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Lexical Leavings

by Tom Gally

In a university class in scientific English, several students in their essays used the phrase "living bodies"--clearly a translation of 生体--to refer to the places where certain chemical reactions take place. The phrase sounded strange to me in the context, but I couldn't think of anything better, and all the English-Japanese dictionaries I checked translated 生体 as "living body" or "organism."

Then I noticed an article in Nature about a particular type of catalysis that, it says, takes place in "living systems." This strikes me as a better translation of 生体 for such very general scientific contexts.
(January 8, 2003)