At a loss for words…

By: Teresa Borges

Mark Liberman, a linguist at the University of Pennsylvania, noted recently on the Language Log blog that English does not allow you to pair any old adjective with any old noun in a fixed expression. You may wish someone “good morning”, “good afternoon” or “good night”, but not “good weekend”. You can say that phrase if you like, but your neighbour would look at you quizzically if you lob it over the fence on a Friday evening. In other languages it is perfectly conventional.

https://www.economist.com/books-and-arts/2021/02/13/if-only-english-had-a-word-for

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At a loss for words...

Edwige Thomas
Franţa
Local time: 03:26
Membru (2014)
din engleză în franceză
+ ...
? Feb 24

Where do you need help? I don't see "at a loss for words" in the text from the article.

 

Teresa Borges
Portugalia
Local time: 02:26
Membru (2007)
din engleză în portugheză
+ ...
@Edwige Feb 24

I don't need help! The article was published (Feb 13th 2021 edition) in "The Economist" under the headline "At a loss for words"...

 

Teresa Borges
Portugalia
Local time: 02:26
Membru (2007)
din engleză în portugheză
+ ...
@Edwige Feb 24

Please check the last line:

This article appeared in the Books & arts section of the print edition under the headline "At a loss for words"

https://www.economist.com/books-and-arts/2021/02/13/if-only-english-had-a-word-for


 

Edwige Thomas
Franţa
Local time: 03:26
Membru (2014)
din engleză în franceză
+ ...
Thank you for your input Feb 24

How embarrassing! I didn't see it was in the "Translation news" section. Very interesting indeed, to bad I can't read the whole article without subscription.

 

Teresa Borges
Portugalia
Local time: 02:26
Membru (2007)
din engleză în portugheză
+ ...
@Edwige Feb 24

They have a free subscription that gives you access to a limited number of articles per month...

 

Tom in London
Regatul Unit
Local time: 02:26
Membru (2008)
din italiană în engleză
Dumb Feb 25

Example of a stupid sentence from a stupid article:

"The Italians wish each other “buon lavoro”—basically “have a good workday”—though their culture is not known to be especially work-focused".

Idiotic racist remarks like this do not encourage belief in the reader.


Wolfgang Schoene
Thomas Pfann
Edwige Thomas
IrinaN
neilmac
Marina Taffetani
Faruk Atabeyli
 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Ţările de Jos
Local time: 03:26
Membru (2006)
din engleză în afrikaans
+ ...
Do we truly not say "congrats" in English for anniversaries? Feb 25

Special occasions are another way in which pleasantries differ. English-speakers wish each other a happy birthday, but speakers of many other languages say “congratulations”, as if (to the English ear) the birthday girl had done something impressive merely by surviving another year.

Really? Is it truly faux pas in English to say "congrats" to the birthday girl? If so, which types of anniversaries get "congratulations" and which d
... See more
Special occasions are another way in which pleasantries differ. English-speakers wish each other a happy birthday, but speakers of many other languages say “congratulations”, as if (to the English ear) the birthday girl had done something impressive merely by surviving another year.

Really? Is it truly faux pas in English to say "congrats" to the birthday girl? If so, which types of anniversaries get "congratulations" and which don't?
Collapse


 

Chris S  Identity Verified
Regatul Unit
din suedeză în engleză
+ ...
Congratulations Feb 25

Samuel Murray wrote:

Special occasions are another way in which pleasantries differ. English-speakers wish each other a happy birthday, but speakers of many other languages say “congratulations”, as if (to the English ear) the birthday girl had done something impressive merely by surviving another year.

Really? Is it truly faux pas in English to say "congrats" to the birthday girl? If so, which types of anniversaries get "congratulations" and which don't?


Used for babies mainly

And winning stuff, promotions


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Ţările de Jos
Local time: 03:26
Membru (2006)
din engleză în afrikaans
+ ...
@Tom Feb 25

Tom in London wrote:
"The Italians wish each other “buon lavoro”—basically “have a good workday”—though their culture is not known to be especially work-focused".
Idiotic racist remarks like this do not encourage belief in the reader.


One has to take into account the culture of the author. In the author's culture, "family-focused" and "unpunctual" is considered the opposite of "work-focused". The article is as much about oddities in other cultures as it is about the author's assumptions.


 

Tom in London
Regatul Unit
Local time: 02:26
Membru (2008)
din italiană în engleză
WASP Feb 25

Samuel Murray wrote:

Tom in London wrote:
"The Italians wish each other “buon lavoro”—basically “have a good workday”—though their culture is not known to be especially work-focused".
Idiotic racist remarks like this do not encourage belief in the reader.


One has to take into account the culture of the author. In the author's culture, "family-focused" and "unpunctual" is considered the opposite of "work-focused". The article is as much about oddities in other cultures as it is about the author's assumptions.


In this case, the author's "culture" is white anglosaxon Protestant work ethic.


neilmac
 

neilmac  Identity Verified
Spania
Local time: 03:26
din spaniolă în engleză
+ ...
Long time no agree Feb 27

There could be a couple of potential bones of contention in that squib. For example, I'd say that the meaning of the Swedish “tack for senast” is pretty much covered by "long time no see". And "have a good weekend" is quite a common expression among co-workers.
I suppose it's along the lines of the plethora of articles that appeared in the UK press a few years ago claiming that English was simply unable to express the Danish notion of "hygge". (eyeroll)


Christine Andersen
 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
Regatul Unit
Local time: 02:26
Membru (2014)
din japoneză în engleză
Sloppy use of English, Tom Feb 27

Tom in London wrote:
Idiotic racist remarks like this do not encourage belief in the reader.

And your slipshod use of "racist" does not inspire confidence in the reader either. I think you'll find that Italians are mainly Caucasian. What you meant to say was "Idiotic, bigoted remarks like this". For somebody who is happy to snipe at others for their perceived poor use of English, that's an amateurish mistake. Precision, Tom, that's the key.

Dan


Chris S
Teresa Borges
Ayoub Hassan
 

Marina Taffetani  Identity Verified
Italia
Local time: 03:26
Membru (2013)
din germană în italiană
+ ...
I disagree Feb 27

Dan Lucas wrote:

And your slipshod use of "racist" does not inspire confidence in the reader either. I think you'll find that Italians are mainly Caucasian. What you meant to say was "Idiotic, bigoted remarks like this". For somebody who is happy to snipe at others for their perceived poor use of English, that's an amateurish mistake. Precision, Tom, that's the key.

Dan



I don't see how most Italians being Caucasian is relevant to what Tom said. He quoted this passage: "[Italian] culture is not known to be especially work-focused." As an Italian, I find this definitely racist.


Kaspars Melkis
Wolfgang Schoene
Andreas Kjeldsen
Tom in London
 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:26
din franceză în engleză
Do we truly not say "congrats" in English for anniversaries? Mar 9

Samuel Murray wrote:

Special occasions are another way in which pleasantries differ. English-speakers wish each other a happy birthday, but speakers of many other languages say “congratulations”, as if (to the English ear) the birthday girl had done something impressive merely by surviving another year.

Really? Is it truly faux pas in English to say "congrats" to the birthday girl? If so, which types of anniversaries get "congratulations" and which don't?


In the UK, common pairings of good wishes and occasions:
- happy birthday
- congratulations for events that have a hint of achievement (engagements, wedding anniversaries, obtaining a diploma or a qualification, passing adriving test, getting a job, etc).


 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
Regatul Unit
Local time: 02:26
Membru (2014)
din japoneză în engleză
Education Mar 9

Marina Taffetani wrote:
I don't see how most Italians being Caucasian is relevant to what Tom said. He quoted this passage: "[Italian] culture is not known to be especially work-focused." As an Italian, I find this definitely racist.

That's because you don't understand the definition of "racism".

Merriam Webster:
Discrimination or prejudice based on race.
Oxford:
The unfair treatment of people who belong to a different race
Collins
Racism is the belief that people of some races are inferior to others, and the behaviour which is the result of this belief.

You (like many other people) are confusing bigotry and prejudice with racism, which is a specific instance of the former two that is driven by ethnicity [EDIT: specifically, the colour of one's skin, not one's nationality]. Speaking as somebody with a non-Caucasian spouse, and two children of mixed ethnicity, I believe this is an important point.

If we spray the word "racist" about when race (as opposed to nationality) is not a factor, it dilutes what should be a shocking accusation. If my children are taunted by English kids because they are from Wales, that's not racism. If they are bullied because they are half-Japanese, that is racism.

Regards,
Dan

[Edited at 2021-03-10 08:24 GMT]


Beatriz Ramírez de Haro
Teresa Borges
Vera Schoen
 
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