I stumbled across this headline in the Sun-Sentinel recently:
Cuba’s economic czar promises to rebuild storm-ravaged homes in Baracoa
I don’t want to make light of the predicament of those who lost their homes, but I do want to point out the irony. I could start with the vow, which would better be directed at the Victims of the Storm, by that I mean the ones who have had their homes crumble over their heads, as well as the victims of the storm. But let’s accept the article’s view of reality. There is no housing problem in Cuba, and these are the only unfortunates left homeless. Not to worry, however, Carlos Lage, passed over for the number two spot in the government but happily endowed with a new title by the Sentinel, “economic czar,” has promised to rebuild. Czar, what a grand ring to it, kinda like “Czar of All the Russias.” Of course in his case, he’s been about as effective as our drug “czars”’ and in this particular matter might better be described as the potentate of plaster…of the crumbling variety, that is.
Another interesting point of diction occurs when translators have Cubans speaking as if they were at a cricket match. This makes for some interesting usages. In an article about the dismal state of merchandise offered in stores, Reuters has shop assistant Belkis Martinez complaining that they have “knickers,” but only in small sizes. Somehow, I just can’t picture poor Belkis bemoaning the paucity of full-sized knickers. Bloomers might have been more believable, since it is closer to the Cuban usage, even panties.
The latest example of this phenomenon appeared in an article in a Chinese government organ which quotes the coma andante thus:
“We see around us a great frenzy, as though we lived in Bedlam,”
I know he was educated by Jesuits and all, but I can’t see him using the word Bedlam. Bedlam is one of those words that hasn’t been used outside of a PBS series in at least half a century. Derived from the name of an actual asylum, the Hospital of St. Mary’s of Bethlehem, which with the English proclivity for clipping words became bedlam, it had to be the translator’s equivalent for Mazzora, the Cuban asylum of lore. So I ventured into enemy territory to read the original in Spanish. Nah, it was just “casa de loco,” or “crazy house.”
All of which brings to mind another headline this one from an article by Guillermo Fariñas:
EL INSEPULTO TRADUCTOR EN JEFE
He asks the question, if the Cuban population is 100 per cent literate and politically educated, why do they need the blogger in chief to translate the news for them. Strikes me as a nicely phrased question. And that “insepulto,” now that’s a great word.