KudoZ home » English » Poetry & Literature

A question about word order..

English translation: The original is quite acceptable.

Advertisement

Login or register (free and only takes a few minutes) to participate in this question.

You will also have access to many other tools and opportunities designed for those who have language-related jobs
(or are passionate about them). Participation is free and the site has a strict confidentiality policy.
09:24 Feb 14, 2007
English to English translations [Non-PRO]
Art/Literary - Poetry & Literature
English term or phrase: A question about word order..
A sentence in a short story reads:
"You become overwhelmed by your loss of bearings."

Must this sentence be corrected to:
"You become overwhelmed by the loss of your bearings."?

or is the original acceptable?

Thanks all,
Joe
Joe L
United States
Local time: 00:47
English translation:The original is quite acceptable.
Explanation:
I'll be back with an explanation.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 9 mins (2007-02-14 09:33:57 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

In this case losing your bearings means losing your sense of direction. In short, you become either mentally or physically disoriented.

What determines your bearings could be either internal or external, or some combination of both. In all cases, however, the disorientation is your own.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 1 hr (2007-02-14 10:24:14 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

The phrase "the loss of . . ." is quite common in the English language. Replacing the definite article with a possessive adjective is, grammatically speaking, perfectly correct.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 1 hr (2007-02-14 10:30:48 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

A few Google results might prove of interest:

SINGULAR
my loss of . . . : 113,000
his loss of . . . : 323,000
her loss of . . . : 146,000

PLURAL
our loss of . . . : 214,000
their loss of . . . : 685,000

SINGULAR OR PLURAL
your loss of . . . : 198,000


--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 1 hr (2007-02-14 10:46:13 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Google yields 14,600 uses of "lose your bearings". The transformation from verb + object to noun + of + object, where the noun bears the meaning of the verb is quite common in the English language. The same transformation is often found in German as well. You might also like to consider the following:

1) The object is external to the subject.
a) I lost my shoes.
b) The loss of my shoes was very painful.

2) The object is inherent to the subject.
a) I lost my balance.
b) My loss of balance resulted in an accident.


--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 1 hr (2007-02-14 11:01:44 GMT) Post-grading
--------------------------------------------------

As you grade, please keep in mind that even idioms are subject to standard rules of grammar. Consider for example the following sentences:

1) They went bonkers.
2) Their having gone bonkers resulted in chaos for everyone, and the project was eventually abandoned.
Selected response from:

R. A. Stegemann
Saudi Arabia
Local time: 15:47
Grading comment
Okay, I think we can wave the 24 hour rule this time--I need to turn in my file. Hamo, Tony, et al., and Ken all affirm that the first version is acceptable, if not perfect. So I recognize Hamo for being first. His addenda, as well as Tony's usual authoritative input, were quite useful. My thanks to Ioanna and Ken too.
BTW Ken, I'm just the translator. If you only knew how badly the rest of this passage reads!!
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer

Advertisement


Summary of answers provided
4 +8See comments below...
Tony M
4The original is quite acceptable.
R. A. Stegemann
4further commentKen Cox
4I think the word order in the original is a bit odd.
Ioanna Karamanou


Discussion entries: 3





  

Answers


21 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
a question about word order..
I think the word order in the original is a bit odd.


Explanation:
I prefer "You become overwhelmed by the loss of your bearings."
or even better "You become overwhelmed at having lost your bearings."

Ioanna Karamanou
United States
Local time: 02:47
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish, Native in GreekGreek
PRO pts in category: 36
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)

57 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
a question about word order..
further comment


Explanation:
I essentially agree with Tony M's comments. In any case, the first (original) version is better than the second, which requires even more interpretation by the reader to inderstand the intended meaning, but neither version is particularly satisfactory.

Additional comments:

- It's hard to say much about this without knowing the surrounding context. Maybe it fits with the author's style.

- You ask whether it should be corrected. Does this mean you are the author or editor, or is this a rhetorical question?

- My suggestion would be to say 'You are overwhelmed by your disorientation'. The style of the sentence is relatively formal, while 'lose your bearings' is more vernacular, and trying to transform the action 'lose your bearings' or the condition 'lost my bearings' into the abstract concept 'loss of bearings' yields an unnatural result.

Ken Cox
Local time: 08:47
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 88

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
disagree  R. A. Stegemann: Loss of bearings is hardly an abstract notion. It is simply the nominalization of a verb phrase. Please see my addtional notes below. // Natural? Please try to be more discursive.
27 mins
  -> You can nominalize anything you want, but that doesn't necessarily make it natural.

agree  Tony M: Hear, hear! Well said, Ken, on all points!
1 hr
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)

5 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
a question about word order..
The original is quite acceptable.


Explanation:
I'll be back with an explanation.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 9 mins (2007-02-14 09:33:57 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

In this case losing your bearings means losing your sense of direction. In short, you become either mentally or physically disoriented.

What determines your bearings could be either internal or external, or some combination of both. In all cases, however, the disorientation is your own.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 1 hr (2007-02-14 10:24:14 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

The phrase "the loss of . . ." is quite common in the English language. Replacing the definite article with a possessive adjective is, grammatically speaking, perfectly correct.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 1 hr (2007-02-14 10:30:48 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

A few Google results might prove of interest:

SINGULAR
my loss of . . . : 113,000
his loss of . . . : 323,000
her loss of . . . : 146,000

PLURAL
our loss of . . . : 214,000
their loss of . . . : 685,000

SINGULAR OR PLURAL
your loss of . . . : 198,000


--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 1 hr (2007-02-14 10:46:13 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Google yields 14,600 uses of "lose your bearings". The transformation from verb + object to noun + of + object, where the noun bears the meaning of the verb is quite common in the English language. The same transformation is often found in German as well. You might also like to consider the following:

1) The object is external to the subject.
a) I lost my shoes.
b) The loss of my shoes was very painful.

2) The object is inherent to the subject.
a) I lost my balance.
b) My loss of balance resulted in an accident.


--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 1 hr (2007-02-14 11:01:44 GMT) Post-grading
--------------------------------------------------

As you grade, please keep in mind that even idioms are subject to standard rules of grammar. Consider for example the following sentences:

1) They went bonkers.
2) Their having gone bonkers resulted in chaos for everyone, and the project was eventually abandoned.

R. A. Stegemann
Saudi Arabia
Local time: 15:47
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
Grading comment
Okay, I think we can wave the 24 hour rule this time--I need to turn in my file. Hamo, Tony, et al., and Ken all affirm that the first version is acceptable, if not perfect. So I recognize Hamo for being first. His addenda, as well as Tony's usual authoritative input, were quite useful. My thanks to Ioanna and Ken too.
BTW Ken, I'm just the translator. If you only knew how badly the rest of this passage reads!!

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
neutral  Ioanna Karamanou: I don't think "your loss of bearings" is correct phrasing, and indeed you use the format of the second option in your explanation.
18 mins
  -> The grammar of my explanation and the grammar of the sentence in question are unrelated. Otherwise, you are welcome to your seemingly unfounded opinion.
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)

23 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +8
a question about word order..
See comments below...


Explanation:
Although the first version IS acceptable, in truth, NEITHER of them really sounds that brilliant.

It is true that we more usually associate the possessive pronoun very closely with the noun "bearings" when we mean it in this rather more figurative meaning of "disorientation", so we'd say "I'd quite lost my bearings"

Your first version, while reading slightly more smoothly, does (by distancing the possessive pronoun from the noun) tend to invite mis-reading, as in "...your loss of bearings from the engine in you car..." — but I think this effect is only slight, and probably negligible.

What sits less comfortably with me in both versions is the use of "the loss of..." — I'd feel a whole lot happier if it was "losing...".
And "become overwhelemed" isn't too brilliant either.

"You find yourself overwhelmed by losing your bearings"

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2 hrs (2007-02-14 11:38:13 GMT) Post-grading
--------------------------------------------------

This issue of nominalization of verbal expressions is actually quite important. It very common in foreign languages, perhaps somewhat less so in English; in any event, over use of this stylistic device often betrays a poor translation.

As Ken and Inkling have both pointed out, in English it needs to be employed with special care, to avoid nonsensical results; and in general, the more idiomatic the original verbal expression, the greater the risk that the conversion won't be successful.

So while it may be a perfectly acceptable technique to use, it is important to realize that stylistically it may leap out and hit the reader, thus drawing unwarranted attention to itself — and this is something that non-native speakers may find hard to judge.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 6 hrs (2007-02-14 16:15:36 GMT) Post-grading
--------------------------------------------------

In terms of linguistic subtleties like this, I think Google stats are singularly meaningless; however, since friend Hamo has seen fit to quote them, I feel duty bound to redress the balance slightly; so do note that "your loss of bearings" gets 0 Googles at all, "my loss of bearings" gets only 1, and "his loss of bearings" gets a miserable 15. All this goes to show is that these specific expressions are not found as widely as some people might have us believe.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 6 hrs (2007-02-14 16:18:50 GMT) Post-grading
--------------------------------------------------

Again, "loss of your bearings" gets 0 hits, while "losing your bearings" does at least score a more credible 964.

Which just goes to confirm what I said before: these expressions are not really widely used in common contexts, as found on the Web.

Of course, that's not to say that originality in language is not to be encouraged at every opportuinty — we would be impoverished indeed if we were only allowed to express ourselves using the terms that get the greatest number of Google hits!


Tony M
France
Local time: 08:47
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 248

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Ioanna Karamanou: well said
22 mins
  -> Thanks, Ionna!

agree  Vicky Papaprodromou
28 mins
  -> Efharisto, Vicky!

agree  Jack Doughty
31 mins
  -> Thanks, Jack!

agree  Ken Cox: and with a few more comments...
34 mins
  -> Thanks, Ken!

neutral  R. A. Stegemann: What is brilliant in one context may not be brilliant in another. This is the reason that style is so important in oral and written expression. // You know, Tony, I like variety in language. It is what makes it fun to learn and use.
46 mins
  -> Sure, it's all a question of style, and Asker's texts are shaky style in any context // Couldn't agree more! It's the variety that makes it all so interesting.

agree  Veronica Coquard: Not easy to give a lesson on word order with such redundant phrases. As Tony suggests, "losing your bearings" is an idiom, and needs to be kept intact to be understood. "I'm losing my head" is not the same as "the loss of my head."
1 hr
  -> Thanks, Inkling! That's an excellent illustration!

agree  Rachel Vanarsdall: nice explanation, and I like Inkling's example too
5 hrs
  -> Thanks, Rachel!

agree  nedra: Jump right out it did, and not in a good way. I heartily agree. While you can play with some expressions, it usually sounds odd to native ears, as Inkling says.
6 hrs
  -> Thanks, Nedra! Oh, those ears...

agree  Can Altinbay: Though another answer has been chosen, I am putting in my vote (obviously I happen to disagree with the selected answer).
10 hrs
  -> Thanks a lot, Can! I always appreciate your thoughtful and considered support.
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)




Return to KudoZ list


KudoZ™ translation help
The KudoZ network provides a framework for translators and others to assist each other with translations or explanations of terms and short phrases.



See also:



Term search
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search