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  Issue 120, page 4

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From S.T. Parkes:

Hello again - glad you're both well again and getting back to whatever passes for normal!

I followed the link in the query about humdinger (Words to the Wise, April 25) and quickly spotted the deception. It's a very entertaining site, though; I read all the pages with great amusement. However, I noticed that the author had sneaked in at least three REAL people - Boycott, Derrick, Fahrenheit - and I wonder how many more there might be?

P.S. If there wasn't a Marquis de Latrine, then there jolly well ought to have been!

Yes, the deceptive site was funny to us, but also worrisome, in that many unsuspecting people will believe it, no questions asked.

From Stephen Croteau:

I must agree with you that, sometimes, languages just don't have equivalent concepts, but to say that French lacks a word for "home"?  I'm curious to know where I end up every evening after work. Yes, you can say "welcome to my home" (bienvenu chez moi), and chez moi really does mean "my place". "Ay, there's the rub", wrote the bard. It appears to me you are looking for literal translations in idioms. Linguists know better. Don't etymologists[?]  The expression bienvenue chez moi would better be transliterated [sic] as "welcome to [what is] me", that is, welcome to what represents me. Also, the term chez-moi is a noun which means "a personal domicile, with sentimental value". In some contexts, "home" is translated as maison, "house", as in je rentre la maison or je rentre chez moi, "I'm going home". One could argue that the use of the definite article la identifies not "a house", but "THE house", which I hold dear, perhaps. 

As for your query about how one would translate the song title "A House is not a Home", in my limited linguistic baggage there is a French word for home: foyer. This can be the space where a fire burns, or a hearth, or a place where a family lives. Thus, une maison n'est pas un foyer makes sense to me and conjures the same feelings as the English song title.

We must admit that we were not aware of that use of foyer.  Thanks for the update.

On the other hand, the point of the commentary in question (Spotlight, Issue 119) was to note that idiomatic expressions often can not be directly translated into other languages.  For instance, une maison n'est pas un foyer certainly "makes sense" but it entirely misses the idiomatic use of house to mean "brothel" which was implicit in the lyric of the song (from the musical "Sweet Charity").

From Christopher Mitson:

Shame on you for printing "fu*ck" instead of using that splendidly-robust word in its entirety!  This pussyfooting has no place in an etymological article - and these days, probably nowhere else, either.  What is the purpose? If a reader doesn't know the word f-ck, then printing "f*ck" is meaningless. If the reader does know the word, what is the point of camouflaging it?  In the aftermath of the failed obscenity trial of Lady Chatterly's Lover in the UK (in the early 1960s!), The London Sunday Observer sagely commented in its lead editorial, "After all, what can one say? One f-cks."  Or as we'd say more trenchantly here in the Colonies (New Zealand), "F-ck me days! Whatever next? Trouser legs on the piano?"

Much to our chagrin, there are web-bots and software out there just waiting to find an obscenity in our site so that they can label us "obscene" and not suitable for children, etc.  We consider this an educational site and don't wish to be censored or "blocked".  Therefore, we must censor ourselves by replacing a letter in words such as f*ck which, if left intact, would garner us an R or X rating. (By the way, we replied to Christopher with the above explanation and he fully accepted it and suggested that we inform our readers of the reason for the * in f*ck.  Thanks, Christopher!).

From Oded Dagan:

The first words of [last] week's Spotlight reminded me of an old, pre-politically-correct, adage about translations that I know in its Hebrew version (I suppose there are others). It goes like this: "A translation is like a woman. If it's pretty it is not faithful; if it's faithful it is not pretty". Even my translation of the adage suffers from the same fate.

Thanks for that, Oded.

From Judith:

Your discussion of second as "other" made me think about it in other languages.  In Hebrew, Sheni means second by the number two (Shnaim), but it also means "other".  In my native tongue, Hungarian, two is ketto, but masodik is the word for "second". Mas means literally "other " with the suffix odik, of serial numbers.  Thank you and welcome back.


From W. Russ Long:

With respect to your comment about "The Madness of King George", thought you might find this reference interesting:  http://www.snopes.com/movies/films/george.htm

Interesting, yes, but if you read carefully, you'll see that the film's director does not deny that the "III" was dropped for the reason we suggest:

Although Nicholas Hytner, the film's director, admitted that the claim is "not totally untrue," he also divulged that the most important factor was that "it was felt necessary to get the word King into the title."

Thanks for passing that along!


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