The PSOE's non-guerra in Afghanistan

I don't think anyone would dispute that Iraq destroyed the PP as an electoral machine for a decade. For a multitude of reasons, the increasing chaos in Afghanistan is unlikely to have the same effect on the PSOE, but Zapatero rolled into La Moncloa on chants of "¡No a la guerra!", and so considerable pressure remains to present the situation there as a pacifistic if troublesome security operation rather than a ferocious and perilous conflict with well-motivated adversaries, but . On Wednesday the PP leader Mariano Rajoy suggested to the government that it might like to start using the word guerra with reference to Afghanistan since everyone else already was - just look at Obama! Ah, said PSOE parliamentary spokesman José Antonio Alonso, just because it's a war doesn't mean it's a guerra:

"in the logic of English language usage the word 'war' is polysemic", so that one can talk of "the war against narcotrafficking", against crime or against terrorism.

This was the cue for predictable mirth, because Alonso seemed to be implying that guerra in Spanish requires armed hostilities between two nations, and that this was not the case in Afghanistan. If he was indeed saying that war has a semantic range denied to guerra, then he was clearly talking nonsense. The current RAE entry contains several metaphorical senses:

1. f. Desavenencia y rompimiento de la paz entre dos o más potencias.
2. f. Lucha armada entre dos o más naciones o entre bandos de una misma nación.
3. f. pugna (‖ entre personas).
4. f. Lucha o combate, aunque sea en sentido moral.
5. f. Oposición de una cosa con otra.

Moreover, these uses are not fresh imports. The oldest Academy dictionary (1734) cites them, quoting Antonio Hurtado de Mendoza's Vida de Nuestra Señora:

Reverente, hermoso, humilde,
le aparece joven tierno,
fiel Ministro, à quien hacen
poca guerra los secrétos.

And the etymology given in the modern dictionary ("Del germ. *werra, pelea, discordia...") suggests that this wider interpretation may have always been available.

So what was Alonso and the PSOE's message? Surely not that, while the US went into Afghanistan prepared to take casualties in the interests of humanity and its geo-political objectives, Spain by insisting its forces were deployed in low-risk areas and by generally keeping them on-base wasn't prepared to make a similar sacrifice to achieve its worthy goals? If so, what will Morocco be thinking?

Thanks to JL. More political screwups of all colour welcome: as you will have noted, the PP is not exempt.


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.


La Moncloa prints press conference Arabic backwards

It may slowly be dawning on even Zapatero, with his great Alliance of Civilisations, that the road to الجحيم is paved with good intentions. A recent post here found Hebrew characters ordered back-to-front, and, perhaps to demonstrate evenhandedness in Spanish treatment of Semites, last week Zapatero's communications staff struck back with some arse-over-tit Arabic. Moeh Atitar de la Fuente has the story.

My personal theory is that the hippy chapter of the Illuminati have commissioned double agent José Luis to encourage the Middle Easterns to write left to right, right to left, or both ways at once, in order to sow relativism, a commodity historically in short supply in the region, or perhaps simply confusion.  

John F. Healey writes in The early alphabet that:
Some early Greek and South Arabian texts are written boustrophedon ... - like an ox ploughing a field: from left to right in the first line, right to left in the second, left to right in the third and so on (or starting on the right in the first line). In such inscriptions the letters are often reversed to face the direction of writing.
Perhaps someone like Eli Sagan has already argued that the anarchy in West Asiatic scriptal direction three thousand years ago was somehow a necessary precursor to the centuries of intense fixed-direction creative achievement that followed, and then that the childish tendency to draw letters back to front and upside down whilst learning to write is also a necessary precursor to subsequent creativity, once the system is mastered.

˙ʇuǝıɔıɟɟns ǝʇınb sı ǝɯıʇ ɐ ʇɐ ɐǝpı pɐɯ ǝuo ǝɯ ɹoɟ


Alicante restaurant serves fragmentation hand grenade for dessert

Having survived Liverpool, the intrepid Mr Harvey returns to Spain only to find himself menaced by pork lions, and worse.

Our neighbourhood revolutionary proposes to visit this establishment, purchase 50 fragmentation hand grenades (incredibly cheap at €3.5), and call trading standards if they try any lousy scam, like serving pineapple.


Taking the peace? Catalan village writes Shalom backwards

A few months back I posted about Barcelona Council's totemistic approach to foreign languages. Here, from CataloniaWatch, is another brilliant example: "shalom" transcribed backwards. Candide writes:

this pic is from a parc in a town near the catalan pyrenees cuyo nombre no quiero recordar.

obviously, the "author" of this "work" looked up "peace" in hebrew letter by letter, ignoring that semitic languages are usually written right to left. wikipedia (search term: hebrew alphabet) rules.

why he or she took the dalet for a vav while still being smart enough to put in the correct form of mem i really am unable to fathom.

i can, however, imagine this being done by any 10 year old and no big deal. but was there no adult tutoring the kids? and was there no municipal employee to oversee the whole feat?
Here, from Wikipedia, is the same word with the letters in the correct order:

It's not really all that hard.