cricket balls
“Brilliant!”, I thought, when a client told me I’d been chosen to translate the Laws of cricket into French. I love the game, and translating a document dealing with a subject that I care about doubles the fun I have.
In the end, it wasn’t much fun. It was fascinating, difficult, frustrating, and eventually rewarding, but really not fun. I’ve just sent the translation, and after three weeks of constant research, hair-pulling and decision-making, I can’t wait to move on to simpler sports: watching France crush England at rugby will be such sweet relief. I’ll write a post about all the challenges that were presented by this type of translation, but for now, I need to forget about cricket.
In the course of the translation, I found out the origin of umpire, which I didn’t know:

c.1400, noumper, from O.Fr. nonper “odd number, not even,” in reference to a third person to arbitrate between two, from non not + per “equal,” from L. par. Initial -n- lost by mid-15c. due to faulty separation of “a noumpere”, heard as “an oumpere”.
Originally legal, the gaming sense first recorded 1714 (in wrestling). The verb is first recorded c.1600, from the noun.

Have a lovely weekend, everyone. I can’t wait to be there.
Cricket balls photo by Wallula Junction.

By | 2016-10-18T15:48:45+00:00 February 25th, 2011|Words|8 Comments

About the Author:

I am Céline Graciet, a freelance English to French translator. Since 2003 I’ve been writing on all sorts of areas linked to translation and the life of a translator.


  1. Katherine February 25, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    Interesting! I can easily imagine the difficulty of trying to translate any document about cricket (I know next to nothing about the sport), looking forward to your post on that.
    Once in a Spanish linguistics class I learned that many English words originally began with ‘n’, and lost it in the same way as umpire. Among them ‘apron’, ‘adder’ and ‘orange’.

  2. Delighted Scribbler February 26, 2011 at 2:15 am

    Kudos to you! Cricket is an absolute mystery to me. I’ve perfected my blank stare and befuddled blinking.

  3. céline February 27, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    @Katherine: Napron, næddre, naranga – how very interesting, thanks.
    @Delighted: My secret: years of perseverance made enjoyable by hot dogs, beer, friends and the constant threat of rain.

  4. Prevodilac February 27, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    Just think how difficult would it be if you didn’t have a clue about the game 😉

  5. céline February 28, 2011 at 7:43 am

    It is possible to translate a text whose subject you don’t know very well, but in this case, the language is sometimes so opaque that it does help to be able to visualise what is described.

  6. Andy Mattock February 28, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    How did France get on at crushing England? Howzat!

  7. céline February 28, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    One word, my dear Arsenal-supporting friend: Birminghamcity.

  8. EP March 15, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    Speaking of umpires…
    I bet it would be quite a challenge translating the rules for baseball into French–or any other language, for that matter. Very arcane, really, with the strangest, most unimaginable situations regularly popping up for everybody to argue about. It’s great fun to watch, though (the season begins the end of this month).

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