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Posted By P & L Blog



My favorite is quixotic.  Merriam-Webster defines it as

: foolishly impractical especially in the pursuit of ideals; especially : marked by rash lofty romantic ideas or extravagantly chivalrous action.

: capricious, unpredictable.


The adjective entered the English language around 1790 and comes from Don Quixote, the hero of Miguel de Cervantes' satiric novel.  I was reminded of it while listening to "The Writer's Almanac" while Garrison Keillor read the opening lines of "Don Quixote de la Mancha" because today is Cervantes' birthday.  The hardcover version of Edith Grossman's 2003 translation ranks #11,288 on Amazon today, not bad for a book written four hundred years ago.


What's your favorite word?



Photo by ninikanka under Creative Commons license.

Posted By P & L Blog

I spent most of the morning editing a Spanish translation we had done for one of our clients in the healthcare industry.  We actually delivered the translation weeks ago, but yesterday the art director discovered that there was more text than space on a page of the brochure.  Red pencils to the rescue!   The first edit still didn't  fit the page; we were successful with round 2 but the client had not allowed for additional time being spent on the project. 

Red Pencil

What happened?  The client had designed the brochure with English text in mind and didn't take into account that the number of words increases when you translate into Spanish (and many other languages).  The translation took up about 20% more space.

Unfortunately, on some pages space was at a premium.  When you are designing a print piece that will be produced in several languages, try to leave some empty space in your layout.  This will give you some wiggle room.

If you are working with existing materials or templates, you have three options:

  1. to edit the English text before translation
  2. to edit the Spanish translation
  3. to use a smaller font size

Has this ever happened to you?  What did you to solve the problem?



Photo by wolfcry0.  Licensed by Creative Commons.

Posted By P & L Blog

According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, the resident population of the United States, projected to 09/14/09 at 21:21 GMT (EST+5) is



For the first time in its history, the Census Bureau will distribute more than 13 million bilingual questionnaires during the 2010 census.  Although there are monolingual forms available upon request in several languages, tests show that mailing the bilingual questionnaire to areas with a high number of Spanish-speaking residents will improve response rates.

The importance of counting "everyone living in the United States, once, only once, and in the right place" as stated by Robert M. Groves, the Census Bureau Director, can not be overstated.  Census data are used to determine not only congressional representation, but also how $400 billion in federal funds is allocated to state and local governments.

Census questionnaires in Spanish, Chinese (simplified), Korean, Vietnamese and Russian can be requested by calling the telephone assistance number on the back of the English form .   Speakers of 60 other languages can learn how to complete the English questionnaire from language guides which will be distributed across the country in local libraries and other public places.

Posted By P & L Blog

My Fair Lady

If you agree with George Bernard Shaw's well-known statement that "England and America are two countries separated by a common language" then you will enjoy the "Septic's Companion".  The book is an "A-to-Zed" guide to British slang for Americans, aka the septics in the title.

Why septics?  It is Cockney rhyming slang for an American: Yank rhymes with septic tank and the custom is to use only the first word.  Other amusing examples of rhyming slang include "Adam and Eve" (believe), "noddy holders" (shoulders), "Jack's alive" (five), and "Thomas Edison" (medicine).  As for the accent Cockneys have, think Eliza Doolittle in "My Fair Lady".

NPR aired an interview with Chris Rhea, the author of "Septic's Companion" over the weekend.  It's well worth a listen.




Photo by Andreas Pisza.  Licensed under Creative Commons

Posted By P & L Blog

Nancy Mitford


“I do love translating: it is the pure pleasure of writing without the misery of inventing.”

Nancy Mitford

If you don't know anything about Nancy Mitford, she's worth looking into.  She was one of six daughters in a fascinating aristocratic English family, two of whom went on to become authors, one married the Duke of Devonshire, and two were close friends of Hitler in the 1930s.

Nancy is perhaps best known for her book, Love in a Cold Climate, which was made into two mini-series which were broadcast on PBS as part of Masterpiece Theater.  She is also credited with popularizing upper class ("U") and "non-U" language use, or how social class affects how people speak English.




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