McKenzie friend

The term McKenzie friend has been discussed here before – here’s the first entry, and later I quoted the OED definition, and finally the original McKenzie friend commented – see PDF.

On Language Log, Mark Liberman has now found a McKenzie friend who seems more dangerous to the understanding of language than many a judge.

The syntax, and I am the judge in 1988 who wrote the mathematical interface on all 5,000 languages proving that language is a linear equation in algebra certifying that all words have 900 definitions through this mathematical algebraic formula and over the course of the past 21 years have developed an accuracy level in the syntaxing of language sentence structure to prove the correct sentence structure communication syntax language is required in a court system.

There is more.

LATER NOTE: see the comments at Language Log on David Wynn Miller, also mentioned in Wikipedia.

Mandarin duck/Mandarinente/Aix galericulata

This duck is on the Rednitz, which isn’t frozen over, with a lot of others, all from a small lake now frozen. I hadn’t been there for a while so I had missed this one (the female has disappeared, I gather). The Waldmannsweiher did originally have a kingfisher at one end, but it may have gone since the Deutsche Bahn decimated the trees. The ducks are still there, though – although the wood ducks I haven’t seen for a long time.

Günther Oettinger speaking English/Die deutsche Stimme in Brüssel

Günther Oettinger is Germany’s new European Commissioner and he thinks we should all understand English. He doesn’t seem able to pronounce the English speech someone has written for him, though: video.

While I’m at it, for those who speak German, here is the interpreter for La Toya Jackson at the Semper Opernball (rumour has it that the organizers advertised on a website for someone speaking English who had to live in Saxony).

LATER NOTE: I was asked whether I thought people like Oettinger and Westerwelle ought to have interpreters. On reflection, I think the little I have seen of Westerwelle indicated that he was using his own words (such as they were) and was comprehensible. On the basis of one excerpt, a borderline case but possibly OK. Not all listeners notice language mistakes as long as they can follow the content. Oettinger’s now famous video, however, is incomprehensible in large parts, because the intonation is all wrong – incomprehensible to both native and non-native speakers, I think. It was also embarrassing to see him looking at his text so often. There is another video of him first being presented at the EU, where he speaks much better, and then fields questions in German. I think on the evidence of the incomprehensible speech, he definitely needs an interpreter.

(Via Im Namen des Volkers)

Bauhaus/The Fairway, Upminster

Markus at Text & Blog links to a video showing a house in Arnsberg built twelve years ago in the Bauhaus style.

This reminded me that when I was going for a walk in Upminster before Christmas, in the ice and snow, I saw a surprising house in the middle of the garden-suburb-style buildings:

It’s in a road called The Fairway, next to the golf course. I have no idea whether it’s new or refurbished – probably new. In that case, one of the architects’ offices should have pictures. Anyone know? (Not that I think any of my readers are in Upminster).

And here’s a Bauhaus bird house.

Everyday problems/Alltagsschwierigkeiten

I haven’t had a working ceiling light in my living room for nearly two weeks now, since I hadn’t really cleared it up enough to let an electrician in (I live above an electrician’s shop) and there were other minor distractions. The wiring is old and there was a flash followed by darkness when a bulb blew. Last week, the ceiling light in my office went too, or rather the light switch did. Today I had an electrician up and discovered that the small fuse container in the switch was slightly displaced here, so it just needed pushing in, and the large German fuse for the living room looked deceptively dead but was actually half-in, so it too just needed pushing in properly.

(It’s rather good that Germans have huge fuses that you can just push back in, rather than having to dismantle a plug)

So I recognized this description:

That woman is Meike Urbanski though, his German translator. And let me tell you, her character is brilliantly drawn. I happen to know a couple of translators, and they’re an odd breed. Nit-pickers, know-it-alls, socially incompetent, permanently broke, and incapable of performing the simplest of domestic tasks. Meike is all this and more: she’s also obsessed with Henry LaMarck’s writing and spots even the tiniest logical or factual mistake as she translates it. And of course when the manuscript isn’t forthcoming she fears for her income and jumps on a plane, convinced she can find the author in Chicago.

(Katy Derbyshire at love german books, on Kristof Magnusson, Das war ich nicht)

Translating Chinese literature – Banished!/Chinesische Literatur übersetzen – Han Dong

Nicky Harman teaches technical translation at Imperial College, London, and translates modern Chinese novels in her spare time.

There is a video interview with her at Jostrans.

See also Paper Republic, a site of resources on Chinese literature for publishers and translators, which I believe she helped seet up.

Last year I read a novel translated by Nicky and published by the University of Hawaii Press, Banished! by Han Dong. Google Books has a bit on it.

I was persuaded to buy it at Arthur Probsthain last year by Mr Probsthain when I was stocking up on translations of classical Chinese novels. Banished! is a partly autobiographical account of banishment to the countryside during the Cultural Revolution. It is not strictly chronological. It starts with the family’s journey to the countryside and ends with what happened some years later, but in between the earlier story of the family is sketched in, and a number of thematically arranged chapters move from the more straightforward elements such as the choice of a village to go to, the journey to the village, and life there, to a variety of difficulties.

On the Google Books page, you can see the Notes on Translation, where Harman explains the use of terms like CultRev for the Cultural Revolution – which I found odd. I also wondered about using an exclamation mark in the title.

The novel gives a very detailed account of what the village was like, how the family planned to survive (the father’s first plan was to Strike Root, to settle the family in the village as that might be the best they could hope, and Strike Root was the meaning of the original Chinese title). It also describes the various ways people had of dealing with the Cultural Revolution and banishment, whatever their position in society. One chapter traces the history of the family’s four dogs, at least three of whom were eaten by the villagers, partly because they were better fed than most dogs. The author does not condemn the characters. He gives a rather descriptive view of life during the Cultural Revolution, through which the suffering gradually appears.

The villagers were consumed with envy at first when they saw the Taos feeding meat to their dog. Then they relaxed. They actually hoped that the Taos would fatten him up even more, into delicious dog meat. Patch was converting the Taos’ meals into food that they could eat. They had already found out that the Taos did not eat dog meat, especially not Patch’s meat (they quite understood this). But dogs were there to be eaten. If he were not, it would be a waste of a nice, fat dog.

Anyway, Google Books now allows you to read the beginning.

I had also read K – The Art of Love by Hong Ying, which I didn’t realize till now that Harman had translated. It was based on Julian Bell’s relationship with a married Chinese woman in the 1930s – see Wikipedia.