Do you know what a dreadnought is? A golem? A scimitar? You’re probably a man.
How about mascarpone, taupe, or progesterone? Chances are you have two x chromosomes.
It may sound like a cliche, but as it turns out, some stereotypes appear to have their source in reality: according to the first 500,000 results of Ghent University’s online vocabulary test, men are more likely to know words related to science and the military (such as biped, claymore, or codec), while women say they recognize many more words about fashion and flowers (peony, bodice, wisteria).
We can’t say we’re exactly surprised by these results, but they led to an interesting discussion on reddit nonetheless, where users wondered about the socioeconomic context and the true meaning of “decoupage.”
Here at BeTranslated, we think a few more female video gamers or male interior decorators should take the test and even the score…
Now that the 2014 FIFA World Cup is underway, one persistent language question rears its ugly head yet again: what is the proper English word for that “global round-ball game” being played by teams from 32 countries in Brazil until July 13? Is it “football” or “soccer”?
The Atlantic reports that according to sports economist Stefan Syzmanski of the University of Michigan, the term “soccer” is not an American invention. Rather, it has its origin in England and was imported to the US.
According to Syzmanski, the history of the word begins in 1863, when young men met in an English pub to standardize the rules for the sport. Two divergent variants of the game were developed, one known as “Rugby Football” or “‘rugger”, the other as “Association Football”, or “‘soccer” for short.
By 1905, the word had made its way into American English, as a letter to the editor of the New York Times shows. “In the first place, there is no such word [as socker],” the angry letter from one Francis Tabor states, “and in the second place, it is an exceedingly ugly and undignified one.”
The curious thing: the more popular “soccer” became in the U.S., the less the English wanted to use it. As a map at The Atlantic shows, the word is now generally used in countries that have another sport called “football.”
We’ll leave you with John Cleese, who explains it in the most basic terms: “It is a game played with a ball that is struck with the foot. Hence: foot-ball. Are you following this, America? The clue is in the title. It is not that difficult.”
It’s one of the most frequently used words in the world: OK, often spelled okay, originated in the United States but is now recognized and used by speakers the world over.
How the two-letter agreement become so popular in less than 200 years is the topic of Allan Matcalf’s book America’s Greatest Word, and he explains some of its appeal and popularity in this article for BBC News: ” What OK provided that the others did not was neutrality, a way to affirm or to express agreement without having to offer an opinion… OK allows us to view a situation in simplest terms, just OK or not.”
Now presidents and other heads of state use it frequently, and in the multilingual workplaces of today’s globalized economy, we can always rely on OK: no matter which language we’re trying to communicate in, it’s one word for which we won’t need a translation.
Quick: what’s the country with the tulips and windmills called again? Is it the Netherlands or Holland? If the language is called Dutch, why are the Pennsylvania Dutch actually German? What about the Dutch Caribbean — and how do Zealand and New Amsterdam fit in?
Fret no more: the good people at termcoord (Terminology Coordination of the European Parliament) point to a video by CGP Grey, who explains all this and much more in four highly entertaining and informative minutes. Sterk aanbevolen!
One of the things that makes translation such an exciting field is the ever-shifting nature of language. Words and terms change as frequently as the culture itself. Something that was a hip or clever way to express an idea yesterday suddenly sounds stilted or out-of-fashion today.
On the flip side, new words and terminology enter the language constantly, and any translator worth her salt will make it their business to keep a close eye on the latest ways to talk about current concepts, trends, and technology. For more than 150 years, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) has been doing just that: recording the changing nature of English as new words enter the language and others fall by the wayside. Now the OED has launched a “birthday word generator“, a fun way of clicking through the last century to see which terms were first used when you were born.
Fun fact: the BeTranslated translation network was founded in 2002, the year parkour was first recorded by the OED: “the discipline or activity of moving rapidly and freely over or around the obstacles presented by an (esp. urban) environment by running, jumping, climbing, etc.” (You can watch Jame Bond in a parkour-style chase here.)
What’s your OED birthday word?
[via language log]
Whether it’s Fingerspitzengefühl, Leichenschmaus or Weltschmerz — everybody has a favorite German word. (Our French translator Mike is partial to Herausforderung.)
Now hip guide Slow Travel Berlin has asked its readers for their 100 deutschsprachigen Bestwörter (we made that one up), along with their translations.
See if your favorite — Schaufensterbummel? Semmelbrösel? Streichholzschachtel? — made the list or add it in the comments.