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Rape yellow/Rapsgelb


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Aldi scraps name of ‘rape yellow’ paint after complaints from sexual assault victim

rape yellow
Only in England? It’s rather shocking to read that Aldi has changed the name rape yellow on its paint to rapeseed yellow after a complaint from a customer who had been sexually assaulted.

Apparently the plant is known as rape or rapeseed, that is, the word rapeseed can refer to the whole plant. I am sure the yellow is the yellow of the flowers, not the seeds, as some papers seem to think. It’s also known as oilseed rape and canola.

The name “canola” was chosen by the board of the Rapeseed Association of Canada in the 1970s. The “Can” part stands for Canada and “ola” refers to oil.[5][6] However, a number of sources, including The Free Dictionary, continue to claim it stands for “Can(ada)+o(il)+l(ow)+a(cid). The name was coined partially to euphemize the name of rapeseed oil, to avoid the negative connotations of rape as a violent sex crime, from the Latin “rapere”.

But the standard name is either rape yellow or rapeseed yellow, see RAL 1021 here.

A Wikipedia site seems to be mainly German, because it says of light ivory ‘Mandatory for taxis in Germany since 1971, although in limited states only in recent years’ and broom yellow: ‘Deutsche Bundespost since 1980, since 1998 Deutsche Post AG’. And for what it calls rapeseed yellow: ‘Österreichische Post, Deutsche Bundespost 1972–1980, Gold in the Flag of Germany’.

This reminded me of the paediatrician/paedophile story, but apparently that was a myth.

Well, it’s hard to forget something that never happened. There was no attack on a paediatrician in Portsmouth. As is frequently the case when relatively minor events are turned into massive morality tales, the facts of what happened 10 years ago are continually twisted – in Gwent, people! – it was not carried out by the ‘populace’ but probably by a small group of teenagers.


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Posted in Englishlang
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Ein normenverdeutlichendes Gespräch


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A colleague was wondering about the translation into English of the term ein normenverdeutlichendes Gespräch (literally, a conversation clarifying the law). He found it in this lovely Hamburg police report of two days ago:

Hamburg (ots) – Zeit: 24.03.2016, 23:36 Uhr Ort: Hamburg-Meiendorf, Hellmesberger Weg

In der Zentralen Erstaufnahmeeinrichtung in Hamburg-Meiendorf kam es zu einem Streit unter Bewohnern. Der Hintergrund hierzu ist unklar. Es versammelten sich ca. 20 Bewohner der Unterkunft und stachelten sich gegenseitig an, so dass aufgrund der aggressiven Stimmung das Wachpersonal die Polizei verständigte. 10 Funkstreifenwagen fuhren zum Einsatzort. Als ein Rädelsführer konnte ein 28-jähriger Mann (Nationalität ungeklärt) vor Ort von den Beamten ermittelt werden. Die Beamten konnten den Streit schlichten und führten mit dem 28-Jährigen ein normenverdeutlichendes Gespräch durch.

First of all we need to find out what it means in English. We have here a situation involving about twenty migrants (also known as refugees) who were causing a rumpus and their ringleader (!) – nationality unknown, but presumably not German – was obviously told by the police, who arrived with ten radio patrol cars, to behave himself, in that it was explained to him that what he was doing could be prosecuted as a criminal offence but they were letting him off for the time being.

It looks as if a more technical term, Normenverdeutlichung, has been borrowed because it sounds so wonderfully official.

A similar usage is quoted by Birgit Grossmann in her Doku-Hotline blog:

Polizeisprecher Ronald Walther: „Nach einem normenverdeutlichenden Gespräch haben wir die beiden ihren Eltern übergeben.“

She doesn’t spend much time on it, though:

Seit ca. 1998 scheint es diese Wortschöpfung zu geben, in den Duden hat sie es allerdings noch nicht geschafft. Kann nur noch wenige Jahrzehnte dauern – oder wir warten auf das nächste Modewort zur Jugendproblematik.

My feeling was that this is a specifically German term from criminology or sociology and we need to find a German definition. However, it seems that norm clarification is an English term connected with restorative justice and Normenverdeutlichung is a translation of that. The German term, however, seems to crop up in connection with action before any charge or arrest, avoiding punishment (as in the example from Hamburg), not with action after an offence. At the moment that’s as far as I’ve got with it.

Here is one of the several English ghits for norm clarification. It appears to have a different meaning from the German:

Exercises in norm clarification and elaboration can benefit from the standard-setting fundamentals set out in General Assembly resolution 41/120: the results should, inter alia, ‘(a) be consistent with the existing body of international human rights law’; ‘(b) be of fundamental character and derive from the inherent dignity and worth of the human person’; ‘(c) be sufficiently precise to give rise to identifiable and practicable rights and obligations’.

One ghit is a PDF file of Strategien der Gewaltprävention im Jugendkriminalrecht by Horst Viehmann, which interestingly has a translation into English as Strategies of Violence Prevention within the German Framework of Juvenile Criminal Law

Here’s an extract:

Das Jugendkriminalrecht ist ein präventiv ausgerichtetes Recht. Nicht die Bestrafung der Täterinnen und Täter ist Intention und Aufgabe, sondern die zukünftige straffreie Bewährung der Verurteilten. Sie sollen nicht wieder straffällig werden, nachdem sie einmal mit dem Gesetz in Konflikt geraten sind. Sinn und Ziel ist die sogenannte Spezialprävention. Das künftige Verhalten der jungen Menschen soll konstruktiv beeinflusst werden. Sie sollen Einsicht in die Schädlichkeit oder Verwerflichkeit des vorangegangenen Handelns gewinnen und daraus Resistenz vor Rückfälligkeit erlangen. Und sie sollen in die Lage versetzt werden, das Leben künftig ohne Straftaten zu gestalten. Für den großen Anteil der ubiquitären (weit verbreiteten) und der episodenhaften (vorübergehenden) Kriminalität junger Menschen genügt das Signal: Das Handeln wird nicht geduldet, es ist bei Strafe verboten (in der Fachsprache: Normverdeutlichung). Einsicht, Befähigung zur Gestaltung eines straffreien Lebens und Normverdeutlichung sind – vereinfacht gesagt – die Ziele aller jugendstrafrechtlichen Reaktionen und Interventionen. Zwar gibt es auch ein repressives Element mit Sicherungsfunktion, aber es ist eine Ausnahmeregelung, und es ist im Ergebnis ebenfalls auf die Legalbewährung hin orientiert: Die Jugendstrafe wegen schwerer Schuld – aber auch hier ist die erzieherische Perspektive zu berücksichtigen.

and here the translation:

Juvenile criminal law is preventively conceived law; its design purpose and its responsibility in practice are not to ensure that offenders are punished, but rather that those convicted should subsequently show themselves capable of living within the law. The aim is that following their first clash with the law they should not go on to commit further offences. The rationale and purpose amount to what is called “special prevention”: the future behaviour of the young persons concerned is supposed to be influenced for the better. They are supposed to gain an understanding of the harmful or reprehensible nature of their earlier conduct, thereby acquiring a degree of resistance to recidivism. And they are supposed to be put in a position enabling them to live from then on without re-offending. For most of the ubiquitous or episodic criminality on the part of young people, the clear warning suffices: this particular behaviour will not be tolerated, it is forbidden and will be punished (the technical term here is “norm clarification”). Insight, enablement to live an offence-free life, and norm clarification are – to put it in simple terms – the objectives of all reactions and interventions under juvenile penal law. There is admittedly also a repressive element, as a safeguard; but that is a provision for exceptional circumstances, and in terms of results is likewise aimed at subsequent good con-duct: detention in a young offenders institution follows on a serious offence – but here too due attention must be paid to the educational aspect.

The translation is by an outfit called Textworks Translations. It is a close reading of the German and a bit heavy, and actually rather similar to what I would do myself in a legal translation done for information purposes where I myself am never fully familiar with the research in the area. Textworks Translations are academics who translate academic texts for academics, they say (Von Wissenschaftlern für Wissenschaftler). Anja Löbert and Dr. Timothy Wise are named (author of the soon-to-appear volume Wise, T 2016, Yodeling and Meaning in American Music, University Press of Mississippi, Jackson, Mississippi, USA.)

My comments on the translation: Spezialprävention can be translated not only as special prevention but also as specific deterrence – perhaps worth considering. I would probably avoid supposed to for sollen: it always reads to me as if it meant ‘they ought to be but they aren’t’. And the educational aspect at the end reminded me that Geoffrey Perrin recommended educative in the context of juvenile criminal law, because it has nothing to do with formal, organized education (Bildung).

(But at a later point the translation does use educative: ‘The Act’s core principle is its educative intent. This educative principle is not defined expressis verbis in the text, but is frequently and variously alluded to, as well as being implicit in the actual provisions.’)

And that reminded me that before I moved this blog to WordPress I had a number of still really useful articles by Geoffrey Perrin on my site which he kindly let me use. And I must put them on this site – look out for a post.

With thanks to the colleague, who knows who he is.


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Posted in crime, Germanlang, translation
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German court supplies translation of indictment late


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Further to the last post on an infringement of the right to a fair hearing, the Burhoff online blog reports (in German) on a decision (PDF) of the Bundesgerichtshof (Federal Court of Justice) against a criminal chamber of Aachen Regional Court (Landgericht). The criminal chamber did not supply the defendant with a translation of the indictment until the seventh day of the trial and then refused leave to stay the proceedings. The two defendants, from the Dominican Republic, were charged with drug dealing in a not small quantity and the decision of the BGH was based on Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (for any British journalists reading, that has nothing to do with the EU).


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Posted in courts, crime, translation
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Google helping the police in Essen


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In December 2015 the police in Essen questioned a speaker of Arabic who they suspecting of stealing a jacket and some drinks from a supermarket. As they could not understand Arabic, they consulted Google Translate, RP Online reports. As the paper points out, this appears to be an infringement of the right to a fair hearing (Anspruch auf rechtliches Gehör). The police say they used the program to establish the man’s identity. It looks as if there will be no conseqences, since the man was given an interpreter the next day and at following hearings. The public prosecutor’s office in Düsseldorf confirmed what had happened, but did not answer the question as to whether the police often use Google Translate.

(via law blog: Google übersetzt für die Polizei)


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Posted in interpreting, police, translation
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They studied German (2) Neil MacGregor


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This isn’t a big surprise as Neil MacGregor, when he was Director of the British Museum, organized the exhibition called German: Memories of a Nation. I wrote a sniffy report on it in an earlier post. There are definitely good things in the book, however, and so in theory one could read about them or look at the maps at leisure – they seemed to me very diverse and complex, and so unsuitable for being absorbed in the course of viewing an exhibition. The book will be coming out in paperback on April 7.

There’s a video of the exhibition on this British Museum page, showing MacGregor’s theme that when the two Germanies were united 25 years ago, they had no shared history, but shared memories. A map shows over 200 currencies representing separated states, each with its own legal system, army etc. There was also a radio series of 15-minute programmes – they can be downloaded as podcasts indefinitely.

I was aware that MacGregor had studied modern languages at Oxford, but Wikipedia lists his alma mater as New College Oxford, École Normale Supérieure, University of Edinburgh and Courtauld Institute of Art – he has even more almae matres or alma maters than I have (KCL, College of Law, Institute of Education). He was a law student at Edinburgh and was called to the Bar in 1972, and to crown it all:

on a Courtauld Institute (University of London) summer school in Bavaria, the Courtauld’s director Anthony Blunt spotted MacGregor and persuaded him to take a master’s degree under his supervision. Blunt later considered MacGregor “the most brilliant pupil he ever taught”.


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Posted in books, Germany
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class="post-5390 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-11-germanlang category-36-literature">

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KCL German play


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King’s College German Play, Der Besuch der alten Dame (The Visit), had its first night on 7 March and there is another performance on 11 March. I saw it with another former King’s student. Everything has changed since the late sixties. The students are a mix of nationalities and subjects – European Studies, European Politics, War Studies, Comparative literature. It was an excellent production with great pace. It really was over in 2 hours so they must have cut quite a bit; the play is rather wordy. Some of the students speak very fluent German.

There are English surtitles – actually a block of text from a translated version of the play. Obviously it had to be cut to the right length, but was it a published version or done by the students themselves? I saw this with Nathan der Weise in Berlin, where they had a rather aged English translation.

The play was on in a place called Tutu’s on the 4th floor of the Macadam Building in Surrey Street. It was dreadfully cold there! The performance used projected images and sound effects – for instance the trains passing through at the beginning – and few props (I missed the coffin, but it wouldn’t have worked here). Desmond Tutu is an alumnus and a rather weird sculpture of his head is above the door:

IMG_5619

We went in memory of the plays we remembered from our own time as students, shockingly 50 years ago. I remember Biedermann und die Brandstifter in 1966 and Minna von Barnhelm in 1967. The current offering is an old chestnut too. But it’s still being performed in the real world and you can see video clips from Bochum, Zurich, and Berlin online (probably there are more out there too).

The KCL version is on a bare stage – here are some photos I stole from the KCL German Society Twitter feed:

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Posted in Germanlang, literature
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class="post-5387 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-5-courts category-12-englishlang category-9-interpreting category-10-translation">

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A mere conduit?


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Under the E-Commerce Regulations, an ISP can escape liability for content because it is a mere conduit.

Conduit in the figurative sense: the OED says

4. fig. The channel or medium by which anything (e.g. knowledge, influence, wealth, etc.) is conveyed;

But currently in the USA, there is an argument as to whether an interpreter or translator is a mere conduit.

I suppose that’s how some customers see us.

When the police use an interpreter in an interrogation and do not record the defendant’s words but only the translation of them into English, can the interpreter be challenged legally? Lawrence Solan writes in his Balkinization blog:

An interesting question concerning forensic linguistics is making its way through the appellate courts: When the police use an interpreter during an interview (or interrogation) of a suspect who later becomes a defendant in a prosecution, and the defendant’s words in her original language are not recorded, does the defendant have a constitutional right to confront the interpreter? As a cost-saving measure, more and more law enforcement agencies, and some courts, have been retaining services that interpret the interview over the telephone. One of them, Language Line Solutions. http://www.languageline.com/, has found itself in the middle of this constitutional question.

courts should be more realistic in their understanding of what interpreters and translators can do. First, courts should stop relying on the “conduit” theory of translation. Compare two reputable translations of any work of literature. They will be similar in some ways, different in others. To the extent that word choice matters in the context of a criminal prosecution, nuanced differences may affect a case’s outcome. Second, interpreters make errors. The legal system should recognize this. Third, courts should not accept as accurate representations that the entire professional staff of a private firm retained by the government is dispassionate and of high professional character. Surely the defendant need not accept such representations.

Solan recommends that at least the original statements should be recorded as potential evidence.


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Posted in courts, Englishlang, interpreting, translation
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