Written by Tim Kaney of The Geo Group Corporation.
If you have ever wondered how you got where you were or wondered how an object you dropped bounced an impossible distance away in a split second, you might also be wondering if the space-time continuum has gone haywire. Trying to put a name to these phenomena may lead you to words like warping, jumping, phasing, etc. How about “Transliteration”? Sounds plausible, right? “Trans” implying some sort of conveyance of a thing from one point to another and “literation” possibly indicating that that conveyance is altered, changed, or modified in some way. Unfortunately, “Transliteration” is already a real word with a totally different meaning and it relates to the translation industry. Sounded good, though.
What does it mean? Working in the translation industry for a few years I had come to hear it used sporadically and never quite put a real meaning to it. I always thought it was a fancy word for “translation”. In fact, it differs in one major way. According to several online sources wikipedia.com, dictionary.com, merriam-webster.com, the word “transliterate” is the act of representing one alphabet in another set of characters. “Transliteration”, then, is the product of the action since it is a noun. Translation deals with converting the meaning of a word in one language to another while transliteration deals with the conversion of corresponding characters in one language’s alphabet to another.
If you read a little more about transliteration, it becomes clear that it is in no way a simple concept. While the definition is simple, the implementation of it can be a convoluted, if not laborious task. There are many ways it can be used, has several partial uses, and can often be confused with transcription.
Transliteration is most often used to maintain a high degree of accuracy when a source text is unavailable for either speaking or translating.
So before you go around town claiming your glasses “transliterated” themselves into your bathroom when you dropped them, remember that you will actually be saying that they converted themselves into a separate, but corresponding language character system and walked into your bathroom. Although, that would be an incredible feat all its own . . .