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Help! My client doesn't know it's out of date to say "Before Christ"
מפרסם התגובה: Tom in London

Tom in London
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Personally... Apr 20, 2013

..if I ruled the world (there's still time) I would impose the French Republican Calendar, which established Sept. 22, 1792 as Day One. I wonder how my clients would feel about that?



[Edited at 2013-04-20 18:03 GMT]


 

Tom in London
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ha ha Apr 20, 2013

texjax DDS PhD wrote:



tex- that's hilarious !


 

Giles Watson  Identity Verified
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Elect a style guide and stick to it Apr 20, 2013

This is just one of the many issues that can generate ultimately pointless, time-wasting arguments with customers unless you have your ammunition laid out in advance.

BCE/CE is, as Tom says, used widely in academic texts but in newspaper and magazine style guides, there is much wider tolerance of the traditional forms BC (after the year) and AD (before the year). Depending on text genre and intended readership, one, the other or either may be appropriate.

As ever, it's
... See more
This is just one of the many issues that can generate ultimately pointless, time-wasting arguments with customers unless you have your ammunition laid out in advance.

BCE/CE is, as Tom says, used widely in academic texts but in newspaper and magazine style guides, there is much wider tolerance of the traditional forms BC (after the year) and AD (before the year). Depending on text genre and intended readership, one, the other or either may be appropriate.

As ever, it's important to be able to point to documentary support for any judgement calls you have to make so suggest a style guide if the client doesn't have one.
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neilmac
 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
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Common only in some circles Apr 20, 2013

Tom in London wrote:
I have had complaints from an Italian client who claims *never to have heard* of BCE and CE and doesn't want me to use those terms.


The first time I've encountered BCE and CE was after I've left college (1995), and the first context in which I encountered them was in "politically correct" texts. It was only much later that I realised that there are sections of people in the world who think that BC and AD are not merely to be avoided because of politically incorrectness but are actually quite old-fashioned.

I realise that "AD" means "in the year of our lord", which may imply that Jesus is God, but I think most people who read "AD" read it as "ey-dee" and not as "anno domini", and most of them probably don't even know what it stands for. In fact, for a while I thought that "BCE" and "CE" stood for "before Christian era" and "Christian era", until I realised that the C really does mean "common", no matter how silly it would seem.

What do style guides say?

* Fowler/Burchfield (1998) mentions only the correct use of BC and AD and does not even contain an entry for BCE and CE.

* The article on date formats in The Oxford Companion to the English Language (1992) focuses on the correct use of BC and AD, although it does mention that BCE and CE are "preferred by some non-Christians", and adds that "there has been little if any international pressure to create a more [politically/religiously] neutral dating system".

* Chicago style manual (16th edition) says "Choice of the era designation depends on tradition, academic discipline, or personal preference" and mentions both methods without seeming to give any preference itself, except that it mentions BCE/CE first in the list of eras.

* The Telegraph style manual mentions the correct usage of BC and AD, but makes no mention of BCE and CE or common era whatsoever.

* The Guardian style guide says "Some people prefer CE (common era, current era or Christian era) and BCE (before common era, [before current era, before Christian era]) to AD and BC, which, however, remain our style".



[Edited at 2013-04-20 18:15 GMT]


neilmac
 

Tom in London
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Interesting Apr 20, 2013

Allison Wright wrote:

I quote immodestly from one of my own translations, to be found here:

http://www.vinetowinecircle.com/en/history/islamic-legacy-and-viticulture/

I decided to retain the BC/AD notation .....


Allison- I've read your beautiful translation with great interest - chapeau! - but perhaps that website assumes it will not be read by Muslims?

(off topic) I was greatly struck, during a visit to the Great Mosque in Cordoba, to see the Star of David that the Jewish stonemasons carved into some of the columns, as their signature. Truly that period of collaboration and tolerance was "The Ornament of the World" (which is the title of a book by Maria Rosa Menocal)


 

Daniel Bird  Identity Verified
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Yes... Apr 20, 2013

Tom in London wrote:
In academic texts and elsewhere it's now considered normal to write "BCE" and "CE" where once those old terms were the norm.

Has anyone else encountered this problem?

I think in some contexts you would choose this technical rendering over more conventional ones, but the idea that this has been adopted by the mainstream - or will be - is a fantasy born mostly of the pitiable arrogance of some academics and their lay acolytes.

It's in the same pompous cast as that certain press agency that wishes to close down the use of the phrase "illegal immigrant".

OK, so I'm opinionated...

Cheers
DB


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
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Personal politics and its place in translation Apr 20, 2013

If you personally prefer to use AD/BC, that's perfectly fine. No-one is stopping you.

But Tom's question was about professional practice, not personal preference. If the standard practice in the field in which you're translating is to use BCE/CE (as it demonstrably is in some), then that's what you should use. Your feelings about spades are irrelevant.

I like the CMoS answer to this:

Q. Do you recommend the use of BCE (Before the Common Era) and CE (Common Era) instead of BC and AD? Has the debate about these been settled or is it still in flux?

A. We are not aware of any intense debate. The choice between one or the other is up to the writer and should be flagged only if the customs of a specific field or community seem to be in danger of being (unwittingly) violated. Many authors use BC and AD because they are familiar and conventionally understood. Those who want to avoid reference to Christianity are free to do so.

(emphasis added; http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/qanda/data/faq/topics/Abbreviations.html?old=Abbreviations_questions01.html)


 

Tom in London
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My translation is for.... Apr 20, 2013

Giles Watson wrote:

This is just one of the many issues that can generate ultimately pointless, time-wasting arguments with customers unless you have your ammunition laid out in advance.

BCE/CE is, as Tom says, used widely in academic texts but in newspaper and magazine style guides, there is much wider tolerance of the traditional forms BC (after the year) and AD (before the year). Depending on text genre and intended readership, one, the other or either may be appropriate.

As ever, it's important to be able to point to documentary support for any judgement calls you have to make so suggest a style guide if the client doesn't have one.


Since my translations are descriptive captions for museum exhibits of ancient artefacts, I assumed that my client would wish me to use the correct terminology. Alas, no.


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
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Museums... Apr 20, 2013

Tom in London wrote:
Since my translations are descriptive captions for museum exhibits of ancient artefacts, I assumed that my client would wish me to use the correct terminology.


A public museum or a private museum? (-:

I did a search in Google News for important dates from antiquity to see how people see such dates in the press:

331 BCE = 0
331 BC = 5

2600 BCE = 1
2600 BC = 8

CE 79 = 0
79 CE = 0
AD 79 = 430

776 BCE = 1
776 BC = 2

44 BCE = 1
44 BC = 10

I then searched for the same dates in Google Scholar to see how these letters are used in academic papers:

331 BCE = 500
331 BC = 2700

2600 BCE = 700
2600 BC = 4000

CE 79 = 1500
79 CE = 6500
AD 79 = 8400
79 AD = 9300

776 BCE = 300
776 BC = 2400

44 BCE = 1300
44 BC = 9500

Only the eruption of Vesuvius came close to having a similar number of "common era" fans as non-common era fans (and only in academic circles). The rest of the usage shows a clear general preference for BC/AD.


 

Raitei
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Google Searches are Overated Apr 20, 2013

Samuel Murray wrote:

Tom in London wrote:
Since my translations are descriptive captions for museum exhibits of ancient artefacts, I assumed that my client would wish me to use the correct terminology.


A public museum or a private museum? (-:

I did a search in Google News for important dates from antiquity to see how people see such dates in the press:

331 BCE = 0
331 BC = 5

2600 BCE = 1
2600 BC = 8

CE 79 = 0
79 CE = 0
AD 79 = 430

776 BCE = 1
776 BC = 2

44 BCE = 1
44 BC = 10

I then searched for the same dates in Google Scholar to see how these letters are used in academic papers:

331 BCE = 500
331 BC = 2700

2600 BCE = 700
2600 BC = 4000

CE 79 = 1500
79 CE = 6500
AD 79 = 8400
79 AD = 9300

776 BCE = 300
776 BC = 2400

44 BCE = 1300
44 BC = 9500

Only the eruption of Vesuvius came close to having a similar number of "common era" fans as non-common era fans (and only in academic circles). The rest of the usage shows a clear general preference for BC/AD.


I would take the results of such searches with a grain of salt. I found this out after entering the following search queries: "How many people want me alive?" and "How many people want me dead?"


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
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Intelligent Google searches Apr 20, 2013

Raitei wrote:
I would take the results of such searches with a grain of salt. I found this out after entering the following search queries: "How many people want me alive?" and "How many people want me dead?"


Well, asking Google questions like that is not intelligent searching.

It is possible to search Google intelligently, i.e. in a way that eliminates non-relevant results. By using quotes and by searching specifically for very well-known dates, I know that my results would have included very few false matches (i.e. most of the matches would indeed be dates, and not other numbers).

A search for "How many people want me dead?" will only show many web pages and other resources contain that sentence, but it won't answer the question.


MollyRose
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Rachel Fell  Identity Verified
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Understanding Apr 20, 2013

Phil Hand wrote:

But having said that, it's just a 10s find & replace job....

And to those who seem to be emotionally invested in "A.D." and "B.C."....


Phil, am I right in understanding that as a "10 shilling/10 bob" find & replace job?
It's not so much emotional investment as familiar usage and common sense, to me.


 

Russell Jones  Identity Verified
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Traditions Apr 20, 2013

Is it really a surprise that a museum in a largely Catholic country prefers traditional usage.

I suppose it might depend on whether its clientele is largely academic or the general public. Isn't this just another case of "the customer is always right"?


 

Tom in London
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Yes, it is Apr 20, 2013

Russell Jones wrote:

Is it really a surprise that a museum in a largely Catholic country prefers traditional usage.




Yes, it is, because the English-speaking visitors will NOT be Italian. The Italian visitors will read the captions in Italian, but not the others (as I tried, unsuccessfully, to explain to my client).

[Edited at 2013-04-20 20:31 GMT]


 

George Trail  Identity Verified
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Well I'll be darned... Apr 20, 2013

I for one have never heard of "BCE" and "CE" in connection with dates. I still use BC and AD.

 
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