On marrying a foreigner in Kazhakstan:

For some reason, my relatives decided that I’m getting married to a millionaire and asked him to pay “kalym” (traditional “payment” for a bride) with a helicopter, for grandpa, since he is old and a veteran of World War II and apparently it’s hard for him to take a bus. For you, it may be funny, but it wasn’t funny for my relatives, and especially for my grandpa who really hoped to “sell” his granddaughter for a helicopter. And then I understood that I have to save my future husband from the “claws” of my relatives, or else something bad might happen. When my grandpa found out that he won’t get a helicopter, and that a maximum on what my relatives can count on is a bicycle, they were really upset, and didn’t even try to hide it.

Translation is not always necessary:

When Kazakhs and foreigners get really drunk, they can understand each other without a translator.

Leila via Global Voices

Legal English seminar in Frankfurt am Main

I’ve mentioned Kenneth Adams on contract drafting twice before.

He will be giving a one-day seminar on legal language in Frankfurt am Main on April 26, and before that on April 17 in London and April 19 in Paris. More information on seminars here and here. I see he gives a ‘rigorous overview’, so everyone should be happy. The seminars are primarily for lawyers and take both U.S. and British usage into account.


I sometimes wonder why they don’t go the whole way.


LATER NOTE: I want to be the only person with the new word bamboogrün online, so here it is in text too. I have a feeling that the German bambusgrün is sometimes used for colours, but the English bamboo green isn’t.

(Seen at the local post office)

Missing French translation of X-Ray manual/Fehlende Übersetzung eines Röntgenhandbuchs

This report on the n-tv site is headed Tragischer Übersetzungsfehler (tragic translation error).

Fehlinterpretationen einer englischen Bedienungsanleitung haben mindestens drei Krebspatienten in einem ostfranzösischen Krankenhaus das Leben gekostet. Durch den falschen Gebrauch einer Software sei es im Krankenhaus von Epinal in Lothringen in 23 Fällen zu Überdosierungen der Röntgenstrahlen gekommen, teilte Antoine Perrin vom Regionalinstitut für Krankenhausplanung ARH am Dienstag in Nancy mit. Vier Patienten seien seitdem gestorben, davon drei an den Folgen der Überdosierungen.

It looks as if there was no French version of an English manual for an X-Ray machine or procedure in Lorraine, and the staff made an error ‘by the misuse of software’ – presumably this was the software that controlled the dosage. As a result 23 patients were given too much radiation and three have died.

Exactly where the ‘translation error’ took place is not clear. Equipment produced in the EU has by law to be supplied with foreign-language instructions nowadays. Whether this was old equipment, or software or equipment outside the regulations, and who did what translation or interpreting is not clear (sometimes known as ‘tragic journalism error’). The rest of the article says the problem arose solely from a mistaken interpretation of the data, and those responsible are to be punished. Who those responsible are is not clear – probably radiologists – and if they can be punished, what criminal offence was involved? The radiation took place between May 2004 and August 2005.

Does anyone have more information about this? It must have been in the French press. The names involved are an Antoine Perrin, who announced this to the press in Nancy on Tuesday, and the French health minister Xavier Bertrand.

LATER NOTE: I found some French reports by searching for epinal hopital on Google. I haven’t yet found a mention of the English language. It seems to have been a software problem, and one of the radiologists disabled the controls on the device. Le Figaro, 2006
(Link found on the TT translation list at Yahoogroups)

EVEN LATER NOTE: Richard Schneider has investigated this in more detail and summarizes it (in German) at the Übersetzerportal. It appears some of the persons reporting the story didn’t understand French very well. The lack of an English translation of the manual was a subsidiary matter, and even if there had been a good translation, the overradiation would still have occurred – it resulted from a lack of proper procedures among the staff involved.

LinguaFranca: English legal language explained /podcast

Radio National in Australia has a programme called LinguaFranca. A language or linguistics topic is discussed for 15 minutes once a week.

This week, Australian barristers begin to discuss legal terms relating to Guantanamo. This relates to the situation of David Hicks, an Australian detainee in Guantanamo. (By the way:

On one occasion when al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden visited an Afghan camp, Hicks allegedly questioned bin Laden about the lack of English in training material and, after allegedly accepting bin Laden’s advice, Hicks “began to translate the training camp materials from Arabic to English”)

In this week’s programme, by Julian Burnside, the term is habeas corpus, but there is also some discussion of enemy combatant

An ‘enemy combatant’ is an individual who, under the laws and customs of war, may be detained for the duration of an armed conflict. When the armed conflict ends, the captured enemy must be returned to his or her own country. …
By adopting the metaphor of the war on terror, the US has labelled David Hicks an enemy combatant even though Hicks is a citizen of Australia (therefore an ally) and at the relevant time was with the Taliban — the lawful government of Afghanistan — and the US has not declared war on Afghanistan. The logic beneath the surface is: the Taliban supported al-Qaeda, al-Qaeda are engaged in terrorism, we have a war on terror, those who support terrorists are our enemy, if they have a gun they are enemy combatants. …By the same reasoning, anyone captured by the US when it invaded Afghanistan in search of Osama bin Laden is called an enemy combatant. Since the war is a metaphorical one, the end of hostilities and the return of captured enemy combatants is delayed as long as the metaphor remains convenient or plausible. It is a predictable result of careless language.

Transcript, audio link and audio download link. (I think the programme is only live twice a week – till now I have only managed to read the transcript)

(Thanks to a poster on the Forensic Linguistics Mailing List)


If posting gets a bit thin here, even though I usually like to offer quantity rather than quality, it’s down to an unprovoked and almost simultaneous attack on me yesterday by two pieces of software and two pieces of hardware. I won’t name them, as they may be OK.

The worst was when an antivirus programme deleted my whole email inbox. If anyone is waiting for an email, I now have an excuse not to reply. In particular, I received an email from a translator a few days ago which I was about to reply to, and I have no memory of her name – so please send again. I didn’t realize that inboxes could be deleted so easily. Fortunately, most of my email is automatically channelled into other files, but I still had more than I should have.

Meanwhile, Roger Shuy at Language Log talks about reasonable doubt, with references to early U.S. usage.

There’s an excellent website for the Cambridge Handbook of Phonology, where the whole tome can be searched and there are links and a forum. (Via Phonoloblog)

Boing Boing links to a doctored videoclip at Youtube (‘The Reagans on Drugs’) of Ronald Reagan and Nancy advocating drug use – good clean fun.

Total eclipse of moon/Mondfinsternis

This was the closest I could get to a photo:


It reminds me of when I took the night ferry from Calais and some Germans regretted not seeing the white cliffs of Dover, but we were actually in Folkestone.
This one was taken at 2.08, 1/800 sec, with an ultrazoom camera and spot metering.

Franconian Sausage Co. Ltd. / Fränkische Bratwürste im Vereinigten Königreich

In the Independent, Mark Hix writes on sausages:

I occasionally get comments that the sausages we serve in our restaurants, lovingly created by Jean-Paul Habermann of the Franconian Sausage Company, are a bit tough. That can only mean that they must be used to the kinds of sausage that gives them a bad reputation in the first place – with synthetic skins and lots of filler. A proper bit of intestine, good chunks of meat and a generous seasoning is what a good sausage is all about – as well as a sausage-maker who has some passion and understanding in his belly like Jean-Paul (by which I mean that he’s a bit tubby).

Franconian Sausage Co. Ltd? Apparently so. Those red indentations represent the Franconian flag, by the way.



Here’s their site (it may be John Paul rather than Jean Paul, although the latter would be more Franconian). It looks good, although it may be a case of lese-majesty to refer to Leberkaes as Franconian luncheon meat.

More German food in the UK at the German Deli.