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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Technical Writing--But What Do These Instructions Really Mean???

"Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid" - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

  If you read Les' previous post you are aware we were having some technical difficulties with our Kerstan satellite dish. It appeared we needed a new part for it called an LNB. 
   As Les sat drinking his tea this morning I thought I would give the technical manual for the Satellite dish a gander. Simple curiosity drew me to the booklet.
   While I am not a technical writer per say, I have worked as a grant writer, produced a professional newsletter, worked as a journalist for university and community newspapers, written a blog which will be turned into a book manuscript, and started research for another book.
   I have a degree in English-Creative Writing and I teach writing tutorials online for a University, instructing beginning and advanced students in how to become better writers and how to write at a university level, therefore I am of the opinion I am qualified to critically review the written instructions in our Kerstan manual which should provide clear, concise instructions on how to assemble and operate the satellite dish.
   As I perused the pages certain things leaped out at me. The instructions were rife with typos and misspellings, such as, "With our mobile mini-SAT antenna you needn' t rennonce (sic) your satellite-programs, even on vacation, on camping tours in native- and foreign countries. To that end   you only have to fasten the outdoors system with the roof of your car or caravan." Well clearly an editor or at least spell check and a proof reader would have been beneficial before going to publication.
   Reading on: "With the help of the suckfoot this is very easy." Say what??? Suckfoot?? Is this a technical term--suckfoot? Is it a piece of equipment that came with our satellite dish: dish, LNB, antenna beam, wing screw, capstan head screw...yep suckfoot! I am familiar with the term suck face but this one is new to me. Call me an ingenue.
   According to the Kerstan Satellite manual this is a technical name for the satellite dish stand with a suction cup on the bottom. I am warning you though--do not Google this noun. It will provide you with links to porn sites such as "Cuddly Suck Foot Time" on You Tube, or Isis Taylor Pretty Feet Toes to Suck Fetish. Right, onward to Building Up.
   "You can assemble your off-set satellite dish at a wallwinkle at your window..." Wallwinkle??? Really??? Googling this term brings up Bullwinkle. Perhaps wallwinkle is a distant relative of Moose, companion of squirrel.
   "The antenna beam consists of two pieces ((3.1) and (3.2)) which you can combinate for..." Now wait a minute! I am certain there is no such term as combinate unless you are George Bush Jr. According to the technical writer of this instruction manual one can "'combinate' for the kind of assembling you choose. The arm in front with the LNB-holder and ball of the assembling arm you can (with the help of two parallel tongues) push together with the first arm...we recommend to grease the connexion between (3.1) and (3.2) a little bit.
   Whoa, whoa, whoa! Maybe this is a manual more in keeping with the first Google search! Directions involving two tongues, multiple arms, and a greased "connexion" sound a bit salacious to me.
   The directions suggest "With the help a mast clamp (4) and two wing screws you can fasten the outdoor system with the wallwinkle, mast or railing of your balcony. Now you can easily regulate the vertical winkle of the slope with the help of a slotted hole and the end pieces...when you carfully (sic) remove the connexion between the two clamp pieces with a screwdriver or something like that." Something like that is such a professional term! I always keep one of those handy in my back pack. one never knows when one will need it.
   The manual goes on to recommend you "...put the ball into the suckfoot...with the help of the capstan head screw. Before you fasten the suckfoot at your roof we recommend to put a little bit of water on the rubber." And I thought my husband was reading up on how to fix our satellite. I am not sure these kind of positions are possible in the cabin of a narrow boat but if it helps us get better satellite reception I'm willing to help out.


Ken and Sue nb Cleddau said...

Delightful! Probably a literal translation from Chinese or Korean. My pilot training coincided with that of some Singaporean students. Each morning a student had to read out the weather forecast to the assembled senior officers, instructors and students. Then up stood two Singaporean’s one read the forecast in Chinese whilst the other gave a literal translation of the technical weather terms. I remember the term “will tinkle melodiously” amongst others but they kept absolutely serious faces and continued to the end whilst the audience was crying with laughter.
Love to Les,
Ken & Sue (Just back from the Lowry Theatre in Salford)

Anonymous said...

Chinglish or Kolingish?
Very much an instruction booklet
supplied by foreign to us languages or countries even further away. Jaq, it's like somebody from the southern US states attempting to converse
with somebody who is familiar only with a Texas drawl...they understand the thought but not the language.

Mike Muir, nb GARNET said...

Was this manual created in a far-eastern Country? I remember similar problems of grammar, spelling and new words in motorcycle manuals from the 1970's (opps, giving my age away a bit), caused much hilarity at the time and a steadfast refusal to read any more manuals. This ultimately lead me to a 20 year career as a computer technician!

Anonymous said...

What a kick ... you two are wonderfully funny. Good luck ... trouble comes in bunches so there may be more yet to come. Something to look forward to. :-) Karen in Pullman

KevinTOO said...

Priceless... ROFLMAO

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Ken and Sue,
The unit is German but we've no idea the nationality of their technical writer! Les has read the manual dozens of times over the pas seven years and it never struck him funny until I read it and pointed these things out. It's a gift! I'm glad you laughed along with us. Ken I can well imagine you have come across such odd translations in your career with the RAF.
Love Jaq and Les XX

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hello Anonymous 1 from the USA. Could you be Sally by any chance?? ;)
Love Jaq

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Mike,
Yes indeedy, the unit is German so who knows from where their technical writer hailed. It made Les laugh so hard he nearly had morning tea coming out his nose. I just couldn't believe he had read the manual before and never questioned those terms, but there ya go!
Love JaqXX

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Karen! It turns out the trouble was with a frazzled lead to the antenna which Les will fix in the morning. At least we had the rich experience of laughing about it and bringing our friends along!
Love to you and Jim,
Jaq and LesXX

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Kevin, Glad you enjoyed it!
:) Jaq

Bryce Lee, Burlington, ON said...

For reasons known only to my spirit and
my angels have dumped any references to Oogles of Googles for now so signed on as
an non-entity.
And actually Mike on nb Garnet can blame me in part for encouraging him to become a computer technician.

Mind we are in different camps: He is PC (prehistoric computer ie Microslop), I am Apple and Linux...

3 inches of snow here in Southern Ontario this late
evening January 17, minus 17C
outside...nothing really to worry about.

Anonymous said...

No Jaq that wasn't me, but now Joe and I are in Ontario OR on the way home from Reno. It's 3 degrees F and we are passing the time catching up rather than going out to eat. We are rolling on the floor laughing...hope you can figure out how to get the sat fixed!


Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

HI Bryce,
While I use a Toshiba PC, I am a Mac lover at heart and always had Macs back in the States. It seems to me PCs are geared for those linear, left brained people who love numbers, esoteric equations, Rubics cube puzzles, etc. Those kind of folks who delight in attempting to remember the Dos name for the last file they created, ya know what I mean? Folks who quote Nietche's maximum "what does not kill me makes me stronger."

Apple Macs were created by and for organic, right brain, creative/artistic types who know things do not have to be unaccountably difficult, time consuming and dangerous to one's mental health in order to operate.It's okay for things to be fun---and dare I say Groovy?
You notice it didn't Microslag's CEO long to steal WYSIWYG point, click and drag system with tool bars for optimal use and market it for Windows did it?

Stay warm and dry Bryce.

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Sally!
So glad we could entertain you and Joe on your return trip home. I am having fun equating the centigrade "below zero" which is really not that cold, with the Fahrenheit "below zero" which is! Four inches of snow managed to close down the Island and nearly all forms of transport, so here we are!
Love to you both and give Joe and hug for me.
Jaq XX

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs