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Off topic: Misuse of "revert"
Thread poster: Philip Lees

Philip Lees  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 14:28
Member (2008)
Greek to English
Jul 8, 2013

I just got an e-mail about a possible job that included the line:

Request you to revert ASAP.

It occurred to me that I've seen this solecism quite a few times recently. Is it a cross-language error perhaps, or is it gradually acquiring the status of accepted usage (horrors!), and if so, why?

I was curious about how widespread this has become, so I was moved to post this.


 

Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:28
Hebrew to English
Horrid Jul 8, 2013

This link seems to list it as a mistake "infecting" Singaporean English:
http://www.goodenglish.org.sg/improve/english-as-it-is-broken/please-revert-soonest-possible

This NY Times Link claims it is also a feature of Indian English:
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/06/magazine/06FOB-onlanguage-t.html?_r=0

The general wave of opinion seems to be that:
a) it originated in Indian English and has spread to other South-East Asian Englishes.
b) it might be spreading
c) there's no use fighting the tide, if it is to come, it is to come.

I don't think it's caught on here yet and probably not in the other countries of Kachru's "inner-circle". So I would personally avoid it and I myself would never use it anyway.

It's quite the un-PC thing to suggest that features of other "Englishes" are "wrong"....but sometimes I think they are!icon_razz.gif ...in any case it doesn't mean we have to adopt these usages ourselves.

[Edited at 2013-07-08 14:17 GMT]


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 13:28
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
What a link! Jul 8, 2013

Ty Kendall wrote:

This link seems to list it as a mistake "infecting" Singaporean English:
http://www.goodenglish.org.sg/improve/english-as-it-is-broken/please-revert-soonest-possible



What's wrong with using good English to explain why something is not good English


"Both are not Standard English"??? Whatever happened to "neither"? Has it been standardised out to achieve a Brave New Standard English Newspeak?


 

Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 16:58
English to Hindi
+ ...
Yes it is frequently used here Jul 8, 2013

Revert in the sense of "will get back to you" is quite a common usage here.

English has spread so far and beyond its original island home that it is now quite impossible for anyone to keep track of all the various ways in which it is used. English seems to be a language over which its native speakers seem to have totally and irrevocably lost control, and there is little hope of any possible reversion of this situation any time soon!

Earlier there was a heated discussion on the word debutant on which native speakers of English, let alone all English users, could hardly agree.

If this situation continues for any more length of time, English is in imminent danger of splitting up into a number of different mutually unintelligible languages as had happened with Latin.

Already in India we have several Englishes, one each for each major Indian language (Hinglish, Tamilish, Bengalish, and so on), plus the standard version which is used by the formally educated people. These distinct varieties of Englishes have peculiar characteristics that are recognizable to their speakers as well as to other Indians familiar with English (and who could also have their own version of English).


 

Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:28
Hebrew to English
We meet again, my arch nemesis...... Jul 8, 2013

Balasubramaniam L. wrote:
English seems to be a language over which its native speakers seem to have totally and irrevocably lost control, and there is little hope of any possible reversion of this situation any time soon!


Fraid not. When I was teaching in Istanbul, no student ever said to me: "yeah, but how do they say that in India?". Just never happened. They were however, very interested in US and/or UK usage. The prestige is still with the native speakers. Therefore a level of control is retained.

Earlier there was a heated discussion on the word debutant on which native speakers of English, let alone all English users, could hardly agree.


That's overstating it Bala. There was wide consensus that that particular usage was erroneous in that context. Where people differed was whether it was ever justified to use it.

If this situation continues for any more length of time, English is in imminent danger of splitting up into a number of different mutually unintelligible languages as had happened with Latin.


I kind of hope so. At least then we could stop calling them "English" and give them more appropriate names.


 

Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 16:58
English to Hindi
+ ...
Something sobering for you to think over Jul 8, 2013

Ty Kendall wrote:

Balasubramaniam L. wrote:
English seems to be a language over which its native speakers seem to have totally and irrevocably lost control, and there is little hope of any possible reversion of this situation any time soon!


Fraid not. When I was teaching in Istanbul, no student ever said to me: "yeah, but how do they say that in India?". Just never happened. They were however, very interested in US and/or UK usage. The prestige is still with the native speakers. Therefore a level of control is retained.


The level of control which you are mentioning is being shared with the US which has a large number of non-native speakers of English, it being a migrant-based country, and these days most migrants to the US are from non-English speaking countries.

So in this sense the level of control has already passed, at least in the US - but also in the UK, which also has been taking in a lot of non-English speaking migrants recently, particularly from East European countries - into the hands of non-native speakers of English.

Add to these the non-native English speakers in countries like Australia, Canada and New Zealand (all immigrant based countries) and the Anglophone countries like India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Singapore, Phillipines, etc., and you can have a situation where native-speakers of English are no where in the picture!

If you want further nightmares, you can add to this the large number of non-English speaking English users in other parts of the world, particularly in Europe itself, where alongwith German and French, English is the main lingua franca.

[Edited at 2013-07-08 16:37 GMT]


 

Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:28
Hebrew to English
Not sure what immigration has to do with anything Jul 8, 2013

I was talking about linguistic prestige, the oft-quoted British council trope about native/non-native English speaking numbers is irrelevant in that respect (and has also been questioned in any case).

But let's just nip this in the bud, we're never going to agree.

Now, talking of nightmares....

[Edited at 2013-07-08 18:37 GMT]


 

Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:28
Hebrew to English
Ooooh! Jul 8, 2013

Texte Style wrote:

Ty Kendall wrote:

This link seems to list it as a mistake "infecting" Singaporean English:
http://www.goodenglish.org.sg/improve/english-as-it-is-broken/please-revert-soonest-possible



What's wrong with using good English to explain why something is not good English


"Both are not Standard English"??? Whatever happened to "neither"? Has it been standardised out to achieve a Brave New Standard English Newspeak?


Oh Texte, how un-PC of you. It was written by Singaporeans. And we mustn't criticize other "Englishes" (oh how I cringe when I say that word). It's our own fault don't you know...for having colonialism, slavery, an evil empire and a death star... (oh wait).icon_biggrin.gif


 

Denise Phelps  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:28
Spanish to English
+ ...
Any idea Jul 8, 2013

What they wanted you to revert to?

(chuckling away at the possibilities).



[Edited at 2013-07-08 19:16 GMT]


 

Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:28
English to German
+ ...
Maybe some prior evolutionary stage Jul 8, 2013

Denise Phelps wrote:

What they wanted you to revert to?

(chuckling away at the possibilities).


Translators with gills are so much easier to handle.


 

Philip Lees  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 14:28
Member (2008)
Greek to English
TOPIC STARTER
Reverting to the topic Jul 8, 2013

Denise Phelps wrote:

What they wanted you to revert to?

(chuckling away at the possibilities).



I asked them that in my reply (sorry, reversion), pointing out that my socioeconomic status, habits and beliefs have not changed substantially for some time.

Joking aside, I didn't expect this topic to arouse such passion. If "revert" in this sense is accepted local usage in some parts of the world, then I suppose I can live with that. However, if I received a job enquiry mail from an agency in, say, Newcastle-upon-Tyne or Glasgow, I wouldn't expect it to be written in the regional dialect - unless, of course, they were specifically looking for translators who were proficient in that form of English.

I was wondering if this use of "revert" had come about as a faux synonym for "get back", where some MBA manager had decided that "please get back to us" was too colloquial and decided to substitute a more erudite word, no doubt culled from MS Word's thesaurus.


 

Piyush Ojha  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:28
English to Hindi
+ ...
"revert" for "reply" in OALD Jul 9, 2013

The use of "revert" for "reply" jars on me too and it will be a very long time before I use it in this sense but those who read the New York Times article will have noticed that it has made it into the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary.

Ty Kendall wrote:
Not sure what immigration has to do with anything


That immigrants from non-English speaking countries will bring their own linguistic influences to English and enrich it.


 

Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 16:58
English to Hindi
+ ...
International version Jul 9, 2013

Philip Lees wrote:
If "revert" in this sense is accepted local usage in some parts of the world, then I suppose I can live with that. However, if I received a job enquiry mail from an agency in, say, Newcastle-upon-Tyne or Glasgow, I wouldn't expect it to be written in the regional dialect - unless, of course, they were specifically looking for translators who were proficient in that form of English.


I believe there is also an international version of English which would be used even by Glasgow based companies when corresponding to international clients, and they would carefully avoid localisms to keep communication smooth.

As you are based in Greece, it is possible they took you for a local Greek and decided not to risk a localized UK version of English on you and get gilled communication, and preferred the international version with its many quirky usages (from the point of view of the natives).

The interesting point is, with English it is becoming harder and harder to decide which version to use in any communication situation, there being many versions of it, and this is taking away a lot from the advantages of a global language.

I think English is moving down the road to extinction as a language we know of it today, and urgent steps need to be initiated to prevent such a calamity, for it would be a pity if a language died of over stretch. We have heard of languages dying because of lack of speakers, English promises to be the first language to die of a surfeit of speakers.


 

Orrin Cummins  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 20:28
Japanese to English
+ ...
Only the local version really matters in the end Jul 9, 2013

Even among people living (or working within the sphere of) countries where English is the official language, the only thing that should concern them is the particular English that is considered correct there.

There are many differences between American and British English. But guess what? Natives of both countries go about their entire lives without ever really giving it too much thought. Children are taught to use the accepted version in school. Adults use the accepted version for their locale at work. All official information, such as from governments, uses the variant specific to that country.

So it doesn't matter whether English is touted as the "international language" or not. People only really care about the particular version used in their neck of the woods. Unless someone is specifically tasked with writing for one geographical audience or another, they will use the version that they grew up with, were schooled in, and are familiar with. The versions that are used in other far-off places really should have no bearing on their daily lives.

I disagree that there is even an "international version" of English - although not for a lack of trying:

"Sometimes, "international English" and the related terms above refer to a desired standardisation, i.e. Standard English; however, there is no consensus on the path to this goal. There have been many proposals for making International English more accessible to people from different nationalities. Basic English is an example, but it failed to make progress. More recently, there have been proposals for English as a lingua franca (ELF). It has also been argued that International English is held back by its traditional spelling. There has been slow progress in adopting alternate spellings."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_English


English is spoken in too many places and by too many people with completely different societies/value systems/histories/etc. for there to ever be any real consensus in overall usage. Perhaps the best that we can hope for is consistency within disciplines, such as standardized terminology in technical, scientific, and medical fields. Even that is not something that is easy to maintain, however.

As Balasubramaniam mentioned, though, increased globalization has led to a difficulty in choosing the appropriate variant of English in situations where a person is communicating with someone outside their sphere. It leads to things like awkward usages ("revert," for example), but if this is the extent of its horror then is it not something we can live with? If the many variants of English eventually become so disjointed as to cause their speakers to become unintelligible to each other, then that will just be a natural evolution of things and is not something that we should fret over. If nothing else, such an event would give birth to many new translation opportunities. At any rate, I don't foresee this happening to any significant extent in any of our lifetimes.


 

Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 13:28
German to English
Singapore local dialect = international English? Jul 9, 2013

"Revert" as used here isn't international English, it's pidgin. It is not just incorrect; it would be incomprehensible to most speakers of English (native or not) if the context were not as clear as it is in this case.

The only reason that the issue is important to me is because enVB (very bad English) is threatening to become acceptable to more and more markets. That is a real problem for translators, because it makes MT, amateur translators, translators with an inadequate knowledge of their target language (regardless of whether they are native or non-native speakers), etc. competitive. It also eliminates a central aspect of the unique selling point of good translators. The acceptability of enVB is a dangerous trend - and not just for into-English translators. I assume that everyone translating out of English is familiar with the horrors of enVB source texts.

I have no problem with non-native translators, and if I needed a translation from Hindi>English, L. would certainly be the first translator that I would ask to send me an offer.
That said, most non-native translators do not have a sufficient active grasp of their target language - but hey, most translators have neither a sufficient passive grasp of their source languages nor a sufficient grasp of their subject matter nor of the craft of translating ... and a good portion of native translators can't write properly in their native language anyway.



[Edited at 2013-07-09 10:47 GMT]


 
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