About

I'm Mike Pope. I live in the Seattle area. I've been a technical writer and editor for over 30 years. I'm interested in software, language, music, movies, books, motorcycles, travel, and ... well, lots of stuff.

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We cannot allow engineers to build products for an idealized rational user when real humans are irrational: we must design for the way users actually behave.

Jakob Nielsen, "The Paradox of the Active User"



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Blog Statistics

Dates
First entry - 6/27/2003
Most recent entry - 5/19/2017

Totals
Posts - 2429
Comments - 2551
Hits - 1,951,937

Averages
Entries/day - 0.48
Comments/entry - 1.05
Hits/day - 384

Updated every 30 minutes. Last: 3:37 AM Pacific


  07:30 AM

Oh, boy, Friday words again. I'm going to do two new words today, since I have such a stack.

The playoff season in (American) football has brought me a term that's not new, but (as with all Friday words) new to me: bandwagon fan. This refers to a fan who shifts loyalty to a winning team when their own team has had a losing season. So, for example, we might expect in the next couple of weeks to discover a cohort of heretofore unknown Carolina Panthers fans. In an entry for the related term fair-weather fan, Urban Dictionary captures the sense of bandwagon clearly, and verbs it to boot:
fair-weather fan: A fan of a sports team who only shows support when the team is doing well. During hard times they usually bandwagon other teams.
Since loyalty to one's team is taken very seriously among sports fans, being a bandwagon fan is pretty much universally considered negative (example, example, example).

N.B. The fact that this term is new to me might in itself suggest a certain whiff of bandwagonness to my sports fandom. Draw your own conclusions.

Word #2: transcreation. This is (I guess) a portmanteau of translation+creation; it refers to the process not of translating a term, but of recreating it in another language, with the appropriate flavor for that language. "Creative translation" was one definition I found. I gather that the term is pretty well known in marketing and branding circles. Imagine having the job of translating the McDonald's slogan "I'm lovin' it." Not only does it use to love in that sort of general sense of liking that we have in English, but it's explicitly casual, with that final -in'. It seems unlikely that you can use any translation of the English words in the slogan to render the same idea in, dunno, Japanese or Arabic or Russian.

Anyway, not being in branding or marketing, I only recently ran across it in my own field (technical writing). It's not surprising to me that I don't see this term in my work, since you don't tend to think of "creative translation" when it comes to documentation for programmers.

This week's unexpected etymology is for the word marmalade. Marmalade is of course a jelly-like thing made with citrus peel. What surprised me was the fruit that marmalade was originally made from: quince. We got the word from Portuguese, where marmel- goes back a long way (pre-1000 CE) to refer to quinces. The mar- part is in turn probably related to mel-, a Latin stem referring to honey (compare mellifluous in English and miel for "honey" in Spanish).

This all was particularly interesting to me because I had a fondness in my youth for a Mexican confection called ate de membrillo, or in English, quince paste or quince cheese. This is made simply of quince (which is sour) boiled down with sugar, then formed into a loaf. Here's a picture:


This stuff is awesome, by the way, assuming you like sweet stuff. You can just eat is out of hand, although it's sticky. (Not a problem for me when I was young.) People also put it on bread and often combine it with cheese.

Until I ran across a discussion of marmalade this week in the book The Language of Food by Dan Jurafsky, I would never have made the connection between marmalade and membrillo. I'm not sure what I would have imagined to be the source of the word marmalade, but that was definitely not it.

Like this? Read all the Friday words.

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