Clever Name To Come Later

Clever Name To Come Later

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Language Help for Hillary

As everyone knows by now, Hillary embarrassed herself the other day with a little mistranslation. But what is one to do, if one is a monoglot?

Consider this a free advertisement for Google Translate.

I spent 2 minutes with Google Translate to figure out how to say 'reset' по-русский. I asked for a translation of "Push the reset button". You can see the result here.

You will see that 'перегрузка' doesn't appear. However, even if you ask for a translation of 'reset' by itself, you don't get that word back. See? On the other hand, if you search for 'overcharge', there it is: here, at noun #7. And if you back-translate перегрузка, you still don't get reset: here.

To make sure this is reasonably idiomatic, I then searched the web for the phrase "нажмите кнопку сброса" (push the reset button, remember?) and got more than a thousand hits: here.

So the word Hillary was groping for was probably "сброс" (spros). In fairness to Hillary (not that she ever bothers), 'сброс' has a bunch of other meanings not obviously related to the idea of resetting. Still, I'm reasonably confident in Google's results. If it's still wrong, it's at least not laughably wrong.

Now, make the usual effort to imagine the media's reaction to Condi Rice making such an error (not that she could, of course, being fluent in Russian).

Do you suppose I have a future as a linguist at the Department of State?

Seriously -- I am far, far from expert in Russian, and I could get a reasonable word pretty quickly; there are bound to be dozens, if not hundreds, of Russian speakers in our State Department (or at least I hope so ...). How is it remotely possible for Hillary's staff to allow her to make such an ass of herself? It only reinforces the world's image of Americans as ignorant monoglots.

As long as we don't all end up completely broke, this is going to be a fun four years!

posted by vepxistqaosani 4:07 PM

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Who or what is vepxistqaosani? The hero of the medieval Georgian epic, The Knight in Panther Skin by Shota Rustaveli. You could look it up ... use the spelling ვეფხისტყაოსანი to see it in Georgian. And why use an unspellable and unpronounceable moniker? Just for fun ... and to do a little to popularize Georgian culture beyond the Caucasus.