Misleading advice for foreigners/Irreführende Tipps für Ausländer

These were the New Statesman‘s readers’ suggestions for misleading advice for foreigners visiting London for the first time:

Never pay the price demanded for a newspaper; good-natured haggling is customary.

Never attempt to tip a taxi-driver.

On first entering an underground train, it is customary to shake hands with every passenger.

Try the famous echo in the British Museum Reading Room.

Visitors in London hotels are expected by the management to hang the bedlinen out of the windows to air.

Parking is permitted in the grounds of Buckingham Palace on payment of a small fee to the sentry.

London barbers are delighted to shave the patrons’ armpits.

I read them in the 1960s, and later they were reprinted in a book, long since out of print. This is the first time I have found them on the Internet, in the blog I spilled the beans, in which William encourages the English of – er – foreigners.

18 thoughts on “Misleading advice for foreigners/Irreführende Tipps für Ausländer

  1. This, together with the Bricklayer story, was immortalized by Gerald Hoffnung, of fond memory – it was in his famous speech to the Oxford Union, a EP record of which I still have around somewhere.

    • Derry: it looks as if it was Gerald Hoffnung who entered at least one of the winning entries.
      Googling has brought back another: You can identify brothels because they have a blue lamp outside.

  2. Regarding the solicitor’s comment:

    “Using the term “Plaintiff” risks the criticism that the translator is unfamiliar with the correct terminology”

    True, no doubt, but the defensive approach that that suggests is responsible for a lot of poor translation.

    • You mean, poor translation because the translator wants to avoid situations where the client would think the translation was wrong? I have certainly done that myself.

      In the case of claimant/plaintiff, I can see that ‘claimant’ is the right choice with regard to proceedings in England and Wales. But what if I were to translate a German judgment for information for a UK client – I would probably mention the issue in email, so the client could not think I was ignorant there.

  3. ‘Claimant as the party referred to in Orders’. Does that include injunctions where there is a twilight applicant/ claimant vs. defendant/ respondent zone? This is because it may not be clear that, post-injunctively, full proceedings will be issued on the trial issue. The practitioner will know full well that the foregoing alternative forms are used exactly that way in E&W High Court injunction applications.

    The cross-over in German may lie between an Antragssteller and -gegner as opposed to Kl

    • It really is very difficult to discuss these things without context, and we usually can’t give context because of confidentiality. Without answering your question, which presumably we have to decide for ourselves: what kind of text is being translated? Nearly everything I translate is German and governed by German law. I haven’t had anything recently where a case was ongoing in quite that way – it’s always been retrospectively, often a decision where the injunction was the beginning of the story.
      I don’t know about Austrians, but Germans very often use the term Kl

  4. I mean situations where translators bent on avoiding the suspicion of ignorance focus their efforts on lining up the terminology rather than the meaning.

    About claimant/plaintiff: surely a UK client will be aware that plaintiff is a valid term, either because they can remember it being used in English proceedings or because they’re familiar with international usage from TV or the movies or whatever.

    What of the much-vaunted British reputation for having no truck with terminological diktat?

    • I’m afraid you’ll have to ask elsewhere about this much-vaunted reputation – I haven’t been vaunting it. But I don’t understand why lawyers insist on accepting these changes.

      Of the two solicitors I asked, one actually said, ‘I am of the old school and I use plaintiff’.

      I agree with you that people should have heard the term in films if not elsewhere. I have no idea why they changed it.

      But it is definitely a problem for me to be sure what a non-lawyer or a non-German speaker would understand.

  5. Lord Woolf, in his time as Master of the Rolls and then as Lord Chief Justice of E&W, decreed that the man and woman on the Clapham Omnibus would be able to understand – in a civil context – claimant better than plaintiff. Why the abstruse terminology of E&W criminal justice has been left alone is another user-unfriendly point.

    No doubt if Maggie Thatcher’s appointee Lord McKay as LCJ had been allowed to crack the lingustic whip, we Sassenach translators would now be using the Scots law terms of Pursuer vs. Defender. Failure to do so anyway for consumption North of the Border might be, cm, not only a sign of ignorance but also draw an extremely irked response.

  6. MM:”Of the two solicitors I asked, one actually said, ‘I am of the old school and I use plaintiff'”

    I vaunt that solicitor.

    Adrian MM: “Failure to do so anyway for consumption North of the Border might be, cm, not only a sign of ignorance but also draw an extremely irked response”

    In a non-Scottish matter? I doubt it. I’m sure Scottish clients are familiar with the more international terms.

  7. Who used to attend Catholic funerals: Lord Woolf or Lord McKay?

    And no. In a Scottish matter. In the same vein, I’ve been rapped on the knuckles for using, in a DE/EN translation, probate instead of confirmation of a Will intended for a firm of Solicitors in Glasgow.

    Also the ECJ’s trans. dept. accepts, from translation candidates, Scots-law interdict for injunction and poind for impound.

    • Lord McKay was thrown out of some offshoot of the Church of Scotland for attending two Catholic funerals. I have a number of members of the Church of Scotland in my family and am relieved that this wasn’t actually the main church.

    • “the ECJ’s trans. dept. accepts, from translation candidates, Scots-law interdict for injunction and poind for impound”

      Aye, and so they might, seeing as they accept claimant for pursuer/plaintiff.

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