2010/10/15

Revealed: the class of people that uses Google Translate

Accountability is the ostensible reason why this blog is generally about institutions rather than individuals - public and private mass service providers take on liabilities that a lonely blogger as a whole does not. However below this do-gooding sheen lurks cowardice, because the local council is much less likely to come after you with an axe than is perhaps a lonely blogger.

For example, let's take my reasons for not naming the name of the fervent nationalist and racist and assiduous participant in online fora who comments here, presumably with the help of Google Translate, that

Mahatma Gandhi said:

Your enemy
First they ignore you
then laughs
and after t’ataca
finally win!

Now I obviously want you to think that I'm maintaining his anonymity here because as a private citizen he has neither the resources nor responsibilities of the Spanish Government.

However, dear readers, I have to confess that my silence may have more to do with the fact that this gent was believed by prosecutors to have taken time off from his most interesting website to pop downstairs in the company of his daughter and knock off his mum, the village tobacconist.

In fact the daughter was found to have canned gran all on her own: daddy merely covered up, and so he is completely innocent and back at work in his mum's shop, and I haven't the faintest idea what this post is about.

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As is often the case with this kind of thing, the aphorism turns out not to belong to Gandhi. A brief trawl suggests an interesting ghit distribution, with rapid growth from the 1990s and nothing much before until we get back to the 1919 convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America:

First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you. And that is what is going to happen to the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America

I seems to me quite unlikely that a radical, American union would have quoted an early bon mot from Gandhi, then going through his Kaffir-hating phase, and anyway the phrase turns up in recognisable form in the mid-1880s, when Gandhi was being a schoolboy, getting married, and having babies. I imagine the trope is far older.

However I suppose that if you want to market yourself as a transforming personality, attribution to Gandhi rather than to the The Medical Times and Gazette or to some obscure pre-Victorian sage does make some kind of sense. If Gandhi did use it widely or prominently, then perhaps he picked it up after arriving in London in the late 1880s. Sidney Hillman of the ACWA is another possible conduit.
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Tip of the hat: C
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