Saturday, 28 January 2012

Metaphors and translations

This week has been a week of metaphors that don't translate very well.

At work, a piece of software behaved inexplicably, and it turned out to be because of confusion among developers speaking about six native languages about the multiple senses of English "leave" (to quit the company) and "leave" (permission to be absent) combined with more confusion about "extended" (longer than usual), "extended" (given), and "extended" (performing an additional function).

In tango, I encountered two metaphors that totally failed to translate from the Spanish; one of them involved socks and the other one involved a table lamp.

There is a moderately well-known English footballer who used to play in Spain, and who made a second career as a pundit on Spanish television. Apparently he earned many fans by translating colourful expressions literally from the English, such as "handbags" and "it was six of one and half a dozen of the other", creating bafflement and hilarity in equal measures. (I can't remember his name, because I'm more interested in words than football).

About ten minutes afterwards it came to me that the bit about the table lamp was conceivably a compliment, but actually I have no clue.

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