By Rhonda Keith Stephens
As you know, the French Language Academy tries to keep the French language under control, and somewhat stable. They want to avoid importing too many words from other languages (like “le jazz”). When entirely new terms enter the world, such as technical words, translation cannot always be direct. Probably most languages simply imported and adapted the terms from their home of origin, but the French like to frenchify them if possible.
There are numerous French/English computer dictionaries online, but the flash card site lets you click through and make a little game of looking at the words.
· They did borrow surf directly: surfer (the infinitive verb). To imitate the English history of this computer term, you’d have to know the French word for the ocean surf, then know or invent a verb for riding the waves on a board, then use that verb as a computer term. Maybe “surfing” was already been entrenched in the French language but it’s definitely Surfin’ USA.
· I like navigateur (Web surfer) and it reminds me of the old Navigator search engine, which I liked for its neat little graphic.
· Why does télécharger mean download? Of course to the English ear it sounds like you’re recharging something.
· A scroll bar is une barre de defilement, which I can’t help reading as something like a chastity belt. I invented a fake translation for the family motto of the Douglas branch of my ancestry: Jamais arriere (Never behind), which I “translated” as “I may be an ass” because it applied more accurately to one or more of my relatives. (OK, and maybe me too.) Why this Scottish clan has a French motto I don’t know.
Improbable Research reported on a paper published by Hubert Devonish in Jamaican patois (and in English). Example paragraph:
“In plentii konchrii, di piipl-dem no taakin di seem langgwij an no fiil se dem iz seem neeshan. So, dem wa in chaaj a di setop in di konchrii doz chrai mek di piipl-dem get fiilinz fo neeshan.”
“In many countries, the populations do not speak the same language and, therefore, do not feel they belong in the same nation. In these circumstances, those who run the state apparatus often try to create a shared national consciousness.”
As you see, the patois spelling indicates pronunciation (the grammar is different from standard English also).
While we can understand it, this sample shows why standardized English spelling is important. Every once in a while there’s a flap about changing English spelling to a phonetic system. But whose English pronunciation are you going to attempt to reproduce? The Queen of England or Bostonian John Kennedy? A Southern belle or an Irishman?