Posted by: Wilf Voss
Ahead of Royal Ascot next week, it is time for a bit of a canter through the history of the English language and in particular to a number of proverbs and phrases in language which have an equestrian derivation. As a nation we have always had a close affinity to horses, from the days when they were our only mode of transport and a vital part of farming and food production to the present day where there are over four million horse riders in an industry that is worth over £2 billion.
The following are just a few of the phrases which are part of the history of the English language and we still use today.
An oft-used phrase meaning that you should not be critical of something that you’ve been given for free or very little cost. You should simply accept it and show appreciation. So when you look a gift horse in the mouth, it’s like checking the box for the IPhone you have been given to see if it is the very latest version.
Its literal meaning refers to the age of a horse which can be roughly calculated by looking at its teeth. As a horse ages it will develop new teeth and its existing teeth start to change shape and angle more forward.
We first encounter the phrase in 1546 within John ...Continue Reading →
Posted by: Maria
The first days of June were greeted with much enthusiasm around the UK, as the weather has been our friend this time. Before you start packing for much-anticipated holidays, here is a selection of translation, interpreting and localisation related events to add to your CPD agenda:
• Saturday, 8 June – University of Westminster, London
Starting Work as a Translator or Interpreter
Event arranged jointly by ITI and University of Westminster, with support from the national networks for translation and for interpreting
• Saturday, 8 June – Novotel London City South
Effective Intercultural Communication and ID AGM – Interpreting Division
Come and hear how cultural competence training can improve both your interpreting and life skills
• Monday, 10 June – Wednesday, 12 June – Clontarf Castle, Dublin (Ireland)
TAUS Industry Leaders Forum
•Changing roles and business models.
•Translation data, Big Data and technology (breakthroughs).
•Metrics for industry benchmarking.
•Copyright on translation data.
•The Human Language Project.
• Wednesday, 12 June – Novotel London West London
TAUS Machine Translation Showcase
The TAUS Machine Translation Showcases are free half-day meetings held throughout 2013 to raise awareness about and promote the industry’s informed use of machine translation.
• Thursday, 13 June – Free Word Lecture Theatre, Free Word, London
British Centre for Literary Translation, First Lines
An evening of readings by new translators. You will be entertained to ...
Why are we ‘over the moon’ when we’re really happy?
The idiomatic phrase ‘Over the moon’ is a very old expression that dates right back to the seventeenth century. The Oxford English Dictionary’s first example of this idiom is from 1718 and an extract from a play in which a character exclaims: ‘I shall jump over the Moon for Joy!’.
It was probably already a common expression when the nursery rhyme of around 1765 was first recorded: ‘High diddle, diddle, The Cat and the Fiddle, The Cow jumped over the Moon.’ (The ‘High’ was later altered to ‘Hey’.)
Why do we ‘bury the hatchet’?
This idiom, meaning to end an argument or conflict, refers back to a Native American custom in the seventeenth century whereby a hatchet would be buried in the ground to signal the declaration of peace between warring groups.
Why do we talk about ‘stealing someone’s thunder’?
This idiom, defined as using another person’s ideas for one’s own advantage, has a literal story behind it! In this case, the eighteenth-century actor and playwright Colley Cibber, in his Lives of the Poets, recounted the exact events that spawned the idea of ‘stealing thunder’. Alexander Pope also mentioned them in his poem ‘The Dunciad’. The story they tell involves a man called John Dennis, an actor manager of the early part of the eighteenth century who had invented a machine that reproduced for ...
Nevile Gwynne’s latest grammar quiz in The Telegraph instigated a remarkable debate, upsetting a lot of people who did not score as highly as they would expect. In fact, several readers have characterised Gwynne’s test ‘fiendishly difficult’, arguing that it is not necessary to know the category to which grammatical structure belong in order to use them properly.
The latter is often true, since most of the grammar choices individuals make in their mother tongue tend to be intuitive, also a product of years of language use. Nevertheless, this also implies that, at some point in their lives, they have explicitly been taught proper grammar use but have later grown to follow the patterns of their own language unconsciously. In this sense, it is not surprising that learners of English as a second language tend to perform way better than native English speakers, given that such quizzes require some degree of metalinguistic knowledge which is often gradually lost in one’s mother tongue – save for individuals who keep studying the language consciously, such as various language professionals.
In any case, and despite difference of opinions about what it is that marks correct grammar use, the fact remains that it is not possible to follow or manipulate the rules of a language unless one actually knows them. Grammar does not have to be prescriptive and rigid, but it ...Continue Reading →
It is highly about time I indulged in discussing my favourite field of study; Semiotics.
Semiotics is concerned with the way meaning is created and communicated. Its origins lie in the academic study of how signs and symbols generate meaning. Semiotics is important because it can help us not to take reality for granted. Studying Semiotics can assist us to become more aware of reality as a system of signs, as well as of our own part in constructing it. We learn that we live in a world of signs and we have no way of understanding reality except through the codes into which signs are organised.
The kinds of signs that are likely to spring immediately to mind are those which we routinely refer to as ‘signs’ in everyday life; namely, the visual ones. However, Semiotics involves the study of anything which represents something else. Signs are not always visual; they can be aural or sonic too. In a semiotic sense, signs can take the form of words, images, sounds, gestures and objects.
One of the dominant models of what constitutes a sign is the one put forth by the linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, who offered a two-part model of the sign. He defined a sign as being composed of a signifier (the form which the sign takes) and a signified (the concept that it represents). For example, traffic signs are common ...Continue Reading →