The Translation Inquirer
Many and various indeed were those who saw that June’s mysterious "engine clock heater" was in fact a mere typo for "engine block heater," a useful device for cars which have to stand outside in very cold weather. It may take the form of a long rod which is inserted into the hole for the engine's oil dipstick, or it may be actually built into the block itself. With either design, you connect it up to a normal electric outlet, and the oil or the water, respectively, stays toasty warm overnight. (Let's all look carefully and see if we can spot any on "Northern Exposure.") In French, it's a chauffe-bloc or a chauffe-moteur, or an appareil de chauffage du bâti-cylindres, and those who helped clear up this particular puzzle were: Joyce Kay Baghdadi (who quotes the excellent Vocabulaire de l'automobile published by the Quebec Office de la langue française), Françoise Fairfield, Christopher Derrick, Tamara Lee, Jonathan Hine, Red Rover, Kevin DeVany, Matt Hammond, Alexandra Mitch, David Gladish, Wendy Ebersberger, Albert Bayruns, Charles Ferguson, Thomas Jedele, Gene Traas, Pete Ramaekers, Arielle Curtin, Viktor Shevelyov, Leland Wright, Heinz Walters, Marian Greenfield (sorry about all the times I spelled it Marion!), Denzel Dyer and Paul Gallagher.
Also Michèle and Sidney Brandwein. The French came from the former, the explanation from the latter, who describes himself as not a translator ("You caught me reading my wife's mail!") but as a "shade-tree mechanic—can you translate that?" Well, can anyone? Is it the same as what Lola Granola calls a "kitchen-table translator?" Which in turn would be translated how, in Spanish, German or French?
Back to our clock heater. Gabe Bokor and Alan Clarke offer an intriguing extra solution, namely that it is indeed a device for keeping an engine warm, but that it is running on a timer, just coming on, say, an hour before departure in the morning. More correctly called a "timed engine heater," it then wouldn't be a typo at all, but what would you call it in French? Something with minuterie?
Relatedly, Tamara Lee asked for help with an abbreviation on a Belgian vehicle registration document, an abbreviation which no one in the Belgian consulate could explain, let alone translate. "PVA, madame? Neverrr seen it, cannot 'elp you. Yes, we do all 'ave Belgian cars at 'ome, but as for this abréviation
... " Gallic shrug. Little John to the rescue, before this month's issue even came out. It's the Procès-verbal d’agréation
. Little John also contributes that a good place to find the answer to puzzles such as SIRENE and SIRETE from a few months ago is Quid
, an annual encyclopedia of just that sort of information about France and things French. Try a good library, or maybe the consulate.
Meanwhile, from another part of the Forest, Alan A'Dale wants to know the French for another automotive term, namely Zweiachsmulden-kippsattelanhänger. Let's have that in any other languages, too.
And what else has been coming in? Couple of responses on "performance" in Portuguese. While Alan Clarke gives alto desempenho for "high-performance" as applied to automobiles, Gabe Bokor says that the borrowing performance (f.) has driven out the native word, at least in technical usage.
He also offers "computer-aided quality control" for qualitique, by analogy with bureautique, éditique and télématique.
For our Greek inquiry on sytekhnies, Denzel Dyer offers "perquisites" as an alternative to "featherbedding," suggesting that "perks" are somewhat more formally accepted than featherbedding, which is accepted but disparaged.
Mark Chalkley has sent in some very extensive thoughts on Diogenes' questions. While many of our older "-ism" labels are of Latin origin, he writes, and came into English whole (Manicheism, Gnosticism, etc.), 20th-century world politics has produced a whole flood of trends that have had labels attached to them by busy and rushed journalists: Maoism, McCarthyism, Naziism (Inquirer's parenthesis: I disagree with this last one. However morphologically correct the "ii" may be, surely everyone says and writes: "Nazism?"), Reaganism and so on. As these examples show, the usage in English is to preserve as much of the original name as possible. Nobody writes "McCarthism" or "Francism" in English, even though in Spanish they say macartismo or franquismo. This leads him to the conclusion that Diogenes should just tack on "-ist," "-ism" or "-ite" to the entire Greek name. Thus "Papandreouism" is fine, and perfectly pronounceable. "Karamanlisite" may be long, but "Karamanlite" sounds like a mineral! As to the other question, of why the name of a suburb of Athens should be a synonym for a newspaper's viewpoint, he suggests that the ideological stand of the paper ("Avrianism") must reflect the views of the people living in that suburb. He draws an analogy with Beacon Hill standing for snobbery and Hampden in Baltimore for a "racist white blue-collar" mentality. Thus, he surmises, most of the inhabitants of Tavros may be presumably predisposed towards "Avrianism" (whatever that is). For a differing view, which just missed this month's deadline, see our next thrilling installment!
Comments, too, on the concept of "Continental time." It all depends on the time in which this phrase about time was written (a convoluted illustration of the notion that many people have of time being circular). For if the reference is contemporary, then Wendy Ebersberger and Matt Hammond think that it refers simply to the 24-hour system of telling the time, often referred to in America as "military time." Sharlee Merner Bradley suggests on the other hand that it refers to the British description for the 24-hour system, as used by all those dreadful foreigners on the Continent. Which took me by surprise, but then got me reminiscing: yes, we did once refer to the 24-hour system as "Continental," but that was a very long time ago. Since then, the system has become so prevalent in Britain too that I doubt whether anyone has used the phrase in that sense for 20 years.
(Happy memories of streaking through the night—cutting it as fine as possible, and having to race against the clock, was part of the fun—to get the cross-Channel ferry which sailed at 23:59. Sigh!)
But if the reference is even older, Red Rover tells us, then it could mean something else. If it refers to a period before 1884, it could be what we now call "standard time." Before then, some railroads had their own time, because of the chaos resulting from all towns using their own actual sun time.
And after all that, what do we call it in foreign? How about système horaire de 24 heures or sistema horario de 24 horas?
And at 14:14 precisely we will tackle Patscherkofel. Or the Patscherkofel. Ute Tabi explains it thus: "I take the gondola from the bottom station (Talstation) to the middle station (Mittelstation),where I change gondolas to get to the top station (Bergstation). From there I ski down the Patscherkofel, while all this time my husband has been trying to climb the Patscherkofel on foot. The same applies to the Zugspitze or the Pitztaler Joch, and the pattern seems to be: no article with English mountain names, use the article when using the foreign name."
And Trudy Peter explains why: -horn, -spitze, -joch and so on are all nouns in their own right, and describe the shape of the mountain. And with things such as "horns" and "peaks" we use an article in English.
But what about Eiger? Since one always says "the Eiger," then according to what we have concluded so far, the word Eiger has to mean some form or shape of mountain, or some such word has to be understood. Does it? Is it?
Mike Stacy points out that if the descriptive word referring to the geographical feature itself is used before the name then there's no "the:" "I climbed Mount Everest and Mount Washington. I swam across Lake Superior." Even if the descriptive noun isn't in English: "I climbed Mont Blanc," not "the Mont Blanc." "I climbed Ben Nevis," not "the Ben Nevis."
Unless of course, the geographical feature is not used in apposition, but has an "of” instead. Then there is an article: "the Bay of Bengal, the Sea of Tranquility, the Plain of Jars."
Is it true, he asks parenthetically, that the article is properly capitalized in The Netherlands and The Hague? Well, is it?
And here's my own contribution to all this: if there is no word meaning "geographical feature or part of geographical feature," in English or in the native language, then it's used as a pure name and there is no article: "I climbed Orizaba and Aconcagua, I scaled Everest and Snowdon."
Phew! Time to relax and enjoy the view from up here, I think. And to listen to the sound, distant and unthreatening at this elevation, of a German police-car siren far below us. Yes, they do still say Martinshorn, says Heinz Walter (who also contributes Phantombildzeichner for "police artist.") Never heard of Martinshorn, says Erika Matt. R. Condra tells us that Duden defines it as a siren produced by Max. B. Martin KG, that there are other trade-name-related usages, such as Bosch-Horn or Siemens-Horn, but that the generic term is Einsatzhorn.
Überstuck just means "copy," says Erika Matt, but it's not common. Probably from Bavaria, Austria or Switzerland.
Thanks, by the way, to yet more people who have sent in examples of German Fraktur script for Lola de la Nuca. Thanks in particular to Dr. Edith F. Bondi, to R. P. Boas, to Alexandra and Robert Bley-Vroman and to George Steyskal, who tells us that he looks back on that alphabet with fond memories albeit sometimes with a little pain in the nuca!
Keep 'em coming!