Why we love our specializations

Over at Yndigo, Glenn Cain has a wonderful post entitled Make mine plain, about, among other things, the push for plain language in legal writing and the resulting effect on legal translators.

As I read this post, I found myself thinking, “but I love legalese,” and I’m actually not kidding here. To me, there are certain situations in which a word like “hereinbelow” or the dreaded “shall” (featured in Glenn’s post) just says it like nothing else can. For some reason, it just sometimes strikes me as less effective to say “later on in this document” or “will” rather than using the legalese equivalent. And sometimes, when I’m really on a roll, the more horrifically complex the sentence I have to translate, the better; why say it the way anyone could when you can say it in your own peculiar way, with as many subordinate clauses as possible?

In addition, I think that we translators are often incredulous at the level of jargon and “ese” (i.e. legalese, computerese) in other people’s specializations while we embrace those characteristics in our own work. Some time ago I was working on a scientific/legal project and queried the project’s scientific translator about the abbreviation “Pa s.” She immediately responded, “oh sure, it’s Pascal-seconds,” a unit used to measure dynamic viscosity. As a non-scientist, my immediate reaction was “Pascal-seconds? As if regular seconds aren’t good enough? Can’t we call it something simpler?,” exactly the opposite of my reaction to the idea of simplifying legalese. My scientific colleague’s answer was “just don’t ever make me translate ‘pursuant to’!”

One Response to “Why we love our specializations”
  1. Glenn Cain April 30, 2008

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