10 words you’re probably misusing

1. A more accurate title for this article might be “10 Words That May Not Mean What You Think They Mean” but I’m keeping the original title simply so that people realize it’s a follow-up to the original.

2. Many of these words have developed new definitions over time. I’m basing my arguments on the original definitions of the words, not the ones we’ve given them. Are denotative definitions more accurate than connotative ones? I don’t know. I’ll let you guys figure that out.

Aaaaannnnd, begin!

1) Plethora

What you may think it means: a lot

What it actually means: superabundance, an excess

When you say, “I have a plethora of friends,” you are suggesting that you have too many friends, so many that you may not even be able to handle them all. On the other hand, when you say “I have a lot of friends,” you’re implying a manageable level of popularity. Learn this definition, people. Your social life depends on it.

2) Forego

What you may think it means: to bypass

What it actually means: to go before

This one is a matter of spelling. To forego does not mean “to opt out of” (as in, “I think I’ll forego eating dinner with your creepy neighbor”). Rather, it means “to precede in place or time.” (Example: “I just watched ‘Jaws’ for the first time and I’ve been watching Shark Week specials all day. For the foregoing reasons, I have decided not to swim with you at the beach today.”) The word you’re looking for is forgo. (Example: “…I have decided to forgo swimming with you …”)

3) Poisonous

What you may think it means: capable of injecting venom

What it actually means: capable of causing death or illness if taken into the body

Certain snakes are venomous because they inject venom into your system directly. However, unless you ate or touched one of these snakes and got sick, they would not necessarily be considered poisonous. Moral of the story: Don’t call anything poisonous unless you’ve tasted it first. (I’m totally kidding. Please don’t eat any snakes. Please.)

4) Literally

What you may think it means: actually

What it actually means: in a literal manner

I was going to leave this word out, because you can probably find someone complaining about “literally” on any word-related message board on the Internet right now, but many people suggested that I include it, so here we are. I’m not going to tell you to stop saying, “My mind has literally been blown,” because “literally” is my favorite word to misuse, especially when you say it like “li-tra-lee,” because it reminds me of British people, so carry on.

5) Fortuitous

What you may think it means: lucky

What it actually means: occurring by chance

In the pilot episode of “Friends,” Ross admits that he wants to be married again and Rachel, dressed in a wedding gown, stumbles into the coffee shop. This is an example of fortuitous timing. Fortuitous situations are sometimes lucky, but not always, which explains how these two definitions are often confused.

6) Penultimate

What you may think it means: superultimate

What it actually means: next to last

Penultimate is not a superlative for ultimate. In fact, I can’t think of any word that has pen as a “super” prefix. A pencil is not a super “cil.” A pendulum is not a super “dulum.” A penny is not a super New York. (Get it?) None of those is real. Stop it.

7) Alas

What you may think it means: finally

What it actually means: an expression of grief, pity, or concern

The next time you say, “Alas! I have completed my homework,” ask yourself: are you upset about this fact? If the answer is no, choose a different word. Because it is not a synonym for “finally.”

8) Refute

What you may think it means: to rebut, to argue against

What it actually means: to disprove with evidence

There is a small, but very important, difference between these two definitions. You can rebut your friend’s argument against the nonexistence of centaurs, sure. However, if you refute your friend’s claim, you better be prepared to present a live centaur, because that word requires evidence.

9) Unique

What you may think it means: unusual

What it actually means: one of a kind

If unique were a scent, it would probably be “skunk” or “grandma’s perfume” because according to the dictionary, it is, by nature, such a strong word, it does not need any adverbs to accompany it. (A child can be unique, not very unique.)

10) Inconceivable

What you may think it means: too unlikely/undesirable to be considered a possibility

What it actually means: not capable of being imagined or grasped mentally

The word that started it all. Something is inconceivable if you cannot wrap your mind around it. Someone once asked me: What if every thought that has ever been imagined by humans is represented by a particle of sand? Would there be enough? And while I know the answer is no, both concepts are still difficult to grasp in my mind. That’s inconceivable.


Source : Ragan Communications

Copyediting and proofreading: similar yet different

Copyediting is the review and correction of an author’s originally written manuscript. The copyeditor takes the author’s electronic manuscript (typically in Microsoft Word) and cleans the text, addressing issues including spelling, punctuation, grammar, and capitalization. The editor is also making sure the manuscript is internally consistent (Stephen isn’t “Steven” elsewhere in the book) and following the style points defined at the start. We use the Chicago Manual of Style at Bookmasters, although we are also versed in AP Style, APA, AMA, and a host of others as required by the author. Depending on the roughness of the original manuscript, the copyeditor could also be tasked to correct issues of sentence structure, storyline continuity, and improving the clarity of the author’s message.

The copyediting process can be as simple as fixing a few grammatical points and as complex as a complete rewrite of the entire manuscript.

Once the manuscript is edited, reviewed and approved by the author, and laid out in the book’s final pages, the proofreading can begin. At this stage, the book’s text is expected to be finalized by the author, so the proofreader is primarily concerned with how the pages look and read on a more “global basis.” The proofreader is, of course, reviewing for grammatical issues that may have been missed during the copyediting, but they are not turning so critical an eye to the text. Their primary focus is on the book’s overall presentation: Are the page elements throughout the book correct and in place? (page numbers, running heads, chapter heads, footnotes, etc.) Are the margins the correct width, and do the pages bottom out? (Aligned at the bottom on a page spread.) Are there bad breaks, ladders, and widows/orphans to be cleaned up and adjusted? Are the fonts in place? Are the art and captions correct? Did any text fall out or not get set?

As you can see, the text of the book is one very small part of the proofreader’s responsibilities, so it’s better to have someone focus solely on that earlier in the process.

It may help to visualize the copyediting and proofreading processes as two sides of the same coin. Both contribute to the overall success of the book, but their fields of focus and areas of expertise are very different indeed!

Source : Bookmasters

Acronym Translation Strategies (ATS)

There is nothing like an acronym to throw a roadblock into an otherwise simple translation project. The alphabet soups that some organizations churn out more efficiently than their own products can boggle even native speakers. Where do you start with a handful of letters often confuse even supposed experts?

A reporter from Korea noted that General James Thurman tried to ban acronyms from use[1] noting that an acronym like “AA” had at least 12 different meanings “‘Build AA (Anti Aircraft) network in AA (Assembly Area) using AAA (Anti-Aircraft Artillery),’ no layman would understand what it means. ” The problem is that as translators we are not quite laymen, not quite specialists. Even specialized translators rarely have the luxury of specializing as deeply as do the people who wrote the documents we translate. Unlike General Thurman, we do not have the option of ordering acronyms not to be used in our presence. However, there are some strategies that we can use to solve these puzzles.

First: lay out the pieces of the puzzle. Read, or more realistically, skim the entire document before you start and make a list of the acronyms you find. While most documents to be translated do not follow the convention of showing the expanded acronym the first time it is used, you may get lucky and find the full name used later in the document. I once found the acronym LLN to be cryptic until I ran across a reference to the city of Louvain-la-Neuve. No amount of logic could have untangled an acronym like that.

Remember that finding any piece of the puzzle is helpful. The translation of an acronym has four main components: the Source Acronym, the Expansion of the Source Acronym, the Target Acronym, and the Expansion of the Target Acronym. Many times, you do not find all four, and in fact they may not all exist. Not every term which has an acronym in one language is an acronym in another.

Go to the source

Find an industry website and look for acronyms or proper names. You might get lucky and find an already translated acronym, but it is almost as useful to find the acronym expanded. In the best case scenario, you could find a target language version of the official website (ex: ECOWAS).

The website for the European Union is available in 23 different languages. Most official websites are not this thorough, but this is still a good strategy. If the acronym is not translated, consider translating the acronym in parenthesis for informal documents. In order to find industry jargon, try looking for lists of acronyms by searching Google for the company website or the name of the industry plus the word acronym in either your source or target language (ex: “real estate” + acronym).

Search Specialized Dictionaries

Your standard dictionary or even so-called unabridged dictionary is unlikely to have acronyms. However, specialized dictionaries contain acronyms in their appendix or within the body of the dictionary itself.

Search Advanced Online Dictionaries

There are many linguistic resources available online and it would be difficult to list them all for each language combination. However, sites such as Termium (English, Spanish, and French) and IATE do a better than average job of showing acronyms. Note: Termium both lists acronyms in its main dictionary and has a separate acronym dictionary.

Search Acronym Specific Websites

These do not necessarily need to be multilingual. Remember, even if we only find the expansion of an acronym, what we have really learned is what that acronym means. As translators, we should be able to take it the rest of the way from there. See the reference section below for examples of French, English, and Mulitlingual sites. You can also find these sites in your language pair(s) by searching for the word “acronym” in your source and target languages. Remember that while the end goal is to find the target acronym or term, finding an expansion of your source acronym is often all you need to be able to look up a term in a regular dictionary – or even remind you of the target term.

Search Linguistic Communities

You can always ask for help, but check first to see if a fellow translator has already stumbled with the same term and found a solution. Try searching the KudoZ section of ProZ.com or the Forums in Wordreference.com. The answers you will find in these places are not to be considered definitive, but they can certainly give you ideas that you can then try to confirm with some more targeted searches.

Consider the possibility that the acronym is already in English (or your target language).

It seems too good to be true, but in some fields this is quite common. French has borrowed many English business acronyms and English uses borrowed French culinary terms. If the meaning and the context make sense, you may have just saved yourself a step. But…

Beware of Doppelgangers

Some acronyms are used in multiple languages with different meanings. Just because an acronym is found in your target language, does not mean it is correct. Always check the context.

Use Advanced Search Techniques (Fun with Google)

I usually start with the simplest of search techniques by typing the acronym alone into a Google search window. If this works, great! Otherwise, if you can guess one word of an acronym, combine a search on the acronym with any words that you can decipher. Use the “Advanced Search” found at the bottom of the standard Google page to select results that only contain both the acronym and the suspected term[2]. As an example, you might be able to guess from context that “TVA” has something to do with taxes. Search on “TVA + taxe” and the number one result is a Wikipedia entry on “Taxe sur la valeur ajoutée.” This would literally be “Tax on the Value Added, ” but It is not much of a stretch to figure out that this is a Value Added Tax or VAT.

Restrict your language choice to the source language by using “Advanced Search” again and selecting the desired language. I have also found good results by searching in my source language (French), but restricting the language for search results to my target (English). This is a good technique for finding previously translated documents.

Try Rearranging the Letters

This should not work and it usually does not, but – in two close languages such as French and English where the order of the adjectives and the nouns are reversed, it is amazing how often the translation for an acronym such as RH (Ressource Humaines) is reversed to HR (Human Resources). Use this approach carefully. Verify that the target acronym actually exists, that it is used in the same context as in the source, and that the meaning makes sense.

Asking for help

Once you have done all the searches you can, ask on ProZ, ATA Translation division mailing lists (such as ListeFLD), ask colleagues, and even subject matter experts. Check with your client for additional reference material or specific preferences. This could be a term used in one specific place with one specific meaning. Some acronyms are used by one division of one company. In this case, it may be better to leave it in the source language.

And finally, if all else fails – Sleep on it

For less obvious acronyms, sometimes you just need to give your subconscious time to work on a problem. Tight deadlines can make this tough, but that is another good reason to read through the document first to find the troublemakers. If you want to be really clever – email a colleague, ask a question on a mailing list, post a KudoZ question on ProZ and then take a nap. One way or the other, you should have the answers when you awake.

Translating these tiny little fragments of language can be difficult, but it is not impossible. Start with these steps and see if you can add a few of your own. Remember that like the General in Korea; even native speakers can stumble over acronyms. Now if only we could order our clients to stop using them…

Want to learn more? Jenn Mercer will be giving a presentation on “ATS: Acronym Translation Strategies” at the 54th Annual Conference of the American Translators Association in San Antonio, Texas, in November.

SOURCE: Catherine Christaki (@LinguaGreca)