Back in our schooldays, how many of us didn't learn to tell left from right by saying our right hand was right to write with and so the other must be left?
The notion that right is right seems to have been deeply rooted in western culture for a very long time. But not only there — throughout Africa and South Asia the right hand is used to handle food and the left hand reserved for 'other' activities.
Already at the time of the Roman empire, the Latin word for right or right hand, dexter, also meant handy or skillful. This positive connotation eventually found its way into English in the form of the noun dexterity and the adjective dexterous.
According to Norman Lewis in his now classic vocabulary builder Word Power Made Easy:
'The right hand is traditionally the more skillful one; it is only within recent decades that we have come to accept that 'lefties" or "southpaws" are just as normal as anyone else — and the term left-handed is still used as a synonym of awkward.
'The Latin word for the left hand is sinister. This same word, in English, means threatening, evil, or dangerous, a further commentary on our early suspiciousness of left-handed persons..."
'The French word for the left hand is gauche, and, as you would suspect, when we took this word over into English we invested it with an uncomplimentary meaning. Call someone gauche and you imply clumsiness, generally social rather than physical. (We're right back to our age-old misconception that left-handed people are less skillful than right-handed ones.)
'A gauche remark is tactless; a gauche offer of sympathy is so bumbling as to be embarrassing; gaucherie is an awkward, clumsy, tactless, embarrassing way of saying things or of handling situations. The gauche person is totally without finesse.
'And the French word for the right hand is droit, which we have used in building our English word adroit. Needless to say, adroit, like dexterous, means skillful, but especially in the exercise of the mental facilities. Like gauche, adroit, or its noun adroitness, usually is used figuratively. The adroit person is quick-witted, can get out of difficult spots cleverly, can handle situations ingeniously. Adroitness is, then, quite the opposite of gaucherie.'
Notice here how adroitly Mr. Lewis steers us clear of leftist politics, ha-ha!
I'm sure you'll find his bestselling 500-page digest a timeless
treasure-trove of etymological information, and outstanding
value at a list price of just $7.99.
We get invited to so many "meetings", but do we really need to attend all of them? Use the following 10 questions to assess if you should accept that next meeting invitation:
Don’t attend any meeting without a clear agenda. Otherwise you are wasting precious time. Don’t ever schedule a meeting unless you make it clear to your attendees what the purpose, time-frame and outcomes of the meeting will be.
Ask this question to ensure the meeting is set at the right level and the correct people are involved.
Make sure there is a good reason for you personally to attend the meeting.
Be strict with your own time and also those of the attendees. If you are scheduling the meeting, always start on time regardless of if all attendees have arrived. Make it known you will start on time.
Advise all attendees that it will finish on time to allow them to attend their next engagement.
Where possible, don’t sit through unnecessary discussions; only attend when the agenda item relates to you or your department.
Get clear instructions on the preparation required. If the person scheduling the meeting advises that you don’t need to prepare anything, ask question 3 again: Why do you want me involved?
If possible, take minutes at the meeting (handwritten OK), walk to the photocopier, make enough copies for everyone, and then give them out. Avoid the extra work of typing minutes unless absolutely necessary.
Ask for clear instructions, including the floor and meeting room number to ensure you don’t waste time looking for the right location.
Where possible, handle matters over the phone or the Net to avoid wasting time traveling to and from meetings.
By asking these 10 simple questions, you will help educate those around you on the importance of managing and respecting time. You will save yourself time and be more productive in your day.
News reports from the sub-continent suggest some Indians may be trying to Americanize their English in order to make themselves attractive to U.S. corporations and to find new job opportunities created by outsourcing. This is especially true in the hi-tech field, and is most prevalent among those in their 20s and early 30s — a burgeoning age group keenly concerned about future employment prospects. They are now taking advantage of special courses designed to familiarize them with American vocabulary, pronunciation and spelling.
This is a significant development because ever since colonial times British English has been the language of officialdom and the elite in India, serving as it has as lingua franca in a country with no fewer than 17 constitutionally recognized national and regional languages. If we then consider the fact that these 17 mainstream tongues are actually spoken in some 1600 dialects, it is not hard to understand why this vast nation has chosen English as its official working language.
What many don't realize, however, is that seen in a longer-term perspective the linguistic influence has not been all one way. Especially UK English has enriched itself with Hindi words such as 'guru' and 'juggernaut', Hindustani words such as 'bungalow' (derived from 'Bengal') and 'gymkhana', Tamil words such as 'mulligatawny', and Urdu words such as 'khaki' and 'pyjamas'. Nowadays, however, if one is to believe these latest trends, ambitious young Indians are probably learning to say 'ranch house' instead of bungalow, and to write 'pajamas' instead of pyjamas.
They are, no doubt, also having to unlearn a whole host of expressions still commonly used in India but now perceived as quaint or antiquated elsewhere in the English-speaking world — words like 'needful' and 'felicitations', or the 'fooding and lodging' seen on signs outside cheaper hotels.
Indians appear comfortable with the easygoing conversational style of American English and perhaps see it as a welcome departure from the rigid grammar-adherence of the British English learned in their schooldays. Nowadays more and more of them can afford to make the odd mistake and expect to get away with it. Nevertheless, British English itself is far from static. Once sacred grammar rules are becoming less strict, and even die-hard conservatives are having to face up to challenges posed by internationalization of the language.
Despite the recent flurry of interest in American English, the BBC is still said to attract a larger following in India than any of the U.S. networks, and I doubt this will change any time soon.
© David V. Appleyard 2013 All rights reserved
Many people get confused as to the difference between an interpreter and a translator. There is a common tendency to think translators interpret, or that interpreters translate. In fact, these are two separate jobs requiring rather different skills. To illustrate who and what an interpreter is, as opposed to a translator, I shall here set out the main differences between them.
On a basic level it would appear that there is little difference between an interpreter and a translator. One translates spoken words and the other written words. However, there are differences in how the jobs are carried out, the skills and talents required and the pressures involved.
A translator must be able to write well and be able to express words, phrases, innuendos and other linguistic nuances on paper. He or she has the luxury of time, access to resources such as dictionaries and other reference materials, as well as the freedom to take a break when needed. The pressures they face are relatively limited.
Translators only work into their native languages to assure accuracy in both linguistic and cultural senses. It could therefore be argued that they are not completely bilingual. They may be able to deal effectively with written sources, but when it comes to oral translation different types of skill are called for.
Translators are said to have a one-dimensional aspect to their work. They deal with written words and language that come from paper and return to paper.
Interpreters, on the other hand, have to be able to translate spoken words in two directions. They do this using no resources or reference materials bar their own knowledge and expertise.
An interpreter is required to find linguistic solutions to problems on the spot. The pressure can be quite intense.
In addition to interpreting, the interpreter must act as a bridge between people, relaying tone, intentions and emotions. In cases where interpreters are caught up in crossfire they need to demonstrate great professionalism and diplomacy. Their role is complex as they have to deal with both language and people.
There are two ways of interpreting: consecutive and simultaneous. Simultaneous interpreting involves interpreting in ‘real time’. Many will have seen an interpreter sitting in a booth wearing a pair of headphones and speaking into a microphone at a conference or large diplomatic gathering, such as the EU or UN. A simultaneous interpreter has the unenviable task of quickly digesting what one person is saying before immediately translating it for others. One of the key skills simultaneous interpreters must acquire is decisiveness. They must think quickly and remain on their feet.
Consecutive interpreting is carried out in face to face meetings, in speeches or court cases. A speaker will usually stop at regular junctures — say every few sentences — and then have the interpreter translate, before proceeding. A key skill involved in consecutive interpreting is the ability to remember what has been said.
In short, if you want someone to translate something that is written, you need the services of a translator. And if you want someone to translate the spoken word, you should hire an interpreter.
In spite of our ever-increasing dependence on computers. tablets and smartphones, children's capacity to write clearly and legibly with more traditional tools can play a decisive role in how well they end up doing in school exams. If words fail to flow from their pens, they may not be able to get down all they know within the time allowed and so lose vital points. Further marks will be lost if there is no clear distinction between letters which look alike, such as o and a, v and u, or m and nn.
Clear handwriting involves the eyes as much as the hands, and so both must work in perfect co-ordination. Just as when we learn to play the piano, the many fine muscles of the hand need to be strengthened, something only achieved through plenty of practice. Every opportunity should therefore be given for children to write things down — and preferably on a daily basis.
A key point to bear in mind is that they themselves should feel there is a real purpose in what they are doing — they will soon get tired of repetitive exercises only aimed at improving certain strokes. One good idea is to let them keep a diary to be filled in at bedtime. Another is to have them write shopping lists when food items run out.
The advice of experts on the subject is sometimes age-specific. For example, when older kids draw pictures they should be encouraged to make less use of 'undemanding' marker pens and greater use of crayons and colored pencils.
In the case of very young children, however, practice sessions need to be kept relatively short, as their delicate hand muscles and movements need more time to develop.
So then, lasting benefit is sure to come if the emphasis is placed on regularity rather than the duration of the practice sessions. And be sure to make it fun!
© David V. Appleyard 2012 All rights reserved