One of the most difficult aspects in translation is understanding and dealing with ephemeral expressions and concepts. How do we cope with phrases that may only last for a week, month and then disappear never to be heard of again? How do we even begin translating something which is scribbled down on a scrap of paper and has a useful life of thirty minutes at the most?
The successful translation of ephemera relies, obviously, on the translator’s ability to nigh on perfectly understand the source text and culture. More importantly, understand the sociolect or jargon that is being used. Ephemera are often used in specific environments and are often particular to a given field or domain. The understanding of context is therefore paramount and perhaps more important than his/her knowledge of the target text.
Within corpus linguistics the study of ephemera is seen as both important but at the same time one of the most difficult tasks in the creation of corpora. How does one systematically collect ephemera? What is/are ephemera? Post-it notes? Memos? Text messages
Ephemeral language and the study of it (what we might term ephemero-linguistics) would give us valuable insights into the day-to-day working of language. Knowledge of the structure of ephemera (thats is once we have reliably defined the term) would help us understand how ephemeral language is formed and, in turn, would help us in its translation.
Examples might include Back in 5, CU l8r, Gr8 idea. Language always seeks economy and the language of post-it notes, memos and text messages are great evidence of this. In everyday speech what do we delete? Verb? Nouns? Other parts of speech? How is grammar affected? Can we define an ephemeral grammar in much the same way that we can talk of the headline grammar of newspapers?
Knowledge of everyday language and a future ephemero-linguistics could give us valuable insights into the real working of language. We all concede that the translation of idioms are difficult but ephemera are perhaps the most difficult nut to crack. Research into the subject is scarce and published material on the subject is practically non-existent. Does this mean there is no such thing as ephemera or does it mean we need to invest more time into this area?