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Lies, Damn Lies and Translation: Mucking With Quotes in Russian

Michele A. Berdy

Обуздáть: to curb

Normal people have normal hobbies. They garden. They travel by the woods. They collect stamps. we am not a normal person. My favorite entertainment is scouring the Internet to find the original matter of a U.S. central that in Russian interpretation is an outrageous insult to the good Russian nation, the history, the leaders, and its ice cream. Why do we do this? Because many of the time in the bizarre it’s not so insulting, or not scornful at all, or something else altogether.

This week’s challenge: What did former U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul contend to the Estonian journal Postimees? Here we am severely hampered by my inability to read Estonian, nonetheless my theory is that the interview was in English and then translated into Estonian. So I’ve got Russian-made English translations of Russian translations of Estonian translations of English statements. Russians call this испорченный телефон (broken telephone), though we call it fun.

It started with this “quote” from McFaul: “The United States should quell Russia according to need and respond to it,” that appears to have been a translation of this: США должны в соответствии с потребностями обуздать Россию и ответить ей. This seemed in a blog by Russian Foreign Ministry orator Maria Zakharova, who pronounced McFaul’s matter взорвал рунет (exploded the Russian Internet), nonetheless we couldn’t find any denote of that. we mean, McFaul is important, though he’s not a naked Kim Kardashian.

The “explosive” word here is обуздать, that has the primary definition of “to bridle” (узда is a bridle). It has associations of breaking a free or sharp-witted horse: Удалось обуздать его амбиции (We were means to rein in his ambitions.) And there is a whiff of violence in it, like in this quote of Josef Stalin: Мы должны обуздать всех тех, кто раскалывает наши братские партии на Западе и на Востоке (We contingency rein in those who are bursting adult the fraternal parties in the West and East.) So the image is of breaking and bridling the free suggestion of Russia. Damn Yanks.

This Russian quote appears to then have been picked adult and translated behind into English and spread among the trolls: “The United States needs ‘to rein in’ Russia and respond to its actions.” “Michael McFaul pronounced that Russia contingency be curbed.” “McFaul pronounced the need (sic) to ‘restrain’ Russia.” One blogger contingency have used appurtenance translation: Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia pronounced that Russia contingency “curb.”

Of all the translations, we suspicion “to curb” was the farthest off. Although it means to limit or constrain, the image is of putting adult a boundary. But, only in case, we motionless to consult an actual dictionary. we know — crazy, right? And there we detected that “to curb” is the perfect interpretation of обуздать. When “curb” entered English it meant “a tag flitting underneath the jaw of a equine used to restrain the animal.” Handy things, dictionaries.

But what did McFaul say? Here’s his quote in the English chronicle of Postimees: “Tragically again, NATO has to deter Russian threats.” That’s it. No curbing, no Russia, no United States.

So the Russian Internet is angry by a quote they done up. When asked what he suspicion about it, McFaul said: Это было очень странно, честное слово. Объяснений я пока не видел. Я не понимаю, честное слово. (It was really strange, to be honest. we can’t explain it. Honestly, we only don’t get it.)

Join the club. 

Michele A. Berdy, a Moscow-based translator and interpreter, is author of “The Russian Word’s Worth” (Glas), a collection of her columns.

Article source: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/article/571577.html