Last week's issue of The Economist has an amusing article about bridging cultural gaps across European Union committee meetings. A number of diplomats have put their struggles to paper in the form of phrase translation handbooks. Never intended for publication, these unofficial handbooks are as much a forum for venting frustration as a guide to translation. But a trusty correspondent at The Economist got his hands on them and shared a few choice phrases.
Dutch Diplomat's Guide to EU English:
What British Diplomat Says == > What the speaker really means.
"I hear what you say." ==> "I disagree and do not want to discuss any further."
"With greatest respect" ==> "I think you are wrong, or a fool."
"By the way/incidentally" ==> "The primary purpose of our discussion is..."
"I'll bear it in mind" ==> "I'll do nothing about it."
"Correct me if I'm wrong." ==> "I'm right. Don't contradict me."
Even juicier is the British Diplomat's Guide to EU French:
Literal translation of French ==> What the speaker really means.
"I will be clear" ==> "I will be rude"
"We need European visibility" ==> "The EU must indulge in some pointless, annoying, and, with luck, damaging international grandstanding."
"We must find a pragmatic solution" ==> "Warning: I am about to propose a highly complex, theoretical, legalistic, and unworkable way forward."