Saturday, November 22, 2008

Musings on the Boll Weevil

[Edited to thank my friend Noelle, for pointing out that it's boll weevil, not boil weevil. I'm shaking my head in amazement that I could be SO WRONG about a word for SO LONG. Even though I looked it up beforehand just to be sure. Sheesh.]

This is the best English/Spanish dictionary ever. I am a translator and an interpreter, so I have shelves full of dictionaries, but this is the only will not travel without. I bought it for myself as a graduation gift when I got my MA, and it's what I always recommend to people looking to take the next step, when they find that their average bilingual dictionary is no longer all that helpful. It is by no means comprehensive, but in in you will find all kinds of useful general and technical terminology, like end borrower, input-output, straddle carrier. And of course, boll weevil.

For some reason, whenever I open this dictionary, it seems to fall open at gorgojo, which is a boll weevil. The entry is near the top of the page, and after so many repetitions it felt like the word had been burned into my brain. Ha ha, I would joke to myself. If it ever comes up, I will be ready. I will be ready, and I will dazzle everyone by coming up with the right word for boll weevil without so much as batting an eye.

And then, of course, it came up. I was interpreting at an informal gathering for a few Latin American visitors who were doing a Q & A session with a high-school class. One of the students mentioned the boll weevils, and of course, I could not for the life of me remember what the hell it was. I motioned desperately to my colleague, who helped me out, but my moment had come and gone. And I was bummed, even though remembering the word for boll weevil is less important during an informal chat with high-schoolers than it is during, say, a highly technical conference about the boll weevil.

That's how my job goes. Sometimes a word I know, a word I know well, just won't come to me when I need it. It's one reason you need to be good at looking things up on the go, it's why you need to have good colleagues backing you up, and you have to be able to ask for and accept help if you need it.

The nice thing, though, is that it works both ways, and I often experience the flip side, like I did the other day. An attorney who was questioning a witness asked him if he was colorblind. That word often stumps me, since it doesn't come up that often. And yet this time, the word daltónico just rolled off my tongue. Good thing, too, since it came up many times and ended up being an important issue.

[The link to the glossary will take you to the Google Book Search page, which I just discovered, and I love it. If you're interested, it will allow you to peruse a pretty hefty chunk of the book. Pretty amazing.]

[I'm done geeking out about dictionaries now. Good night.]

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