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Off topic: Random facts you’ve learned while translating
Thread poster: Jackie Bowman

Jackie Bowman

Local time: 10:05
Spanish to English
+ ...
Mar 19, 2007

In another thread Chris (Textklick) and Jackie Bowman offered interesting, isolated facts they’d learned while translating.

This was Chris’s: If you lined up all the freight containers in the world, they would stretch round the Equator 2.7 times.

This was Jackie’s: The city of Tokyo has more telephone lines than the continent of Africa.

So, folks: any more fascinating, one-sentence facts you’ve learned while translating? Can we make a list?


Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:05
English to German
+ ...
Workplace violence Mar 19, 2007

U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Special Report: Workplace Violence, 1992-96:

74% of working women surveyed reported being harassed by their current or former partner while at work at some point, and 30,000 to 40,000 incidents of on the job violence are perpetrated annually by someone the victim knows intimately.


Orla Ryan  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:05
Rabbits Mar 19, 2007

A female rabbit can produce up to seven litters a year. This titbit came from a text I did about marshland habitat last month.

(Don't know if that actually counts as being fascinating, but anyhoo...)


[Edited at 2007-03-20 07:36]


Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:05
German to English
+ ...
Places to see - and things to keep quiet about Mar 19, 2007

Quite a bit of my work is to do with building projects, and I find it interesting to translate texts about buildings and then visit them or drive by them to see what they really look like - places like various parts of the Potsdamer Platz complex in central Berlin, several new embassies in Berlin, the railway station by Frankfurt Airport, a toll tunnel under a river in Rostock, various building projects in Hamburg etc. (In rare cases, I actually know the buildings before I do the work, or the project runs for long enough to go and have a look in the middle of the job.)

But I have also translated texts about places that I will probably never see, e.g. a school in Australia, a bridge proposal in Chile, the logistics of flying transport planes over the Himalayas in the Second World War, a planned motorway project through wetlands in Eastern Europe, a rather ambitious cultural building in a small Gulf state. (When I get work related to building projects in other countries, sometimes I never even hear whether they are actually built).

Then there were the jobs that I can't say anything specific about. Like a legal document from a court case in the mid 90s in the aftermath of German reunification which read like a Le Carré spy novel and included several references to prominent public figures and clandestine business operations.
Or closer to the present, the ups and downs of business companies which are sometimes reported prominently in the press. Or a due diligence "data room" job I did a few years ago, where I actually sat with a bunch of friendly people from an English-speaking company for a few days, but the whole thing was so secret that I didn't even find out who they worked for.


texjax DDS PhD  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:05
Member (2006)
English to Italian
+ ...
Radiation at Chernobyl Mar 20, 2007

The radiation released at Chernobyl was 200 times higher that of the combined releases at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


Anna Sylvia Villegas Carvallo
Local time: 09:05
English to Spanish
Self-inflicted violence. Mar 20, 2007

"Behaviors which short-circuit the instinct of self-preservation."

I had a slight idea of what this condition was, but could never imagine what I was going to translate!!

This was the first time I did NOT enjoy my job. Really.


JaneTranslates  Identity Verified
Puerto Rico
Local time: 10:05
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Strickle Mar 20, 2007

A tool used to level off the grain in a basket, or of plaster or other substances in a mold, is called a strickle. It took me days to find that word; I'll never forget it (and probably never need it in a translation again).

Edited to correct bold code. Darn it, I'm the one who requested the "preview" feature for forum posts and now I usually forget to use it!

[Edited at 2007-03-20 01:59]


Taña Dalglish
Local time: 09:05
Member (2008)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Live and Learn Everyday! Mar 20, 2007

I know this defeats the purpose of a “one liner”, but I am sharing this with you as I found it highly amusing. And it is the gospel truth! The place does exist (I now know this - took me over 40 years to discover). Some time ago, I was asked to translate this article into a few languages. Enjoy and have a laugh!


You won't find the community of Animal Hill on any map of Jamaica, but it is a real place, with an interesting history and a warm, caring neighbourly feel. Animal Hill is not far from Fat Hog Quarter, in the interior of Hanover, a rural area whose citizens are primarily small-farmers and cattle rearers. The name "Animal Hill" was originally an unkind nickname given to the area intended to make fun of the people that lived there. In the early twentieth century there were a number of families: Hoggs, Mares, Stairs, Lyons, and Wolfes, living close together within the small community. Perhaps in defiance of the mal-intended if amusing nickname, the residents embraced it, and now, passing through Hanover, although there are no signs, almost anyone can direct you there. Of the original families with animal names, only the Stairs still live in the area, the others having died or moved away. Animal Hill is also a primary source of one of the tastiest varieties of yams grown in Jamaica; the Lucea yam, which is the main crop grown in the area.

Taña Dalglish


French Foodie  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:05
French to English
+ ...
I am a vat of useless knowledge :-) Mar 20, 2007

First of all, thanks to Jackie and Chris for starting this great thread. I know I am going to really enjoy reading what everyone has to share.
This one of the reasons I love translating - over the years I have learned an incredible number of quite useless but incredibly interesting or simply bizarre factsicon_smile.gif
My favourite is one that often livens up boring cocktail or dinner parties. You know, when you find yourself seated next to someone you don't know, who invariably asks "So, what do you do" and whose eyes invariably gloss over when you answer "I'm a translator". These people generally don't really understand or care for that matter, but are usually polite and will follow up with something like "So, what do you translate?", whereupon I will launch into an explanation of one of my very highbrow art translations for a renowned gallery in France putting on a Pierre Molinier exhibit.
"You know, Pierre Molinier, the highly influential photographer who invented the self-fellatio yoke..."
At this point, their eyes aren't glossed over any more -- they're bugging out of their heads, and the conversation around the table tends to take a more interesting turnicon_wink.gif

[Edited at 2007-03-20 09:41]


Barbara Wiegel  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:05
English to German
+ ...
Straight from the horse's mouth... Mar 20, 2007

That there is a gait called "toelt" (Tölt in German).

I don't know much about horses and had to do a lot of research while translating a (veterinarian) medical text about bone diseases of horses.
An, lo and behold, a couple of weeks later one of the higher-up questions in the German "Who wants to be a millionaire" program was "What is toelt?"
Darn, had I been in the hot seat that day...

It was actually one of the questions my husband had not the slightest idea of (there aren't much of those) and his comment was: Finally a situation where your translating of all those silly texts would have come handy.



Textklick  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:05
German to English
+ ...
Forced feeding from a rich cornucopia Mar 20, 2007

Mara Bertelsen wrote:

... I will launch into an explanation of one of my very highbrow art translations for a renowned gallery in France putting on a Pierre Molinier exhibit. "You know, Pierre Molinier, the highly influential photographer who invented the... icon_wink.gif


I'll quote you on that, if I may. It certainly beats citing vibrant verse such as: "To turn the machine on, press the blue button marked 'ON'."icon_smile.gif

In the industrial Ruhr area of Germany, they have all sorts of interesting and positive redevelopment projects for abandoned steel mills, mines etc., turning them into attractive leisure centres, art galleries, concert halls and more. Having done a lot of stuff - including a concert programme - for one of these, I was amused to tell my brother, a drummer, that I knew where he would playing on a certain date later in the year. He was surprised and grateful, being unaware of the fact himself.

Barbara said

...And, lo and behold, a couple of weeks later one of the higher-up questions in the German "Who wants to be a millionaire" program was..

When watching "University Challenge" over here, I have also come up with a few answers that I had learned in the course of my work. The amusing time was when I could only remember the German word.icon_wink.gif

Another fun one is knowing that a certain very exclusive sports car company was only ever called upon once to repair damage that had been caused by stiletto heels to the very low inside roof of one of their cars (a model which is tailored more for speed than for freedom of internal movement). The owner was a (clearly agile) Brit and I would tell you his name if only I could remember it.

I just love all of those odd times when you say: "Well I never knew that."icon_wink.gif


[Edited at 2007-03-20 11:37]


Parrot  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:05
Spanish to English
+ ...
The dead man's button Mar 20, 2007

Railways are one of the richest sources of my trivia - without wanting to, I became a specialist because it seems the major companies recycle contacts and refer each other to the same translators. (OK, so I was railroaded...)icon_biggrin.gif

The driver's cab is equipped with a device called a dead man's button (Sp. "botón del hombre muerto"; D. Totmannknopf). Driving trains being terribly mechanical and boring, the driver has to push a button at fixed intervals of time to tell the system he's awake and/or has not suffered any heart attack or inhibiting condition. This keeps the train rolling. Should he neglect to push this button, the train gradually brakes to a stop.

Sorry I couldn't reduce all that to 1 sentence...


Pamela Peralta  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:05
English to Spanish
+ ...
Sweat damage to coffee beans Mar 20, 2007

Approximately three hundred million pounds of coffee beans in containers are being imported into Japan annually.

From an article on loss prevention of sweat damage to coffee beans I translated.


Andres & Leticia Enjuto  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:05
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Of tea and laughter Mar 20, 2007

Taken from a health newsletter:

"Tea is the most commonly consumed beverage in the world, after water."
(I do not, and never will, consume tea, I must say.)

"Experts estimate that children laugh about 400 times a day and adults only manage to fit in about 15 chuckles."
(Our daughter laughs far more than 400 times a day, I figure.)

The following one is not that useless, is it?
"One study found that a two-minute belly laugh is equal to 10 minutes on a rowing machine in terms of boosting your heart rate."

Wanna some more?



Natasha Dupuy  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:05
French to English
A big cat fact Mar 20, 2007

"if you look carefully under bright light you will see that black panthers also have spots."

I'll take their word for it!

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