worn-out names to apply to things

Estuvo diciendo que en aquello que él llama vejez, lo más repugnante, lo que determinaba la descomposición era pensar por conceptos, englobar a las mujeres en la palabra mujer, empujarlas sin cuidado para que pudieran amoldarse al concepto hecho por una pobre experiencia. Pero — decía también — tampoco la palabra experiencia era exacta. No había ya experiencias, nada más que costumbre y repeticiones, nombres marchitos para ir poniendo a las cosas y un poco crearlas.

Juan Carlos Onetti, Bienvenido, Bob


He was saying that, in what he called old age, the most repugnant thing, the determining factor in decomposition, or perhaps the symbol of decomposition, was to think in preconceived ideas, combining all women in the word woman, cramming them all in carelessly to make them conform to a preconceived idea based on very scanty experience. But, he went on, not even the word experience was the right one. By then, there were no experiences left, nothing except habits and repetitions, worn-out names to apply to things and so in a way create them.

Juan Carlos Onetti, Welcome, Bob (translated by Donald L. Shaw)

actually, we don’t have to say “actually”

And yet, we do say it.

As it happens, I did not touch upon transitions (transition words and expressions) in this blog. Until now, that is. Evidently, I did not take transitions seriously enough, although I myself use them a lot. Incidentally, every sentence in this post has them.

At first glance, the information content of most transitions is close to zero. In the best case, they can make the speech appear to run more smoothly. In the worst case, they are used as more literary equivalents of “um”, “er” and other procrastination noises. (I remember a colleague whose discourse chiefly consisted of “you know”, “I mean” and “you know what I mean”.) Consequently, one could cross out all of the transitions without affecting the overall meaning of a text. In fact, I could start right away.

Still, it would be wrong to dismiss transitions as meaningless fillers used only by uncultured speakers. Far from it: transitions are found everywhere, from news to scientific publications to impenetrable legal constructions. Typically, transitions indicate

addition, example, contrast, comparison, concession, result, summary, time (often chronology), and place.

In other words, they help to convey more — or less — than unadulterated truth. Moreover, the most blatant lie will go down rather smoothly when preceded by phrase like “you won’t believe it” because the whole construction creates an impression of honesty — after all, you don’t have to believe it, right? Besides, transitions make human communication less robot-like. In particular, the mathematical passages like proofs of theorems can be made just about readable, thanks to expressions such as “similarly”, “therefore”, “thus” and “it follows that”.

Now, in Russian there is a term for the words and expressions which litter our daily speech: слова-паразиты, “parasite words”. Admittedly, many transitions behave as such parasites: they multiply, take over the conversation and suck all meaning out of it.

In my opinion, the relationship between the transition expressions and “proper” sentences is that of symbiosis (of which parasitism is a special case). More specifically, transitions are obligate endosymbionts, that is, they live inside the “host” sentences but cannot survive on their own. So to speak. In any case, transitions are with us to stay.

Finally, here are some of my favourite quotes featuring my favourite transitions.

“Do you see, Piglet? Look at their tracks! Three, as it were, Woozles, and one, as it was, Wizzle. Another Woozle has joined them!”
And so it seemed to be. There were the tracks; crossing over each other here, getting muddled up with each other there; but, quite plainly every now and then, the tracks of four sets of paws.

A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh


Cat: All in all, 100% successful trip!
Kryten: But sir, we’ve lost Mr Rimmer.
Cat: All in all, 100% successful trip!


Father Fitzpatrick: Taken from the German advance on Russia. You can see where the hammer hits the shell casing.
Father Ted: Gosh, that’s very interesting.
Father Fitzpatrick: These are helmets, mostly infantry…
Father Ted: Yes, these would be German as well, wouldn’t they?
Father Fitzpatrick: That’s right.
Father Ted: You don’t have anything from the allied side?
Father Fitzpatrick: No, no. That sort of thing wouldn’t interest me at all, I’m afraid.


When people enquire
After me health-wise,
‘Not bad, considering,’ I usually say.

Christopher Matthew, Rude Health


“First, I am explaining to you how my Formula 86 Delayed Action Mouse-Maker is vurrrking. Listen carefully.”
“We are listening!” cried the audience who were now jumping up and down in their chairs with excitement.
“Delayed Action Mouse-Maker is a green liqvid,” explained The Grand High Witch, “and vun droplet in each choc or sveet vill be qvite enough. So here is vot happens:
“Child eats choc vich has in it Delayed Action Mouse-Maker liqvid…
“Child goes home feeling fine…
“Child goes to bed, still feeling fine…
“Child vakes up in the morning still okay…
“Child goes to school still feeling fine…
“Formula, you understand, is delayed action, and is not vurrrking yet.”

Roald Dahl, The Witches


Now and then it would vanish for hours from the scene,
But alas, be discovered inside a tureen.

Edward Gorey, The Doubtful Guest
Transitions Вводные слова Palabras o frases de transición
above all (things); the main thing (самое) главное ante todo; sobre todo
accordingly соответственно en consecuencia
actually; effectively; in fact; really в действительности; на самом деле de hecho; en realidad; realmente
admittedly по общему признанию es verdad que; hay que admitir que
after all в конце концов después de todo
all in all в общем; в целом en general
all the same; even so; still; yet и все-таки aún; aun así; todavía
all things considered учитывая все обстоятельства bien mirado; mirándolo bien
allegedly будто бы; как утверждают según se afirma
amazingly; astonishingly; astoundingly поразительно asombrosamente
anyhow; anyway так или иначе; как ни крути (как ни верти) de todos modos
apparently; by all appearances по-видимому; судя по всему a lo que parece; al parecer
as a minimum; at the very least как минимум como mínimo
as a rule как правило por regla general
as already mentioned; as mentioned before как уже было сказано / указано / упомянуто como ya se ha dicho / indicado / mencionado
as always как всегда como siempre
as expected как и ожидалось; как и следовало ожидать como era de esperar
as far as I am concerned что касается меня en/por lo que a mí respecta/se refiere
as far as I can see насколько я могу судить por lo que yo veo
as far as I know; to the best of my knowledge насколько мне известно que yo sepa
as everybody knowns как всем известно como es de todos conocido
as it happens как это бывает; как это случается da la casualidad de que
as it is (well) known как (хорошо) известно como es (bien) sabido
as it turned out как оказалось resultó
as it were; so to speak так сказать por así decirlo
as (good) luck would have it; fortunately; luckily к счастью afortunadamente; la suerte quiso que; por suerte
as (ill) luck would have it как назло; как нарочно la mala suerte quiso que
as one can see как видно como se puede ver
as strange as it may seem; strangely enough как (это) ни странно por extraño que parezca
as (per) usual как обычно como de costumbre
as we will see как будет показано; как мы увидим como veremos
at first glance на первый взгляд a primera vista
at last; finally в заключение; наконец por fin; por último
at least по крайней мере; по меньшей мере al menos; por lo menos
at the same time в то же время al mismo tiempo
be that as it may как бы то ни было sea lo que sea
believe it or not верь или не верь; верьте или нет lo creas o no
besides кроме того además
between you and me между нами entre tú y yo
beyond doubt; indubitably; doubtlessly; undoubtedly вне всякого сомнения; несомненно indudablemente; sin duda
by the way; incidentally к слову; кстати; между прочим por cierto
certainly безусловно; несомненно ciertamente
chracteristically; typically что характерно característicamente; de modo característico; típicamente
clearly очевидно; ясно claro que
come to think of it если вдуматься ahora que lo pienso
consequently следовательно por consiguiente
considering; under the circumstances в данных обстоятельствах dadas las circunstancias
contrary to expectations вопреки ожиданиям en contra de las expectativas / de lo previsto
conversely; on the contrary наоборот; напротив a la inversa; al contrario
curiously; interestingly что любопытно; что интересно curiosamente; de manera interesante
definitely определенно decididamente; definitivamente
equally в равной степени; точно так же igualmente
especially в особенности; особенно especialmente
essentially по существу; что существенно básicamente; en lo esencial
evidently; obviously видно; очевидно; явно evidentemente; obviamente
far from it отнюдь ni mucho menos; todo lo contrario
firstly; in the first place во-первых en primer lugar; primeramente
for all these reasons; in light of all this в свете всего вышеупомянутого; исходя из вышеупомянутого por todo lo expuesto
for better or worse к худу ли, к добру ли para bien o mal
for example; for instance к примеру; например por ejemplo
for the moment; for the time being на данный момент; пока что de momento; por ahora
frankly (speaking); to be honest откровенно говоря; честно говоря francamente
hence; therefore следовательно; стало быть por eso; por lo tanto
however; nevertheless; nonetheless; notwithstanding впрочем; однако; тем не менее no obstante; sin embargo
I’m afraid боюсь me temo que
I believe (я) полагаю; (я) считаю creo que
I mean я имею в виду quiero decir
I suppose (я) полагаю / предполагаю supongo
I think думаю; мне кажется creo que; pienso que; me parece
if the worst comes to the worst; in the worst case в (самом) худшем случае en el peor de los casos
in a nutshell; to sum it up подводя итог / черту en resumen; en resumidas cuentas
in a (certain) sense в (известном / каком-то / некотором / определенном) смысле en (cierto) sentido
in a way некоторым образом de alguna manera; en cierta manera
in any case в любом случае; во всяком случае en todo caso
in my opinion / view на мой взгляд; по-моему a mi juicio; a mi parecer; en mi opinión
in other respects; otherwise в других отношениях; в остальном por lo demás
in other words иначе говоря en otras palabras; para decirlo con otras palabras
in particular; particularly в частности en concreto; en particular; particularmente
in practice на практике en la práctica
in principle в принципе en principio
in short в двух словах; короче говоря en pocas palabras
in the best case в (самом) лучшем случае en el mejor de los casos
incredibly; unbelievably как ни невероятно increíblemente; por increíble que parezca
indeed в самом деле; действительно de verdad; verdaderamente
inevitably неизбежно inevitablemente
ironically как ни смешно irónicamente
it has to be noted (pointed out) that следует заметить (отметить), что hay que notar (señalar) que
it has to be said that следует сказать, что hay que decir que
it’s worth noting that стоит отметить, что merece la pena destacar que
it turns out (that) оказывается resulta que
let’s face it давайте взглянем правде в глаза; признаемся reconozcámoslo; seamos realistas
(let’s) say скажем digamos
likewise; similarly подобным образом asimismo; del mismo modo
moreover; what’s more более того además
naturally естественно; натурально naturalmente
needless to say (that) само собой разумеется huelga decir que; ni qué decir tiene que
not surprisingly что неудивительно no es sorprendente que
note that заметьте, что tenga en cuenta que
of course конечно; (само собой) разумеется desde luego; por supuesto
on the other hand с другой стороны por otra parte; por otro lado
ostensibly; seemingly как будто бы aparentemente; en apariencia
paradoxically парадоксально paradójicamente
presumably; supposedly предположительно es de suponer; presuntamente; supuestamente
probably вероятно probablemente
regrettably; unfortunately к сожалению desgraciadamente; por desgracia
remarkably что замечательно notablemente
sadly как ни печально lamentablemente
secondly во-вторых en segundo lugar
significantly что знаменательно es significativo que
so; then итак; так entonces
strictly speaking строго говоря en sentido estricto; en términos estrictos; hablando con propiedad
suddenly; unexectedly неожиданно de repente; inesperadamente
surprisingly на удивление; что удивительно lo cual es sorprendente
thank God; thank goodness; thank heaven; thankfully слава Богу; слава тебе, Господи a Dios gracias; gracias a Dios
that is то есть es decir
the point is that дело в том что el caso es que
then again опять-таки pero vamos; por otra parte
thus таким образом así pues
to be fair справедливости ради, стоит сказать, что para ser justo
to be (perfectly) honest если быть (абсолютно / предельно / совершенно) честным para ser (totalmente) sincero
to everyone’s surprise ко всеобщему удивлению para sorpresa de todos
to put it bluntly грубо говоря; прямо скажем hablando en plata; para decirlo sin rodeos
to put it mildly мягко говоря por decir lo menos
to put it simply попросту / проще говоря para decirlo sencillamente
to tell the truth; truth to be told по правде говоря; правду сказать a decir verdad; la verdad es que
truly воистину; поистине verdaderamente
ultimately; when all is said and done в конечном счете a fin de cuentas
understandably понятно; понятное дело es comprensible
we note that отметим, что observamos que
well ну; значит pues
without further ado без дальнейших церемоний; не мудрствуя лукаво sin más ni más
without further delay без дальнейшего промедления sin más demora
would you believe веришь aunque parezca mentira
you know знаешь (ya) sabes
you know what знаешь что sabes qué
you understand вы понимаете; понимаешь tú (ya) me entiendes