Who gives a FIGS about font names?

Typographers and designers will be familiar with all of the Roman fonts featured in this video. But how many of us have paused to consider their names’ origins and whether a straightforward anglicised pronunciation is the most appropriate? Many of these fonts actually have French, German or Italian roots. So is it time to stop using “Euro-style” and start using “Euro-steel-eh”?
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!EMOCLEW – Garbled London Greetings Strike Yet Again

When London made its bid to host the Olympics, one point was made over and over. London is a city of the world. London is a multicultural city. More than 300 languages are spoken in London. Come to London, and you’ll find the world. And so on.

And so the Olympics came to London. People have been coming to London from all over the world. From all over the world, people have been watching London.

And when is the worst time to fall flat on your face? When everyone in the world is watching. Continue reading “!EMOCLEW – Garbled London Greetings Strike Yet Again”

Arabic typesetting: fonts of wisdom

Arabic typesetting London samples

The business demand for any particular language can ebb and flow but, perhaps not surprisingly, one that’s busier than ever is Arabic. After all, Arabic is the official language of 26 countries, the first language of nearly 300 million people and a second language of nearly 280 million more. Our studio often find themselves working away on several Arabic typesetting projects at any given time. Given this expertise, I’ve been reflecting on the broader history, my pick of professional Arabic fonts and how the field is developing.
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It’s all Greek to them

One of our studio spotted a howler on the behalf of his alma mater. Cambridge University classics faculty has just opened a shiny extension building. In keeping with their studies, the doors have been decorated with a quotation in ancient Greek.

Ancient Greek inscription on door

The quote is Aristotle, meaning “All men by nature desire to know”. Unfortunately whoever was responsible for lettering the door did not know Continue reading “It’s all Greek to them”

Clinton’s Russian translation presses the wrong button

Sometimes it really is worth being confident in your translation. Say, for instance, you are major world statesperson meeting your Russian counterpart in front of the world’s press. If you decide to give them a “reset button” to symbolise your commitment to starting afresh, you really want the Russian text to say something along those lines.

How Hilary Clinton must wish her advisors had taken that on board before they got her to present Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov with a big red button labelled with the Russian word “peregruzka”, meaning overcharged rather than reset.

Jokes and puns are notoriously difficult to translate into a foreign language. There is no guarantee that a clever play on words in English will work at all if translated literally. Even if the Clinton team had used the word they later claimed they were aiming for (“perezagruzka”), the joke would have been clumsy in Russian.

The other aspect that seems to have escaped those charged with making this button is that Russian is written in the Cyrillic alphabet. Of course, it is possible to transliterate Russian words using Roman script. But if you are making a good will gift for a foreign government, it would seem de rigueur to use their alphabet. We certainly would have been happy to provide Obama’s administration with a Russian typesetting service!

Having not had the help of a professional Russian translator, Clinton got herself into even deeper water when the mistake was pointed out. Lavrov pointed out (in fluent English), “This says ‘peregruzka’ which means overcharged” leading Clinton to joke in reply, “We won’t let you do that to us, I promise.” Err, no, Secretary of State, the word means overcharged in an electrical sense, not in the sense of charging too much money.

All of which goes to show, if you want to convey an important message in another language, check the wording with a native speaker or even better, engage the services of a professional translator who combines that linguistic knowledge with writing skills. Otherwise you might end up the butt of the joke.