Nov 29, 2002

Amok. Miguel has published a nice post about the word amok, also spelled amuck, which prompts me to search my bookshelves for The Royal Game and Other Stories, by overlooked literary genius Stephan Zweig. In this book, there is a story called Amok, about a doctor who was possessed a murderous and violently uncontrollable frenzy over a woman who rejected his sexual advances. As it is often the case with Zweig, in this novella we have a framed narrative, that takes place on the deck of a ship on its way to Europe. The doctor describes how this self-possessed Western woman came to him, in the deep of the Malay forest where he lives, because she was pregnant with her lover's child and needed an abortion. The doctor, however, was seized by other demons.

'But this woman- I don't know if I can explain it to you- she upset me, she aroused opposition in me from the moment she came walking in; through her pride, she stirred up in me- how shall I put it- everything I had suppressed, hidden, all the evil in me to pit against her. It maddened me that she was playing the lady, unnapproachably cool and businesslike about this matter of life and death. And then...after all a woman doesn't get pregnant playing golf. I knew...that is, this shocking thought suddenly came clearly into my mind, that this cool, haughty, cold woman who raised her eyebrows at me over her steely eyes...yes, looked almost dismissive, that two or three months earlier she had tumbled hotly in bed with some man, naked as an animal and perhaps moaning with desire, their bodies clamped tightly together like two lips. That...that was the burning thought that overcame me when she looked at me so imperiously, so unapproachably cool, like an English officer...and then it all overwhelmed me. I was obsessed with the idea of humiliating this instant I had only one thought, to possess her, to force a moan of ecstasy form her hard-set lips, to enjoy the sensual pleasure of this cold woman as that other man, whom I didn't know, had.'

She offers him money for the dirty job, he refuses the offer, and says he will only do it if she pleads with him, if she descends from her haughtiness and asks him for help, as a human being. She replies that she'd rather die and storms out of his shack, and then it is when the amok takes him in its grip.

'I didn't understand myself anymore. Do you know what running amok is? (...) It's more than getting's going on a rampage, a sort of human form of rabies...a paroxysm of murderous, mindless monomania which isn't comparable to alcoholic poisoning...I studied several cases during my stay- one is very clever and objective with other people- but I wasn't able to discover the terrible secret of its seems to be something to do with the climate, with that sultry, oppressive atmosphere that plays on your nerves like a thunderstorm until they snap....that is, running amok...yes, amok, that's it: take a Malay, any straightforward, good-hearted fellow, sitting there quietly drinking...there he is, stolid, even-tempered, subdued...just as I was sitting in my room- and suddenly he jumps out, takes his dagger, and runs out into the street...he runs on and on...without knowing where he is going. Whatever gets in his way, be it man or animal, he cuts it down with his kris, and the sight of blood makes him even more excited. As he runs, he foams at the mouth, he howls like a madman...but he runs and goes on running, looking neither to right nor left, making this piercing shriek, and wielding his blood-stained kris on his terrifying headlong run. The village folk know that nothing can deflect someone who is running they shout out a warning that he is coming: 'Amok, amok!" and everyone takes flight...but he goes on running, without hearing or seeing, cutting down what crosses his path...until someone shoots him dead like a mad dog, or he himself collapses, foaming at the mouth...'

translated by Jill Sutcliffe
(to be continued)


The Origins of the Brazilian Bureaucracy. Like all good jokes, this one is thoroughly politically incorrect, sexist and biased. The Hairy Eyeball is so outraged by my lack of diplomacy that he posted a translation into English. Here is the controversial joke, clearly devised by an equal opportunity geopolitical offender.

Num arquipélago maravilhoso e isolado, naufragaram:

Dois italianos e uma italiana;
Dois franceses e uma francesa;
Dois alemães e uma alemã;
Dois gregos e uma grega;
Dois ingleses e uma inglesa;
Dois búlgaros e uma búlgara;
Dois japoneses e uma japonesa;
Dois chineses e uma chinesa;
Dois americanos e uma americana;
Dois irlandeses e uma irlandesa;
Dois portugueses e uma portuguesa.

Passado um mês, nestas maravilhosas ilhas,passava-se o seguinte:

Um italiano matou o outro italiano por causa da italiana;

Os dois franceses e a francesa vivem felizes juntos num "ménage-à-trois";

Os dois alemães marcaram um horário rigoroso de visitas alternadas à alemã;

Os dois gregos dormem um com o outro e a grega limpa e cozinha para eles;

Os dois ingleses aguardam que alguém os apresente à inglesa;

Os dois búlgaros olharam longamente para o oceano, depois olharam longamente para a búlgara e depois começaram a nadar;

Os dois japoneses enviaram um e-mail para Tóquio e aguardam instruções;

Os dois chineses abriram uma farmácia/bar/restaurante/lavandaria e engravidaram a chinesa para lhes fornecer empregados para a loja;

Os dois americanos estão a equacionar as vantagens do suicídio porque a americana só se queixa do seu corpo, da verdadeira natureza do deles, e como a sua relação com a mãe tinha melhorado, e de que pelo menos os impostos baixaram e também não chove...

Os dois irlandeses dividiram a ilha em Norte e Sul e abriram uma destilaria. Eles não se lembram se sexo está no programa por ficar tudo um bocado embaciado depois de alguns litros de whisky de côco. Mas estão satisfeitos porque, pelo menos, os ingleses não se estão a divertir...

E quanto aos dois portugueses mais a portuguesa que também se encontravam na ilha?

Até agora não se passou nada porque os dois portugueses resolveram constituir uma comissão encarregada de decidir qual dos dois homens seria autorizado a requerer por escrito o estabelecimento de contactos íntimos com a mulher. Acontece que a comissão já vai na décima sétima reunião e até agora ainda nada decidiu até porque falta ainda aprovar as actas das cinco últimas reuniões sem as quais o processo não poderá andar para a frente.

Vale ainda a pena referir que de todas as reuniões, três foram dedicadas a eleger o presidente da comissão e respectivo assessor, quatro ficaram sem efeito dado ter-se chegado à conclusão que tinham sido violados alguns princípios de procedimento administrativo, 8 foram dedicadas a discutir e elaborar o regulamento de funcionamento da comissão e duas foram dedicadas a aprovar esse mesmo regulamento.

É ainda notável que muitas das reuniões não puderam ser realizadas ou concluídas já que:

duas não continuaram por falta de quórum, uma ficou a meio em sinal de protesto por Timor e cinco coincidiram com feriados ou dias de ponte.


Google Searchers. The searches leading to this site have been getting increasingly wackier. Here are some for your mirth.

apocalypsis + meter
ketchup + song + Laotian
piernas + gordas
zizek + essay + dessert
Manual Antonio Mermaid
napoli + soccer + keychains
mermaid + hell


Nov 28, 2002

All Play and No Work. It's usually the other way around, so I'm feeling a bit disconcerted with this period of temporary sluggishness. It's the end of the year (haven't I just mentioned it? I'll say it again, in case you haven't noticed), and the Americans are all too busy eating their turkey dinners and therefore neglecting to send me work.

Since I have not much to do, I started to hunt for translation jobs on the Internet again. You know the drill, send them your résumé, do a couple of translation tests. I'm even considering some volunteer work, just to keep me busy and conjure the illusion that the fate of the ant, not of the grasshopper awaits me.


A Reunião das Legais. Pictured below are some of my interpreting colleagues. We got together at M's house yesterday. It was basically a house warming party, but since it was a strictly all-girls and all-interpreters meetings, it sounded a little bit like a parrot convention. We're a talkative bunch, have no doubt about it. Layla's new home is simply to die for. She found a 1940s home right by Ibirapuera Park (our tropical Bois de Bologne!) and renovated it top down, retaining the lovely plaster ceilings and expanding the kitchen to its monumental proportions, by comparison to my tiny-wee kitchen where one person has to move out if the other reaches out for the cupboard.

The end of the year and the translator meetings are beginning to pop everywhere in town. On Friday we're having the Isa Mara Lando Birthday Celebration, which is sure to attract the dingiest breed of translators, theater directors and astrologers. On Saturday, the sworn translators are getting together for lunch at Il Circolo Italiano. If we're in town, I will try to drag the Corcovado Cowboy along to meet the pink and blue hair old ladies and the stout gentlemen who've been translating birth certificates and school records since Rua Direita the most sophisticated address in São Paulo.

After the interpreters meeting (a teetotaller event by the way), Angela, Denise and I headed to Canto Madalena to meet up with the Hairy Eyeball and his Deusinha, only the gringo version of Geraldão stood us up. Too bad for him, he missed excellent shots of o Espírito de Minas and didn't witness the deluge of the Sacolão area. Canto means corner, and that's where the bar is located on a tiny corner which receives the outflow waters that come gurgling down from all the hills to the West and to the East of Vila Madalena. It's the perfect place for a gigantic puddle of water, only the thunderstorm came down so violently, that it was more like Waikiki, the cars parked on the street serving as the coral ocean floor against which tsunamis formed. If you think I exaggerate, get your eyeballs plugged on picture, taken this morning as I drove the Little Mermie to school.

At any rate, I'm slowly regaining my blogging inspiration after a two-week draft on the highlands of link-happiness. Yesterday I found at Crossroads the very promising linguablog Open Brackets, written by a fellow translator. If the author comes to this page through her referral system, here's a little something she might enjoy. And there is also Jezblog whose self-description states: Jeremy Smith lives in Paris, where he wastes time on the Internet works as a translator. Silly me, I thought the two activities were complementary, not mutually excluding.


Nov 26, 2002

Translation Memory and More. Localizers and translators, click this way for an excellent compilation of translation and localization tools, concordancers, and what have you.


Nov 22, 2002

Pecado Original, song from the Dama de Lotação soundtrack, performed here by a Film School buddy not by Caetano Veloso of NY Times fame, who wrote the lyrics. By the way, I can't get enough of listening to Complainte de la Seine.


Post-Human Blues. I know that I've been shamefully omiss in my blogging. What can I say for myself, except that I've been busy interpreting for the past two weeks and just too tired to sit at the computer. Instead of doing that, I've been resting comfortably under the ceiling fan while reading a lovely book André Aciman has kindly sent to me. Blogging does not come without its bookish rewards!

At any rate, I'm also a bit bored with the whole language thing and more interested in finding the perfect outfit for the 1970s revival party I'm going to this Saturday. Luckily, I found just what I needed, a red and white striped and shiny dress that makes me look exactly like Sônia Braga in Dama do Lotação or a stylized can of coke, take your pick.

With so much interpreting going on, I miss the translator's freedom and organized time-slacking, which allows for bountiful amounts of Web-surfing. Possibly, in addition to the pleasure of translating, I miss the inklings of post-humanity I feel when online, with the beastly smart Google ready to jump when I snap.

Also, about a week ago I received an invitation to make a short speech at the Alumni Translation Course graduation ceremony. It's so flattering! After all, only seven years ago I was a student there. The idea is to welcome the newcomers to the profession (or should I scare them off to avoid competition?). I'll speak in the capacity of translator, interpreter, translation discussion group owner, forum moderator and needless to say, sirène enigmatique. In fact, this is a timely opportunity to reflect on these roles, preferably while listening to Marianne Faithfull and brooding a little because I miss translating the written word.


Nov 11, 2002

LangMaker. "At some point in the next century the number of invented languages will probably overtake the number of surviving natural languages."

- Cullen Murphy in Atlantic Monthly (October, 1995)

Invent your own. This and other links posted today taken from the Xblog: Language.


Gestures Around the World. Body gestures have different meanings according to the country in which they are expressed. We shall seek to examine the proper body etiquette in the nations of the world on a per continent basis. Let's begin our review with Europe. (Read more, registration required)


CODEX SERAPHINIANVS. The Codex is a collection of original artwork by Italian artist Luigi Serafini, presented as a travalogue or scientific study of an alien world. Unlike such alien worlds as Darwin IV in Barlowe's Expedition, which one might find in a science fiction novel, the world in the Codex is obviously some kind of perverse reflection of our own. All of the Codex is presented entirely in an obscure alien writing. This writing, in combination with the bizarre pictures, is what finally puts the Codex in its own league for weirdness. For instance, on one page is a "Rosetta Stone" - only it just translates Codex script into another alien language. A lecturer presenting the "Stone" is nonchalantly stabbing a red blob inside of it while he points out aspects of the script. The whole effect is unimaginable, even after several "readings",


Nov 10, 2002

Nov 8, 2002

The Dream of a Perfect Language. Lecture presented by Umberto Eco.


Nov 7, 2002

Sigur Ros. "On their majestic new album, the Icelandic rock orchestrators use maybe a dozen syllables in a made-up language. Fans vote on the translation." (Read more).

Mermaid commentary: didn't the Cocteau Twins use to do the same thing and play the same kind of music, only better?

Nov 6, 2002

Tiger in a Lifeboat, Panther in a Lifeboat: A Furor Over a Novel. "In 1981 the Brazilian writer Moacyr Scliar published "Max and the Cats," the tale of a Jewish youth who survives a shipwreck and ends up sharing a lifeboat with a panther. Last month Yann Martel won the $75,000 newly renamed Man Booker Prize, Britain's top literary award, for "Life of Pi," the story of an Indian youth who survives a shipwreck and finds himself occupying a lifeboat with a tiger.

The plot similarities are not a coincidence, since Mr. Martel readily admits that he was inspired by the Brazilian book. But nonetheless, the literary press here is suddenly awash in indignant accusations that Mr. Martel, a 39-year-old Canadian enjoying his first commercial and critical success, is guilty of improperly "copying" or "borrowing" from the work of one of Latin America's most distinguished novelists." (Read more)


Verb Conjugator. Here's an online verb conjugator that received rave reviews at the ProZ Translator Resources forum. It supports 102 languages. More on the desktop-based application which you can also download from the site.

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Hippocratic Oafs. Found at Harper's Lexicon column. "From a list of medical slang compiled by Adam Fox and excerpted in the British Medical Journal. According to Fox, a London pediatriacian, many of the terms are ysed in doctors' notes and medical reports.".

Ash cash: money paid for signing cremation forms
Ash point: where you collect your ash cash
Babygram: an X ray of a neonate
Brown trout: a stool that won't float (as opposed to an air biscuit, which does)
Buff: applying spin to a patient's history to facilitate a transfer
Champagne tap: a bloodless sample from a lumbar puncture
Code brown: incontinence-related emergency
Cold-tea sign: refers to the several cups of cold tea on the bedside cabinet beside a dead geriatric
Crumble: derogatory term for an elderly patient
CTD: Circling the Drain, for expectant terminal patients
DBI: Dirt Bag Index
Departure lounge: geriatric ward
Digging for worms: varicose-vein surgery
ERCP: Emergency Retrograde Clerking of Patient, an emergency procedure before the consultant rounds
Eternal care: intensive care
FLK: funny-looking kid
Flower sign: fresh flowers at the bedside imply patient has a supportive family
FTF: failure to fly, for attempted suicide victims
GOK: God Only Knows
GROLIES: Guardian Reader of Limited Intelligence in Ethnic Skirt
Guessing tubes: stethoscope
Handbag positive: Used to denote a patient (usually an old lady) lying in her hospital bed clutching her handbag, a sign she is confused and disoriented
House red: blood
LOL: Little old lady
MICO: Masterly Inactivity and Catlike Observation
n=1 trial: polite term for experimenting on a patient
OAP: over-anxious patient
PFO: pissed, fell over
Psychoceramics: geriatrics
Q-sign: follows the O sign, when the terminal patient's tongue hangs out of his open mouth
Serum porcelain: battery of blood tests on an elderly patient
Sieve: a doctor who admits almost every patient he sees
SIG: stroppy ignorant girl
Slough: a patient another unit of hospital tries to unload on you innapropriately or unfairly
Spanish disease: cockney rhyming slang for cancer
TFBUNDY: totally fucked but unfortunately not dead yet
TMB: too many birthdays
Treat n'street: quick patient turnaround
TUBE: totally unnecessary breast examination
Turf: diverting a patient to another team by spinning the history to suit
Wall: a doctor who resists admitting patientes at all costs
Whopper with cheese: a fat woman with thrush
Woolworth's test: used by anesthetists. If you can imagine the patient shopping in Woolsworth's the he is fit enough for an anesthetic
Wrinkly: geriatric


Nov 5, 2002

What the Guys Said, The Way They Said It, As Best We Can. To know Danilo Nogueira is to love him, and to read his writings on translation is almost as delicious as to hear him speak. Here he is arguing the case for literal translations, and explaining how the license to kill should be used. But there is no need to transmogrify every single sentence, really. And the Mermaid endorses his views.

Update: juicy Yeats thread turned into vitamin-boost translation thread on MeFi.


Automotive Reminiscences. From Osnabrück to São Paulo, here's a childhood antic the Corcovado Cowboy and I have in common. We both rode in Karmann Ghias during most of our childhood. My mother's cobalt blue KG looked exactly like these Tourism Coupes. Getting into the the backseat of this sportscar was a lesson in acrobatics, I assure you.

The official KG site explains that Karmann Ghia opened up a factory in Brazil in the late sixties. I remember my mom drove me to school in the fine German-Brazilian automobile, way after it became totally unfashionable. It was a painful experience because I went to one of the traditional private schools the rich kids attended. You know, the sons and daughters of successful attorneys, doctors and "industrialists". The mid-seventies were times of financial strife for my family, as wigs lost their glamour and sales plummeted. I should explain perhaps that my father was a wig tycoon back then, one of the weirdest occupations a man can have. One day I should post something about the hair subculture, one of the most fascinating in existence, and the main reason why the smell of hair makes me queasy. But I digress.

So my mom had her nifty Karmann Ghia, and my dad used to drive a portly JK, in a tribute to president Juscelino Kubitschek. On the weekends, he used to take his two children and wife for long day trips in the São Paulo countryside. Being stuck for a whole day in the old car with my parents was pure torture, for even if it was a more spacious than the KG, the drive to school was short and the paranoia of being spotted by somebody else in a hideous vehicle was short-lived. Pre-teens are silly, but parents are even stupider for not realising that when a kid is 12 years old, she should be left alone to read Anna Karenina or to sulk the whole day in front of the TV, instead of being dragged to sniff the fresh air and gulp down roasted chicken with farofa in the company of their parents.

So, all this long preamble is just meant as a nibble to whet your appetite for this little morsel of uplifting automotive-inspired moralism. On one of those long trips through the country, when the JK was just about to fold under the stress of its hefty mileage, my dad hit a bump in the road, or some other unwanted contraption, and the passenger door simply fell off. Boink. So in addition to all my world-filling pre-teen angst, I had to cope with our car doorlessness in the middle of nowhere. My dad, who is as handy as a pasha and has never changed a lightbulb in his life, decided that dealing with the problem was a man's job. Therefore, he stripped his belt from his portly waist and tied the door to the car after several frustrating attempts and much nervous giggling. At that moment, the cloud of annoyance dissolved and I felt truly sorry for my bankrupt wig-tycoon of a father, who had no money to buy a new car and pretended to be driving a vintage automobile, who annoyed the hell out of me every time he suggested a day trip, but still scraped some pennies to buy hardcover Anna Kareninas to furnish his library.


Nov 4, 2002

One of the buildings in the Engenho Central de Piracicaba, the old sugar mill.

A lesson in acculturation: the German boys from Piracicaba sing the Jobim song printed in Uwe's tee after several rounds of caipirinha.

One of the infamous mermaid sr.'s obsessions: religious iconography


The Social History of Dictionaries. Article by historian Peter Burke published yesterday at Folha de S.Paulo brings an overview of the social history of dictionaries. Pat has kindly provided a translation for those of you who can't read Portuguese.

Hoje temos por certo que, se não compreendermos uma palavra, seja em nossa própria língua ou numa língua estrangeira, podemos procurá-la no dicionário. Imagine os problemas que teríamos se esses dicionários não existissem ou fossem inacessíveis! Mas esses livros valiosos, assim como outras obras de referência, não existiram durante a maior parte da história humana. No mundo ocidental, os dicionários só começaram a aparecer em quantidade razoável depois da invenção da imprensa de tipos móveis, em meados do século 15 (melhor descrita como "reinvenção", já que chineses e japoneses imprimiam livros muito antes disso). A existência de livros desse tipo dependeu não apenas da tecnologia existente, mas também de fatores econômicos e sociais. A demanda por dicionários esteve ligada ao surgimento de práticas culturais que incentivavam seu uso regular, incluindo práticas de leitura, como o hábito de consultar livros em busca de determinados itens de informação, em vez de os ler do começo ao fim ou, como dizem os ingleses, "de capa a capa". Em outras palavras, os dicionários não apenas têm uma história, mas também possuem uma história social.

Traduções às cegas
Para colocá-los em contexto é necessário perguntar quem os compilava, para quem e com que objetivos. Assim sendo, não deve surpreender o fato de que os primeiros dicionários foram de latim, para uso em escolas de gramática, fundadas como parte do movimento humanista do Renascimento e frequentadas por meninos originários das classes alta e média. Por exemplo, um dicionário de latim-catalão apareceu em 1489, um dicionário de latim-espanhol em 1492, um dicionário de latim-dinamarquês, em 1510, e um dicionário de latim-tcheco, em 1511. Por outro lado, o primeiro dicionário de latim-português que conheço, compilado por Cardoso, só foi publicado em 1562. Como os estudantes conseguiam fazer suas traduções de Cícero e Virgílio antes dessa data, não sabemos. Ou confiavam na memória ou compilavam para si mesmos vocabulários manuscritos, que desde então se perderam. Dicionários de línguas vernáculas demoraram mais para surgir, provavelmente porque no início os impressores não tinham certeza de qual seria o tamanho do mercado para essas volumosas obras de referência. No caso do espanhol, por exemplo, um "Diccionario de Vocablos Castellanos" foi publicado em 1587, enquanto o mais famoso "Tesoro de la Lengua Castellana", compilado por Sebastián de Covarrubias, data de 1611. O conhecido "Vocabolario della Crusca" italiano foi publicado entre 1612 e 1623, e o famoso dicionário de francês compilado pela Academia Francesa começou a ser publicado em 1694. Um dicionário de inglês-inglês foi publicado em 1604, mas o primeiro dicionário aceito como autoridade foi o compilado pelo dr. Samuel Johnson em 1755. O equivalente português da obra de Johnson é provavelmente o "Diccionário da Língua Portuguesa", do brasileiro Antônio de Morais Silva, publicado pela primeira vez em 1789.

Mercadores e peregrinos
Se foram necessários tantos anos para surgirem dicionários de uma língua, e muito mais para eles se tornarem acessíveis em um formato barato ou portátil, não deve ser difícil imaginar a longa demora para o surgimento de dicionários bilíngues das línguas européias modernas. É verdade que pequenos vocabulários para uso de viajantes, como mercadores e peregrinos, já haviam sido impressos antes de 1500 (o primeiro desses livretes mediava entre italiano e alemão). Havia também o "Calepino", vocabulário latim-italiano-francês-alemão publicado em 1502 e gradualmente ampliado até incluir hebraico, holandês, espanhol, inglês, polonês e húngaro. Para volumes maiores, foi necessário esperar até o final do século 16 ou mais, conforme as línguas. O dicionário de espanhol-italiano de Landucci foi publicado em 1562, e o dicionário de inglês-italiano de Florio, em 1598, mas para um dicionário de inglês-holandês foi preciso esperar até 1648, para português-inglês, até 1701, e para o de português-holandês, até 1714. Não é difícil imaginar os problemas encontrados por viajantes de diferentes países que não tinham na bagagem os dicionários certos. Na Hungria, por exemplo, os estrangeiros costumavam tentar se fazer entender em latim, e diz-se que os estalajadeiros e seus funcionários falavam latim, provavelmente de um tipo rudimentar, assim como nos atuais restaurantes chineses no estrangeiro os garçons aprendem a língua do país em que trabalham (nunca me esquecerei de entrar num restaurante chinês em Copenhague e ser atendido por um garçom chinês falando o que parecia ser um dinamarquês extremamente fluente). O surgimento de dicionários entre línguas européias e não-européias é outra história, e longa. Começa relativamente cedo, graças aos missionários no Novo Mundo. Um dicionário de espanhol-nahuatl foi publicado em 1555, um dicionário de espanhol-zapoteca, em 1578, um de espanhol-quéchua, em 1608. Foi graças aos jesuítas que o primeiro dicionário do japonês para uma língua européia, o dicionário de português-japonês de Rodrigues, apareceu em 1595, mesmo ano que viu a publicação da gramática tupi de Anchieta. O dicionário de tamil-português do jesuíta Antão de Proença, de 1679, foi outra compilação para ser usada no campo missionário, assim como o "Vocabulário em Idioma Bengala e Português", de frei Manuel da Assunção (1743). No caso de outras partes do mundo, porém, os dicionários foram motivados mais por esperanças de comércio que de conversão. Por exemplo, isso é certamente o que explica a publicação de um dicionário de malaio-holandês em Amsterdã, em 1603 (seguido por diversas compilações rivais), ou a de um dicionário de italiano-turco, em 1612. Os leitores terão notado que eu nada disse até agora sobre dicionários de chinês, que apresentavam problemas especiais para os compiladores. Para que um dicionário seja útil na decodificação de textos literários chineses, precisa incluir 50 mil itens ou mais. As entradas não podem ser organizadas em ordem alfabética, porque os chineses não operam com um alfabeto, mas com "ideogramas" -em outras palavras, sinais que representam determinadas palavras.

Quantidade de traços
Até hoje, se você quiser procurar uma palavra chinesa em um dicionário, precisa começar contando o número de traços do ideograma, e mesmo essa operação aparentemente simples não é fácil para um estrangeiro. Em todo o caso, muitos ideogramas são feitos de (aproximadamente) dez traços, e para pesquisar essa parte do dicionário é preciso identificar o "radical", o elemento relativamente comum no lado esquerdo do caractere.
Diante desses problemas, embora a China fosse um terreno para as missões desde os dias do jesuíta italiano Matteo Ricci, no final do século 16, de modo que um dicionário impresso já teria sido útil, esse dicionário só apareceu em 1813. Publicado em Paris e compilado pelo orientalista J. de Guignes, a obra oferecia traduções de ideogramas chineses em latim, assim como em francês, o que aumentava sua atração internacional.
Até hoje, na era dos computadores e da tradução computadorizada, a elaboração de dicionários não é fácil. Na próxima vez em que você consultar um dicionário ou uma obra de referência semelhante, como uma enciclopédia, pense um pouco nas pessoas cujas longas horas de trabalho lhe permitiram adquirir um conhecimento quase instantâneo.
Imagine os problemas de compilar o primeiro dicionário de uma determinada língua (algo que ainda acontece em cantos remotos do mundo), sobretudo imagine as dificuldades de organizar a informação numa era em que as entradas de determinadas palavras não eram escritas num computador, que as organiza automaticamente, mas à mão (usando uma pena) sobre tiras de papel!


Nov 1, 2002

The Sexiest Sentence Alive. You know you're going to click, because you won't resist the lure of sex and language put together, so just do it. Found at the Wannabegirl. Check out also the quite funny Say Hello to Sanjeep, Er, Sam, courtesy of Fabulousness.
Linkylove. Thanks to all the new people who have been linking to the Enigmatic Mermaid. I think that the readership is increasing and is probably going to hit the astounding mark of 38 readers pretty soon! We couldn't have done it without this kind people:

Denske - Mark Sloboda's weblog on localization, translation, Japan and related things
Mostly Music
Josh's Weblog
Loves Insects
Eeksy Peeksy

And here are some recommendations: Amarar blog, a Brazilian lawyer (Piracicabano!) in New York. In very round and tasty Portuguese. Tekenlog, a beautiful drawing blog. And the quite informative, kitsch overdose aside, Celebriducks.

The Google Glossary Game. Suggested by Miguel Cardoso, the Google Glossary Game is fun stuff for glossarites. I just love the first definition I got for popcorn. And I feel very relieved to know that the word dog can refer to any Canis familiaris speciment, whether dead or alive.