November 19, 2007

Syncretic resonance of the day

Jim Gordon writes:

I was brought up short in an English lesson by a Brazilian student's use of a term, seeming originally from English, that I'd never heard: "making off", having nothing to do with carrying away. The term apparently has gained some currency in French, Italian, Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese, although I can't find it in on-line dictionaries or translation engines. A search returned a fair number of G-hits, some of which were for the usage I sought, but without conveying enough defining comment or context. Finally, in the blog of an anglophone in Galicia, Spain, I found the following:

Un making off — The recording of the director and actors describing the making of a film.

And, indeed, it seems to be a drift away from "making of", and now the wave is coming back to us.

I was intrigued and amused that the only occurrence of "making off" in Language Log seems to have been in an article about semantic drift, starting from "making off with booty."

The same blog also presents this lovely example of the bebop-aroo effect:

Early yesterday evening, my film director friend called to say that the 'making off' scheduled for yesterday wasn't now going to take place. As if I hadn't guessed. Instead, we would meet today at 10am in Vigo. When I asked for the location, things went like this:-
In Café Bangkok, in Rosaléa de Castro street.
Bangkok? The Asian capital?
No, Bangkok, the painter.
Bangkok the painter? Could you spell it, please
Oh, Van Gogh!
Yes, Bangkok.

Here's another example of making off in Spanish:

...mas que un tutorial podría ser un making off, pero bueno asi veis como lo he realizado...

And in French:

Il s'agirait d'une video du making-off du film Titanic...

And in Portuguese:

Participar do "making off" dessas fotos maravilhosas, foi mais do que um grande prazer.

And in Italian:

Così mi è venuta l'idea del making off, che nella prima stesura rappresentava quasi il sessanta per cento del film.

It's enough to make you suspect an origin in vulgar Latin -- except that there are plenty of examples in German ("Nachdem es ja jetzt hip ist über alles und jeden ein Making off zu machen, können wir uns dieser Sache an dieser Stelle auch nicht entziehen."), and Dutch ("Vandaag is op het net het making-off filmpje opgedoken waarbij je de 'gangster' aan het werk kunt zien."), and probably in other non-Romance languages as well.

Instead, pending confirmation from the Language Log Terminology Committee (paging Arnold Zwicky...), we can tentatively identify this as a cross-linguistic eggcorn.

[Update -- Fernando Pereira writes:

There's a v-b gradient between Portuguese and Galician (Galego), with "v" dominating South of the Douro, and "b" becoming stronger as you move North, across the border, and to Vigo. A famous white grape that the best Portuguese vinho verdes are made from is "Alvarinho" for us, "Albariño" in Galicia. A cow "vaca" is pronounced "baca" in extreme North Portugal and in Galicia. This difference was used in comedy in Portugal because people from Galicia immigrated to Lisbon from the late 19th century to the mid 20th century, opening small restaurants, greengrocers, and other neighborhood businesses.


[Update #2 -- Slavomír Čéplö writes:

In response to your challenge ("and probably in other non-Romance languages as well":

"Prosim ta ked by si mal niekedy cas mohol by si uploadnut nieco z nasledujucich making off´s"
( note the English plural, the Slovak plural would be "making off-ov")
"nijaky premium pack s making off videami..."
"Teraz v apríli sme robili spoločne réžiu záznamu a making-off rakúskeho muzikálu R. Baumgartnera Sisi"

"Madonny, ke kterému je přifařen i vlastní Making Off (tedy film o tom, jak se klip natáčel)."
"V upoutávce na making off zvolili dost úsměvné věty"
"nakonec bude předveden i nějaký autorův Making-off"

"Strona składa się z 4 dużych części: portfolio agencji, nagrody, szkolenia i making-off, czyli kulisów produkcji."
"A jak oglądam na tv making off to cały czas przewijam ten moment jak Tom jest w tej kurtce"

"Föleg ha egy making off-ot megnézünk a GT-röl"
"A Bad Boys II making off-ját megtekintve számos helyen mutatták be a digitális művészek, hol, ki volt digitális karakter."

"Making off-pätkät on tarpeellisia varsinkin muille videoita tekeville."
"DVD:n extroissa oleva making-off oli mielenkiintoinen..."

"ma nafx imma waqt li kont qed nara il-making off u rajt lil kristina..."

While searching for Slovak examples, I have also come across this interesting bit in what I assume is Breton:
"Aze e vo kavet ganeoc'h pep tra diwar benn pennoberenn Diwan, interview ar c'hoarierien, ur making off, an arvestoù c'hwitet gant hag all hag all. Pediñ a ran ac'hanoc'h da bellgargañ ar film en e bezh a benn kaout plijadur ha c'hoarzhioù e leizh dirak ho skramm."

Meanwhile, Arnold Zwicky wrote:

I think you've definitely found a re-shaping here, possibly an eggcorn (I'm not sure about the semantics), but not something that's crucially bilingual. There's a big pile of hits for {"the making of"} in English, from presumably native speakers:

I already talked about the amazing new Sony Bravia ad (THERE) but here is an even more amazing video about the making-off of the advert.

part of the making off of the album imagine, they are rough cuts ... at one point John Lennon complaining that the technician has to change tape in the ...

Forced Founders: Indians, Debtors, Slaves, and the Making off the American Revolution in Virginia. (Book Reviews).~(book review) from Journal of Southern History ...

Mostly you seem to get "the making off of" a film or recording or whatever, but the third one above, from a history journal, was startlingly different. The actual book under review has "of", by the way.

The third one seems like an old-fashioned typographical error, though perhaps it was influenced by the "making off" version.

As for the semantics, I construe it as related to the uses of "off" in offshoot, offprint, run-off (in all three senses), cast-off, etc.: something extra created as a by-product or residue.

I have no idea what the order of influence has been, but (like Jim) I'd never heard of this before, although it seems to have become a common usage in several other languages; so it seems plausible that it might have spread among non-native speakers with limited understanding of the vagaries of English spelling-sound correspondences in the area of fricative voicing.]

Posted by Mark Liberman at November 19, 2007 06:49 AM