Tag Archive | language

10 Things Only Interpreters Would Understand

Interpreting is a most unusual, important, and misunderstood career. Providing a bridge for the language barriers that people find themselves at in our highly connected world is an important and valuable position, not to mention a job that requires hard work and years of training and practice.

In honour of the hard-working language translators and linguistic delegates of the world, here are ten things, situations, and problems that only interpreters would understand.

True1. Speaking The Wrong Language At The Wrong Time

It happens all the time when you’re an interpreter — you’re in the middle of speaking to someone in one language, when you suddenly blurt out the right word, but in the wrong language, leading to confusion on all fronts. The problem with being such a major or minor polyglot, even if you only interpret one language, is that your brain is full of the same item or adjective, but with several different meanings attached to them, making it difficult at times, not to say the wrong one at the wrong time.

Translate2. Having To Deal With Multiple Accents and Dialects At The Same Time

The job of an interpreter seems like an easy one — just listen to the language in which you happen to be versed and immediately translate into the other language. However, many people tend to forget about accents and dialects. There isn’t just a single way of speaking for every language, or even from every country. Everything varies from location to location, so it can be a supreme struggle to deal with people who are speaking in unusual dialects and accents, even if you’re fluent in the actual language that they are speaking in. There are a million different regional accents and dialects to deal with at any given time — so save a prayer for your poor, potentially frazzled interpreter.

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3. Having To Translate ‘Everything’ Your Client Says

One of the least pleasant things an interpreter has to do, is translate everything that their clients are saying, and we’re not just talking about the nice stuff. You might find yourself scrambling to find a much nicer way of saying that pointed insult, or smoothing away additional barbs, all at the drop of a hat. You’re not just an interpreter — you’re a peacekeeper, too.

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4. You Have A Go-To Party Trick

Admittedly, one of the highlights of being an interpreter is that you get to impress virtually everyone at party tricks. The vast majority of people (in the Western world) only know one language and the fact that you can speak another, maybe even more than two or three languages fluently, and get paid for it, is mind-blowing to many. Admittedly, this can also lead to some jealousy amongs party guests, but the joy is that you can say what you like, and chances are they won’t understand what you just called them.

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5. Sitting Through World Cinema With Friends

World cinema can be a wonderful experience, but sitting through it with someone when you’re an interpreter can be an extremely tiresome exercise, not because you don’t like the film: inaccurate subtitles can cause you to comment and disrupt the film for those around you, or the person you’re with might comment on some un-translated moment and badger you into translating it for him or her at the moment when you’re trying to get lost in the movie.

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6. Forgetting The Right Word At The Wrong Time

When your entire career centres around getting the right words out at the exact right time, you are often scrambling to accurately translate the right words, phrases, and idioms in order to keep up with the fast pace of everyone else in the room. However, there are times when you’re at work at eight o’clock, and your brain is still in bed at ten; times when you simply forget the word, or the sentence, or even the language that you’re speaking. Luckily, you normally pick it up moments later, but the look of wide-eyed panic is something you can see in everyone’s reflection, and something you endeavour not to see again anytime soon.

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7. Keeping Your Accents Correct Is A Struggle

When you’re busy juggling a ton of different languages, keeping the right accents for the right tongues, can be a struggle for even the most seasoned interpreter. Sometimes the two languages are diverse and distinct, allowing for a minimal amount of crossover; however, when you have two very similar languages, keeping the accents appropriate and separate, so as to sidestep any accidental mocking, can be a hard task indeed.

Joke

8. Telling Jokes In A Different Language Is Awful

When it comes to telling jokes, apart from having a great ending to one, the key rule is to tell it in the language it was originally told in. Jokes and humour vary from country to country, region to region, and even village to village. Very few jokes are universal, and so, as interpreters will no doubt be aware, telling one country’s joke to someone who doesn’t speak the language can be a bit of a damp squib. You’re left with blank expressions, and the joke falls flat, which is never any fun.

Idiom

9. Idioms Do Not Work In Other Languages

Here’s the thing about idioms — they’re fantastic, but only when they’re spoken in their native language to another person who speaks that language. When an interpreter has to translate them, this isn’t just a simple comparison job where you instinctually discover the corresponding idiom, nor is it appropriate to literally describe the idiom word-for-word which can lead to confusion and possible insults. Please, if you need a translator, try to veer away from the idioms.

10. Easy

10. People Think Your Job Is ‘Easy’

When you tell people that you’re an interpreter, they might actually consider that you’ve worked relentlessly hard to get where you’ve had to be. You’ve had to spend years learning a language, maybe two at the same time if you’ve really got the ability and time to; you might have visited the language’s country of origin a dozen or so times, or lived there. But people forget that their own language is honed after decades of daily, frequent use and practice. They might think it’s oh-so-easy to become an interpreter, but it’s not; and you should never let anyone disrespect or belittle your career because they think that you’re walking a Google Translate.

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C’mon, Get Happy: 7 Happy Expressions Defined


Happy as a clam

happy-as-a-clamCute as they are, clams are not the most emotive creatures in the animal kingdom, so why do we say happy as a clam? Some have speculated it’s because a partially opened clam shell resembles a smile. But the expression is a shortening of the longer happy as a clam in mud at high tide or happy as a clam at high water, both of which were in usage by the mid-1800s and serve to mean “happy as a critter that’s safe from being dug up and eaten.” The longer expressions evoke a sense of relief more than the shorter happy as a clam, which is widely used to mean “extremely happy.”

Happy hour

happy-hourPeople were using the word happy to mean “intoxicated” as early as the mid-1600s, alluding to the merrymaking effect of alcohol. But the phrase happy hour didn’t catch on until the early 1900s. This expression originally referred to a time on board a ship allotted for recreation and entertainment for a ship’s crew. Nowadays the expression refers to cocktail hour at a bar, when drinks are served at reduced prices. This definition caught on around the era depicted in the well-lubricated offices of TV’s Mad Men.

Slaphappy

 

slaphappyAround the time of World War II, the word happy began appearing in words to convey temporary overexcitement. Slaphappy is one of these constructions, suggesting a dazed or “happy” state from repeated blows or slaps, literal or figurative. Slaphappy can mean “severely befuddled” or “agreeably giddy or foolish” or “cheerfully irresponsible.”

Trigger-happy

 

trigger-happyMuch like slaphappy, the happy in trigger-happy indicates a kind of temporary mental overstimulation. But in this construction, happy means “behaving in an irresponsible or obsessive manner.” The term trigger-happy entered English in the 1940s with the definition “ready to fire a gun at the least provocation.” Over time, it has taken on figurative senses including “eager to point out the mistakes or shortcomings of others” and “heedless and foolhardy in matters of great importance.”

Happy-go-lucky

 

happy-go-luckyThe word happy comes from the Old Norse happ meaning “chance” or “luck.” The wildcard nature of chance is reflected in the wide range of words that share this root. While the adjective happy-go-lucky, meaning “trusting cheerfully to luck” or “happily unconcerned or worried,” is widely used in positive contexts, its etymological cousin haphazard, carries a more negative connotation. The expression happy-be-lucky entered English slightly earlier than happy-go-lucky, but fell out of use in the mid-1800s.

Happy medium

happy-mediumThe phrase happy medium refers to a satisfactory compromise between two opposed things, or a course of action that is between two extremes. The notion of the happy medium is descended from an ancient mathematical concept called the golden section, or golden mean, in which the ratios of the different parts of a divided line are the same. This term dates from the 1600s, though is still widely used today.

Happy camper

happy-camperA happy camper is a person who is cheerful and satisfied, although the expression is frequently used in negative constructions, as in “I’m not a happy camper.” The word camper was widely used to refer to a soldier or military man when it entered English in the 1600s. It took on a more generic sense of one who camps recreationally in the mid-1800s, paving the way for the expression happy camper to emerge in the 1930s. Interestingly, use of the phrase happy camper skyrocketed in the 1980s.

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Contronyms: What did you mean by deceptively smart?

A synonym is a word that means the same as another.

Necessary and required are synonyms.

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An antonym is a word that means the opposite of another.

Wet and dry are antonyms.

While synonyms and antonyms are not in themselves interesting, the complexities and irregularities of the English language sometimes make synonyms and antonyms interesting to explore. Many complexities result from words having multiple definitions.

A trivial example is a word with synonyms that aren’t synonyms of each other, the word beam, for example, having the synonyms bar and shine.

Similarly, some words have antonyms that are neither synonyms nor antonyms of each other but completely unrelated: the word right, for example, having the antonyms wrong and left.

A more interesting paradox occurs with the word groom, which does not really have an antonym in the strictest sense but has an opposite of sorts in the word bride, which can be used as a prefix to create a synonym, bridegroom.

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The word contronym (also antagonym) is used to refer to words that, by some freak of language evolution, are their own antonyms. Read More…

Avoid Gender-Based Language Traps

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Written by Lynn Gaertner-Johnston, Syntax Training
Discussions of gender-based language can become heated and frustrating. Some people want to preserve language they consider traditional and appropriate. Others want to adjust language to fit our current world of work. I fall into that second category, preferring inclusive language and words that do not focus unnecessarily on a person’s gender. I recommend avoiding the language traps below. 



1. Avoid “man” words unless you are specifically referring to an adult male. Avoid expressions such as manpower, man hours, and chairman, which focus on men. Instead, use words that include both genders. For example, for manpower, use crew, staff, labor, or personnel. For man hours, use time or work hours. For chairman, choose a word that works for your group, such as chair, chairperson, leader, or convener. Do not be concerned about a word such as manager, which derives from the Latin word for “hand,”  or mandate, whose root means “entrust.”  


 2. Avoid words that communicate a “women-only” category. Use housekeeper rather than chambermaid, and ballet dancer rather than ballerina. Choose server rather than waitress, tailor rather than seamstress, and host or attendant rather than hostess. Baby boomers recall the challenge of remembering to use flight attendant in place of stewardess many years ago, but flight attendant comes to mind instantly now. Actor is appropriate for both genders despite the Academy Award categories of Best Actor and Best Actress. I bet we will soon see Best Male Actor and Best Female Actor Oscar winners.

3. Avoid “Dear Sir” or “Dear Sirs” as a greeting. It excludes the possibility of a woman as your reader. Instead, whenever possible, learn the reader’s name and use it. If you cannot discover your reader’s name, use a generic term such as “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear Credit Representative,” or use “Dear Sir or Madam.” 


4. Think twice before referring to women as girls or ladiesGirls may suggest that women are not grown up or are immature, and ladies hints at delicacy that may not be appropriate in the workplace. I understand that this issue is controversial, and I encourage you to use terms that fit your industry and company. If you use girls, do you call men boys? If ladies is common usage at your company, do you also use gentlemen? For more on this topic, read my blog post “Women, Ladies, and Girls at Work.”  


5. Avoid using the pronouns he and his when you mean anyonenot just a man. For instance, do not write, “A manager should give feedback to his employees.” “His or her” is cumbersome, but the plural form often works well: “Managers should give feedback to their employees.” Read more about this topic in the blog post “His, Hers, Theirs, Yours–Gender-Neutral Language.”


6. Avoid using terms that focus on gender unnecessarily. For example, avoid “male nurse” or “lady animal trainer.” Do not single out a woman employee as a grandmother or a man as a stay-at-home dad. Do not refer to a transgendered individual as “formerly a man” or “used to be female.”


If you feel resistant to the suggestions above, talk with your male and female coworkers about them. Decide whether inclusive rather than gender-based language might work well for your company, your industry, your community, and your customers. Don’t be trapped in gender-based language habits. 
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50 Words That Sound Rude But Actually Aren’t

To paraphrase Krusty the Clown, comedy isn’t dirty words—it’s words that sound dirty, like mukluk. He’s right, of course. Some words really do sound like they mean something quite different from their otherwise entirely innocent definition (a mukluk is an Inuit sealskin boot, in case you were wondering), and no matter how clean-minded you might be, it’s hard not to raise an eyebrow or a wry smile whenever someone says something like cockchafer or sexangle. Here are 50 words that might sound rude, but really aren’t. Honest.

1. AHOLEHOLE

If you read that as “a-hole,” then think again. Aholehole is pronounced “ah-holy-holy,” and is the name of a species of Hawaiian flagtail fish native to the central Pacific.

2. AKTASHITE

Aktashite is a rare mineral used commercially as an ore of arsenic, copper, and mercury. It takes its name from the village of Aktash in eastern Russia, where it was first discovered in 1968. The final –ite , incidentally, is the same mineralogical suffix as in words like graphite and kryptonite.

3. ASSAPANICK

While exploring the coast of Virginia in 1606, Captain John Smith (of Pocahontas fame) wrote in his journal of a creature known to local tribes as the assapanick . By “spreading their legs, and so stretching the largeness of their skins,” he wrote, “they have been seen to fly 30 or 40 yards.” Assapanick is another name for the flying squirrel.

4. ASSART

Assart is an old medieval English legal term for an area of forested land that has been converted into arable land for growing crops. It can also be used as a verb meaning “to deforest,” preparing wooded land for farming.

5. BASTINADO

Derived from bastón, the Spanish word for a cane or walking stick, bastinado is an old 16th century word for a thrashing or caning, especially on the soles of the feet.

6. BOOBYALLA

As well as being the name of a former shipping port in northern Tasmania, boobyalla is also an Aborigine name for the wattlebird, one of a family of honeyeaters native to much of Australia.

7. BUM-BAILIFF

In his Dictionary of the English Language (1755), Samuel Johnson described a bum-bailiff as “a bailiff of the meanest kind,” and in particular, “one that is employed in arrests.”

8. BUMFIDDLER

To bumfiddle means to pollute or spoil something, in particular by scribbling or drawing on a document to make it invalid. A bumfiddler is someone who does precisely that.

9. BUMMALO

Like the aholehole, the bummalo is another tropical fish, in this case a southeast Asian lizardfish. When listed on Indian menus it goes by the slightly more appetizing name of “Bombay duck.”

10. CLATTERFART

According to a Tudor dictionary published in 1552, a clatterfart is someone who “wyl disclose anye light secreate”—in other words, it’s a gossip or blabbermouth.

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11. COCKAPERT

Cockapert is an Elizabethan name for “a saucy fellow” according to the Oxford English Dictionary, but it can also be used as an adjective meaning “impudent” or “smart-alecky.”

12. COCK-BELL

A cock-bell can be a small handbell, a type of wildflower that grows in the spring, and an old English dialect word for an icicle. In any case, it’s derived from coque, the French word for a seashell.

13. COCKCHAFER

The cockchafer is a large beetle native to Europe and western Asia. The origin of its name is a mystery, but one theory claims the beetles are so characteristically aggressive that they can be made to fight one another like cockerels.

14. DIK-DIK

Standing little more than a foot tall at the shoulder, the dik-dik is one of the smallest antelopes in all of Africa. Their name is apparently an imitation of their alarm call.

15. DREAMHOLE

A dreamhole is a small slit or opening made in the wall of a building to let in sunlight or fresh air. It was also once used to refer to holes in watchtowers used by lookouts and guards, or to openings left in the walls of church towers to amplify the sounds of the bells.

16. FANNY-BLOWER

According to one 19th century glossary of industrial slang, a fanny-blower or fanner was “used in the scissor-grinding industry,” and comprised “a wheel with vanes, fixed onto a rotating shaft, enclosed in a case or chamber to create a blast of air.” In other words, it’s a fan.

17. FARTLEK

Fartlek is a form of athletic training in which intervals of intensive and much less strenuous exercise are alternated in one long continuous workout. It literally means “speed-play” in Swedish.

 

18. FUKSHEET

Fuk was an old Middle English word for a sail, and in particular the foremost sail on a ship. A fukmast, ultimately, is a ship’s foremast, while the fuksheet or fuksail is the sail attached to the ship’s fukmast.

19. GULLGROPER

To grope a gull is an old Tudor English expression meaning “to take advantage of someone,” or “to swindle an unsuspecting victim”—and a gullgroper does just that.

20. HABOOB

Taking its name from an Arabic word meaning “blustering” or “blowing,” a haboob is a dry wind that blows across deserts, dustbowls, and other arid regions often at great speed, forming vast sandstorms as it goes. Haboobs are typically caused by the collapse of a cold front of air, which blasts dust and sediment up from the desert floor as it falls.

21. HUMPENSCRUMP

The Oxford English Dictionary calls a humpenscrump “a musical instrument of rude construction.” Alongside others like humstrum, celestinette and wind-broach, it was originally another name for the hurdy-gurdy.

22. INVAGINATION

Invagination is simply the process of putting something inside something else (and in particular, a sword into a scabbard), or else is the proper name for turning something inside out. The opposite is called evagination.

23. JACULATE

Jaculation is the act of throwing or jostling something around, while to jaculate means “to rush or jolt forward suddenly.”

24. JERKINHEAD

A jerkinhead is a roof that is only partly gabled (i.e., only forms part of a triangle beneath its eaves) and is instead levelled or squared off at the top, forming a flattened area known as a “hip.” Jerkinheads are also known as “half-hipped” or “clipped-gable” roofs.

25. KNOBSTICK

As well as being an old nickname for a walking stick or truncheon, knobstick is an old 19th century slang word for a workman who breaks a strike, or for a person hired to take the place of a striking employee.

26. KUMBANG

Like the haboob, the kumbang is another hot, arid wind, in this case one that blows seasonally in the lowlands of western Indonesia.

27. LOBCOCKED

Lobcock is an old Tudor English word for an idiot or an unsophisticated, clownish bumpkin. Lobcocked is an equally ancient adjective meaning “boorish” or “naïve.”

28. NESTLE-COCK

A nestle-cock is the last bird to hatch from a clutch of eggs. It dates from the early 1600s, when it was also used as a nickname for an overly spoilt or pampered child.

29. NICKER-PECKER

Nicker-pecker is an old English dialect name for the European green woodpecker, the largest woodpecker native to Great Britain. In this context nicker is probably a derivative of nick, meaning a small cut or scratch.

30. NOBBER

In early 19th century English, boxers were nicknamed nobbers, a name apparently derived from the earlier use of nobber as a slang name for a punch or blow to the head.

31. NODGECOCK

Nodgecock, like lobcock, is another Tudor word for a fool or simpleton. It likely derives from an even earlier word, noddypoll, for someone who senselessly nods their head in agreement with any idea, no matter how good or bad it might be.

32. PAKAPOO

Pakapoo is a 19th century Australian word for a lottery or raffle. It apparently derives from a Cantonese phrase, baahk gáap piu, literally meaning “white pigeon ticket”—the Oxford English Dictionary suggests that in the original form of the game, a white dove might have been trained to select the winning ticket from all of the entries.

33. PENIAPHOBIA

Definitely not what it sounds like, peniaphobia is actually the fear of poverty.

34. PENISTONE

Penistone (pronounced “pen-is-tun”, before you ask) is the name of a picturesque market town in Yorkshire, England, which has given its name to both a type of coarse woollen fabric and a type of locally produced sandstone.

35. PERSHITTIE

The Scots word pershittie means “prim,” or “overly meticulous.” It’s one of a family of late 18th–early 19th century Scots words all of similar meaning, including perjinkity, perskeety, and, most familiar of all, pernickety.

36. PISSALADIÈRE

Pissalat is a condiment popular in southern French cookery made from puréed anchovies and olive oil, mixed with garlic, pepper, and herbs. It’s used to make a type of open bread tart called a pissaladière, which is flavoured with onions and black olives.

37. PISSASPHALT

Pissasphalt is a thick semi-liquid form of bitumen, similar to tar. The first part of the name is the Greek word for pitch, pissa.

38. POONGA

Poonga oil is obtained from the seeds of the Indian beech tree, Pongamia pinnata, and is widely used across southern India as everything from a skin treatment to a replacement for diesel in engines and generators.

39. SACK-BUTT

Spelled with one T, a sackbut is an early Renaissance brass instrument similar to a trombone. Spelled with two Ts, a sack-butt is a wine barrel.

40. SEXAGESM

The adjective sexagesimal means “relating to the number 60,” while anything that proceeds sexagesimally does so in sets of 60 at a time. A sexagesm, ultimately, is one-sixtieth of something.

41. SEXANGLE

Both sexangle and the equally indelicate sexagon are simply old 17th century names for what is otherwise known as a hexagon, a plane geometric shape with six sides. The prefix sexa– is derived from the Latin word for “six” rather than its Greek equivalent, heks.

42. SEXFOILED

Dating back to the Middle English period, foil is an old-fashioned name for a leaf or petal, which is retained in the names of plants like the bird’s-foot trefoil, a type of clover, and the creeping cinquefoil, a low-growing weed of the rose family. A sexfoil is ultimately a six-leaved plant or flower, or a similarly-shaped architectural design or ornament incorporating six leaves or lobes.

43. SHITTAH

The shittah is a type of acacia tree native to Arabia and north-east Africa that is mentioned in the Old Testament Book of Isaiah as one of the trees that God “will plant in the wilderness” of Israel, alongside the cedar, pine, and myrtle. Its name was adopted into English from Hebrew in the early Middle Ages, but it can probably be traced all the way back to an Ancient Egyptian word for a thorn-tree.

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44. SKIDDY-COCK

Billcock , brook-ouzel, oar-cock, velvet runner, grey-skit, and skiddy-cock are all old English dialect names for the water rail, a small and notoriously elusive wading bird found in the wetlands of Europe, Asia, and north Africa. The name skiddy-cock is thought to be derived from skit, an old 17th century word meaning “to act shyly,” or “to move rapidly and quickly”—but it could just as probably be derived from an even older 15th century word, skitter, meaning “to produce watery excrement.”

45. SLAGGER

In 19th century English, a slagger was a workman in a blast furnace whose job it was to siphon off the stony waste material, or slag, that is produced when raw metals and ores are melted at high temperatures. Even earlier than that, in 16th century English, slagger was a verb, variously used to mean “to loiter” or “creep,” or “to stumble” or “walk awkwardly.”

46. TEASE-HOLE

Staying with furnaces, a tease-hole is simply the opening in a glassmaker’s furnace through which the fuel is added.

47. TETHERADICK

Sheep farmers in some rural parts of Britain once had their own traditional counting systems, many of which are particularly ancient and predate even the Norman and Anglo-Saxon invasions of England. Most of these counting systems vanished during the Industrial Revolution, but several remain in use locally and have become fossilised in local rhymes, sayings and folk songs. Tether was an old Lake District name for the number three, while dick was the number ten; tetheradick, ultimately, was a count of 13.

48. TIT-BORE

Tit-bore—or tit-bore-tat-bore, in full—is an old 17th century Scots name for a game of peekaboo. It was once also called hitty-titty, as was, incidentally, hide and go seek.

49. TIT-TYRANT

The tit-tyrants are a family of eight species of flycatcher native to the Andes Mountains and the westernmost rainforests of South America. One of the species, the ash-breasted tit-tyrant, is one of the world’s most endangered birds with fewer than 1000 individuals left in a handful of remote, high-altitude sites in Peru and Bolivia.

50. WANKAPIN

Wankapin, or water chinquapin, is another name for the American lotus, Nelumbo lutea, a flowering plant native to Central American wetlands. The lotus was apparently introduced to what is now the southern United States by native tribes who would use the plant’s tubers and seeds (known as “alligator corn”) as a source of food.

 

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How to Know What Belongs in Your Reports

Written by Lynn Gaertner-Johnston, Syntax Training
Imagine that someone asks you for a report. If the person who asks is your manager, you may know what he or she wants in the document. But if the individual is from the executive team or another department or even a client company, you may not know what or how much to include. Here are tips that will help you recognize the best content.  

1. Imagine that instead of a report, the individual asked to interview you on the topic. What do you think he or she would ask? For example, imagine that you just returned from a trip to another country to visit a division of your company, a client’s office, or a factory. What would the other person ask you?
Here are some ideas:
  1. What was the purpose of your trip?
  2. Where did you go? 
  3. When did you travel? 
  4. Who traveled with you? 
  5. With whom did you meet there? At what facilities?
    (The questions above are the basics, which you can cover briefly.)
  6. What did you accomplish on the trip?
  7. What did you learn
  8. What do you recommend based on your trip? 
  9. Overall, how useful was the trip?
  10. Does anyone need to follow up on the trip? If so, who? How? 
You can use this question method to recognize what belongs in any report. Here are sample questions for an update: 
  1. What is this report about?
  2. What time period does this report cover?
  3. Are things on track?
  4. What has been accomplished since the last report?
  5. Have any important events taken place?
  6. Have there been any problems or obstacles? If so, how have they been managed?
  7. Is there anything I need to worry about?
  8. Where can I get more information
If you are writing a very important report, such as one to the president of your organization, you may want to have someone else review your list of questions to see whether you are on target before you write the report.  

When you feel you have a good list of questions, you are ready to write a draft. Just answer the questions. You can even use parts of the questions for headings, for example, “Purpose of the Trip” and “Trip Dates.” 

2. Recognize the purpose of the report. Will your director use the report to make a decision about financing a project? Will another team use your report to design software tests? Will your peers read the report to incorporate information into a proposal? Will the report go into a file to document a current situation? Write a sentence that states the purpose of the report, and use that statement to help you recognize what must be included (and what should be left out) to support that purpose. 

3. Consider your larger purpose for writing the report. Think beyond the fact that you are writing the report to satisfy someone’s request or a job requirement. What would you like the report to do for you or others? For example, for the trip report: 
  • Is your purpose to help build a better relationship with the overseas office? 
  • Is your purpose to illustrate the critical need for more involvement with the factory? 
  • Do you want to show the monetary value of the trip to get approval for travel in your 2015 budget?
  • Do you want to impress your new manager with the clarity of your thinking and writing
As you think about what to include, keep your larger purpose in mind so that you can be sure your report supports that goal. 

4. Ask for a sample report if you are unsure what your reader wants. Especially if you are new in a job or have never written the kind of report requested, ask whether sample reports are available. Review those samples and notice what works for you as a reader. Pay special attention to the kind of information that is included and its relevance. 

5. Recognize that your readers have asked for a report–not a book. They want the essential information–not all the details. To restrain yourself from including too much, try these approaches: 
  • Leave out any information that does not answer a reader’s question. For instance, if your reader would not ask what hotel you stayed at or whether you had any great meals, do not include those details. 
  • Avoid using chronological order to report. Chronological order may cause you to include irrelevant details just because they happened.
  • Use headings, preferably descriptive headings such as “Recommendation: Send a Team to the 2015 Conference” and “Budget Required: $85,000.” Headings will stop you from including information that does not belong in that section.  
  • Summarize. For example, in a report on a client meeting, do not include he said-I said details. Instead, report agreements and outcomes. In a financial or technical report, do not include raw data in the body of the report. If it’s essential, put it in an appendix. 
  • Include links to more information and offers to provide more. For instance, in a report on a conference, link to the conference program or offer to provide certain conference handouts. 
  • Use fewer examples. One or two powerful examples can achieve your goal. Additional examples provide length–not strength. 
  • Use tables and charts rather than sentences to capture numerical information. Graphical illustrations help you leave out extraneous information. Be sure to label each graphic so its relevance is clear to you and your reader. 
When you succeed with a report, keep it in an electronic folder of model reports. Its success will give you confidence, and its strengths will inspire you the next time someone asks for a report. 
Business Writing With Heart won two Silver Benjamin Franklin Awards from the Independent Book Publishers Association last month. You can order the paperback book from Syntax Training or your favorite bookseller, and you can get the e-book and paperback from Amazon and  Barnes & Noble
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50 Sophisticated Words You Should Start Using


It might be time for phasing out some of the played-out words in your vocabulary and replacing them with creative alternatives? Don’t feel bad; everyone you know has been guilty of letting a “fail” or an “LOL” slip at least once in a while. But those words are tired. They need a long rest. Here are 50 sophisticated utterances to deploy instead.

Cyber Substitutes

 

  1. Supreme: Epic doesn’t mean what you think it means. Use this instead, meaning classic or perfect.
  2. Blunder: For the love of grammar, “fail” is not a noun. On the other hand, “blunder” works as both a noun and a verb. How supreme.
  3. Triumph: Instead of “FTW,” you can say, “For The Triumph!” We bet you money you can’t say it without feeling like Maximus.
  4. Fidus Achates: More than some internet acquaintance, a fidus Achates (“FEED-us uh-KAH-tays“) is a true friend. It’s like “BFF” in Latin.
  5. Fancy: It’s only a matter of time before you’ll be able to “fancy” a link or status update for which you wish to show appreciation.
  6. Cachinnate: Forget about laughing your a** off. Tell them you’re cachinnating (CACK-in-ate-ing) heartily.
  7. Woe is me: It sounds a bit like Yoda-ese, but instead of saying FML, go biblical with “woe is me.”
  8. Piquant: If you simply must inform the world how scrumptious the food you are currently eating is, please refrain from saying “nom nom nom.” Use this descriptor instead to convey appetizing flavor.
  9. Baffling: It’s too easy to just drop a “WTH” (or some variation) on some activity or news that perplexes you. Why not be baffled?
  10. Indubitably: The “Really?” ship has sailed. To express ironic dismay, go with, “Indubitably?” Trust us, it’s a can’t-miss.
  11. Desultory: Don’t be a serial “random“-dropper. If something is unexpected, call it “desultory.”
  12. Ergo: Starting a status update with “so” is nonsensical because “so” means “therefore.” But if you’re going to use “so” correctly, “ergo” works just as well and makes you sound twice as classy.

 

 

Better Buzzwords

 

  1. Donjon: Men, have you been relegated to a small segment of the house referred to as your “man cave?” You don’t have to take that. Call it your donjon, like the stronghold of a castle.
  2. Garrison: “Occupy” has been done to death. Use this if you’re moving in and taking over.
  3. Aspiration: Something that goes on your Bucket List (which hopefully you’re not still saying) is an aspiration.
  4. Pater familias: Bad: “baby daddy.” Better: “father.” Best: “pater familias.”
  5. Minutiae-peddling: This phrase is our own creation. Since 40% of all tweets are pointless babble, instead of saying “I’m tweeting” you could say, “I’m peddling minutiae.

 

Underage Upgrades

 

  1. Alas: “Oh, snap” is so out. All the cool kids are saying “alas!” after their putdowns.
  2. Forsooth: All the kids (and some adults) simply adore saying, “I know, right?” Kick it old school Archaic with “forsooth,” meaning “indeed.”
  3. Jocular: People’s eyes glaze over when they read “LOL.” Send them scrambling for a dictionary when you reply, “How jocular!
  4. Gamin: It means “street urchin,” but we can change the meaning to be more neutral if we put our minds to it. After all, we did the same thing with “dude.”
  5. Paraphernalia: Remember the nice officer who referred to your “drug paraphernalia?” That was a fancier way of saying drug stuff.
  6. Incogitable: To the kids, everything’s “wack” or “crazy.” But the silver-tongued teenager of 2012 will be sharing his or her disbelief with this mouthful.

 

Professional Pick-me-ups

 

  1. Demiurgic: “Innovative” is the second-most overused resume filler word. Since you’re already tooting your own horn, compare yourself to a Gnostic creative deity with this word.
  2. Ambitious: “Motivated” is another résumé snooze-inducer. Go ahead and say you’re ambitious; it’ll add a little edge to it that will help you stand out from the pack.
  3. Assiduous: Don’t bother telling employers you are “dynamic;” everyone they’ve interviewed has been dynamic. But if you want an original way to tell them you are hardworking, use this.
  4. Henceforth: For some reason, “going forward” has caught on as a tack-on to the end of serious statements to make them sound more complete. We’re not sure how you can go any way but forward, but at least use “henceforth” instead.
  5. “_________”: That’s a blank to represent an alternative to saying, It is what it is.” “It is what it is” is the equivalent of saying nothing, thus it has no alternative. Just keep quiet for once instead.
  6. Pandemic: Sure, a video can go viral by getting a few million clicks. But aim higher for your company; shoot for a billion clicks. People will be forced to admit your work has gone pandemic.
  7. Withal: You’re not still using “irregardless“, are you? Make the point of “nevertheless” with withal, a great word that people will think you misspelled.
  8. Veritably: Love, Actually would have been so much more original if it had been called “Love, Veritably.”
  9. Impetus: When you execs talk about giving your employees an impetus, you might be discussing raises or donuts in the break room or some other motivational tool.

 

Romantic Retools

 

  1. Cherish: Take a lesson from The Association and discover another way to say “I love you.
  2. Paragon: Tell your girlfriend she is a paragon of beauty and you’ll score major brownie points once she’s looked it up.
  3. Pulchritudinous: …Or you could call her “pulchritudinous.” How fantastic is that word? Of course, you will have to quickly assure her it’s a compliment.
  4. Recherché: Your wife’s dress isn’t just elegant, it’s exquisite, refined, exotic… recherché.
  5. Despondent: Sad is what you are when you spill wine on your pants. When your baby leaves you high and dry in the cold, cruel world, you’re despondent.
  6. Loathe: People say “hate” is a strong word, but it’s got nothing on “loathe.
  7. Abjure: There’s no doubt saying you “dumped” someone is colorful, but if you want to say it in style and with authority, say you abjured that cheatin’ man.
  8. Yearn: Do justice to your desire to possess that special someone. You don’t want to date them, you yearn for them.

 

Dignified Descriptors

 

  1. Atrocious: You spilled your coffee, broke a shoelace, smeared the lipstick on your face. That’s not a bad day, it’s atrocious.
  2. Spanking: The only socially-acceptable way to incorporate “spanking” into a polite conversation is to use it instead of the word “good.”
  3. Transcendent: If you say something is “awesome,” you’re saying it inspires fear or awe in you. So pizza cannot be awesome. What it can be is transcendent or excellent.
  4. Gobs: Make your old English teacher happy and stop using “lots.” “Gobs” is so much more fun to say anyway.
  5. Opined: “Said” is perfectly functional and perfectly acceptable and perfectly boring. If someone is giving their opinion, say they “opined.”
  6. Parry: Really, there’s no reason to use “said” unless you write for a newspaper. Parry back and forth with your debate partner using your newfound word gems.
  7. Asseverate: Last one: To asseverate is to declare earnestly or solemnly. So help you God.
  8. Altitudinous: Get creative when referring to your tall friend from high school. “That guy was downright altitudinous!
  9. Corpulent: If you’re going to call someone fat, at least find an unusual way to do it, like with this word.
  10. Lummox: So many great insult words, so little time. Take a line from Stewie and call that moron a “bovine lummox.”

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13 wonderful old english words Another 20 Forgotten words that should be brought back justenglish.me

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12 Letters That Didn’t Make it to the Alphabet

You know the alphabet. It’s one of the first things you’re taught in school. But did you know that they’re not teaching you all of the alphabet? There are quite a few letters we tossed aside as our language grew, and you probably never even knew they existed.

 

1. Thorn

Have you ever seen a place that calls itself “ye olde whatever”? As it happens, that’s not a “y”, or, at least, it wasn’t supposed to be. Originally, it was an entirely different letter called thorn, which derived from the Old English runic alphabet, Futhark.

Thorn, which was pronounced exactly like the “th” in its name, is actually still around today in Icelandic. We replaced it with “th” over time—thorn fell out of use because Gothic-style scripting made the letters y and thorn look practically identical. And, since French printing presses didn’t have thorn anyway, it just became common to replace it with a y. Hence naming things like, “Ye Olde Magazine of Interesting Facts” (just as an example, of course).

2. Wynn

Another holdover from the Futhark runic alphabet, wynn was adapted to the Latin alphabet because it didn’t have a letter that quite fit the “w” sound that was common in English. You could stick two u’s (technically v’s, since Latin didn’t have u either) together, like in equus, but that wasn’t exactly right.

Over time, though, the idea of sticking two u’s together actually became quite popular, enough so that they literally became stuck together and became the letter W (which, you’ll notice, is actually two V’s).

3. Yogh

Yogh stood for a sort of throaty noise that was common in Middle English words that sounded like the “ch” in “Bach” or Scottish “loch.”

French scholars weren’t fans of our weird non-Latin letters and started replacing all instances of yogh with “gh” in their texts. When the throaty sound turned into “f” in Modern English, the “gh”s were left behind.”

4. Ash

You’re probably familiar with this guy from old-fashioned Greek or Roman style text, especially the kind found in churches. It’s even still used stylistically in words today, like æther and æon.

What you may not know, however, is that at one time the ae grapheme (as it’s now known) was an honorary English letter back in the days of Old English. It still had the same pronunciation and everything, it was just considered to be part of the alphabet and called “æsc” or “ash” after the ash Futhark rune, for which it was used as a substitute when transcribing into Latin letters.

5. Eth

Eth is kind of like the little brother to thorn. Originating from Irish, it was meant to represent a slightly different pronunciation of the “th” sound, more like that in “thought” or “thing” as opposed to the one found in “this” or “them.” (The first is the voiceless dental fricative, the second is the voiced dental fricative).

Note that, depending on your regional accent, there may not be much of a difference (or any at all) in the two pronunciations anyway, but that’s Modern English. Back in the old days, the difference was much more distinct. As such, you’d often see texts with both eth and thorn depending on the required pronunciation. Before too long, however, people just began using thorn for both (and later “th”) and so eth slowly became unnecessary.

6. Ampersand

Today we just use it for stylistic purposes (and when we’ve run out of space in a text message or tweet), but the ampersand has had a long and storied history in English, and was actually frequently included as a 27th letter of the alphabet as recently as the 19th century.

In fact, it’s because of its placement in the alphabet that it gets its name. Originally, the character was simply called “and” or sometimes “et” (from the Latin word for and, which the ampersand is usually stylistically meant to resemble). However, when teaching children the alphabet, the & was often placed at the end, after Z, and recited as “and per se and,” meaning “and in and of itself” or “and standing on its own.”

So you’d have “w, x, y, z, and, per se, and.” Over time, the last bit morphed into “ampersand,” and it stuck even after we quit teaching it as part of the alphabet.

7. Insular G

This letter (referred to as “insular G” or “Irish G” because it didn’t have a fancy, official name) is sort of the grandfather of the Middle English version of yogh. Originally an Irish letter, it was used for the previously mentioned zhyah/jhah pronunciation that was later taken up by yogh, though for a time both were used.

It also stood alongside the modern G (or Carolingian G) for many centuries, as they represented separate sounds. The Carolingian G was used for hard G sounds, like growth or good, yogh was used for “ogh” sounds, like cough or tough, and insular g was used for words like measure or vision.

As Old English transformed into Middle English, insular G was combined with yogh and, as mentioned earlier, was slowly replaced with the now-standard “gh” by scribes, at which point insular G/yogh were no longer needed and the Carolingian G stood alone (though the insular G is still used in modern Irish).

8. “That”

Much like the way we have a symbol/letter for “and,” we also once had a similar situation with “that,” which was a letter thorn with a stroke at the top. It was originally just a shorthand, an amalgamation of thorn and T (so more like “tht”), but it eventually caught on and got somewhat popular in its own right (even outliving thorn itself), especially with religious institutions. There’s an excellent chance you can find this symbol somewhere around any given church to this day.

9. Ethel

Similar to Æ/ash/æsc above, the digraph for OE was once considered to be a letter as well, called ethel. It wasn’t named after someone’s dear, sweet grandmother, but the Furthark rune Odal, as œ was its equivalent in transcribing.

It was traditionally used in Latin loan words with a long e sound, such as subpœna or fœtus. Even federal was once spelled with an ethel. (Fœderal.) These days, we’ve just replaced it with a simple e.

10. Tironian “Ond”

Long before there were stenographers, a Roman by the name of Marcus Tullius Tiro (who was basically Roman writer Cicero’s P.A.) invented a shorthand system called Tironian notes. It was a fairly simple system that was easily expanded, so it remained in use by scribes for centuries after Tiro’s death.

One of the most useful symbols (and an ancestor to the ampersand) was the “et” symbol above—a simple way of tossing in an “and.” (And yes, it was sometimes drawn in a way that’s now a popular stylistic way of drawing the number 7.) When used by English scribes, it became known as “ond,” and they did something very clever with it. If they wanted to say “bond,” they’d write a B and directly follow it with a Tironian ond. For a modern equivalent, it’d be like if you wanted to say your oatmeal didn’t have much flavor and you wrote that it was “bl&.”

The trend grew popular beyond scribes practicing shorthand and it became common to see it on official documents and signage, but since it realistically had a pretty limited usage and could occasionally be confusing, it eventually faded away.

11. Long S

You may have seen this in old books or other documents, like the title page from Paradise Lost above. Sometimes the letter s will be replaced by a character that looks a bit like an f. This is what’s known as a “long s,” which was an early form of a lowercase s. And yet the modern lowercase s (then referred to as the “short s”) was still used according to a complicated set of rules (but most usually seen at the end of a word), which led to many words (especially plurals) using both. For example, ?uper?titous is how the word superstitious would have been printed.

It was purely a stylistic lettering, and didn’t change the pronunciation at all. It was also kind of silly and weird, since no other letters behaved that way, so around the beginning of the 19th century, the practice was largely abandoned and the modern lowercase s became king.

12. Eng

For this particular letter, we can actually point to its exact origin. It was invented by a scribe named Alexander Gill the Elder in the year 1619 and meant to represent a velar nasal, which is found at the end of words like king, ring, thing, etc.

Gill intended for the letter to take the place of ng entirely (thus bringing would become bri?i?), and while it did get used by some scribes and printers, it never really took off—the Carolingian G was pretty well-established at that time and the language was beginning to morph into Modern English, which streamlined the alphabet instead of adding more to it. Eng did manage live on in the International Phonetic Alphabet, however.

 

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Read More…

50 Most Challenging Words

Back in 2010 The New York Times published a list of 50 fancy words that most frequently stump their readership.

The New York Times 50 Fancy Words

(defined and used)

 

1. Inchoate: just begun and so not fully formed or developed

I am glad your inchoate proposals for integrating the company were not accepted this time, thus saving us face. Read More…

English pronunciation test

Learn English pronunicationWhile most of you non-native speakers of English speak English quite well, there is always room for improvement (of course, the same could be said for every person for any subject, but that is another matter). To that end, I’d like to offer you a poem. Once you’ve learned to correctly pronounce every word in this poem, you will be

speaking English better than 90% of the native English speakers in the world.

If you find it tough going, do not despair, you are not alone: Multi-national personnel at North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters near Paris found English to be an easy language … until they tried to pronounce it. To help them discard an array of accents, the verses below were devised. After trying them, a Frenchman said he’d prefer six months at hard labor to reading six lines aloud.

Try them yourself.

 

English is tough stuff

Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse. Read More…

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