Friday, February 12, 2010


Asking nicely

"Where are you travelling from this morning?", a customs officer asked the passenger in front of me as we exited the airport arrivals area.

Where is that this morning travelling from, is what I'd like to know. Taken literally, it implies the passenger is a familiar face to the customs officer, a regular user of the airport travelling to and from different places. The passenger's bewildered demeanour suggested otherwise.

So the phrase seems to be purely a politeness formula, appended for no other purpose than to mitigate the abruptness of the question. Similar to the call-centerese "Is there anything else I can do for you today?". A US import no doubt. How exciting if it were the substratal imprint of a native American language.

Probably not the one with no concept of time.

Friday, February 05, 2010


Potted version

The Financial Times had a piece about interpreters the other day, prompting a typically stodgy riposte in today's edition from AIIC, our international association. The article itself is the usual sort of thing, worth reading however for its unwitting irony:
As Benoy discovered to its cost, interpreters need to be close to the subject matter as well as competent linguistically
Ms Olivier ... believes that relying on the interpreter's potted version is risky
I mean, just replace "interpreter" with "journalist"...

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