November 22nd, 2008

technology

devangari/devanagari fonts for online use - what am I missing?

For fairly stupid reasons, in the completely compulsive quest after material I really don't need, I'm visiting a lot of sites that have Sanskrit prayers, mantras, and s(h)lokas, and trying to get a rough idea of what they mean, and which confusions of translation arise from poor translating and where they're a key to the ways in which the language simply doesn't translate well into English. (For instance, one site has a lengthy exposition on why it is better to simply not translate 'sat' and 'asat' at all, which was very interesting.)

My only previous experience with a language with a non-Roman alphabet has been Japanese. I got into a pattern when I was looking at roughly translated, machine translated, or even untranslated Japanese text: I'd make out what I could from the Japanese (very little, since I did not get far enough to learn more than a few kanji characters). I would look at the translation offered if any. If it was common material, I'd check more than one site and compare translations. Then I'd take the original text. I'd look up specific words in the dictionary - or more than one dictionary, as seemed indicated - and break the text into bite-sized pieces optimized for machine translation and run it through at least two different machine translation applications. By the time I was done with all this, I didn't have a translation, but I had a reasonably good idea of what the thing said.

With the Sanskrit, I'm trying to apply the same process, and failing completely. I downloaded a family of true-type fonts (shusi) which made it possible for me to see the script (instead of mostly garbage characters) and enabled a qwerty Davanagari writing on my Macintosh. But most sites' devanagari is still jumbled characters or, more often, just a row of question-marks. With my computer switched to the devanagari, I can write by in my own documents - much good this does me - but I can't enter anything into my web browser. (I tried for "sat" and "asat." ??? ????.) So I can't enter anything I find in one place into dictionary servers or machine translators (or questions here). Even cut-and-paste doesn't work. And I can't search by the transliteration, the way I might fall back on searching by romaji if I were desperate for something in Japanese, because no two sources seem to use exactly the same transliteration.

All of this admittedly makes the prospect of learning one or language which uses this script very attractive, but right now that's besides the point. This is fundamentally a technology interface problem. Does anyone know what I need to do on a Macintosh (or an eee PC running Xandros) (or both) in order to be able to both see and manipulate the Devanagari writing?
Blank Pages

Japanese nickname confusion

So, I'm "reading" a manga with a main character named Yamaguchi Kensuke (山口建介). His nickname is YamaKen (ヤマケン), which makes sense from what I know of Japanese nicknames -- so far so good. But some less-than-nice people call him YamaKin (ヤマ菌), and that's where my confusion lies. Kin means germ or bacteria, I believe, and yama can mean mountain... So are they basically calling him a huge pile of bacteria? Or is it just a punny way of saying Germy Yama or whatever?