(Via Boing Boing)
‘Sex change’ sounds kind of harsh in german-raised ears (‘Sex’ in German does not relate to ‘gender’, only to sex), and is marked as ‘weasel word’ in Wikipedia. Nevertheless it describes exactly what it is meant to describe; I’d never have understood ‘transgender transition’ or ‘sex reassignment therapy’ (which would indicate a sickness in the first place!) whithout looking them up.
I never did get the hang of this ‘PC’ stuff anyway, but that is another story (why should I call an outright lie a mere untruth, because ‘liar’is assumed as ‘politically incorrect’, why shouldn’t I call a fraud a fraud?).
Michael: as you know, we are talking about German ‘Geschlecht’, not ‘Sex’. English uses the term ‘gender’ for the sex a person feels, and ‘sex’ for biological sex. The latter, as you say, fits quite well in the context. But sometimes ‘transgender’ needs to be used to distinguish, and sometimes it seems to be used as the latest unnecessary PC word. So from the translator’s point of view, you have to watch out for changes in general usage. It seems that Germans sometimes use the word ‘Transgender’ too, as they haven’t developed two words for it (I may be missing something here).
As for PC, again, some translators into English ignore it. But we’ve all stopped using words like ‘negro’, although it seemed harmless when I was growing up, and I don’t think it’s a good idea to go against the flow unless the client wants that. But then again, most of the German lawyers whose words I translate write extremely indirectly and would never call a spade a spade!
Indeed it wouldn’t be a very good idea for a translator just to ignore PC when one of the corresponding parties is American; ‘going against the flow’ could well mean going out of business. Still I don’t like it (and luckily, I’m no translator). Language is the tool of my craft and like any craftsman I just hate other people tampering with my tools.
On the matter of spades: If one drafts a contract about e.g. earthworks, more general terms are surely favorable to cover anything from spades and pickaxes to excavating machines or genetically manipulated moles (would that be ‘genetically engineered’ in PC?). When sueing for compensation though, ‘hit him on the head with a digging implement’ would be a bit unspecific. There’s not much damages to gain for being hit with a mole.
Back to transgender: Altough Google reveals about half a million sites from Germany using this expression, it is not widely known here (I, for one, stumbled upon it in your blog for the first time).
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