Key word chal­lenges trans­la­tors

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - NEWS - By Tom Odula

NAIROBI, KENYA >> Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s in­sult of Africa was a puz­zle for many for­eign me­dia or­ga­ni­za­tions, which didn’t have a ready trans­la­tion of his ep­i­thet for their read­ers or lis­ten­ers.

Their an­swers ranged from “dirty” to, well, dirt­ier. While meet­ing with se­na­tors on im­mi­gra­tion, Trump ques­tioned why the United States would ac­cept more im­mi­grants from Haiti and “shit­hole coun­tries” in Africa, ac­cord­ing to one par­tic­i­pant and peo­ple briefed on the con­ver­sa­tion.

His com­ments Thurs­day re­vived racism ac­cu­sa­tions against Trump, roiled im­mi­gra­tion talks and set off in­ter­na­tional out­rage that left some for­eign journalists won­der­ing how to ex­press the of­fend­ing word.

“We have dozens of lan­guage ser­vices at the BBC which to­day are all dis­cussing the right way to trans­late into their own lan­guage the word ‘shit­hole’ for their mil­lions of lis­ten­ers,” Paul Dana­har, the ed­i­tor of the BBC’s North Amer­ica bureau, tweeted Fri­day. In Africa, the ob­ject of Trump’s in­sult, Tan­za­nia’s Mwananchi news­pa­per trans­lated his com­ment as “mataifa chafu” — sim­ply, “dirty coun­tries.”

Taifa Leo, a sis­ter Swahili pub­li­ca­tion to Kenya’s lead­ing Daily Na­tion, chose “nchi za kinyesi,” a more or less ex­act trans­la­tion but with a gen­tler word for ex­cre­ment. There is a more di­rect trans­la­tion for Trump’s term in Swahili, ed­i­tor Gil­bert Mo­gire said. But, he ex­plained, that would be “un­print­able.” In Asia, Ja­pan’s Ky­odo News wire ser­vice chose “ku­sottare,” which lit­er­ally means “drip­ping with ex­cre­ment.” The coun­try’s no-non­sense na­tional broad­caster NHK set­tled for “filthy,” while the Asahi Shim­bun news­pa­per de­cided that a word mean­ing “out­door toi­lets” con­veyed the gist of Trump’s term. Chi­nese me­dia out­lets are tightly con­trolled and have rel­a­tively lit­tle lat­i­tude when it comes to cre­ative in­ter­pre­ta­tions. The of­fi­cial Xin­hua News Agency and other out­lets trans­lated the ex­ple­tive as “fenkeng” — lit­er­ally “cesspit.”

In the Span­ish-speak­ing world, news out­lets from Ar­gentina’s Clarin and Todo Noti­cias to Spain’s El Mundo and El Diario matched the pres­i­dent’s pro­fan­ity level by trans­lat­ing the word Trump re­port­edly used as “agu­jeros de mierda.” “Agu­jeros” is Span­ish for holes; “mierda” is the equiv­a­lent of Trump’s term for ex­cre­ment. Mex­ico’s El Uni­ver­sal used both that and the sim­pler “paises de mierda.” “Paises” is Span­ish for coun­tries. O Globo and Folha de S.Paulo of Brazil pub­lished the Por­tuguese “paises de merda.”

Peru’s Ra­dio Pro­gra­mas went with “agu­jeros de por­que­ria,” or “holes of filth.” Croa­t­ian news por­tal Ex­ was among the me­dia that used the word “vuko­je­bina.”

A slightly less in­dis­creet English trans­la­tion of the word would be “where the wolves for­ni­cate,” al­though it is used col­lo­qui­ally in Serbo-Croat to re­fer to places far from civ­i­liza­tion.


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