Reagrupament and mesophrase, the subcategory of translation that Dryden forgot

Candide of CataloniaWatch appears to have come to the conclusion that watching Catalonia is rather like watching paint dry, but without the happy ending. However, before retiring to cultivate its (keep reading) garden it sent me excerpts from a Catalan constitution proposed by Reagrupament which it found in a bar following the Hapsburg Pretender Day celebrations on the Glorious 11th. (Reagrupament is a small separatist party run for the pride and glory of someone called Joan Carretero, who looked in the mirror one morning, saw a Catalan Umberto Bossi, and lapsed into chronic hissiness when more attractive Umbertos seduced his Berlusconi, ex-Barcelona president Joan Laporta. But enough Grimm detail.) Several examples:

[Article 10]

No one may be harmed or favoured because of its origin, its race, its
birth, its beliefs, its opinions or its social or other personal

[Article 11]

Individual freedom is guaranteed.

It is especially guaranteed:


c) The right to honour and own image reputation. (i.e. “el dret a l’honor i a la pròpia imatge”)

I suppose the classic English-language view of translation styles is contained in Dryden’s introduction to his version of Ovid’s Epistles:

All Translation I suppose may be reduc’d to these three Heads:

First, That of Metaphrase, or turning an Author Word by Word, and Line by Line, from one Language into another. Thus, or near this manner, was Horace his Art of Poety translated by Ben Johnson. The second Way is that of Paraphrase, or Translation with Latitude, where the Author is kept in View by the Translator, so as never to be lost, but his Words are not so strictly follow’d as his Sense, and that too is admitted to be amplified, but not alter’d. Such is Mr. Waller’s Translation of Virgil’s Fourth Æneid. The third Way is that of Imitation, where the Translator ( if now he has not lost that Name ) assumes the Liberty not only to vary from the Words and Sense, but to forsake them both as he sees Occasion: And taking only some general Hints from the Original, to run Division on the Ground-work, as he pleases. Such is Mr. Cowley’s Practice in turning two Odes of Pindar, and one of Horace, into English.

I would suggest that the result of Reagrupament’s labours is not metaphrase but mesophrase – fucked literal translation. But to speak of failure is also to speak of intent. Did they want an English translation in order to sell their proposition to English-speakers, or did the exercise actually have more to do with ticking boxes like “modernity” and “English” (but not “Spanish”, hiss hiss hiss!) for their semi-literate electorate? Is this in fact Stalinist Five-Year-ist illusionism mimicked by the People’s Front of Judea? Decide for yourself: the complete document is here, but don’t let it drag you away from enterprises of a horticultural disposition, particularly with the way food prices are going.

Similar posts

Last updated 03/07/2018

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

Barcelona (1399):

Catalonia (1155):

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.

Reagrupament (2): Reagrupament or Reagrupament Independentista is a political party in Catalonia, Spain, formally constituted on 3 October 2009.

Spain (1881):

Spanish language (504):

Translation (788):


  1. Oh, here it is!

    With your first phrase you resume my feelings much better than I could ever have.

    I bow to you, sensei.

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