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5 April 2006
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Any of our Russian speakers care to comment?


After promising to “push the reset button” on relations with Moscow, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton planned to present Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with a light-hearted gift at their talks here Friday night to symbolize the Obama administration’s desire for a new beginning in the relationship.

It didn’t quite work out as she planned.

She handed him a palm-sized box wrapped with a bow. Lavrov opened it and pulled out the gift—a red plastic button on a black base with a Russian word “peregruzka” printed on top.

“We worked hard to get the right Russian word. Do you think we got it?” Clinton said as reporters, allowed in to observe the first few minutes of the meeting, watched.

“You got it wrong,” Lavrov said, to Clinton’s clear surprise. Instead of "reset," he said the word on the box meant “overcharge.”

As much as I laugh at Engrish (NOTE 1), I just gotta shake my head in wonderment when organizations that should be able to do better -like, oh, the STATE DEPARTMENT - can't find someone who can properly translate a single word into a fairly common language.

NOTE 1: http://www.engrish.com/
Exactly, State Dept. put 'overcharge' instead of 'reset'. Surely they should take advice from CIA or NSA gurus in the case.
"overcharge" = peregruzka
"reset" = perezagruzka
We should be grateful that the word wasn't similar to a personal insult in Russian. ;) But it is a cause for concern that the Department of State got the translation wrong.
Triton said:
We should be grateful that the word wasn't similar to a personal insult in Russian. ;)

"My hovercraft is full of eels."
"I seem to be having tremendous difficulty with my lifestyle."

But it is a cause for concern that the Department of State got the translation wrong.

Indeed. This may be apocryphal, but I recall reading that after Hiroshima, the US sent a "you want to surrender now?" message to the Japanese. As the story goes, the Japanese sent back a short reply that unfortunately had two possible meanings:
1: "We're thinking it over."
2: "We ignore you."

It was translated as #2, and shazam! There goes Nagasaki.

It's funny when a cheap product has lazy translation (like virtually every bit of consumer electronics out of China). It's not so funny when people who have the job of keeping the world from exploding do lazy translation.
I assume someone lost his job in State Dept. this weekend?
flateric said:
I assume someone lost his job in State Dept. this weekend?

It's a large bureaucracy. It might well be that *nobody* is to blame for this little foulup.


Or it could be one schmoe who made a lazy translation error.
Or it could be one artisan who made a spelling error on the product.
Or it could be one person who deliberately tinkered as a joke.

In any event, in aerospace there are multiple levels of people checking each report, each drawing, each part, each assembly. Even so, things slip through. I've seen disturbing things slip through reports to NASA... the report writer, in the last desperate race to finish banging the thing out before the deadline, either slips up and doesn't catch it*, or throws in a little joke intending to remove it later and forgetting. There's always the risk of someone slipping into your cube when you step out to go to lunch and adding a little extra test to your work. Sometimes that little extra text gets all the way through release to the customer.

Sometimes the customer has a sense of humor about such things.

Sometimes, though, it's left to some higher manager to suddenly discover the little "addition" when he or she is doing the presentation to the customers. And those peopel *never* have a sense of humor about that sort of thing.

Which I suspect is the case with Hillary here....

*And spell checkers are not always your friend. And autmated spelling-error-replacers are quite often downright malicious. Make a spelling error on the word "analyze," and you'd better be damned careful what the computer decides to put in there...
lucky it was only a small error of Translation

See Nikita Khrushchev
famous "Мы вас похороним!" = We will bury you
was in fact "Мы вас закопаем" = We will dig you in

He and Mao zedong had a major dispute because a error in Translation!
Khrushchev used the metaphor "got rid of the Old shoes, and get new one"
was translated literally, but is then a chinese metaphor for "get rid of that old whore"
wat is a major insult in china

aah Khrushchev and Shoes....


  • khrushchev_shoe.jpg
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Michel Van said:
lucky it was only a small error of Translation
More recently there's the common misconception Ahmadinejad said Israel should be wiiped off the map, which both McCain and Obama were claiming during the presidential debates.


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