NZTC International Word of the Week: medurs

Date
Dec
12
20141212

NZTC International Word of the Week: medurs

This week Swedish takes the prize for having the most concise way of saying clockwise/anticlockwise, with the two words ‘medurs’ and ‘moturs’, meaning literally ‘with the clock’ and ‘against the clock’. New Zealand Māori comes a close second in terms of conciseness, using ‘kōaro’ for anticlockwise, but using the longer ‘whakatekaraka’ for clockwise. Compare the wordiness of the French: ‘dans le sens des aiguilles d’une montre’ (in the direction of the hands of a clock) or the Spanish: ‘en sentido contrario a las agujas del reloj’. Most languages follow this clock-based approach to describing circular direction. Italian: senso antiorario; Russian: про́тив часово́й стре́лки. Anticlockwise in Hungarian is: óramutató járásával ellenkező irányban, and in Czech: proti směru hodinových ručiček. Finnish is one exception: vastapäivään (against the sun), myötäpäivään (with the sun), which harks back to the ancient pre-clock Scottish Gaelic idea of expressing the ‘clockwise’ direction of movement by reference to the sun.

When technical writers and editors are preparing text copy for multilingual manuals or promotional material, these volume differences among languages are an important consideration in determining how much space is needed to accommodate the various languages in their overall layout. The same applies to software developers working with user interface strings that have strict length limits.