Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Gaining Something in the Translation

 

I'm not sure what I was thinking, somehow planning to post my response to Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In today. I must have forgotten how quickly and completely the term teaching schedule swallows me. That post is coming, to be sure, but it's taking longer than I thought to write it, squeezing out a paragraph here, a sentence there, then changing my mind and erasing two sentences the next time I sit at the keyboard.

I'm enjoying carrying the ideas around with me, though, and I look forward to discussing them with you. I'm juggling them, in the meantime, with guiding my first-year students through Nicholas Carr's The Shallows, a provocative discussion of What, as his sub-title says, the Internet Is Doing to our Brains. Not surprisingly, I don't have enough time to chat about that either.

But I do have time to share a chuckle. The photo above is one I snapped in a small restaurant across from the train station in Narbonne, one of the stations we had to change trains at on our trip from Barcelona to Bordeaux. Paul is quite sure it was one of the worst meals he's ever paid for. I wouldn't be as harsh, but it was clear much of the menu was waiting in the freezer for the microwave. Yes, sadly, even in Europe . . .

This isn't to say it wasn't worth leaving the train station for, though. After all, we gained "Squids to the Roman" as a new all-purpose rallying cry. As opposed to Calamari, Roman-style, this translation turns a humdrum menu item into pure gold, even for those of us who avoid the actual platter. The "balls of meat" have a certain appeal as well. Or not.

So I'm wishing you a Happy Wednesday. And Squids to the Roman, whatever that might mean in your life. Oh, and if you have any priceless translations you've gleaned on your travels, do share. I always love your comments.

 

14 comments:

  1. Squids to the Romans!!!!.....indeed! Like you, we have a few menu-translation in-jokes that survive many years after the odd meals. Layers and layers of family history there!

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    1. Yes, they become binding family in-jokes, these collections, absolutely.

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  2. Prepositions will do it to you every time! I will be interested in your impressions of Lean In. Happy classes. All my friends are e-mailing me about the busyness of starting classes and new students. I sort of miss it.

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    1. You've nailed it! The prepositions require such an understanding of the deepest nuances of a language. It's where my International Students struggle so.

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  3. Squids to the Roman - oh, thank you for that! I am also impressed with the scholarly translation of Croque Monsieur.

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    1. I know! Someone must have laboured hard and long to get that right! ;-)

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  4. Squids to the Romans made me laugh out loud. As Madame Là-bas has already said - those prepositions are confusing!

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    1. I'm glad to have made you laugh. Honestly, we were giggling in the restaurant, trying not to be too rude. (probably just me, actually, not sure Pater manages a giggle)

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  5. Oh, that's funny! We were flummoxed when in Italy with the ingredient "Rocket" listed on English menus, which turned out to be Arugula (Roquette, en francais).

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    1. That one I would have known -- suspect the Brit influence is much greater here in Canada, so I've often heard arugula referred to as rocket by Brit-originally friends. All the fun of travel . . .

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  6. Oh, I love that! We were in Hong Kong this week, amused by a restaurant called Chiu Fat as well as many less-than-appetising descriptions.

    I can't wait to hear what you think of Lean In - Spouse had a copy given to him, which he passed straight to me.

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    1. I bet you have a great collection. That restaurant name is hilarious to a Western eye/ear.
      Not sure my post on Sandberg will be worth the wait. I've found the adding of it to render me a bit confused and retrospective, although finally in agreement with her, mostly . . .

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  7. Squids to the Roman Indeed! In terms of meeting strange terms and translations, rocket I would have known, but I still remember the first time I saw Swedes on the menu. Roast Swede it was. G promptly stated "braising would be more apropos". Neither of us knew what was up of course but it might have been a more familiar term to you.

    Oddly I never ate rutabagas before and now enjoy them quite frequently.

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    1. I love the way you've paragraphed here, a trust in the reader that somehow, for me, matches George's quick wit in your anecdote. And yes, I would have heard the term occasionally, I think from my maternal grandpa, although I would have trout of turnips rather than rutabagas. Funny how popular they have become, as you point out, when they were once consigned to survival food grown by impoverished immigrants.

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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