Oct 21, 2002

The Two Stooges. Michael Finley writes about his nightmarish experiences with interpreters Marcia and Ismail in Sao Paulo. Is he using fictional names? Because I know almost everybody and I have never heard of either!
Fisimatenten. Can anyone please explain to the German-impaired mermaid what is the story behind Fisimatenten? I tried Prompt-Reverso and Babelfish, but I can't make head or tail of what the shlemiel in the bottle is saying.



Ladies who Lunch. Today I had lunch with journalist Rebecca Mead at the snazzy Figueira restaurant. The food was excellent, and so were the talking and the book recommendations. She is doing an article about a certain São Paulo store, frequented by only very rich women for whom being Voguishly fashionable, botox-beautiful and moderately well-informed is a full-time job. It is going to be interesting to see what she has to say about the islanders of wealth in my country.

I had one glass of chilled Spanish wine, lovely, under the 150-year old massive fig tree that gives the restaurant its name. The tree is is such an impressive matron, very Carlos Saura. And to keep the flies away (outdoor eating in Brazil doesn't come without its tropical perils), they sprayed the patrons with a very fine mist of citronella.


While visiting the waterfalls of Brotas this weekend, G. and I were discussing a single statement that may come as a shock but it's 100% true. The wealthy have a better life in Brazil than the wealthy in any other country in the world. Or in other words, opulence is more opulent in Brazil, probably with less money too. Maybe it's magnifying effect of cheap labor. Where else in the world, would the rich have one-hour long exclusive appointments with a physician to discuss their minor ailments? Or five live-in servants to cater to their every whim?

But mind you, poverty is poorer in Brazil too. A researcher was telling me on Sunday at U's house, how she felt devastated with guilt for finally buying her own car and of how bad it felt to wade through the street peddlers, most of them kids barely tall enough to tap on your windshield to offer you candy or beg or steal your stereo.

I'm not a very political person by nature. G. pokes fun at me for choosing my candidates 5 minutes before I sit at the electronic voting booth (that's another Brazilian contradiction for you). We are very high-tech and jumento-tech simultaneously. Some live in the lap of luxury, others "eat the bread the devil has knead". Others still, just stare wide-eyed at the contrasts and wonder if synthesis can ever be achieved.

Oct 17, 2002

Tree-lover. I live in one of the ugliest cities in the world. São Paulo is just ugly, messy, dirty, sprayed top down with graffiti, a perfect eyesore.

But when this time of the year comes, I am reminded I live in Brazil and that our trees are simply gorgeous and that even São Paulo can be lovely at the right time of the year.

Last August I spotted an ipê branco in rare bloom, as if announcing the feast to come two months later.

My neighborhood is exploding in colors: the violet from the jacarandás, the bright yellow from the guapuruvus, the dark green from the lush foliage of these tall trees.

Even the tipuanas are shedding their flowers and covering the sidewalks with their tapestry of petals.

The 'monsoon season' hasn't started yet. All we've had is suffocating heat sprinkled with light showers. The plants seem to love it though. Long live October, it's my favorite time of the year.
Microsoft Turns to Lionbridge for Translation. What can I say except that they truly deserve each other? And get a load of this: Brussels To Charge EU Members For Interpreters. Does this mean that soon everybody will be speaking Broken Denglish?


Esteemed Author Shares Difficulties of Translating. "Celebrated author Umberto Eco captivated an overflow crowd at the Graduate School of Education’s Longfellow Hall last night, joking that he enjoys misleading readers in his famously dense works.

Eco was scheduled to discuss his new novel Baudolino, but instead delivered a humorous talk on the difficulties of translation, saying that he had not been informed of the lecture’s topic." (Read more)

Credo Elvem ipsum etian vivere. Some of the jokes are oldies but goodies. This one made me laugh again, even if I've heard it many times before.

On a visit to the United States, Charles de Gaulle was honoured at a banquet in the White House. Seated beside his wive was an official who spoke no French, but who tried to engage her in conversation by asking

"Madame de Gaulle, what do you think the most important thing in life is?"

"A penis", she replied.

Overhearing, her husband said gently "I believe, my dear, that in English it is pronounced 'appiness."


Oct 16, 2002

What Makes the Mermaid Tick? Translation, obviously. So glad to find Wood's Lot has been making some posts about this awe-inspiring and widely spat-on discipline. Shit Fit posts a lot of online dictionaries and language links as well as tons of interesting stuff. Closet linguablog?

And what do you make of a mermaid that glumly announces that she is too busy to blog and proceeds to post three articles that very same day? Louca de pedra.

Un nouveau traducteur électronique instantané mis au point.
SOFIA (AFP), le 11-10-2002
Des chercheurs bulgares ont mis au point un algorythme de codage numérique de la parole humaine permettant à des personnes parlant des langues différentes de communiquer, chacune dans son idiome, au téléphone ou sur l'internet.

Koïtcho Mitev, un ingénieur de Roussé a mis au point ce système qui, explique-t-il, consiste en une "traduction de pensées entières formulées dans des phrases".

Selon ce système, les mots de chaque langue sont codés par un ordinateur qui les classe en verbes, noms, pronoms, adjectifs, etc... Cette différenciation permet à l'ordinateur d'effectuer une analyse syntaxique de la phrase pour formuler, dans une autre langue, la pensée exprimée. (Read more in French, English version here)
Hang On. It's sad, but I have no time to blog. For the next two weeks or so I will be running from one booth to the next, with big chunks of translation work in the intervening times. Please visit the good people on the left bar as the mermaid tries very hard to earn her chocolate mints and other dainty staples.

Today I was up at 5.30 am, catching up on overdue e-mails and a bit of cultural consulting. I also downloaded this healthy and cute baby. I can't help but feel a little proud.

Next week I will also be hanging out in the posh surroundings where the filthy rich loiter. I will try to strike my best nonchalant pose and dress smart.

Oct 11, 2002

Oct 10, 2002

Toilet paper novels hit German stalls. I'll grant you some novels are pure crap, but it's a tad dishonorable for Heinrich Heine.
Probably this terrible business idea is going to flop, so there's nothing that the new Nobel of literature should be concerned about.

Oct 9, 2002



if all booths I've worked in looked like this one, what a glamorous life I'd lead...
All Work and No Blogging. It's that weird time of the year when you're not actually working like a maniac, but the closing of deals and the flurry of e-mails and phone calls take up your whole day. The barometer seems to indicate one or two months of heavy interpreting ahead. And maybe some journalism translation as well.

I hope I still remember how to put those chunky English business articles in my linguistic blender and spew them out as smooth and creamy journalistic pinas coladas.

If my consecutive interpreting gig this morning is any indication, translating and interpreting must be hardwired in the mermaidian brain. It's been at least six years since I last did consecutive, and I was so good I almost tapped myself on the shoulder. I would've if I could've.

Since I can't, I left the cu do mundo where I live to go celebrate with the Hairy Eyeball and Angie at Piratininga. He was drinking caipirinhas and I was drinking manhattans, a token effort to promote multiculturalism.

Oct 7, 2002

The Powerpuff Girls Extravaganza. A distinguished guest to the great kiddie bash has posted some pictures of the party that required at least 10 days of planning and opened up a crater in my bank account. There were many mini-monsters around, devouring brigadeiros and applauding the canine performers. The Mermie had the time of her life as assistant to the dog tamer and didn't miss the chance to bow to the public after each intervention in the canine entertainment.

Oct 4, 2002

Portuguese Joke. In case you didn't know, Brazilians love to tell jokes about the Portuguese. And when this Brazilian comes across a language joke featuring two Portugaleses, she simply can't resist it.

Um suíço, à procura de orientação para a direção a tomar, pára o carro junto ao acostamento onde dois portugueses estão à espera.

- Entschuldigung, sprechen Sie Deutsch?, perguntou.

Os dois portugueses ficaram a olhar pra ele...

- Excusez-moi, parlez vous Français?, tentou ele.

Os dois continuaram a olhar pra ele impávidos e serenos.

- Parlare Italiano? Continuaram calados.

- Hablan ustedes Español? Nenhuma resposta.

- Do you speak English? Ainda nada.

Angustiado, o suíço desiste e vai-se embora!

O primeiro português vira-se para o segundo e diz:

- Sabes, talvez devêssemos aprender uma língua estrangeira.

- Para quê?, pergunta o outro. Aquele sabia cinco línguas e não lhe serviu de nada...

Oct 3, 2002

Pela Estrada Afora. Shopping for the Mermling's presents I found out that the Disquinho collection is being remastered and reissued in CDs by Warner. These were the stories I used to listen to when I was a kid. I loved the colorful vynils and the songs, many of which I still know by heart. The storytelling is wonderful and the orchestration by Radamés Gnatalli is simply delightful. Since the recordings were done in the 1960's, the language used by the actors to tell these Brazilian folklore and traditional European tales is more elaborate than today, without sounding completely stilted. It's just like your old aunt is telling you stories. I'm enjoying Little Red Riding Hood just as much as the little Mermaid.



Oct 2, 2002

Oct 1, 2002

The Mysteries of Translation. "I am an avid reader, but a shockingly monolingual one. The English language is the golden prison I inhabit: richly and divertingly adorned, but with all the exits closed off, preventing me from making my escape to French or Russian or Italian or Chinese. Only the Spanish door is slightly ajar, but its opening is just barely wide enough for me to peek through longingly." (Read more of this excellent article)

via language hat via billy clark


Related links: a glossary of translation terms
ten reasons why English is so difficult to translate (just ten?)
Unrelated but relevant:
understanding and planning for translation services

FrenchZine. One of those great places you find when looking for something completely different. The cyberculture section will send you off into the Labyrinthe.
Mamão com Açúcar. At Blethers I discover about a writing contest that appeals to my notions of no-bull efficiency and inclination to prolixity. It's quite simple. You just have to start a sentence on November 01 and find an ending for your novel, 50 50,000 words later, by November 30. What could be easier than that?

Sep 30, 2002

Happy Translator's Day. Let's celebrate meditating on why St.Jerome rules over both secretaries and my peers, and spice it up with this article called Translators, Hostages of History. Quick quote:

"Are translators born meek, do they become meek or do they have meekness thrust upon them?"
Adieu Beau Voyageur. He's been having so much fun here in Brazil. And when he leaves there will be a choir of hôtesses brésiliennes singing their au revoirs...Over the AIM telegraph I showed him this chanson and he commented: 'That Bizet is heavy!' I find this song hilarious, really. Ton souvenir reste à plus d'une! And the hôtesses chasing the flies away from his face!

What a great relief for the traveler to have escaped Tony Last's fate. And if the odalisques didn't wail, they wouldn't be odalisques, would they?



Piracicaba, Center of the Universe. I drove this back this morning from Piracicaba, hometown of the Hairy Hungarian (no relation to the Hairy Eyeball), aka Corcovado Cowboy and Mein Liebling. I had a fun time there, starting from the celebration of the 36th anniversary of CENA, where I met Vincent, a talkative French researcher who is currently living in the enigmatic Laos. Never having met anyone who ever ventured in that remote part of the globe, I pestered him with questions, while sipping my three caipirinhas, one at a time. The booze by the way caused a heavy fog to descend over my head, blurring any recollections of what he said. Well, I can tell you that they speak Lao and that they use stickier rice as a utensil for eating rice, but it is possible that I already knew that. Weary, mystified by opiate tales of Laotian grandeur and squalor and drunk as a skunk, I thought it best not to drive home myself, lest I should crash straight into a cow or pamonhazilla.

To cure my hangover, the next morning we went to a park nearby, for some walking and reading. At the park, I was greeted by a passing woman with a very baptist "Jesus Loves You", amen, and how can she be so sure? The park was just beautiful, with trees and plants, and chirping birds all the nature fixtures including warm weather and a tiny lake for some skinny dipping Déjeuner Sur L'Herbe style. Of course, as any savvy Brazilian, I had brought my bikini along. There are just too many courses of water in this admirable country. Waterfalls, streams, and tiny lakes in parks like the one we visited, where swimming was verbotten, but who takes any heed of the signs. We didn't. The ripples made by the Hairy Hungarian and the Enigmatic Mermaid can't possibly damage the biomass that much. Oh, it was the most delightful swim, our bodies immersed in the ice cold water which turned warmer closer to the surface and made us feel like giant floating thermometers, with the tip just about to sizzle under the hot sun.

Of course, just as it was getting poetic, with memories of Hungary flooding mein Liebling's imagination and a stream of thermometric metaphors running through my brain, five pamonhazillas arrived with a bottle of wine and a joint and proceeded to take wild Acapulco jumps from the trees into the shallow lake, barely 30 inches away from us. Darned reverie-spoilers.

Sep 27, 2002

Sep 26, 2002

Tic-Tac-Toe. From Gaby407, one of the first weblogs I ever visited, on to The Theory.Org.Uk Trading Cards (Deleuze, Lacan, Foucault and Pierre and Gilles)-- the perfect link collection for the pseudo-intellectual who has seen everything).




Ever wondered what is the country that produces Powerpoint presentations on Gross National Happiness ?

Lazarus. My home office computer passed away this afternoon only to regain life shortly after I had taken the trouble of transplanting the Last of the Mohicans in my minuscule home office. My office-office now looks like it's been ransaked by a violent mob. There is a very unique sadness emanating from no longer used computer cords. They looked like Ophelia's melancholy hair afloat on the cold floor as I walked out of the glass doors carrying my favorite dictionaries. Inspired by the Holy Ghost of Metonymy, and since Saint Jerome's day is approaching anyway, the Mermaid and the Litterati urge you to recite Valery Larbaud's prayer while kneeling down in corn, every morning before you sit at your Lazarus or Ophelia.

Dottore eccelso, luminare della Santa Chiesa, beato Girolamo, sto per intraprendere un compito irto di difficoltà, e fin d'ora vi supplico di aiutarmi com le vostre preghiere, affinché io possa tradurre in quest'opera com lo stesso spirito nel quale è stata composta.

Or as translated by Ivone Benedetti:

"Doutor Excelso, luminar da Santa Igreja, bem-aventurado Jerônimo, estou por começar uma tarefa cheia de dificuldades, e desde já vos suplico que me ajudeis com vossas orações, a fim de que eu possa traduzir para o português a referida obra, imbuído do mesmo espírito com que ela foi escrita."

Blogaphasia. Enough with my aphasia already. I've been working hard and metendo os pés pelas mãos recently whenever the project instructions extend over ten lines. But yesterday was cool.

I had an interpreting assignment in downtown São Paulo. I love the Centro, and this time I had some minutes to spare so I visited the Mosteiro de São Bento, founded in 1598. It was lovely and it was crowded at 8.30 am, even though they weren't saying mass or singing Gregorian chants.

After about six hours of interpreting non-stop, I walked straight into the heart of the persian bazaar: to Rua 25 de Março, a chaos of street peddlers, thousands of fashion stores, thousands of people jumping the puddles of rain illuminated by the shimmering lights of fake jewellery. The beauty of quinquillarie is that at 25 de Março you can get an American-flag ornamented belt for R$3.70 instead of the R$124 charged by Acessórios Modernos.

I arrived just before the stores closed, but in time to sneak into Palácio dos Enfeites for some browsing of PowerPuff Girls kiddie party paraphernalia. I explain, the Mermaid Jr. is turning three next week and I fully intend to transform my house into an extension of Cartoon Network to celebrate the occasion. I'll have the Hairy Eyeball play the Macaco Louco.



Esperanto in 10 Minutes and Brazilian Poetry in Translation. Here's a lively thread on Kuro5hin. And a new blog called Polynym, with regular postings of Brazilian poetry in English translation.



Sep 24, 2002

Children in East Timor Learning Finnish from Schoolbooks. Oh my!

Sep 23, 2002



Oh god, Alexander Von Humboldt is the Hairy Eyeball's doppelganger! And he is bearing gifts to his faithful guide Sacaweejja: a little offering of French perfume, which he snatched at the Duty Free Shop. In return, Sacaweeja will escort him to dinner at the Jardins tonight. Should she take him to Carlota or Veridiana after her interpreting assignment ends? All depends on who's paying. Sacaweeja is very very broke.

Update: in the end we landed on the amiable and cheap red-checkered tables of Jardin de Napoli for a pizza feast. The Hairy Eyeball was last sighted boarding A's car and purportedly heading towards a den of vice and iniquity only two blocks away. He was quite mad at Sacawejja for not driving him back to his 1156 dwellings on Cerqueira César. But Sacawejja trusts he was left in good hands and that his scalp remains intact, if not his neurons, which were at severe risk of imminent depletion last night.

English is a Strange Language. This cute little poem has just popped in the mail.

English is a strange language.
There is no egg in the eggplant
No ham in the hamburger
And neither pine nor apple in the pineapple.
English muffins were not invented in England
French fries were not invented in France.

We sometimes take English for granted
But if we examine its paradoxes we find that
Quicksand takes you down slowly
Boxing rings are square
And a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

If writers write, how come fingers don't fing.
If the plural of tooth is teeth
Shouldn't the plural of phone booth be phone beeth
If the teacher taught,
Why didn't the preacher praught.

If a vegetarian eats vegetables
What the heck does a humanitarian eat!?
Why do people recite at a play
Yet play at a recital?
Park on driveways and
Drive on parkways
How can the weather be as hot as hell on one day
And as cold as hell on another

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy
Of a language where a house can burn up as
It burns down
And in which you fill in a form
By filling it out
And a bell is only heard once it goes!

English was invented by people, not computers
And it reflects the creativity of the human race
(Which of course isn't a race at all)

That is why
When the stars are out they are visible
But when the lights are out they are invisible
And why it is that when I wind up my watch
It starts
But when I wind up this poem
It ends.