The used laser/telephone/method
Thread poster: Michael Mestre

Michael Mestre
France
Local time: 14:44
English to French
+ ...
Aug 3, 2009

Dear colleagues,

I am proofreading a research proposal (in English, yes, I shouldn't be doing this but it's for my own lab), and I keep wincing when I see "the used laser" or "the used wavelength".

It seems that it is correct to say this when you mean "the laser that we are using", but I can't help thinking that it means "second-hand".
On the other hand, "the used method" should be rather unambiguous as there is no way that you can sell your old rusty method on ebay. But even in this case it seems 'wrong' to me.

What do you think ? Would you agree that writing "the used laser" when talking about usage is dangerous as it may mean that the laser is second-hand, or is it clear from the context that this is not the case ?
Do you also think that a native English speaker would write this ?

Examples :
"Q-factors are expected to be limited to ~10^8 due to water absorption at *the used central wavelength* "
"The WGM resonance linewidth is imposed by that of *the used laser*."

Thanks a lot
Michael


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foghorn
English to Turkish
+ ...
good call! Aug 3, 2009

it would be totally ok, if it were the other way around: method used, laser used, central wavelength used etc.

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patyjs  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 07:44
Spanish to English
+ ...
Try an alternative... Aug 3, 2009

I agree, it does sound a bit off, although I've probably used it myself at some point. Changing the word order is an option which sounds a little better, IMHO: the laser /wavelength used, or you could utilize/employ/select an alternative verb.

BTW, I don't think there's any danger, in your context, that "used" might be taken as "second-hand".

Good luck...

[Edited at 2009-08-03 12:51 GMT]


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My Hue McGowran  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 14:44
German to English
The laser used Aug 3, 2009

I would write 'the laser used'. I believe this is the correct way of expressing this particular thought. 'The used laser' could mean 'second hand' but I wouldn't interpret it as such here. Also, 'the used laser ' suggests that a non-native speaker wrote the description. It is in any case a bit clumsy here.

Consider also, for example, 'the implement used', 'the knife used', 'the make-up used'.


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Maria Karra  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:44
Member (2000)
Greek to English
+ ...
used Aug 3, 2009

Michael, I agree with you and I would change it to "the laser used". In fact I've made similar changes in papers I've proofread, to avoid ambiguity (e.g. "the used equipment" -> "the equipment used").

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cilantro  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 15:44
Italian to English
+ ...
technical literature isn't always pretty Aug 3, 2009

It is not uncommon that the author of a technical article writes in not so good English. The correct usage for the sentence in my opinion would be "the central wavelength in question". As for the other sentence, I agree that changing the verb to "utilized" or "employed" would solve the issue. Of course for both sentences there would be a trade-off between correctness and readability.
In the end if the text were written with ultimate lexical precision, it would end up reading like a patent application.

[Edited at 2009-08-03 13:05 GMT]


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Michael Mestre
France
Local time: 14:44
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for your helpful answers Aug 3, 2009

Dear colleagues,
Dear foghorn, patyjs, My Hue, Maria, cilantro,

Thank you very much for your extremely helpful answers. From now on, I will know what to do with all this second-hand laboratory equipment
The most simple solution would indeed be to switch the position of 'used' and make the word it describes precede it.
The other suggestions are also very helpful.

Best regards,
Michael



[Edited at 2009-08-03 13:15 GMT]


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