Tag Archives: Romania

Bucharest NOT Budapest: One Romanian Chocolatier Starts a Campaign to Combat the Confusion

Here’s a post from The Big Show’s Nina Porzucki

Think fast, what’s the capital of Romania?

In an extremely informal survey at the Dunkin Donut’s across the street from our newsroom we put the question to Herman Cadena as he stood in line for his coffee.

“Belgrade?” he said.

Cadena isn’t alone. Many people confuse their Eastern European capitals. The most frequent mix-up is between the capital of Hungary, Budapest, and the capital of Romania, Bucharest.

There is a long list of outsiders who have confused the two including Michael Jackson, the lead singers of Iron Maiden and Metallica, even Lenny Kravitz didn’t know.

Last year a group of 400 soccer fans from Spain chartered a flight to the 2012 Europa League Final in Budapest except the actual final was in Bucharest.

“This is a very old problem for Romania this confusion, you know, it’s taken place for a very long time,” says Romanian copywriter Sebastian Olar.

Olar’s client the Romanian candy company ROM was sick of the confusion. The company made it its mission to end the confusion and market its chocolate, which has the name of Romania’s capital stamped into each bar.

The confusion is by no means one-sided. Budapest resident Ben Fischer remembers watching the television one day when big news broke about a Hungarian political scandal.

“There were foreign news agencies reporting on it and quite a few of them in Budapest said, ‘I’m here live in Bucharest,'” said Fisher.

However says Fischer, the annoyance that Hungarians and Romanians feel about the confusion might stem from even deeper historical issues going back to WWI.

“Transylvania was taken away from Hungary and given to Romania, and 100 years later people in Hungary have not giving that back,” said Fischer.

While the borders between the countries have fluxuated, Budapest and Bucharest haven’t changed hands; Hungarian and Romanian, the languages spoken in these cities, come from completely different family trees. So locals know the difference but the rest of us, well…it seems that ROM chocolate has got their work cut out for them.



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Retweeting Bad Grammar and Good Tamil

I like Twitter.  I like the character limit. And I love opening up Twitter first thing in the morning , reading tweets that are mainly (at that time of day) from another time zone. My own dawn chorus.

Mostly, I tweet about other reporters’ or bloggers’ language stories– stories that I am not going to get to but they are worth noting and passing on. This can be dangerous. I often tweet on issues about which I know little. And I do it at speed. Sometimes I mis-convey the story. Sometimes I mis-type a word. Sometimes I misspell. Sometimes, my grammar isn’t great. (Forget tweeting, that all sounds just like regular daily journalism…)

So what happens when you come across a tweet that you would love to RT, but you…just…can’t? You can’t get past the bad spelling or grammar.

There is one solution: instead of RT-ing, you can MT, or write a modified tweet. You correct the spelling, clean up a bit of grammar. You can even amplify a thought or clarify a sloppy piece of writing. Just make sure you write MT. That worked for me, until I heard a conversation on the BBC– a conversation that, in an audio sort of way, I MT’d in this podcast episode (I recut the interview slightly and introduced it differently).

The discussion was between the BBC’s Evan Davis and comedian and serial tweeter (now taking a Twitterbreak) David Schneider. Now Schneider, like many of us, doesn’t have much time for those self-appointed sticklers who roam the internet in search of bad grammar or poor spelling: he calls them peddants (his spelling).

But maybe a grammatical error is part of the communication. A poorly written tweet may tell you that the tweet was written in a hurry. It may indicate that the writer doesn’t care about grammar or spelling. That makes me hesitate.

On the other hand, I’ve been relieved and grateful when my own misspelled tweets have been cleaned up by others…

Otherwise in this week’s pod, it’s all Tamil. This is a language that has more speakers than Italian or Turkish, but there are fears about its future. We hear from a lexicographer who is painstakingly compiling a Tamil dictionary. And we talk to two Indians about a song that has become an internet sensation. Titled Kolaveri Di, it’s sung partly in Tamil, partly in English, and partly in Tanglish,  the (now-inevitable) mash-up of the two.

Listen via iTunes or here.


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Bilingual metaphors, the passion of place name changes, and interpreting for the Dodgers

SWEDEN-NOBEL-LITTERATURE-MUELLERNobel literature prize winner Herta Mueller grew up in Romania. She spoke German at home, and Romanian at school. As a result her writing is infused with mixed metaphors. Not as in “he careened between lovers till his private life went completely off the rails.”  No, Mueller’s metaphors are linguistically mixed. She connects Romanian images and metaphors with German ones.  That’s what she did with the title of one of her novels: Hertztier (which literally means “heart animal”).  That’s an invented German word with roots in a piece of Romanian wordplay. The Romanian for heart is  inimă and for animal is animală — the words sound quite similar. In German, hertz and tier don’t sound at all  similar.  That suggests that in every language, thoughts and ideas cluster uniquely and somewhat randomly. Yet if, like Mueller, you’re bilingual, you’re more likely to transpose word clusters, punning and otherwise, from one language to the next . Of course, by the time an expression like  inimă-animală is translated into English (via German) it loses resonance and meaning. Which is why translator Michael Hoffman avoided it completely. He called the novel The Land of Green Plums.

tanganikaAlso, a conversation with Harry Campbell, the author of Whatever Happened to Tanganika? The Place Names that History Left Behind. This interview is long and full of infamous, and some less well-known, episodes from colonial history. Typically, colonists like to leave their mark in the form of a place or two, whether they were British imperial officers, unscrupulous Belgians or Soviet true believers. The names, of course, rarely stick. Local populations have a healthy disrespect for the monikers of their former masters. But this leaves some people nostalgic for the old names, and others wondering what those names, and their replacements, reveal. I’m struck by how important place names are to people, even in cases where people have never visited the name in question. Much of comes down to power and influence. And occasionally, money. A shorter version of the interview ran on The World’s regular broadcast; it generated a ton of posts and comments.  Post your own at this site or here.

Finally in this week’s podcast, a profile the Japanese interpreter for the Los Angeles DodgersKenji Nimura is actually trilingual — he speaks Spanish, as well as Japanese and English — which comes in handy in Major League Baseball, where those three languages are most used.

Listen in iTunes or here.

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