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Pathetic Anglicism?
Thread poster: wagadugu
wagadugu
Spanish to English
+ ...
Mar 10, 2007

A few days ago I watched an omnibus movie titled 'Paris, je t'aime'. In an episode a girl says the word 'pathétiques' refering to a bunch of pathetic boys trying to tempt girls with useless flattering comments.
And the Spanish and Portuguese subtitles for 'pathétiques' were 'patéticos'.
As far as I know no standard Romance language dictionaries define the cognate words as used in English pejorative (and probably rather slangy?) sense.
This usage in Romance languages seems to be a recent English influence.
What do you guys think about it?

[Edited at 2007-03-10 21:26]

[Edited at 2007-03-10 21:27]


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katsy
Local time: 13:29
English to French
+ ...
I think you're right Mar 10, 2007

wagadugu wrote:

A few days ago I watched an omnibus movie titled 'Paris, je t'aime'. In an episode a girl says the word 'pathétiques' refering to a bunch of pathetic boys trying to tempt girls with useless flattering comments.
....
This usage in Romance languages seems to be a recent English influence.
What do you guys think about it


I think you're right. I live in France and do hear young people use it - but I move in English-speaking circles..... but so many American (in particular) series dubbed and broadcast on French TV have so many literal translations of this sort that it makes me tear my hair out!
My daughter and other youngsters, in the kind of situation you describe, around 5-10 years ago, would have said 'Ils font pitié' - they're pitiful

Just one example of what I rant about - the expression 'to be there for someone' - over the past few years this has become French usage too - 'tu as toujours été là pour moi';


[Edited at 2007-03-10 23:44]


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Juan Jacob  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 06:29
French to Spanish
+ ...
Por supuesto. Mar 10, 2007

Pathetic no tiene el significado de patético, pero su uso es muy común.
Sólo basta ver en el diccionario.
Un anglicismo más que se cuela al español... y por lo visto, al francés también.


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Lorenia de la Vega  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:29
English to Spanish
+ ...
How "bizarre"!!! ;-) Mar 11, 2007

This is happening with "bizarro" in Spanish, as well. Bizarro means "generous, splendid" and it used as "bizarre, odd".

Definitely English influences!

[Edited at 2007-03-11 00:11]


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:29
English to German
+ ...
Beethoven is suffering, too Mar 11, 2007

If he would have known how we are (mis)using this word, he wouldn't have named his piano sonata No. 8 "Pathétique".

The German word "pathetisch" means dramatic / passionate / emotional whereas "pathetic" is used in the meaning of "ridiculous". In the US...

[Edited at 2007-03-11 02:45]


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 14:29
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
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Not to forget Chaikovsky Mar 11, 2007

His 6. symphony is definitely not pathetic, but emotional. Seems the English have "spoilt" the word when taking it up from the Greek Pathos (one of the three substances of an Aristotelian speech - pathos, ethos, logos). The English modern use is certainly absurd.

Back to Greek, I would say.

Cheers
Heinrich


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:29
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Minable Mar 11, 2007

wagadugu wrote:

A few days ago I watched an omnibus movie titled 'Paris, je t'aime'. In an episode a girl says the word 'pathétiques' refering to a bunch of pathetic boys trying to tempt girls with useless flattering comments.
And the Spanish and Portuguese subtitles for 'pathétiques' were 'patéticos'.
As far as I know no standard Romance language dictionaries define the cognate words as used in English pejorative (and probably rather slangy?) sense.
This usage in Romance languages seems to be a recent English influence.
What do you guys think about it?

[Edited at 2007-03-10 21:26]

[Edited at 2007-03-10 21:27]


Interesting thread, Wagadugu (what a great name!),
Isn't "minable" the right word in French for the English sense of "pathetic" meaning pitiful, ridiculous, derisory, etc. ?
Perhaps that's rather old-fashioned in France these days.
Regards,
Jenny.


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Alfredo Tutino  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:29
English to Italian
+ ...
In Italian it is fairly standard Mar 11, 2007

Since you ask about Romance languages, you may be interested in knowing that the pejorative use of "patetico" is quite standard, nowadays, in Italian - see:

http://www.demauroparavia.it/80236, 2

It is a relatively recent usage, but quite established, by now: a printed dictionary I own, published in 1964, do not list it, while another, some 20 years "younger" does.

In my opinion, it has been a case of autonomouos parallel evolution more than a matter of bad translations.

There is a cultural trend at work here, a trend that can be seen also in the shift of the meaning of a word like "sentimental" in English ("sentimentale" in Italian). You may call it modern cynicism debunking Romantic notions - and quite fittingly deplore the manners of disrespectful youngster; or go back a bit further in the history of literature to remember Stendhal's dismissive remark: "(...); et du coeur, chaq'un en a".


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Stephen Rifkind  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 14:29
Member (2004)
French to English
+ ...
Languags are dynamic Mar 11, 2007

The great power of lanagues is like icebergs; they move slow, but they move. There is nothing wrong about a word changing meaning or a foreign word being added. For example, the gay 90's does not refer to a time of homosexual freedom. To make love once meant to court a woman. What would the world be without ketchup, a nice Chinese word?

So, it is not pathetique in the cinema meaning, but in the Beethoven meaning!

Stephen Rifkind


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:29
English to German
+ ...
Yes, but.. Mar 11, 2007

What if it is not about the simple usage of a word or a phrase, what if the word, derived from Greek or Latin, is - due to mere ignorance (yes!) - straying away from its original meaning?

"Pathetic" is a great example. This word has almost turned into its own antonym!


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Russell Jones  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:29
Member (2004)
Italian to English
Relatively recent in English too Mar 11, 2007

My English dictionary gives the definition:

Arousing pity, sympathy or tenderness; full of pathos
Informal: Inadequate, feeble, useless

Worth pointing out though that the informal use in English, "so miserable as to be ridiculous" is also relatively recent - 1937:
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=pathetic

I suspect that most native English speakers also deplore the adoption of their terms by others. I know I find it especially frustrating when Italians find it chic to use English terms but then give them entirely different meanings, e.g. mobbing to Italians means sexual harassment.

While I agree with Rifkind about the dynamic nature of language, the unfortunate aspect is that, in English, most of the changes are driven by those with little understanding of language - maybe because of that - and the UK at least has more than its fair share of those.


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Angela Dickson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:29
French to English
+ ...
Divergence Mar 11, 2007

There's no reason why the two meanings can't co-exist in English, and all the evidence suggests that they do. No-one who has played or heard the Beethoven sonata or the Tchaikovsky symphony could believe that the modern English 'pathetic' could be applied to them.

If we tried to prevent words 'straying away from [their] original meaning' the world would be a very dull place.


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:29
English to German
+ ...
Definitely not dull Mar 11, 2007

While Germans are rolling on the floor with laughter because of the English usage of words such as "pathetic", the English may happily do the same about the Germans calling their cell phones "Handy".

Well, that's where we translators are kicking in.))))

Best regards and happy translating,

Nicole


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Alfredo Tutino  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:29
English to Italian
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Agree! Mar 11, 2007

Russell Jones wrote:

I suspect that most native English speakers also deplore the adoption of their terms by others. I know I find it especially frustrating when Italians find it chic to use English terms but then give them entirely different meanings, e.g. mobbing to Italians means sexual harassment.



I definitely agree! (both generally and in the specific exemple you give).

On the other hand, I can't avoid reflecting that misunderstood and misused foreign loan-words have always been, historically, a very important factor in the historical evolution of languages. Just think of the ancient Greek "agon", the Italian "agonia" and the Eglish "agony"...


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wagadugu
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Other European Languages Mar 11, 2007

Thank you all for your kind and helpful comments.

It seems that the senses of cognate words in other Germanic languages (i.e. German and Dutch, but excluding Scandinavian languages, whose cognates imitate English), most Slavic languages and Greek (the original of 'pathetic') are not influenced by English because in those languages the meaning is originally quite different from English.

I'm not sure whether the colloquial meanings of patetico in the dictionary linked by Alfredo Tutino are as the same as English 'pathetic', although the boundary of meaning is not always clear.


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