"Where is limit" and the decline in rote learning

Lenox here and here and here writes:

Well, here's a race you won't want to miss - it's the prize-winning 'Stupidest Titled Activity 2014' which this year goes to the World Capital of Plastic Farming: '1st Trail Where Is Limit El Ejido'. Yes, they are all very excited, especially the chap who had the honour of finding, with just a google translator to help him navigate through the difficult Idioma de Shakespeare, the title for this magnificent event, a race across the hills behind the luscious resort.

This has nothing to do with translation, and it's very curious. Where Is The Limit, the organisation itself, gets it right, but things go wrong when functionaries in El Egido fail to copy a simple four-word title correctly from the marketing materials, and their mess is then imitated faithfully by Diario de Almería and La Voz de Almería. By this stage it has become "I Where is Limit El Ejido", which could lead trusting punters to some very strange conclusions regarding English verbs.

Why, oh why? Is this part of the alleged crisis caused by the abandonment of fact-based learning, which in England has apparently left 25% of secondary school children believing that Winston Churchill was a fictional talking dog, rather than a cat? Should Andalusian civil servants return to copying stuff off blackboards, with beatings when they screw up? (I know, you think they should be beaten anyway, but primate rights lawyers will catch up with you sooner or later.)

In which the Spanish Inquisition strikes down a translation and saves an English sailor from a fiery fate

Werner Thomas (* 1931)

is an accordionist from Switzerland credited with composing a tune popularly known as the "Chicken Dance" or the "Birdie Song" while working as a restaurant musician in Davos during the early 1960s

The Chairmans, however, describe him as a composer, and say that his masterwork was actually finished by 1957 and first pressed in 1973, since when it has sold more than 40 million in 370 versions in 42 countries. There is a link to a list of his works at the German National Library, including an Alpine march-fox[trot] called "Hol-di-ol-di-e, das isch doch mir egal", which doesn't quite mean "Get the [propan]ol, the Es, it's all the same to me."

Now, except perhaps for Belgian dance-hall organs from the 1920s, there's no musical ambience I like so much (VLC: Media / Open Network Stream: http://streaming207.radionomy.com:80/webRadio-Tirol is often good at night). Unfortunately the first video search result is for a German hiphop video in which two nice boys boast about their exploits in the ghetto:

Let me interpret: one of the guys is practising for his yodelling evening class, defying protests from the neighbours with, "Go on, call the police, when they arrive I'll be singing Heino, bitch":

Yeah, uh, haha, uh
Hol doch die Polizei
Bevor sie hier erscheinen werden,
ist die Aktion schon vorbei.

I do this out of a love for humankind.

But this post actually draws on another Werner Thomas, a Leuven historian, who in Los protestantes y la Inquisición en España en tiempos de Reforma y Contrarreforma (2001) refutes a key myth of the Black Legend: the notion that the Spanish Inquisition was a kind of secret service at the disposal of the Spanish monarchy, which sought out heresy via a network of spies. Instead, he shows that the Inquisition often served to obstruct the madness, greed and stupidity of the yokels when they turned on foreigners and other easy meat - the delegation of powers is not without its dangers.

In 1608, he writes, the English sailor Guillermo Crocul, recently arrived in the port of Barcelona, was sunning himself near the city wall, where cod was being unloaded from his vessel, when five Spanish students, all minors, approached to ask him if he was Christian. Crocul answered that he was, and that he was a better Christian than they. When the boys asked him if in England people believed in Christ, the Englishman replied that there was no Christ, and that he had not died on the cross. When the students presented him with a crucifix for him to worship, Crocul didn't want to kiss it. Clearly a heretic, and they denounced him as such to the Holy Office. The inquisitors, however, had to conclude that the Englishman spoke no Spanish, and the Spaniards no English, so that the conversation had been a grave misunderstanding.

With all due modesty, I have also found this centralist pyrophobia as this project slowly drifts downstream. In particular, I have been amused by cases where the Inquisition has clearly allowed economically useful "Germans" to escape, only then to burn them in a state of some despair when they obstinately reappear.

How would we write William Crocul's surname in English? Crokle? Crocker? Croaker? The image conjured by the story is simply splendid, and it is frustrating to know that one will probably know no more.

English arrestees came from (in numerical order) Bristol, London, Plymouth, Millbrook (Southampton), Barnstaple, Cardiff, Garmouth, Falmouth, Gosport, Portsmouth, Southampton city, Exeter, Chichester, Colchester, Ipswich, Folkestone and Shoreham. Do any Brizzle shanties recall such goings-on?


First request to this site from a hitherto purchaser of dodgy translation

"Year1a", by mail:

Dear ladies and gentleman,
  We are Fisheries Ltd. Company in kunming Yunnan China. We need import some fishmeal. If you have this products, please you contact with us.We expect that cooperation with you. Thanks!
  Telephone ,13759557137

Oh, George:

Why would China need to import fishmeal? Is West African fish waste sourced through Spanish producers?


The Venerable Bede said that whoever talks in church talks not with his own voice but with that of the devil within him, says Jerónimo de Alcalá in Alonso, mozo de muchos amos (1624).

Judging by David Jackson's tale (taxes wasted on the signs alone: €37,752), and on past experience, ragamoffyn has a rich furrow of kissarsers in Almería.

Tunbridge Wells, on the other hand, is impeccably governed, and it's a wonder we don't all live there.

David takes what I think is the party line on descriptive toponyms, and it's perfectly sensible:

[T]he main church, the Iglesia de la Virgen del Mar, has been signposted as the “Church of the Virgin of the Sea”. Try finding that in your guidebook,
... or by asking the locals.

But maybe another class of guidebook is needed: for virtual visitors, who, without learning the lingo, wish to relish provincial absurdities. I feel that those unfamiliar with the dialects employed in intergalactic Marianism would definitely like to know what this Virgin is up to:

And Our Lady of Overactive Letdown should never be issued without her Vatican-approved user's manual.

All of this via Lenox - sadly I long ago ceased to read the entire internet every morning before breakfast - who reports that Murcia is now sometimes Múrcia, as if they hadn't got financial problems enough.


Jordi Pujol Ferrusola's Active Translation SL is a real estate business allegedly used for money laundering, but that's OK, idiot

Although the Pujol clan's little problems are being leaked via the those parts of the Spanish-language media not on its payroll, you all finally have reason to learn Catalan: follow the consternation of some of the Plain People as they realise that when CiU told them to look up at the flag, it was merely in order to steal their wallet; observe the madness of others, still unable to acknowledge that the photographer's birdie was a ruse, not a flyer; place bets on who's going to get hurt when it all goes wrong this autumn. You won't have had so much fun since the day your dog Rover got run over.

I feel pretty sure now that either everyone will go to jail - including zombies like Felipe González and José María Aznar (the Pujols were paying off the FAES, right?) - or no one will. But while that great and predictable drama plays out, there's a wealth of great micro-scripting to keep even people like us interested and entertained.

The nerds seem to have established that both Pasqual Maragall (3%) and Josep Carod Rovira (5%) were correct, but check the linguistic meat: one of the devices of Jordi Pujol and Marta Ferrusola's eldest is a holding called Active Translation SL, whose business is said to be:

Operaciones Sobre Inmuebles en General. Compraventa; Administracion y Explotacion de Valores Mobiliarios Con o Sin Contizacion en Mercados Secundarios Oficiales. Realizacion de Estudios y Prospecciones de Mercado
Now, you and I'll be thinking that rich dimwit Jordi's got hold of a false friend of trasllat/translat/traslat in Catalan, but not at all. Translation can mean (OED):
A transfer of property; spec. alteration of a bequest by transferring the legacy to another person

Now we'll complain that that may well be so, but that he's deliberately pulling the wool over our eyes. The natural assumption from its name is that the agency will have been engaged in rendering the dreary meanderings of Ausiàs March into Macedonian, because that meaning emerged in the 14th century (along with the use of the word to describe removals of live bishops and dead saints), and is dominant, while his meaning first appears in the late 16th and is unknown even to fucking galactic genii like ourselves.

But that's just us envying his superior intelligence and education. And envy, according to Rome, is still a deadly sin, whereas I think monstrous embezzlement may be excused if it is found to serve noble human ends, such as the purchase of flags, and birdies, thus maintaining Chinese manufacturing's grasp on the Yankee throat.

Sometimes I wonder about the commission assigned to devise the post-Francoist constitution. Simply from its composition it was evident that its proposals would favour a state dominated by regional barons, but as well as discussing the division of turf, did they also discuss who was to get how much?


Experts in dismantling and mantling funitures, with an ad of my own

roberto rob in Barcelona Metropolitan's classifieds:

We offer the most reliable services of movings both within the town and outsidethe town,even outsside the country. we are experts in dismantling and mantling funitures, we are on duty 24 hrs and 7 days a week. just give us a trial,

I think mantle is a pretty nifty bit of back-formation, but I know there will be conservatives who will prefer to speculate, following the OED (access with a UK local library card), that the funitures will actually

  • be concealed or obscured;
  • be covered with a coating of ashes in order to shelter them from the weather;
  • become covered with some other type of coating or scum;
  • become frisky or rampant;
  • start to embrace people in a friendly or affectionate manner.


Hots dogs

Possible evidence of the Spanish Conquest of England, seen on a neighbourhood barbecue ("BQ") notice on Wick Road, Hackney. Though perhaps, given the character of some of the dogs round there, the adjective was simply intimidated into agreeing. Adjectives have feelings, known as adverbs.


Linguist lawyers

Transblawg picks up again on an Economist thing suggesting translation as an outlet for under-billing associates, and quotes one of the comments:

I am also a US qualified lawyer working in document review in Spanish and Portuguese. I have been steadily employeed in these temporary projects for quite some time, but inoalls is correct, these projects do not lead to permanent employment. I also agree that these law firms that hire people like us do not realize the full benefit of having someone who is not only fluent in the language, but able to act as a liasion between them and their foreign clients. I recently worked on a review in which the documents captured were clearly not what the firm had been looking for. I asked to see a list of the search terms and it was no wonder they got the result they did, they simply translated English legal terms into Portuguese, not taking into account the variations in the legal systems. I mentioned this to the supervising attornesy and gave them a list of more specialized terms to search for. This is an example of how firms are not making an investment in associates who bring languages to the table.

Though eloquence is prized in the profession, I sometimes get that old Moses & Aaron ache - if you're not stone-tablet-lugger-in-chief then you're a fucking loser - which wounds Moses if he slums it as Aaron, and which is punishable by antiphonal thunderbolt for any Aaron who presumes to a bit of mountaineering.

Exceptions are to be found on the wild side - new technologies and other Wild Wests - and this foolish babbler has had some amusing moments trying to unravel for demigods what happened in a particularly confused bit of Francophone industrial Africa.

But as night falls my hovel and hogs await on the plain.


Early Hispanic bad loans and the Berbers: how we got from "el cadi" (the judge) to "el alcalde" (the the mayor)

Were the medieval Spanish arseholes? enquires anti-patriot Jesús P. Zamora Bonilla re the agglutination of the Arabic definite article in Spanish Arabisms - here's a list of al- & ar- nouns.

No, replies Federico Corriente, Dictionary of Arabic and Allied Loanwords: Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan, Galician and Kindred Dialects (2008), it were the Berbers what was the rearguard trumpets, brown-eyed cyclops, antiphons:

Our impression is that Noll has underestimated the cogency of the hypothesis .... purporting that article agglutination has to do with the well-known fact that the majority of the Muslim invaders were superficially Arabicized Berbers who, lacking an article in their native language and being therefore scarcely able to master the rules of its usage, attached it permanently to the [Arabic] loanwords acquired by [Berber], as well as to every substantive in the [Arabic] they learned, spreading this usage in the areas invaded by their troops, the Iberian Peninsula and wide expanses of Western Africa. This adstratic hypothesis is rejected by Noll, pleading an allegedly rapid decay of [Berber] in Al-Andalus, the unaccountable difference of results in the cases of [Catalan] and Southern Italy, where article agglutination is much less frequent, in spite of no lesser contacts with Berbers, and finally the situation of [Moroccan Arabic], where the [Berber] substratum is strongest and, nevertheless, there would be no such abusive use of the article. However, when these arguments and counter-arguments are checked and counter-checked, a different picture emerges, in our view more clearly favourable to that hypothesis.

To begin with, that alleged rapid decay of [Berber] appears to be a myth, originated perhaps in the dislike of many an Arab or Western scholar for an abstruse language which most of them did not know at all, and furthered by the historical fact that many [first-wave Berber invaders] tried at all costs to pass themselves off as Arabs and had no qualms about forging the matching lineages. But this was the attitude of those who, having a chance of socio-economic advancement, dwelt in the cities and played a role in political life. We do not for sure know what happened in the important rural communities of certain parts of the country, nor to what extent they managed to hide from each other a still strong competence in their native language in order to disguise their ethnic background. It stands to reason that, even if they had managed to forget [Berber], they could not help speaking Berberized [Arabic]. No surprise then that [Berber] loanwords in [Andalusi] be relatively few, and even fewer those having entered [Romance], but it is equally well-known that they are also relatively scarce in [North African Arabic] dialects, because [Berber] was and for most purposes still is a discredited language of peasants and highlanders which it is preferable to pretend not to know, even when it is one's mother tongue. However, it can be asserted on mere grounds of population statistics that the majority of the Hispanic people who became Andalusi had to learn [Arabic] from bilingual Berbers...; on the other hand, we have also shown that the situation in [Catalan] is not so different, nor so inexplicable. Finally, it is not completely true that the definite article be used in [Moroccan Arabic] with a distribution strictly governed by the category of determination: the mere existence, especially in non-[Bedouin] dialects, characteristically more influenced by the [Berber] substratum, of an indefinite article of the shape waḥd+ɘl means that substantives not preceded by [ɘl+] are statistically few...

[read the whole thing]

So, for the headline example, the RAE entry for alcalde she say:

Del ár. hisp. alqáḍi, y este del ár. clás. qāḍī, juez

As fire is extinguished by water, so innocency doth quench reproach.


The vehicle in the MOTs: what's the author's mother-tongue? Plus, wanted: Piaggio Ape 50 van

An ad for a Piaggio Ape coffee van conversion:

Hello. I sell piaggio ape 50 cc 2001, in good condition equipped for the sale of hot drinks (coffee, cappuccino, latte.ecc). The vehicle in the MOTs and Tax paid up to May 2015. It is equipped with a coffee machine Professional two groups fracino, professional fracino grinder, a small fridge 12/24/220 volt pump of the water, small sink for hands, first aid kit and fire protection. The price is compressed everything that I need to start what `s activity table, blackboard, gazebo,various staff.

Clue below, and now the meat: I'm looking for a good second-hand Piaggio Ape 50 van in London / southern England or Barcelona / northeastern Spain.

About 60 are sold new annually in the UK, many of which appear to become coffee vans with an espresso-grade markup. My understanding is that many of those return to market quite rapidly and struggle to sell. In such cases I wonder whether the sum of the parts is worth more than the whole, and whether stripping acid from asset might make sense, but maybe their embrace is not soluble.

The new Piaggio Ape 50 market is curious. You can put one on the road in Spain for about 4200GBP, while the equivalent British price appears to be around 5600GBP. Explanations: sales are higher in Spain due to better weather, the scooter tradition, ecc.; national legislation in the UK and other countries prohibiting residents from driving foreign-taxed and -registered vehicles, thus protecting autochthonous car showrooms (and fuck the Treaty of Rome); a lack of interest at Piaggio Inc in the appreciation of sterling vs the euro; any more, bearing in mind that it's not exactly a LH- vs RH- drive issue?

But, as with fruit and veg, the cheapest prices I've seen are in Germany.

Meanwhile, if anyone with some boot space is driving from Spain to England before September 6, I'd be interested in renting said space.