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Friday, March 20, 2015

De J'ai Vu...in the Bozone...

The Google translation for the well used French phrase "de j'ai vu" is literally "from I've seen." Grammar doesn't translate well in French, or many other languages for that matter. My day job is communications for a global company and seeing French, German, Portuguese or Spanish translated into English can do a real number on grammar.

We used to use that phrase a lot in the '70's, back when I was trying to impress my hippie friends. It's probably not as cool to use it now, but many people still do and they aren't all aging hippies.

Actually, it would probably be more correct to use:

de ce que je ai vu (from what I've seen) 
or 
Je ai vu ├ža avant (I've seen this before)

My French isn't all that good yet, but I think it's interesting how people will take a common phrase and change it to suit them. 

"Cool", meant "good", and no longer just referred to the temperature. After a while the term "Bad" came to mean "good", as well. What's wrong with just saying something is "good"? It's not zippy enough - we need to use "awesome" or "fly" or "chill" or some other strange morphing of language. 

Do you remember "Sniglets"? I loved sniglets, words that weren't in the dictionary but should've been. Morphing of two words to describe something. Nonsense words for totally comic value, and the '80s public loved them. Here's a couple of examples:
  • profanitype, the special symbols and stars used by cartoonists to replace swear words (*^&#...)
  • pupkus, the moist residue left on a window after a dog presses its nose to it (my personal fave)
  • askhole (someone who asks very annoying questions)
  • bozone (the layer of air surrounding a stupid person)
You get the idea. It was fun. It was funny. It made an even bigger mess of the English language. 

As writers we enjoy the use of words and generally get irritated at the miss use of them. You've heard the term "Grammar Nazi"? I'm not one of those, because I face translations or writing from non English (as their first language) speakers every day and sometimes have to puzzle out what they really want to say. It can be challenging to make their messages completely understood. We writers want our words to tell a story, convey a feeling, entertain, frighten, but most of all - we want to express ourselves.



One of my favorite quotes is from James Michener, who says: "Writing, I love the swing and swirl of words as they tangle with human emotions." 

Nice, isn't it? Enjoy the journey my writing friends, and don't be afraid to have some fun doing it.



6 comments:

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Bonnie,

I also love playing with words. One of my favorite activities in the past was consulting my huge Oxford Dictionary of Etymology.

A short story I wrote was sold to a Chinese publication as a reprint. It came out online as well as in print. When I hit translate, I saw the story was now very different from what I had originally written in English. Language use and meaning is never dull and ever changing.

Susan Oleksiw said...

I love the new words. They remind me of the discovery of language by children, who often come up with the most refreshing and startling new words.

Bonnie D Tharp said...

Thanks for commenting. Language can certainly be fun - and translations - interesting.

Jean Henry Mead said...

An interesting and enjoyable article. I used to contribute to magazines in Germany and Norway, and wondered about the translations(this before they were available online).

I found your pupkus, askhole and bonzone translations very amusing. Thanks for the article.

Jean Henry Mead said...

An interesting and enjoyable article. I used to contribute to magazines in Germany and Norway, and wondered about the translations (before they were available online).

I found your pupkus, askhole and bonzone translations very amusing. Thanks for the article.

Bonnie D Tharp said...

Thanks for leaving a comment, Jean. Language can be loads of fun.