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Laughs and Nightmares in Oilfield Translation
How to avoid landing in the “doghouse” when dealing with oil and gas terminology
The entries in this article were taken from my own dictionary released in 2001. The
publication was carefully compiled over nearly 20 years of work in the translation business.
Although the dictionary contains a good number of terms, it does not constitute a complete
list of words and unique expressions that an observer is likely to hear during a visit to an
oilfield. Rather, it is intended to serve as a basic reference for understanding the most
common terms and is designed merely to assist those who are not familiar with the
terminology used in the area of oil and gas.
Every language is dynamic and susceptible to transformations. The 1998 edition of the
Vocabulário Ortográfico da Língua Portuguesa (Orthographic Vocabulary of the Portuguese
Language) published by the Brazilian Academy of Letters (ABL), has no less than five
thousand neologisms. Borrowed terms such as the IT jargons “deletar,” “printar” and
“escanear” have been included. The English language is no different. Americans are
especially known for possessing an incredibly fertile imagination when it comes to creating
anachronisms and neologisms.
The oil industry undoubtedly congregates the greatest complexity of technologies from
different sectors, such as engineering, chemistry, geology, business administration,
accounting, law, naval, etc. This gave rise to a Babel Tower indeed. To make matters worse,
companies operating in this area have developed their own terminology derived from
English terms, making the professional lives of translators a real torment. Certain words and
expressions used in the oil industry serve as amusing examples:
Humor And Its Challenges
It is virtually impossible to preserve the humor and double meanings found in oilfield terms
when translating between Portuguese and Engl