Saturday, February 18, 2012


Living in France, we are constantly amused by the efforts of
restaurateurs to translate their menus into English. They employ so-called
'professeurs d'anglais' (teachers) to render their delicious dishes
irresistible for the visiting tourist. My list of howlers is open-ended but I
think my favourite so far was the dish described in French as 'gigot de lotte
panée' which came out as 'roast breaded leg of angler'. I won't labour the
semantics; suffice it to say that 'gigot' is the usual word for a roast leg of
lamb, but 'gigot de lotte' is so-called because of the resemblance in shape.
'Lotte' is, of course, monkfish in English but, alas, the clever 'professeur'
who'd supplied the translation only had a dictionary with American equivalents,
hence 'angler'.

Our tourist office in Le Lavandou has a splendid website
but, when we clicked on the English version we found that 'venant au Lavandou'
had been rendered as 'coming in Le Lavandou' instead of 'how to get there'. I
paid a discreet visit to the office and politely explained that their
translation undoubtedly had a double entendre connotation for most Brits
brought up on the Carry On films.

However, today we've unearthed another delight. Recommended
by a friend to a weather-forecasting site called Mété, we checked
on the predictions for the south of France for the next few days. Google
helpfully translates if you ask it nicely, so I reproduce below one sentence
from the original French forecast, followed by the Google version.

'Après une nuit calme, les gelées sont de retour dans le
Grand Sud.'

'After a quiet and starry night, the jellies are back in
the Deep South!'

Which only goes to prove, in my estimation, that no computer
technology will replace the intellectual capacity of the human brain. 'Gelées'
can, indeed, be translated as 'jellies' but it is, of course, also the usual words for 'frosts'.

© MWD 2012

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