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Mar 25, 2013
This week's theme
Loan translations

This week's words
psychological moment
running dog
blue blood
deus ex machina

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with Anu Garg

It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Overman... That's what residents of Metropolis might be saying had the creators of Superman comics chosen a different translation of the German word Übermensch. Welcome to the world of loan translations.

When we fill a gap in our language by taking a term from another tongue, we go about it in several ways. The most straightforward is borrowing a term from another language, such as sang-froid from French. At other times, we borrow the term but mold it to fit its new surroundings. When we brought the Hindi word jagannath into English, we anglicized it to juggernaut.

In loan translation, we go a step further. Instead of borrowing the term as is, or borrowing and adapting, we literally translate it into our language. When the German word Übermensch landed on English shores, it was translated as superman though it could very well have been aboveman or overman (from German über: above, beyond, etc.).

The term loan translation itself is a loan translation from German Lehnübersetzung. This week we'll look at five terms formed by a process of loan translation.

psychological moment

(sy-kuh-LOJ-i-kuhl MOH-muhnt)

noun: The most appropriate time for achieving a desired result; the critical moment.

Loan translation of French moment psychologique (psychological moment), which itself is a mistaken loan translation of German das psychologische Moment (psychological element or factor) taken as der psychologische Moment (the psychological moment of time). The word came to French during the German Siege of Paris in 1870. Earliest documented use: 1871.

"I always pride myself in recognizing the psychological moment, and acting on it."
James Lear; The Back Passage; Cleis Press; 2006.

See more usage examples of psychological moment in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.

Walking is also an ambulation of mind. -Gretel Ehrlich, novelist, poet, and essayist (b. 1946)

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