"Type" vs. "Enter" (take III)

Subject: "Type" vs. "Enter" (take III)
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 24 Oct 2004 09:09:25 -0400

Three strikes and I'm out, hopefully having made contact with the ball at least once and possibly even flied out to deep right field, inches from the top of the wall. <g> TechComm Dood disagreed with my defense of "via":

<<Sorry Geoff. Your use of the specific example of "via" falls short. "Via" translates literally to "way" in nearly every language out there, despite the 1000 years of english language evolution you cite.>>

Not in Chinese or Japanese or (so far as I now) any non-Roman language I'm familiar with. But in any event, I fail to see how, if the meaning is the same in "nearly every language out there", the word poses translation problems. Isn't it a tautology that if the word translates the same way in all languages, it communicates clearly?

There may indeed be a problem with the metaphorical use, which is another issue entirely. If comprehension depends on a metaphor, then you have indeed created a problem if the metaphor isn't crystal clear. But this particular metaphor (via in the literal and physical sense vs. in the metaphorical sense of "by means of" rather than "by way of") is clear to anyone competent in English. Caveat: As is the case for any English word, the word must be used skillfully and correctly. Sloppy language is hard to understand--and translate--no matter what word you use.

<<Just because a word is commonplace in English doesn't mean it's correct for technical communications, especially when l10n or i18n is involved.>>

You're conflating a few things here, most importantly "clarity" and "sending English everywhere in the world without translation". No translator worth hiring will have any trouble with a word whose meaning is this clear; if they do, you need a new translator. (I say this as someone who has worked professionally as a translator for roughly a dozen years, and who has hired and supervised translators for nearly 20 years.)

If you mean that the document will be distributed worldwide in English, then you're right: most uses of "via" would be a sloppy and poor choice. But that's neither translation nor localization nor internationalisation: that's cultural chauvinism at worst, or inadequate resourcing at best.

<<I ran this by several localizers and every single one of them agreed that "via" as well as "e.g.", "i.e.", "etc." and any other English adoption of latin phraseology should be avoided... >>

Presumably these are the same people who have problems translating contractions such as "don't" and "can't"? The advice about avoiding Latin phrases is highly contextual; these words and phrases are perfectly appropriate for academic and scientific audiences, where their usage is standard and well understood, but perfectly inappropriate for any audience whose educational level you're uncertain of. We agree there. But a blanket "do not use it" recommendation tells me your advisors either didn't think carefully about the question, oversimplified the situation, or <ahem> need to reconsider their career choice.

<<... as should any other form of colloquialism, slang, or loose metaphor.>>

Here, they're on firmer ground, and I agree. The problem with all such wordings is that they're imprecise, and may not work well even in the source language. They also require knowledge that even a skilled translator working overseas may not possess. But "via" is not such a metaphor.

<<Modern english usage is not the same as correct modern meaning.>>

In fact, they're identical. You're forgetting or ignoring the difference between "connotation" (how a word is actually used) and "denotation" (its etymological origins, and possibly how the word was used at the time the dictionary was set in type). Modern usage tells us how a word is understood _now_, by the people who speak and write the language. That's the only correct meaning for a word if you're communicating with that audience.

As I try not to clutter the list with endless posts on the same topic, I turn the podium over to you for the final word in our exchange.

--Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)


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"Type" vs. "Enter" (take II): From: Geoff Hart
Re: "Type" vs. "Enter" (take II): From: TechComm Dood

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