RERUM NOVARUM.

One of the most famous papal encyclicals is Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum (1891), about labor, capital, and social justice. I’m not going to go into either the theological or the historical implications of the speech; my interest here (and, frankly, my interest tout court) is solely in the title and its meaning. I was—”shocked” would be too strong a word; let’s say unhappy—to discover that the Wikipedia article begins: “Rerum Novarum (Latin for On the New Things)…” As I sputtered on the Talk page:

“Rerum novarum” does not mean “On the New Things”! To translate “res novae” by “new things” is like translating “hot dog” into French as “chien chaud.” “Res novae” is a fixed phrase or idiom meaning (to quote the Oxford Latin Dictionary) “constitutional changes, revolution.” That is what it has always meant in Latin, and that is how Leo is using it here: “Rerum novarum semel excitata cupidine, quae diu quidem commovet civitates…” is rendered (in the Wikisource translation) “That the spirit of revolutionary change, which has long been disturbing the nations of the world…” It should be translated “Of revolution” if it must be translated in the first line of the article. [...] Well, “Of revolution” is misleading—that could imply revolution is the topic of the encyclical, which it isn’t, it’s just the first two words. That’s why I wrote “if it must be translated in the first line”; it doesn’t make much sense to translate the first two words out of context.

Cicero says “rem publicam miscerent et rerum novarum causam aliquam quaererent”; Caesar says “cupiditate regni adductus novis rebus studebat”; in a lovely bit from the Novum Organum, Francis Bacon writes “Studia enim hominum in ejusmodi locis in quorundam authorum scripta, veluti in carceres, conclusa sunt; a quibus si quis dissentiat, continuo ut homo turbidus et rerum novarum cupidus corripitur”—if you disagree with the accepted authors in a school or academy, you are accused of being a turbulent revolutionary. This is a public service announcement: to translate a foreign language, it is not sufficient to look up each word in a pocket dictionary and string the results together.

Comments

  1. sperical says:

    Hat: “This is a public service announcement: to translate a foreign language, it is not sufficient to look up each word in a pocket dictionary and string the results together.”
    As a professional translator I could not agree more. I hereby mote to grant ignorance about translation the status of a distinct subspecies of ignorance about language.

  2. However, “Quadragesimo Anno”, related to the mentioned encyclical, has an “automatic” translation.
    Thanks for “the public service announcement”

  3. Reading this post reminded me of some happy high school days. Latin is such a beautiful language; and not impossible, like Greek.

  4. Having once received a similar reprimand, I made some research and found several cases of non-idiomatic use of “rerum novarum”:
    http://miram.livejournal.com/527743.html?thread=1850239#t1850239

  5. Miram: Sure, and once in a great while, “hot dog” actually refers to an overheated canine.

  6. I said that to one of my theology professors in college, but he didn’t believe me. The guy who answered “of new things” (instead of “new things” like everyone else in the class), got all the credit. Is it just be taught that way? (Or did my entire theology seminar knew just enough latin to be dangerous?) Anyhow, the professor really should have known better, he was a jesuit priest so he must have had his fair share of the classics…
    But given that papal encyclicals are always called by the first few words in latin, and given latin’s flexible word order, “Rerum Novarum” was probably meant to be the title of the piece, so I don’t see anything wrong with translating it out of its context in the first sentence.
    And it is about revolutions, of the economic kind.

  7. J.W. Brewer says:

    Wait, so Latin has no word for “revolution”? No wonder Roman history is so boring.

  8. >J.W. Brewer
    “Revolutio infandum verbum est Papae.” :- )

  9. Tom Recht says:

    The Latin phrase is itself a calque from Greek νεώτερα, literally “newer (things)”.

  10. “This is a public service announcement: to translate a foreign language, it is not sufficient to look up each word in a pocket dictionary and string the results together.”
    AMEN. I love/loathe when people use Alta Vista or Google Translate or what have you to pretend familiarity with a language. I’ve had people tell me, in French, things like “I aced the exam,” and “fuck you and the horse you rode in on” – totally unaware, of course, that these idioms n’existent pas en francais.
    It’s a situation where a person is so very ignorant of so deep an academic area that they cannot see how ignorant they look by claiming even a passing familiarity with it, let alone fluency.
    I tried to tell one interlocutor, “what you just wrote is, if anything at all, equivalent to “you, to fuck, himself, and in, on, the horse rolled” — but these messages don’t sink in.

  11. It’s a bit alarming to me that things like Google Translate are becoming the new default meaning of “translation” online. I’ve had people argue to me with a straight face that it’s simply impossible to translate everything from a given source language into a grammatically correct sentence in the target language, and offer Google translations as evidence. It’s also distressingly common on language-learning forums for people to say things like “My textbook says that ‘Xxxxx xxxxx’ means ‘I like cats’, but when I put ‘Xxxxx xxxxx’ into Google Translate, I got the result ‘To love a cat, friend.’ My question is, what is wrong with my textbook that it gets such a simple sentence wrong?”
    I think that before long Google Translate and its successors will be the primary, default meaning of “translation”, and real live human translation will have to take refuge in some sort of marked term (“natural translation” or “human translation” or something).

  12. (Just to be clear, in my first example I’m not talking about the difficulty of rendering concepts like “ennui” and “nostalgia”, but rather a belief that translation by definition will sometimes produce grammatically incorrect output.)

  13. Matt’s anecdotal evidence makes me despair for the future of intelligent human discourse much more than my own anecdotal evidence did. :(

  14. Bill Walderman says:

    One word: gavagai

  15. As a very heavy user of Google translate, I can say for sure that it can be very difficult at times to figure out whether Google translate is giving you the real deal or a bogus translation. Sometimes it gets things wonderfully right, at others totally wrong.
    What is the Chinese for ‘wet weather’? Google translate says 潮湿的天气 cháoshī de tiānqì, which actually means ‘damp weather’. There has been no change in this whopper for several years. A more correct translation would be 雨天 yǔtiān (‘rainy weather’). Chinese users have no idea that they’re being fed a mistranslation because few would suspect that ‘wet’ in this context requires more than a bit of mist, fog, or high humidity.
    On the other hand, what is Chinese for the recent Swiss Fat Cat vote? It’s actually 反肥猫公投 fǎn-féimāo gōngtóu ‘anti fat cat public vote’. Google translates ‘fat cat’ correctly as 肥猫 féimāo (although it can get the translation wrong in longer sentences).
    Just two simple examples, but illustrative of the fact that when Google translate gives you a result it can be very hard to tell what is a good translation and what is just nonsense thrown together.

  16. There is also an example I may have mentioned here in the past.
    I learnt the Japanese word 横領 ōryō from the dictionary as basically meaning ‘embezzlement’ or ‘misappropriation (of funds)’. That is how I would translate it at a kneejerk level. Some years ago a veteran translator of Japanese wrote a post pointing out that when someone rides off on (i.e., steals) someone’s bicycle, a policeman would technically describe this as 横領 ōryō. Having learnt the meaning as ‘embezzlement’, this usage is a bit of a head-spinner — until you check your dictionary and find you had your gavagai wrong all those years.
    Google translate gives the primary meaning of 横領 ōryō as ‘embezzlement’, but with ‘misappropriation’ (the correct nuance in the case of a bicycle) and ‘usurpation’ as further meanings, along with a whole heap of synonyms in Japanese. For ‘embezzlement’, 横領, 着服, 盗用, 横奪, 犯行, 犯罪; for ‘misappropriation’ 流用, 横領, 濫用, 横奪; for ‘usurpation’ 横領, 奪取, 僭取, 横取り. Of course, wading through all those synonyms is a pretty surefire way to sharpen your appreciation of the many nuances of language!

  17. SFReader says:

    Google Translate is a fascinating source of knowledge. Not terribly accurate, granted, but useful nonetheless.
    Did you know that “Bathrobe” translates into Tamil as குளிப்பதற்கு முன்பும் பின்பும் அணியப்படும் தொளதொளப்பான Kuḷippataṟku muṉpum piṉpum aṇiyappaṭum toḷatoḷappāṉa
    which literally means
    “Tolatolappana bathe worn before and after”

  18. I caught Google translate missing a “nicht” in german once or twice, and therefore giving the exact opposite of the sentence I wanted translated. But it did give me “of revolution” for rerum novarum.

  19. I’ve always had trouble getting good translations of ‘bathrobe’ from Google translate. And if I remember rightly, the translation is not always the same as ‘dressing gown’, which it should be.

  20. Jeffry House says:

    My example: “A Latin American friend decided to write me in English. She is a judge in Cali, Colombia.
    Her original sentence: : “Me gusta ejercer como juez promiscua”
    Correct translation: “I like to work as a judge in both civil and criminal matters”.
    Google translation: “I like to serve as a promiscuous judge.”

  21. Try this one through Google translate:
    Peabody moves two more Australian coal mine operations in-house
    The result is 皮博迪移动两个中国煤矿业务, which means:
    Peabody moves two Chinese coal mine operations
    Something seriously wrong with that algorithm.

  22. The problem is obviously promiscua. The French meaning is given as immoral And a juez promiscua is Le juge promiscuité. At least the Japanese given for promiscua is only 無差別 musabetsu ‘indiscriminate’, which is (perhaps) not quite as damning…

  23. SFReader says:

    @குளிப்பதற்கு மு&
    In Arabic, you would be called Burnus al-Hammam

  24. Is that bathrobe or dressing gown?
    روب ذو شامبر aka
    مبذل

  25. Google Translate is pretty good for giving a general idea of what a sentence or a paragraph is about. That’s really very useful. I’ve had people comment on my photos in languages like Hebrew, Russian, Urdu and Chinese, and without GT I would have no idea what they were saying.
    It’s not so good at detail or nuance, but some of that can be figured out from the context. There’s no practical way I could learn to read all those different languages, so GT is a very useful tool.
    It’s an interesting experiment to go to some country you want to know more about and try to read the local newspapers using Google Translate. At first it’s hard because you don’t have enough context. Maybe you go to some international site like the BBC to try to get more information on the stories. As you learn more about the background you get better at interpreting the garbled translations. You probably never understand as much as someone who really speaks the language, but you are further ahead than someone who never tried.

  26. Paul (other Paul) says:

    குளிப்பதற்கு மு : While bathrobes can be dressing gowns, vice-versa does not always apply, if you use a bathrobe when you step out of the bath… lightweight summer dressing gowns, for example.

  27. Google translation works rather nice with collocations and phrases. Indeed, when I’m doing translation-related work, one way to get newly emerged collocations or those determined as unimportant by lexicographers is putting the collocation in Google Translation. If you hover over the translation and it is one match block, one single rounded rectangular thing in the interface, chances are that the translation is good. In lexical terms of course not grammatical.
    Input: Rerum novarum amo. Rem publicam miscerent et rerum novarum causam aliquam quaererent. Cupiditate regni adductus novis rebus studebat.
    Output: Innovations like. Mix and the state in search of some kind of excuse for revolution. Eager for the kingdom have been influenced, supported the uprising.
    None of the translations are acceptable English (they should have done some shallow parsing before the matching), but at least res novae are translated correctly each time.

  28. What Paul other Paul said. Bathrobes are towelling (James Bond) and dressing gowns are silk (Noel Coward).

  29. marie-lucie says:

    Remember a few weeks ago when GT translated -eared by des marais?

  30. So what about this from Mary Beard’s comments:

    Laura Gibbs said…
    Much more useful for students is a tool called http://NoDictionaries.com which Lee Butterman has generously developed and made available online. NoDictionaries.com does not go so far as to provide a translation, but it does attempt to parse the Latin and provide the most relevant dictionary entry. It’s baffled by homonyms (canis: you sing, or the dog), but it is also possible to correct such errors manually. You can use http://NoDictionaries.com to read a huge range of Latin classics already at the site, or you can paste in your own bits of Latin for reading help. It’s an amazing tool, one with far more immediate value for students and people trying to read and understand Latin. GoogleTranslate is fun as a curiosity, but NoDictionaries.com really can be a valuable Latin learning tool. It even has a sliding scale so you can suppress more frequent vocabulary and focus on the words that are less frequent. Very ingenious and nicely designed!

  31. According to her blog, Laura is the author of Aesop’s Fables.

  32. Google Translate is pretty good for giving a general idea of what a sentence or a paragraph is about. [...] There’s no practical way I could learn to read all those different languages, so GT is a very useful tool.
    This is my take on it exactly. I don’t really care about whether the output is grammatical, I usually just want to get the general idea.

  33. Rodger C says:

    I’ve long suspected that “gavagai” means “Look at that thing run.”

  34. I’m stunned after typing in GT the Latin sentence I wrote. “Revolutio” is translated as “cycling” in Spanish, English and French. It seems the Vatican is not the only ignoramus of this word.

  35. Sure, I use Google Translate all the time as well. Sometimes you just want to get a nail into the wood, and if you don’t have proper tools and can’t afford to hire a carpenter, a rock is better than nothing. And the Google Translate rock is getting more hammer-like all the time, it has to be admitted.
    The problem arises when people who have grown up knowing only the rock end up believing that rocks are the only relevant tools for carpentry — that screwdrivers, saws, etc. are effete indulgences — and that the limitations of a rock, or at best a hammer, are properly understood as the limitations of carpentry itself. I don’t think these people are in the majority, but they seem to skew young so it worries me that the trend might grow. Also, they should get off my lawn.
    (On the other hand, maybe they will learn the truth as they grow older. I thought some pretty dumb things when I was young too — when I was in primary school I thought that Italian was just sort of substitution cipher and resented my teacher for teaching us all the words individually rather than just giving us the details of the cipher itself.)

  36. Bill Walderman says:

    “I’ve long suspected that ‘gavagai’ means ‘Look at that thing run.’
    I think it means “tastes just like chicken, but there are too many small bones to deal with.”

  37. SFReader says:

    @Matt
    But Italian IS a substitution cipher!
    Here is a proof.

  38. The problem arises when people who have grown up knowing only the rock end up believing that rocks are the only relevant tools for carpentry — that screwdrivers, saws, etc. are effete indulgences — and that the limitations of a rock, or at best a hammer, are properly understood as the limitations of carpentry itself. I don’t think these people are in the majority, but they seem to skew young so it worries me that the trend might grow. Also, they should get off my lawn.
    That is a consequence of ever more popularization-of-science works and of easier access to vocabularies in the internet – I say vocabularies, not subjects. There is no way to stop people talking about things they don’t understand.
    And why should one want to ? It keeps them busy while serious people meet in camera and continue to run the world as they see fit. No conspiracy theories are needed to account for that.
    Pope put it this way: “A little learning is a dangerous thing. / Drink deep, or stay the hell off my lawn”.

  39. If I’m translating long chunks of Norwegian into English – yes, you’d wonder why anyone would give the job to me, but I’ve done so a few times now with art-related pieces (my wife’s recommended me) – I start with a google translation, because it saves typing the whole thing out; then I can just correct the mistakes and sometimes find a better phrase, but on the whole the google thesaurus seems to be better than my memory for finding alternative words.
    You lot can laugh at us poor ignorant sods who don’t know the Hungarian word for seed drill, but how many of you know all the languages in the google translation list? It’s safe to say, Languagehat commenters excepted, most people aren’t going to know more than two or three languages well, so even though it’s not perfect, google translate still provides clues to give the gist of an unknown sentence’s meaning. There’s nothing especially dangerous about that.

  40. google translate still provides clues to give the gist of an unknown sentence’s meaning.
    But it is you who decide for each word or phrase – considering alternately the general context and its immediate sentence-context – whether to treat what GT proffers in each case as a clue or gist. For someone who is making a stab at translation, the question whether GT provides reliable translations is equivalent to the question whether GT provides reliable clues and gists.
    You have the same problem staying within one language, where you want to “rephrase” with a thesaurus instead of “translate” with GT. Although I know the language of technical articles on aesthetics and linguistics written in English or German – because they are written in English or German – I doubt whether Roget would protect me from serious mistakes if I tried to rephrase the articles for the man on the street by eliminating the technical terms.
    To posit reliability is exactly that: to posit. You are using your own judgement here, even when you judge that the judgements of others are more reliable than your own. Like every general concept, the concept of “reliability” serves as an excuse to stop worriting (here, about what to rely on), and to get on with concrete business.
    General statements – such as the one I am now making – are intended to block further thought and permit action. For a while anyway, until you are forced by circumstantial tension to defer action and start thinking again.
    So I think it is quite reasonable for you to be translating chunks of Norwegian into English. It’s just that I am not satisfied by your account of why it is OK to be doing that.

  41. marie-lucie says:

    I think that AJP’s method is fine for his purposes, because he is translating texts on topics he is very familiar with, which probably contain technical vocabulary which is easiest to translate when there are precise equivalents in other languages. He is not trying to translate works which contain cultural allusions, slang, puns, etc which GT would be much more likely to miss. Besides, he has two persons at home that he can check his translation with. Of course, the method would not be suitable if he was translating James Joyce, but that is not his purpose.

  42. Exactly the considerations that motivated my comment, marie-lucie. Crown did not mention them, however, but wrote in a general way about GT providing gists and clues. His particular background and abilities enable him to interpret as clues and gists what GT provides. My background and abilities, in contrast, would not suffice even for that, due to the subject-matter.
    Credit where credit is due.

  43. And in the proper proportions.

  44. I’m sorry, I kind of jumbled up my thoughts. My experience with gists & clues comes mostly from translating the odd sentence in Spanish & Russian, which I don’t know (or not very well), and they are less well handled by GT than Norwegian is, for some reason. It’s still better than thumbing through a dictionary, word by word, and I like the new feature whereby if you click on a word it will give you alternative meanings. And GT also has a stab at sorting out the grammar, which a translation dictionary doesn’t.

  45. The message I send to people who ask me “Should I use GT?” is “Absolutely, but only to translate things into English, never out of English, and only for your personal use. It is a a false politeness to translate your English to Chinese (or whatever) when emailing a Chinese speaker; GT will probably make horrible mistakes and perhaps be completely unintelligible. And obviously, don’t sign a contract you used GT to translate for you.” Of course, English here is a proxy for “your native language, whatever it is.”

  46. Grumbleguts, I agree with you right up to the word ‘worriting’ – I’ve got my doubts about worriting. Or should that be ‘worrying’?

  47. Anything is better than thumbing through a dictionary worrit by worrit.

  48. marie-lucie says:

    I figuratively raised my eyebrows at “worriting”, which I then decoded as “worrying”. I like the word, perhaps because of its resemblance to “rabbiting”. But it was probably an unintended cross between “worrying” and “writing”: writing while worried, worrying about one’s writing. Worriting, the curse of the worried writer. Is that you, Grumbly?

  49. Maybe we should change your name to Worriting Stu.

  50. Worriting, the curse of the worried writer. Is that you, Grumbly?
    Hardly, marie-lucie. I always write the first thing that comes to mind, without a care to syntax, semantics or Sittlichkeit. The 100%-natural Betty Boop Of Blogging, that’s me.

  51. I picked up the word “worrit” as a kid. I associate it with Uncle Remus and the Southern USA. But it could be a English dialect word come to me via Dickens or Trollope. marie-lucie says it puts her in mind of “rabbiting” – that’s a good image for how it feels to me.

  52. marie-lucie says:

    Thanks AJP! We need not worry about worriting any more. But I vote we adopt it.

  53. SFReader says:

    — And obviously, don’t sign a contract you used GT to translate for you.
    An early translation software once translated a standard contract from English to Russian.
    Its first line came out as “The Seller has agreed to sell himself and the Buyer has agreed to buy himself” :-)

  54. David Marjanović says:

    I didn’t know so many people trusted Google Translate so blindly. That’s scary.

    Wait, so Latin has no word for “revolution”?

    On the other hand, that meaning for that word did apparently arise early enough to be heavily implied in De revolutionibus orbium cœlestium.

    Rerum novarum amo.

    Not grammatical. You’re trying to love a genitive here instead of an accusative (res novas).

  55. marie-lucie says:

    Jeffrey House: (back-pedalling: from a female judge in Columbia:)
    Her original sentence: : “Me gusta ejercer como juez promiscua”
    Correct translation: “I like to work as a judge in both civil and criminal matters”.
    Google translation: “I like to serve as a promiscuous judge.”

    Bathrobe: The problem is obviously promiscua. The French meaning is given as immoral. And a juez promiscua is le juge promiscuité
    Immoral is one of two or more possible translations of the Spanish adjective, just as it could be a translation of English promiscuous. But there is no French adjective corresponding to the abstract noun la promiscuité, so le juge promiscuité is grammatically incorrect.
    It is also (and especially) nonsensical from the point of view of semantics: the French noun refers to ‘distasteful nearness to other people, unwanted lack of privacy’, such as being crowded together with strangers in the subway, in an emergency shelter, a refugee camp, etc, being forced to shower/dress/undress in front of others, and similar contexts where one’s desire for privacy is impossible or at least threatened.

  56. Here’s what the OED has to say about worrit:
    Pronunciation: /ˈwʌrɪt/
    Forms: Also 18 -et.
    Etymology: Apparently a vulgar alteration of worry v. Compare wherrit v., werrit v.
    colloq.
    1. a. trans. To worry, distress, vex, pester.
    1818 C. Lamb Let. 18 Feb. (1935) II. 225 These pests worrit me at business.
    1837 Dickens Pickwick Papers xxvi. 271 ‘Don’t worrit your poor mother,’ said Mrs. Sanders.
    1848 Thackeray Vanity Fair lviii. 526 Lord bless us, how she did use to worret us at Sunday-school.
    1854 W. Collins Hide & Seek (1904) ii. xiv. 313 Why worrit yourself about finding Arthur Carr at all?
    1869 J. R. Green Let. Nov. (1901) 235, I have been worriting myself these last days with those Welsh chaps and our early history.
    b. with adv. compl.
    1854 W. Collins Hide & Seek (1904) ii. x. 259 It don’t do me no good: it only worrits me into a perspiration.
    1855 Trollope Warden viii. 116 Sir Abraham won’t get papa another income when he has been worreted out of the hospital.
    1872 ‘G. Eliot’ Middlemarch II. iii. xxvi. 66 It will worret you to death, Lucy; that I can see.
    2. intr. To give way to worry; to experience or display mental disquietude, impatience, etc.
    1854 W. Collins Hide & Seek (1904) ii. xiv. 317 It was how to track the man as was Mary’s death, that I puzzled and worrited about in my head, at that time.
    1857 C. Kingsley Two Years Ago (1881) viii. 127 He..snaps, and worrits, and won’t speak to her sometimes for a whole morning.
    1868 G. J. Whyte-Melville White Rose vii, ‘Look alive, girl! Come—bustle, bustle! It’s gone six o’clock.’ ‘Why, father, how you keep on worriting!’
    Derivatives
    ˈworriting n. and adj.
    1845 G. E. Jewsbury Zoe I. 33 [He] is just the naughtiest and most worritting boy I ever saw.
    1856 Dickens Little Dorrit (1857) i. xxiii. 205 There would be none of this worriting and wearing.
    1861 T. Hughes Tom Brown at Oxf. I. xi. 194 Here and there some..worriting, energizing mortal..gets command of a boat.
    1871 S. Smiles Character viii. 219 Worreting, petty, and self-tormenting cares.
    And here’s the deverbal noun worrit, a separate entry, with the same pronunciation and spelling variations:
    colloq.
    A state of worry or mental distress; a fretting care or anxiety. Also, a person that worries others or himself.
    1818 T. Hudson Comic Songs 9 A proof is here, quite plain and clear, that He with thousand pounds a year, Unless he use it properly gets nothing else than worret.
    1844 in A. R. Ashwell Life S. Wilberforce (1880) I. vi. 221 Assuaging any and every worret, temporal and spiritual.
    1847 Dickens Dombey & Son (1848) xxiii. 231 ‘Mrs. Richards’s eldest, Miss!’ said Susan, ‘and the worrit of Mrs. Richards’s life!’
    1861 C. S. Calverley Charades i, Endless cares and endless worrits, well I knows it, has a wife.
    1889 F. E. Gretton Memory’s Harkback 68 The young men did not mind strictness, but they would not stand worrying… B was as kindly and good-natured as possible, but he was a ‘worrit.’
    As for wherrit ‘tease, pester, annoy’, it is a dialectal variant of thwart, and werrit may represent either worrit or wherrit.

  57. And here is the OED entry for promiscuous, this time without the quotations (in which case the OED software just gives you dates):
    1. a. Done or applied with no regard for method, order, etc.; random, indiscriminate, unsystematic.
    1570—1991
    b. Of an agent or agency: making no distinctions; undiscriminating. In later use freq. with connotations of sense 1c. 1633—1995
    c. spec. Of a person or animal: undiscriminating in sexual relations. Also (of sexual intercourse, relationships, etc.): casual, characterized by frequent changes of sexual partner. Cf. promiscuity n. 2. 1804—2004
    2. Consisting of assorted parts or elements grouped or massed together without order; mixed and disorderly in composition or character; (with plural noun) of various kinds mixed together. Now arch. and rare. 1579—1951
    3. Chiefly Grammar. Of common gender; of either sex, of both sexes. Cf. epicene adj. 1. rare. a1637—2003
    †4. Chiefly slang (depreciative). That forms part of a mixed or undifferentiated company. Obs. 1753—1889
    †5. colloq. Casual, careless. Obs. 1837—1883
    6. a. Biol. Of a protein, organism, etc.: able to infect or interact with, or bind non-specifically to, a variety of hosts or targets. 1972—2005
    b. Genetics. Designating a DNA sequence common to more than one of the genomes within a eukaryotic cell. Cf. promiscuity n. 4. 1982—2001
    So clearly it is 1b that is related to the Spanish sense, whereas 1c is the dominant English sense today.

  58. Absolutely, but only to translate things into English, never out of English
    I use GT to translate English into Chinese. It requires a lot of fixing up but is still faster (i.e. more productive) than doing it myself from scratch. I’m aiming for quantity, not quality.
    I would never do the same to translate Japanese into Chinese because (1) depending on the field, the large amount of shared vocabulary means that Japanese is easier to translate into Chinese (2) GT’s J-C is atrocious — it would take longer to ungarble the message than to do a straight translation.

  59. GT’s K-J is divine, says people. I’m less impressed than most, though, as K-J is traditionally one of the easiest tasks for machine translators. The Excite K-J translator, as I remember, isn’t bad at all either.
    David Marjanović: Thanks!

  60. GT’s K-J is divine
    I at first read K-J as “King James.” I don’t know to what extent the adjective contributed to my error.

  61. You took GT to be something like JHWH ?

  62. Or did GT suggest Guillermo Tyndale ? Not really K-J, but pretty close.

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