorbachev that NATO would never move eastwards should the Soviets withdraw their troops from Germany.

To mention a true fact in the same breath with a piece of brazen lie is a communicative strategy used by dishonest politicians and spin doctors.

Let me quote Jack F. Matlock Jr., ambassador to the U.S.S.R. from 1987 to 1991, is the author of “Reagan and Gorbachev: How the Cold War Ended” in the same paper:

“Americans, heritors of the Monroe Doctrine, should have understood that Russia would be hypersensitive to foreign-dominated military alliances approaching or touching its borders”.


15.10.14 Everybody in the Ukraine is familiar with the "democratic" election plague that hit politicians today. This is how the BBC describes it:

Activists, many from the far right, are throwing politicians whom they say are corrupt into rubbish bins. Some of them have been brutal, and one official was also severely beaten. Critics have called the actions mob justice, and ask what this means for the rule of law in Ukraine in the future.

There is a non-equivalent unit to refer to the deplorable practice: Trash Bucket Challenge - literally вызов мусорным ведром.

It is not exactly a challenge - it is mob justice (самосуд, линчевание) in its most disgusting form.

11.10.14 Sometimes definitions given by English-Russian and English-English dictionaries do not match. It is often the case with the so called non-equivalent words, like piggy-back. The trademark of non-equivalents is the inescapable deletions and additions of information. It seems more appropriate if the first Russian correspondence were нести на плечах. That happens to be the first meaning illustrated by Merriam-Webster:

a child needs hugging, tussling, and piggyback rides (Benjamin Spock)

Translating this sentence from “Kyiv Post” requires tackling metaphorical implications:

Lyashko’s leftover popularity  will be enough for his party to piggy-back to parliament. http://www.kyivpost.com/content/politics/lyashkos-party-set-to-win-seats-with-radical-populism-366002.html

None of these translations can claim to be “better” to be better than the other: all of them retain the idea of doing something in connection with something larger or more important: true popularity is a much more important thing for an honest politician than seats in the parliament.

Остатки популярности позволят партии Ляшко попасть в парламент.

На былой популярности партия Ляшко всё же проходит в парламент.

Партия Ляшко проходит в парламент, хотя популярность её заметно упала.

Несмотря на падение популярности, партия Ляшко всё же заполучит места в парламенте.


8.10.14 Knowledge is often offered to you in the form of text-books. Indeed, text-books may be useful when they cover an autonomous branch of knowledge backed up by a predictable format of topics and terminology. In case of language learning a text-book on language may have a thousand and more formats (none of them having a claim to exhaust the "subject").  At the same time such language disciplines as grammar, rhetoric, stylistics, the history of the language, translation, business English etc. are widely recognized as important tools to having a good command of the language.  If you are learning a foreign language for daily needs you do not want a lot of theory, but a text-book on grammar covering all its essential parts is absolutely necessary. In Zaporozhye there is only one book on grammar that can be crowned as a Genius of simplicity and completeness: "Практическая грамматика английского языка с упражнениями и ключами" К. Н. Качаловой и Е. Е. Израилевич. Its major principles include English - Russian correspondences that offer you a shortcut to full-fledged language competence. 

6.10.14 If you are capuble of making jokes life will certainly bring you more fun. This is how Ernest Hemingway put it:

“They say the seeds of what we will do are in all of us, but it always seemed to me that in those who make jokes in life the seeds are covered with better soil and with a higher grade of manure.” (Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast).
Think about numerous ways of formulating the same idea. This is what we are confronted with when we are engaged in the act of translating.
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