|Enlace para español/Link here for Spanish
Some stories are original. Some are classics in the public domain. Some brim with illustrations, some are for coloring. The variations are endless. But the covers are all made of recycled cardboard, with hand-painted titles and artwork. Each one’s a personal statement—a true original.
Introducing the “Cartonera” phenomenon! This truly grassroots movement was born in Argentina during the early 2000’s economic crisis. Cartoneras are cooperative, neighborhood-based publishing ventures. They’ve spread throughout Latin America.
Now the movement has caught on here with the founding of “Memphis Cartonera” by Rhodes College students and local nonprofits. Dr. Elizabeth Pettinaroli, a Spanish literature and language professor at Rhodes who conducted field research on cartoneras in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and Paraguay, has coordinated these efforts and led the mobilization of community partners.
It’s about rethinking art and literature’s place in our lives, fostering creativity, literacy, and sustainability.
This spring’s ongoing workshops: Centro Cultural (Cartonera comics), Cazateatro Bilingual Theater (Cartonera for adults/kids), Danza Azteca Quetzalcoatl (Spanish/Nahua poetry workshop), Refugee Empowerment Program (kids afterschool program), Latino Memphis/Abriendo Puertas (high-schoolers workshop), Caritas Village (Cartonera photo books for afterschool reading program).
A chance to learn more, talk with participants, and enjoy viewing some of the creations so far will be on Sat., Apr. 23 (6-9pm) at StoryBooth, 431 N. Cleveland in Crosstown Arts: the Memphis Cartonera opening party and exhibition. Free and open to the public. Attendees can paint, read, and make their own Cartonera book! The event continues Sun,. Apr. 24 (12-5pm).
Further info: Dr. Elizabeth Pettinaroli, 901-843-3828, firstname.lastname@example.org. Sponsored by Rhodes College.
The first of April, fools and innocence
Enlace para español/Click here for Spanish
It’s not a holiday, school kids don’t get the day off, stores don’t hold sales—but April First is widely loved.
April Fool’s Day is a day for telling false tales with a straight face—and, if the victim falls for it, crowing “April Fool!” at your gullible listener. (French “Poisson d’Avril!” and Italian “Pesce d’aprile!¨ both mean “April fish”).
April Fool jokes can be in print too; many newspapers traditionally added a false front page over the real one, with absurd, fake news. A few papers still do it.
This US election campaign will be tough on April Fool pranksters—who can top the absurdity of the actual, real news?
In the Spanish-speaking world, though US influence has spread “El Día de los Tontos” somewhat, the real equivalent is Dec. 28, Día de los Santos Inocentes.
This light-hearted festival has a dreadful origin: the Biblical massacre of infants ordered by King Herod, who hoped the Baby Jesus would be among those slain. Christianity’s Feast of the Holy Innocents commemorates these martyrs.
From those tragic innocents to the innocent victims of the creative lies of Dec. 28 is quite a jump. But that’s how popular culture adapted and transformed that ancient religious commemoration.
When someone falls for a Dec. 28 gag, the traditional gloat is “Que la inocencia te valga” (May your innocence do you good).
The tall tale can be called a “joke” (Span. chiste, broma), “practical joke” or “prank” (broma pesada). If it’s elaborately constructed, uses print or other media, and is meant to snare a large number of people, it’s a “hoax.” In Spanish, Dec. 28 jokes in particular are often called inocentadas, playing off the day’s name.
On a serious note, did you hear about the Trump-Sanders “national unity ticket”? And that Apple is giving away free iPads to commemorate Steve Jobs’s birthday? ¡Que la inocencia te valga!
Buenas palabras/Good words!
An earlier version of this essay originally appeared in the Mar. 25-31, 2015 edition of La Prensa Latina (Memphis, Tennessee) as number 174 in the weekly bilingual column, “Misterios y Engimas de la Traducción/Mysteries and Enigmas of Translation”. Pablo Julián Davis, PhD, CT is an ATA (Aamerican Translators Association) Certified Translator, Engl>Span; a Tennessee State Courts Certified Interpreter, Engl<>Span; and an innovative trainer in the fields of translation, interpreting, and intercultural competency, with over 25 years experience. He holds the doctorate in Latin American History from The Johns Hopkins University, and is a Juris Doctor Candidate at the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, University of Memphis (May 2017).
Lunary language and lore
Enlace para español/Link for Spanish
This past week brought not only a full moon (Span. luna llena, or, in a graceful Latin form, plenilunio), but also a penumbral lunar eclipse. And as far removed as most of us city folk are from the country and the spell the night sky used to cast on humanity, our companion orb has not lost the power to stun us with its beauty.
Human language testifies to the profound imprint that Earth’s satellite has made on human consciousness. We’ll look very briefly at some of that testimony, mainly in English and Spanish.
The odd chance that Sun (Sol) and Moon (Luna) appear the same size in the earthly sky, has surely reinforced human cultures’ seeing them as a pair representing male/female, gold/silver, night/day. The moon-female tie runs deep: the lunar phases find an echo in woman’s menstrual cycle.
The moon has its day: Engl. “Monday” (Ger. Montag, Dan. mandag), Span. lunes (Fr. lundi, It. lunedì). It also gives us “month”; Span. mes is from Lat. mensis, a root visible in words like “bi-mensual.”
Another link: moon and madness, yields Engl. “lunatic” and Span. Lunático. But English informalizes it with “looney” and “looney tunes” (from the old cartoon series); “looney bin” is a mental hospital.
English also uses “moon” for “to languish sadly” (as one pining for a lost or unrequited love), which is a slightly archaic usage, and “to show one’s bared buttocks,” which isn’t.
Sp. lunar (loo-NAR) is also “birthmark,” once thought caused by the Moon’s influence, or “polka dot” on clothing. Spanish calls a landing on the Moon an alunizaje (by analogy to aterrizaje on Earth).
“Moonlight” (Sp. claro de luna, Fr. claire de lune) has a power over young lovers, long understood (and abetted) by poets and songwriters.
Samuel Johnson’s Sermon XII movingly uses the lovely, archaic word “sublunary” for “earthly”—urging his listeners “to bid farewell to sublunary vanities” and instead “with pure heart and steady faith to ‘fear God and keep his commandments.’”
¡Buenas palabras! Good words!
An earlier version of this essay originally appeared in the Nov. 27-Dec. 3, 2015 edition of La Prensa Latina (Memphis, Tennessee) as number 158 in the weekly bilingual column, “Misterios y Engimas de la Traducción/Mysteries and Enigmas of Translation”. Pablo Julián Davis, PhD, CT is an ATA (Aamerican Translators Association) Certified Translator, Engl>Span; a Tennessee State Courts Certified Interpreter, Engl<>Span; and an innovative trainer in the fields of translation, interpreting, and intercultural competency, with over 25 years experience. He holds the doctorate in Latin American History from The Johns Hopkins University, and is a Juris Doctor Candidate at the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, University of Memphis (May 2017).
Carry that weight
Enlace para español/Link for Spanish
The languages we live in are very old, older than the earliest ancestors most of us can name. Yet most of our words are older still. Remember: go back more than 500 years and you will not find an English (or a Spanish) language you can understand—but for many of the words we use, there is a lineage that goes back not a few hundred years, but thousands.
What is the first thing we ever do in the world? Actually, it’s less something we do than something done for us, the first thing done for us as separate beings, making all else possible: After nine months of giving us the very marrow of their bones, our mothers “bear” us into the world: we are “born.” Old Engl. beran (to bear, bring, produce, endure) could trace its lineage back to Proto-Indo-European *bher-.
In ancient Greek (another Indo-European descendant), pherein is “to carry” or “to bear”—the root of “fer” in “transfer.” Carry a word over from one place (meaning) to another: meta + pherein yields “metaphor.”
It’s the same root shared by the fer element in words like ferriferous and auriferous, iron-bearing, gold-bearing.
Latin turned ph into p and we got the -port- in “transport” (to carry across), “import” (to bring in), to “comport” (carry) oneself—and so on, and on.
Spanish portar is to bear—portar arma is to be packing, to carry a weapon. An aircraft carrier is a portaaviones, a case for carrying papers a portafolios (portfolio), etc.
To bear or endure a burden, is to “support it”—soportar, in Spanish. To “suffer,” sufrir, is the same root.
The name of Christopher, the Christian saint and friend to travellers, comes from Church Greek khristophoros, literally Christ (Khristos) + bearing (phoros), as the saint is fused with medieval legend of a benevolent giant who helped travellers across rivers.
From this sublime meaning to such a humble object as a “wheelbarrow” (a “barrow” is for carrying, from that Old Engl. beran); the essential figure in poetry and language itself ( “metaphor”); and reaching back to the very moment of our “birth”: what unfathomable mystery and power in this word, in all its vast reach and its countless forms!
Good words! ¡Buenas palabras!
Pablo J. Davis
A version of this essay originally appeared in the Nov. 20-26, 2015 edition of La Prensa Latina (Memphis, Tennessee) as number 157 in the weekly bilingual column, “Misterios y Engimas de la Traducción/Mysteries and Enigmas of Translation”. Pablo Julián Davis, PhD, CT is an ATA (Aamerican Translators Association) Certified Translator, Engl>Span; a Tennessee State Courts Certified Interpreter, Engl<>Span; and an innovative trainer in the fields of translation, interpreting, and intercultural competency, with over 25 years experience. He holds the doctorate in Latin American History from The Johns Hopkins University, and is a Juris Doctor Candidate at the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, University of Memphis (May 2017).
Ladybug, ladybug, don’t fly away!
Enlace para español/Link for Spanish
We’re used to thinking of cultural difference. But some things in this world are so inherently beautiful that people everywhere, and always, seem to have loved them. To name a few: butterflies, roses, kites, rainbows.
A small, flying insect, usually red and spotted—English “ladybug,” Spanish mariquita (little Mary), vaquita de San Antonio (St. Anthony’s little cow), and other names—also has a strong claim on membership in this select group.
The English and Spanish names are subtly linked: the “lady” in “ladybug” seems to refer to the Virgin Mary.
Some others: French la bête à bon Dieu (the good Lord’s bug), Russian bozha kapovka (God’s little cow), Dutch lieveheerbeestje (the dear Lord’s little animal), Yiddish moyshe rabbeynus ferdele (or) kiyele (Moses’s little horse, or little cow).
Why this affection so strong it often crosses into the sacred? The ladybug’s pretty colors are not unlike a butterfly’s; the spots remind us of cows. Ladybugs readily rest or walk on a human hand. And mariquita, a farmer’s friend, eats such agricultural pests as the aphid.
Some religious traditions, like Judaism, shrink from naming the Deity, so the prophet Moses is used instead. Spanish also steers clear of God in naming this insect, displacing to the Virgin or St. Anthony.
Maybe the ladybug is one of those utterly joyous things whose contemplation once moved Robert Louis Stevenson to write: The world is so full of a number of things/I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.
¡Buenas palabras/Good words!
Pablo Julián Davis, PhD, CT is a Certified Translator (ATA/American Translators Association) eng>spa and a Certified Interpreter (Tennessee State Courts) eng<>spa, as well as a recognized trainer in the fields of translation, interpreting, and cultural competence. He has over 25 years experience in these fields. An earlier version of this column was written for the Jan. 24-30, 2015 edition of La Prensa Latina (Memphis, Tennessee) as part of his bilingual weekly column Mysteries & Enigmas of Translation/Misterios y Enigmas de la Traducción.
“Secret” languages or slangs
Enlace para español/Link here for Spanish
The idea of a secret or encoded language is ancient, with obvious appeal to teenagers, colleagues in an occupation, prisoners—any group, really, that feels the need or desire to exclude outsiders from its communication.
In English, children have Pig Latin, where the first sound is moved to the end of the word, followed by ‘ay’: thus “ellohay” = hello. It’s similar to jeringoso, jerigonso o jerigonza (all derived from Span. jerga, Engl. “jargon”), which is a bit more complex: after each syllable comes ‘p’ and the vowel repeated, thus hopolapa = hola (hello), sipi = sí (yes), grapaciapas = gracias (thanks).
El vesre (the word revés, or reverse, itself reversed) long popular in Argentina and Uruguay inverts the order of syllables, though sometimes only approximately: yobaca = caballo (horse), jermu = mujer (woman), viorsi = servicio (bathroom), dolape = pelado (bald-headed man), lompa = pantalón (pants), tidorpa = partido (game or match). When some action turns out to be useless, it’s common to hear vesre used in saying “fue al dope” (the phrase al pedo means useless, in vain; pedo itself means “fart” and thus the original sense of the phrase may well have been “as useless as a fart” or “like a fart in the wind”).
Victorian English back-slang was similar, though it inverted words letter-by-letter, rather than by syllable: “evig ti ot em” = give it to me. Apparently it was much used by shop clerks and street vendors to deceive customers.
Rhyming slang, a Cockney (East End of London) art, is great fun. Just a few examples: “slabs of meat” = feet, “trouble and strife” = wife. “Lee Marvin” = starvin’, “apples and pairs” = stairs, “bread and honey” = money. Often, further concealing the actual word intended, only the first part of the phrase is used, thus “I fell down the apples and broke me hand” = I fell down the stairs and broke my hand. So in rhyming slang, the rhyme is often implicit.
The verb to razz has its own amusing origin in rhyming slang. It means to jeer by using tongue and lips to imitate the sound of flatulence—and comes from “raspberry tart,” which is rhyming slang for “fart.” In the US, the same sound is also called a “Bronx cheer” (see illustration above).
Though none of these “languages” is hard to decode on paper, it’s not hard to imagine that when spoken at high speed they can be quite effective for secret communication. Quite apart from that use, these kinds of word play appeal to many users of language simply because they are fun and offer an arena for verbal creativity.
Good words! … ¡Buenas palabras!
Copyright ©2014 by Pablo J. Davis. All rights reserved.
Pablo Julián Davis, PhD, CT, is an ATA Certified Translator (Engl>Span) and a Supreme Court of Tennessee Certified Interpreter (Engl<>Span). An earlier version of this essay was originally published in the Mar. 2-8, 2014 edition of La Prensa Latina, Memphis, Tennessee, as part of the weekly bilingual column “Mysteries & Enigmas of Translation/Misterios y Enigmas de la Traducción.”
Is Día de Muertos/Day of the Dead a ‘Mexican Halloween’?
by Pablo J. Davis
We’re in the brief interval between Halloween, widely celebrated in the US, and the festival known as ‘Día de los Muertos’ or ‘Día de Muertos’ and associated primarily with Mexico, though it’s observed in different ways throughout most of Latin America. It’s a good time to think about cultural similarities and differences.
Many in the US think of the ‘Día de Muertos’ (Day of the Dead) as the ‘Mexican Halloween’. But is it really so? Does the one ‘translate’ to the other? Just as the Spanish word ‘amigo’ (or ‘amiga’) and English ‘friend’ may be side-by-side in bilingual dictionaries, yet tend to mean quite different things to the people using them – and the same can be said for familia/family, fiesta/party, and countless other culturally significant word pairs – so Halloween and Día de los Muertos may share certain symbols, and the time of year, but are markedly different phenomena.
The (often unsuspected) differences between what many people think of as equivalent holidays is not quite what is meant by the term ’false friends’. The latter term refers to words that appear to the foreign speaker to mean one thing, due to their similarity with a familiar word in her language, but that in fact mean something different. An English speaker, on reading in Spanish that ‘Gómez sufrió repetidas injurias a manos de Pérez’, may imagine that Pérez repeatedly assaulted Gómez, causing him physical injuries; when in fact, Spanish ‘injuria’ means insults, lies, slander, and other sorts of verbal attacks. False friends can be tricky, but ultimately are fairly easily caught and corrected by speakers with good mastery of both languages.
Not so cultural phenomena. There the differences are more subtle, may not even be captured by the bilingual dictionary. Most English speakers, for instance, more readily use ‘friend’ where a Spanish speaker tends to use ‘compañero’ or ‘colega’, reserving ‘amigo’ or ‘amiga’ for a closer relationship. In other words, ‘amigo/amiga’ is a harder title to earn – we can think of it as perhaps socially more ’expensive’ – than is ‘friend’. No criticism of either culture meant here: it’s simply a cultural difference, an important one that can cause hurt and misunderstanding when not perceived by one side or the other.
What does all this mean for Halloween and the Día de los Muertos? These two holidays, seemingly close equivalents if not downright interchangeable, map very differently onto the two cultures. Halloween is largely about defying and even mocking death, about neutralizing its terrors by rendering them theatrical. There is a kind of daring play involved, a dancing around the macabre.
In Mexican (and, more broadly, Latin American) culture, el Día de los Muertos is something else entirely. One celebrates, remembers, honors, one’s deceased loved ones – parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles – it’s common to hear people speak of ‘mi muertito’ or ‘mi muertita’ (my beloved dead one) for a deceased father or grandmother, spouse or sibling. Ancient, pre-Columbian and pre-Christian traditions of ancestor worship and love were intertwined, over the colonial decades and centuries that unfolded after Contact and Conquest, with the Christian calendar and rites to create something new: scholars of religious history and culture refer to ‘syncretic’ religious practices. Thus the celebration of the Día de los Muertos came to coincide with All Souls Day, or the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed, on the Christian calendar.
The ramifications of ritual involved in this festivity are elaborate and complex. The baking of cakes in the form of skulls and skeletons, the making of skeletal figurines often fully dressed and adorned with hats and other accessories, the fashioning of altars bearing photographs of beloved dead and containing offerings to them, the creation of satiric verses, and a rich graphic tradition of death-related iconography (most famously in the work of José Guadalupe Posada, whose ‘La Catrina’ is above left) are just some of the flowerings of festive practice that the Día de los Muertos has given rise to.
Though there are some cultural-religious practices elsewhere in Latin America that have some commonalities with El Día de los Muertos – for instance, the cult of ‘San La Muerte’ (Saint Death) in the Guaraní cultural zone of northern Argentina, southern Brazil, and Paraguay, deeply rooted in the populace but rejected by the Catholic Church as pagan practice – there is nothing quite like the centrality of El Día de los Muertos in Mexican culture.
Still, wholeness and acceptance in the face of mortality, and the imperative of sustaining connection with loved ones no longer living – the heart of Mexico’s Día de los Muertos – form a thread that runs through much of Latin America’s cultural map. Argentina’s Atahualpa Yupanqui (1908-1992) expressed this idea as beautifully as anyone ever has. Half a century ago, in his memorable anthem, ‘Los hermanos’, the singer, guitarist, composer, and folklorist wrote:
Yo tengo tantos hermanos I have so many brothers and sisters
que no los puedo contar. that I can’t count them all.
En el valle, la montaña, In the valleys, in the mountains,
en la pampa y en el mar. On the pampas and at sea.
Cada cual con sus trabajos, Each one with his work,
con sus sueños, cada cual. with her dreams, each one.
Con la esperanza adelante, With hope before them
con los recuerdos detrás. And memories behind
. . .
Y así, seguimos andando And so we go on,
curtidos de soledad. Hardened by loneliness
Y en nosotros nuestros muertos And inside us, we carry our dead
pa que nadie quede atrás. So that no one is left behind
Yo tengo tantos hermanos I have so many brothers and sisters
que no los puedo contar . . . that I cannot count them all . . .
In the end, interpreting cultural phenomena across languages challenges us to a subtlety of understanding even beyond what translation usually demands. Things that look the same can be fundamentally different.
Copyright ©2011-2013 by Pablo J. Davis. All Rights Reserved.
This essay originally appeared at http://interfluency.wordpress.com in October 2011. It is being republished this year with an accompanying Spanish translation.
Tuesday the 13th… the Friday the 13th of the Spanish-speaking world (and vice-versa)
ENLACE AQUI PARA ESPAÑOL/LINK HERE FOR SPANISH
Imagine you’re translating a document, from English into Spanish. Say it’s a letter, dated Tuesday, August 13, 2013 (that’s today). How do you translate that into Spanish? Well, that’s not too difficult: you might render it as ‘martes, 13 agosto 2013’.
Martes 13, Tuesday the 13th: a combination of day and date that are the object of widely-held popular superstition in the Spanish-speaking world.
(Like November 2012, the month of January 1931 had a ‘martes 13’ – Tuesday the 13th. By the famed artist and cartoonist Florencio Molina Campos, whose humorous but loving depictions of old-time scenes and characters of the Pampa have adorned wall calendars in Argentina for the better part of a century. Molina Campos was admired by Walt Disney, with whom he struck up a friendship.)
The bad luck commonly held to attach to ‘martes 13’ actually comes in a double dose. To the triskaidekafobia (a terrific Greek word, composed of thirteen+fear, that has the lovely property of sounding exactly like the thing it designates) that Hispanic/Latin American culture shares with Anglo-Saxon and many others across the world, is added a negative apprehension surrounding Tuesday. Tuesday aversion is not common in the English-speaking world (though in the cycle of the work week, it’s certainly not many people’s favorite day). Think of the nursery rhyme foretelling a child’s fortune from the day of its birth (“Tuesday’s child is full of grace…”), or old Solomon Grundy who was “christened on Tuesday”.
In Spanish, though, the name for the second day following the Christian Sabbath is martes, Mars’s Day. Around this deity, most commonly known as the Roman god of war (equivalent to the Greeks’ Ares), spin a series of negative qualities: aggression, duplicity, hostility, selfishness. Reputedly despised by both his parents, Zeus and Hera, Mars could be worshipped for his valor and power (and apparently Venus did so), but perhaps more often feared. Herein lies at least part of the reason why Tuesday’s stock is so low in Hispanic-Latin American culture. “Día martes,” goes the well-known folk saying reflecting this, “no te cases ni te embarques” [On Tuesday, marry not, nor set sail].
So, thinking of all these associations, let’s go back to our little translation problem. Only now, let’s imagine the year is not 2012 but rather 1980, and what we need to ‘move across’ (the original, physical meaning of ‘translate‘) from English to Spanish is not the date of a letter but the title of a movie. Specifically, director Sean Cunningham’s newly-released horror flick Friday the 13th (still with us almost a third of a century later, having reached twelve installments and a grand total of eleven different directors; is anyone truly in suspense over whether there will be a Part 13?).
With strict ‘dictionary accuracy’, we could release the film under the title Viernes 13. But to tap into the deeper resonances within Hispanic/Latin American culture, maybe we would better off shifting the day of the week to Tuesday and rendering the title as Martes 13. And that’s exactly what happened in Peru, Argentina, Uruguay, and other countries of the Spanish-speaking world. However, the direct or ‘dictionary’ translation was used in still other countries, including Mexico and Spain.
One result of this convoluted set of circumstances: the association of Friday the 13th with bad luck, not native to Hispanic/Latin American culture, has to some extent been ‘imported’ from the English-speaking world—due to the power of what is often called popular, and might more accurately be termed commercial, culture.
And, let us not forget, it’s due also to the influence of an often overlooked group of ‘unacknowledged legislators’: members of the translators’ profession, whose decisions can have a significant impact on human affairs. What’s at stake is clearer when we think of the texts of laws and treaties, or the way that a statesman’s words are translated in a tense international negotiation. But even in this seemingly trivial example of a movie title, there are ‘real world’ implications. People’s likelihood of making certain personal or economic decisions—travel, a purchase, an apartment rental—is influenced by beliefs regarding numbers, dates, days of the week.
More adventures in the world of translation, this science, craft, and art all at the same time! And never more challenging than when cultural phenomena are what we’re translating.
© Copyright 2013 by Pablo J. Davis. All Rights Reserved.
A version of this essay appeared at https://interfluency.wordpress.com on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2011 and Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012.
Pablo J. Davis, PhD, CT is an ATA (American Translators Association) Certified Translator, English>Spanish, and a Supreme Court of Tennessee Certified Interpreter, English<>Spanish. With over 20 years of experience and particular specialties in the legal, business, and medical fields. Contact email@example.com or 901-288-3018 if you need world-class translation or interpreting between the English and Spanish languages. Through his company Interfluency Translation+Culture, he aso delivers interactive, informative, and inspiring cultural-awareness training to businesses, churches, schools, and government agencies.
Summer, its names and romance
The calendar tells us that the Northern Hemisphere summer is still a few weeks away. A few moments outdoors confirm that the season is already here. Let’s spend a minute with its names in English and Spanish.
“Summer romance” (amores de verano, in Spanish), a phrase that brings a sigh to many lips.
“Summer” is Germanic in origin (Old Saxon sumar)… One of the oldest extant texts in English is the poetic hymn to the season, ”Sumer is icumen in” (Summer is here), from 13th century Middle English.
Spanish verano, unsurprisingly, comes from Latinveranum; what’s unexpected to modern eyes and ears, though, is that veranum could mean either spring or summer. These seasons, which we differentiate, were historically blurred together—as were their names. Indeed, Spanish primavera, for spring, used to mean “early summer”.
English speakers turn “summer” into a verb and speak of “summering in Maine”; in Spanish, the noun has to be retrofitted to make veranear: Antes veraneábamos en la sierra (We used to summer in the mountains).
(By the way, let’s clear up a lingering doubt: the seasons are not capitalized in English unless part of a proper name such as “Summer Olympics”, “Fall Semester”.)
Kids go to “summer camp”, which in Spanish can be called either la colonia de verano or, much like the English, el campamento de verano.
Spanish has another word for summer, almost unused except in literary contexts: el estío (from Latin aestivum), a relative of French été. The same root is present in “to estivate” or “estivation” (the latter a hot-weather equivalent of hibernation).
Finally, dear reader, there must be a “summer romance” that you can recall with a sigh. Curiously, this phrase, the same as its Spanish equivalent, amores de verano, was little used before the 1960s.
Copyright © 2013 by Pablo Julián Davis. All rights reserved. A version of this essay was originally written for the June 9-15, 2013 edition of La Prensa Latina (Memphis, Tennessee), as part of the regular bilingual column “Mysteries and Enigmas of Translation”. Pablo Julián Davis (www.interfluency.com) is an ATA Certified Translator (inglés>español) and a Supreme Court of Tennessee Certified Interpreter (inglés<>español) who also provides custom-designed cultural/linguistic coaching and training.
CIA and “SEE-ya”: Adventures in translating abbreviations
In an earlier column, we observed how abbreviations made up of initial letters (sometimes, initial syllables), can be divided into two subtypes: (i) acronyms like PIN or RAM, which are pronounced like words, and (ii) initialisms like ATM or NGO, pronounced letter-by-letter. These abbreviations present many curiosities and challenges to the translator. Here are just a few examples…
- Where English uses the initialism “UN” for the United Nations, Spanish has“ONU” (pronounced “OH-new”), for Organización de las Naciones Unidas.
- The birth of “laser” as an acronym for “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation” was long forgotten in English by the time Spanish officially adopted láser. Likewise for “radar”, “scuba”, and “MIDI”.
- “CIA”, a famous initialism, is different. The agency’s name has an official Spanish translation: Agencia Central de Inteligencia, but the Spanish abbreviation, oddly, is not “ACI”. Rather, Spanish long ago imported the initialism directly and made it an acronym: CIA (pronounced “SEE-yah”). An additional oddity is that the acronym is occasionally spelled Cía, which, with a period following, happens to be the Spanish abbreviation forCompañía (Company)—and “The Company” is a fairly well-known nickname for that agency.
- Yet another situation is that of “compact disc”. This term has an accepted Spanish translation, disco compacto. As with “CIA”, though, the abbreviation is not “DC” (as you might expect) but “CD”, straight from English. Until about a decade ago, this was usually pronounced “seh-DEH” in the Hispanic world; but, more and more, Spanish speakers use English phonetics to say it: “see-DEE”.
Much agility is needed to translate and interpret these terms. The circumstances of their birth are diverse—and so are the paths they take from one language to another.
Copyright © 2013 by Pablo Julián Davis. All rights reserved. A version of this essay was originally written for the 12-18 May 2013 edition of La Prensa Latina (Memphis, Tennessee), as part of the regular bilingual column “Mysteries and Enigmas of Translation”. Pablo Julián Davis (www.interfluency.com) is an ATA Certified Translator (inglés>español) and a Supreme Court of Tennessee Certified Interpreter (inglés<>español) who also provides custom-designed cultural/linguistic coaching and training.