Thursday, May 10, 2007

Imus Maledicta

I try to stay away from it at all costs,
except when I get provoked,
when I reach the peak of frustration.
Every now and then I’m afraid I let it go.
I’m afraid to say I used the B word this morning.
(yeah, pick your jaw up off the ground, just because I dress modestly doesn’t mean there isn’t a mere mortal underneath)

Even though they hear me ranting on and on about something day after day,even my kids were shocked.

can I offer a feeble excuse?….to make myself clear would have taken a whole sentence
the B word captured the exact meaning in one lone word
and I was at my wit’s end
in a hurry
so the B word it was
out there
making it’s point
loud and clear

• Verbal aggression
• Verbal abuse
• Swearwords
• Insults
• Terms of abuse

• Curses
• Damnations
• Blasphemy
• Scatology
• Taboo Language
• Exclamations
• Boasts and tall talk
• Euphemisms
• Terms of endearment
• Pet names
• Jargon of subcultures
• Libel and slander
• Nicknames
• Slurs
• Stereotypes

I came across a rather interesting text about how such language can be mistranslated.
Wow, what a mess.

Start with “Nappy Headed Ho” and get …
(gotta read the the May 7th engry entitled “How Not to Translate "Nappy-headed hos" to find the many possibilities)
Well, what’s YOUR first language?
...or the first language of your students?
How might they translate that phrase?

Check out that text for some really interesting MIStranslations.

Have you got any funny stories about mistranslations? Please post them!
Seen Dr. Goodword's Mistranslations?
Here are a few more (sorry if some are repeated).

There is a scholarly journal dedicated to the study of derogatory words and expressions. It focuses mainly on the origin, etymology, meaning, use, and influence of vulgar, obscene, aggressive, abusive, and blasphemous language. It has been published since 1977.

I’m curious to know, what YOU would name such a journal? Put your thinking cap on, but be creative. Please don’t email it to me. Post your answer as a comment.

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How to “Top Up”

I had a yummy feast at my former student’s home the other day. I taught him at BC and his wife and kids at home. We had rice, homemade bread (baked in their tandoori oven on the balcony) kebab, chicken, salad and some spicy pickled veggies. While I sipped my tea during the post feast chat, he said that understanding the English of Malaysians can be quite frustrating sometimes.

He heard them say

They meant
“semester three”

He heard them say
“Me dirty and my husband dirty to.”

They meant

“I’m 30 and my husband’s 32.”

Apparently they have trouble understanding his Iraqi brand of English.

After running out of prepaid credit on his mobile phone, he approached the counter and requested – “credit card Digi” (Digi is the brand name of the telecommunications company)After much back and forth he found another Malaysian to translate for him.

Frustrated, he asked “what SHOULD I have asked for?”

The clerk answered, “digi 10”

Of course, this clerks spends day after day having people walk up to her asking for the same thing over and over; cards to reload credit on their mobiles. Who knows why she couldn’t figure out what he meant. Which word threw her off? Was it CREDIT? Was it CARD?... or was it DIGI?!!!!!!!!

Honestly, I think that sometimes people get so nervous at the sight of an expatriate that they prevent themselves from any possibility of communicating with that person. I’ve ordered at a restaurant in Bahasa Malaysia and gotten giggles and confusion, then had my Malaysian friend repeat the same thing in very much the same accent and be understood.
Part of communicating is allowing yourself to relax and simply listen with some degree of confidence. Without these two factors, you don’t stand a chance.

p.s. the name of this post is “How to TOP UP” . This is a term I learned the hard way, my second month here in Malaysia. I’ve been here so long that I can’t even remember how to say it in American English!

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Monday, May 7, 2007


According to this quiz

I am a MASTER of the English language!

Well, I scored in the top third, Thank you very much.

The quiz results state that…

my English is “not exactly perfect” but I am “more grammatically correct than just about every American.” Ouch! That’s not saying much!
Annually, Fortune 500 companies spend billions of dollars teaching basic English.
Our mistakes have become so common that we haven’t a clue we are making mistakes.

A certain Welsh prince complained that American English is ‘very corrupting.’ He said that Americans have a tendency to ‘invent all sorts of nouns and verbs and make words that shouldn’t be.’ The EFL/ESL industry is growing immensely and earns Britain over $750 million a year. It’s serious business.

But before you go placing all the blame on Americans, please note that we don’t have a monopoly on “bending” English. The British themselves are known to get out there on the dance floor themselves.

One thing I have learned since I started teaching English full time, is that “correct” is सोमेतिमेस a term that ‘s difficult to pin down. I never considered myself an expert on the English language and find teaching it to be a never-ending learning experience. I’m a facilitator. I help people to use English. I feel it’s my job to make them feel comfortable with taking it and making it their own. The point is COMMUNICATION. Can you express your opinion, order dinner, write your thesis, read a newspaper?

Hey native speaker there! Have you ever questioned YOUR ability to conjugate a verb?

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