Posted by: episystechpubs | April 9, 2014

Editor’s Corner: Calques

Today I have some interesting information for you about calques (also called loan translations). According to Merriam-Webster a calque is “a compound, derivative, or phrase that is introduced into a language through translation of the constituents of a term in another language (as superman from German Übermensch).”

The word calque comes from French and means “copy” or “trace.” Here are some more calques from Daily Writing Tips:

From German:

hang glider from Hängegleiter
flamethrower from Flammenwerfer
gummy bear from the product name Gummibärchen (little gummy bear)
loanword from Lehnwort
Intelligence Quotient (I.Q.) from Intelligenzquotient
Rainforest from Regenwald
Watershed from Wasserscheide
World war from Weltkrieg

Note: In Nietzschean thought, the übermensch is the ideal superior man of the future who transcends conventional Christian morality to create and impose his own values. The German word werfer (“thrower”) is used in sports to refer to the bowler in cricket and the pitcher in baseball.

Here are some calques from the French:

deaf-mute from sourd-muet
free verse from vers libre
rhinestone from caillou du Rhin

Note: The historical term deaf-mute, “unable to hear or speak,” is now considered by some to be insensitive or derogatory; a replacement term is “hearing- and speech-impaired.” German also has Rheinkiesel which, like caillou du Rhin, means “Rhine-pebble.”

Latin calques:

Milky Way (the galaxy that contains Earth’s solar system) from via lactea
“Rest in Peace” from requiescat in pace
“in a nutshell” from in nuce

Calquing goes both ways. Computing terms coined in English have been calqued into other languages. For example, French disque dur, carte mère, souris, and en ligne for English hard disk, motherboard, mouse, and online.

Click here for another article on calques.

And more from the department of unnecessary quotation marks and bad advertising:

Kara Church

Senior Technical Editor


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