The PSOE’s non-guerra in Afghanistan

I don’t think anyone would dispute that Iraq destroyed the PP as an electoral machine for a decade. For a multitude of reasons, the increasing chaos in Afghanistan is unlikely to have the same effect on the PSOE, but Zapatero rolled into La Moncloa on chants of “¡No a la guerra!”, and so considerable pressure remains to present the situation there as a pacifistic if troublesome security operation rather than a ferocious and perilous conflict with well-motivated adversaries, but . On Wednesday the PP leader Mariano Rajoy suggested to the government that it might like to start using the word guerra with reference to Afghanistan since everyone else already was – just look at Obama! Ah, said PSOE parliamentary spokesman José Antonio Alonso, just because it’s a war doesn’t mean it’s a guerra:

“in the logic of English language usage the word ‘war’ is polysemic”, so that one can talk of “the war against narcotrafficking”, against crime or against terrorism.

This was the cue for predictable mirth, because Alonso seemed to be implying that guerra in Spanish requires armed hostilities between two nations, and that this was not the case in Afghanistan. If he was indeed saying that war has a semantic range denied to guerra, then he was clearly talking nonsense. The current RAE entry contains several metaphorical senses:

1. f. Desavenencia y rompimiento de la paz entre dos o más potencias.
2. f. Lucha armada entre dos o más naciones o entre bandos de una misma nación.
3. f. pugna (‖ entre personas).
4. f. Lucha o combate, aunque sea en sentido moral.
5. f. Oposición de una cosa con otra.

Moreover, these uses are not fresh imports. The oldest Academy dictionary (1734) cites them, quoting Antonio Hurtado de Mendoza’s Vida de Nuestra Señora:

Reverente, hermoso, humilde,
le aparece joven tierno,
fiel Ministro, à quien hacen
poca guerra los secrétos.

And the etymology given in the modern dictionary (“Del germ. *werra, pelea, discordia…”) suggests that this wider interpretation may have always been available.

So what was Alonso and the PSOE’s message? Surely not that, while the US went into Afghanistan prepared to take casualties in the interests of humanity and its geo-political objectives, Spain by insisting its forces were deployed in low-risk areas and by generally keeping them on-base wasn’t prepared to make a similar sacrifice to achieve its worthy goals? If so, what will Morocco be thinking?

[
Thanks to JL. More political screwups of all colour welcome: as you will have noted, the PP is not exempt.
]

Similar posts

  • Convergent etymology: paella / pilau

    The other day in the London City out of scientific interest I ate from a hipster stall a portion of /pʌɪˈɛlə/. It wasn’t paella – it looked and tasted like sewage sludge, black, oily, foul – but I couldn’t work out (and didn’t dare ask) what method had led to this madness.

    A couple of days

  • Is the concept that certain concepts are untranslatable itself untranslatable (FR->EN)?

    The Vocabulaire européen des philosophies has now been versioned in English as Dictionary of untranslatables and Spanish as Diccionario de intraducibles. Here Mark Liberman cites Adam Gopnik, who seems to think the book is self-refuting Sapir-Whorfism, and here Jacques Lezra, coordinator of the English-language version, seems to be indulging the following incoherence: linguistic relativism is kind-of racist, but out

  • Mayoress´ Gretting

    What does the English translation of the official presentation website for Vinoble 2010 tell us? That the Mayoress of Jerez cares more about how her hair looks than about how her words are interpreted? That her administration is as thick as pigshit and happy to wallow in it? Well, not necessarily.

    Our etymology department has been …

  • Artur Mas: only the filthy Spanish are stopping every Catalan owning a farm right now

    In a number of posts (see below) I’ve suggested that rather than use cheap, crap human translators customers should consider free, often-not-so-crap machine translation, so it was only a matter of time before someone called my bluff.

    Tom has sent over a lovely piece from Ara re the use by the Catalan regional government of Google Translate to …

Posted on

This post pre-dates my organ-grinding days, and may be imported from elsewhere.

Barcelona (490):

English language (430):

Etymology (22):

Föcked Translation (413): I posted to a light-hearted blog called Fucked Translation over on Blogger from 2007 to 2016, when I was often in Barcelona. Its original subtitle was "What happens when Spanish institutions and businesses give translation contracts to relatives or to some guy in a bar who once went to London and only charges 0.05€/word." I never actually did much Spanish-English translation (most of my work is from Dutch, French and German) but I was intrigued and amused by the hubristic Spanish belief, then common, that nepotism and quality went hand in hand, and by the nemeses that inevitably followed.

José Antonio Alonso (1): José Antonio Alonso Suárez was a Spanish Socialist Workers' Party politician, cabinet minister and judge.

Spain (506):

Spanish language (427):

Translation (465):


Conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *