Occasional reflections on Life, the World, and Mathematics

Posts tagged ‘translation’

Irritating false friends

According to Reuters the German Bundestag member Volker Kaude described the new proposals for the Greek financial crisis from European Commission president Juncker as “irritating”. It’s an odd word choice. It would be quite exceptionally blunt if he had said it. Of course, he didn’t.

Turning to German-language media we see that what he actually said was that he was “einigermaßen überrascht über die irritierenden Aussagen aus Brüssel”. “Fairly surprised by the odd comments from Brussels.” “Irritierend” looks like “irritating”, but its primary meaning — and clearly the one intended here — is something more like “puzzling”. It’s diplomatic for having a range of meanings from neutral to negative. I don’t get it, and I don’t think it’s entirely my fault.

Reuters might need to invest in something more sophisticated than Google for its translations.

La planète des singes

Imagine a French cartoon showing a scene from “‘Batman’ à l’américaine”, showing a portly Batman stuffing his face with a cheeseburger, demonstrating how an American Batman would differ from the normal French Batman that everyone is familiar with.

The most recent (28 July, 2014) issue of The New Yorker has a cartoon, showing two figures trudging along a beach, from which the top of the Eiffel Tower can be seen poking through the sand; the woman holds the reins of a horse, the man has hurled himself to the ground, crying “Non!” The caption is “‘Planet of the Apes’ in French”.

So, I found myself wondering how this is supposed to be understood. Do most people know that Planet of the Apes was originally a novel (in French) by Pierre Boulle (author as well of The Bridge on the River Kwai), and that the Eiffel Tower does play an important role in the end of the novel? Does the author know? Does he expect the readers to know that? It very much affects how you read the cartoon, and what the humour is (which I’m having difficulty discerning). If he knows, then it’s presumably supposed to be some sort of comment on Hollywood appropriation of other countries’ icons. If he doesn’t know, then the joke is supposed to be about how ridiculous it would be for space explorers to be exotic Gauls, rather than normal Americans. Hence my thought above about how a comparably ignorant French cartoonist might “americanise” a normal French character that he doesn’t realise was already American to begin with.

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