“EXCUSE MY FRENCH…ANGLO-SAXON, I MEAN”

Excuse my FrenchWhile speaking about developing countries from which most immigrants come to the U.S.A. nowadays, Mr. Trump used a word that was not in accordance with accepted standards of what is right or proper in polite society. Reportedly, Mr. Trump asked lawmakers, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” He was apparently referring to Haiti, El Salvador and African countries. Leaving aside the hotly debated question of the American President’s views, I found it linguistically interesting to trace how the “serious” media across the world translated the improper word into their respective languages. The Ukrainian e-papers translate the word as “dirty holes” giving the original English invariant in brackets. In French, headlines featured “pays de merde”, using the expletive to refer to the countries but without the word “hole.” In Spanish, “países de mierda” was used, similar to the French, as well as “países de porquería”, which means “trash countries.” In German, “Drecksloch,” which literally means “dirt hole” but like the word used by Mr. Trump is considered vulgar. In Dutch, one newspaper used “achterlijk” (“backward, or mentally deranged”) as its headline. In Japanese, a word that translates as “outdoor toilet” was used. In Portuguese, one outlet used a word that translates as ‘pigsty’, while others translated the quote literally. Mr. Trump’s slur was translated into Japanese as “restroom-like countries,” ”unsanitary nations,” “countries not fit to be fertilizer.’ The Chinese (Taiwan and mainland China) preferred “softer” words: “trash countries,” “broken place,” “haunted spot.” Only once a ‘stronger’ expression “manure kingdom” was used.

The whole world is attempting to correct Mr. Trump’s speech manners. And I thought about giants. About George Washington who formulated the articles of the U.S. Constitution, about Abraham Lincoln’s carefully crafted Gettysburg Address in which he spoke about his country that was “conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” about J.F. Kennedy addressing his fellow Americans with “ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country,” or Winston Churchill’s “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm,” or Charles de Gaulle’s “The leader must aim high, see big, judge widely, thus setting himself apart form the ordinary people who debate in narrow confines.” I thought about uplifting words that give wings.

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