Paul McMahon has a post at Ex Tempore on paragraph numbers in Irish Supreme Court decisions.

I know these paragraph numbers from decisions of the European Court of Justice. They are called Randnummern in German.

German law books tend to have paragraphs numbered this way, but these are usually translated as marginal numbers. That means we have two separate translations of the word.

Recently I had to translate Randnummer in connection with a report from the Commission to the Council and to the European Parliament. The following several paragraphs were referred to as a Randnummer in German:

3.3.3. Cases of withdrawal of reception conditions
Articles 16(1)-(3) specify the situations in which reception conditions granted to asylum
seekers may be reduced or withdrawn (e.g. non-compliance with reporting duties, undue
benefits from material reception conditions).
Some Member States withdraw reception conditions in situations not authorised by the
Directive (FI, DE, NL and some regions of AT).
Only a few Member States choose, under Article 16(2), to refuse the reception conditions for
asylum seekers not submitting their applications as soon as possible (EL, MT, CY, UK). In
the latter case, however, use of the provision was seriously limited by the judgment of the
House of Lords concerning compliance with Article 3 of the European Convention on Human

My feeling was to simply omit the word Randnummer and quote the 3.3.3. But I was told that the practice appears to be to refer to paragraph 3.3.3, (‘rather than section’ – but section was not the word I suspected, since this isn’t a statute).

Anyway, back to Ireland. Paul McMahon says that five of the eight judges don’t number their paragraphs, and the other three do. He is in two minds about these paragraph numbers, which seems appropriate. And he refers to the unobtrustive right-hand marginal numbers of the German Federal Constitutional Court as an elegant solution.

I’m in two minds about paragraph numbers in judicial decisions. They are rather unattractive, and I think they contribute to the exaggerated belief that explaining a judicial decision requires a technical form of writing, divorced from ordinary discourse. But my views are probably coloured by my experiences working in the American federal courts, where it’s unusual to see numbered paragraphs. (For more on the subject of judicial written style, I recommend Judge Richard Posner’s fascinating article on the subject (JSTOR access required)).

The post is taken up by Eoin in He thinks the rise of paragraph numbers outside the US is for purposes of orientation.

It’s been a long time since I thought of the numbering system in published English reports. There you would have a report, and in the left-hand margin, every 5 lines or so, was a letter A, B C etc. and you would quote it by referring to the nearest letter: ‘p. 25, at B’.

But I use the internet now, and citation procedures are different.

(Via UKSC Blog)

Church and doughnuts/Kirche und Krapfen

I haven’t got much time to post and this situation is likely to continue for a few weeks. So here are some more local photos.

First of all, on Sunday, after the (Catholic) service in the church Unsere Liebe Frau, I wondered why the good stuff, icons, was being brought out only after the congregation had gone. But it turned out they were reorganising for the Greek Orthodox service later. One of the Greeks, perhaps sensing my lack of religious belief, pointed out Mary and Jesus to me.

And since it’s that time of year, here is a box of mixed doughnuts at Beck. I have seen two other such boxes at other bakers. I suppose it’s a good idea to get rid of all flavours at the same rate.

Local pictures/Fotos von Fürth

Time for some pictures of Fürth again.

Fürth on the internet:

A sign in German and Turkish, but obviously not enough other languages:

Additions to timber-framed houses:

Dubious aesthetic qualities of an energy-saving light bulb:

A new flavour?

Number 17:


Craig Morris has a post on the accusations of plagiarism against Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg, the German minister of defence, and he links to this PDF, containing the German review by Andreas Fischer-Lescano of the published thesis, which from page 4 on has a table showing Guttenberg’s Dr. Iur thesis and the alleged sources:

The attack is obviously politically motivated, with some of the main accusations coming from legal experts with close ties to the SPD – but no matter – if the shoe fits, wear it.

The interesting thing for me is to see how Germany will react to this. Plagiarism, in my estimation, is not taken as seriously here as it is in the US. During my five years as a lecturer at a German university, I found that the idea of failing someone for plagiarism was tendentious; I was told I could also just give someone a stern look and a slap on the wrist.

Despite being invited by Craig, I’m not sure I can add much. But here goes:

First, on the subject of plagiarism, I don’t think the Germans are at all complacent about it. True, I have encountered a lot among German students, who seem to regard it and getting marks as a game. When I marked essays together with others, they were usually British or American and we all came down on it hard. Of course, it is particularly obvious when the student’s native language is not English, but I think even in the native language, the stylistic shifts should be obvious. I can’t say whether German teachers are softer on it, but I certainly don’t think that those marking final university exams or theses/dissertations, or publishers, are any less offended by it than we are.

The German Ph.D. and Dr. iur. theses I’ve seen have often been relatively short – not Guttenberg’s, that is 475 pages long – and very dry, consisting of long recountings of the opinions of others, naming the source, but at the end there had to be an opinion, and that couldn’t be plagiarized, of course. (It is the bane of my life finding a book on translation that is a published thesis and where it would obviously be necessary to read the whole thing in order to find out the author’s opinion).

The subject of the thesis is US and EU constitutions; according to the review, Guttenberg at the end lays emphasis on the lack of God in the constitution, which he claims leaves an opening for fundamentalism. Fischer-Lescano says that this idea is not brought out well and that giving the thesis the mark ‘summa cum laude’ was more than flattering. I am also surprised that the corrector or correctors would not have noticed the plagiarism (perhaps 475 pages wore them down). After all, for example, an article in the NZZ, Gott hat keinen Platz in der europäischen Verfassung, should surely have come to their attention. If a student takes a particular line, is not the first thing one does to ask where he got it from? Bayreuth University is now investigating the matter.

A couple of other things come up: firstly, there are often accusations of people getting their thesis ghostwritten – Helmut Kohl was certainly accused of plagiarism too. An SZ article anticipates this and interviews a ghostwriting agency, which says that any of its staff who use cut-and-paste techniques are dropped. Another point covered by the same article is how much strain Guttenberg was under when he wrote it, which was the first thing that occurred to me: supposing he was getting to the end and noticed he couldn’t wind it up very well, then brought in a lot of extraneous material to shore it up. The article says he was a Bundestag member, chair of various committees and groups and of the local council, and he had two very small children. I can’t help wondering if this thesis was ghostwritten and Guttenberg can’t accuse the person responsible.

But none of this explains 1) why Guttenberg did not rephrase the bits he borrowed and 2) why he got the best possible mark without his apparent borrowings being spotted.

LATER NOTE: There is a Guttenplag wiki, where everyone can find plagiarism in the thesis.
I heard on the radio (18 February) that a criminal information laid against Guttenberg for making a false declaration that the thesis was his own work will not be pursued, because Bayreuth University does not require a declaration of this kind under oath – but surely there can be a complaint for something or other, if worded differently?

One-day course on English law for legal translators/Englisches Recht für Rechtsübersetzer, London

The solicitor David Hutchins (website) is giving a one-day seminar on English law for legal translators on Monday 14 March in London. He’s spoken to translators before and been well received, I gather. Here is the blurb:

One-Day Course / Workshop: LONDON: MONDAY 14th MARCH, 2011: English Law for Legal Translators
Key Terminology and Concepts in Common Law: Contract & Civil Liability

The venue will be St Giles Hotel, Bedford Avenue, London WC1B 3GH, UK, Tel.: +(44)0 20 7300 3000. Bedford Avenue is off Tottenham Court Road close to Tottenham Court Road tube station.

The course will start at 9.0 am and finish at about 5.30pm.

This will be the same very successful course I presented in Stockholm and Nice in December and for the North-West Translators’ Network, NWTN in Manchester on the 22nd January.

Stockholm: 6th Dec. 2010 For the Sveriges Facköversättarförening, SFÖ (Swedish Assoc. of Professional Translators)

Nice: 17th Dec. 2010 For 12 members of the Compagnie Experts Traducteurs Interprètes Judiciaires,

Visit my website ( and read the excellent feedback quotations. (“Client Testimonial”).

My course / workshop is interactive and covers the interpretation of the terms and wording of contracts, contract law, civil liability in contract and in tort, damages, evidence, and general Common Law terminology.

If you, your Association, or any colleagues might be interested email me for the detailed Course Programme and with any questions, without any commitment or obligation AND / OR let me know if you would like to make a booking.

Course materials (notes, law reports and legal documents) will be distributed by email to all participants one week in advance. The course and all documents will be in English. The course is aimed at translators, of whatever nationality, who translate legal documents FROM or INTO English.

The price will be £150 per person, including a two-course buffet lunch and VAT, and there will be a maximum of 18 participants.

31 Rathbone Place
London W1T 1JH
00 44 7885 722 529

The most stupid book you read as school reading/Das blödeste Buch, das du während der Schulzeit als Lektüre gelesen hast

The most stupid play I encountered at school was the play some of us acted in in the sixth form. We had an English teacher who had been assistant stage manager at the local theatre for a couple of years, and she was very into drama and very popular, but I didn’t share her taste in literature, and at the same time for social reasons felt obliged to take the dreadful role of the chaplain in Christopher Fry’s The Lady’s Not for Burning. The title has since become famous because Margaret Thatcher (I’m looking forward to seeing Meryl Streep in that role) turned it into ‘The lady’s not for turning’. It was sort of wishy-washy 1950s poetry. I just discovered that Christopher Fry died recently at the age of 98. I still can’t forgive him though. I was embarrassed to appear in it.

The best book you read as school reading/Das beste Buch, das du während der Schulzeit als Lektüre gelesen hast

This is going back a long way. I think Horace’s poems were quite good.
Digressing a bit: we had four books each for French and German A Level, and the French choice (it depended on what board you did A Levels for) was greatly superior: Beaumarchais, Mariage de Figaro; Gide, La Porte Étroite; Mauriac, Le noeud de vipères; hm, can’t remember what else. German: Goethe, Götz von Berlichingen; Schiller, Wilhelm Tell (those are the least interesting Goethe and Schiller plays I can think of); Bergengruen, can’t remember which Novelle – maybe it was Die Feuerprobe; can’t remember the fourth. I know the first book I ever succeeded in reading in German, after O Levels, when we were allowed to choose a book from a mixed box, was Ricarda Huch, Der letzte Sommer, which was ideal for a first read in what seemed a difficult language at the time.

New translation of Tin Drum/Neue Übersetzung vom Blechtrommel

Breon Mitchell has won the Schlegel–Tieck Prize for translation from German for his new version of The Tin Drum by Günter Grass. The TLS:

Günter Grass’s first novel, Die Blechtrommel, was published in 1959 and Ralph Manheim’s translation of it in 1962. In 2005, Grass invited his new translators on a tour of the city of Gdańsk, where (as Danzig) the novel is set. According to Breon Mitchell, who wins this year’s Schlegel-Tieck for his new version of The Tin Drum (582pp. Harvill Secker. £20. 978 1 846 55317 2), “on that summer day in Gdańsk, translators both old and new had gathered once again with a special goal in mind – new translations to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Die Blechtrommel”. While paying proper homage to Manheim, Mitchell points out that “each sentence in the new Tin Drum now faithfully replicates the length of the sentence in Grass’s original text, and no sentences are broken up or deliberately shortened”. Eschewing the smoothing out which some translators are prone to (perhaps for fear of appearing too literal), Mitchell singles out an example of his method: “He was also the Formella brothers’ boss, and was pleased, as we were pleased, to meet us, to meet him” (Manheim: “He was also the Formella brothers’ boss and was glad to make our acquaintance, just as we were glad to make his”). As Mitchell says, he has “sometimes placed the sound and rhythm of a sentence above normal syntax and grammar”, while honouring a “syntactic complexity that stretches language”. The results will certainly have met with Grass’s approval. Mitchell also provides an extensive glossary.

So what was the original German?

Auch war er der Chef der Formella-Brüder und freute sich, wie wir uns freuten, uns kennengelernt, ihn kennengelernt zu haben.

Fair enough. I found that on scribd and wonder how long it will be up there.

German literature in translation/Deutsche Literatur ins Englische übersetzt

A recent entry in Susan Bernofsky’s weblog Translationista pointed out that Oliver Pötzsch’s Die Henkerstochter, translated into English as The Hangman’s Daughter, is doing very well. It hadn’t even made my radar, but apparently it’s ‘popular literature’! That reminds me of Frank Schätzing’s Der Schwarm, which did really well as The Swarm (and I even read two-thirds of it in German, but I felt it departing from sense after that).

Bernofsky also mentions the great success of Stieg Larsson books, and the fact that to look at amazon’s website, you wouldn’t think they were translations, because the translator isn’t named. From that she mentions the translator, Reg Keeland, an American, who has a weblog on translation. Reg Keeland is not his real name (he’s Steven Murray), but he was so disgusted at the UK-ification of his translation, done with no time for him to react before publication, that he changed his name for the books:

The printed version of the books was edited in the UK, and the US publisher didn’t do a lot of editing to them, I don’t think. Can’t say exactly because I haven’t read them since I finished translating in 2006. Watch out for: dogsbody, exiguous, gallimaufry, anon, forsooth, and other such British interpolations in my originally American translation! And I sure wouldn’t say “get ahold of” unless I was writing some rural Appalachian story…

This sounds worse than what the Americans did to A.S. Byatt, forsooth!