HOME

Dictionary Review


BIOCHEMISTRY DICTIONARIES

 

CECTU Biotechnology Glossary. E-F-D-I-N-Da-S-P-G1. London: Elsevier Publishing Co., 1990. $243.50
Delfino, Giovanni et al. Biologia e Medicina. E-I1 Bologna: Zanichelli, 1990 (CD ROM version: 1998). Lit. 125.000
Schnellman, pub. Dictionary CHE. 1.3 - Chemical Engineering and Laboratory Equipment E-I1. Widnau (CH): Schnellmann Verlag, 1988, £29.30
Sliosberg, A. Dictionary of Pharmaceutical Science & Techniques. I-E-F-S-D1 (+L1). 2 vols.. Amsterdam: Elsevier Publishing Co., 1980/ii. $ 200 each.
Bussi, Luciano; Cognazzo, M. Teresa. Nuovo Dizionario E-I delle Scienze Mediche. Turin (c.so Bramante 83-85, 10126): Minerva Medica, 1983/ii. Lit 48.000.
Chiampo, Luigi; Gould, George (et al.) Dizionario Enciclopedico di Medicina. I-E1. Bologna: Zanichelli/McGraw-Hill, 1988. Lit 98.000.
Lucchesi, Mario. Dizionario Medico Ragionato. E-I1. Milan (l.go Richini 1): Ed. Libreria Cortina, 1987/II. Lit 150.000.
Thomas, Clayton ed. Taber- Dizionario Enciclopedico di Scienze Mediche. E-I1. Milan (p.za Emilia 5, 20129): McGraw Hill Libri Italia, 2 vol., 1994. Lit. 146.000

 

Modern biotechnology is making its mark in several industries, from agriculture to pharmacology, and presents great challenges, especially in terms of sound lexicography. The problem is compounded by the lack of good dictionaries dedicated to lab tools, techniques and methodologies. To verify this assertion, I have compared a few dictionaries related to chemistry and medicine, focussing my attention to the pair English-Italian.

While regretting the exclusion of Dorian's Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Medicine (4 vols. . F-I-E-D-S1 Amsterdam: Elsevier Publishing Co., 1990 $180.00 ea.), which I do not own nor know well enough, I did check the following texts: Lucchesi, Chiampo, CECTU, Sliosberg, Taber, Delfino, Schnellman, and Bussi-Cognazzo, benchmarking the terminology found in an insert for a commercial nuclear acid amplification test.

ENGLISH TERMS

ITALIAN EQUIVALENT

Bussi-Cognazzo

CECTU

Chiampo

Delfino

CD version

Lucchesi

Sliosberg

Schnellman

Taber

Absorbance

Assorbanza

N

N

N

Y

N

N

N

Y

Amplification

Amplificazione

Y1

Y

Y1

Y

Y

Y

N

Y

Antisense primer

Primer antiparallelo
or
Iniziatore antisenso

N

Y5

N

N

N

N

N

N

Cleavage

Dissociazione
or
Clivaggio

N6

Y

Y

N6

Y

N6

N

Y

Complementary DNA

DNA complementare

N

N

Y2

Y

Y2

N

N

Y2

DNA polymerase

DNA polimerasi
or
Polimerasi del DNA

N

Y

Y

Y

Y

N

N

Y

Double-stranded DNA

DNA a doppio filamento

N

Y

N

Y

N

N

N

N

Downstream primer

Primer a valle
or
Iniziatore downstream

N

N

N

Y

N

N

N

N

Pipettor

Pipettatore

N

N

N

N

N

N

N

N

Recombinant

Ricombinante

Y

N

Y

Y

Y

N

N

Y

Reverse transcriptase

Trascrittasi inversa

N

Y

Y3

N

Y3

N

N

Y

Reverse transcription

Trascrizione inversa

N

Y6

N

Y

Y6

N

N

Y6

RNA trasncript

Trascritto di DNA

N

N

N

Y

N

N

N

N

Run-to-run precision

Precisione interserie

N

N

N

N

N

Y7

N

N

Sense primer

Primer parallelo
or
Iniziatore senso

N

N

N

Y8

N

N

N

N

Untranslated region

Regione non tradotta

N

Y4

N

N

N9

N

N

N9

Upstream primer

Primer a monte
or
Iniziatore upstream

N

N

N

Y

Y10

N

N

N

Within-run precision

Precisione nella serie

N

N

N

N

N

Y11

N

N

TOTALS

18 lemmata

2
11.1%

8
44.4%

6
33.3%

11
61.1%

8
44.4%

3
16.6%

0
0.0%

8
44.4%



Legenda
1The term is correctly translated, but only the following contexts are given: Microscopy, acoustics, or electricity.
2Present only as Complementary
3Given as: Transcriptasi, Transcrittasi or Trascriptasi inversa
4Present only as Translation
5Present only as Antisense RNA.
6Given as: Segmentazione, or Scissione
7Present only as Transciption
8Present only as Sense strand
9Present only as Translation = Traslazione
10Present only as Upstream
11Present only as Run



The raw data needs to be weighted to fully depict the true effectiveness of the surveyed references. The lemmata have been chosen according to a double criterion: relevance and difficulty. Items such as Absorbance, Recombinant, or Double-stranded DNA are quite common in the literature, whereas RNA trasncript, Downstream primer, or Untranslated region are more specific/specialized in nature. Therefore, the CECTU percentage of hits (over 44%) is more relevant than the same value achieved by both Lucchesi and Taber, because the terms found in CECTU are rarer (and more difficult to translate) than those paired by the other two. Furthermore and for the same reason, Lucchesi is more useful than Taber. Conversely, the overall winner, our Delfino, has achieved dominance largely as a byproduct of the search possibilities offered by its medium and interface. The advantages of a text-wide search cannot be easily discounted. The superiority of CD-ROMs versus printed texts is dramatic: The typical handicap of "naturally" organized (i.e., as spoken) strings is no longer a limiting factor, freeing the text from its organizational restraints. The opposite is true as well: Chiampo's distant third place is mostly a consequence of the editor's choice to avoid a headword tree structure, often making inaccessible its wealth of information. Finally, Sliosberg's low score overstates its usefulness, due to attribution as hits of 2 strings, which are not really included as such.

The sample population is relevant in qualitative terms only, but benchmarking offers a glimpse of the relative importance of the polled dictionaries.

Specialized references performed considerably better than general ones, and the recognized leaders outdistanced the lesser works.

For instance, Lucchesi does confirm its overall status as THE dictionary in the medical and related fields. It is not a case that the second best (Bussi-Cognazzo) shows such a dismal relevance. After all, its strength is in surgical instrumentation only.

The linguistic flux of a relatively new technology is clearly demonstrated by the uncertain Italian spelling of Reverse transcriptase. Additionally, the newness of the material we currently translate is the paramount reason for the almost complete irrelevancy of the oldest texts: Sliosberg (a real score barely superior to 5%) and Schnellman (0%).

Only the very best escapes the harshness of aging: Lucchesi (1987) holds its ground in quantitative terms with both Taber (1994) and CECTU (1990). Furthermore, qualitatively speaking, Lucchesi bows only to the two specialized references at hand: CECTU e Delfino.

The significant gap between these two winners is more apparent than real. Only about 1/3 of the total lemmata (5/18) shows a hit overlap. In reality, the two include different pairings, complementing each other.

To corroborate my findings, I have enlarged my search to the relatively large number of available sources, listed below. Several medical dictionaries are unspecialized and generic in nature. Even worse, the bulk of their cited references refries the same ancient listing found in Veillon-Nobel (1969) and Dorland (Ambrosiana, Milan, 1970), but which surely predates both, as shown by the larger 1942 recueil by Stedman (Williams & Wilkins Co., Baltimore). The chemical references are often as dated, although they exhibit greater breath and originality, unfortunately too often limited to inorganic terminology.

In all cases, a cursory review has produced a percentage of hits between 0 and 5 %. To put it simply, the following dictionaries have little or nothing to say:

  • Clason, W.E Dictionary of Chemical Engineering. E-F-S-I-D-Du1. Vol. I: Chemical Engineering and Laboratory Equipment; Vol. II: Processes and Products. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 1978/ii. $ 155.25 each volume.
  • Dorian, A. F.Dictionary of Industrial Chemistry. E-F-S-I-D-Du1. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 1964/xii. $ 213.25.
  • Dorian, A.F. Dictionary of Chemistry. E-F-S-I-D1. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 1983. $ 176.25.
  • Graa, AlbertVocabolarium Pharmaceuticum. D-E-F-I1. Basel/Stuttgart: Helbing & Lichtenhahn, 1964. $ 35.
  • Besana, Carlo, ed. Dizionario Medico Europeo I-E-S-D-F1. Milan: Masson , 1991. Lit. 85.000
  • Garnier; Delamare.Dizionario dei Termini di Medicina. E-I. Bologna (via Ferrarese 119/2): Monduzzi Editore, 1992. Lit. 85.000
  • Papalia, Lina.Dizionario di Medicina. E-I1 Cosenza (v. Caloprese 23, CP 528, 87100): Editoriale Bios, 1990. Lit. 26.000
  • Petrelli, Maria Laura.Dizionario Medico. E-I1. Florence: Casa Editrice Le Lettere, 1992. Lit. 90.000
  • Veillon, E.; Nobel, A.; Tallone, G Dizionario Medico Poliglotta. I-E-F-D1+L. Padova: Piccin, 1969/iv. 2 vol. Lit 80.000.
  • Zanussi, Carlo, ed. Dizionario Medico Dompé. E-I. Milan: Masson. 1992. Lit. 90.000

Conclusion

In translating leading edge texts, the lack of references (and experience) greatly increases the wordworkers' risk of failure. The best bi/multilingual dictionaries never provide all of the needed answers, and the search has to be extended to other sources. In our case, the current Italian scientific magazines and corporate documentation are often plagued by a servile linguistic prospective, written as they are in a vague Itanglish gramelot, hard on ears, eyes and literacy. Fortunately, a few monolingual references offer sounder landmarks. Among the texts that I have found relevant, I would like to recommend the following:

  • Pallacordi, M.; Scola D.Dizionario di Biologia della Oxford University Press. Sperling & Kupfer, Milan, 1992
  • Palmieri, G.Dizionario immunologico. Momento Medico, Salerno, 1989.
  • Zanussi, C., ed.Dizionario di immunologia. Masson, Milan, 1987.

Two catalogues could be extremely useful. The first, by Sigma Diagnostics, is titled Chemistry, Hematology/Cytochemistry, Histology, Coagulation, Flow Cytometry, Immunohistochemistry, EIA, Standards, Controls & Linearity Reagents, St. Louis (P.O. Box 14508, MO 63178), 1-800-325-3010/Milan (v. Gallarate 154, 20151), 02 33417360. The second is the fabled Carlo Erba's general catalogue. I have hunted it down for almost 20 years, but rumors and alleged sightings aside, it has always escaped my grasp. Do you know a luckier trapper?

HOME - RÉSUMÉ - TRANSLATION LIBRARY - ARTICLES - WORKSHOPS - DICTIONARY REVIEWS - SERVICES - TRADUMENTI