May, 2013

A copywriting lesson from a children’s book

I bought the most beautiful book the other day – ‘On a Beam of Light – A Story of Albert Einstein’. It’s by Jennifer Berne  with pictures by Vladimir Radunksy.

It’s that lovely combination of just the right words set against gorgeous illustrations that make the best children’s books so enchanting and memorable.

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The art of translation – guest post by Rachel Giles

I’m in the process of getting a page of copy translated into around 12 different languages to promote my localisation service to business people who don’t have English as a first language.

I’ve written the copy and have the translators lined up. On the surface it’s a relatively simple task: just a few paragraphs of copy to introduce and explain a service.

But the point of the localisation service is to make sure that copy that’s been translated into English flows and reads well. It needs to get the message across and engage the audience too. So, of course I need to be sure that happens with my copy in each of the languages it’s translated in to.

Going through this process got me thinking about book translations.  We take it a bit for granted when we read classics like Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Anna Karenina, Flaubert’s Madame Bovary or more modern books such as Blindness by Jose Saramago.

But how on earth does a translator capture the essence and poetry of the original? How do we know that the translator isn’t more talented than the author? And what about those words and phrases that only exist in the original language and not in English?

I decided to ask writer, editor, and publisher, Rachel Giles.

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A cornucopia of collective nouns

I love Woop Studio’s collective noun posters.

These limited edition prints are visual depictions of some of the wonderful terms we use to name groups of things. They’re beautiful to look at as well as revealing quite often charming and evocative words such as:
a zeal of zebras
a blessing of unicorns (which I’m convinced are real by the way. I mean, why bother giving them a collective noun if they don’t exist?)
an aurora of polar bears (yes, really!)
a murder of crows
a murmuration of starlings (what a lovely word!). And my favourite if only because I’ve was privileged to see two of these rare Cornish birds in flight: a chattering or clattering of choughs

I could go on, but I won’t. I’ll just direct you to Woop’s website so you can become obsessed too.


Woop Studios was founded by Miraphora Mina, Eduardo Lima, Harriet Logan, and Mark Faulkner. United by a love of graphic design, words and images they set up Woop to showcase the fascinating and quirky world of collective nouns.

They aim to be the definitive website for anyone who shares their fascination, and who enjoy words, images and learning.

I hope you enjoy them too.

 

We’ve been truly dashelled today! Having fun with Forgotten English

Day five of Jeffrey Kacirk’s Forgotten English page a day calendar, is particularly apt. Today’s word is ‘dashelled’ which means ‘beaten about and wetted by bad weather.’

I was given the calendar for Christmas, and I’m looking forward to unveiling a long forgotten word each day throughout 2012.

I’ve already discovered such gems as ‘toad-under-a-harrow’. Apparently it means a man whose wife not only henpecks, but makes sure the entire world witnesses the indignities he suffers at her hands. And I’ve leapt ahead to the weekend where I found ‘gubbertushed’ – used to describe someone with projecting teeth.

It’s funny how words from long ago seem so much more expressive somehow!

Jeffrey Kacirk was brought up in San Diego. He became fascinated by the dialog and ‘general antiquity’ of Shakespeare’s plays, which he saw performed at the nearby Old Globe Theater. In college he became, “intrigued with European and American social history, especially the languages, activities, and customs.”

He’s included these longtime interests in several books and calendars which you can find on his website, Forgotten English.

His book of the same name contains recipe terms such as dilligrout, and uzzle-pye. Mmm, they both sound frighteningly like descriptions of something I might serve up…

 

 

 

Household words* – what our language owes to Shakespeare

The Yvonne Arnaud's striking Macbeth poster

I went to see a production of Macbeth on Tuesday night by the Icarus Theatre Collective at The Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford.

The staging was stark, dark and fabulous, and sitting there watching some excellent performances from the small cast of seven, I was reminded how much our language owes to Shakespeare.

OK. I know you Bard haters and detractors will disagree but so many of his phrases are still commonplace in our language almost four centuries after his death. 

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Grabbing the headlines

Grabbing the headlines

Whatever we think of the reporting standards in our national newspapers, they have given us some great headlines over the years.

One of my personal favourites is The Sun’s “Super Cally go ballasitc, Celtic are atrocious” following Inverness Caledonian Thistle’s 3-1 win over Celtic in the Scottish Cup in 2000.

I spotted one of a slightly more sophisticated nature on the front page of The Guardian in April and have been meaning to write a post based on it ever since. It accompanied a front-page story by the paper’s Paris correspondent, Angelique Chrisafis. She was writing about the alleged outrage of notorious French riot police – the Compagnie Repulicaines de Securite (CRS) on hearing they would no longer be allowed to drink alcohol with their lunch.

Apparently, up until now, even packed lunches provided to the CRS out of riot vans while they were patrolling demos, came with a can of beer or glass of wine. And the headline?

“Riot squad sees rouge as police vin gets bottled.”

It’s tempting to think that good headlines are the result of a flash of inspiration (an old stalwart, by the way, when I was Head of Press and PR for Nikon UK and writing about the company’s flashlights – yes I know, I know). But the majority of strong, memorable, and more importantly, effective headlines take time and a great deal of hard work.

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What’s the connection between beekeeping and a literary figure? It’s elementary!

I’m working on a project at the moment that makes me feel very lucky to be doing what I do to earn my crust. I’m editing a book on beekeeping for novices by a talented photographer, David Wootton. And it reminded me about something my beekeeping friend, Jules, told me about a connection with Sherlock Holmes.

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Wedlock by Wendy Moore – a true story that’s as thrilling as any novel

If you think, as I did, that newspapers’ lust for juicy gossip about celebrities is a modern phenomenon, think again. The heroine, Mary Eleanor Bowes, kept an ever eager Georgian press in titillating stories for much of her life.

I just couldn’t put this book down! It’s a fabulous story from start to finish, really well-written and must have taken an enormous amount of diligent research.

The blurb on the back claims it’s as thrilling as a novel and so it is.

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Naughty Bunny – one girl’s quest to be reunited with her favourite childhood book

Naughty BunnyFollowing my post yesterday on the lack of reading skills among London’s children, and my own love of books, I thought I’d start a regular ‘column’ on my favourites.

And here’s where it all began. The very first book I remember, and my favourite childhood book, was Naughty Bunny by American author, Richard Scarry.

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Hello. I'm Elaine, I'm a copywriter and this is my blog.

It's mostly about words and writing - things that inspire me, entertain me, and make me smile. Sometimes it's about things that horrify me so much I want to scream and shout!

I hope you enjoy it and find it useful. And speaking of useful - scroll down and take a look at the Oxford Dictionaries tool.

Click here to find out a bit more about me.

Word Alchemy Blog