A resource for anyone who, given the rapidly expanding horse-meat scandal, is working on food safety issues right now and needs to consult the relevant legislation. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has compiled a database called FAOLEX, which lists food safety laws and regulations from just about everywhere.

FAOLEX is a comprehensive and up-to-date computerized legislative database, one of the world’s largest electronic collection of national laws and regulations on food, agriculture and renewable natural resources.

Users of FAOLEX have direct access to the abstracts and indexing information about each text, as well as to the full text of most legislation contained in the database.

FAOLEX doesn’t provide translated versions, but if you’re looking for the original text then it’s a handy reference tool. There’s also a FAOLEX help page.


The Scottish Government has just published the results of a poll to identify the nation’s favourite Scots word. The winner was “dreich”, which means “wet”, “cold” and/or “gloomy”. I’m not sure if that describes the Scottish weather, or just our character.

Respondents were asked to choose their favourite from a list of 8 Scots language words that, along with dreich, included:

crabbit bad-tempered, grumpy

blether to chat, often at great length; can be used as a noun referring to the person doing the blethering and may also involve a lot of haivering…

haiver to talk nonsense

beastie an insect, or the diminutive of beast, as in “sleekit, cowrin, timorous beastie”

sleekit smooth or glossy, as in “sleek”. Also means, much less attractively, cunning, crafty, sly, ingratiating, unctuous and generally untrustworthy

braw good, great, good-looking (as in “a braw lass”)

glaikit slow-witted or foolish, often used in the phrase “glaikit-looking”.

Apart from “braw”, it’s an unprepossessing list. Or maybe that, too, is a reflection of the Scottish character?

I wish they’d included “fankle” — a really useful word meaning a tangle, muddle or state of confusion. And what about the wonderful “sonsie” (attractive, especially if pleasingly plump too) as in “a right sonsie lassie”?

Are any of your favourites missing from the list?


Time for a poll, I think, what with David Cameron throwing the gatto among the piccioni with his planned referendum on membership of the European Union.

For some of us, EU membership is a business/market access issue, for some it’s all about annoying rules and regulations, and for others it’s emotional — we feel European.

A couple of business issues that would affect translators (and other UK business owners) if Britain left the EU:

would we be able to bid in public-sector tenders in EU countries?

would we be able to register a country-level domain name in EU countries? (in Italy, the answer is “no”)

would English continue to be the (unofficial) working language of the EU, and would we see a decline in the amount of EU-related documents being translated into English? Ireland and Malta have English as one of their official languages, but they’re relatively small. Maybe France would (re)claim linguistic sovereignty.

So have your say here first (and feel free to comment!).

With thanks, for the question on English as an EU language, to the students at the MSc in Translation Studies at the University of Glasgow, where I taught a Master Class last week.



GIGO stands for “Garbage In, Garbage Out”. According to Wikipedia, the term was coined by George Fuechsel, an IBM technician/instructor in New York (but see also Michael Quinion’s version, at World Wide Words).

Interestingly (well, it’s interesting if you’re a translator), Wikipedia’s definition of GIGO used to include the following:

Non-computer-related use of the term

The term can be used in any field in which it is difficult to create a good result when given bad input. For example, in translation, it is difficult to convert a source text that is confused, illogical or missing pertinent information into a quality translation. A translator may use the phrase “Garbage in, garbage out” to explain the importance of good source text to a client. As another example, in quality implications, the quality of the materials a manufacturer procures directly affects the quality of the finished product.

Poor quality source material certainly isn’t an excuse for translators to produce garbage translations (that would just make us garbage translators). I’m not talking here about mistakes in source material, by the way — I’ll discuss that in future posts. But poorly written source text certainly makes our job harder.

Sticking with the translation example, you could rephrase Wikipedia’s last sentence above as: “…the quality of the translations an organisation procures directly affects the quality of their international image, reputation and credibility”. Organisations commissioning translations on a lowest-price basis are, frankly, asking for QIGO: Quality In, Garbage Out.

The ideal outcome is QIQO: Quality In, Quality Out. But how to attain it? I’ll be writing more posts on this topic, so keep tuned. And in the meantime, your comments are welcome, as always!