Germany in the late summer of 1938

These are two posts from the blog of Sir Henry Brooke, a retired Court of Appeal judge – highly recommended not only for these posts on his father’s visit to Germany in 1938. These are original reports which appeared anonymously in The Times in autumn 1938.

Of course, first days in any foreign country bring home all sorts of outward differences. Why does almost everybody in a German train spend the journey standing up and looking out of the window? Why have the countless level crossings over railway lines and the ubiquitous single-decker trams been endured on the roads so long? Why are commercial lorries pulling enormous trailers so abundant, long-distance motor-coaches so rare? Why is Germany so far behind us in the development of the flower garden, so far ahead in the use of window-boxes? Why are English standards of forestry so deplorable in comparison? Why is the German town so much noisier through the night? Why is German bedding so apparently unsuited for comfortable sleep, and why are Germans so curious as to make the same criticism of English bedding?

There is more, of course. I find it worrying to think back to that time when Hitler’s view of the Jews tallied with that of the nation, and many people believed that he was their only protection against the problems of the Versailles Treaty.

Germany in the late summer of 1938 (1)
Germany in the late summer of 1938 (2)

Mortgagor, mortgagee and £1m damages claim

It is indeed a tough one, keeping mortgagor and mortgagee apart. I can remember times when I went through the whole of a text in my translation memory program to be quite sure I had got the parties right, especially since there are sometimes errors in the German original.

But I have doubts about the prospects of Nigerian lawyers who are suing the University of Oxford (not OUP?) for errors in mini dictionaries, as reported to The Guardian (Nigeria). Lawyers demand £1 million damages in dictionary error:

It would be interesting to know how this pans out. Yes, some Nigerian lawyers have issued a notice of intention to sue the University of Oxford, over an alleged wrong definition of words “Mortgagee and Mortgagor” in their Oxford mini reference dictionary and Oxford English mini-dictionary, unless they are willing to part with £ 1 million.

The lawyers, Messrs Ogedi Ogu, and Emmanuel Ofoegbu in a notice of intention to sue dated November 9, 2016, addressed to the Registrar, University of Oxford, London, are demanding the sum of £ 1 million for the losses they suffered in their transactions, when they relied on the said wrong definition of the words.

They said the Oxford English mini dictionary and the Oxford mini reference dictionary defined the word “Mortgagee” to mean a borrower and the word “Mortgagor to mean a lender.

According to them, the dictionary definitions are wrongful and misleading as in a Mortgage transaction, the word “Mortgagee” connotes a lender while a “Mortgagor signifies a borrower.

As a result, the lawyers are demanding that the University of Oxford pays to them the money for the wrong definitions of words, which they relied upon to their own detriment.

In addition, they demand that the University of Oxford and Oxford University press, issue a world wide notice of the errors complained of within seven days from the receipt of the said notice.

Via Frédéric Houbert and Tom West.

Crime Fiction in German

Crime Fiction in German. Der Krimi. Edited by Katharina Hall, Cardiff 2016.

Recommended at Lizzy’s Literary Life (Lizzy Sidal), where there is also an interview with Katharina Hall aka Mrs. Peabody – she writes a blog on international crime fiction called Mrs. Peabody Investigates.

This is another book I haven’t read from cover to cover, indeed I don’t think I could, but I see it as a source ofsuggestions for reading. It looks very useful. But then again I have already read too many German crime novels. There is not much point getting addicted if you want to find time to read anything else.

At the beginning there is a 24-page table with a chronology of crime fiction in German set against current historical events. It goes from 1786 (with a couple of earlier events) to 2015. At the back is a full annotated bibliography of sources. Each chapter ends with notes, bibliography of texts, and further secondary reading. There are chapters by various authors on subjects including Austrian and Swiss crime fiction, Der Afrika-Krimi, Der Frauenkrimi and TV shows. Occasional quotations are in English, although the books referred to are not necessarily available in English.

It’s not the aim of the book to analyse crime fiction at length, so it is a bit dry in parts, I think, when it appears more like a catalogue than a commentary.

The time when I read most crime fiction in German was the 90s, and I see that it completely omits one of my favourite spoof series, by Helmut Zenker, about the detective Minni Mann (Zenker is only mentioned for the Kottan TV series). I suppose Minni Mann is not very PC. Titles include Die Mann im Mond and Die Mann ist tot und lässt Sie grüßen. Quite a lot of them have been reprinted, as late as 2014 – my edition of Minni Mann is from 1989. They always included a contract with the author (Buchordnung):

1. Nachfolgende Buchordnung tritt mit der Übernahme von MINNI MANN in Kraft.
2. Lesen darf ich nur Exemplare, die ich erworben oder geschenkt bekommen habe.
3. In anderen Büchern darf ich zur gleichen Zeit nicht angetroffen werden.
4. MINNI MANN darf ich auch alleine und ohne Einwilligung der Eltern lesen.
5. Das Lesen erfolgt auf eigene Gefahr.
6. Für plötzliches Verlassen des Buches ist ein triftiger Grund wie Erkrankung, Geburt, Hochzeit oder Ableben geltend zu machen. Im Krankheitsfall ist Bestätigung des Arztes unbedingt erforderlich.
7. Schriftliche Änderungen meinerseits gehen ohne Anspruch auf Entschädigung in das Eigentum des Autors über.
8. Für während des Lesens abhanden gekommene Garderobe übernehmen Verlag und Autor keine Haftung.
9. Ein Lesezeichen ist nicht erwünscht. Ich darf die Ecke der Seite umbiegen, auf der ich mich befinde.
10. Ich weiß, dass ich als Leser zumindest einen Bekannten oder Verwandten zum Kauf eines eigenen Exemplars bewegen muss. Der Ankauf ist zu kontrollieren.
11. Sollte mir das Buch missfallen, bin ich wenigstens verpflichtet, ein Exemplar meinem besten Feind zu schenken.
12. Nach der Lektüre schließe ich das Buch sorgfältig und stelle es zu den anderen Zenker-Büchern.
13. Gerichtsstand ist ausschließlich Klosterneuburg.

A couple of years ago I did attend a good CIOL seminar on German crime fiction, the translation thereof, I think, by Karen Seago. There is stuff by her online too, but a lot of it only accessible through academic institutions. There’s an article by her in The Journal of Specialised Translation though: Crime (fiction) in Translation (PDF)

Comparative Law for Legal Translators – first look

This is a first look – not a review, because I haven’t read the whole book.

Comparative Law for Legal Translators, by Guadalupe Soriano-Barabino, published by Peter Lang 2016 – also available as an e-book, PDF – volume 17 of New Trends in Translation Studies

This book is by one legal translation academic with shorter contributions from two others. Between them they cover the languages French, Spanish, Italian, German and English. It is part of a series published by Peter Lang called New Trends in Translation Studies – volume 17, in fact.

The title suggested to me that it is a book about comparative law intended for legal translators, but in fact it is a book intended for academics about how comparative law might help legal translators, and help train them, and it contains concrete examples of exercises. It is quite a short book but rather heavy going in parts, as one might expect when the intended audience are academics rather than practitioners. There is frequent quoting from Zweigert and Kötz, for example – an excellent book but not what I was expecting. I was expecting one author’s views, not opinions frequently buttressed with citations. That is not exactly what the introduction says, but it does say it’s addressed to translators-to-be, translator trainers and professional translators ‘who wish to develop their activity in the field of legal translation’.

Not only is the book addressed to a variety of readers, it also contains short chapters on seven legal systems. If I wanted to use this book for legal translation between German and English, I would want more on German law than sixteen pages starting with the historical evolution of the German legal system and then concentrating on sources of law, courts and the legal profession. (The introduction to comparative law also goes back to Plato).

The first of four parts establishes, with much theorization and quotation, that legal translators need to understand source and target legal systems. A taster (p. 21):

To sum up, comparative law and legal translation interact because the former becomes an instrument for the latter. The asymmetry between different legal concepts and systems is a challenge for the translator and comparative law can help translators first to understand and later to explain (and translate) the legal concepts of the source legal system into the target legal system. The actual translation (as a product) can be rendered through the application of different techniques and strategies, which are discussed in detail in Chapter 11.

The second and third parts consist mainly of short chapters on a number of legal systems, concentrating on sources of law and court hierarchies. These chapters are preceded by a discussion on how the major legal families/systems of the world may be classified, and then a few pages on the civil law and common law systems.

The fourth and final part is headed ‘Comparative Law for Legal Translators: From Theory to Practice’, and falls into two sections. Firstly, ‘Training Legal Translators’ is mainly a discussion of what translation competence means and how legal translation competence can be defined. It concludes that legal translators do not have also to be lawyers to be good translators. finally, ‘Legal Translation in the Classroom’ suggests concrete approaches.

First, there is a discussion of how to decide on terminological equivalents: translators need to know the difference between two legal systems in order to decide how similar two terms are – are they equivalents or not close enough? Finally, there are twenty-four suggested exercises of a variety of kinds for students. Students should be encouraged, for example, to look at texts in their source and target languages which are similar, that are different but have the same purpose, that don’t exist in the other language, that have a different structure. Students should rewrite texts in legalese in plain language (an excellent idea). They should look at the same terms that have different meanings, for example in English-language jurisdictions.

This isn’t a review as I haven’t read the whole of the book. I am more interested in practical legal translation and would recommend another book from the series, Legal Translation in Context, edited by Anabel Borja Albi and Fernando Prieto Ramos, a collection of chapters – the first, by Jan Engberg, is incidentally titled ‘Comparative Law for Translation’. There is also Legal Translation Explained, by Enrique Alcaraz and Brian Hughes, from the (originally) St. Jerome Publishing series Translation Practices Explained.

The header image to this blog

The header image to this blog comes from a photo of a pearly king, in fact the Upminster pearly king Arthur Rackley. At the top left, above the horse pulling a cart, you can see the Upminster windmill, which in real life currently lacks its sails, which have been sent to the Netherlands to be restored. I failed to notice that Arthur Rackley died a year ago at the age of ninety, as was shown on a bench outside Roomes Stores with his name on it (Roomes Stores being one of the few surviving department stores outside the West End, see diamond geezer’s recent map). See my earlier post on Pearly kings and queens for more photos of him.

pearly5

National Poetry Day

As it’s National Poetry Day, here is a poem on the inferno of Poundland by Simon Armitage.

I gather some people encountered his work in GCSE. I didn’t, obviously, not just because GCSE is after my time and so is Simon Armitage. In GCE, we did bloody Gerard Manley Hopkins and the Wreck of the accursed Deutschland. I never did understand what people saw in him. He had to be spoken of in hushed tones.

Poundland, by Simon Armitage

Came we then to the place abovementioned,
crossed its bristled threshold through robotic glass doors,
entered its furry heat, its flesh-toned fluorescent light.
Thus with wire-wrought baskets we voyaged,
and some with trolleys, back wheels flipping like trout tails,
cruised the narrow canyons twixt cascading shelves,
the prow of our journeying cleaving stale air.
Legion were the items that came tamely to hand:
five stainless steel teaspoons, ten corn-relief plasters,
the Busy Bear pedal bin liners fragranced with country lavender,
the Disney design calendar and diary set, three cans of Vimto,
cornucopia of potato-based snacks and balm for a sweet tooth,
toys and games, goods of Orient made, and of Cathay,
all under the clouded eye of CCTV,
beyond the hazard cone where serious chutney spillage had occurred.
Then emerged souls: the duty manager with a face like Doncaster,
mumbling, “For so much, what shall we give in return?”
The blood-stained employee of the month,
sobbing on a woolsack of fun-fur rugs,
many uniformed servers, spectral, drifting between aisles.
Then came Elpenor, our old friend Elpenor,
slumped and shrunken by the Seasonal Products display.
In strangled words I managed,
“How art thou come to these shady channels, into hell’s ravine?”
And he: “To loan sharks I owe/the bone and marrow of my all.”
Then Walt Whitman, enquiring politely of the delivery boy.
And from Special Occasions came forth Tiresias,
dead in life, alive in death, cider-scented and sock-less,
Oxfam-clad, shaving cuts to both cheeks, quoting the stock exchange.
And my own mother reaching out, slipping a tin of stewing steak
to the skirt pocket of her wedding dress,
blessed with a magician’s touch, practised in need.

But never until the valley widened at the gated brink
did we open our lips to fish out those corn-coloured coins,
those minted obols, hard-won tokens graced with our monarch’s head,
kept hidden beneath the tongue’s eel, blood-tasting,
both ornament and safeguard, of armour made.
And paid forthwith, then broke surface
and breathed extraordinary daylight into starved lungs,
steered for home through precincts and parks scalded by polar winds,
laden with whatnot, lightened of golden quids.

obiter dictum

I see that Obiter Dictum, das is now in the Duden.

(in einem Urteil eines obersten Gerichts) rechtliche Ausführungen zur Urteilsfindung, die über das Erforderliche hinausgehen und auf denen das Urteil dementsprechend nicht beruht

This had passed me by. And strictly speaking there is no hierarchy of binding decisions in case law in Germany, although it’s clear that some decisions are treated as binding the lower courts.

So here’s a quote from a decision of a Higher Administrative Court:
Oberverwaltungsgericht NRW, 16 E 648/15 (at marginal number 19!):

Denn der Beschluss des Bundesverfassungsgericht beschränkt sich auf ein obiter dictum, ohne die Bedenken näher zu begründen und ohne sich mit der seit langem gefestigten Rechtsprechung auseinanderzusetzen, die u. a. von verschiedenen Obergerichten eingehend mit der allgemeinen Bedeutung von Beweisverwertungsverboten im Gefahrenabwehrrecht begründet wird.

I don’t know if one would translate English obiter dictum as German Obiter Dictum – that depends on how familiar it has become and how much explanation the user of the translation needs.

The latest edition of Dietl/Lorenz EN-DE (7th) has the following – first you look under obiter and are sent to dictum – reminds me why paper bilingual law dictionaries are dreadful – I think Romain is even worse. Under dictum:

obiter dictum Lat (a saying by the way) gelegentliche Äußerung f, beiläufige Bemerkung f (e-r Rechtsansicht in den Entscheidungsgründen, auf der die Entscheidung selbst nicht beruht. Im Ggs. zu ratio decidendi nicht bindend).

And Romain EN-DE, 5th ed.

obiter dictum, dicta pl, lat Urteil Nebenbemerkung, nicht tragender Entscheidungsgrund

I don’t think Dietl is right to say that the obiter is found in the grounds for the decision. It is found somewhere in the text of the decision. Were it actually in the grounds, I wonder how obiter it would be?

via Burhoff Online