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 My client doesn't know it's out of date to say "Before Christ"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

Fiona Gilbert Riley  Identity Verified
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School texts Apr 20, 2013

I translate academic texts on a regular basis, and some years ago I noted the "BCE" takeover. Regardless of my own opinions on the subject, I therefore followed this usage within first of all the academic world and then, as I watched the advance of usage, elsewhere too.

So I was rather surprised to find my usage corrected when translating school texts for use in primary and secondary education in Spain - this by one of the main publishing houses. But the clients decides and whilst I
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I translate academic texts on a regular basis, and some years ago I noted the "BCE" takeover. Regardless of my own opinions on the subject, I therefore followed this usage within first of all the academic world and then, as I watched the advance of usage, elsewhere too.

So I was rather surprised to find my usage corrected when translating school texts for use in primary and secondary education in Spain - this by one of the main publishing houses. But the clients decides and whilst I presented my case I didn't argue the toss.

As far as I know I have actually been a little behind the times (note this link which was obviously reasonably old hat seven years ago: http://www.bbc.co.uk/northernireland/schools/11_16/citizenship/glossary/)

But the debate evidently took a little longer to hit public awareness: see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/borisjohnson/8788464/BC-or-BCE-The-BBCs-edict-on-how-we-date-events-is-AD-absolute-drivel.html

Personally I don't object to BC/AD but am very happy to have started using BCE etc since it appeals more to my non-christiancentric (neologism, may I use this?!) view of things.


Edited: typos


[Edited at 2013-04-20 22:07 GMT]
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Tina Vonhof
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Not heard of Apr 20, 2013

I, too, have never seen or heard of BCE and CE and would not use them.

 

Tom in London
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Hmm Apr 20, 2013

Noni Gilbert wrote:

I translate academic texts on a regular basis, and some years ago I noted the "BCE" takeover. Regardless of my own opinions on the subject, I therefore followed this usage within first of all the academic world and then, as I watched the advance of usage, elsewhere too.

So I was rather surprised to find my usage corrected when translating school texts for use in primary and secondary education in Spain


Hmm- like Italy, Spain is another country where the very strong presence of one particular religion tends to invade secular life, including books used in schools. Interesting !

[Edited at 2013-04-20 22:15 GMT]


 

Kuochoe Nikoi-Kotei  Identity Verified
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I don't get it Apr 20, 2013

Russell Jones wrote:

Personally I refuse to use such faddish things; I don't expect them to catch on!

I don't write them if I can help it either. There's such a thing as taking PC too far. Why are we pretending our modern history isn't influenced by Christianity? It smacks of revisionism to me.


MollyRose
 

Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
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AD & BC incomprehensible? Apr 20, 2013

Tom in London wrote:

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]


Tom, do you really think English visitors to Italy won't understand AD and BC? My guess is that about three quarters will never have heard of CE and BCE but virtually all of them will know AD and BC. Even if they are young enough to have been taught the new usage in school, their parents and most older people they meet will always use it so they will understand it.

Personally I'll stick to AD and BC unless I know the customer wants it otherwise.


MollyRose
 

Claire Cox
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Never heard of them either Apr 20, 2013

Must admit that I've never come across those particular acronyms either and wouldn't have had a clue (before today!) what they referred to if I came across them in a museum. So perhaps your client has a point? Surely the aim is to enlighten the majority of visitors, not to appease a politically correct minority? However, I am of course duly aware now, so will look out for them in the future......

neilmac
 

Joanna Rączka  Identity Verified
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No offence taken Apr 20, 2013

As an atheist and pastafarian I do not feel offended with BC and AD. They are traditional, have been in use for ages. Nothing wrong with them. It is just a convention and we have been used to it. On the contrary - I personally hate all this PC no-discriminatory newspeak - no matter what it is related to. If something has been in use and accepted for centuries why should it all of a sudden become wrong?

Also, visitors to an Italian museum who have learnt English as a second language
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As an atheist and pastafarian I do not feel offended with BC and AD. They are traditional, have been in use for ages. Nothing wrong with them. It is just a convention and we have been used to it. On the contrary - I personally hate all this PC no-discriminatory newspeak - no matter what it is related to. If something has been in use and accepted for centuries why should it all of a sudden become wrong?

Also, visitors to an Italian museum who have learnt English as a second language are more likely to understand BC and AD than BCE and CE. The former still exists in English textbooks/dictionaries and is taught in classes. I have just looked up my Oxford English-Polish dictionary (issued 2004) - no BCE/CE, but BC/AD.
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neilmac
 

Rachel Fell  Identity Verified
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So silly Apr 20, 2013

Noni Gilbert wrote:

As far as I know I have actually been a little behind the times (note this link which was obviously reasonably old hat seven years ago: http://www.bbc.co.uk/northernireland/schools/11_16/citizenship/glossary/)



[Edited at 2013-04-20 22:07 GMT]

If it's going to be called the "Common era", common to whom? If it has to start from a certain date/year, it isn't going to be a relevant start date to people of other religions/sensitivities, is it? So why is it "more acceptable" to those others? (Not having a go at you, Noni!)


 

The Misha
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Antiquated? Archaic? "I know I am right"? Really? Apr 21, 2013

Without going into personal or stylistic preferences, let me just say that extrapolating one's own, militantly liberal by the look of it, experience to make an assumption about the rest of us out there is not only a fairly rude imposition but also counterintuitive since far from promoting this mythical nonexistent "togetherness" it creates an additional artificial divide where there's been none before. By allegedly trying not to step on someone's toes you simply step on someone else's. To borrow... See more
Without going into personal or stylistic preferences, let me just say that extrapolating one's own, militantly liberal by the look of it, experience to make an assumption about the rest of us out there is not only a fairly rude imposition but also counterintuitive since far from promoting this mythical nonexistent "togetherness" it creates an additional artificial divide where there's been none before. By allegedly trying not to step on someone's toes you simply step on someone else's. To borrow from a great modern writer (who is still using AD/BC, btw), assume makes an ass of you and me - but first of all, it makes an ass of you. If you look at that politically incorrect history of mankind you'll see that there's been quite a few folks over time who just knew they were right. We all know what came out of that.

A disclaimer: As a life-long nonbeliever, I am by far not a Christian. Nor am I particularly old, or at least I like to think so. AD/BC bothers me none, nor do "In God We Trust" or "So help me God". I'll stick with those.
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Tom in London
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Influenced by all religions Apr 21, 2013

TransAfrique wrote:

Russell Jones wrote:

Personally I refuse to use such faddish things; I don't expect them to catch on!

I don't write them if I can help it either. There's such a thing as taking PC too far. Why are we pretending our modern history isn't influenced by Christianity? It smacks of revisionism to me.


Our history (ancient and modern) is influenced by many religions, of which Christianity is only one (and which was itself constructed out of the ruins of earlier belief systems).

The BCE/CE thing is the beginning of a longer-term trend to make a more level playing field. It's part of living in the wonderful multicultural world we have created and which has become so dynamic. So I am glad to adopt it, along with the academic worlds I (sometimes) inhabit.


 

Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
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I beg to disagree... Apr 21, 2013

Christine Andersen wrote:

Politically correct or not, approximately 2013 years ago there was a Jew who made such an impression on the world that a whole new era was started at the time he was believed to have been born, and the rest of the world does actually use the system of dates.


Actually it was the armies that came after him that made the difference. Much of what Jesus believed was already common knowledge in older civilizations several millennia before him - Gautam Buddha and the several tirthankaras of Jainism, including Mahavir had already said all that earlier.

In fact there are even theories that the Jesus Christ spend much of his learning phase in Kashmir and Tibet where he encountered Buddhist monks from whom he learned many things. Little is known about Jesus Christ's life soon after his birth and till he started preaching, which lends credence to this theory.

Christianity in its earlier phase was a rebel religion like communism of today and was the religion of choice of the poor. It was later coopted by the rich and the powerful and became state religion in many European states. Once it became state religion it soon had armies at its disposal which were effectively used to spread it. That is when Christianity became a world religion.

Regarding the use of BC/AD, it may be such an issue in English, but in Hindi in most history writings that I have seen, we still go by BC/AD, written full in Hindi and not the Roman versions, as Before Christ (ईसा पूर्व) and After Christ (ईस्वीं).


 

Tomoyuki Kono  Identity Verified
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I for one agree a lot with Tom about the prevalence of BCE/CE. Apr 21, 2013

I studied Indology (study of pretty much anything ancient India) at a British university for years and encountered the use of BCE/CE from day 1. I'm not talking just about American publications/journals, where politically correct language, be it enforced or voluntary, is more widespread, but also in British/European ones and by authors whom I know not to engage in/abhor excessive political correctness. The fact is that the use of BCE/CE is very common at least in English-speaking academia and pa... See more
I studied Indology (study of pretty much anything ancient India) at a British university for years and encountered the use of BCE/CE from day 1. I'm not talking just about American publications/journals, where politically correct language, be it enforced or voluntary, is more widespread, but also in British/European ones and by authors whom I know not to engage in/abhor excessive political correctness. The fact is that the use of BCE/CE is very common at least in English-speaking academia and particularly in fields that are related to history.

If you work in non-academic and non-historical translations, you may not have heard of BCE/CE. That's fine by me but that does not give you a licence to brush aside the motivation behind its adoption as merely 'PC'. (To me that repeats the same kind of mistake made by the proponents of the infamous Orientalist discourse when they criticised the so-called 'Orientalists' of being 'Orientalist' but I'd better not go down that route here.)

Having said that, people who have claimed that the use of BCE/CE is still not widely current in popular media seem to have a point. Depending on various factors such as the target language, target audience, what the translation will be used for, etc., one might actually prefer BC/AD.

I am not emotionally or religiously invested in this but I would rather use (for my own writing anyway) BCE/CE even for the sake of avoiding the practice of putting AD before the year, which is presumably some cross-lingual baggage from Latin, or uses such as 'fifth century AD'. Again for my own writing I see no reason to keep using BC/AD when there is a perfectly reasonable alternative that is free of such grammatical baggage.

I think many people who use BCE/CE have no illusions about the fact that the word 'common' in BCE/CE means 'commonly used' and not some neutral era with a universally recognisable and acceptable starting date that doesn't exist. The idea of BCE/CE does not pretend to have purged the original Christian context.
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Vera Wilson  Identity Verified
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It's "BP" in archaeology and geology Apr 21, 2013

This is the new term in scientific disciplines, relating to 1 January 1950 - radiocarbon dating.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Before_Present


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
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I meant 10 seconds Apr 21, 2013

Rachel Fell wrote:

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.


I very rarely bother trying to charge clients for additional editing after a job is done. It leads to so many arguments, it's just not worth the hassle. Either I'll do the editing for free, or I just don't do it at all.

Some people in this thread have written hundreds of words in what appears to be attempt to prove that BC/AD are "better" in some way than BCE/CE. That's emotional investment. As for common sense, it applies only to common things. If you're writing for a specialist journal, that has little to do with common sense. You use the right conventions for your genre, whether you agree with them or not, whether they appeal to your idea of "sense" or not.


 
Why not ... Apr 21, 2013

Why don't you just do what the client wants. This is not a far-out request, and I can even understand the client.

For me, this is the arrogance of people who have some minor skill (translation) - just like the ability to install ceiling lamps or to rebuild an engine block - who think they have to determine everything.

Many clients are not stupid. They have a drift as to what goes on in the world and what things mean. Maybe better than you.

Strive to do the
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Why don't you just do what the client wants. This is not a far-out request, and I can even understand the client.

For me, this is the arrogance of people who have some minor skill (translation) - just like the ability to install ceiling lamps or to rebuild an engine block - who think they have to determine everything.

Many clients are not stupid. They have a drift as to what goes on in the world and what things mean. Maybe better than you.

Strive to do the best job possible, working with the client, not to be a bossy, passive aggressive fussbudget. Maybe other people also have an intellect behind their eyes.
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