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I hate cyclists

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

"What a blessing it would be if we could open and shut our ears as easily as we open and shut our eyes!" - Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

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"Another linguistic problem that keeps every word in one language from having a counterpart in every other language is that often something which is commonplace to speakers of one language will be totally unknown to speakers of another tongue. They have no concept of the thing; so how can they have a word for it? This is a problem frequently encountered by Bible translators. How, for example, do you translate “Lamb of God” into an Eskimo dialect whose speakers don’t have the slightest idea of what sheep are’? Or “anchor” into a language spoken by nomadic dwellers in the midst of the Sahara Desert?

Quite often a term can be translated word for word, but the resulting translation carries completely disparate meanings in both languages because of cultural differences. A missionary in Africa ran into this problem with the sentence, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock” (1 John, 3:20). In that region only a thief knocks on doors; if anyone responds, the intruder runs away. Visitors with honest intent shout the name of the person in the hut. The translator solved the problem by rendering the verse, “Behold, I stand at the door and call.”...

Suppose that someone quoted a report about a Cuban farmer who placed a bomb on his farm near the fences of the U. S. Naval Base at Guantanamo. Can you imagine the reaction of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, especially if no one told them that the Spanish words translated as “placed a bomb” might also mean “installed a pump”?"

--- Mokusatsu: One Word, Two Lessons / NSA Technical Journal Fall 1968 - Vol. XIII, No. 4
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