"Heidi stole my voice!"

The recollections of Selica Torcal, 86, who 40 years ago started dubbing the protagonist of the Japanese series into Spanish. She didn't like dubbing Japanese or Isao Takahata's animation style - "poorly done, with her mouth open all the time, it was extremely difficult" - and preferred being Lois Lane and Shirley Temple.

The only thing I like about the series is the German-language signature tune:

... but then in the version sung by drunken men when drunken women began dressing up as Heidi for carnival: instead of "Heidi, Heidi, deine Welt sind die Berge", the mountains are your world, "Heidi, Heidi, deine Berge sind meine Welt", your mountains are my world.


The Old Curiosity Shop -> La tienda de antigüedades / El almacén de antigüedades / El pequeño gabinete de antigüedades?

An old junk-shop or an old-junk shop; an old shop that sells curiosities, or a shop that sells old curiosities? One person's trash is another's treasure, and I wondered idly whether the Spanish translators hadn't all got it wrong -perhaps misled by the building's current, posh aspect- and whether it shouldn't have been La vieja trapería, or some such. But Dickens:

The place through which he made his way at leisure was one of those receptacles for old and curious things which seem to crouch in odd corners of this town and to hide their musty treasures from the public eye in jealousy and distrust. There were suits of mail standing like ghosts in armour here and there, fantastic carvings brought from monkish cloisters, rusty weapons of various kinds, distorted figures in china and wood and iron and ivory: tapestry and strange furniture that might have been designed in dreams. The haggard aspect of the little old man was wonderfully suited to the place; he might have groped among old churches and tombs and deserted houses and gathered all the spoils with his own hands. There was nothing in the whole collection but was in keeping with himself nothing that looked older or more worn than he.


the store-room of old curiosities

Our maternal, London grandfather had a professional interest in buildings, and once took us on an inspection trip round town, subsidised, to his amused Tory embarrassment, by Reg Goodwin and Evelyn Denington's free-passes-for-pensioners scheme. I recall thinking that Nell could never have afforded to live there (and the attribution may be spurious).

CC Lonpicman:


Transformative translation: Schloss

We're all fucked in the end -the reward for life is death- but meanwhile the profession would be greatly improved if rendered client-free. MM:

My career as a translator of guides to buildings in Central Europe started ignominiously when I gave in to the resident of Schloß Leitheim, who insisted it was Leitheim Castle.

Others calls it Leitheim Palace, but are they right? Would Chateau Leitheim work? Schloss works, but I think of the American who asked the way to the Schlob in Heidelberg...

I have neither Ms Marks' talent nor experience, but I think that in a case like this I would look the client in the eye, take them by the hand, and lead them into the grounds. "Regard that marvellous building [CC Manfi. B]," I would say, "possessed of both the strength of the castle and the sweetness of the palace:"

"In fact, dear client," I would say, "all it lacks is a Transformative Translator® to give adequate expression to it in the motherfucker of all languages. Now, get out your wallet and start counting, because we're going to call it Leitheim Turgid Torpid Rhinoceros Pigfucker. For cast your eye again, from right to left, and you will see a hornèd head, followed by a weak back and monstrous fat arse, the latter two qualities indicative respectively of addictions to CSI and cranberry juice, the whole terminated by a piggy tail and some pink shading whose genetic origins we are, under consumer protection legislation, obliged to recall and disclose."

Borges wrote that "German is a very beautiful language; perhaps more beautiful than the literature it has produced," and perhaps you could say that its speakers require imaginative assistance. On the other hand, Borges' Autobiografía (1970, aged 71) is only a third of the length of Nigel Farage's Fighting bull/Flying free (2010, aged 46), so maybe the reluctant Argentine's opinions weren't that interesting or important after all.



A revolutionary Balkan gypsy begging flyer

The gypsy beggars and backing-track musos who work the Barcelona local train service systematically and efficiently are an example to Spanish local authorities looking to improve their act: no grasping, arrogant, incompetent, Weberian civil service; a fine tradition of no-budget graphic design; and simple, effective copywriting in the language most likely to mean something, not to some hypothetical ancestral Volk, but to the punter. This however is remarkable:

Got it?

Recent Balkan gypsy incursions into Spain, both the one starting in the 1960s (which for instance led to the establishment of an impressive mafia clan in Barcelona's Zona Franca) and then the one following the outbreak of the Balkan wars in the 1990s (which populated city centres with an invalid freak show), have tended to show the linguistic signs of passage through Italy: a Spanish vocabulary which is still heavily Italianate complements grammatical tendencies which don't owe very much to any language I know; English is poor.

But here the Spanish is borderline gibberish, while the English is pretty good:

Hello, I Can't Find Work and Have two Children, Which I can't Support
Please Help me with a coin.

Help, no pueden encontrar trabajo y tener dos hijos, lo que no puedo apoyar
Por favor, ayúdame con una moneda

What's going on? A one-off pater familias who learnt English from informal contacts with UN personnel in Kosovo, or something similar? A generational shift (dad may not have designed the flyer) towards informal, online language learning which favours English (schooling certainly can't be blamed)?

But then I'd expect you to find more examples.

Pub Guardianistas regularly imply that I am the reïncarnation of Adolf Hitler because I say gypsy instead of the PC Roma. Not so, honest: I used to know the well-heeled interpreter (the state is important) for one of the settlements into which the Dutch gypsies were forced about 40 years ago as part of the denomadisation campaign, which has been running on and off for the last five centuries. He was very clear - an oriental potentate slumped on his Louis XIV couch, which he wanted to sell along with the house - that he was Sinti, not Roma scum. Romani also introduces more confusion than it dispels, and gypsy still seems to me a reasonable choice.

Update: Mr Commonsense suggests that the guy is a Romanian rather than a southern Slav gypsy, and that he learnt English begging in the UK, from which he was deported and to which he has decided not to return. Or that he has school-age and school-attending relatives in the UK, who have discovered Google Translate. Or something. So a victory for Theresa May!



"All day I've faced, the barren waste,
without a taste of...

Can you see that big green tree,
Where the sandwish's running free,
And it's waiting there for you and me?"

I do Cool Water with the organ, and it's a great favourite, but the other day I made the mistake of introducing the mirage song as a possible gloss on Psalms 42:1: "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God." Afterwards a clergyman came up to me and said, "The problem with you atheists is that you are stricken by paranoia and see God everywhere."

Here, to give Hank Williams a rest, are The Sons Of The Pioneers with their 1947 hit version:

(H/t CH)


French lessons: Grannie on her bike rides across the pool

Boby Lapointe, an obsessive, deranged comic genius who seems to have drunk himself to death aged 50, points to one of the delicious traps lying in wait for elephants who proceed beyond their French-English phrasebooks - the fact that of the supposed infinity of possible sentences in natural language, most are nonsense:

What time is it? Quelle heure est-il?
Deux heur´s moins deux : Two to two
Quelle heure est-il? What time is it?
Deux heures deux : Two two
De deux moins deux à deux heur´s deux voyons
ce qui se pass´
Consacrons-y notre class´

From two to two to two two. De deux heur´s
moins deux à deux heur´s deux
Daddy on his bike is riding to town
Papa à vélo-o se rend à la ville

From two to two to two two. De deux heur´s
moins deux à deux heur´s deux
My sister is swimming across the pool
Ma sœur, en nageant traverse la piscine.

From two to two to two two. De deux heur´s
moins deux à deux heur´s deux
Grannie is in bed eating her pudding
Grand-mère est au li-it, mangeant son pudding

From two to two to two two. De deux heur´s
moins deux à deux heur´s deux
Dreaming uncle John is petting the dog
Rêveur, oncle Joh-hon, caresse le chien.

Et maintenant vous possédez tout un voca-bu-lai-air´
Vous pouvez grâce à tous ces mots tenir "conversation"
Vous mélanger formant des phrases de mille manié-èr´
Mille "signi-fi-qua-tion"

From two to two to two two. De deux heur´s
moins deux à deux heur´s deux
The dog is swimming, he´s swimming to town
le chien nage, nage jusqu´à la ville

From two to two to two two. De deux heur´s
moins deux à deux heur´s deux
Grannie on her bike rides across the pool
Grand-mère à vélo traverse la piscine

From two to two to two two. De deux heur´s
moins deux à deux heur´s deux
My sister´s in bed, she eats uncle John
Ma sœur est au lit, ell´ mange Oncle John

From two to two to two two. De deux heur´s
moins deux à deux heur´s deux
Daddy is dreaming he pets his pudding
Papa en rêvant caresse son pudding

A creepy Occitan cokehead made me listen to "Ta Katie t'a quitté" a couple of years ago. I'm still trying to learn it by heart, and now I go through periods with Mr. Lapointe's entire repertoire on loop in order to anaesthetise myself against whatever stupid puff I'm writing. I have always meant to watch his first film - Truffaut's Tirez sur le pianiste / Shoot the piano player - and TPB still seems to be working where I am, so night-night.


Moreno's master's: polysemy, polydon't

Jesús Fernández-Villaverde y Luis Garicano at Hay Derecho had a look last year at the CV of Juan Manuel Moreno Bonilla, Rajoy's excellent choice of candidate for the Andalusian elections, and were puzzled by what they found:

Empecemos por el MBA. Si su título de grado es de 2010-2011, su Master en Dirección y Administración de Empresas por la EADE tendrá que haber comenzado después de estas fechas (a menos que EADE siga la peculiar política de permitir matricularse en su MBA a estudiantes que no son graduados). Pero el 30 de Diciembre de 2011 fue nombrado Secretario de Estado de Servicios Sociales e Igualdad. Es decir, que nos imaginamos que habrá tenido que simultanear sus estudios en EADE con su cargo de Secretario de Estado.


Sigamos por el “Master en Programa para el Liderazgo en la Administración Pública (IESE)”. Este master sencillamente no existe. Lo que el IESE tiene es un Programa para el Liderazgo en la Administración Pública, que es un programa que se reúne “de octubre a julio en jornadas intensivas de una tarde de lunes al mes, con almuerzo incluido.

[...] Terminemos con “Master de Oro del Real Forum de Alta Dirección”. Esto quizás lo entienda algún lector como un master universitario, y efectivamente, así lo ha entendido la prensa. En realidad, no lo es: es un premio que da una asociación privada.

In Anglosajonia "a master's" is "a master's degree", a contract under which you (or your employer or your rich auntie) gives something called a university (or something which pays commission to one) some money, and after some time (and some sexual adventures and even some work, though outsourcing is often an option) that something gives you a piece of paper which may or may not help you find another employer or reduce dependence on the auntie.

In Hispania, "un máster" is also the exchange of many notes for one, but the word admits an infinity of meanings, customers are more naive, and salesmen even less scrupulous - many awarding bodies wouldn't recognise a university if it bit them on their posterior end. I currently have on my fridge área's fly-posted "Máster en Social Media y Community Manager" ("Community Management," children!) in San Sebastián, where in 350 hours and for roughly €3K it seems that you will discover how to set up Wordpress.com, Facebook and Twitter accounts - check the student projects:

False friends also find opportunities when translating Spanish educational concepts into English. A profesor in Spanish is just a teacher, or even someone who is rather good at something, while in British English a professor is a top-ranking academic unless modifying hints are received. So the BBC is misleading the poor old British public when its Tom Burridge describes the ex-"profesor titular interino" Pablo Iglesias as a "university professor". Catedrático suffers from the same problem. I suspect that there is mention of this in Peter Harvey's Great English mistakes made by Spanish-speakers.


El Risitas, the new Hitler

Armando Ferreira's "translation" has an Apple engineer discussing the new MacBook:

I hadn't heard about Juan Joya Borja and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Osona: the power of pigshit

Anon enjoys juxtaposing the gibberish from the tourist body for the Catalan district containing Vic, Manlleu and Torelló:

Discover thepower ofcatalan land, close to Barcelona

... with news from Grup de Defensa del Ter that the average level of nitrates in tested springs in the area -vital for walkers- has increased over the past year from 64 to 78.7 mg/l; that there are peaks of 456.5 at Taradell, 353.4 at Santa Cecília de Voltregà, and 343.9 at Gurb; and that more than half of the springs exceed the WHO's recommended limit of 50 for drinking water.

Conspiracy theories

  1. GDT believes that politicians and civil servants are in hock to big business, which is to say pig business. (Aside: A Dutch gent who ships his pigs for fattening in Osona before returning them to Holland for slaughter says that the lack of environmental checks has a crucial impact on his pricing, and the effect on nose and eyes is often reminiscent of parts of Holland in the bad old days.) However, human water consumption is more than four times that of our snorty friends per head, so both sides may be hearing shortly from porcine rights activists.
  2. Anon suspects murderous xenophobia - "Let's get 'em here, and poison 'em." But then they'd have produced a decent translation, no?
  3. You already know what I think.


A nurse called Callous

Some Spanish media mistook a translatable adjective in a Daily Mail article for an untranslatable proper noun, perhaps even imagining that it ran in the great tradition of Spanish female first names: Angustias, Benigna, Consolación, Dolores...