Would you participate with a client in coining a new word?
Thread poster: John Cutler

John Cutler  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:40
Spanish to English
+ ...
Jun 30, 2010

I’m asking this question out of curiosity as to what other translators would do in my situation.

The scenario is as follows:

I’ve been working for a certain client for the last six months. Ever since the first time I worked for them (and probably before that), they’ve been using a word in the original language texts that doesn’t exist in that language. I’ve looked up the word in all of the language’s official dictionaries (and some not so official ones) but it doesn’t appear. I looked it up on Google and it gets 62 hits (all in relation to their website). It’s a Latin based (or I should say looking) word and a typical translation of it also doesn’t appear in any English dictionaries.

The word is not a mistake they’ve made, because they use it and then usually define it (knowing, I suppose, that no one knows what it means). Meanwhile, there is a perfectly suitable word in English for the word they’ve invented, but I’ve noticed that when I use it in my translation, they change it back to an anglicized version of their word (visible on their website).

In other words, they’re determined to coin a new term that has to do with their business, but which doesn’t "officially" exist in either the source or target language.

What would you do in my situation? Use the pre-existing and commonly known English word or help them coin a new one in two languages?


 

John Rawlins  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:40
Spanish to English
+ ...
A nice idea Jun 30, 2010

If they are consciously trying to coin a new word in English and other languages then I would be happy to support them as a translator. It could prove quite a powerful marketing device if this new word catches on in the industry. Perhaps they would be happy to pay you to publicize this word and its (new) meaning.

 

apk12  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:40
English to German
+ ...
Definitely clarify this with your client Jun 30, 2010

I definitely would't try to find a solution for this case based on forum replies. 'Details' like this one belong to basic specifications of a translation job. I'd advise to get in contact with the client, present him a first list of possible solutions and ask for a clarification of the desired service re. the term in question.

 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 09:40
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Will a random user understand their word? Jun 30, 2010

John Cutler wrote:
In other words, they’re determined to coin a new term that has to do with their business, but which doesn’t "officially" exist in either the source or target language.


I have no objection if a client wants to coin a new word, but I feel that translators have a duty to inform clients that while such an exercise may seem cute to the marketing department, it can backfire severely if the word is misunderstood by visitors to their web site or readers of their matrials.

Two questions that may help guide your decision are: Will any random user who sees this word (in context) immediately know what it means? and: Is there a chance (even if only a small chance) that the word may be misinterpreted by any random user or reader?


 

Laura Bissio CT  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 04:40
Member (2008)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Quite a challenge Jun 30, 2010

Samuel Murray wrote:


I have no objection if a client wants to coin a new word, but I feel that translators have a duty to inform clients that while such an exercise may seem cute to the marketing department, it can backfire severely if the word is misunderstood by visitors to their web site or readers of their matrials.




I agree.
Finding a word that is understood and accepted by the audience is quite a challenge. This is absolutely not the translator's job or obligation, but it could be interesting. I think I'd do it.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:40
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Client's choice Jun 30, 2010

Laura Bissio CT wrote:
Finding a word that is understood and accepted by the audience is quite a challenge. This is absolutely not the translator's job or obligation, but it could be interesting. I think I'd do it.


IMO, that applies if it's the translator who is coining the word. However, in this case the translator used an existing word, only to have it changed by the client. In my book, that makes it the word of choice of the client, and ultimately their responsibility, although it would be correct to communicate any misgivings to the client.


 

Tatty  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:40
Spanish to English
+ ...
I'd stick to my term Jun 30, 2010

and let them edit it in the documents I send to them, unless of course they had specifically asked me to use their term.

However, this is all up in the air. You obviously don't want to specify the term, but I don't know how useful an answer in the abstract is in this case...


 

Pablo Bouvier  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:40
German to Spanish
+ ...
If a precise translation already exist, why should we invent the wheel twice? Jun 30, 2010

John Cutler wrote:

I’m asking this question out of curiosity as to what other translators would do in my situation.

The scenario is as follows: .../...

What would you do in my situation? Use the pre-existing and commonly known English word or help them coin a new one in two languages?


It depends. Sometimes a new coined word replaces the original word (Kleenex instead of paper handkerchief). But, this is an exception, not the rule... And no, I wouldn't do it.



[Editado a las 2010-06-30 19:38 GMT]


 

Charlie Bavington (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:40
French to English
Plan A Jun 30, 2010

i) add the English word to urban dictionary dot com
ii) tell your friends to write one or more thoroughly repulsive and vile definitions, giving plenty of examples of use
iii) after a while, send the client the link.

Job done.

Personally, I think if a client wanted to coin a neologism and there were no real grounds for objection other than duplication, I'd probably go along with it.

[Edited at 2010-06-30 19:38 GMT]


 

John Cutler  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:40
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Jul 2, 2010

Thanks everyone for your thoughts and comments! I feel like I've received well-rounded advice.

 

Ramon Somoza  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:40
Member (2002)
Dutch to Spanish
+ ...
I had a similar problem some years ago... Jul 2, 2010

... with a term in construction that simply did not exist. I found a term that was quite similar to the supposed meaning and used it throughout the translation. I also put this fact in my notes to them.

They very kindly replied that they were aware of the fact that the word they were using did not exist, but what they were trying to do is create a kind of "brand name", so that people using that particular type of construction material would always think about them, and whether they could not use the same term.

I thought about it, came that the conclusion that the name would not sound well in the target language and suggested a better sounding variant of the non-existing word, though highlighting that such a word did not exist and therefore I could not subscribe it. They accepted my statement and paid, thanking me for the suggestion.

I do not know whether they actually did use that invented term or not, but in my opinion if a customer has paid for the translation he can change it if he wants to, I do not care as long as they don't reference me as the author. I would object in a literary translation, where the name of the translator is quoted. But on a website? Up to them!


 


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