Jeff Koyen has a post about one of the more amazing screw-the-writer gimmicks I’ve heard of. Koyen got a message from Eastgate Publishing in the Philippines, wanting to reprint a piece of his on travel taboos in their new travel magazine Mango. They offered US$0.15/word, but then followed up with this clarification:

Dear Mr. Koyen,

My sincerest apologies, but I failed to mention that the words “a”, “and”, and “the” are not included in the rate. Would you still be interested in writing this piece for us?

(Thanks, Michael!)


  1. The solution is obvious: don’t include these words in the piece. You’ll get some dense, avant-garde prose there.

  2. Makes sense to me. Paying for articles is just more American imperialism. Why should English language writers get the benefit of articles when Tagalog language writers don’t?

  3. Sometimes Norwegian has articles and sometimes it doesn’t. But all the words are so heavily taxed that it doesn’t really matter if we get paid for them or not.

  4. Reminds me of the (apocryphal) story about the translator whose client, a speaker of a language lacking any distinction between definite vs. indefinite articles (variously Japanese, Russian, etc.), refused to include all those silly short articles in his word count for calculating payment. His response: “How about YOU do the translation, and then you can pay me five dollars for every “the” and “a” I have to fix?”

  5. Doubtless I’m way behind the times in my knowledge but I thought all the little words were sort of run together and counted on the basis of roughly 5 letters per word.

  6. michael farris says

    In Poland a ‘translator’s page’ is 1800 characters including spaces. Despite explaining that (as the basis of my translating and editing fees) I used to frequently get people wanting me to edit or translate ‘just three pages’ of single spaced 9 pt type…
    I also once had the thrill of editing a paper in geology (the author originally contacted a translator I used to work with, didn’t like their fees, wrote the paper in ‘English’ themself and the translator passed it on to me to edit and like a fooooool I accepted). I don’t think there were three articles per page and it was not worth the money except as a teaching story (it probably would have been simpler to translate it than try to edit the blasted thing). I’d never before realised how important articles are for native speakers in parsing texts with lots of unfamiliar vocabulary.
    Since then I always advise “when in doubt use an article it’s easier to understand a text with lots of unneeded or wrong articles than one with lots of missing articles.
    Without looking at the link I hope he told them to sit on a spiny cactus or turned in the article without those words and tells them to insert them themselves – if they’re not worth paying for, then surely they wouldn’t mind.

  7. clodhopper says

    It calls the pepper and salt solution.

  8. clodhopper says

    erratum: pepper & salt, to be in the dative

  9. The estimable clodhopper is referring to this.

  10. Interesting, MF. Of course, we native speakers have uncertainties about articles too, don’t we? I recently wrote in discussion at Wikipedia:

    As OED points out, the primary senses of period (before we get to analysis of text) concern first a duration …

    I was taken to task by a professional editor and devotee of Halliday, who insisted that analysis needed a definite article. I still don’t know if he was attempting a prescriptive move, or telling me what occurs more naturally in English. Whichever he meant, I disagree with him. Both could be used, but the analysis in my sentence would alter the meaning slightly. Saying why is difficult. My immediate continuation had been this:

    … (“I. A course or extent of time”) and then, derivatively, its termination (“II. Completion, end of any course”). And so in the analysis of text.

    Here I did use the article. It could go either way, but these subliminal choices could be justified. Then again, life is short, and pays by the breath.

  11. I have run into translation clients who have tried that. It is a good indicator that the client is not worth the trouble. Dropping them will probably save lots of headaches later.

  12. How many words in “it doesn’t count”? Is “I” a word?

  13. michael farris:
    “Since then I always advise ‘when in doubt use an article it’s easier to understand a text with lots of unneeded or wrong articles than one with lots of missing articles.'”
    If that’s true – and it probably is – then we have to conclude (I suppose…) that the main function of the articles in English is to signal that a noun phrase follows. The definiteness is secondary. No?

  14. Of course, there is no doubt that the Filipino offer was dishonest: if they offer to pay for each word they should pay for each word.
    Nonetheless, there are arguments on both sides about what would be a fair offer (especially in relation to translation). On the other hand it is reasonable that languages with a lot of very short words like English and French should be paid at a lower rate than languages like German or Russian or Inuit that go in for much longer words. Paying by the character might seem more reasonable.
    On the other hand words like “a” and “the” require a great deal of care, and knowing which preposition to use is often the most difficult vocabulary task a translator needs to solve. When I check the English of papers written by my French colleagues a very high proportion of corrections involve adding “the”, deleting “the” and changing prepositions.
    There is also the question of what is a word. Is “don’t” one word or two? Is the “t” in “y a-t-il” a word? I can see that a Russian might feel that 60 c was a bit steep for five characters!

  15. marie-lucie says

    The original payer does not want to pay for articles, and not for “and” either. I wonder if someone would extend that to the “to” of infinitives, in which case the translator’s solution of omitting both articles and “to” would often make it difficult to decide whether a word is a noun or a verb.
    I use the word count feature when writing something (in English) which has a maximum word requirement, but thus far I have not needed to count words very precisely in French, so I am not sure of the specific rules to take care of the (-t)-il and similar forms, or of the elided forms of short words which normally have e as the only vowel: c’, d’, j, l’, m’, n’, qu’, s’, t’ – they can add up in a long text including spoken language, as when translating a novel. There have to be some general rules, even though they might conflict with each other in some cases, for instance in le qu’en-dira-t-on the le identifies the following sequence as a single word (a noun), while va-t’en> “Go away! is actually three words. But such cases are rare and would probably balance each other in a long text.

  16. michael,
    ‘just three pages’ of single spaced 9 pt type…
    Been there, countless times. But my favorite is still: “Look, I got a contract here, mere 40 pages. I don’t need an *exact* translation, just give me a rough meaning, shouldn’t take more than two hours, here’s 20 €.”
    so I am not sure of the specific rules to take care of the (-t)-il and similar forms
    In most CAT tools, the hyphen is almost always considered a stop sign (i.e. it marks a word boundary) while the apostrophe is not. In French it can be, so you can set up e.g. Trados to count va-t’en as three words.

  17. Athel,
    Paying by the character might seem more reasonable.
    I’ve been in the translation/localization business for – Lord help me – 11 years now and what I can tell you is that the standard is to count words, no matter what the language. Counting by characters made more sense back before computers and CAT tools. Nowadays it doesn’t, for one important reason: perfect and fuzzy matches, i.e. phrases / sentences which have already been (at least partially) translated. CAT tools recognize those as series of words and in a fuzzy (= less than perfect) match, the difference can be only a single word. So with five strings of 80 words fuzzy matched you’d only have to translate 5 words to get a perfect translation and with the usual 50% rate for fuzzy matches you get paid for 40 words. Recycling previously translated text is a much bigger issue than the length of a word.

  18. I can’t believe translators haven’t cottoned on to the wease devised, presumably, by lawyers (but also followed by engineers, architects etc.), which is that they provide a service, not goods. This means that you bill by the hour, not by the word.

  19. AJP,
    all the professions you named are at least considered necessary, if not respected or approached with awe by their customers. Their work has direct repercussions for our lives, it is IMPORTANT. A translator, on the other hand, is a lowly servant who must be called upon only when you deal with some people who are too stupid to have learned your language.

  20. Two issues here: the creepy magazine just not wanting to pay the writer the full amount for his text (justified by nonsense about not paying for certain words); and how translators get paid (or not paid). The system of words/characters in translation payment is, I think, based on the kind of language. Russian texts might be 20 percent longer but have 20 fewer words. So we also get paid by “1800 characters with spaces.” No one will pay us by the hour — except when it’s a special kind of job and you insist on it that way (usually the dread editing of a badly translated and then edited text). Nor do I think I’d want to be paid that way. To some extent, you make money because you are fast (in addition to accurate etc.).

  21. bulbul: A translator, on the other hand, is a lowly servant
    No more so than lawyers, engineers & architects. You guys need to organise.

  22. No more so than lawyers, engineers & architects.
    You have obviously never been a translator.
    You guys need to organise.
    Joe Hill is dead. And I’m not a translator any more.

  23. Look, there could be hideous repercussions (legal, health & safety) if a critical sentence were to be mistranslated. Of course, you’ll have to find a couple of examples of this, but then the gov’t will set up the bureaucratic rigmerole and only LICENSED translators will be able to work, and they will charge — like the rest of us prostitutes — by the hour.

  24. Look, there could be hideous repercussions (legal, health & safety) if a critical sentence were to be mistranslated.
    Of course, but while you’re talking about facts, I am talking about perception (and it’s perhaps coming off too serious :). It’s the same underlying principle as the one behind all the linguification we’ve ever come across: people tend to view lawyers, engineers and architects as legitimate experts at something they themselves have no idea about and no experience with. Translators, on the other hand, merely deal with language and writing and how difficult can it be if everyone can speak and write? Hence the lack of appreciation for their work and the resulting lack of respect. I imagine it’s the same for writers and editors.

  25. Trond Engen says

    AJP Kr/t: I’m a structural engineer and I’m competing by price for fixed fee contracts. Naturally, the ones I get are the ones I miscalculate. What engineers and architects working on anything bigger than suburban homes can do the main bulk of their work paid per hour?
    (A lawyer friend of my former boss says, whenever lawyers are accused of skimming the projects for money: “You engineers did that to yourselves when you stopped wearing a tie and a white coat. Now you look like anyone could do your job.”)

  26. read, do you by any chance know how one finds GUNU magazine (printed copies) in the States? The University of Chicago is the only library listing it.

  27. i’m sorry, MMcM, i don’t know
    perhaps you can ask Mr. Simon Wickham-Smith, the translator of the Mongolian literature, the first link and this link
    are his blog pages, it seems, i’m not sure
    i posted the links to say Happy Father’s Day to JE and all other fathers here, happily the thread was on topic of the translations and translators

  28. i would like to say a lot thanks to SWS for the translations btw, it’s great, sounding very close to the originals imho

  29. Kronen: This means that you bill by the hour, not by the word.
    Do you bill your consultant’s time by the hour? If this is the case I start to understand how blogging fits in…
    Bulbul: You have obviously never been a translator.
    Hmmm… Try to be an engineer one day and come back to report how things go with your clients with respect to fees. These guys usually don’t understand a damn about what has been drawn and for them anybody else’s drawings would be as good as yours, so why bother taking the one who is more expensive. They are more interested in your insurance and how much it’ll cover in case of “grande baise” than in your engineering skills.

  30. the topic, -the elsewhere
    and the articles, i was to profess my ‘hatred’ of English definite and indefinite articles and vote for their abolishment, but then decided it would be rude

  31. Siganus,
    Hmmm… Try to be an engineer one day and come back to report how things go with your clients with respect to fees.
    Again, we’re not talking about fees. Clients are clients everywhere, always wanting a top-notch job finished yesterday for virtually nothing.
    so why bother taking the one who is more expensive
    Whereas for translators, it’s “why even bother hiring one when anyone can do that”.

  32. Bulbul,
    Re: “why even bother hiring one when anyone can do that”
    I think I see your point. Everybody knows how to speak, even a child, n’est-ce-pas*?
    It reminds me the story of that Mauritian who goes to Great Britain and who comes back very impressed. When a friend asks him how it was, he says that people in the United Kingdom are very, very intelligent people: there even four-year-olds know how to speak English.
    * counts as one word, not four

  33. michael farris says

    Another reason for clients who expect you to be able to churn out 20 pages overnight for almost no money:
    Many (maybe most) people, don’t have very developed sense of language style. Most people don’t spend a lot of time worrying about finer shades of meaning and certainly don’t worry about rhythm or euphony. Most translators spend a lot of time worrying about those. Also many people just assume that the reader has ESP and leave huge semantic gaps in their writing that can’t be left out in translation (meaning the translator has to consult with them, which most clients don’t want to do, or guess and hope for the best).
    One of the things that just destroys my translation students are texts written by non-professionals (who are native speakers of English or Polish). Those are much harder to turn into something that isn’t embarassing to have your name attached to than the most difficult technical texts if the latter are well-written. And yes, that preceding sentence is pretty awful stylistically.

  34. marie-lucie says

    When I was a graduate student looking for a summer job I once answered an ad for a “bilingual stenographer” in an engineering firm. Never having learned shorthand, I asked if there would be a lot of steno to do. “Oh no, you are just supposed to translate from English into French!”. The job was to translate and type up technical manuals for the components of an industrial refrigeration package to be sent to a fish-processing plant in Algeria. Of course the engineer in charge had no idea of the problems of translation. He had a bilingual glossary of refrigeration terms, which helped when the exact words appeared in the manuals, but often they did not. I succeeded in persuading him that once in a while I needed to go to the biggest university library (fortunately there was one) to consult their dictionaries, but even then I was often stomped. The worst thing was how to translate the word “valve” which has four equivalents in French, sometimes used as synonyms, sometimes not, and in English there are dozens of kinds of “valve”, and again some of them are synonyms, but not the same ones as in French. Once in a while I could not understand a technical process and asked for an explanation of how it worked: “You don’t need to know how it works, just put it into French!” I hope that I did not make crucial mistakes and that the person in charge of assembling the equipment in Algeria knew enough to correct them if the translation was wrong.

  35. Trond Engen: What engineers and architects working on anything bigger than suburban homes can do the main bulk of their work paid per hour?
    In Norway? Cruise ship designers, for one.
    I admit that most architectural fees use a %age of the construction cost as the max. for the hours billed, but then there’s always “Additional Services”, which are, well, additional and can be quite substantial.
    Bulbul: for translators, it’s “why even bother hiring one when anyone can do that”. Given half a chance, clients say that about all professions.
    Sig: Do you bill your consultant’s time by the hour? In the AIA (American Institute of Architects) owner -architect contract it’s even marked-up.
    Having said all that, there aren’t many architects who are really making a lot of money.

  36. Happy Father’s Day, read.

  37. read is a woman, and thus not really eligible.

  38. Do only fathers get to have a happy father’s day? Are we saying ‘Happy Father’s Day, fathers; I hope the rest of you have a miserable fucking time!’? I think not.

  39. David Marjanović says

    Paying by the character might seem more reasonable.

    That’s where differences between orthographies kick in. For example, Polish seems to need on average two letters per consonant; Arabic not only has a single letter for every consonant, it doesn’t write the short vowels… Hungarian marks long vowels by an accent, Finnish by writing them twice…

  40. SnowLeopard says

    The travails of translators as described above are not really so different from what attorneys experience. For all the professional mystique some have alluded to, I find that I face a lot of disdainful or condescending attitudes from the people I’m trying to help. Fortunately they constitute a minority of our overall work, but this special minority calls claiming to have a “simple” question and expects us to recite a rule that addresses their situation when in fact a whole universe of considerations have to be accounted for; they “just want some language” that will solve their particular problem without much interest in its truth or its consistency with their business objectives, or else they assume that in a sentence I can explain their potential exposure to liability for a course of conduct they’ve incompletely described; they often fail to appreciate how the free sample contract they downloaded off the internet could destroy their business; they fail to appreciate the difference between their letter, which essentially admits blame, and my markup, which exonerates them; they express outrage when I gently point out that their agenda could be perceived as illegal or unethical, and I will not be party to it; and they are deeply suspicious of the billable hour, especially time we attribute to internal firm conferences and revisions of the efforts of junior associates, which they quite wrongly regard as an attempt to pad the bill. Apparently, there are people out there who assume that attorneys never have to think about a problem before trying to solve it. On the other hand, we do have a lot of wonderful clients, the ones who realize that we serve them more effectively as long-term counselors than as short-term gladiators; those are the most rewarding business relationships. But then they also don’t question our bills, because we’ve seen them through enough crises that they respect our judgment.
    I do hire translators from time to time, for example to interpret testimony by witnesses who aren’t comfortable testifying under oath in English, or to translate a diary written in, say, Russian so we can use it to impeach the author’s testimony. They do extraordinary work, and I don’t begrudge them an hourly rate if it makes sense for the project. One I had hired was able to cogently debate with my adversary that her translation accurately captured the pejorative/non-pejorative flavor of the witness’s testimony by comparing how a crucial word was variously used in Argentine, Peruvian, Guatemalan, and Puerto Rican Spanish. The attorney lost the argument and then asked me for her contact information so he could hire her for his next case.

  41. thanks, AJPC, i fathered so far cell culture passages only which then i kill ruthlessly lysing
    but they are cancerous, so, no regrets 🙂
    great professions they all sound attorneys architects translators
    i hope to translate to and from Mongolian in the future if i’ll learn English well enough to not get confused by the articles and verb forms

  42. marie-lucie says

    I once had to go to court to defend myself (don’t ask!). I consulted two lawyers, who both told me that I had such a good case I didn’t need their services in court, although they did give me some advice in their offices. In fact it would have been very helpful for me to have a lawyer by my side in the courtroom: lawyers know what you can and cannot say, for instance. The experience made me understand that even for a very simple case they did earn their money.

  43. I once had to go to court to defend myself (don’t ask!).
    Did you put an accent the wrong way? No, let me guess, it had something to do with lions.

  44. “I can’t believe translators haven’t cottoned on to the wease devised, presumably, by lawyers …”
    I think it’s usually spelled “wheeze”, but I like the hint of mustelinity.

  45. Ah yes, tgg. As in OED, “wheeze, n.“:

    2. orig. Theatr. slang, A joke or comic gag introduced into the performance of a piece by a clown or comedian, esp. a comic phrase or saying introduced repeatedly; hence, (gen. slang or colloq.) a catch phrase constantly repeated; more widely, a trick or dodge frequently used; also, a piece of special information, a ‘tip’.

    Similarly, in Australian police jargon, to be “in on the joke” is to be apprised of and party to some corrupt practice for the benefit of officers.
    Note also the verb weese (“intr. To ooze, drip or distil gently”), varied as weeze and wase, related to ooze, and occurring also as a noun.
    Did you know that weezle and weasand[-pipe] both mean “oesophagus, gullet”, or “trachea, windpipe” (weezle “epiglottis”)? I didn’t.

  46. I admit that my source for slangy senses of “wheeze” is P. G. Wodehouse. which I have read more often than is good for me.
    His Bertie Wooster uses it to mean a scheme or plan of action — maybe a timeworn ruse or maybe something else.
    One example:
    “And, anyway, just examine this scheme of yours in pitiless analysis. You tell me the wheeze is for Stinker to stroll in, all over blood, and say he hit the marauder on the nose. Let us suppose he does so …”
    Another example:
    “The great wheeze on these occasions of dirty work at the crossroads is not to lose your head but to keep cool and try to find the ringleaders. Once find the ringleaders, and you know where you are.
    The ringleader here was plainly the Bassett … ”
    But at least once he also uses it for something closer to the OED’s “a catch phrase constantly repeated”:
    “There’s an expression on the tip of my tongue which seems to me to sum the whole thing up. Or, rather, when I say an expression, I mean a saying. A wheeze. A gag. What, I believe, is called a saw. Something about Joy doing something”
    “Joy cometh in the morning, sir?”
    “That’s the baby. Not one of your things, is it?”
    “No, sir.”

  47. Throbert McGee says

    Off-topic question for any rodnoi-russophones who might be hangin’ around: What’s a рогатка? And if it has more than one meaning to you, which sense popped into your head first?
    Yes, I could look it up in Ozhegov — in fact, I did, earlier today — but I’m curious to know which sense(s) a native speaker considers most current.
    Reason I ask is because of a news story that mentioned the opening of an anti-IDF bar in Tel Aviv, called Rogatka. (The article explained that the name means “slingshot” without mentioning that it’s of Russian origin.)

  48. The most lucrative gig I had in the middle east was proofreading someone’s master’s thesis. It had to to be written in English, although the faculty members who would be reading it were not native English speakers. I don’t remember the exact details now, but it was by the page, a little over a dollar a page. The guy decided he could afford the first two-thirds of the paper plus the conclusion, which paid for two-thirds of my rent that month. I wasn’t sure exactly how much to change, as some of the usage was a little curious. I ended up just correcting the obvious third person singular errors, sentence fragments, and anything where the meaning wasn’t clear. I met with him three times in a coffeeshop, first to collect the copy, then to return it, then to proofread the second draft.

  49. … proofreading someone’s master’s thesis.
    From your subsequent description, Nij, I would call that copyediting, not proofreading. I have edited several PhD theses, and always resisted my work being seen as anything other than editing – or consultancy of some sort, depending on the case.

  50. Thank you, tgg, for clearing up that little mystery for me. First I wrote ‘weeze’, but no one liked that. So I tried ‘wease’ and the spelling checker didn’t like that either, actually; but I wasn’t going to spend all day looking for the perfect wheeze. Yes, it was an allusion to Wooster.

  51. Nij, I would call that copyediting, not proofreading
    You mean I was really doing something noble? I wouldn’t know the difference, not having any credentials. Unless reading under the covers with a flashlight as a child counts.

  52. This will probably morph into the standard Translator’s Lament, but… Yes, I’m quite sure that everyone in every profession finds clients who don’t appreciate what they do. The thing is, an unappreciated lawyer still makes a heck of a lot more than an underappreciated translator. It doesn’t matter how many examples of mistakes-that-had-dire-consequences you give. I can think of a time when a mistranslation caused a Congressional hearing about relations with Russia. Most people still think a machine could pretty much do what we’re doing.
    Also, a couple of years ago — if memory does not fail me — the American Translators Association was convicted of price-setting when it made suggestions about fees based on surveys of translators and interpreters. They still do the surveys, but now there is legal goobledegook (no offense intended) about how the surveys should be used.
    I love lawyers. Have warm feelings for architects, engineers and just about every other professional. I don’t begrudge them their fees; I just wish we could raise ours.

  53. michael farris says

    “I once had to go to court to defend myself (don’t ask!)”
    I’m assuming it involved a giant explosion in an Algerian fish processing plant (due to a faulty translation of ‘valve’).

  54. marie-lucie says

    MF, if that had been the “case”, I would definitely have needed a lawyer.

  55. Off-topic question for any rodnoi-russophones who might be hangin’ around: What’s a рогатка? And if it has more than one meaning to you, which sense popped into your head first?
    While we wait for a native speaker, I will amuse the assembled throng by quoting the definitions in my Very Large Russian-English Dictionary:
    1 barrier; mil cheval-de-frise, knife rest; fig obstacle; 2 slingshot; 3 forked stick; 4 obs spiked collar; 5 dial wooden whisk, whisk broom; 6 zool horned frog (Ceratophrys); 7 zool four-horn sculpin (Myoxocephalus quadricornis).
    My Russian slang dictionary says it’s criminal jargon for ‘cow,’ but that seems unlikely here. (Also, I’m not sure what occasion the Russian mafia has to discuss cows.)
    And no, I have no idea what a sculpin is.

  56. A quick Google search reveals that it is also the name of a model of Russian military tank. (Also a sobriquet of Boleslaw II of Poland, apparently in the sense “horned”; although Wikipedia does not seem to want to tell me in what sense the king bore horns.)

  57. marie-lucie says

    A sculpin is a kind of spiny fish. There are some off the Pacific Coast of Canada (and in many other places, as there are many species), and they play a role in many native myths.
    From Wikipedia:
    A Sculpin is a fish that belongs to the Order Scorpaeniformes, Suborder Cottoidei and Superfamily Cottoidea that contains 11 families, 149 genera, and 756 species … [in both salt and frew warer]

    These bottom feeders … have sharp spines rather than scales. … They use their large pectoral fins to stabilize themselves on the floor of flowing creeks and rivers.

  58. John Emerson says

    Hat, my informants tell me that Flann O’Brien’s Very Large Russian-English Dictionary is not to be trusted.

  59. The OED calls sculpin “a name for various small worthless fish having a spiny appearance”, and by extension “a mean, worthless person or animal”. Also adjective (U.S.) “worthless, despicable”.
    I have no doubt that to these fish we humans would seem worthless at best, if they thought of us at all.

  60. …but this is a bottom-feeding fish.

  61. I just love it when the OED dismisses things as “worthless.” So very unprofessional!

  62. I would think that from the point of view of a fish, we the mammals are some pretty strange fish who left the water a long time ago. And we are bottom-feeders compared to those other strange fish, the birds, who swim in the air.

  63. “I just love it when the OED dismisses things as ‘worthless.’ So very unprofessional!”
    When you’re inventing the profession, who’s to say what’s professional? In any case, anthropocentrism has gone out of fashion, hasn’t it?
    I have two different field guides to the mammals of North America. One of them is considerably older than the other, and routinely lets you know whether the critter you’re looking up has any “economic importance” — which is never what I wanted to know, I just wanted to know what that furry thing was and what its life is like.
    Though on second thought, I see that “economic importance” is more objective than “worth”.
    Would the OED have called the fish “worthless” if this did not lead into definition 1b about the worthless person?

  64. John Emerson says

    Many of the tastiest fish are bottom feeders, notably cod, sturgeon, carp, and catfish. It’s a common prejudice; in Minnesota carp are regarded as garbage and left to rot on the shore, even though worldwide the carp is the #1 fresh-water food fish and has great economic value.

  65. Great economic value…as Lutefisk and tire patches.

  66. A man without a woman is like a bicycle without a dried carp tire patch.

  67. I’ve just received a packet for reviewing a chapter of a textbook. Haven’t looked at it in detail yet, but it pays a flat $100 and there’s a computer component–you go online to give them the information. It’s kind of interesting for me personally, since the school bought their textbook after I liked the text enough to use a sample copy of it for the lesson plan when the director did my last eval.

  68. John Emerson says

    Chinese restaurants? Carp. That’s right — those ugly, smelly, maggot-infested things you see on the riverbank.

  69. Many of the tastiest fish are bottom feeders, notably cod, sturgeon, carp, and catfish.
    Hey, what about the one called “Bombay duck” (known as “bomb li” in some places)? I know it had been banned in the European Union, but that was a tragic mistake.

  70. With you on that, Siganus. I have been known cook Bombay duck and other subcontinental dried fish myself.
    Carp are a serious pest in Australian waterways, displacing native species. They are often called “European carp”. Traditional Anglo-Irish Australians would never eat them, but of course they are now used in our enlightened multicultural cuisines.

  71. Anglo-Irish Australians would never eat them
    A bit like Mauritians with tilapia.
    But, Noetica, do you know why Indians call bomli “Bombay duck“?

  72. marie-lucie says

    those ugly, smelly, maggot-infested things you see on the riverbank.
    They are not smelly or maggot-infested while they are in the water, where they can be fished. No fish is caught on the riverbank.
    Mauritians with tilapia
    Tilapia is now highly touted in Canada as an ancient Egyptian fish.

  73. But, Noetica, do you know why Indians call bomli “Bombay duck“?
    Even as we “speak”, fratello mio, I am studiously resisting the impulse to recall why that is so – in the hope that you will explain it with due eloquence to the assembled throng.

  74. marie-lucie says

    I am all ears.

  75. Aren’t goldfish carp? I don’t eat goldfish.

  76. Aren’t goldfish carp? I don’t eat goldfish.
    Krổn! Have I taught you nothing? That’s about as rational as “what else floats?” (Yes yes, I know – a duck. But not a Bombay duck. Tsk. Just as well there are philosophers on duty.)

  77. What kind of philosopher thinks a goldfish is a witch, doctor? Wait… you’re a witch doctor, doctor?

  78. John Emerson says
  79. That’s either some kind of photo manipulation or those are very, very tiny people.

  80. I think the photos are legitimate.
    Check out
    A man who caught an almost 40-pounder will tell you all about it there. He says in particular that “Time seems to disappear when a carp is on the line.”

  81. David Marjanović says

    Great economic value…as Lutefisk and tire patches.

    Culture shock !!
    Carp with garlic sauce and potatoes is the traditional Christmas dinner in my family, and never served during the rest of the year (except for leftovers on January 6th, if there are enough).

  82. I always supposed that the Bombay duck was a harmless little joke, like the Welsh rabbit (rarebit is a corruption of the original rabbit).

  83. You think welsh rabbit is a harmless joke? Have you ever tried it?

  84. You think welsh rabbit is a harmless joke? Have you ever tried it?
    Ever tried to explain it to your dental hygienist? Hm?!

  85. Surely you didn’t cook her welsh rabbit, Doctor? Grilled cheese with flour just doesn’t impress people. A Welsh woman deserves lava bread.

  86. I am proud to say that while no Welshman (for my tongue is not long enough to encompass the former language of Heaven), I have both prepared and consumed the true caws pobi, at the call of which, we are told, all the Welshmen rushed out the Pearly Gates, leaving Heaven to foreigners by mere default.
    (It’s really good if you use Jarlsberg, too.)

  87. Anything’s good if you use Jalsberg.

  88. Grilled cheese with flour just doesn’t impress people.
    Don’t you also beat an eat into it, with a little worcestershire sauce and good sharp mustard? All poured steaming over a thick toast of grainy bread? Garnished with parsley and course-ground pepper?

  89. Aw, I meant “beat an egg” into it.

  90. Are you really as good a cook as it sounds, Doctor? Tell me it’s not just your ability with words?

  91. He makes it sound so good until you think of what’s in it.

  92. Who does that, Nij? Is there something repellent in parsley, or malacic in mustard? Something rebarbative in rabbit, perhaps; but there is no true rabbit in sight.
    We sometimes ate rabbits when I was a kid. My cousin used to shoot them. But rabbits are much less eaten in Australia these days, though the country is as overrun by them as it is overswum by carp.

  93. Uh, doesn’t it have seaweed in it? It sounds so much less repulsive in Welsh. The grainy bread and the coarse-ground pepper had me going, though. I was ready to get excited about the Jarlsberg too, until I realized it was really Carlsberg I was thinking of.

  94. Where I come from we do NOT eat the Easter bunny.

  95. Seaweed in Welsh rabbit? Where do you get these ideas? And Jarlsberg is wonderful cheese.

  96. The one with seaweed in it was the lava bread. AJP drew our attention to it the other day. The first I’d heard of it. I have to say that the idea of seaweed fried in bacon fat got my mouth watering. If I ever find myself in Wales I will definitely look for the stuff. Is it eaten at any particular time of day?

  97. Where do you get these ideas?
    This really isn’t my day, is it.

  98. Chin up, Nij. We still love you, even though we might think twice about staying for breakfast. 😉

  99. Thanks, Noetica, it’s so depressing when Hat is crabby with me, and that was the second time in one day. Maybe he doesn’t mean to, after all there’s no emoticons enabled to help with the mind-reading, but sometimes he just sounds so, so… preemptory.
    But what does the egg go into? I mean, isn’t this basically a grilled cheese sandwich, with Jarlsberg instead of Velveeta? If you’re cooking, I would definitely stay for breakfast, even if it’s seaweed, just to hear the description. How bad could it be? After all, I’ve eaten mloukhiya without flinching.

  100. Grilled cheese, no. (Though that’s good too.) You heat the cheese enough to melt it, and stir in the egg (which will cook under the influence of the surrounding hot oil expressed from the cheese) and the spices to taste. (I myself have no taste for mustard, with or without must.) Then you pour the cheese over the toast.

  101. I can’t remember how Jarlsberg cropped up, maybe I started it, but it’s a Norwegian cheese that has nothing to do with the Welsh or their rabbits.

  102. Thanks, JC, it’s beginning to sound good again, although I suppose it’s not in the low-cholesterol zone, but that’s not why you eat it. If the cheese has to be poured, I can see why the variety would be important for the melting point, and I presume Jarlsberg melts nicely. I’ve probably got cold Danish Carlsberg beer on my mind because my fridge isn’t hooked up yet in my new place. No matter, I’m living on zait and zattar.

  103. so, so… preemptory
    Um, peremptory. SOED:

    4 Of people, their words, actions, etc.: positive in opinion or assertion, fully assured; esp. not admitting or intolerant of disagreement or refusal; overconfident, dogmatic; imperious, dictatorial. L16.

    He’s not like that, is he? (A bit, perhaps. Sometimes. You should discuss it over breakfast. I recommend the kippers.)

  104. Funny how breakfast keeps coming up.
    He’s not like that, is he?
    Who knows? But you will notice I said “sounds” and not “is”, attaching the characteristic to a temporary utterance and not an immutable facet of character. I suppose everyone is entitled to some occasional rough edges, although I myself have none.

  105. Um, preempt.
    1. To appropriate, seize, or take for oneself before others.
    preemptory pre·emp’to·ry (-ĕmp’tə-rē) adj.
    1. To lay claim to for oneself or as one’s right: appropriate, arrogate, assume, commandeer, seize, take, usurp. See give/take/reciprocity.
    Also perhaps “Anticipatory Military Activities”, as in “preemptive strike”.
    Heghlu’meH QaQ jajvam

  106. So is that what you meant? Just for the record, I point out that these two are often confused. Preemptory is exceedingly rare; certainly compared to peremptory. It is absent from SOED, and has the briefest of mentions in the OED, in the entry “pre-emptor”.

  107. So is that what you meant?
    At this point I don’t remember what I meant. I suppose just to register a sense of being undeservedly embattled.
    preemptory 136,000 ghits
    peremptory 1,450,000 ghits
    But then if you look for the military meaning, you find:
    430,000 for preemptive strike and 2,530,000 just for preemptive
    Preemptive strike.

  108. Now that are no longer feeling embattled, we can nevertheless continue to examine these words. It seems that the confusion is very prevalent. See Peremptory challenge at Wikipedia, for the traditonal legal use. “Preemptory challenge” redirects to that article; and there is a similar redirect at this legal dictionary. Preemptory challenge is often enough used instead in legal circles, though, even where we might expect caution. See fine examples at this law firm’s site. Bryan Garner’s authoritative Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage sets things right. See especially the very end of p. 650, and the continuation on p. 651.

  109. I meant “Now that you …”. My specific form of dysgraphia (omission of whole words, and occasional duplication or subsitution of whole words) grows worse by the week. I need more sleep; or perhaps it’s editing fatigue.

  110. Read “substitution”. OK, omission of letters too.

  111. we can nevertheless continue
    Ah, but would belaboring the point be fair to our esteemed host, who after all is still an unusually decent person. At any rate I just took on a substitution schedule for this week that will pay for my August rent if it doesn’t kill me, and I suppose I need to be of of my old apartment completely by….yikes!

  112. This means that you bill by the hour, not by the word.

    I remember reading a brief memoir by a translator where he made it clear (though without explicitly saying so) that he charged by the book or article; presumably he got to look at them first before making an offer. Generally speaking I consider piecework a bad idea, but perhaps that is because I have always been paid by the year.

    they will charge — like the rest of us prostitutes — by the hour

    I understand from literature that while charging by the hour is indeed prevalent, there is a surcharge for particular acts.

    “Look, I got a contract here, mere 40 pages. I don’t need an *exact* translation, just give me a rough meaning, shouldn’t take more than two hours, here’s 20 €.”

    I can give him a translation of that contract (or any other contract that binds him and is written in a language he doesn’t know) in two words and without charge: “You’re fucked.”

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