a wandering woman writes

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Full belly laugh from an amateur translator

There I was, agonizing over how to translate the Spanish word propiciar in the Reverte quote, when I gave up, frustrated. Propiciar means "to favor the execution of", more or less, and I just couldn't see myself ending a quote that way. I wanted the quote to end with a bang, as it does in Spanish. I'd already tried finding inspiration in my Spanish dictionary. Nothing. I went straight to the big guns: the Real Academia Española. "Favors the execution of". Bleh.

Simultaneously desperate not to write a sentence I didn't like and ecstatic not to be a professional translator, I decided to invent my own word. It seemed to me that propiciar would, of course, translate as propitiate.

Giggling at my own cleverness, I surfed over to Ask Oxford. I typed in my word, hit search, waited patiently to read "sorry, no listings" -----

and a few moments later, read this:
propitiate: (verb) win or regain the favour of; appease

Seems our word has Latin origins. My invented English word exists!

So how come that never happens when I make up Spanish words in the middle of a conversation?

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  • It's usually translated as "initiate", but your translation is better for the context. To me it's a bureaucratic word, you see it in contexts like "propiciar la formulación de lineamientos generales para orientar .." bla bla bla.
    I don't suppose Javier Reverte is related to Arturo Perez-Reverte, one of my favourite authors?

    By Blogger qaminante, at 11:44 PM  

  • LOL. Look at that. Well, yeh, initiate would work. Still I like my translation better, too., for the quote.

    I was nervous about it being an inexact translation you know, and it was YOU I knew would catch me! Can't tell you what a relief it was to read your comment!

    I don't think they are related, but do pick up some Javier Reverte. Pick a place you've travelled to, maybe....in Spanish you'll find a long list of tempting titles. Find him; you'll be glad you did, says me.

    Would you believe I've yet to read any Perez-Reverte? Haven't seen the movie, either...

    By Blogger wandering-woman, at 11:52 PM  

  • Ja,ja,ja!
    Fantastic, you are soaking up Spanish culture.
    Spaniard do that! We tend to add -ation to a Spanish word to turn into an English one!
    Most of the time it doesnt word!

    By Blogger Nomadita, at 5:32 PM  

  • Hi again, Erin.

    I think the ansswer to yiur question is the following: English is the language with most words out of the languages with a dictionary. The reasons for this are various but maybe the most important ones are that a) English doesn't have an authority in "correct" language such as the Spanish or the French Academies, so every word that comes into the language is simply registered (legitimated, one would say) by the Oxford Dictionary. For Spanish, French and many other languages some kind of authority must "approve" a new word into the language. For example strictly speaking you cannot say "blog" in Spanish or Catalan and b)In its history, the English language has come across many different languages and has developed an ability to introduce the new words (especially the Latin ones) into the core of the language.

    There are many duplicates in present-day English with old English and Latin components, for example come in/enter, go out/exit, etc...

    Hope it wasn't too long!

    By Anonymous Mestre, at 12:58 PM  

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