“the religious women of Vera Cruz are occupied in teaching grammar to the parrots of Alvarado”

Critique of John Pinkerton’s Modern geography (1807) in The Edinburgh Review: Or Critical Journal:

The original is, ‘Hay en esta cuidad unas beatas que ganan su vida ensenando [sic] a hablar a los loros,’ — i.e. by teaching parrots to speak. Mr Pinkerton has probably seen hablar in the title-page of some spelling book, and supposed that it meant grammar.

I don’t think anyone has suggested recently that parrots are able to acquire grammar in any sense. Were the True Cross beguines the only ones to earn a living training birds to talk clean?

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Last updated 12/07/2008

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

Barcelona (1399):

English language (462):

Föcked Translation (414): 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.

John Pinkerton (1): John Pinkerton was a Scottish antiquarian, cartographer, author, numismatist, historian, and early advocate of Germanic racial supremacy theory. He was born in Edinburgh, as one of three sons to James Pinkerton.

Spain (1881):

Spanish language (504):

Translation (788):


  1. I’m a regular visitor to Catalonia and sadly, I have to agree about the standard of translation into English.

    Among the worst I have come across is the Gaudi website: http://www.gaudiallgaudi.com.

    Although it is not a Government website, and I suspect does not have the resources for a professional translation, there must be some native English speaking Gaudi enthusiasts who could help out its well-meant but awkward translations?

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