Monday, January 25, 2010

Nickname Conundrum

Maybe it's a measure of how long I've been gone from the homeworld,
but it's only now that I realise that 'Big Mak' is probably not going
to fly in Holland, unfortunately. But it's only a small part of your

'Big' is 'pig' in Dutch. Now no Dutch teenager ordering at McDonald's
is going to think of that, but adding the clearly Dutch 'Mak' (which
means 'tamed') people may think 'pig.'

The common word for 'pig' is '(het) varken' (probably related to
'pork'), 'big' is specifically a young pig - the common word for a
really young, small pig (piglet?) is '(het) biggetje.'

Now that leaves a dilemma. Possible courses of action:

1. Forget the whole nickname thing.

Reading is under siege the world over. Publishers are going broke at alarming rates. Those in the literary world need a higher profile. Snappy nicknames help.

2. A Canadian solution. Find a nickname that works in both languages.

It doesn't work. Official Canadian English is a disaster. The names of government agencies are designed to be bilingual, which makes fluency impossible for Canadian newscasters. For example, a British newscaster can talk about DEFRA, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. An American might talk about the Department of Agriculture. Mention Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and you'll sound like you learned English with Borat.

3. Leave the nickname in place.

I only intend the best with the nickname. Such things always come from a specific place and time. It's for the English speaking world. Now, he's in the proud company of Big Bill Broonzy, Big George Foreman, the song "Big Bad John," and my late distant cousin, Big Dominic. Eventually, the translation is coming: My Father's Century by Geert "Big" Mak.

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