Blog birthday in lockdown

Today is the 17th birthday of this blog, started on 15 April 2003, when it seemed obscure to have a weblog with such a narrow focus. Some other blogs of that time still exist.

We are currently in lockdown.

Machine translation

Meanwhile, a thought about machine translation. There is a lot more to be said about this, especially DeepL in connection with legal translation. One thing that strikes me is that in the old days, one might adapt machine translation systems to allow for context. But if you go to the WHO site and allow it to translate into German using Google Translate, you get a map of Turkey labelled Truthahn. Context is not taken into account here!

By the way, do people pronounce WHO double-u aitch oh? I usually say World Health Organization. But I heard someone on radio callilng it The Who recently, which I liked.


Translation blogs

Luke Spear has chosen this auspicious occasion to collate a list of translation-related blogs, not so rare now as they were in 2003.

75+ of the best translation, language and linguistics blogs to follow

This list dates from April 9 2020 and has links to every blog mentioned. In most cases, you need to click on the links to see what the blogs are about. Quite an achievement! Luke asks if there are more blogs that could bring the total up to 100. Abd he wonders if people are blogging less.

Biut more about that in another post.


In this time of lockdown, the question has arisen as to how to reduce employees’ hours and pay them less. I’m jjust going to touch on the terminology here – anyone who wants to know more can do a websearch nowadays!

There has been some comment in the UK press about the German system of Kurzarbeit (short-time work). From the Financial Times:

Kurzarbeit: a German export most of Europe wants to buy

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The tool is Kurzarbeit, or shorter work-time, a policy that has been copied by so many other countries that one economist called it one of Germany’s “most successful exports”. Under the scheme, companies hit by a downturn can send their workers home, or radically reduce their hours, and the state will replace a large part of their lost income.

The UK has now introduced a similar scheme. It allows works to be furloughed but kept on the payroll. I knew furlough only as leave for soldiers, but apparently it is used in the USA in this sense. Furlough is like garden leave, where an employee’s contract is terminated to a certain date and he or she continues to be on the payroll but may not work. It’s referred to as the coronavirus job retention scheme. A lot of law firm websites explain it, for instance Crossland Employment Solicitors.

A number of other countries use similar schemes, but I think Germany was the first. The FT thinks it works very well in a country like Germany which invests a lot in apprenticeships, so having trained their workers, they will not want to lose them. The German scheme was ramped up at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis.

In the USA, works who are furloughed are not likely to be paid 60% of their wages as in Germany, but they may retain health insurance and other benefits.

Some more vocabulary I have picked up recently from German daily coronavirus podcasts: der Impfling for the person being vaccinated, verimpfen to inject a substance.

A tweet from Scott Hanson @papascott:

The line grew to 5 people behind us, 2 of whom left when they learned there was no asparagus. 😂

Elsewhere I note that it took the virus crisis to make Germans give up cash.

Social distancing

I am reporting back here to show that I’m still around. We are living in times of social distancing – at least that’s the term most media and people use. I read in the German press that the term borrowed from English was wrong, that it should be physical distancing as that makes more sense. My feeling was/is that the term social distancing has entered general use. I’ve now tweeted something about social distancing – here is the tweet I linked to:

social distancing

I had a response criticizing the term. So although I did not care about the dispute beforehand, I did a web search and found the Wikipedia article on Social Distancing and the discussion there after there was a request to change the heading.

I hadn’t realized that the WHO changed the term, not that this alters the fact that the disputed term has become common usage (see WP:COMMONNAME).

Feelings run high. Here is vsync:

Strong oppose and speedy close. This request isn’t even well-formed as it’s merely based on trifling wordplay from some obscure “WHO”, so-called, which has no standing whatsoever to comment on anything related to this crisis, let alone messaging on its seriousness or what is or isn’t effective. Now, for some “reasons” that will doubtless be demanded: The term existed prior to the current pandemic and will exist after. The meaning is perfectly coherent as relating to putting distance in social contact, rather than of other random objects. “Wikipedia isn’t a how-to manual” or whatever, but the article perfectly describes the meaning. The point of an encyclopedia is to expound even obscure terms, not rename them. Why don’t you go spend your time telling people masks don’t work or something? vsync (talk) 01:43, 1 April 2020 (UTC)