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ACRONYMS
Thread poster: Henry Hinds

Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:49
English to Spanish
+ ...
Jun 29, 2006

"People who speak in acronyms speak with a forked tongue". Now who said that? I guess I just did.

Seeing a series of Kudoz questions just now on acronyms has prompted me to to start this thread to find out what the rest of you think.

Acronyms are the bane of our existence, an abbreviated language that may at times be shared by many, and at others by the very few, sometimes just a small handful of people. We have no problems with acronyms such as "USA", "UNESCO", "ASAP", etc., that are known by the many, and even "RFC" and "ISR" in the specific context of Mexico and taxes will be known by someone and are sure to be in a formal glossary somewhere.

But what about acronyms used within specific organizations, activities and institutions, perhaps by only a small group of people therein? How far does our duty extend?

Possible courses of action include:

1.- Examining the context of the rest of the document to see if we can find a reference to its meaning.

2.- Googling for it when feasible.

3.- Consulting with the client, if the client is in a position to know (this may not be the case, or not possible).

4.- Consulting with our peers here to see if we can be lucky enough to find someone with experience with that specific acronym in that specific context.

5.- If all else fails, then guessing or accepting a colleague's best guess.

6.- Just putting an (*) then explaining in a note, "meaning of acronym unknown".

While I am not advocating giving up and I think a reasonable effort has to be made to define acronyms, then what is "reasonable"? How many steps need to be completed, and what others could we resort to besides those I have mentioned? Should we feel obligated to go to the ends of the earth because of someone else's poor communication skills?

My opinion is that if we make a "reasonable" effort and cannot find a definitive answer, then we should not feel bad going to option 6 above.

The rationale is that if the acronym is unlikely to be understood by readers in the original language, there is no inaccuracy if it is not understood by readers of the translation.

So what do you think our policy and practice should be in this area?


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Gianni Pastore  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 21:49
Member (2007)
English to Italian
Fully agree... Jun 29, 2006

...on all six points AND

7. www.acronymfinder.com

That solved many problems for me!
Cheers Gianni


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Silvina Matheu  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 16:49
Member
English to Spanish
Also agree.. Jun 29, 2006

on your 6 steps, Henry!

And we should remind clients that there is an editing rule by which all acronyms are explained the first time they appear in the text, or at least, in a footnote. After all, if our product must be perfect, or almost perfect, they should be more careful with the original text, when they can.

Silvina


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Manuel Aburto M
Nicaragua
Local time: 13:49
English to Spanish
+ ...
100% in agreement with you! Jun 29, 2006

I have had several cases in which even the client doesn´t have any idea of the meaning, reason why I fully agree with you.

The rationale is that if the acronym is unlikely to be understood by readers in the original language, there is no inaccuracy if it is not understood by readers of the translation.


[Edited at 2006-06-30 00:00]


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Jackie Bowman

Local time: 15:49
Spanish to English
+ ...
A dull pedant writes ... Jun 30, 2006

Enjoyed your post, Henry. And thoroughly agree with all the points you raise.

But as part of my mission to be a dullard, I can’t stop myself from pointing out that “USA” is not an acronym. Neither are “RFC” and “ISR”. They’re abbreviations.

All best,

JB


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Silvia Montufo Urquízar  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:49
French to Spanish
+ ...
I couldn't agree more Jun 30, 2006

So often we take so much time trying to decipher this or that acronym, knowing that maybe it is not even understood in the original. But then again, you want to do your best... Sometimes it gets a bit crazy, though.

Thanks for bringing this up, Henry:-)


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Marta Fernandez-Suarez  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:49
English to Spanish
to be explained in any text for translation Jun 30, 2006

Too right, Henry!

The number of acronymns and abbreviations used grow by the minute. As you very well pointed out, sometimes they are only used by a very small group within a particular company... It should never be taken for granted that the translator will now about them.

We have to keep on insisting on getting them explained in the initial text. Whatever happened to "notes for the translator"?

Regards

Marta


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María Teresa Taylor Oliver  Identity Verified
Panama
Local time: 14:49
English to Spanish
+ ...
Acronyms you say? Jun 30, 2006

I haven't had my first cup of coffee yet, so don't be too harsh

A cronyms
C an
R eally
O bfuscate
N ames
Y ou
M ust
S see clearly!!!


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Trudy Peters  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:49
German to English
+ ...
I beg to disagree with Jackie Bowman Jun 30, 2006

Of course they're acronyms.

ac·ro·nym (ăk'rə-nĭm')
n.
A word formed from the initial letters of a name, such as WAC for Women's Army Corps, or by combining initial letters or parts of a series of words, such as radar for radio detecting and ranging.

Abbr. would be an abbreviation.

Trudy


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Jackie Bowman

Local time: 15:49
Spanish to English
+ ...
Of course they're not ... Jun 30, 2006

Trudy Peters wrote:

Of course they're acronyms.

ac·ro·nym (ăk'rə-nĭm')
n.
A word formed from the initial letters of a name, such as WAC for Women's Army Corps, or by combining initial letters or parts of a series of words, such as radar for radio detecting and ranging.

Abbr. would be an abbreviation.

Trudy


Exactly ... the most important word in your definition being "word". People say the word "WAC". They also say the words "radar" and "Nato" and "laser". They are acronyms. Nobody says "Yoosa" (or however you would care to write "USA" as a word). It's an abbreviation. More speifically, like "FBI" and "BBC", it's an initialism. It's not an acronym.

Best,
JB


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JaneTranslates  Identity Verified
Puerto Rico
Local time: 15:49
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
+ ...
What about CIA? Jun 30, 2006

Jackie Bowman wrote:

Trudy Peters wrote:

Of course they're acronyms.

ac·ro·nym (ăk'rə-nĭm')
n.
A word formed from the initial letters of a name, such as WAC for Women's Army Corps, or by combining initial letters or parts of a series of words, such as radar for radio detecting and ranging.

Abbr. would be an abbreviation.

Trudy


Exactly ... the most important word in your definition being "word". People say the word "WAC". They also say the words "radar" and "Nato" and "laser". They are acronyms. Nobody says "Yoosa" (or however you would care to write "USA" as a word). It's an abbreviation. More speifically, like "FBI" and "BBC", it's an initialism. It's not an acronym.

Best,
JB


True, Jackie, though not many make the distinction. What would you call CIA, since Spanish speakers (at least, here in PR) pronounce it as a word ("see-ah") but English speakers don't?


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Jackie Bowman

Local time: 15:49
Spanish to English
+ ...
Good point, JaneTranslates ... Jul 1, 2006

I used to hear the same sort of thing when I lived in Madrid … though there, of course, the CIA was “la thee-ah”.

I suppose I’d just call it “sigla” in Spanish. The language doesn’t seem to make the same distinction as English.

Normally I neither so boring nor so pedantic … It’s just that recently I got into a discussion with a client who wanted to see the word “acronyms” in a text, instead of the word “abbreviations”. And I had to point out that only a minority of the terms on her list were, in fact, acronyms. She insisted. I countered. She counter-insisted. I gave up. She sent me my fee. So I gave up trying to save the English language. As far as I can see, in the translation business, trying to save the English language is a battle already lost.

All best,
JB


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JaneTranslates  Identity Verified
Puerto Rico
Local time: 15:49
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Objection to "dullard" Jul 1, 2006

Jackie, you've used several terms to describe yourself and your contributions to this forum.

"Boring"--Maybe, to some
"Pedantic"--OK, if you wish
"Dull"--Hmm, maybe in Webster's 10th Collegiate's sense #9, which reads "Tedious, Uninteresting," though again, that characterization is a matter of opinion


But "dullard"? I don't think so--especially when you say it's your "mission." Same dictionary says: "Dullard: a stupid or unimaginative person." Nope! Gotcha! Inappropriate word choice!

As to acronyms, the "-onym" suffix, meaning "name" or "word," reinforces your point. Question: can a term change its status? I'm thinking of the abbreviation "inc." for "incorporated," which is so often pronounced as a word that someday it may become one. I'm sure there are other examples.

Henry, I fully agree with you. If I can't find the acronym on Google, on acronymfinder.com or in the text, and if the client is unavailable or doesn't know, I try KudoZ (glossaries and question). No answer? Go with your #6 and don't lose any sleep about it.

And now I'm leaving on vacation so this is my last word in the Forums for a while.

Best wishes to all,
Jane


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