BIK Terminology—

Solving the terminology puzzle, one posting at a time

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    Barbara Inge Karsch - Terminology Consulting and Training

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Archive for the ‘Terminology of terminology’ Category

How gridiron became a term

Posted by Barbara Inge Karsch on February 3, 2011

When I was looking at football terminology the other day, I noticed many terms which used to be words in common everyday language and have become technical terms in sports terminology. That is what terminologization is all about.

ISO 704 formally defines terminologization as “the process by which a general-language word or expression is transformed into a term designating a concept in a language for special purposes”. gridiron (sports)

gridiron (cooking)

The following entry from the Merriam Webster shows quite well that the original meaning of “gridiron”, first recorded in the 14th century, was that of the cooking grate. You can find more about the etymology of gridiron in this entry of the Online Etymology Dictionary. Today, the meaning of the football field is probably more common, especially in the United States. Gridiron has moved from the everyday language of cooking into the language for special purposes of American football.

gridiron in Merriam Webster

Another good example is “fumble.” In the past, fumble, the meaning of which most of us are painfully aware, moved from verb to noun in the 1640s. Here is an excerpt from the Online Etymology Dictionary:

fumble in Online Etymology Dictionary

Today, it has a very specific meaning in football terminology, as this entry from the About – Football Glossary shows. Note that the definition used in this glossary is, by terminology management standards, not a proper definition. But the sample sentence shows how “fumble” is used as a noun in football today.

fumble (sports)

The reverse effect of terminologization is called de-terminologization. There are some good examples in sports, too. Stay tuned for those.


Posted in Advanced terminology topics, Terminology of terminology | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Terminology: An expert explains

Posted by Barbara Inge Karsch on January 27, 2011

This is a quick follow-up on last week’s explanation of what terminology is. I found the following short video while researching into terminology management practices in the US automotive industry. I’ll get out of the way and let this fine scientist do the explaining. He does so in only 1:49 min, and I recommend watching it to the end.

If you come away understanding the content, you are a genius. If you don’t get a word, you have just learned why terminology matters in technical communication. And if you got a chuckle out of this, let me know.

Posted in Interesting terms, Terminology 101, Terminology of terminology | Tagged: , | 15 Comments »

What do the Seahawks and Microsoft Office have in common?

Posted by Barbara Inge Karsch on January 16, 2011

Last night, someone asked once again what terminology is. Let me take today’s big event in Seattle to explain: The Seattle Seahawks played the Chicago Bears in a game that I may never fully understand.Blah blah Anton blah blah blah

American football is full of terminology for the initiated. It’s jargon to the rest of us. As a laywoman, what I hear is similar to what Ginger, the dog, hears in the Gary Larson* cartoon: “blah blah GINGER blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah GINGER blah blah blah blah blah.” In the cartoon, Ginger only hears what he understands–his name. In front of TV broadcasting this American football game, I hear: “Blah blah blah blah touchdown blahblah blah Seahawks blah blah blahblah huddle blah blah blah blah quarterback.” I understand only the terms I know.

Terminology, the collective terms and names of a subject field, are the main vehicle of information in sports communication as in technical communication. If I wanted to be part of the American football culture, I could start by learning the meaning of “on third down”, “tight-end”, or “snap.” Since the majority of Americans cut their teeth on football (similar to Germans on soccer), no sports commentator will change the terminology to accommodate an outsider.

A company trying to gain more customers and make a profit by selling products or services is in a different position. They cannot afford to not use their customers’ terminology, but also to not share the product terminology with the customer. Good product design involves customers and is based on their language to maximize usability and minimize risk.

But they can also not afford to leave people along the content supply chain in the unknown: If I had to write or translate about American football, I would have to research and understand terms, such as “draw play” or “shuffle play,” document them and then use them consistently. If I was the only one not knowing the terminology, the burden would be on me. But if you have dozens of writers and editors creating content for, say, an enterprise resource planning product, you want them to all understand the terms “backflush”, “batch” or “process manufacturing.” If dozens of translators are to bring that content into a target language, such as Japanese, you cannot afford them to not understand, misunderstand or not care. Product usability and liability is at stake.

Microsoft ClipArt

The argument might sound a lot less compelling when we think about a Microsoft Office product. Everyone in the US should be familiar with Office terminology, just like they are with American football terminology, right? After all, designations such as “ClipArt,” “address book” or “Page Layout” seem straightforward. Let’s not forget, though, that there are many different reasons why something could be documented in a terminology database. Consistency in the target language is not the least of it. While a single unenlightened German cannot matter to the Seahawk commentator, millions of Japanese users of the Office suite must matter to Microsoft.

So, the next time you are getting into a new field, check out what you don’t understand yet. It is probably the concepts of the new field and with it the terms and phrases, in short the terminology. If you are interested in learning what a “safety blitz” or a “wishbone formation” is, start with this football glossary. And…congratulations to the Chicago Bears!

*The cartoon is not being displayed for another important aspect of terminology management—copyright. For more information, see Gary Larson’s note.

Posted in Events, Terminology 101, Terminology of terminology | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

What do we do with terms?

Posted by Barbara Inge Karsch on September 23, 2010

We collect or extract terms. We research their underlying concepts. We document terms, and approve or fail them. We might research their target language equivalents. We distribute them and their terminological entries. We use them. Whatever you do with terms, don’t translate them.Microsoft Clip Art

A few years ago, Maria Theresa Cabré rightly criticized Microsoft Terminology Studio when a colleague showed it at a conference, because the UI tab for target language entries said “Term Translations.” And if you talk to Klaus-Dirk Schmitz about translating terminology, you will for sure be set straight. I am absolutely with my respected colleagues.

If we translate terms, why don’t we pay $.15 per term, as we do for translation work? At TKE in Dublin, Kara Warburton quoted a study conducted by Guy Champagne Inc. for the Canadian government in 2004. They found that between 4 and 6% of the words in a text need to be researched; on average, it takes about 20 min to research a term. That is why we can’t pay USD .15 per term.

Note also that we pay USD .15 per word and not per term. Terms are the signs that express the most complex ideas (concepts) in our technical documents. They carry a lot more meaning than the lexical units called words that connect them.

Let’s assume we are a buyer of translation and terminology services. Here is what we can expect:



Terminology work

Number of units a person can generally process per day

Ca. 2000 per day

Ca. 20 to 50 entries

Cost for the company

Ca. USD .25 per word

Ca. USD 55 per hour

Microsoft Clip ArtAt the end of the translation process, we have a translated text which in this form can only be used once. Of course, it might become part of a translation memory (TM) and be reused. But reuse can only happen, if the second product using the TM serves the same readership; if the purpose of the text is the same; if someone analyses the new source text with the correct TM, etc. And even then, it would be a good idea to proofread the outcome thoroughly.

The terminological entry, on the other hand, should be set up to serve the present purpose (e.g. support a translator during the translation of a particular project). But it might also be set up to allow a support engineer in a branch office to look up the definition of the target equivalent. Or it might enable a technical writer in another product unit to check on the correct and standardized spelling of the source term.

I am not sure that this distinction is clear to all translators who sell terminology services. You might get away with translating terms a few times. But eventually your client’s customers will indicate that there is something wrong, that the product is hard to understand or operate because it is not in their vernacular.

There are much more scientific reasons why we should not confuse translation and terminology work; while related and often (but not always) coincidental, these tasks have different objectives. More about that some other time. Today, let me appeal to you whose job it is to support clear and precise communication to reserve the verb “to translate” for the transfer of “textual substance in one language to create textual substance in another language” as Juan Sager puts it in the Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies. If we can be precise in talking about our own field, we should do so.

Posted in Events, Interesting terms, Microsoft Terminology Studio, Researching terms, Setting up entries, Terminology of terminology | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

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