Where IKEA gets the names

There has often been speculation about the names of IKEA furniture (especially about the desk Jerker and the bed Gutvik). An article in German in Stern reveals a surprising amount of planning.

Thus bathroom items are named after Scandinavian lakes, rivers and bays; sets of bookcases after occupations; dining tables and chairs after Finnish placenames; carpets after Danish placenames; and much more. There’s a long list on the second page.

See overleaf for a summary in English. Continue reading

German coffee enthusiast in Der Spiegel / Deutscher Kaffeefanatiker im Spiegel

Markus Morkel is one of the few Germans who post (occasionally) to the alt.coffee Usenet group, a mecca of abstruse information on temperature testing, roasting, tamping and brewing. There is an article about him in Der Spiegel.

Im Spiegel steht ein Artikel über Markus Morkel aus Berlin, ein Kaffeefanatiker, der manchmal in der Usenet-Gruppe alt.coffee postet.

A first attempt by Andy Schecter to convey the article in Babelfish translation was bizarre:

bq. Der Laie ist stets vom Scheitern bedroht. Mal ist der Trank zu bitter, mal zu sauer, mal schmeckt er nach altem Frittenfett. Das Mehl ist zu fein gemahlen oder zu grob, das Wasser läuft zu schnell oder zu langsam durch den Presskuchen. Im Internet flammen immer wieder Debatten auf über den Kraftaufwand, mit dem das Mehl in den Siebträger gestopft gehört. Die Rede ist von 15 Kilogramm – außer bei feuchter Luft, da genügen vielleicht 13 Kilogramm, weil das Mehl ein wenig aufquillt.

bq. The layman is always threatened from the failure. Times the drink is too
bitterly, times too sourly, times tastes it after old frit fat. The flour is too
finely husbands or too rough, the water runs too fast or too slowly by the
presskuchen. In the InterNet debates flame again and again on over the energy
expenditure, with which the flour belongs into the filter carrier plugged. The
speech is from 15 kilograms – except with damp air, there are sufficient perhaps
13 kilogram, because the flour a little swells.

The rendering of gemahlen as husbands is interesting.

bq. Denn auch der Schaum ist eine Wissenschaft für sich. Dem Anfänger gelingt meist nur seifenhaftes Geblubber, das bald zusammenfällt. Begehrt ist der hochfeine, sämige, ja, fast schleimige “Mikroschaum”, der sich nur bei den Kundigen einstellt. Man muss dafür mit dem Dampfrüssel nach einem erprobten Ritual in der Milch herumstochern.

bq. Because also the foam is a science for itself. Usually only soapful Geblubber, which collapses soon, succeeds to the beginner. Desired the high-fine, saemige, are nearly slimy “micro foam”, which adjusts itself only with the Kundigen. One must for it with the steam trunk after an established ritual in the milk herumstochern.

A much nicer job was done in alt.coffee by Jim Schulman. You can read Usenet groups at the Google groups site. This should be the thread.

I don’t read alt.coffee much nowadays, since my espresso machine is sitting at the other end of Germany and has been since May. Every week I phone up and am told it is going to be sent out the very next day or the very next morning, but I am gradually wondering if it might not make more sense to drink tea.

While I’m on the subject, here are some useful links on coffee: Sweet Maria’s, CoffeeGeek, Espresso Vivace, Danny McNulty, and in Germany, Espresso Factory and Kaffee-Netz.

Bavarian local elections again

The Bavarian local election campaign continues. Must find out when the voting takes place – I’m allowed to vote in this one.
Some parties resort to having the candidate hang his own poster. This one is sending a mixed message, to judge from the results (click to enlarge).


Draft German Costs Legislation

The German Federal Ministry of Justice has published a PDF file containing the draft of a statute to modernize Costs Law (in German; on 28th August, entitled ‘Einfach, transparent und zeitgemäß’). With regard to translators and interpreters, it says that the principle of ‘compensation’ is to be replaced by ‘payment’ (translators and interpreters for the courts have till now been regarded as being ‘compensated’ for the time they have lost, rather than paid for work done). There is to be a new statute for translators, interpreters, expert witnesses and lay judges (ehrenamtliche Richter). There are to be clearly defined payment groups with fixed hourly rates, which are to be more closely approximated to free market rates (hmm, that will give them a wide field!). It sounds as if the range of rates is to be narrower, thus avoiding some of the customary disputes. Refer to ‘Zu § 11’ on p. 225 for more details (thanks to Chico Moreira).

Payment per line is to give way to payment for a number of keystrokes, that is, it is recognized that translations are done on computers and computers can make it easier to count text. And here it comes:

bq. Maßeinheit für die Vergütung soll die im Bereich des Übersetzerwesens
allgemein eingeführte Standardzeile sein, die sich aus 55 Anschlägen einschließlich der Leerzeichen zusammensetzt. Zwar vertritt die ganz herrschende Auffassung in Rechtsprechung und Kommentarliteratur die Meinung, Leerzeichen seien keine Schriftzeichen im Sinne des § 17 Abs. 4
ZuSEG, weil sie nicht der Kommunikation dienten und damit auch keine Übersetzungsleistung erforderten. Wegen der weitverbreiteten Akzeptanz der Standardzeile erscheint es jedoch angebracht, diesen Umrechnungsmaßstab aufzugreifen.

bq. The unit by which payment is measured is to be the standard line, which is generally recognized among translators, consisting of 55 characters, including spaces. The overwhelmingly prevailing opinion in case law [how many court cases have there been?] and in the commentaries takes the view that spaces are not characters in the meaning of section 17 (4) of the ZuSEG (Gesetz über die Entschädigung von Zeugen und Sachverständigen, Act on the Reimbursement of Witnesses and Expert Witnesses) because they do not serve communication [have these people tried written communication without spaces?] and therefore require no work on the part of the translator. However, in view of the widespread acceptance of the standard line, it appears appropriate to use this measure. [How condescending!]

However, if the translator or the costs clerk lacks the technology for this highly modern form of counting, counting by lines will still be possible in certain circumstances.

Bernhard Schlink: Die gordische Schleife

I’ve just finished reading Bernhard Schlink’s Die gordische Schleife (literally ‘the Gordian bow’, referring to the idea that every Gordian knot can be untied), a thriller that appeared in 1988. It reads well, especially at the beginning, but its plot and the relationships between its characters are not very credible, and at the end it suddenly gets tied up in unexpected philosophizing. Schlink’s strongest suit seems to be observation of the world through the eyes of a reflective young man – thoughtful observation of detail is the strongest element of Der Vorleser too.

Before I bought it, Schlink had written two better-thought-of crime novels whose main character, Selb, was a 68-year-old private detective with a Nazi past. A further one, Selbs Mord (literally, Selb’s murder: SelbsTmord means suicide) appeared in 2001. But Schlink is now internationally famous as the author of Der Vorleser (The Reader) (not just because it was an Oprah selection in the USA). But The Gordian Knot (as it will be called when it appears in English in 2004) has a main character who is a German ex-lawyer turned translator, living in France. Continue reading

Australian law portal

Lex Scripta is an Australian law portal (Essential Web Links for Queensland Lawyers). It’s the link of the week at the University of Saarbrücken (German). Lex Scripta contains a large number of links of wide interest. It’s opening page includes a Google search of AustLII (I did a quick search on ‘kangaroo’ and got 1085 hits, but I admit this was superficial of me). The site describes itself as follows:

bq. Lex Scripta, as the name implies, is intended primarily as a guide to finding Leges Scriptæ – written legal reference resources – wherever they exist on the Internet. But it is much more than a catalogue or index of legal reference sites. Through the links found on this site, practising members of the legal profession, as well as legal academics and students, should be able to locate any web-based resource likely to be useful in the course of their daily work.

and it says it is of interest to laypersons as well as to lawyers.

Perhaps it bears repeating that AustLII is the Australasian Legal Information Institute, a first-class portal for Australian and New Zealand law that aims to link all freely available statute and case law and has been copied, but not bettered, by BAILII (Britain and Ireland), CanLII (Canada), HKLII (Hong Kong), PacLII (Pacific Islands) and WorldLII (the world).

New kinds of translation memory software

I was reading in the LISA newsletter about a form of translation memory software that is not tied to the sentence but instead to large paragraphs and that creates a big index of all elements of a text.

The article is by Timothy Hunt of TermSeek Inc. and actually comes from the archives but I haven’t seen it before.
The software called translation support software and two kinds being worked on are TransSearch and Translator’s Intuition:

bq. For example, Elliott Macklovitch and Graham Russell in What’s been Forgotten in Translation Memory pointed out that statistical based TM systems would say that sentence (1) below is closest to sentence (2) even though sentence (3) is closer in meaning.

bq. The wild child is destroying his new toy.
The wild chief is destroying his new tool.
The wild children are destroying their new toy.

Further web searching led to a useful page on software for translators by il8nguy, whose site I’ve seen before but also not done justice to. il8n is short for ‘international localization’.

There is also a list of language and translation blogs (under the subdirectory ‘humor’).

Court interpreters in Germany – interview

In today’s Nürnberger Nachrichten, in the Stadt Nürnberg section (also to be found in the Fürther Nachrichten, of course), there is an interview (in German) with Francisco Ludovice-Moreira, the President of the Bavarian section of the Bundesverband der Dolmetscher und Übersetzer/BDÜ, the professional association for translators and interpreters in Germany (there are others, such as ADÜ-Nord and ATICOM, and VdÜ (the last one is for literary translators). Like many German newspaper interviews, it is printed like the script of a play, with the names of the speakers and their texts. I have no idea whether such an interview is unaltered.

The main topic is interpreting for the police and courts. The police are said to be happy, often, to use a student for 15 euros per hour, and they have no interest as to whether a translator is sworn or not. There is also reference to the fact that translator and interpreter certification is a matter of Land law and should be standardized throughout Germany, and some discussion of the variation of payment for translations from court to court. The current statute, the ZSEG or ZuSEG, is soon to be replaced by the JVEG, and that may lay down a fixed line price and hourly rate.

Threatened languages

There was a little discussion on CompuServe (FLEFO) as to why it is worth saving dying languages (a subject I rarely think about). Tony Roder, of the Translator’s Home Companion, mentioned reading a favourable review of a book on the subject. The book is Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages, by Mark Abley, a Canadian journalist said to be a good story-teller, who travelled around the world investigating obscure and less obscure languages. Lawyers might find it difficult to speak Boro, a language in Northern India with scarcely any nouns. I see languagehat has already mentioned it, but I was in Verona at the time (he mentions an Amazonian language that was last spoken by a parrot, which was surely in a Larson cartoon).

Arcata Eye Police Log

The Arcata Eye site is apparently well-known on the Internet, so I am late finding it. It describes itself as ‘America’s most popular small-town newspaper’ and has a section called Police Log. I suppose this is fictitious, but it’s a very good read. Here’s an example:

bq. Monday, July 28 12:29 a.m. 12:08 p.m. Baby birds were reported stuck to the the wall of a trailer park recreation hall. A woman said management wouldn’t let her children rescue the birds. An officer arrived, collected the birdies and turned them over to wildlife rescue personnel.
12:11 p.m. A woman reported an ex-roommate ordering magazine subscriptions in her name. …

bq. 10:06 p.m. Got a pair of rottweilers? Be sure and lock them in a camper shell on 10th Street so they can explode at people who walk past.

bq. Tuesday, July 29 2:45 a.m. A vehicle sat defunct in the westbound lane of 17th Street. The driver told an officer it was out of gas and was waiting for someone to bring him some. It’s fair to surmise that planning may not be the guy’s strong suit, since he hadn’t registered the gasless vehicle since 1999. It was towed; he was cited.

I found this when following up a reference by languagehat, who is an editor, to the weblog of another editor, Theresa Nielsen Hayden, Making Light, because in the comments to her entry By my ear and hand
there was a wonderful sentence illustrating the need for the serial comma or Oxford comma, which I can’t resist quoting:

bq. Planet Ustinov – Monday, C4, 8pm
By train, plane and sedan chair, Peter Ustinov retraces a journey made by Mark Twain a century ago. The highlights of his global tour include encounters with Nelson Mandela, an 800-year-old demigod and a dildo collector.

And Theresa has a link to the Arcata police log.