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February 9, 2013
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I was just watching a documentary, the narrator explained how a person "purchased all but 8 cents of his salary in war bonds".This is a prime example why this expression is problematic.Did the person use all his money to buy bonds with the exception of 8 cents which he used for something else?Or did the person buy ALMOST 8 cents worth of bonds every month?I understand that it is the latter. But as a translator, I tend to use the first grammatical construct because it is a very common one in Spanish.So now the question is, if I want to say that the person spent all his money on bonds EXCEPT 8 cents (which he kept), how do I say this?I cannot use the words "all but" because they would be interpreted to be used as an idiomatic expression and not in their literal meaning.I figure I could say: The person spent all his money on bonds except for 8 cents. This format takes away the emphasis of the original sentence, which focuses on the large amount expended on bonds and shifts the emphasis onto the 8 cents NOT used for the purchase of the bonds. So the reader is not getting the intended purpose, the emotional emphasis, of the writer. This idiomatic expression stops me from using a very common form in Spanish and forces me to give wordy explanations or unfit alternatives. Lost in the translation, you might say.
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