Creative Writing Assignment

Before a seminar last week, I was discussing a colleague’s masters thesis, and she told me something I’m fairly jealous of:  She gets to invent her own physics words.  You see, this colleague comes from Ukraine, and her University has recently changed its thesis requirements from Russian to Ukrainian.  The two languages are closely related, but have significant differences in alphabet, vocabulary and grammar.  Ukrainian has been the official language of the Ukraine since 1991, but it was suppressed to varying degrees during the Soviet Era, and the CIA Factbook lists currently at 67% of the population claim it as their native language.  Since it has only recently been officially used at the university level, there are many technological words which are currently loaned from Russian or English.  This isn’t really unique to her situation, as that anyone who studies physics in any language has solved a problem by an ansatz, and heard of bremsstrahlung*.  What is unique is that there is pressure to develop Ukrainian, and therefore pressure to remove these loan words.  She was vague about how many loan words would be officially tolerated, but indicated that some technical vocabulary could be naturally adapted, but some would need to be basically invented from scratch to make them genuinely Ukrainian.  That’s got to be 50% fun, and 50% intractable.

*Bremsstrahlung is in firefox’s En. spell checker.  Thats awesome.  Ansatz isn’t, but ersatz is?


One response to “Creative Writing Assignment

  1. “Ersatz” was popularized into common English usage by WWII POWs complaining about their experiences (wikipedia claims specifically from being fed “ersatzkaffee”). Seems quaint pretty quaint as far as wartime objections go. I’ve heard it several times in the media while “ansatz” only in my mechanics class.

    Regarding “bremsstrahlung”, I would guess it’s because it is a proper technical term whereas “ansatz” is really more of a shibboleth.

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