Turismo Rías Baixas rejects an offer to have its appalling promotional materials properly translated for free

Colin‘s letter to the Galicians:

Ten years or so ago, I sent a personal letter to the Director of the said Rías Baixas Tourist Board, offering to translate all their promotional material for nowt. I never even had the courtesy of a reply. But, anyway, here’s how their English material turned out, absent my help. Craply, in a word. Presumably, though, it came with the stamp of approval of whichever of the Director’s relatives produced it. For a large fee.

I guess Colin’s on one of those notoriously lavish CFO pensions, so maybe “for nowt” is short for “at monstrous cost to the British taxpayer”.

I think I can understand any Spanish reluctance to entertain Liverpudlians bearing gifts: on the first occasion that the mass distribution of foreign translations of texts graven in stone was tolerated the British and Foreign Bible Society unleashed

a Quaker called George Borrow, an outlandish character of few letters, as simple, gullible and naive as those who emerge with a ladder to receive the Three Kings. (Menéndez y Pelayo, Historia de los heterodoxos españoles)

Socialism and the smoking ban were then but a question of time.

I don’t get the Three Kings-ladder quip, and it is said that Borrow’s translations into Basque and “Gypsy” are laughably poor. Anyone?

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  1. Borrow had a good knowledge of many languages including Romany. That is why the gypsies called him Lavengro, which means word-master. It was not as good as he thought it was but it was impressive, at least by the standards of the day, before modern linguistics had got off the ground.
    His book the Bible in Spain is a long and very readable account of his adventures selling bibles as he travelled sround Spain during the Carlist Wars. He spent a lot of his time with the Spanish gypsies, no doubt talking to them in their own language.
    Borrow was not a Quaker. He was a staunch Anglican.
    You will have seen that my blog is called Lavengro and that my books are published under the imprint Lavengro Books in homage to him. However, you may perhaps not know that I am from Liverpool.

  2. A man who quotes Menedez Pelayo on Borrow is like one man who quotes Erich von Däniken on the Ancient Egyptians…

    But Mr Harvey has already answered the fallacies in that quote. So let me just add that the translation of Luke into Basque was not made by Borrow himself, and that his translation into Romany-Calo was excellent, and the first printed book in the Gypsy language ever.

    What, sir, is your problem with the poor dead fellow?

    Alfred B Mittington

  3. My dad's from Wallasey, which may explain at least something.

    I love MP because he finds the temptation to be such a complete dick so difficult to resist – as you'll know, "Quaker" was originally insulting in English, and that's clearly his intention here.

    I love Borrow too, though I'm never sure quite what to make of him and don't pertain to the sect that seems to have grown around his memory. Maybe I haven't googled hard enough – I'd be curious to see an impartial audit of some of his translations.

  4. Dear Sir,

    I also appreciate Menendez Pelayo for his great erudition. But he does quite often make a mess of things by letting his sarcasm get the better of his philology. Other than that, I find his 'The Church is ALWAYS right' an insult to human intelligence. And that from a man so smart…

    As for Borrow: one must take him, and his admirers, with a grain of salt. Both are harmless, and amusing, and pretty useful in their way. There are worse things out there in the literary world. Dan Brown, for instance…

    Incidentally: I located the 'ladder' tradition around Reyes Magos. It seems to have survived in Alcoy. See http://www.pagina66.com/2012/01/06/rep-porta-a-porta-en-persona/

    Yours, ABM

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