Translations of statutes may not help you in China

English Translations Of Chinese Laws. Don’t Call Us.

An article on China Law Blog reminds us that however problematic English translations of German statutes may be, you could be worse off in China.

China’s laws are too precise/too vague/too changing/too real world/too dependent on regulations to use English language translations of one or two laws for making final decisions. An English language translation can in many cases give you a good “feel” for a situation or a starting point for how to proceed, but the risk of that translation being very wrong or just enough wrong to make a big (or even just a little difference) is just too great for you to rely on it without more.

The Independent should be ashamed of itself/Ich bin ein Berliner

I’ve discussed this before here (2008) but it refuses to die the death. People just love believing funny stories. Today The Independent exhumed it again:

Errors and omissions: How a wrong translation became the great Berlin bake-off

Except that he didn’t. Giles Cooper writes in from north London to confirm what an old friend with a degree in German told me long ago. Kennedy, or his speech writer, got it wrong. “Ich bin ein Berliner” means “I am a doughnut” (that is, a particular kind of German doughnut known as a Berliner). The German for “I am a Berliner” (meaning a person from Berlin) has no indefinite article. Kennedy should have said, “Ich bin Berliner.” But everybody is familiar with the words he actually said – so for headline purposes “Ich bin ein Berliner” has become correct.

No, it is not good enough to quote ‘Giles Cooper’ (who is he?) or ‘an old friend with a degree in German’, (on the lines of What do they call a person who passed his medical exams by 1 per cent: ‘Dr’).

Fortunately Peter Harvey has done a good dissection – and he isn’t even in Germany! It’s that myth again

It is always possible for someone else with a better knowledge of German to know otherwise, or for anyone at all to check the facts on the internet. Sadly, that is not the worst we get from the Independent. In a nod to truth and research the article concludes:

It is only fair to add that Wikipedia, in its most solemn American fact-checking mode, dismisses what it calls the “jelly doughnut misconception”, maintaining that what Kennedy said was correct all along. But why spoil a good story?

Yes indeed. If you’re a British journalist, why should you allow ‘solemn fact-checking’ to spoil a good story?

Germans in London

The Evening Standard has an article on Where to eat and drink like a German in London (the days of Schmidt’s German restaurant have long gone – I didn’t realize Donald MacLean spent his last night there before going to the Soviet Union).

And also Ich bin ein Londoner: the Germans are coming – and a lot of them are already here

The echoes of historic Anglo-German entanglements ring oddly through this affinity. To put it bluntly, today’s London attracts a lot of people whose forebears were once part of a much less charming offensive. A current prominent member of the Germano-Londoner pack is Isabelle (Bella) Ribbentrop, head of corporate communication at Pictet and Cie, the private Swiss bank, who is married to a descendant of Hitler’s foreign minister.

English private education is one of the big draws — Germans have become the largest non-Asian group in Britain’s independent schools, not least because of the school uniforms. Another is doing things they can’t do at home, such as mowing the lawn outside approved hours or making a pile in hedge funds, which aren’t legal in Germany.

That’s a cheap knock about the uniform, and not correct either.

I love Denglish. For German expats in London:

With InterNations, German expats in London are able to find the help that they need as well as lots of valuable information. Our community supports you take advantage of your stay in The “Big Smoke”, as the city is caringly called.

Meanwhile, Konstantin has decided he’s staying.

I don’t seem to have a football tag (come on Dortmund).

Germany and the Eurovision Song Contest

Peter Urban ist ein schlechter Verlierer und hat heute Abend echt Sympathiepunkte eingebüßt. #esc2013 (tweeted by Hansjörg Schmidt)

The ESC is usually a time of soul-searching for Germany. This time, their song Glorious by Cascada (the singer Natalie Horler grewup in Germany but her parents are British) was early reputed to be a copy of last year’s winner Euphoria by Loreen.

You can compare them on this Independent page, at least if you aren’t in Germany, where Loreen’s video is replaced by the familiar Denglish message:

Unfortunately this video is not available in Germany because it may contain music for which GEMA has not granted the respective music rights.

We know that countries often vote for their neighbours, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard the word Nachbarn as often as I did from the German commentator on TV last night. Charlie Bavington rightly tweeted me asking if Germany has no neighbours.

Most bizarre of all was the theory that began to develop at the end that the reason Cascada got so few votes was possibly because of Merkel’s economic policies. As though Cascada needed any help!

See WAZ: Billige Ausrede für ESC-Debakel von Cascada? ARD-Mann gibt Merkel Schuld

Reuters picked it up later:

“There’s obviously a political situation to keep in mind – I don’t want to say ‘this was 18 points for Angela Merkel’,” said Germany’s ARD TV network coordinator Thomas Schreiber. “But we all have to be aware that it wasn’t just Cascada up there on stage (being judged) but all of Germany.”

“It’s unexplainable,” said ARD expert commentator Peter Urban on Sunday after Cascada singer Natalie Horler was 21st even though German media had touted her as a favorite. More than 8 million Germans watched, a 44 percent market share.

“Is it that people just don’t like us?” Urban was asked on ZDF TV. “There’s some truth to that,” he said.
“There will be two German soccer teams in the Champions League final next week and maybe people didn’t want Germany to win Eurovision too.”

Laughter at the (other) Supreme Court

This diagram shows which of the Supreme Court justices (AS = Antonin Scalia) got the most laughs in court in the 2004-2005 term. The information was published by Professor Jay D. Wexler in Green Bag as Laugh Track (PDF file). That term was the first time that the Court Reporter started revealing when the public had laughed.

The data revealed the following results :

“Justice Scalia won the competition by a landslide, instigating 77 laughing episodes, while Justice Thomas instigated zero laughing episodes, putting him all alone in last place among the Justices.”

Why am I not surprised?

Later, Jason Wojciechowski researched further in [Laughter.] on the Supreme Court: Expanding on Professor Wexler’s ‘Laugh Track’
(SSRN downloadable paper).

In view of the fact that Scalia speaks most, he wanted to check whether the figures were misleading. Scalia still came out top, but Thomas was not investigated because ‘He speaks so seldom as to make it pointless to examine his performance.’

Via Martin Gardiner in Improbable Research, with special thanks to Trevor in Barcelona.

What is the Supreme Court of the UK?

This is a video explaining the work of the Supreme Court (embedded in a useful Guardian article). I quite like the graphics but am not sure about the woman introducing it, Stacey Dealey (?). That is a kind of estuary English (Lord Kerr speaks otherwise). She seems to swallow the T at the end of words but not in the middle position. It isn’t quite as fake as Jamie Oliver, though. And one of the judicial assistants has a Scottish accent.
One misses the red leather of the seats in the House of Lords, although I suppose the law lords sat in a committee room rather than in the house.

There’s an open day on Saturday May 25, which I gather is also Towel Day and German football day.