Between Worlds.

Miranda France discusses literary translation for Prospect:

Here’s a translator’s tale: it’s early morning and I’m working on a scene from an Argentinian thriller. A woman has discovered her husband’s infidelity and leaves him a chilling message on the mirror written in rouge. In rouge. That doesn’t sound right. Although I’ve never tried it, I think it would be hard to write on glass with a cream rouge and impossible with a powdered one. Surely you’d use lipstick? I turn to WordReference, the online oracle for linguists, and ask the other forum users if rouge can ever mean lipstick in Latin America. Someone from Spain immediately says no. Lipstick would be pintalabios. Another poster from Mexico agrees, although he says that lipstick there is lápiz labial. Then the southern hemisphere starts waking up. A commenter says that rouge does indeed mean lipstick in Chile. And finally someone from Argentina agrees. Her mother always uses this word.

While writing is famously solitary, translating thrives on connection and collaboration. If I’m writing a book I tend to secrecy, but when I’m translating one I’ll rope in anyone useful. My plumber provided diagrams when I was working on a short story about a piece of jewellery lost in an S-bend. An architect friend explained how the foundations are laid for a tower block, for a novel in which a body is buried in wet cement. Various lawyers have helped unpick the workings of different judiciaries. The book club at the Argentine Embassy has been helping me with some Lunfardo, a language derived from Lombardy, honed in the prisons of Buenos Aires and as unique to that city as Cockney rhyming slang is to London. Sometimes translating feels like detective work and sometimes it’s like solving puzzles. So it was gratifying to learn that the renowned translator Anthea Bell, who died in October, and worked on the Asterix stories among other works, was also daughter of the first compiler of the Times’s cryptic crossword.

I love the Argentine references (I lived in Buenos Aires for some years), and of course I like anecdotes of translation in general. But this puzzled me:

Alberto Manguel and I argued once in my kitchen about a novel in which he appeared as a character himself. I had translated one line as “Alberto Manguel is an arsehole.” “But I would definitely call myself ‘an asshole!’” he protested. It seemed rude to disagree.

Is there any difference between an arsehole and an asshole? Surely one’s UK and one’s US, and which you use depends on the general dialect choice of the translation?

Comments

  1. Korean uses 루주 ruju (or often non-standard 루즈 rujeu), “rouge”, to mean “lipstick” as well, though 립스틱 ripseutik “lipstick” is also used and possibly becoming more common. According to Shin Kyonshik 신견식, who wrote a delightful book recently about Konglish or (presumed) English loanwords in Korean, the French rouge à lèvres, “lipstick”, was adapted simply as rouge in many languages to mean “lipstick”, including Slovak, Croatian, Romanian, Hungarian, Turkish, Persian, Arabic, Japanese, and Korean. French of course doesn’t use rouge by itself to mean “lipstick”.

  2. No difference in meaning as far as i know. There is a difference in the pronunciation /a/ v /æ/ so could there be anything in that? Ie. Hole in a donkey v the rear end.

  3. as unique to that city as Cockney rhyming slang is to London

    So, it’s widely used in quite a number distant countries, especially near to the antipode—which for the city of Buenos Aires lies in Manchuria?

  4. I have a friend who insists that “gray” and “grey” are two subtly different colors (grey is grayer, I think it was). Perhaps asshole and arsehole have similarly diverged.

  5. Eli Nelson says:

    My guess is that Manguel meant that if he were speaking in English, he would use the form “asshole”.

  6. @Max: It’s not uncommon for younger, Net-savvy Brits to play around with American slang, so it wouldn’t surprise me if a few of them had developed a similar sort of subtle distinction.

  7. AJP Crown says:

    pintalabios
    Å pynte is to decorate in Norwegian. Lip decoration? I noticed that lippy is a recent new word for lipstick, only said by women.

    Transatlantic bottoms may have converged a bit during my lifetime: fifty years ago you wouldn’t use arsehole to describe a supercilious or socially inept smartass – but perhaps not in America either. In some English dialects (Liverpool is one) you can still say ‘arse’oles!’ as a general exclamation like bollocks and crap, and vaguely similar to ‘bullshit’. You can’t do that in American.

  8. asshole is gray,
    arsehole is grey.

  9. If the story being translated is entirely in Argentinian Spanish, then author-Manguel should let Miranda France be the judge of the best British English equivalent. If the source involves multiple Spanishes then I would expect the narrative voice to have the same dialect as character-Manguel, so a British English narrative would clash with a character who speaks American. OTOH I was never much good at postmodernism so what do I know.

    “Ass[hole]” has largely replaced “arse[hole]” in Cork. (Probably also in Dublin by now among the youth; the isogloss hadn’t reached that far in my day.) In consequence, “arse” sounds quaintly minced to me, like saying “shite” instead of “shit”.

  10. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    Shite is definitely the stronger version for me – shit is a bit polite and English…

    Did we not have a long arsehole v. asshole argument quite recently, with both sides finding the other version gentler and funnier?

  11. AJP Crown says:

    Arse’oled as a synonym for shitfaced doesn’t work in America.

  12. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    I’m wrong – it was LL on arsehole geese

  13. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    My comment seems to have disappeared when I was editing it.

    I have just asked my wife how to say lipstick in Chile. Without my biassing her answer by giving alternatives, she said “rouge”.

  14. –Out of the arsehole passes the digested remains of the butt of a joke about a nation of a most substandard cuisine.
    –From the asshole comes an exceptionally wasted culture rendered somehow superior solely down to the inheritance of her empire’s exploits.

  15. In Nabokov’s self-translation of Lolita into Russian, Humbert refers to Lolita’s lipstick as gubnoy karandashik, literally a “little lip pencil.” The standard Russian word for lipstick is gubnaya pomada, “lip pomade,” which probably dates back to the time before it evolved into a stick in a tube. Today, “lip pencil” is a legitimate term in Russian but its meaning is the same as in English, a lip liner.

  16. @AJP Crown: The “supercilious or socially inept smartass” American meaning of asshole was certainly current in the 1960s and before. The origin of the Internet slang flame [“to rant, argue, or harangue, esp. via an electronic medium (such as e-mail or postings to a newsgroup); to send an inflammatory, abusive, or (esp. in early use) inconsequential e-mail or posting, usually as a hasty response or in a rapid, angry exchange,” per the draft addition to the OED entry] was (according to MIT lore, which the Jargon File agrees with) to be flame < flaming asshole (with flamer as a possible intermediate).

  17. Regarding the pronunciation of arse(hole) and ass(hole), there are English speakers who say arse with an audible R sound. The Irish do. Maybe other rhotic non-Americans too.

  18. AJP Crown says:

    Brett, it’s the supercilious smartass meaning of asshole that really makes it, with the ass-spelling, a significant piece of the language. You can imagine Shakespeare & Chaucer using it.

  19. J.W. Brewer says:

    SInce non-rhoticism is a more recent development in English, presumably if you go back enough centuries virtually all English speakers in England pronounced the /r/ in “arse,” just as it is pronounced in continental cognates like Dutch “aars” and German “Arsch.”

  20. January First-of-May says:

    IIRC, the -rse > -ss sound change is separate from traditional non-rhoticism, and applied not only to American dialects, but was reversed (due to spelling?) for most words it applied to; one word that didn’t get reversed is bass < barse (as in the fish).

    For what it’s worth, the Canterbury Tales have ers, as in kiste hir naked ers. Not sure which vowel this represents, however.

  21. AJP Crown says:

    just as it is pronounced in continental cognates like Dutch “aars” and German “Arsch.”

    Pronounced but not pronounced the same. A Hamburg Arsch sounds much more like my non-rhotic arse than like an American rhotic pronunciation of ‘arse’.

  22. John Cowan says:

    Here’s the OED s.v. arse:

    Cognate with Old Frisian ers (West Frisian ears), Middle Dutch aers, ērs, eers (Dutch aars, also (with metanalysis; now rare) naars, (regional) eers), Old Saxon ars (Middle Low German ars, ērs), Old High German ars (Middle High German ars, German Arsch), Old Icelandic ars, also (with metathesis) rass (Icelandic rass), Old Swedish ars, ardz (Swedish (now regional) ars), Old Danish arz (Danish (now regional) ars, arts) < the same Indo-European base as ancient Greek ὄρρος (originally ὄρσος, attested in compounds).

    In Old English regular voicing of s when followed by a vowel in oblique cases would have created a homorganic consonant group before which lengthening could occur. Some Middle English forms in e reflect this, e.g. eeres, eres (the form ers is ambiguous with regard to vowel length, but may be presumed to reflect a long vowel in some instances; in Older Scots it reflects a short vowel). Somewhat later sporadic lengthening of a is perhaps shown by the Middle English form aars; apparently confirmed by Bullokar’s rhyming of arse with dares , fares , scarce in the late 16th cent.

    The form nes (see quot. ?a1500 for arse-tharm n. at Compounds) shows metanalysis and apparent assimilatory loss of r. The forms hars, hers, herse show prothetic h.

    And here’s ass 2 (distinct from ass 1 ‘donkey’):

    Representing a regional and colloquial pronunciation of arse n. (with assimilatory loss of /r/; compare e.g. bust v.2, cuss v.).

    Earlier [than 1762, the first quotation] currency is perhaps shown by the late Middle English form nestarm (with metanalysis) in quot. ?a1500 for arse-tharm [sense unclear, perhaps ‘rectum’] The form yess shows development of a palatal on-glide.

    So basically arse split into two words, as with burst/bust and curse/cuss and many other examples. Since no semantic specialization occurred, only one of the two survived, but it was a different word on each side of the Pond. The OED’s last non-American quotation for ass ‘arse’ is 1768, other than in the nautical expression ass of the block. As for the other way around, we are told “now rare in North America”, which in dictionary-speak means “we have no quotations but can’t prove no one ever said it.”

    A Hamburg Arsch sounds much more like my non-rhotic arse than like an American rhotic pronunciation of ‘arse’.

    That’s because most varieties of German and some varieties of English have independently become non-rhotic.

  23. I think the splendid word arse-tharm should be revived.

  24. Apparently it occurs only as “harstharme.”

  25. J.W. Brewer says:

    Is my impression from a moment’s googling that Swabian is one of the more rhotic current varieties of German accurate? My sense of things may be affected by fond teenage memories of that early ’80’s Swabian-dialect rock and roll classic “Oinr isch emmr dr Arsch,” in which “Arsch” is the only word not to get non-standard orthography as a way of signalling dialect.

  26. That’s a rockin’ little tune!

    Oinr isch emmer dr erschde, dr erschde der alles brengt
    ond emmer de beschde Sprich druff, ond noch Whisky ond Weiber stenkt
    de andere die schleiched om an rom, mit Leadrkittl ond so
    ond henda druff, alle gleich, dr Beppr von Status Quo
    Ond wer koin Bock hod auf Rocknroll ond liabr midm Fahrrad fährd
    ond wer koi Geld griagt von dahoim, der isch für de andre nix wert

    Oinr isch emmer dr Arsch, ond er woiß id mol warom
    Oiner bleibt emmer übrig ond koiner schert sich drom

    Frieher saged’se, do war des so, de Kerle dia reißed auf
    ond dMädla hogged do, ond wadet bloß, ond schiabed sRöckle nauf
    Du moisch, des isch heit andersch? Mir hand jo Emanzipation
    Noch guggesch mol rom, ond noch woisches, des isch da reinschde Hohn
    de gaile Böck, dia hand a Freindin, de Brave, dia gugged blöd
    de oine dia siehsch en dr Disco, de andere dia wixed em Bett

    Oinr isch emmer dr Arsch, ond er woiß id mol warom
    Oiner bleibt emmer übrig ond koiner schert sich drom

    De Starke wered stärker, de Schwache verrecked bald
    dia send vrlora ond vrkauft – dr Depp vom Dorf der s nemme schnallt
    Ond was bisch du für oiner – baß auf i sag drs bloß?
    De andre send ganz schee clever. Schlof bloß id ei , jetz gods noch los
    Der Guru en Indien, der reizt de doch, ond Elvis isch au no id dot
    Ond der Punker mit seim Nasareng – des wär doch was zur Not
    Oinr isch emmer dr Arsch, ond er woiß id mol warom
    Oiner bleibt emmer übrig ond koiner schert sich drom

  27. David Marjanović says:

    Is my impression from a moment’s googling that Swabian is one of the more rhotic current varieties of German accurate?

    Yes. Alemannic in the widest sense is rhotic. North of that, all the way to the Dutch border, there are accents that are non-rhotic after long but rhotic after short vowels (e.g., hart “hard” and zart “tender” don’t rhyme there – I don’t even know which one gets the long vowel and which one the /r/). Most of the rest of German is fully non-rhotic.

  28. dainichi says:

    > rouge

    I’m wondering how this is pronounced in Spanish. Anybody know?

  29. I may have mentioned this before, but the English bird called the ‘wheatear’ was originally ‘white-arse’ (in modern terms).

    Chinese ornithological lists in the 20th century borrowed this quite literally as 麦穗 mài-suì, literally ‘wheat-ear’. After rounds of ornithological regularisation, the only ornithological species name that retains a reference to an ear of wheat is 穗䳭 suì-jí, literally meaning ‘grainear chat’. 䳭 has been adopted as an ornithological name for various chats and wheatears — nothing traditional about it at all. As I have repeatedly pointed out, ornithological names really are just a big game.

    穗䳭 suì-jí is Oenanthe oenanthe, the Northern Wheatear.

  30. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    > rouge

    I’m wondering how this is pronounced in Spanish. Anybody know?

    My wife pronounces it as in English: [ru̟ːʒ]. However, that was in answer to a question in English. In Spanish she’d probably use a more Spanish r. As for the [ʒ], it doesn’t exist in standard Spanish, but it does, more or less, in Chilean Spanish, as a pronunciation of ll.

  31. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    Miranda France’s whole article is worth reading. I was reminded about a translation problem that came up years ago in another group. Someone was puzzled that an English novel translated into Portuguese for publication in Brazil had the colour of a car changed. I don’t remember the specific example, so I’ll transpose France for Brazil: something like “Il est arrivé dans une voiture blanche” for “he drove up in a red car”. However, in England a red car is so ordinary that it attracts no attention; in France, on the other hand (on the Mediterranean, anyway) white cars are everywhere, whereas a red car would be noticed. When I first lived in Marseilles 30 years ago I could look over the balcony and see 15 parked cars, at least 12 of which would be white, and none would be red or yellow (another colour popular in England). White is still popular but it’s losing ground to metallic grey.

  32. David Marjanović says:

    Over here most cars are street-coloured. It’s quite effective as camouflage, and I hate it.

  33. John Cowan says:

    But are your streets black or gray?

    For North America actual figures are available for new cars: for 2017, 23% white, 19% black, 17% gray, 15% silver = 74% achromatic. This total has been fairly stable for many years, with the different shades shifting position a bit from time to time. Red, blue, and brown are pretty much divide the rest of the market, with blue increasing slightly in the last few years. All other colors are down in the noise.

    Wikipedia says that globally the achromatics are about 70%, the big three chromatics about 6-9% each, and the rest 5%.

  34. Huh, I would have guessed the percentage of red would be considerably higher. I guess red cars stand out more, so I think I see more of them. Or maybe they’re more popular locally.

  35. John Cowan says:

    Remember, you’re seeing cars of all ages, whereas these figures come from automobile-paint manufacturers and so reflect new cars only.

  36. True, true. But don’t good Americans get a new car every year?

  37. (I am not a good American; we’ve had our Saturn since 2002. It’s blue-gray.)

  38. My great-grandfather really did buy a new car every year (except during the Depression), up until he retired.

    There are a number of paint colors, such as orange or purple, that essentially do not exist as factory colors. (You would have to order a car specially made to get them from the manufacturer.) They do show up on repainted vehicles, however, and consequently, I associate such colors with the Ford Crown Victoria. A lot of Crown Vic’s were used as police cars (or taxis, but I assume that most people who buy them used are getting the car for its police package engine) meaning that when they are resold, they absolutely need to be repainted.

    Given the Crown Victoria’s total capture of the law enforcement market since the 1990s, as well as the iconic brand status of the Lincoln Towncar (the top-badged version), I remain somewhat mystified by Ford’s decision to discontinue the line. But that is what the corporation decided to do. A few years from now, the appearance of American police cars is going to undergo a fundamental change.

  39. J.W. Brewer says:

    Impressionistically the percentage of “achromatic” paint on cars on American roads has increased considerably compared to what it was in my boyhood, and this piece although qualitative rather than quantitative seems to bear out that narrative. https://www.consumerreports.org/consumerist/a-brief-history-of-car-colors-and-why-are-we-so-boring-now/

    Some manufacturers on some models offer colors that are otherwise rare. For example, the current factory color options on a Dodge Challenger (which admittedly tries to project a throwback-to-before-1973 sort of image) include orange (called “Go Mango”) and purple (called “Plum Crazy”).

  40. J.W. Brewer says:

    (Second link being put in second comment to evade comment purgatory:) And if you start with the proposition that you don’t care so much about the make and model of the car as long as it’s yellow, some obsessives out there have come up with the list of all makes/models available in the US that you could get in yellow. https://oppositelock.kinja.com/every-yellow-car-on-sale-in-the-us-2018-edition-1822691494

  41. David Marjanović says:

    But are your streets black or gray?

    Depends on the light.

    I agree, BTW, that there are fashions in car colors.

  42. “Go mango”, I see. And I was wondering why so many new cars around me look like someone tried to paint them like carrots, but didn’t get it quite right. And my impression was they are not all Dodges.

  43. > As for the [ʒ], it doesn’t exist in standard Spanish, but it does, more or less, in Chilean Spanish, as a pronunciation of ll.

    Thanks! As for the phoneme, /ʝ/ makes sense, but as for phonotactics… I guess I still haven’t quite figured out what Spanish speakers can and cannot pronounce in their codas.

  44. John Cowan says:

    guess I still haven’t quite figured out what Spanish speakers can and cannot pronounce in their codas.

    Neither have they. There are like eight words in the entire language that end in -j, and only reloj ‘clock’ is at all common (it’s a borrowing from Catalan). In principle, a non-word-final coda can be any consonant with or without a following /s/, but in the speech of many people, even when they are doing something like reading out loud, the coda is reduced to the basic set /n r l s/ used in native words: WP cites the examples of trasporte, istalar, pespectiva. Failing this, the /s/ as second consonant may vanish without trace, even in varieties where coda /s/ is pronounced “normally” (rather than as [h] or dropped with compeesatory lengthening).

  45. AJP Crown says:

    The recession scared people into a neutral colors phase, giving rise to the popularity of black, white and silver/gray

    Consumer Reports! What absolute rubbish.

    Except for spies & plain clothes police no one wants to be swallowed up in the traffic, so the colours we dislike on cars are proportional to how popular they are. Red was very popular in the US & UK in the 80s and (so) I hated it. Now I like it, especially on Ferraris for which it’s the traditional colour. Silver & other metallics and b&w are boring because there are so many of them not because there’s anything inherently wrong with that colour on car bodies. A silver Mercedes sports car from the 1950s still looks great as does a black Rolls Royce hearse or a white 60s Alfa convertible.

    Regional colour preference may be related to geography & climate. Our grey metallic car gets as dusty as a dung beetle in certain seasons because of our dirt road. White was much better as was blue, and black the worst. Black absorbs the heat. If you use large open-air parking lots you may prefer a colour that stands out. Etc.

    Crown Victoria sounds quite unAmerican for a car name.

  46. Crown Victoria sounds quite unAmerican for a car name.

    That’s what I’ve always thought!

  47. don’t good Americans get a new car every year?

    Not in New England, quite the opposite in fact. I remember in Japan being struck by the absence of old cars, and it did seem the custom there to buy a new car every year. That struck me at the time as very unAmerican behavior. In New Hampshire you usually tried to at least flip the odometer before looking for a new car.

    It does seem like there is a segment of the American population that leases cars and trades the leased car in for a new model every year or so but I don’t know many of those people.

  48. John Cowan says:

    My grandfather Woldemar Schultz (1895?-1960) bought a new car every year, but then he worked for Ford and got a huge employee discount: Ford really, really wanted its employees to drive Fords. Americans figured out long ago that the best way economically is to drive your car into the ground before replacing it. My parents replaced their car every 4 years with about 120,000 miles on it, and modern cars can easily make it to 200,000 miles with reasonable preventive maintenance.

  49. John Cowan says:

    The etymology is quite interesting. Originally, Ford applied the name “Crown Victoria” to quite a different car, one that had a chrome strip running across the top from left to right and visually dividing the front passenger compartment from the rear; this strip was the “crown”, because before that a Ford Victoria was something between a coupe and a sedan, reusing the term victoria for a horse-drawn buggy with a cover for the passengers but none for the driver (so that passersby could see his spiffy livery, I suppose).

    But the royal connection, however specious, must have become uppermost in Ford’s collective mind eventually, because the Mercury equivalent (Mercury was a middlesnob car line between downsnob Fords and upsnob Lincolns) was called the Lincoln Grand Marquis.

  50. the term victoria

    Very odd that the Wikipedia article you link to does not mention that it is named for the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland, etc., from 1837 to 1901 (to quote the OED etymology). First citation:
    [1844 Art Union Jrnl. 6 238 A calèche..which the French have named after Queen Victoria.]

  51. J.W. Brewer says:

    Ford may have succumbed to anti-monarchical ideology, but elsewhere in Detroit the Buick Regal is back on the market.

  52. AJP Crown says:

    the royal connection, however specious

    Ford would certainly have known that the most obvious public understanding of Crown Victoria would be to Queen Victoria. If Wiki says otherwise, someone’s being disingenuous. Car companies pay for surveys about potential names and hire linguists to invent new words that people will like and that foreigners won’t laugh at (Chevy No va).

  53. John Cowan says:

    Were they already doing that in 1932? I doubt it, or they wouldn’t have used model names like “T”. Anyway, the nova/no va story is a myth.

  54. AJP Crown says:

    The car name is no myth. Neither is the pun. How poorly the brand sold is the only question.

  55. January First-of-May says:

    The car name is no myth. Neither is the pun. How poorly the brand sold is the only question.

    My impression was that the “myth” was created post-factum to explain why the brand sold poorly and/or got renamed (I don’t recall the details offhand), and thus has no more immediate reason to necessarily be true than any other folk etymology.

  56. AJP Crown says:

    What folk etymology? These aren’t myths they’re facts: 1. Chevrolet made a car they sold as the Nova. So did another GM subsidiary, Vauxhall. 2. No va means doesn’t go, in Spanish. 3. These cars were sold in Latin American countries (the Chevy) and Spain (the Vauxhall). 4. Car companies spend so much money on names partly to avoid this sort of fuckup and it’s not new. In 1965 Rolls Royce named a new design Silver Mist until they found out that in one of their bigger markets, Germany, Mist means manure. So they changed it to Silver Shadow. This was well publicised at the time in England, I remember hearing it then on the BBC radio Today programme.

  57. John Cowan says:

    Yes to the first, somewhat to the second, and not at all to the third. Here are the Snopeses, who don’t hesitate to brand the story false. In brief: no va doesn’t really sound like nova (the stress is different); no va is not idiomatic Spanish in this usage; Nova was a successful brand of gasoline in Mexico; GM knew what it was doing and thought the matter unimportant; the car sold well in both Mexico and Venezuela, its principal Spanish-speaking markets; it was never renamed.

    Similarly, although Fiat is indeed an acronym etymologically, it stands for ‘Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino’, not ‘Fix it again, Tony!’

  58. These aren’t myths they’re facts: 1. Chevrolet made a car they sold as the Nova. So did another GM subsidiary, Vauxhall. 2. No va means doesn’t go, in Spanish. 3. These cars were sold in Latin American countries (the Chevy) and Spain (the Vauxhall).

    Those are facts; the myth is the connection. There is no evidence whatever that anyone didn’t buy a car because its name meant “doesn’t go” in Spanish, and if you’ll think about it you’ll realize it’s inherently unlikely. People buy or don’t buy cars for reasons involving price, attractiveness, and functionality, not because their name happens to mean something amusing in their own language. Note that Spanish speakers manage to call a nova (the star) a nova despite the coincidence, and I’m guessing they don’t give it a second thought. But the “nova = no va” is exactly the sort of cute trivia that catches the attention and creates memes and myths.

  59. This was well publicised at the time in England, I remember hearing it then on the BBC radio Today programme.

    You know perfectly well that journos are suckers for cute myths.

  60. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    Apart from anything else a Spanish speaker wouldn’t pronounce Nova like no va because the stress patterns are quite different.

  61. Good point! And surely the association would be with the star, which is written and pronounced the same.

  62. Those are facts

    I withdraw the over-sweeping statement, having learned from JC’s comment (then in moderation) that point 3 is wrong. (He also made the point about pronunciation.)

  63. AJP Crown says:

    Plenty of words and phrases have more than one meaning regardless of stresses and language. A Spanish speaker who understands the intended association of the brand with ‘new’ or ‘stars’ can still see that no va means “doesn’t go”. Two readings at once. It’s like poetry, Shakespeare or the double entente in the comédie britannique. Four candles.

  64. AJP Crown says:

    having learned from JC’s comment (then in moderation) that point 3 is wrong.

    What? I know you people just got out of bed, but fact 3 is:
    These cars were sold in Latin American countries (the Chevy) and Spain (the Vauxhall).
    That’s not wrong.

    In fact JC agrees, despite contradicting himself (“not at all to the third”…”the car sold well in both Mexico and Venezuela”). The Snopes thing, “the story is false” and the “myth” all refer to whether the car sold badly because of its name, which has nothing – NADA* – to do with this discussion.

    *(National Automobile Dealers Association)

  65. John Cowan says:

    AJP: While I was writing my post, you wrote another one, this time with explicit numbers, which confused matters. By “the third” I referred to the third point in your earlier post: “How poorly the brand sold is the only question.”

  66. AJP Crown says:

    Aha. Language italicised my 3 Facts above his comment, so I’m assuming he was referring to those; although “How poorly the brand sold is the only question” isn’t exactly wrong either.

  67. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    more than one meaning regardless of stresses

    I’ve not really understood what your point is here. In some languages getting the stress wrong can make a word unintelligible. When I was a student a group of us rented a car in Iraklion and wanted to go a place called Matala (Μάταλα), where St Paul was shipwrecked, but I don’t remember if that was why we wanted to go there. As you see it has a stress mark on the first α, but we didn’t notice that and thought it was pronounced as Ματάλα would be. Anyway after we turned off the (more or less) major road we found ourselves on a road that degenerated into a track, and then became difficult to follow even as a track. Seeing someone walking along we stopped and asked him: Ματάλα; None of the other four knew any Greek at all, and mine was worse than basic (I could read the alphabet, and recognize some words, but not much more), so we didn’t hazard a more elaborate question. The man was completely baffled, having no idea what Ματάλα might mean. After a while I tried different stresses: Μάταλα and Ματαλά. At Μάταλα his eyes lit up and he told us which way to go. As all three vowels are the same and the consonants present no difficulties, I’m pretty certain that that only thing wrong with Ματάλα was the stress, but it made the name totally unintelligible.

    Perhaps I should add that as an English speaker I probably reduced the unstressed vowels to schwas, whereas I think that in Greek, as in Spanish, they maintain their sounds when unstressed.

    Anyway, we reached Μάταλα and were very pleased with ourselves at reaching a place no foreigner since St Paul had ever been. Then we saw that six large tour buses were parked.

  68. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    I have read that the Mitsubishi Pajero sold badly in Latin America because of its name that could be understood as “wanker”. That may be another myth.

  69. I just assume that all such stories are myths until proven otherwise.

  70. AJP Crown says:

    Yes of course, good point Athel. About the stresses in Spanish, I was assuming that nova with no stress mark would be enough to be understood for all meanings. Not speaking Spanish, perhaps I’m wrong. Norwegian only has a single stress mark that I can think of: on én, as opposed to en; the former means ‘one’ and the latter ‘a’.

    The rate that cars sell is of no interest to me. If you’re not in the business, who cares? But if Mitsubishi choses to give its car a name that might be construed in some places as the Mitsubishi Wanker, then I totally want to hear about it.

  71. Stu Clayton says:

    There’s the Wankel engine, that’s pretty close.

  72. Ellen K. says:

    I wonder what the percentages on car colors would be for cars bought/owned by individuals. That is, not including business fleet vehicles, which have a strong tendency to be white.

  73. David Marjanović says:

    not ‘Fix it again, Tony!’

    nor Fehler in allen Teilen “flaws in all parts” nor für Italiener ausreichende Technik “technology sufficient for Italians”. Nor is it Latin for “may it [eventually] become [a car]”.

  74. Norwegian only has a single stress mark that I can think of

    I was greatly perplexed to see é in Christer Henriksén.

  75. Trond Engen says:

    AJP: Norwegian only has a single stress mark that I can think of: on én, as opposed to en

    You can use the aigu to disambiguate between pragmatic meanings of words:én “one” vs. en “a” arguably belongs here, also dét “that” vs. det “it”, or between written homonyms: mén “injuries” vs. men “but”. fór “went, travelled” vs. for “for” (vs. fôr 1. “fodder” and 2. “lining”).

    Nynorsk uses the grave to disambiguate òg “too” from og “and”. Supposedly, Bokmål only has også for sentence-final too, but that’s just wrong, so many, me included, use it Bokmål too: Det gjør jeg òg. [djøjæjå]

    juha: I was greatly perplexed to see é in Christer Henriksén.

    That’s mostly a Swedish thing. Patronymicon Henriksson -> Latinized ~Henriksenius -> “Abbreviated latinate” Henriksén. In principle, that is. I imagine once the pattern was established, people might go straight from the Swedish to the delatinized form. The pattern exists in Norway too, and is perceived as amusing in a bucket/bouquet sort of way, though I expect that those with accented names have inherited them from Swedish ancestors.

  76. Takk!

  77. Lars (the original one) says:

    That Henriksén thing is a bit odd — there are numerous Swedish family names in -én, often derived by the priest from the name of his parish (Nora > norenius > Norén (père)). But there is some sort of haplology going on here, and somehow I doubt that a skilled Latin writer would be happy with henriks[on]enius when henricius vel sim. would do. If the base had -sen it could be argued that the derivation just adds -ius, possibly a happier thing.

    Also I doubt that someone from the Latin writing classes would want to emphasize descent from the rural population that were the main bearers of -son names, and by the time they were fixed as family names and socially ascended, Latin was not really a thing. So, I would guess that this is probably just an accent of pretension, formed without awareness of the Latin morpheme, though possibly an henricsenius could be formed at need for something like a university degree in Latin.

    (I am not sure if I ever met something like Hansén in Denmark, though it does ring a bell faintly — Google only gives me Norwegians and Swedes. The bucket/bouquet pretension slot is taken by double-barrelled surnames where one is a patronymic — and especially if both are — for the same reason: double-barrelled surnames were a custom of the nobility and burghers, and we still remember that Hr. Hansen-Nielsen’s family started out from somewhere else).

  78. Alon Lischinsky says:

    I’m wondering how this is pronounced in Spanish. Anybody know?

    My grandmother (the last person I know who uses the term in this sense, born in Argentina in the mid 1930s) uses [ruʃ]. Make what you wish of that phonologically; I suspect that for many of us, especially in the Americas, /ʃ/ is not that marginal a part of the phonological system (FWIW, her dialect is not one that has [ʃ~ʒ] for /ʝ/).

    By the way, Spaniards
    might say they’d only use pintalabios, but CREA has hits for rouge in this sense from Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and the Peninsula:

    mucha toba y bastante sarro y algo de rouge de labios (Sánchez Ostiz, M. 1995. Un infierno en el jardín. Barcelona: Anagrama, p. 150)
    no para ensayar mohínes artificiales ni para comprobar nada de lo que no estuviera de antemano convencida, un ligero toque de rouge en los labios, salir pitando y ya, era un examen que se aprobaba enseguida y con nota (Martín Gaite, C. 1992. Nubosidad variable. Barcelona: Anagrama, p. 320.)

  79. John Cowan says:

    Patronymicon Henriksson -> Latinized ~Henriksenius

    But why not Henrici filius? Later to be chopped to … I have no idea what.

  80. Trond Engen says:

    But why not Henrici filius?

    Thanks. I noticed the hole in the argument with Lars’ reply, but by the time I had time to do anything about it I had forgotten. The most common scholarly way to form latinized patronymics was with the bare genitive. Lars Henriksson became Laurentius Henrici, but those seem to have been perceived as pure patronymics and not made the transition to inheritability in significant numbers.

    I think the -enius ending was established with latinisation of topnymics (the dirt common Sw. surname Norén < Norenius < från Nora, I guess). A reasonable intermediate step could be names based on compound toponyms (Nilsén < Nilsenius < från Nilsgården or some such). The form would easily be interpreted as a posh -(s)son and, as Lars says, may then have been used to pimp your patronymic without scholarly Latin being involved at all.

  81. Trond Engen says:

    (You can see that I didn’t have time for/couldn’t be bothered with doing actual research.)

  82. per incuriam says:

    Here’s a translator’s tale: it’s early morning and I’m working on a scene from an Argentinian thriller. A woman has discovered her husband’s infidelity and leaves him a chilling message on the mirror written in rouge. In rouge. That doesn’t sound right. Although I’ve never tried it, I think it would be hard to write on glass with a cream rouge and impossible with a powdered one. Surely you’d use lipstick? I turn to WordReference, the online oracle for linguists, and ask the other forum users if rouge can ever mean lipstick in Latin America. Someone from Spain immediately says no. Lipstick would be pintalabios. Another poster from Mexico agrees, although he says that lipstick there is lápiz labial. Then the southern hemisphere starts waking up. A commenter says that rouge does indeed mean lipstick in Chile. And finally someone from Argentina agrees. Her mother always uses this word

    It wouldn’t have made for much of a “translator’s tale” but she could have just looked it up. Call me old-fashioned etc.

    “Ass[hole]” has largely replaced “arse[hole]” in Cork

    Cork is traditionally ass country:

    “They takes us out to Blarney
    And they lays us on the grass
    They puts us in the family way
    And they leaves us on our ass”

    From Salonika, a popular Cork ballad from the time of WWI.

  83. John Cowan says:

    Well, that makes three features that the Cork accent has in common with NYC’s, along with the LOT-PALM merger and the huge > yuge shift. I wonder if these reflect close contacts in the 19C, like the NYC-New Orleans isoglosses?

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