27 June 2019

"Free Alcohol" in Wales

I do not despise people who happen not to know some particular language. There are enough languages I don't know to keep me fairly humble! Even if the language is Latin ... it's not your fault if you were not taught Latin in the general education system. Even if you are a cleric, it's not your fault if the mitred lawbreakers who supervised your seminary cheerfully took the view that "There's too much on the syllabus to find time for Latin! Forget Canon 249! Forget S John XXIII!! Forget Vatican II!!!"

But there are people whom I ... not so much despise as find arrogant and enormously stupid. They are the people who think that they can translate from X into English, or even from English into X, when they know not word of X, simply by looking in a dictionary or using a mechanical 'translator'.

Sadly, languages are not as simple as that!

In the Treasury of Westminster Cathedral, there is (or was; could somebody check?) a cope of Cardinal Manning's, accompanied by a "translation" into English of his motto.

MALO MORI QUAM FOEDARI.

This is Latin for "I prefer to die rather than to be disgraced". Foedari is the passive present infinitive of FOEDO, a verb meaning 'I disgrace'.

Apparently, some arrogant ignoramus looked in a dictionary (or a Google Translation machine?) and found a word Foedus, meaning 'an agreement'. So he rendered the motto "I would rather die than compromise"!!! (Believe me, there is no way Foedus could be inflected so that it offered a form Foedari.)


An Asda supermarket in Wales recently needed to put up a bilingual sign indicating that the supermarket was "Alcohol Free". So a fool with the "I've-got-a-dictionary" mentality put up "ALCOHOL AM DDIM". This actually means, in Welsh, "FREE ALCOHOL"! Or so I have been told. Because I don't know Welsh.

The fact that you don't know a language doesn't mean that you are entitled to treat it with disdainful contempt.

A language embodies the precious life and culture, over many centuries, of a human community. It is entitled to respect.

Whether it's Latin or Welsh, Mandarin or Hottentot, either respect it enough to learn it or keep your mucky hands off it!

18 comments:

Ivan said...

Interesting that you mentioned Cardinal Manning's cope - I saw its image on Facebook today. The moto can be seen very clearly. Here is the link (you don't need an account): https://www.facebook.com/groups/CatholicClericalDress/permalink/559629544441404/

PDLeck said...

Quite ironically Google Translate get 'Malo mori quam foedari' correct as it does with 'alcohol free'. I KNOW it does not always work just found it funny it got these two right.

Pelerin said...

The church of Saint-Sulpice in Paris has a notice with an amusing English translation which I suspect was probably done with the aid of a dictionary.

The translation starts off correctly mentioning that the church was built under Louis XIV and then states:-

'She is open 365 days of the year of 7h30 a.m. to 7h30 p.m. accomodating all visitors requesting and not requesting.
SO THAT SHE CAN CONTINUE to be enlightened, to be heated, to be swept, been useful by Priests and some employees, HELP US! Thank you.'

I do like the 'requesting and not requesting' which in the original French was 'Priant et non priant' and not all English people can spell accommodating!

Tony V said...

I've seen hundreds of ATMs that promise 'free cash', but so far none of them have delivered. And don't even get me started about 'free range eggs'.

Jovan-Marya Weismiller, T.O.Carm. said...

It wasn't Google Translate. It translates His Eminence's motto as 'I would rather die than be dishonoured', which sounds like a reasonable alternative to 'disgraced'.

Colin Spinks said...

This reminds me of the classic story of a roadsign put up in Wales, where, by law everything has to be rendered in both English and Welsh. Those fluent in the latter were rather surprised to see above the English "Slow - sheep crossing" (or whatever) a message that the recipient was out of the office and would return on Monday!

Gaius said...

I wonder whether "I would rather die than compromise" wasn't an attempt at post-V2 style "dynamic equivalence". Obviously the poor plebs nowadays wouldn't understand the concepts of disgrace or dishonour, or even if they didn't they wouldn't consider them relevant to their personal lives, so what can we find that's kind of similar but also relevant to those mouth-breathers in the laity...?

GOR said...

Wasn’t there an occasion in recent years when an enterprising CofE pastor (definitely ‘Low Church’) offered free beer to all attending Sunday service?

Of course, even then it was not free, as you had to sit through the service. I suspect the sermon was not on the ‘evils of drink’…

Andreas Meszaros said...

Interpres disertus non assidet litterae dormitanti, nec putida rusticorum interpretatione se torquet, sed quasi captivos sensus ab alia in aliam linguam, victoris jure transponit.

Calvin Engime said...

Google Translate does not use any model of syntax or even an electronic dictionary. It works from a database of pre-translated texts, finding the passages that most closely match your Latin text and trying to pull out the English words that most likely correspond to them. If you type in the Pater Noster, it will yield a perfect, conventional translation, but it will turn Latin into English gibberish or English into Latin gibberish if it is anything original.

You would hardly believe how many young people are confident enough in this contraption to get its output tattooed...

Adrian said...

Auto-translation can be entertaining. I spotted on Facebook a photo of the ceremonies at Midnight Mass with the caption 'Le pontife dépose l'Enfant-Jésus dans la Crèche', which was rendered: The Pontiff drop the child Jesus in the nursery.
Rate this translation ...

Oliver Nicholson said...

Google Translate rendering of "Musica di Verdi" : "Music of Greens"

John said...

Back in the last century I worked for a finance company which ordered special signs for each of our branch offices which was supposed to inform customers that they were entitled to a free copy in Spanish of all the documentation in the transaction. When the signs arrived one of our analysts, whose first language was Spanish and who, for reasons known only to management, was not involved in ordering the signs, took a fit of laughing. Apparently, they actually informed the customer that he was entitled, upon request, to a free duplicate Spanish woman.

We ordered new signs.

From a different company.

John Nolan said...

A Paris restaurant not far from the wonderful church of St-Eugène et Ste-Cécile had, on its menu, the following translations:

Avocat aux crevettes - lawyer with shrimps

Assiette de crudités - plate of crudenesses

Pelerin said...

Those responsible for tv subtitles can also have trouble with translations. A programme I watched recently showed a small part of a Mass in a French church. It was subtitled 'Singing in French.' What were they singing? 'Glo-ria, Glo-ria, in excelcis Deo!'

Similarly when another programme showed the singing of the 'Kyrie' the subtitle came up as 'sombre Latin hymn'!

Unknown said...

In a shopping mall located in a Spanish speaking country, they translated "Zona de internet gratis" which means "Free Internet zone" as "Internet Free zone". I could not believe my eyes.


Pelerin said...

John Nolan mentions French menus. On many English translations you will find 'Hot Goat Salad'. The first time I came across it I told my friends I did not really fancy eating a goat, hot or cold! It turned out that this is a popular dish comprising toasted goat's cheese with salad!

Has anyone else noticed the English translation on the TGVs from Paris down to Lourdes? 'FORGOT YOUR LUGGAGE? WORRIES GUARANTEED'

Ian said...

It works both ways. In the glory days of the cross-channel ferry, this announcement was heard:
"Ladies and gentlemen, the café is now open. Messieurs, mesdames, le snack-bar est maintenant ouvert."