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LINGUIST List 16.1602

Thu May 19 2005

Qs: Banned Words; Translating Idioms

Editor for this issue: Jessica Boynton <jessicalinguistlist.org>

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        1.    Laszlo Cseresnyesi, Banned Words
        2.    J. Sia, Translating Idioms

Message 1: Banned Words
Date: 18-May-2005
From: Laszlo Cseresnyesi <laszlo1956xhotmail.com>
Subject: Banned Words

Dear Linguists,

for a couple of months I have been collecting materials on different perceptions
of political correctness, and on how the media in various countries handles this
problem. It has probably not gone unnoticed that among the ''avoidables'' which
appear on the banned word lists of several television channels (e.g. in Japan),
one can find quite a few words which may not become problematic or insulting
under any conceivable circumstances. For example, we have been instructed to
avoid the ''offensive'' term Eskimo which, according to some PC experts of the
media, means 'raw-meat eater'. I do not know who proposed this etymology which
is considered spurious by Algonquian specialists. Very few of those (presumably
not too numerous) Eskimos who specialize in Algonquian word history might feel
that the word Eskimo is, indeed, offensive. It is obviously not the sensitive
Eskimos, but the PC shamans who create such artificial problems of verbal
hygiene. I dub this phenomenon the ''Eskimo Syndrome''.

This is just one type of how the media mishandles PC issues, but the practice of
creating imagined sensibilities or challenging non-existing usages is certainly
very interesting. Is this a common phenomenon? If the Eskimo Syndrome is found
in several linguistic cultures, I wonder why some people feel they should create
the dragons they can fight? Finally, I am also collecting data on the official
PC censorship of the media. In Japan, for example, we have long and impressive
lists of ''banned'', ''avoidable'', and ''potentially problematic'' words easily
accessible in internet webpages of TV channels, etc.

I would appreciate any hint or suggestion.
Thank you very much in advance...


Laszlo Cseresnyesi
Shikoku Gakuin University
765-0013 Kagawa-ken, Zentsuji-shi, Bunkyo-cho 3-2-19
Tel.: (81)877-63-5451

Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Message 2: Translating Idioms
Date: 18-May-2005
From: J. Sia <jensiajensiahotmail.com>
Subject: Translating Idioms

For a project I am working on, I am looking for assistance with some examples
''problems'' for learners of English and correspondingly,learners of mainly
Spanish, Japanese, Korean and Dutch (but would be interested in hearing about
other languages as well). I am looking to investigate certain
collocations/expressions and how learners use them. An example might make
things easier...

English uses ''You are right'', but Spanish uses ''Tienes razon'' (You have
reason?) to indicate someone has the correct idea. Also, in English, it is
normal to ''change your mind'', but in Spanish, you ''cambiar de opinion'' o
''cambiar de idea'' (change of? opinion or change of? idea, but apparently never
''cambiar mi mente''. In these two examples, the two languages use different
ideas/phrases/collocations to express a similar situation.

I would like to ask teachers (or those familiar with L2 users)to send me
examples of language use like the above examples, going either from English to
or to English from namely the languages listed above. For example, my
Spanish-speaking students say ''You have sense'' when they want to express ''You
are right''. I used to say ''Cambie mi mente'' in Spanish.

I would also appreciate a literal translation for each example.

Your help will be greatly appreciated and I would be happy to post a list of the
phrases/collocation/sentences I gather for everyone's perusal.

Thanks for your help, J. Sia

Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Language Acquisition

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