Glossary Mining - Part 1
By Lee Wright,
[As published in the June 2006 issue of the ATA Chronicle]
While preparing material for several online courses in translation that I have taught or will be teaching for New York University, I usually surf the Internet extensively for appropriate monolingual (both English and Spanish) and bilingual glossaries, primarily related to the legal and technical fields. With each new discovery I continue to be amazed by how much information is now available right at my fingertips, but it is also somewhat disappointing to see some of the really poor efforts made in compiling a glossary of specialized terms. The relative quality of the items I have found varies widely, from abysmally poor to extremely thorough and useful. In addition, it is obvious that some of these glossaries are obsolete (i.e., posted well over five years ago), while many of them are quite current, a few with updates as recent as the day I accessed the file.
Most of the glossaries I have found are easily identified simply by typing the search string "allintitle: glosario" or "allintitle: glossary" in my Web browser. In both cases, I normally receive between a million and two million "hits" on just these searches. A search using "allintitle: dictionary of" also produces a substantial number of hits pertaining to printed dictionaries of all kinds, most of which are not of interest to me, although I did find a couple of bilingual technical dictionaries I didn’t know about, so the exercise wasn’t a total waste of time.
I also use other key word combinations for my searches, such as "allintitle: diccionario de" for Spanish-language or bilingual dictionaries, which yields 2.5 million hits, but most of these have proved to be quite worthless. Among the "exotic" items I discovered are a dictionary of Cuban salsa music terminology, a guide to playing the four-string cuatro guitar (very popular in South America, especially in Colombia and Venezuela), a glossary of Spanish cigar terminology, and a dictionary of Spanish gestures, complete with examples.
I have also expanded my search string to "allintitle: diccionario de términos," but here again, there isn’t a great deal of value to be found, with the exception of a detailed 200-page Spanish-to-English dictionary of petroleum refining terminology produced by PEMEX, the Mexican government-controlled oil company. The vast majority of results in this particular search involve printed reference works, with a substantial number coming from the medical and legal fields.
Whenever I spot a title for something that looks like it could be useful, I bring it up on the screen and take a close look at its contents. If it proves to be worthwhile, I either save a copy for future reference or put the URL into my browser’s "Favorites" list so that I can access it again. Sometimes I even print out a glossary, especially if it is relatively short (i.e., 10-20 pages) and file the printed copy away. At this point, I have collected over 500 different glossaries, and the search continues daily.
In the process of my own Web browsing, I have stumbled across numerous items containing terminology in many other subject areas. The following list contains details on links to several glossaries and publications that are particularly interesting. Just for fun, I’ve also included some links to sites containing information on some unusual subjects that nonetheless might prove useful to you one day.
It’s hard to say which of the several "oddball" glossaries has the most interesting, but the one I definitely found to be the most unusual is a glossary of knighthood, chivalry, and tournaments. In addition to extensive definitions for many terms, this particular glossary contains lots of cross-references, although some of these are "dead ends" (i.e., if you click on a word, it doesn’t take you anywhere or the referent is "empty").
Another unusual resource is a complete glossary in English of terms from Underwriters Laboratories Inc.
And the second runner-up in the off-the-beaten-track category is a glossary of "hard-boiled slang" as used in detective novels by Dashiell Hammett, Mickey Spillane, Raymond Chandler, and others, called "Twists, Slugs and Roscoes."
If you’re into things of a nautical nature, why not take a look at yet another really amusing site that contains pirate terminology.
An English-language dictionary of the "vulgar tongue," originally published in 1811.
A dictionary for custom license plates.
This dictionary of bureaucratese includes definitions of terms such as abbrevate ("Verb. To shorten text or reduce font size such that reader comprehension is reduced as an unintended consequence. [contracted form: abbreviate]") or, even better, barshamana ("Noun. An innocuous nonsense reply used to gently dismiss the statement or opinion of someone that does not realize the meaningless nature of the reply. ‘James routinely countered the impossible requests from his ignorant manager with eloquent barshamana, which was always accepted simply as technical jargon.’ [Yid. barshamana: sheep manure]").
The 200-page Pronouncing Dictionary of Music and Musicians, courtesy of radio station WOI (Iowa Public Radio).
The International House of Logorrhea, where you can find definitions for terms like fanion ("cloth worn on priest’s arm and used for handling holy vessels").
A glossary of English-to-Japanese medical terms.
This site is for the Francophiles needing bilingual terminology in the finance and stock market fields.
A glossary of French culinary terminology.
This site contains information on nanotechnology.
Although some of the dictionaries are bilingual or multilingual, most of them are monolingual. Nevertheless, I have found a few of specialized bilingual ones, such as this one containing English-to-Russian slang words. This particular site also includes a link to a dictionary of Russian "foul language" that certainly sounds interesting. (The information provided says that this dictionary is available on CD for the paltry sum of $7!!)
How about learning "naughty" words in over five dozen languages (from Acadian to Zulu)? You can have them right at your fingertips with the Alternative Dictionaries website (and you can even download any part or the entire dictionary as a PDF file).
A six-language dictionary (English, Spanish, French, Italian, Dutch, and German) of underwater diving terminology that really could be useful if you’re planning a trip to the Caribbean Islands some day.
Since I am of mostly Scottish ancestry, I was also interested to discover a neat dictionary of Ullans Scots-Irish (the dialect used in Ulster, Ireland) with English equivalents.
This is a good site if you want to brush up on your Australian slang.
This site has order information for a dictionary described as "an A-to-Z lexicon of empty, enraging, and just plain stupid office talk."
Another oddity that I found particularly amusing was this dictionary of voodoo terms, although it was created over 10 years ago.
Last but certainly not least is the dictionary of ancient occupations, where you will also find a link to a site about colonial occupations.
Let the Hunt Begin!
I’m sure that you could have similar results for your own language combinations, so go ahead and try; you won’t break your browser.
Closing P.S.: Do you know how many hits you’ll get by Googling the phrase "technical translation"? Answer: over nine million! That will give you a rough idea of the magnitude of the global translation market.
This article was originally published in The ATA Chronicle.
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