Reminds Me of That Scene from A Heart So White, But Funny

Richard Woolcott, who ran Australia’s foreign service for four years, is publishing a book called Undiplomatic Activities about translation issues in diplomacy.

Which sounds potentially boring until you read some of the linguistic screw-ups he cites in the book:

Take the Australian diplomat in France who tried to tell his French audience that as he looked back on his career, he saw it was divided in two parts, with dull postings before life in Paris.

“When I look at my backside, I find it is divided into two parts,” Woolcott quotes the diplomat as telling his audience.


Woolcott says the former Australian prime minister Bob Hawke left his Japanese audience bewildered when he used the Australian colloquial phrase “I am not here to play funny buggers” to dismiss a pesky question from Japanese officials.

“For Japanese interpreters, however, this was a real problem. They went into a huddle to consult on the best way to render ‘funny buggers’ into Japanese,” writes Woolcott. The interpreters then told the audience: “I am not here to play laughing homosexuals with you.”

That’s why we need more translation programs in the world. (All via The Guardian.)

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