Collateral knowledge

Language is never-endingly rich. In addition to the fact that the combinations are endless, the actual building blocks are quite numerous as well. I am always coming across expressions I don't know, whether they are new to me or just plain new. I had never heard the expression “long tail” so I looked it up. My niche is at the very tip of the appendage - what I produce pleases me and maybe one or two other people. I can live with this.

“The angular gyrus, a brain region important for processing language”. Angular gyrus just tickles my poetic sensibility. I’m a sucker for unusual agglomerations of phonemes. “Humans, it seems, are like drunken poets”

Writing is a kind of Ariadne’s thread - "A labyrinthine man never seeks the truth, but only his Ariadne" – (Nietzsche, quoted by) Barthes:-

"Other countries drink to get drunk, and this is accepted by everyone; in France, drunkenness is a consequence, never an intention. A drink is felt as the spinning out of a pleasure, not as the necessary cause of an effect which is sought: wine is not only a philter, it is also the leisurely act of drinking."

Ariadne (in French Ariane, like the rocket launcher) saved Theseus, who broke his promise to take her with him and abandoned her on an island…

I see The Possibility of an Island is on at the local cinema – but I think I’ll give it a miss …

From the Guardian:

"Houellebecq, despite being hailed as France's most successful living novelist, was lampooned for his recent film-director debut in which he adapted his novel The Possibility of an Island, into what French critics said was one of the most boring and ludicrous films ever to grace a cinema screen."

I am often amazed at the things I learn through my work. Facts that are side effects of translation. Collateral knowledge. Recently I was working on plants, and discovered the GF:

"The general flowering (GF) events of forests in south-east Asia are perhaps the most spectacular phenomena in tropical biology. GF events occur at multiyear intervals. In GF, most dipterocarp species and many plants of other families come into flower and set fruit massively; these species and plants rarely flower except during GF events. GF is unique, because it can occur over thousands of kilometres and involve hundreds of plant species representing diverse families and life forms. (…) Satiation of generalist seed predators has been considered a primary force for GF."

So all these flowering plants decide to flower at the same time and satiate their seed predators, thereby saving their seeds. The mind boggles.

As part of the same job I had to translate a sentence to the effect that some plant species exist in New Zealand and Chile only. I was intrigued, tried to find out why, and discovered Gondwana.


L'art en traits

La rentrée is a big thing in France. I never found a completely satisfactory way of translating it, maybe because in English-speaking countries there is not the equivalent of everyone downing tools for the whole summer.

À la rentrée: at the end of the summer recess

I remember the thrill of the last minutes of school in June, and the excitement of having unlimited free time ahead, and the excitement of going back to school and wearing new clothes and having a new teacher and later on, new classmates. But the phenomenon didn’t seem to concern the rest of society.

Lard entrée - rentrer dans le lard...

Yesterday the temperature changed from thirty to thirteen. The sunflowers look decidedly wabbit.

Todd Rungdren - I Saw The Light.mp3 -

"Musicians talk of nothing but money and jobs. Give me businessmen every time. They really are interested in music and art."
-- Jean Sibelius, explaining why he rarely invited musicians to his home

"If one hears bad music it is one's duty to drown it by one's conversation."
-- Oscar Wilde