Friday, March 30, 2007

Humpty Dumpty is in Charge of EU Translations

Humpty Dumpty “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone. “It means just what I choose it to mean — neither more or less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master — that’s all.”

                  — Lewis Carroll, from Alice in Wonderland

Humpty Dumpty is definitely the master of official European Union public discourse. As I mentioned in my previous post, words — in the service of multicultural ideals — have assumed a new fluidity and flexibility in Brussels.

And now Humpty Dumpty has taken on a new job as the official translator of EU documents. This is from an article in the BBC:

EU effusion ‘lost in translation’

Sharp-eyed professors have spotted what they say is evidence of “political translation” of the EU’s Berlin Declaration, agreed at the weekend.

Both the Danish and English versions downplay the emotional language of the original German, they say.

Instead of saying that the EU member states are united in “happiness”, they say that they have united “for the better”, or “for the best”.

An EU spokesman said the texts had been agreed by the national governments.

“We, the citizens in the European Union, are united zu unserem Gluck “, the German-language version of the declaration reads. The phrase can be rendered in English as “united in our fortune/happiness”.

By contrast, the English-language version reads: “We, the citizens of the European Union, have united for the better”.

While in the Danish version, the word “Gluck” has been replaced with “‘vor faelles bedste” meaning “for the best”.

Gushing terms

Professor Henning Koch from Copenhagen University told the Danish paper Politiken the low-key translation could be no coincidence.

“It would come as a big surprise to me if the translators are bad at German. So then it’s a political translation,” he said.

It’s no secret that public opinion in Britain and Denmark is, at best, tepid about the European experiment. The French voted non to the EU Constitution as well — I wonder what their translation looks like…?

Professor Rudinger Gorner, head of the German department at Queen Mary, University of London… said there was also a subtle difference in that the English version “suggests something happening in the future”.

“Yet again, it’s an attempt on this side to downplay things wherever possible.”

Forbidden words… doctored translations… a soft blanket covering the media…

As Fjordman has said, it’s “Glossocracy”.

Hat tip: Kepiblanc.

[Nothing follows]


kepiblanc said...

EUrabia has solved the terror problem :

Brussels officials have confirmed the existence of a classified handbook which offers "non-offensive" phrases to use when announcing anti-terrorist operations or dealing with terrorist attacks.

Banned terms are said to include "jihad", "Islamic" or "fundamentalist".

The word "jihad" is to be avoided altogether, according to some sources, because for Muslims the word can mean a personal struggle to live a moral life.

One alternative, suggested publicly last year, is for the term "Islamic terrorism" to be replaced by "terrorists who abusively invoke Islam".

An EU official said that the secret guidebook, or, "common lexicon", is aimed at preventing the distortion of the Muslim faith and the alienation of Muslims in Europe.

Learn more newspeak here.

Baron Bodissey said...

Kepi, read my previous post! :)

Anonymous said...

“vor faelles bedste” actually means "our common good"

(From the hairsplitting-department)

Other than that, I really enjoy this blog, Baron. Keep up the good work.

Voyager said...

“We, the citizens in the European Union, are united zu unserem Gluck “, the German-language version of the declaration

This always makes me laugh because of the German phrase... zu seinem Glueck zwingen

"to compel someone to his good fortune"

This is how I interpreted this phrase in the Berlin Declaration in the original German. Blair, according to Die Welt, was haggling over its translation into English.

I prefer to think of the EU compelling people in Europe to their happiness.....or else...or as the famous German phrase goes... Und bist Du nicht willig, so brauch ich Gewalt (Der Erlkoenig, Goethe)

Baron Bodissey said...

Mikkel Høgh --

Don't blame me, blame the BBC!

The only Danish phrase I have managed to learn so far is "Hvor er toilettet?"

Very important one, that.

Beach Girl said...

Baron, you said I could.

Thank you! Here I am "link whoring" but you know I don't do it often so please forgive me but this town needs our help!

City of Hazleton, PA rocks!

It feels so good to at long last feel well enough to be posting again and now, "link whoring" too! Ah, such a simple girl, so easily pleased!