Fernando A. Navarro
In 2000, the last year of the 20th century, a book came hot off the press (yes, at that time most dictionaries were still made of paper), the Dictionary of Doubts and Difficulties in English-Spanish Medical Translation, and it quickly became the top terminological book for medical translators working into Spanish. Five years later in 2005, the second edition of the dictionary came out in a revised, improved and much expanded version, now with a pan-Hispanic perspective, but still in hard copy only.
I had to wait for eight more years–and within that time for none other than the ground-breaking Dictionary of Medical Terms (2011) from the Royal Academy of Medicine in Spain–to produce the Libro rojo and take the leap from paper to cyberspace. The third edition of the dictionary, and first on the Cosnautas website, had a new name: Dictionary of Doubts and Difficulties in English-Spanish Medical Translation (2013), now only in electronic version for online research.
Since then, I have updated the work every six months, and thus over these nine years, 18 updates have marked the progressive improvement and expansion of the Libro rojo. But only now, with the deadly Covid-19 pandemic about to pass into history, have I decided to publish, at last, a fourth edition of the dictionary. The newly revised Dictionary of Doubts and Difficulties in English-Spanish Medical Translation (2022) will provide the basis and the model for a version in Portuguese already being prepared by the Brazilian doctor and translator Carla Vorsatz, and we hope to release it on the Cosnautas platform in its preliminary version this year.
The internal structure of the work has hardly changed in all this time. The lexicographical structure of the dictionary continues to be essentially identical to that of the first edition in hard copy, which as I mentioned above was originally published in 2000. There is also no substantial change with respect to the Cosnautas edition from 2013 mentioned in the prologue to the third edition.
So, what has changed since the third edition of the dictionary (version 3.01, July 2013) in this new fourth edition (version 4.01, March 2022)?
Mainly, it is the magnitude of the work. Libro rojo has gone from 47,344 terms in version 3.01 to 60,757 entries in version 4.01. In other words, almost 13,500 new entries corresponding to neologisms, technisms and expressions that are misleading or difficult to translate from nearly every biomedical field and other areas of knowledge. History rolls on, with medical breakthroughs taking place non-stop: the continuous discovery of new monoclonal antibodies, Obama's healthcare reform, the publication of the 23rd edition (2014) of the Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy and its 23.1 (December 2017), 23.2 (December 2018), 23.3 (November 2019), 23.4 (November 2020), and 23.5 (December 2021) updates, robotic surgery and telemedicine, new chemical elements approved by IUPAC in 2016, the revolutionary CRISPR technique and Brexit for those of us in Spain in January 2020, the first coronaviruses, the Zika virus, the pandemic of Covid-19 and the new ARNm vaccines–all these things have left their mark on the Libro rojo. For those who are curious to know the type of terms that were added to the dictionary and when exactly, you will see in table 1 a list of 600 new entries in the Libro rojo between January 2015 and March 2022. It is only a small selection of the 13,000 new entries in the fourth edition, but it may help to show the overall vision of the work.
Have you ever wondered how new terms get into the Libro rojo? Where did the 13,000 new entries of the fourth edition come from? Many of them arose from my own doubts. I have been working in medical translation for 35 years, and I rarely spend a day without translating or reading a medical text in English. It is also quite rare for me to spend a day without encountering some uncertainty or difficulty in translation, and when it happens, I always try–regardless of my deadline–to find the time to document it and add it to the Libro rojo. I am now an expert in uncertainties and difficulties in translation, though this is not to say I am an expert in resolving them! I am only an expert in having doubts.
As with the second and third editions of my dictionary, I also continue to collect knowledge from out in cyberspace where my fellow translator colleagues go with their queries: the MedTrad and Tremédica discussion threads, of course, but also–for this fourth edition–the main social media channels (Facebook, LinkedIn and, above all, Twitter).
Apart from this, I would like to highlight two other abundant resources that my dictionary, and mine alone, benefits from. They are two places of query that would have delighted the lexicographers of previous generations. Ever since the Libro rojo was published in Cosnautas, the interactive and collaborative model of Cos has allowed me to tap into the enquiring minds of the cosnauts themselves on a daily basis. In the nine years in which the third, now extinct, edition of Libro rojo (versions 3.01 to 3.18, July 2013 to February 2022) was active, more than 300 cosnauts contributed on several occasions with ideas for improvement: some who wrote me simply to correct a small errata (always an important task, to rid the text of "rats"); others, essentially, who wrote to propose an interesting new entry I probably would not have encountered on my own. In table 2 you will see a hundred additions that reached me this way with the name of the cosnaut who threw me down the lexicographical gauntlet. There were several hundred more just like them.
Even more wonderful still, though unforeseen, was another resource that I only discovered once my dictionary appeared on Cos. All users of Cosnautas, merely by consulting the Libro rojo, were already actively collaborating in the process of revision and improvement of the work. I was able to know, with just a few clicks, the most consulted entries in the dictionary, but also–and even more interestingly–which unsuccessful searches were most frequent. If many medical translation professionals are all looking for a term that does not appear in a dictionary of doubts like mine, it must be a recurring problem that perhaps would have to be addressed in the Libro rojo, though it had not been apparent it to me. A meticulous review of the list of unsuccessful searches in each version of the dictionary allowed me to open up the work to a multitude of interesting terms that until then had been ignored, including blueprint, drusen, fibroscan, MedDRA, narrative, ookinete, orthotist and VEGF. Hundreds of the most frequent searches typed in by cosnauts that had once come up empty now show results in this fourth edition. Table 3 shows more than 300, but in fact there were many more. Among them, there are terms that at a certain point became trendy; during the 2020-2022 pandemic, for example, many of us spent the two years translating texts on epidemiology, the coronavirus, preventative measures, covid vaccines and new antiviral medications. The Libro rojo was enriched by the questions that emerged in my translations and reading, and with others that arose during the compilation of the English-Spanish Covid-19 Glossary for Cosnautas and Tremédica. But until I reviewed the list of unsuccessful searches from version 3.15 (1 March to 31 August 2020) I did not realize that I had ignored queries as common as CPAP, ECMO, facemask, lockdown, paucisymptomatic, PPE and sanitisation. In this last case, by the way, the Libro rojo actually contained the entry to sanitise, but hundreds of cosnauts did not arrive at it when typing in sanitisation. Many of the queries that produce unsuccessful searches were in fact are due to simple variants (such is the case, for example, in words like hayfever, lightheaded, stenting and tophi, which were unfruitful even though they were listed in the dictionary as hay fever, lightheadedness, stent and tophus), or even frequent errata or incorrect variants (in the dictionary we had balloon and proprietary, but hundreds of cosnauts did not find them when typing ballon or baloon in the first case, and propietary in the second). Unbeknownst to the cosnauts making these failed searches, all their actions were extremely useful to me in improving my work.
The combination of electronic lexicography with the participative model of Cosnautas has been key to achieving both the quantitative and qualitative jump between the third and fourth editions of the Libro rojo. It is thus closer than ever to reaching its goal of becoming the best bilingual dictionary in history.