Via LS an anonymous cartoon of the gulf between what we (would like to) think we have said and what we (are understood to) have actually said:
Why don’t we say what we think? Why do the inventors of magnificent flying machines gibber like madmen? Why, in our case, do excellent Spanish bars produce hilarious English menus?
I think the local branch of the Habermas sect would preach to me that we are victims of a capitalist conspiracy, which actively seeks to do down richly deserving (although admittedly slightly whiney) literary-sociology PhDs and instead pays top money to people who invent cool stuff. I don’t buy this. For one, Genesis 3 seems to suggest that communicative incompetence predates modern bovine economics.
Instead, as millions of first-year economists and linguists will have explained elsewhere, it’s a simple question of resource allocation. On the one hand, for lonely inventors or cooks the proof’s in the pudding, and elocutionists and translators who seek to gild these particular lilies do so at their financial peril. On the other, the higher the risks and rewards in a particular line of business, the greater the value we place on people’s ability to wriggle effectively in both thought and speech. There’s a direct relationship between proximity to the killing, stealing and fucking Commandments and the importance of getting one’s words right. That’s why politicians are generally pretty fluent, and why (except in weird markets like the English courts) interesting legal translation commands a 100% markup over the best of the rest. Brian Steel’s Soapbox documents some of the relatively scarce failures to obey this rule.
Chi po non vo,
chi vo non po,
chi sa non fa,
chi fa non sa
et così il mondo
A number of the examples on this blog have been sent to me by Spaniards embarrassed by their own organisations. Several could do far better themselves, but their allocation to other tasks both demonstrates David Ricardo’s theory of comparative advantage and refutes those smart-arse Italian proverbialisers.
Sometimes the world is actually better off when the best-qualified are kept clear and the fuckers get the translation.
- A victim responds!
Lynce say, “We’re working on it,” which is what any intelligent organisation does in such circumstances, and I’m sure they’ll get it right – the product looks good, and there are a lot of demonstrators and worried governments around at the moment.
- Worst ever Spanish covers of English-language songs?
I haven’t talked to any of the perpetrators, but I have little doubt that the principal cause of what we regard as fucked translation is a misunderstanding as to its function: whereas English-speakers expect to encounter a linguistic resource, the aim of Romance-dialect-speaking businesses, politicians and civil servants in providing English translation is often symbolic …
- Unnacompanied into the woods?
The other day someone gave me the (impeccable) English translation of Gabriel Tortella’s classic El desarrollo de la España contemporánea. Historia económica de los siglos XIX y XX. I don’t really understand why he uses 1900 to divide the period in two – on the basis of most of the indicators he cites, a tripartite split …
- Some Itanglish in a Dryden comedy
One José María Trilladas has apparently been combing the accounts of the black card looters of Caja Madrid and has discovered that between them the great and the good, lefties and righties, spent everything on, to put it mildly, wine, women and song, and not a single cent on the printed word. But let that not
- Buy your knives from Quttin, with thoughts on final /g/s and a poem by Ambrose Bierce
The latest pseudo-anglicism to cheer my bedraggled brain comes from a 20-year-old Albacete knife manufacturer. (See also camping, parking, lifting, shampooing, footing, and Wikipedia.) I like the dropped /g/, which interestingly goes against a trend in Andaluz and increasingly in other versions of Spanish to add a terminal /g/ to words previously ending in /n/. …