Stewarts Corner

Colour words

Words to describe colours are often used by advertisers to make products more attractive (would you buy a brown car or one in bronzed sand with a metallic finish?). Some manufacturers also have a colour associated with their products, like Ferrari (red) and Levis (faded blue). Nevertheless, most colour words are free from commercial ownership. Beige, biscuit, marmalade and oyster are all examples of colour words that have all been used in English for almost a century. Most colour words in English are similar to Norwegian equivalents, such as sky blue and azure (Norw. «himmelblått» and «asurblått»). However, there may be problems using colour words in English to describe the colour of your hair. Consider the soundalikes, blonde and blond. Where blonde (noun) is used for a fair-haired woman and blond (noun)is a fair-haired male or the light colour for wood such as oak, «our kitchen table is blond». The statement «He is a blond youth» indicates just the colour, but «There is a blonde waiting for you» may have many associations. Because of the negative ones, many women use «fair» or «fair-haired» in job applications. In AE usage, blond is the correct spelling for the adjective referring to the colour of anyone's hair. Brunette is another colour word that is reserved for women if they have dark-brown hair. The masculine form brunet is rare apart from AE and brown is more usual to describe a man's hair colour. Note that grey in BE is the same colour and pronunciation as gray in AE, only the spelling is different. The hair colour grey is associated with being old and tired, but silver sounds dynamic, elegant and perhaps even ten years younger? Colour words for skin colour will be considered later.

Tricky words

censer, censor, sensor andcensure

Here are three words that sound the same and a fourth that looks almost the same as the first two. Acenser is a
holder for incense, often swung on a chain in church (Norw. «røkelseskar»). Perhaps some authors think that the same should be done for a censor who is a moral judge, someone who removes objectionable words or scenes from a book or film. The task involved is censorship (Norw. «sensur»). Note that in the sense of examination results, the Norw. «sensuren faller i dag» should be translated as «The examination results will be announced today». The third soundalike is sensor which in English usually means a device that senses movement or light (Norw. «føler» or «sensor»). In an educational context, the Norw. «sensor» is best translated as «external examiner». Censure is often used in parliamentary life and means negative criticism: «Passed a vote of censure» (Norw. «fordømmelse»).

media, medium

Media is the plural of medium. It means mass communication. As with «data» and «agenda», media often is treated as a
collective unit and takes a singular verb: «The media is after Gazza again». Careful writers still prefer a plural verb here.
A useful distinction is using the plural verb for different types of media: «Traditionally, TV, radio and the press are the media», and a singular verb if the media is treated as one unit. Although it is accepted to write «the
media is», never write «a media». Also as media is a already plural, never write «medias».

A medium can either mean one who communicates with the spirits of the dead, or the singular of media. As media is increasingly being used as a singular collective in communications, the expression
«communication channel» rather than «communication medium» may avoid any ambiguity. An example from NTNU's Centre for Medieval Studies (below) hopefully illustrates this

Enlightening English

Red or yellow cards?

In the world of publish or perish, the referee's report is a vital piece of feedback. One NTNU academic recently received the following advice in his referee's report: «Often, the paper is not easy to read. ... In several cases this weakness is due to complicateted [sic] and overloaded structure of the sentences ... . There are also many typos.» What colour card should we give this referee who managed to write four other typos in the space of one page, including «informations», which is not in my English dictionary.

It is hoped that this referee starts to use a spell checker. Perhaps this is also an idea for colleagues at two of our

* The Centre for Medieval Studies is led by a leader....The centre's chief task is to develope [sic] and a central medium for the promotion of reserach [sic]results. (their web pages)

* Centre for Womens [sic] Research (their letterhead)

Spørsmål angående engelsk språkbruk kan sendes til Stewart Clark,
e-post: eller faks: 73 59 79 99.

forsida  nyheter  kronikk  innspill  kultur  debatt