24 November 2008

Catalan word of the day: blocaire

I have been puzzled for some time over the correct way to write "blog" in Catalan. I have seen it with equal frequency as "blog" and as "bloc." At first I thought the latter was just a misspelling of blog, the -c and -g ending sounding similar in Catalan, and because the word "bloc" can mean notepad, which makes sense in the context of a journal-like web page. But it seems the Gran diccionari de la llengua catalana gives preference to the latter, because under the entry for "bloc" the webpage definition appears, while "blog" isn't listed at all. I haven't been able to find either of them in any other dictionary.

So "bloc" it is, although the word might always look funny to my eyes. I was even more surprised to find that a derivative appears as well: "blocaire," which is a blogger. Upon further investigation, I see that the Catalan wikipedia page also mentions bloguistes, blogaires and bloguers as possible translations of "bloggers."

But I'll stick with blocaire. I like it because I have a soft spot for the catalan -aire ending, which tacked on to a noun, is likely to refer to a person who engages in an activity related to that thing, but somehow less...highbrow and more old-fashioned sounding (the more standard -er, -or, and -ant endings work like the English -er: baker (forner), banker (banquer), etc.). Street or outdoor jobs are often given -aire ending. Some examples:

cant, song > cantaire, singer (vs. cantant, a professional singer; in choir they refer to us as cantaires, but our voice teachers are cantants)
drap, rag > drapaire, rag-and-bone man, junk dealer (vs. draper, which means dry goods seller)
escombra, broom > escombraire, street sweeper (vs. escombrador, sweeper)
fira, fair > firataire, someone who keeps a stall at a fair
cigró, chickpea > cigronaire, chickpea seller
cinta, ribbon > cintaire, ribbon maker or seller
bolet, mushroom > boletaire, mushroom hunter (there is a popular program on Catalan TV called "Boletaires," which is a reality show about mushroom hunters [yes, television is pretty exciting stuff 'round here])
ou, egg > ouataire, egg dealer (I buy my eggs at the market from an ouataire)

I like how the -aire ending sounds, sort of an ah-ee-r-uh sound (like an English speaker might pronounce Aïda, the opera). It makes the word quite airy, if you will. And I like being in the company of people whose tasks are so clearly defined and hands-on. Sell chickpeas. Make ribbon. Hunt mushrooms. Write blog.

2 comments:

LJO said...

Thank you for the nice essay on some details of a beautiful but yet it seems elusive language. I am a Michigander and I speak Spanish and since I began travels on business occasionally to Barcelona I have been fascinated with Catalan as a language and would like to learn more. I stumbled on your blog and I look forward to learning more details about Catalan language and culture. Thanks again!

amy said...

Great post.Just a quick note it is important that Catalan translation being accurate and efficient can indeed not be overstated. Especially in the ever faster moving world of globalized business, successful information and technology transfer within multinational businesses can make the difference between win or lose.