Tuesday, 8 December 2009

As requested!

Yesterday one of my friends suggested I tackled here the linguistic problem of masło maślane and its translation into English. After a quick look into the matter I found out the aforementioned phrase, which in Polish common parlance describes the phrase in which more than one word in the given phrase denote the same thing, is just an exemplification of linguistic phenomenon, called pleonasm (PL: pleonazm). Why is it not the tautology? The latter consists of different words, unlike in the “buttery butter” example.

Pleonasms are sometimes used as stylistic devices to emphasise the message to be got across, but usually, in the everyday language, they turn out to be redundant and are considered linguistic errors. In Polish, the most glaring and quite often heard ones are (following wikipedia): w miesiącu lipcu (EN: in the month July), spadać w dół (EN: fall downwards, watch out, not “fall down”, in case of which a falling object must reach the ground), cofać się do tyłu (EN: reverse backwards, it gets my goat every time I hear it in Polish…), dalej kontynuować (EN: to continue on), fakt autentyczny (here I’ll take the liberty of translating it into English as: factual fact). The last example could have been heard when flowing from the mouth of silver-tongued ex-prime minister Jarosław K (in the distant parts of the world this man has become (in)famous for being unmarried, living with his mother and not having a bank account nor a driving license).

Less annoying, but also perplexing are the errors concerning abbreviations, like (once again I have drawn on wiki): numer NIP = numer numer identyfikacji podatkowej (EN: TIN number = tax identification number number). Some of the Polish pleonasms have English origins, like płyta CD. CD stands for “compact disc”, which in Polish means płyta kompaktowa. Things tangle up a bit, when it comes to DVD, which in turn stands for “digital video disc”. Unfortunately DVD has not been translated into Polish, so Poles have to use the clumsy płyta DVD phrase. In English such problems also occur. Let’s take the frequently used specific names like: RAM memory = random access memory memory, or ATM machine = automatic teller machine machine.

Any conclusions? Maybe one, partly content-related: after months of playing about with such linguistic quirks I’m still convinced that choosing to study at SGH I haven’t missed my vocation.

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