I was proceeding in a northerly direction

I’ve just received a comment on a post I wrote in 2004: I was proceeding in a northerly direction/Polizeisprech.

The comment is actually a link to an article on another blog written by a police officer who picks up factual errors in TV police shows. He writes that no policeman has ever ‘proceeded in a northerly direction’, by which he means not that they never go north, but they never use the expression. But that’s exactly the point: it’s when a police officer is in a magistrate’s court refreshing his memory from his police notebook, which is standard practice and permissible, and reads out what he has written – it doesn’t come over naturally.

On this subject I can’t help remembering the German TV series Ein Fall für Zwei, where the German lawyers would strut up and down in court as if there had been a jury in the German court – US TV was the inspiration for that.

Here’s another article on the same topic

Leo Whitlock, one of the editors at the Kent Messenger group of newspapers, has penned an interesting blog looking at the how individuals use overly complicated words when speaking to people in authority.  

It is, I suspect, an attempt to appear not just ‘posh’, as Whitlock claims, but to appear better educated and to gain the respect of their peers. 

This inflated use (or abuse) of the English language is no better illustrated when engaging with the legal community. 

Take, most likely, the apocryphal PC writing in his notebook.  “I was proceeding in a northerly direction, when I apprehended the suspect…..”

No one talks like that.

That’s the situation, I think: talking in a courtroom setting.

Blog birthday in lockdown

Today is the 17th birthday of this blog, started on 15 April 2003, when it seemed obscure to have a weblog with such a narrow focus. Some other blogs of that time still exist.

We are currently in lockdown.

Machine translation

Meanwhile, a thought about machine translation. There is a lot more to be said about this, especially DeepL in connection with legal translation. One thing that strikes me is that in the old days, one might adapt machine translation systems to allow for context. But if you go to the WHO site and allow it to translate into German using Google Translate, you get a map of Turkey labelled Truthahn. Context is not taken into account here!

By the way, do people pronounce WHO double-u aitch oh? I usually say World Health Organization. But I heard someone on radio callilng it The Who recently, which I liked.

Screenshot:

Translation blogs

Luke Spear has chosen this auspicious occasion to collate a list of translation-related blogs, not so rare now as they were in 2003.

75+ of the best translation, language and linguistics blogs to follow

This list dates from April 9 2020 and has links to every blog mentioned. In most cases, you need to click on the links to see what the blogs are about. Quite an achievement! Luke asks if there are more blogs that could bring the total up to 100. Abd he wonders if people are blogging less.

Biut more about that in another post.

Kurzarbeit/furlough

In this time of lockdown, the question has arisen as to how to reduce employees’ hours and pay them less. I’m jjust going to touch on the terminology here – anyone who wants to know more can do a websearch nowadays!

There has been some comment in the UK press about the German system of Kurzarbeit (short-time work). From the Financial Times:

Kurzarbeit: a German export most of Europe wants to buy

Please use the sharing tools found via the share button at the top or side of articles. Copying articles to share with others is a breach of FT.comT&Cs and Copyright Policy. Email licensing@ft.com to buy additional rights. Subscribers may share up to 10 or 20 articles per month using the gift article service. More information can be found here
https://www.ft.com/content/927794b2-6b70-11ea-89df-41bea055720b

The tool is Kurzarbeit, or shorter work-time, a policy that has been copied by so many other countries that one economist called it one of Germany’s “most successful exports”. Under the scheme, companies hit by a downturn can send their workers home, or radically reduce their hours, and the state will replace a large part of their lost income.

The UK has now introduced a similar scheme. It allows works to be furloughed but kept on the payroll. I knew furlough only as leave for soldiers, but apparently it is used in the USA in this sense. Furlough is like garden leave, where an employee’s contract is terminated to a certain date and he or she continues to be on the payroll but may not work. It’s referred to as the coronavirus job retention scheme. A lot of law firm websites explain it, for instance Crossland Employment Solicitors.

A number of other countries use similar schemes, but I think Germany was the first. The FT thinks it works very well in a country like Germany which invests a lot in apprenticeships, so having trained their workers, they will not want to lose them. The German scheme was ramped up at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis.

In the USA, works who are furloughed are not likely to be paid 60% of their wages as in Germany, but they may retain health insurance and other benefits.

Some more vocabulary I have picked up recently from German daily coronavirus podcasts: der Impfling for the person being vaccinated, verimpfen to inject a substance.

A tweet from Scott Hanson @papascott:

The line grew to 5 people behind us, 2 of whom left when they learned there was no asparagus. 😂

Elsewhere I note that it took the virus crisis to make Germans give up cash.

Social distancing

I am reporting back here to show that I’m still around. We are living in times of social distancing – at least that’s the term most media and people use. I read in the German press that the term borrowed from English was wrong, that it should be physical distancing as that makes more sense. My feeling was/is that the term social distancing has entered general use. I’ve now tweeted something about social distancing – here is the tweet I linked to:

social distancing

I had a response criticizing the term. So although I did not care about the dispute beforehand, I did a web search and found the Wikipedia article on Social Distancing and the discussion there after there was a request to change the heading.

I hadn’t realized that the WHO changed the term, not that this alters the fact that the disputed term has become common usage (see WP:COMMONNAME).

Feelings run high. Here is vsync:

Strong oppose and speedy close. This request isn’t even well-formed as it’s merely based on trifling wordplay from some obscure “WHO”, so-called, which has no standing whatsoever to comment on anything related to this crisis, let alone messaging on its seriousness or what is or isn’t effective. Now, for some “reasons” that will doubtless be demanded: The term existed prior to the current pandemic and will exist after. The meaning is perfectly coherent as relating to putting distance in social contact, rather than of other random objects. “Wikipedia isn’t a how-to manual” or whatever, but the article perfectly describes the meaning. The point of an encyclopedia is to expound even obscure terms, not rename them. Why don’t you go spend your time telling people masks don’t work or something? vsync (talk) 01:43, 1 April 2020 (UTC)

Book recommendation: Katrin FitzHerbert: True to Both My Selves

Katrin Fitzherbert’s autobiography won a prize for autobiography in 1997. I only heard of it recently and picked it up second-hand. It’s subtitled A Family Memoir of Germany and England in two World Wars.

Here’s the summary from the Virago website:

TRUE TO BOTH MY SELVES is an extraordinary account of a childhood disjointed by country and by war. Curiously mirroring her English grandmother, who married a German hairdresser in London and was then expelled to Germany following the First World War, Katrin Fitzherbert was born in Germany in 1936 and lived under Hitler’s regime until, at the age of eleven, she was suddenly ‘repatriated’ to an England she had never known. There she had to forget her German father and the German language. This is the story of three generations of remarkable women, and their struggle for survival and integrity as individuals in times divided by war.

This is a readable and honest account of some parts of English and German history I know only skeleton facts about – what it was like living through WWII as a child who supported the system and then being told to pretend she had been born in London (for fear of the 1918-type repercussions), that after WWII the English tended to see all Germans as either villains or victims, the psychological pressure when no one in her family had any understanding of what it was like having to hide half of one’s own history.

The blurb on the book says:

Katrin FitzHerbert was born in Germany in 1936. She was educated at fourteen schools in Germany and England and read PPE at St. Anne’s College, Oxford. She has been a journalist, an anthropologist, and trained and worked as a psychiatric social worker. She is the founder and director of the National Pyramid Trust, a charity promoting self-esteem and resilience in primary-school children. She is married, has two daughter, and lives in London and Totnes.

Tatort in Franconia

The latest Tatort, on March 1, was set in Nuremberg and Fürth. I think there have been several but I have only glimpsed a bit till now. I watched the whole of this one. It’s available on the Mediathek until the end of August 2020.

Die Nacht gehört Dir

The music was done very well – see link above for details, including Fratres by Arvo Pärt.

The bizarre thing to me was that we saw a bit of Fürth but Fürth wasn’t mentioned. The whole setup was seen as greater Nuremberg. The flat where the victim lived was in Hornschuchpromenade, the street where the original railway used to run, now with big trees all along it and magnificent buildings on both sides (the other side is Königswärtersstraße). The interior scenes were not shot there. There were a lot of scenes, too many perhaps, of people driving along the Fürther Straße from Nuremberg to Fürth and back. There was also a flat near Jakobinenstraße. The Hauptmarkt in Nuremberg, the castle and Plärrer were shown. Better weather than we have now.

Miscellaneous online queries

A number of discussions have turned up on ProZ recently. I fear they are too complex to make anything sensible out of in the time I have available, but I can at least showcase them.

  1. Adrian MM directed my attention to further or alternatively.

This was some time ago and the query seems to have died the death after I added a comment. The asker had particulars of claim to translate into German:

Further or alternatively, it is averred that it was an implied term of the Contract that payment of the Commission for the Services would be paid within a reasonable period of time.

Further, or alternatively, the Defendant has failed to pay the said invoices.

Further or alternatively, it is averred that the place of performance of the obligation by the Claimant as the commercial agent was its place of domicile namely the Registered Address

I presume this is from England and Wales but am not certain. The averred suggests Scotland to me.

I suppose we are wondering why not simply alternatively? That would be hilfsweise, that is, if the first argument fails then the court may consider the second. This formulation further or alternatively seems to open the option to the court to regard the argument as either additional or alternative. Personally I think that hilfsweise and eventualiter are synonyms so I am not convince by hilfsweise oder eventualiter. But does weiterhin oder hilfsweise make sense?

The suggestion außerdem oder hilfsweise seems to me to be the correct translation. It reflects the English. It may be bad practice in English (I think not), maybe further alternatively was meant, but that’s not what it says. It may not make sense in German civil law (rather a tough area to think about for me) but it’s not German civil law. There is some argument at ProZ that a statement of fact cannot be preceded by hilfsweise, but actually that doesn’t make sense at all.

By the way, it seems there is a blog called Further or Alternatively:

FOA read PPE at Oxford and is now a barrister based in London. “Further or alternatively” is a phrase used by barristers to introduce a new argument that may or may not be consistent with the previous ones: FOA may or may not be consistent with your other reading.

2. More recently, the thorny topic of how to translate i.V., i.A. and ppa. has cropped up.

The asker gives three examples:

I have compiled the following list https://www.proz.com/kudoz/german-to-english/human-resources…

ppa signed by the holder of a general power of attorney
i.A. signed in the absence of the authorised signatory
i.V. signed on behalf of another authorised signatory having the same powers of representation

The context is Commercial Guidelines within a corporate group (Germany). Various types of power of representation are discussed in those guidelines.

The asker’s client wants specific translations commented on by native speakers. The powers of attorney sometimes need to be distinguished from each other.

My feeling is that the kind of definition offered above is the only possibility. We just don’t do this signature stuff in such an anal way in English. Above all, the US or UK use of pp. or ppa. is just not the same. A further problem for translators is that the usage in German is not reliable – although as this is a question on behalf of one specific customer it would be possible to unify it. And most of the time we don’t linger on the specific legal relationship between writer and signatory, though admittedly it may become important in some circumstances.

3. Spagatkrapfen – well, I really must get on with my own translation which has nothing to do with food! Spagatkrapfen is a kind of Austrian cake which I understand to consist of flaky pastry shaped on a metal contraption and deep-fried, creating two halves which are sandwiched together with cream and jam. I cannot call this a doughnut or a cruller (yeast dough) or even a cream horn (which looks very similar but is not in two halves and is baked rather than fried). A colleague suggests the French bugnes but it seems their dough is also not pastry, though they are deep-fried (thanks, Claire).

Bundesrat in English

The Bundesrat, sometimes called the Federal Council, Germany’s second house of parliament, has published texts describing itself in French and English. They can be downloaded as PDFs but are also available as small pocketable booklets.

Der Bundesrat (German)

The Bundesrat (English)

Le Bundesrat (French)

This came up on twitter yesterday and I wondered what its purpose was. I don’t know what its dissemination is either. I do know a similar booklet by the Bundesverfassungsgericht, similarly with a description of the building and artworks, though that may be largely online now. But do English- and French-speaking people visit the Bundesrat? What do I know?

In fact I then accidentally discovered that there is a Bundesrat app – in German though. So this booklet calls the Länder federal states but has to crosslink to “Länder” in the app.

We have argued about “federal state” in the past – is Germany not a federal state? then it can’t contain sixteen federal states, and in fact the text does get tied up in this connection. But I think it’s become standard and is understood. I am usually asked to write Land and Länder in British English texts, which would make the following sentence clearer.

The federal states participate in shaping federal legislation through the Bundesrat. 

I am not going to take time to analyse the translation in depth. I just skimmed it. It is very good English, a bit literal (perhaps non-native?) – a bit heavy reading, as is the German – the text is descriptive rather than analytical and probably intended for schools. I wondered if the following was a dig at the House of Commons (it comes up again later):

. Their debates are very fact-oriented – loud interjections or applause are rarely heard.

I did find a Germanism, apparently not in the German original but perhaps in an earlier version – my emphasis:

Mitglieder sind die Ministerpräsidentinnen und ­präsidenten und die Ministerinnen und Minister der Länder beziehungs­weise die Bürgermeisterinnen und Bürgermeister sowie Senatorinnen und Senatoren der Stadtstaaten.

The Bundesrat is made up of the Minister Presidents and ministers from the federal states, along with their pendants in the city states, the mayors and senators.

I imagine the translation is American English. I have never understood federal bills as a translation of Bundesgesetze – to me, a bill is a draft – but I suppose it’s US.

Zustimmungsgesetz – an Act of the Bundestag requiring the consent of the Bundesrat – is strangely abbreviated as consent law.

I do wonder whether the title of the brochure, “16 Länder – Ein Ergebnis” translated as “16 Federal States – one conclusion” is right. Maybe “one result”?

Thanks to Charles Eddy.

Does Facebook speak German?

The Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court (Oberlandesgericht) had to decide whether German documents served on Facebook in Ireland had to be in English, the local language. Facebook refused to accept documents. The court decided that although an individual who could not speak German might have been able to require a translation, a big company like Facebook certainly had employees who could handle German law and indeed it had a German-language website.

Decision in German.

There is an excellent blog post on the case in English on Peter Bert’s weblog Dispute Resolution in Germany. I don’t think I’ve seen this blog before and it’s very interesting.

Back in December 2019, the headline to my post on that very topic still had a question mark: “Does Facebook speak German?” I had reported on what appeared to be only the second decision by a German court of appeals (Oberlandesgericht) on the issue whether Facebook Ireland, the legal entity operating Facebook’s German activities, is entitled to refuse service of German-language court documents under Article 8 of the European Service Regulation.*

I concluded by saying that the Munich order contributed to what German lawyers love to refer to as “prevailing jurisprudence” (herrschende Rechtsprechung) or “prevailing opinion” (herrschende Meinung): Facebook does understand German. This recent decision of the Court of Appeals in Düsseldorf does confirm this conclusion: The headline of the court’s press release yesterday read “Facebook kann Deutsch” – Facebook does speak German. The court held in a ruling concerning a cost application that Facebook cannot insist on a translation of German documents into English.

I want to comment on some of the terminology choices made here. The first one is to translate Beschluss as order. This is common and I have certainly had to do it in the past because a client insisted. Here is a definition from Juraforum:

Der Beschluss ist zu unterscheiden von anderen gerichtlichen Entscheidungen, zu denen das Urteil und die Verfügung zählen. Er ist vor allem dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass er keinen Tatbestand (Sachverhalt) und keine Entscheidungsgründe enthält. Somit beinhaltet er nur den Tenor der Entscheidung und ist daher in der Praxis bei Richtern sehr beliebt.

To my mind a Beschluss is a decision or ruling. It is a kind of decision. It does not set out the facts or give the reasons for the decision but just contains the operative part of the decision. I don’t think that can be conveyed in one word in English, and the context is not usually such that a detailed definition is needed. Maybe there is some usage of order in English that I have missed?

Another point I would simply disagree with is the use of jurisprudence for Rechtsprechung. Rechtsprechung means court decisions or case law. Jurisprudence means legal theory. I think that to refer to case law as jurisprudence is a gallicism.