Miscellaneous

A number of bits of news.

  1. An article in the Law Gazette on April 19 2022: Official court judgments database goes live
    https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/law/official-court-judgments-database-goes-live/5112223.article

I haven’t had occasion to use this yet. It’s worth looking at the comments to see its possible limitations. Till now, we have been very happy to use BAILII, but it’s good to have an official initiative and I think the two may complement each other. Note on the BAILII website there are links to other collections.

2. New German phonetic alphabet: https://www.n-tv.de/panorama/Weg-mit-den-Nazi-Bezuegen-DIN-veroeffentlicht-neue-Buchstabiertafel-article23330727.html

Stuttgart hat es nicht geschafft, auch Augsburg blieb auf der Strecke. Und Bremen ist als einziges Bundesland nicht dabei. Buchstabiert wird künftig von A wie Aachen bis Z wie Zwickau.

Wikipedia has a table showing Switzerland and Austria too. It doesn’t worry me that the towns are all in Germany rather than Switzerland and Austria, as long as they’re comprehensible on the phone. At one time the table contained D for David (older Germans are often suspicious about the name David), N for Nathan and Z for Zechariah. The Nazis replaced these with Dora, Nordpol and Zeppelin, but they are now Düsseldorf, Nürnberg and Zwickau.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-55186459

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buchstabiertafel

3. I dare hardly dip a toe into the problem of making German gender-neutral. Someone posted a shot of a page of this book on Twitter: Wie schreibe ich divers? Wie spreche ich gendergerecht? Ein Praxis-Handbuch zu Gender und Sprache, by Lann Hornscheidt and Ja’n Sammla (whether the authors’ names are as they appeared on their birth certificates it doesn’t say). Here’s a quote from an amazon review:

Wenn es nach Hornscheidt und Sammla geht, gehe ich zukünftig nicht mit meiner Mutter, sondern mit meinens Meema zur Familienfeier. Dort treffe ich nicht meinen Opa und eine Tante, sondern meinex Opmex und ens Tonkel. – Was hier aussieht als wäre eine Katze über die Tastatur gelaufen, wird so wirklich und ernsthaft vorgeschlagen. (S.95 Tabelle 1) Sprache wird hier, um eine andere Rezension zu zitieren, “wie Knetmasse” behandelt, die sich nach Belieben verformen lässt. Ein lächerlicher und irgendwo schon fast bemitleidenswerter Ansatz an der völlig falschen Stelle.

Wir haben uns jedenfalls köstlich amüsiert, wie hier doch allen Ernstes erwartet wird, dass man die “böse Hexe” in einem Märchen zur “sehr weisen Person” umformuliert.

Tweet with screenshot

Marc Prior has created a website, gendern.eu, with an article on the problem of feminine/masculine, which considers the possibility of generic neuter.

5. Professor Dr. Tinka Reichmann of Leipzig University has linked some diagrams of the German court system with translations into various languages. There doesn’t seem to be anything new here though.

We used to have diagrams, now outdated, from a book on German law for schools, in which the number of judges was indicated by little human figures in various numbers, which seemed easier to look at. I would be confused by one of these diagrams in English alone and wonder what the significance of panels vs. chambers was.

This and that

I have almost given up this blog, but here are a few legal/translation points while I am passing through.

Divorce vocabulary

This week English law at last provided a possibility of no-fault divorce. Previously the only way to get a divorce relatively promptly involved spouses accusing each other of behaviour of various kinds (‘unreasonable behaviour’, meaning behaviour the other spouse could not reasonably be expected to live with). (No-fault divorce is possible in Scotland though).

New divorce laws will come into force from 06 April 2022

So just to make things more interesting for translators, some of the vocabulary has changed. A divorce petition becomes an application, a petitioner an applicant, a decree nisi a conditional order and a divorce decree a divorce order.

Thanks to Laura Elvin for pointing that out.

Beziehungsweise / bzw.

I don’t think I’ve written much about this, but it is a problem to translate.

Without warming up the long discussion on translators’ forums, I would like to quote what a colleague read in a German Patent Office examination report:

“Das Bindewort beziehungsweise (bzw.) ist nicht zur Schaffung zweifelsfreier Rechte geeignet, da es als und, oder oder auch als und/oder verstanden werden kann.”

I love this. I like the bit where they say “… da es als und, oder oder auch als und/oder verstanden werden kann.”
So there is a difference between “und, oder” and “und/oder”.
They could have written “…da es als und, oder bzw. als und/oder verstanden werden kann”, couldn’t they?

Speeding fines based on income

Juliette Scott in her blog From Words to Deeds finds it odd that speeding fines in Finland are based on income.

But it isn’t so odd. In Germany too, and no doubt in other countries outside the UK, the amount of the fine varies between the rich and the poor. So you get a number of points, called Tagessätze, and what a point is worth depends on your income. It makes sense to me.

There used to be problems translating the word Tagessätze. It seemed poor grammar to call it daily rates. I now write daily units. This is because the term was used when the system was briefly introduced in the UK. The problem arises if you write in the papers the exact sum the rich person has to pay, rather than the number of units or the percentage of income used. I suppose that the average newspaper reader is not aware how much richer some people are than others.

This is all so long ago that I’ve forgotten the details. In fact I note that in 2021 and presumably 2022 too, the most egregious speeding fines were related to income. Speeding fines 2021.

Notarial string, thread or yarn

The Pencil Talk blog has a new post on notarial string. I wrote about this in December 2004! (Links are unlikely to work now). Which reminds me that this blog is coming up for a birthday in April, if it survives that long.

Pencil Talk has some great photos of notarial string and seals. As it says, each German Land has a different-coloured string, and there is a federal one too. Useful links there, for instance to a list of all colours of string.

Here is a picture of what I found – some green English ribbon and some Federal German notarial string.

There’s a link to an article on treasury tags in the Bleistift blog.

I think English notaries public use ribbon, as barristers do. The ribbon may be green, and for barristers pink, but it’s entered the language as ‘red tape’.

Translators in Germany sometimes use notarial string, but then they argue about whether they are allowed to or not.

Edited to add a picture of a bodger lookalike.

What I knew as a bodger, which punches a single hole in the corner of a bundle of papers, ready to take the treasury tag, did not have a hole for thread.

It’s been pointed out to me in a comment on the Bleistift blog that bodger may be called awl or pricker. Awl seems to be right. Here’s one of many.

Dietl/Lorenz DE>EN new edition

You can buy this dictionary, or will soon be able to, in the paper version or as an Acolada digital version (already available) – I see it’s possible to rent it online for an annual fee. The Acolada version can be combined with other reference works, including Kettler’s dictionary of Intellectual Property and Creifelds.

https://www.beck-shop.de/dietl-lorenz-woerterbuch-recht-wirtschaft-politik-dictionary-of-legal-commercial-political-terms-band-2-deutsch-englisch-volume-/product/813610

https://acolada.de/woerterbuecher/woerterbuch-fuer-recht-wirtschaft-und-politik/

Lexikon/Wörterbuch
Buch. Hardcover (In Leinen)
6. Auflage. 2020
Rund 1102 S
C.H.BECK. ISBN 978-3-406-60914-5
(In Gemeinschaft mit Matthew Bender/New York und Helbing & Lichtenhahn/Basel)
Format (B x L): 16,0 x 24,0 cm

This is the 6th edition. The 5th is out of print.

If you are using a paper dictionary, I remember this and Romain both being quite time-consuming to use. The digital version will at least find your word promptly.

I have a problem with dictionaries nowadays. The updates are not always very comprehensive, or at least they don’t contain new information that is very useful for me. For example, the latest DE>EN Romain contained a large number of updates to include feminine terms. Maybe it used to say Rechtsanwalt and now it says Rechtsanwalt/Rechtsanwältin. I am afraid this had little effect on my use of the dictionary. My copy eventually fell apart and I then bought a second-hand copy of the earlier edition (3rd ed., 1994). This does the job for me. I think there may be a successor to Romain in the pipeline but have no information on this.

Local photos

The very rare posts here have been rather heavy, so before that continues, here are some local photos.

First of all, here is an NHS “Better Health” poster. When Boris Johnson decided to campaign against obesity, we began to see this slogan ‘Let’s Do This’ and this advice here ‘Simple Swaps’. This is a fat man stuffing lettuce into his mouth. There is a 12-week NHS course online to encourage healthy eating, and all sorts of slimming clubs (as they no longer call themselves) are probably available free for some weeks through your GP. So I imagine a fair amount of money has been pumped into this by the government. I think the problem is more complex, but then I would say that, wouldn’t it?

The next is the side view of the door to my dentist’s practice. It’s the view you get if you wait to the left of the door wearing a mask. I like the way all the details are picked out in red. Fortunately I only had a checkup.

The final one shows the kind of reason I haven’t had to give the cat any breakfast today – she is fast asleep. The mouse in this photo did escape though, perhaps to be caught another time. Mice are under people’s sheds and decking, usually.

I was proceeding in a northerly direction

I’ve just received a comment on a post I wrote in 2004: I was proceeding in a northerly direction/Polizeisprech.

The comment is actually a link to an article on another blog written by a police officer who picks up factual errors in TV police shows. He writes that no policeman has ever ‘proceeded in a northerly direction’, by which he means not that they never go north, but they never use the expression. But that’s exactly the point: it’s when a police officer is in a magistrate’s court refreshing his memory from his police notebook, which is standard practice and permissible, and reads out what he has written – it doesn’t come over naturally.

On this subject I can’t help remembering the German TV series Ein Fall für Zwei, where the German lawyers would strut up and down in court as if there had been a jury in the German court – US TV was the inspiration for that.

Here’s another article on the same topic

Leo Whitlock, one of the editors at the Kent Messenger group of newspapers, has penned an interesting blog looking at the how individuals use overly complicated words when speaking to people in authority.  

It is, I suspect, an attempt to appear not just ‘posh’, as Whitlock claims, but to appear better educated and to gain the respect of their peers. 

This inflated use (or abuse) of the English language is no better illustrated when engaging with the legal community. 

Take, most likely, the apocryphal PC writing in his notebook.  “I was proceeding in a northerly direction, when I apprehended the suspect…..”

No one talks like that.

That’s the situation, I think: talking in a courtroom setting.

Year-end notes 3

Arson

Continuing the topic of the dangers of New Year’s Eve fireworks in Germany, it’s been reported that a fire started by some kind of fireworks at Krefeld Zoo burnt down the Monkey House and killed about 30 animals, including orang-utans, gorillas and a chimpanzee (two chimpanzees survived).

The later reports say that the fire was started by three women, a 60-year-old woman from Krefeld and her two daughters, who have handed themselves in. They set off sky lanterns (Himmelslaternen) which they had bought on the internet. They didn’t know these were banned. They handed themselves in and face a potential penalty of up to five years’ imprisonment.

The offence is described in the UK press as negligent arson. Perhaps one might say ‘starting a fire by negligence’, since the word ‘arson’ in English usage and law really suggests deliberate action. I have lose my copy of Bohlander’s Principles of Criminal Law, despite it being one of my go-to books, so all I have is a photocopy of the very old book on Criminal Law by E. J. Cohn – still very useful, even though the law has changed a bit since then.

Lighting sky lanterns has been forbidden (verboten) since 2009. But they can be bought. It seems a matter for the Länder to each decide whether they may be used with a permit. Their danger is that once lit, the person releasing them cannot control where they fly (depends on wind and other factors) or how long they burn, unlike in the case of a rocket. Unheilsbringer Himmelslaterne: Verboten, aber im Verkauf.

Year-end notes 2

I have a large numnber of topics I could blog about if I put more research effort into them.

  1. Lübeck führt den “Gender:Doppelpunkt” ein

I haven’t even touched on the Gender-Sternchen.

I received a query as to whether authorities consider the effect of their decisions on segmentation of texts for translation memory sofrware: people will have to stop recommending sentences being split at a colon (I don’t do that anyway – and surely we must decry the lack of colon usage?).

„Spätestens seit dem Urteil des Bundesgerichtshofes, das das Recht auf Anerkennung eines dritten Geschlechts bestätigt und zu neuen gesetzlichen Änderungen führte, besteht auch für die Verwaltung der Hansestadt LübeckHandlungsbedarf“, sagte Lindenau weiter. Als „tolerante und offene Stadt“ müsse Lübeck „diskriminierungsfrei kommunizieren“.

This is later than the ‘Binnen-I’ and I dare scarcely blog on it without greater research. I know I had to translate a job ad for ‘m/w/d’ (männlich/weiblich/divers) and may have used m/w/x. I have only seen the term Latinx this week, but then I am not used to writing Latina or Latino.

Anyway, here is a discussion about it on ProZ, which is usually good for discussions. I don’t agree with the chosen solution, but that is usually the case. Links given too.

2. Using OCR

If I use OCR, e.g. Abbyy FineReader, to convert scans to readable text, the symbols/logos/stamps on the original document can easily appear in their full glory on the resulting text. Some translators of documents even use these original graphic elements to embellish their translations. I don’t like this. I think a translation should consist of text, and if a logo has a meaning, you explain that meaning, for example (using square brackets, which I can’t find) (stamp), (logo). Anything else is not a translation, and it may create a false impression of what your document is.

This topic came up recently on a translators’ forum where a client had complained that a certified translation of her document was not in colour. That seems a bit odd. In that connection, a few colleagues advocated using first-class paper, high-quality printing and reproduction of original graphic elements. I was shocked!

See earlier post on the form of certified translations, and Richard Schneider (with photos) Von Schuppen und Ösen.

3. New Year’s Eve fireworks in Germany.

Bilanz der Silvesternacht in Berlin

Das Berliner Unfallkrankenhaus hat in der Silvesternacht 15 Menschen mit schweren Verletzungen durch Böller oder Raketen behandelt. Dazu zählten in mehreren Fällen schwerste Verbrennungen, wie eine Kliniksprecherin am Neujahrsmorgen sagte. Mehrfach waren durch Explosionen Finger abgetrennt worden, in einem Fall die ganze Hand. Unter den Schwerverletzten waren auch vier Kinder unter zehn Jahren.

Auf Twitter teilte die Klinik mit: “Erfahrungsgemäß werden aber noch etliche Verletzte mit #boellerschmerz am Neujahrstag erwartet. Besonders wenn es weiterhin keinen Regen gibt und die nicht gezündeten Sprengkörper trocken bleiben.”

Pictures of the aftermath. It is ages since I have been to an inner-city area on December 31st, alas. I know it is dangerous, but I enjoyed it. People firing rockets from balconies. Huge batteries of dead cardboard tubes lying around the next morning, though I recall the council clean-up was very prompt. There are always serious injuries.

It isn’t like that in the UK. One hears fireworks being let off more frequently – for instance, not only on November 5th but for Diwali, shortly before. And increasingly at New Year.

It seems that Germans make up for their orderliness the rest of the year in these 24 hours. Is it an offence to let off fireworks a day or two earlier or later? The Guardian considers the problem:

We don’t want to spoil the fun – New Year firework displays divide Germans

By law, Germans are only allowed to set off fireworks between 6pm on New Year’s Eve and 7am on 1 January. Up to €200m (£180m) is spent on fireworks mainly for personal use, according to Germany’s environment agency.

“It is the only time of the year – for just a few hours – when I feel really free and able to make as much noise as I like, with no one telling me what to do,” says Leonard Schneider, a 21-year-old maintenance technician from Cologne.

I presume Bleigießen is still permitted, but of course you can use wax instead.

Year-end notes

This blog is still alive, despite appearances.

At the moment I am aspiring to downsize, and I am looking through masses of old papers that I either throw away, keep or scan and save (the tidier way to forget about them). Unfortunately I really need to look at everything to make sure I don’t overlook something important.

So here is the beginning of a miscellany:

  1. This typewritten notice was in a folder marked ‘Personal’.

Sehr geehrter Kraftfahrer,

Sie parken o h n e B e r e c h t i g u n g auf einem PRIVATPARKPLATZ.

Wir teilen Ihnen mit, daß wir beim nächsten Verstoß den Halter des Fahrzeuges wegen HAUSFRIEDENSBRUCH bei der Staatsanwaltschaft anzeigen werden und weiterhin UNTERLASSUNGSKLAGE beim Amtsgericht Nürnberg wegen vorsätzlicher EIGENTUMSSTÖRUNG erheben werden.

Hochachtungsvoll

i.A. (signature)
für den Eigentümer

Nürnberg, den 9.9.88

Goodness, I thought to myself, this German behaviour would shock some of the residents of Cranham and Upminster who are always discussing parking tickets on Facebook.

But then I remembered: I went with students to watch a trial at the Landgericht in Nuremberg (that’s the building where the war crimes trials took place) and one of them could only find a parking place a bit outside the others. He saw no signs indicating parking was forbidden, but when he went back to his car he found this notice on it. I think it was only the next day that he went to complain at the court and explain how careful he’d been. It turned out that there was a running gag between public prosecutors and lawyers and the former had thought my student was a lawyer. As soon as they realized their mistake, the ticket was withdrawn.

2. An old ad for accounting software called Account-Ability. Picture of Reagan, as a puppet. US heading: ‘With Account-Ability anyone can do your accounts.’ German heading: ‘Wir wissen nicht, was dieser freundliche Politiker empfiehlt…’