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More on abbreviations

Barbara McClintock
(Language Update, Volume 9, Number 4, 2013, page 45)

Despite dire predictions of the death of literacy, people are writing more than ever because of computers and social media. However, abbreviations spawned by the Internet and texting have evolved into leetspeak (from elite speak) for people in the know, which replaces letters by numbers or other characters. "Leet" or "1337" is another alphabet for the English language largely based on symbols, phonetics, hacker and video-gamer terms and substituting ASCII characters for letters, e.g.

ILU or 143 = I love you (1 = I is one letter; 4 = love is four letters; 3 = you is three letters);

182 = I hate you (uses phonetics; 8 sounds like hate).

So, see you later, alligator might be translated as CUL8RA or CULA.

Billet and bobettes

In the 2013 Petit Robert, there are several new social media terms such as lol, ferme de contenus (content farm) and billet (blog post). However, the Petit Robert has disappointingly accepted two alternate spellings of the English verb tweet rather than the Quebec creation gazouiller. This is also the case for the 2013 Petit Larousse, which includes twitteur and twitteuse, so one can now write "les twitteurs twittent," or preferably tweetent because "twit" is a type of insult both in English and Quebec French.

To publicize its Quebecism entries, the Petit Robert has launched a charming advertising video (publi-vidéo in French and publivideo in Spanish) featuring Fred Pellerin. The Quebec storyteller manages to link the Petit Robert to Bob and bobettes, which means underwear. A whimsical Fred Pellerin quote is also provided in the new entry for bobettes. In Belgium, bobette is the term used for designated driver.

Forensic accounting and the new Canadian CPA

In a bid to introduce a new, unified designation, the Chartered Accountants (CAs), Certified Management Accountants (CMAs) and Certified General Accountants (CGAs), Canada’s three legacy organizations, are debating adopting the same initials as the American Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), but with a Canadian twist: Chartered Professional Accountant / Comptable professionnel agréé. And to distinguish between those who audit and those who do not, an auditor in Quebec is now a CPA auditor / CPA auditeur. Quebec has taken the lead in adopting the unification, while the other provinces are still debating the issue, which is part of a movement to globalize designations. For example, the Certified Professional Forensic Accountant designation is recognized in both Canada and the United States according to the association’s website.1 However, the most common Canadian designation is IFA for Investigative and Forensic Accounting or EJC in Quebec for expert en juricomptabilité.

Forensic linguistics in the news

Robert W. Shuy, author of Creating Language Crimes, is considered a pioneer in forensic linguistics. This growing field came into the public eye with the 1996 Unibomber case. Retired FBI forensic linguist James Fitzgerald studied samples of Ted Kaczynski’s writing and discovered similarities between his unique writing style and the Unibomber’s manifesto.2 Forensic linguists analyze texts, such as suicide notes and emails, to try to find clues about the writers who leave linguistic fingerprints or markers.

The Word Geek’s enquiries have resulted in new records in TERMIUM Plus® and the Grand dictionnaire terminologique (Office québécois de la langue française). The main entry is linguistique judiciaire, which was recommended to me by a terminologist at the Translation Bureau. The OQLF also accepts linguistique légale as a synonym. The occupation may be referred to as linguiste judiciaire or linguiste légiste. The latter job title is modelled on médecin légiste, and it should be noted that the word légiste should only be used for people in a legal context.*

The universal language of sleuthing

To end on a note of levity, I recently noticed an intriguing ad for the second season of the hit BBC television series: Sherlock, saison 2: un final qui vous scotche au fauteuil.3 The image of Sherlock sitting in a chair swirling a glass of Scotch came to mind. Although it looks English, scotcher is a verb that the French formed from the 3M Scotch Tape brand name. It wasn’t a fluke because I also read the expression in the French translation of Swedish author Stieg Larsson’s third Millennium novel, "À un moment donné, quand j’avais toujours la bouche scotchée…."4 To translate that phrase, I would definitely prefer that strong Canadian symbol—duct tape. You may recall the duct tape incident in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest when Salander’s serious wounds were cleverly "bandaged with duct tape [that] kept bacteria out and blood in." Duct-tape is becoming increasingly popular as a verb, and I recommend it as a translation for scotcher if you need a more colourful verb than tape.

Remark

  • * Back to the text Thanks to Jocelyne Bougie (OQLF), Louise L’Écuyer (Translation Bureau) and especially Susan Mott, C. Tr.

Notes and references