History of Oil: Part II


On the first part of our History of Oil we saw how the ancient peoples used it for different purposes, one of the most famous being the so-called Greek Fire. Another on the uses of petroleum is tar, which was used to pave streets as early as the 9th century in regions like Baghdad. The oil was extracted from the natural fields in the region. Travelers and geographers like Marco Polo, the so-called “Arab Herodotus” Abu a-Hasan Ali al-Masudi, and Persian alchemist Al-Razi, known as Rhazes in the Latin world (in the stamp, above), described oil fields in modern Baku, Azerbaijan. Baku people used ground impregnated with oil for heating purposes because of absence of wood. Also in the Azerbaijan region, a unique medicinal oil-derivative was produced that was exported to other countries through the Black Sea. Arab and Persian chemists also distilled petroleum for kerosene lamps and flammable products for military purposes.

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Language of the Day: Spanish


With around 470 million native speakers worldwide, Spanish is only second to Mandarin in terms of native speakers. It spread to other parts of the world as from early 16th century, when it was taken to the colonies of the Spanish Empire, especially America, but also to some territories in Africa and Asia.

Spanish, also called Castilian, is a Romance language deriving from Vulgar Latin, a generic term used to describe the dialects of Latin from which the Romance languages derived, but which was also the colloquial style of Classical Latin. Vulgar Latin was brought by the Romans during the Second Punic War, in early 210 BC. If we look further back, Spanish is a member of Italic group of the big Indo-European language family. Castilian is first documented in central-northern Iberia (current-day Asturias) and spread southwards together with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile.

Along its history, Spanish has been influenced by Basque, which is an language isolate. In fact, some historical linguists, such as professor Theo Vennemann from the University of Munich. claim that Basque is a substratum to all European languages, especially Celtic, Germanic, and Italic, as seen in some loan words, toponyms, hydronymy, and some structural evidences such as word-initial accent. One feature of Spanish which is peculiar to the languages and which is sometimes explained by the Basque substratum is the mutation of Latin word-initial /f/ into /h/ when followed by a vowel that did not diphthongize; for instance Lat filium, Sp. hijo, but Cat. fill, Fr. fils, Ita. figlio.

Later on, with the Arab occupation of the most part of the Iberian Peninsula, Castilian absorbed Arabic vocabulary; the influence of Arabic is seen in word-initial -al/a such as “almohada” (pillow) or “abalorio” (jewelry beads), “aceituna” (olive), but it is most evident in toponyms, sine there are thousands of place names in the Iberian peninsula derived from Arabic (Andalucía, Albacete, Benicasim, Besina, Benidorm…). Other influences come from other Romance languages.

Today, Spanish is the official language in 22 countries, and one of the official languages of the United Nations. It is also official in the European Union, and other international organizations.

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Some key dates from the history of the oil industry: part I


Even though a colonel Drake is credited with drilling the first-ever oil well in Titusville, PA in 1859. the truth is that oil was already used in the 6th Century BC, when the army of Kir II, first shah of Achaemenid Empire (present -day Iran), used Absheron oil in weapons of fire to invade castles and cities. Also Herodotus, the  Greek historian, described oil pits near Babylon, and we know that Alexandre the Great himself used flaming torches of petroleum products to scare his enemies.

In the ancient times, oil was used as a component of pretty sophisticated incendiary and flaming weapons used in warfare. One of the most well-know is Greek fire, which composition remains somewhat obscure but it most certainly used oil. But even before the invention of Greek fire the engineers of the Ancient world developed weapons with sulphur and petroleum based mixtures. Incendiary arrows and pots containing combustible substances were used as early as the 9th century BC by the Assyrians, and were extensively used in the Greco-Roman world as well. Around the year 100 AD, the Greek historian and essayist Plutarch described oil bubbling from the ground near Kirkuk in present day Iraq, and the Chinese already made oil “prospections” by using bamboo to drill the holes and extract the substance.

Read more on Geo-Help Inc and Wikipedia.

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The Translation Jigsaw: When Legs Are Not Legs… or Maybe Yes

One of the FX terms that I have discussed more often with my colleagues as an English-Spanish finance translator is that of “leg”, like in “bullish or bearish leg”. Many Spanish versions of FX technical analyses use the word “pata” (“pata alcista” or “pata bajista”) to translate this concept. Any Spanish dictionary will tell you that “pata” is an animal limb (and the female duck). Now, is this right or wrong?

A “leg” is a limb of an animal or a person, true… but it is also a polysemic word. Polysemic words can have more than one meaning, sometimes connected to one another but sometimes totally unrelated. We can argue if the concept of an animal or human “leg” is semantically related to “leg” in the sense of phase, segment, or section; intuitively we can say it probably does, but here it obviously have different meanings. The concept “bullish” or “bearish” leg is, in my view, better translated as “section” (in Spanish, “sección”, “tramo”), not as  “pata” (animal limb)… However, if we use our imagination… who can deny that this nice bearish leg looks like a horse leg?


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Forex Vocabulary in Bengali

Angul Kata Jaglu by Humayun Ahmed (Cover)

Thriving languages grow and evolve with new words and concepts it comes into contact with. Likewise, new concepts and words prevalent in other cultures will influence any thriving language to either accept those same words or make vocabulary of its own regarding that concept.

Something similar has happened in case of Forex Vocabulary in the Bengali language. To start with, Bengali is the seventh most spoken language in the world, and like other languages in the same situation it has created and adapted Forex concepts and vocabulary from English.

Finance-specific  terminology has existed in Bengali for a long time, but with renewed contact with Forex trading concepts a full new range of vocabulary became a necessity. With this in mind, in India (Bengali speaking areas of West Bengal, Assam and Tripura) and Bangladesh, new vocabulary development initiatives were undertaken.

Almost 99% of the English Forex vocabulary has been borrowed into Bengali even superseding the existent Bengali terminologies. For instance, the word for Currency Quotation used to be translated as Mudrar dor prostab, but, eventually, this has been widely substituted for the English phrase.

Forex trading and its associated vocabulary is a new phenomenon that has captured the imagination of the young Bengali speaking population. The truth is that new traders are more comfortable and acquainted with the English terms than with their Bengali equivalents. A few years ago, the Bangla Academy, the official organization responsible for the health of the Bengali Language (both in India and Bangladesh) worked hard to bring out a comprehensive dictionary of Forex terms in Bengali, but they didn’t succeed. English vocabulary clearly won the battle and the dictionary was withdrawn from the market. However, sometimes the English terms do pose problems for Bengali speakers, and many Forex savvy person would like to have a real vocabulary in their own language.

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