Diplomatic insults, click languages, Harry Potter in France, and cucumber season

chavezThis week, the nuanced — and sometimes not so nuanced — world of diplomatic insults: we hurl a few your way, coutesy of Hugo Chavez, Hillary Clinton and Winston Churchill. There’s also an overheated exhange in the British parliament between then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and leader of the opposition Neil Kinnock, which goes something like this:  insult (Thatcher), outraged indignation (Kinnock), quasi-retraction (Thatcher).

We follow this with news of so-called click languages. My colleague David Cohn has been finding out about these and he’s posted some thoughts and links in the science section of The World’s website. Here’s the headline: linguists have figured out how to decipher and classify clicks— and some languages have a huge number of of them. Just as well that the linguists are discovering this now. Some of these languages are about to kick the bucket. You can listen to the sounds of one of them here.

cucumberNext up, that underestimated vegetable the  cucumber.  Norwegian is one of several languages (Dutch, Polish and German are others) that appropriate the word cucumber to describe what we English speakers call silly season. That’s the time of the year — now, as it happens — when we in the news media resort to covering shark attacks,  dogs reunited with their owners, and astronauts’ underwear. (Actually, we do these stories year-round, but during the silly season, they wind up on the front page). Norwegians and others supposedly put  cucumber harvest season on their front pages. No wonder newspapers are in trouble.

Finally, many French fans of Harry Potter novels read the books in English. Or at least they did before the books were translated into French.

Listen in iTunes or here.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Diplomatic insults, click languages, Harry Potter in France, and cucumber season

  1. Yet another David

    I have found audiobook versions of the Harry Potter novels in translation to be an effective tool for improving fluency in a target language. The familiar stories combined with natural conversations help me with vocabulary and aural comprehension in languages I already can communicate in, allowing me to hit the ground running in countries where those languages are spoken.

    As far as I can tell, only the first of the Harry Potter books has been recorded in Spanish translation. I was wondering if you were in a position to find out why that is the case, when the books have been so enthusiastically recorded in so many other languages. Confession: I find the one recording that exists to be nearly unlistenable for the jarring way the reader switches phoneme sets every time he hits an English name, pronouncing it in perfect American English before switching back to the Spanish phoneme set.

    The German reader does not do this. The Dutch reader does not even NEED to, since all the originally English names are translated into something Dutch — or at least something derived from Dutch, in the case of made-up names like quidditch (zwerkbal) in the Dutch version. (This makes another interesting topic: what languages translate all the names and specialty words and which just use the originals.)

    Any light anyone can shed on the Spanish mystery would be appreciated!

  2. Jessica Dabaghi

    Hello,
    I’m a student at NVCC, and I’m currently taking a class in Intercultural Communications. My comment is on the subject of Diplomatic Insults. If our leaders, the people who represent our countries and our peoples can’t even portray themselves in a well manner, they couldn’t possibly portray us in one. Perhaps the people of a country are influenced by their leader’s thoughts and ideas, and just tend to piggyback off of them. There is so much hate in the world and if our leaders and representatives can’t even be go role models and civil with one another, what would make the people that way?

  3. Kelly N

    I am a student at NVCC enrolled in a Intercultural Communications class. In response to Diplomatic insults, how can we achieve world peace if our world leaders do not have the decency to respect others from other countries? As stated in the Podcast, diplomacy is not always saying what you truly feel. It brings me back to the old saying, “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” What do insults accomplish besides causing conflict between people? Let’s be reasonable. What good can be brought from this? – None, whatsoever. You would think our leaders would be mature enough not to let their personal opinions affect the relationship of our nation with others.

  4. Adela Gernandt

    Being raised in a small but very turbulent part of the world I witnessed a lot of diplomatic dysfunctionalism from the members of the government. They ruled by offending and insulting each other and not finding any solution to the country, and people’s problems. I have always had very much respect for the foreign governments especially the American one. I was impressed by the polite ways people and politicians addressed each other and the actual work they did for the country. I have though been a little bit disappointed recently with how this has slightly changed and a politician thought it would be ok to insult such a honorable and hardworking president like Obama whose only concern is to give America back the grace and the power it used to have. I definitely don’t agree that such behaviors be tolerated. If it is than it won’t be long until other politicians from other countries start thinking that they can allow themselves such impoliteness and that is unacceptable.

    Adela Gernandt(International Communications)

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