Friday, March 19, 2010

French to English: Earthquakes, Part 3

Earthquake terminology is a vast mass of technical and scientific terms.  We are familiar with words like intensity, tremor, faults, Richter scale and aftershocks.  What we probably don't know are those esoteric terms that only earthquake scientists use when they're doing research, giving a conference, or writing scientific papers.

For example, what's a harmonic tremor?  I'm sure it has nothing to do with Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue.  The USGS defines harmonic tremor as a series of earthquakes that seismographs detect.  They may or may not be a prelude to a volcanic eruption.

And what's the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale? The intensity number is usually written as a roman numeral and it measures the severity of an earthquake as it affects the earth's surface and human lives.  There are, of course, several intensity scales.  In the US, the Modified Mercalli and the Rossi-Forel scales are commonly used.

The Rayleigh wave is a seismic wave that occurs on the surface of the ground, causing the ground to move in elliptical motion.  An isoseismal line is a map illustration - usually in the form of a line or contour - showing which areas experienced the same intensity during an earthquake.

Recurrence interval is also called the return period and refers to the period of time of between major earthquakes in a given area.

Here is your third and final set of earthquake terms:

réplique (réplique sismique)aftershock
zone de BenioffBenioff zone
plan de faillefault plane
échelle géochronologiquegeologic time scale
tremblement harmoniqueharmonic tremor
isoséisteisoseismal line
échelle de Mercalli modifiéemodified Mercalli intensity scale
pédogénétiquepedogenic (set of processes that alter or transfer soil elements)
intervalle de récurrencerecurrence interval
onde de RayleighRayleigh wave

Come and visit again.  I start a new theme in my next posting!  I have not decided which theme I'll tackle next but I'm sure you'll be able to add the terms to your growing vocabulary!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

French to English: Earthquakes, Part 2


You just ate a super bowl size of your favorite ice cream and you're feeling some kind of remorse.  You want to dance for a few minutes so the ice cream doesn't go to your waist.  You put on the CD and  the disco tune starts blasting in your living room.  You're "shaking your booty" and you imagine that you and your friends are having a whale of a time in a downtown funky disco. 

Something's moving. You're not sure if the movement is coming from your gyrating hips.  Three seconds later you ask if you're overdoing it because the living room seems to be spinning slowly.  You stop to catch your breath.  It's not you.

It'''s an earthquake!  You look up the stare at the go down on your knees, keeping your head close to the ground.  The CD sounds funny.  You quickly turn it off and unplug the CD player.  The whole house is shaking.  You're getting dizzy.  Should you try to crawl outside or should you stay put?

You find yourself wishing that you had taken a few minutes to read that emergency preparedness report from the government.  It dished out guidelines on what you can do when an earthquake strikes.

I don't know if you've heard of Doug Copp who tried to debunk the theory of "drop, cover and hold on." It's bad advice, Copp says, because seeking cover under tables and other similar pieces of furniture entails the risk of getting crushed underneath.  He advanced the "triangle of life" concept.  He said that when a structure collapses due to an earthquake, the ceiling will fall on objects and furniture, crushing the person hiding under them.  His triangle of life theory is based on the idea that the height of the object that remains standing during an earthquake serves as a sort of protective covering over the space or void beside it which will bring about a sloping roof over it.  He believed in his theory because he had worked in disaster recue operations before and he noticed the triangle formations in the disaster zone.

While Copp's theory was interesting, it did not hold much water.  The US government insists that the best way to protect yourself is still the drop, cover and hold on technique.  Here are guidelines from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  The FEMA  advises against:  running outside, standing beside a door or adopting the triangle of life as a survival strategy.

To minimize injury to yourself and to increase your chances of surviving an earthquake, take these steps (source:  FEMA:  This is copied verbatim.

What to Do During an Earthquake

Stay as safe as possible during an earthquake. Be aware that some earthquakes are actually foreshocks and a larger earthquake might occur. Minimize your movements to a few steps to a nearby safe place and stay indoors until the shaking has stopped and you are sure exiting is safe.

If indoors

  • DROP to the ground; take COVER by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture; and HOLD ON until the shaking stops. If there isn’t a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building.
  • Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures or furniture.
  • Stay in bed if you are there when the earthquake strikes. Hold on and protect your head with a pillow, unless you are under a heavy light fixture that could fall. In that case, move to the nearest safe place.
  • Use a doorway for shelter only if it is in close proximity to you and if you know it is a strongly supported, loadbearing doorway.
  • Stay inside until the shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Research has shown that most injuries occur when people inside buildings attempt to move to a different location inside the building or try to leave.
  • Be aware that the electricity may go out or the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.
  • DO NOT use the elevators.

If outdoors

  • Stay there.
  • Move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires.
  • Once in the open, stay there until the shaking stops. The greatest danger exists directly outside buildings, at exits and alongside exterior walls. Many of the 120 fatalities from the 1933 Long Beach earthquake occurred when people ran outside of buildings only to be killed by falling debris from collapsing walls. Ground movement during an earthquake is seldom the direct cause of death or injury. Most earthquake-related casualties result from collapsing walls, flying glass, and falling objects.

If in a moving vehicle

  • Stop as quickly as safety permits and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and utility wires.
  • Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that might have been damaged by the earthquake.

If trapped under debris

  • Do not light a match.
  • Do not move about or kick up dust.
  • Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.
  • Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can locate you. Use a whistle if one is available. Shout only as a last resort. Shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.

Make copies of FEMA's advice and pass them on to your friends and loved ones. Better yet, direct them to the FEMA web site.

Here is your 2nd set of earthquake terms:



cercle de feu ring of fire (also called the Circum-Pacific Belt).  It refers to the earthquake zones surrounding the Pacific Ocean.
fosse océanique oceanic trench (a linear depression of the sea floor)
alluvion alluvium (loose gravel, sand or silt)
aséismique aseismic (a fault where no earthquakes have occurred)
substratum bedrock
directivité directivity (according to the USGS, directivity is an "effect of a fault rupturing whereby earthquake ground motion in the direction of rupture propagation is more severe than that in other directions from the earthquake source.")
mécanisme au foyer focal mechanism
géodésie geodesy (science of studying the size and shape of the earth)
grande cercle great circle
mouvement du sol ground motion
horst horst (A horst is found together with a graben in an extensional environment. The graben are the downdropped blocks and the horst are the upthrown blocks that lie next to the graben - definition provided by USGS)
interplaque inter-plate
glissement de terrain landslide
magnitude magnitude


Thursday, March 11, 2010

French to English: Earthquakes, Part 1

I frown and complain when it's snowing outside.  Snow is merely an irritant, snowstorms and avalanches do not faze me.  These natural disasters can dampen my spirits, but they don't provoke fear in me.  I don't quiver with dread.

Earthquakes, however, are a different story.  They create fear to the point that I can't help but think "end of the world."  One earthquake is all it takes.  What happens to my psyche when there are several?

The year 2010 woke us from our peaceful and cozy slumber when Haiti got hit by a monstrous quake.   The disaster touched some raw nerves.  We asked, how can that kind of tragedy happen without warning?

The film footage gnawed at us:  piles of bodies strewn here and there, cries from under the debris and starving, crying infants were heart-wrenching.  We were jolted out of our complacency, stirring our compassion and sense of philanthropy. Haitians will be scared and scarred forever.  This earthquake left painful memories.  Weeks after the quake, we're still reeling from the shock.  

Then earthquakes in Turkey and Chile were reported last month.  Three weeks ago,  mild tremors (about 3.0 in the Richter scale) were felt in the north of Quebec.  We were much luckier.  No damage, no rescue teams were required.  Montrealers didn't even feel it. 

Today, I read on Yahoo that another quake measuring 7.2 hit Chile again.

Let's hope that these earthquakes take a sabbatical; otherwise 2010 will feel like 2012.
Pascal Bernard in Qu'est-ce qui fait trembler la terre? (What makes the earth tremble?) wrote about the earthquakes that occurred all over the world and dissects them, tracing earthquakes to their origins.  In Part I of his book, he mentioned the 1755 quake that decimated Lisbon.  The destruction was so massive it shocked Voltaire who turned to poetry to express his grief:

Philosophes trompés, qui criez « tout est bien »,
Accourez : contemplez ces ruines affreuses,
Ces debris, ces lambeaux, ces cendres malheureuses.
Ces femmes, ces enfants, l’un sur l’autre entassés
Sous ces marbres rompus, ces members disperses ;
Cent mille infortunés que la terre dévore
Enterrés sous leurs toit, terminent sans secours
Dans l’horreur des tourments leurs lamentable jours ? »

A translator who specializes in literary translation would no doubt come up with a good rendering in English of Voltaire's poem and with skill, capture the philosopher's anguish accurately.

Alas, I did not train in literary translation; I am told it is one of the most difficult fields.  I will translate Voltaire in my own barbaric and unschooled way so that you get the gist of his sorrow (I wish now I had taken a literary translation course):

They are mistaken - philosophers who shout "all is well"
Rush over here and look at these atrocious ruins,
These debris, these fragments, these pitiful ashes
Women and children, their bodies piled up one after the other
Underneath these broken marble stones, pieces scattered about;
One hundred thousand unlucky souls that the earth has devoured
Bleeding, torn, their hearts still beating
Buried under their roofs...they die; no help comes
Trapped in the horror of their lamentable days

I gave that my best shot, but if there are literal translators who are reading this post and have a better translation, please feel free to share them!

It's time for this initial batch of earthquake terms:

tremblement de terreearthquake
accélérogrammeaccelerogram (recording of the acceleration of the ground during an earthquake
asperitéaccident (an area on a fault that is stuck)
rejet-pendagedip slip (occurs when the blocks have shifted vertically).
hypocentre (ou foyer sismique)hypocenter (point within the earth where an earthquake rupture begins)
plaque tectonique (ou plate lithosphérique)tectonic plates (large, thin and rigid plates on the outer surface of the earth that move relative to each other)
inversion géomagnétiquemagnetic polarity reversal (when the earth's magnetic field changes to the opposite polarity)
faillefault (fracture)
glissement de terrainlandslide
sismogrammeseismogram (earthquake record)

Please drop by again for your next set of earthquake terms!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

French to English: Olympic Souvenirs, Part 3

I've lined up a few more Olympic souvenirs for you.  The items have long names only because "Vancouver 2010" appears in most of them.  I will abbreviate this to "V2010," just to save space.

calendrier-agenda V2010 engagementV2010 calendar planners
V2010 cadre de 15 po (pouces) pour billets de patinage artistiqueV2010 15-inch figure skating ticket frame
porte-cartes de visite V2010 nature en métal argentéV2010 silver plated (nature) business card case
Des plus brillants exploits:  Le livre commémoratif officiel des XX1es Jeux olympiques d'hiver et des Xes Jeux paralympiques d'hiverWith Glowing Hears:  the official commemorative Book of the V2010 Winter Games
cadre en verre récyclé autochtone V2010 horizontal - gris noirV2010 Aboriginal picture frame - charcoal
Boîtes à histoire V2010 Survive au déluge - gris noirV2010 Surviving the Flood story box - charcoal
V2010 - Le jeu vidéo des Jeux olympiques d'hiver pour PlayStation3Official video game of the V2010 Olympic winter games for PlayStation3
V2010 - Le jeu vidéo des Jeux olympiques d'hiver pour XBOX360Official video games of the V2010 Olympic winter games for XBOX360
cravate V2010 faite de soie à 100% et ornée du logo répetitif - bleueV2010 100% silk tie, Blue repeat logo
étiquette de voyage - patinage de vitesseV2010 travel tag - speed skating
sac fourre-tout V2010 en nylon - bourgogneV2010 ice nylon tote bad - burgundy
hockey Quatchi coussin de voyage V2010 pour la nuque - moyenV2010 hockey Quatchi travel neck pillow - medium
porte-monnaie à plis trois sections Quatchi de V2010V2010 Quatchi tri-fold wallet

Wondering what "Quatchi" is?  I had the same question.  I looked it up and Google brought me to the Vancouver 2010 web site - for mascots.  It is pronounced "kwat-chu" and is described as a legendary symbol used by Aboriginal communities in the Pacific West region.  Quatchi is a "sasquatch."

No, sasquatch does not refer to someone who hails from the province of Saskatchewan.  Quatchi was adopted as one of the symbols for the Vancouver Olympic games and is introduced as a shy mascot.  He comes from the deep and mysterious forests of Canada, travelling across the country to meet and encourage people to discover Canada's hidden wonders invite them to play hockey! 

In the real world, however, a sasquatch is a yeti-like animal found in the northwestern regions of North America.

This description in French will charm you and your kids. It is copied from

I provide an English translation right after the French descriptions below:

"Quatchi est un jeune sasquatch qui vient des forêts mystérieuses du Canada. Quatchi est timide, mais il adore explorer de nouveaux endroits et rencontrer de nouveaux amis."

English:  Quatchi is a young sasquatch who comes from the mysterious forests of Canada.  Even if Quatchi is shy, he loves to explore new places and to meet new friends.

"Même si Quatchi aime tous les sports d’hiver, il aime surtout le hockey. Il rêve de devenir un gardien de but célèbre de par le monde. En raison de sa grande taille, il est parfois maladroit. Mais personne ne peut remettre en question sa passion. Il sait que s’il travaille fort et qu’il fait toujours de son mieux, il réalisera peut-être un jour son rêve." 

English:  Even if Quatchi likes all winter sports, he likes hockey in particular.  He dreams of becoming a world-class goalie.  Because of his large size, he can be awkward at times.  No one, however, can question his passion.  He knows that if he works hard and does his best, he may one day realise his dream.

Quatchi's story says everything about what the Olympic Games have come to represent for young dreamers!

This ends our series on Olympic souvenirs.  Please visit often for more themes.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

French to English: Olympic Souvenirs, Part 2

hockey I opened the paper this morning and there were the noisy and happy headlines - still awash in Sunday night's hockey victory.  They're calling Sidney Crosby the new Canadian hero, the kid who worked overtime to take his team to the finish line, snatching the gold away from the Americans.  This 22-year old has got it made.

For ordinary mortals like me, 22 was a year that passed  unnoticed.  No blaring trumpets.  No admiring and cheering audience.  How many people that age have their future sealed in enviable glory and fame, not to mention the million dollar sponsorship offers that will be pouring into Sidney Crosby's e-mail and cellphone?  At this point, I believe he'll need at least five managers to oversee and prioritize his commitments as soon as he returns to Nova Scotia...and of course to make sure that his skates are as sharp as a Swiss army knife.

That was a boisterous party - the Vancouver Olympics.  I didn't watch all of it, but caught snippets here and there.  The figure-skaters held my attention and the ski jumpers took my breath away.  The speed skaters made my knuckles white.

Before I go to the souvenirs, let's take a look at the 15 Olympic winter sports.  Note that a few are the same in French and English like curling, luge and bobsleigh.

ski alpinalpine skiing
ski de fondcross country skiing
patinage artistiquefigure skating
ski acrobatiquefreestyle skiing
hockey sur glaceice hockey
combiné nordiqueNordic combined
piste courteshort track
saut à skiski jumping
surf des neigessnowboarding
patinage de vitessespeed skating

Now, for more Olympic souvenir shopping.  While browsing the Vancouver 2010 online Olympic store, I not only learned new French words, but also learned one new English word - lanyards.  I had never heard of lanyards so opened my Canadian Oxford dictionary.  A lanyard is a rope put around the neck or slung over the shoulder with anything (whistle, key, USB drive, etc) attached to it.  I had one to hold my ID card when I was a corporate employee, but didn't know then that it was a lanyard.

Here we go:

casquettescaps (hats)
mascotte en pelucheplush mascot
port-clès et lanièreskeychains and lanyards
bruiteurs des Jeux d'hiverWinter Games noisemakers
pièces de monnaiecoins
écharpe 100% satin de soie100% silk satin scarf
mini sac à dosgrind pack
pendentif autochtone Vancouver 2010 en argent sterlingVancouver 2010 sterling silver Aboriginal round pendant
réplique du flambeau olympique de Vancouver 2010Vancouver 2010 torch replica
clochette à vache Vancouver 2010Vancouver 2010 cow bell
breloques à boisson Inukshuk Vancouver 2010 plaquée argentVancouver 2010 silver plated Inukshuk drink charms

If you were wondering about "Inukshuk", this is what it looks like.  The picture is courtesy of Wikipedia.  It means something which acts for or performs the function of a personimage.  Inukshuks are man-made stone landmarks  and are used by Aboriginals in the Arctic region of North America.

If you recall, the Inukshuk was adopted by the Vancouver Olympics as part of its official logo.
If you're interested in more Olympic souvenirs, you can visit the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Store at: and then click on the Olympic Store tab.  You can switch languages by simply clicking on "French" or "English" right at the very top!