Round squares

I encountered a rather amusing translation problem the other day working on a text that discussed various models of urban development. The text spoke of a crescent-shaped housing block (the Royal Crescent in Bath, England) wrapping around a “kreisförmiger Platz.” Now, in English the term Platz means “square,” as in “city square,” which leads one to initially go about translating the above as “circular square” – a wonderful piece of nonsense.“Circular plaza” is a fitting alternative, but one is still left wondering why a city square is necessarily square shaped to begin with. The answer obviously lies in the geometric rigidities of the modern city, as squares in ancient cities are often irregularly shaped. The original Greek word for a city square, in fact, was plateia, from which the German term Platz, Spanish plaza and English “place” were all derived. Square à la city square is of modern origin.

The jump off

Welcome to the official blog of our translation network, Genial Translations. In it, we hope to offer some fresh perspectives on language and translation, and on our work in general. As both of us are new to the world of blogging, we’re not really sure how this will pan out. Nevertheless, we do hope to produce some rewarding entries that prove to be worth reading. Your questions and comments are appreciated!