Skip to main content

Ralsina.Me — Roberto Alsina's website

Antonio María Delgado is an ignorant

An­to­nio María Del­ga­do writes for the Mi­a­mi New Her­ald. I would dare guess he's sup­posed to know en­glish, even if he writes in span­ish.

Let's back­track a bit. The Econ­o­mist pub­lish­es (as it has done for a while), some­thing called the "Mis­ery In­dex", which at­tempts to cap­ture the coun­tries where peo­ple are feel­ing mis­er­able, and rank them.

So, Mr. Del­ga­do goes, reads that, sees Venezuela near the top, and I can imag­ine the idea light­bulb bright­en­ing to a daz­zling 0.5 watts, his scream of "po­lit­i­cal an­gle!" and the rush to write this:

"Venezuela se ubicó el año pasa­do en el se­gun­do puesto del "Indice de Mis­e­ri­a" elab­o­ra­do por la re­vista británi­ca The Econ­o­mist..."

The prob­lem, dear eng­lish read­er, is that "mis­e­ri­a" does­n't mean "mis­ery". It means "pover­ty". In fac­t, it means "ex­treme pover­ty". And thus, Mr. Del­ga­do makes it seem as if the Econ­o­mist is say­ing Venezuela is the sec­ond poor­est coun­try (in some sense).

While I per­son­al­ly dis­like Chavez, this is ei­ther ig­no­ran­t, or stupid. Your cal­l.

Demetrio Fernandez is an idiot

Spain is a coun­try. Cór­do­ba is a place in Spain. In Cór­do­ba there are church­es. Peo­ple go to church­es. The peo­ple who at­tend church in Cór­doba, Spain, are un­der the spir­i­tu­al guid­ance of Demetrio Fer­nan­dez, bish­op.

Just so we are clear: You are sup­posed to greet him by kiss­ing his hand.

On the oth­er hand, Demetrio Fer­nan­dez is an id­iot who said this:

"The Min­is­ter for Fam­i­ly of the Pa­pal Gov­ern­men­t, Car­di­nal An­tonel­li, told me a few days ago in Zaragoza that UN­ESCO has a pro­gram for the next 20 years to make half the world pop­u­la­tion ho­mo­sex­u­al. To do this they have dis­tinct pro­gram­s, and will con­tin­ue to im­plant the ide­ol­o­gy that is al­ready present in our school­s."

I rest my case. Demetrio Fer­nan­dez is an id­iot. Car­di­nal An­tonel­li is an id­iot. And if you go to church in Cór­doba, Spain, know­ing about this, and kiss the id­iot's hand, you are an id­iot.

Idioms are not your friends

Us­ing id­ioms is a dou­ble-edged sword. One side lets you cut to the point. You say a phrase, and it's so load­ed of mean­ing, it's a short­cut to what you mean. One side can cut you, if you just use it and you use it wrong.

Let's con­sid­er Beat­riz Sar­lo, a re­spect­ed ar­gen­tine in­t­elec­tu­al. She writes op-ed col­umns in a news­pa­per. She wrote one to­day. It end­s:

To­tal, Boudou, sin bromi­ta al­gu­na, debe ade­cuarse a lo que le to­que, obe­de­cien­do el viejo re­frán de que a un ca­bal­lo re­gal­a­do no hay que ex­am­i­narlo para ver si viene com­ple­to.

Which I trans­late as:

In any case, Boudou, jokes aside, has to ac­cept what he get­s, fol­low­ingth­at old ad­vice about not ex­am­in­ing gift hors­es to see if they are whole.

One pe­cu­liar thing here is that we have al­most the ex­act same say­ing in span­ish and eng­lish. In eng­lish you don't look gift hors­es in the mouth. In span­ish you don't check the teeth of gift hors­es. The prob­lem here (if I may be so pedan­tic (yes you may (thanks oth­er me! (my plea­sure)))) is that Ms. Sar­lo has no freak­ing clue of what that mean­s.

Sup­pose you are buy­ing a horse. You would check the mouth be­cause you want to see if the horse is young or old (c­i­ta­tion need­ed? Here is google's first re­sult). That's im­por­tant when you buy a horse. It's, on the oth­er hand, re­al­ly use­less and rude when you are get­ting a horse as a gift:

Nice guy: Hey, here's a horse!

Rude mo­ron: (looks in the mouth) No thanks!

That's why you don look gift hors­es in the mouth. And that's al­so why you don't check ama­zon to see how much the book you got cost­s.

On the ther hand, if you were a Tamar­i­an, you could look at the horse's mouth and say "Tem­ba, at rest".

UFO For Ever

My dad was born in the prov­ince of Cha­co, and mi­grat­ed (very slow­ly) some 1500km to the south. The mi­gra­tion was slow enough that he man­aged to have two dif­fer­ent lo­cal foot­ball teams to like.

The one he liked when I met him was Unión de San­ta Fe, but the team of his child­hood and youth was the re­mark­ably ob­scure Cha­co For­ev­er. And of course, be­cause it's what peo­ple do when their teams have no chance of ev­er win­ning any­thing, he liked one "big" team just to have some chance to cel­e­brate (Bo­ca Ju­niors, in his case).

On­ce, at the end of the 60s, he was driv­ing north, to­wards Re­sisten­ci­a, the home of Cha­co Forever, with my mom and my big broth­er, maybe a year old sit­ting in my mom's lap, no seat­belt­s. Those were the 60s and chil­dren sur­vived be­cause lead poi­son­ing seems to be an an­ti­dote for sec­ond hand smoke and car crash­es.

Then, his car stall­s. That was hard­ly un­usu­al. Our usu­al av­er­age speed on long trips was about 20k­m/h once you ac­count­ed for the stops to add wa­ter to the ra­di­a­tor, change flat tires, get a me­chan­ic to see why the lights did­n't work, and ar­riv­ing at the wrong town. My dad liked cars, but cars hat­ed him.

But be­fore the car stalled, they had seen a light by the side of the road, up high. A light that seemed to fol­low them. And the car did­n't start. That road in those times was lone­ly, and dark, and in bad main­te­nance. So stop­ping in the mid­dle of it was a recipe for be­ing killed by a truck.

A lit­tle lat­er, the car start­s, and the light ap­pears again, and again it stop­s. Here, ac­cord­ing to my moth­er, my dad got out of the car, and start­ed shout­ing at the aliens to stop be­ing id­iot­s, that they were go­ing to get him killed. Af­ter that, the light dis­ap­peared, and they con­tin­ued trav­el­ing with­out fur­ther me­chan­i­cal is­sues.

And a few days ago, this hap­pened: A UFO ap­peared over a foot­ball prac­tice. The foot­ball team? Cha­co For­ev­er.

Some things don't translate well

Cor­rien­do en la llu­via con Tato, pasó lo in­evitable. Pisé una bal­dosa flo­ja y me em­pa­pé la otra pier­na. Co­mo dice el tan­go "igual que bal­dosa flo­ja, salpi­co si al­guien me pone el pie". Y porque ten­go que pen­sar to­do el día en in­glés por el laburo, mi soft­ware cere­bral de tra­duc­ción in­stan­tánea se tildó.

¿Co­mo miér­coles le haría en­ten­der esa frase a un es­ta­dounidense? Es casi im­posi­ble. Al­lá nadie cam­i­na, menos aba­jo de la llu­vi­a. Casi no hay veredas. Las veredas que hay no son de bal­dosas. Las bal­dosas se­gu­ra­mente no es­tarían flo­jas.

Para poder tra­ducir al­go, no al­can­za con tra­ducir­lo, hay que tra­ducir­lo y que quede al­go que habría di­cho al­guien en el id­ioma de des­ti­no. Para que sig­nifique lo mis­mo, ten­dría que es­tar hablan­do de al­go que po­dría pasar­le, por ejem­plo, a un ar­genti­no y a un ru­so, a un bosquimano y a un lapón. Sospe­cho que no es posi­ble tra­ducir en gen­er­al. Que lo que ve­mos por ejem­p­lo en este blog, que in­ten­ta, los demás días, ser bil­ingüe, es una colec­ción de ca­sos par­tic­u­lares más o menos afor­tu­na­dos.

Hace un tiem­po em­pecé a tra­ducir una nov­ela de Cory Doc­torow (lean acá si quieren) y aban­doné porque al releer lo que es­cribí, no parecía una nov­ela de Doc­torow, pare­cia otra cosa, una cosa pe­or. Y no vale la pe­na leer cosas pe­o­res.

Y de esa for­ma cuan­do pro­gramo el pro­gra­ma nun­ca es lo que yo quise, es una ver­sión pe­or, es­cri­ta en un lengua­je ex­tran­jero, por un no-­na­ti­vo. Pro­gra­mar es traicionar la visión para pro­ducir lo tan­gi­ble. Es­cribir es más o menos lo mis­mo. Hablar es más o menos lo mis­mo. Ni siquiera mi voz que vos es­cuch­es es mi voz que yo es­cu­cho.

Vivi­mos ca­da uno encer­ra­dos en un iglú, tratan­do de char­lar con ma­puch­es que nos mi­ran a través del hielo. A ve­ces fun­ciona. Salu­dos.

Contents © 2000-2023 Roberto Alsina