Saturday, September 1, 2012

Finnish suffixes with product names in translation

Wikipedia says that Finnish has fifteen inflected cases: four grammatical cases, six locative cases, two essive cases (three in some Eastern dialects) and three marginal cases. So I recently asked a Finnish translator to clear up the different ways that I've seen Finnish suffixes appended in translation, particularly with product names that are not being translated. 

Let's use the product name LOG. It rolls down stairs, alone or in pairs, rolls over your neighbor's dog. It's fit for a snack; it fits on your back. It's LOG: it's big; it's heavy; it's wood. It's better than bad; it's good! Everyone wants a LOG, so c'mon and get your LOG. (From Blammmo!)

These are the product name suffixing scenarios:
  • Suffixes are appended right onto the product name when only the product name is used. LOGa
  • When both the product name and a defining word (as in "the LOG device") are used, suffixes are appended with a hyphen. LOG-laite
  • When the product name (with or without a defining word) contains several elements that cannot be written as one word according to Finnish language rules or simply because the product name contains several elements (as in "LOG Plus product"), suffixes are appended with a hyphen and a space. LOG Plus -tuotteen
  • Acronyms get suffixes appended with a colon when a suffix has to be attached directly to a product name (as in "LOG XL:n" where "n" is the genitive suffix) for grammatical reasons. 
  • The colon also appears abbreviations, like with measurement unit abbreviations that require case suffixes: cm:n  because it would be long and awkward to write the whole word ("senttimetrin" where the genitive ending is attached to the word).

Since I'm using this copyrighted example without permission to talk about Finnish in translation, I'll also encourage you to follow the blog of John K., the creator of Ren & Stimpy. Check out his recently funded Kickstarter campaign!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Comma chameleon

Both Simplified & Traditional Chinese have two commas, and I think think the distinction is pretty useful. 

The straight comma (the first one) is a list comma or enumeration comma. "I'm going to the store to get kale, Nutella and Johnny Walker Blue." Note that ZH doesn't used the Oxford/serial comma that comes before the conjunction before the last list item and in fact most commonly doesn't use a conjunction at all.

The curly English-y looking comma (the second one) joins clauses. "I'm going to the store, and Brad is going to the strip club." Comma splicing is common which is why a lot of ZH machine translations seem extra super clunky.

Other noteworthy Chinese punctuation worth reading about: brackets & interpuncts. Brackets are really cool in Japanese too.

(I shamefully stole the title of this post from a coworker.)

Thursday, August 30, 2012


Omg, Spike is turned FIFTY last week. Where has my childhood gone? 

I love the Oxford dictionary blog for a lot of reasons and here's another one: an article summing up the jargon of Sunnydale. It touches on Whedon & Buffy writers nouning adjectives, puns and wordplay, and the Valley-meets-Sorkin low- and high-register mashup dialogue.
The OED even credits the Buffy movie & series for popularizing the use of much with a 'preceding adjective, infinitive verb, or noun phrase, forming an elliptical comment or question'. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Yiddish folk song "Mayn Rue Platz"

Today in my Internet wanderings, I came across this hauntingly beautiful Yiddish folk song, "Mayn Rue Platz" or "My Resting Place." The text is a poem by Morris Rosenfeld, who wrote about the working conditions of Eastern European textile workers in New York. The Arty Semite blog explains, 

“Mayn Rue-Platz” contrasts natural beauty and pleasure with the realities found in American industry of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Each step begins with the hoped for American experience but ends with the inevitable and oppressive realities of the industrialized world.

Don’t look for me where myrtles are green.
You will not find me there, my beloved.
Where lives wither at the machines,
There is my resting place.

Don’t look for me where birds sing.
You will not find me there, my beloved.
I am a slave where chains ring,
There is my resting place.

Don’t look for me where fountains spray.
You will not find me there, my beloved.
Where tears flow and teeth gnash,
There is my resting place.

And if you love me with true love,
So come to me, my good beloved,
And cheer my gloomy heart
And make sweet my resting place.

I heard a recitation of this poem and one version of the song as part of the most recent episode of PRI's The World in Words, a favorite podcast. The episode was about a trip some Jewish students took to Europe to the homes of Yiddish poets & novelists -- a trip that was designed as a celebration of Jewish life and culture, instead of as a wake mourning the destruction of Jewish culture like many pilgrimages to Europe are wont to be; visits to historic sites of the Holocaust cast long, cold shadows. 

[GIF Score]

With that horrible shadow on me, I was particularly struck by lines like "Where lives wither at the machines" -- so much so that I was almost relieved to learn that "Mayn Rue Platz" was written about American factory conditions and not concentration camps. It feels strange to admit that I can weigh some horrors against others, but my mind's misstep is evidence of the difficulty and importance of remembering and extolling Jewish/Yiddish histories (and the histories of other cultures). How unfair that Jewish culture is seen as victimized, minimized and simplified. This weakened conceptualization of a rich, ancient culture is a lasting legacy of the Holocaust. 

I'm no historian, but from what I know, many would tell me that this version of Jewish culture had been crafted long before the Holocaust. 

Anyway, it's a lovely poem and song.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Linkfest [4]

A collection of language-related things that caught my attention in the last month or so (IRL'd!):

  • The Triumph of English: John Adams, predicted in 1780 that “English will be the most respectable language in the world and the most universally read and spoken in the next century, if not before the end of this one.”
  • The Supreme Court ruled on the difference between a translator and an interpreter. (The full decision.)
  • Why QA sucks (specifically in game dev, but applies to all QA): Many QA professionals talk about "getting out" and moving to the production or design path. Don't you want good QA folks to keep doing QA? Shouldn't they enjoy and want to stay in their jobs? Isn't there something wrong with this picture?  Via Jayme (@aunicorninspace)

Inline image 1

  • The Noun Project (@NounProject) consistently makes me happy. “sharing, celebrating and enhancing the world’s visual language” -- Here's my favorite tag so far: MAGIC.
  • What the Phonics?
  •  An interactive installation set that helps people learn street name pronunciations in Copenhagen.
May you be enabled, by reading them frequently, to transfuse into your own breast that holy flame which inspired the writer! (1773)— Mulso [later Chapone], Hester (1727-1801)
Finally, I found this shirt. Somebody please buy it for me.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Nuts and bolts

A large majority of documents that are translated are medical or highly technical. Today I learned about how fasteners are identified.

American bolts are identified in the following format: Diameter-TPI-Length, (TPI = threads per inch) so a 3/8-16 x 1" bolt has a head diameter of 3/8", 16 threads/inch, and it's 1" long. Similarly, nuts are listed as Diameter-TPI, so a 3/8"-16 nut has a head diameter of 3/8" and 16 threads/inch. Diameters smaller than 1/4" are given numbered sizes 0-12.

Here is a great cheatsheet on American bolt measurement. (pdf)

Metric bolts and nuts of course use SI length units instead of Imperial, but they also use Thread Pitch instead of TPI, where Pitch is the distance between threads in millimeters. So a M10 x 1.5 x 20 bolt has a head diameter of 10mm, there are 1.5mm between threads, and it's 20mm long. The "M" designates it as a Metric-measurement bolt. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Torque and pressure units

Conversions are a big part of translation. Google will convert a lot of measurements right from the search bar, but not torque. So I found two other converters (here and here).


I have had one heck of a time with these units in the past, so here’s some knowledge:

Torque is force + distance around an axis (how tightly something should be twisted or screwed, basically). Typically you’ll see the units lb-in (“pound inch” or “inch pound”) or lb-ft (“pound foot” or “foot pound”) in English source material, which should both be converted to N-m (Newton meters), abbreviated as N-m, N∙m, or N m to distinquish from nm (nanometers, length) and nM (nanomolars, concentration of solutions).

Also don’t confuse N-m with N/m2 – this is a pressure measurement (force per area). 1 N/m2 = 1 Pa (Pascal). These are the SI units where often PSI (pounds per square inch) or bars are the measurements seen in English source material. Bars are not technically SI units, but are acceptable and legally recognized by the EU and the most common conversion unit when PSI are used in the source.

Often times torque and pressure units are both present in technical documents, so be careful!