Long sentences/Lange Sätze

Here’s a sentence from a New York Appellate Court decision:

Ordered that the judgment is modified, on the law, on the facts, and in the exercise of discretion, by deleting the provision thereof dismissing the complaint insofar as asserted against the defendants M. Chris Overby and Levine Overby Hollis, M.D.s, P.C.; as so modified, the judgment is affirmed insofar as appealed from, without costs or disbursements, the motion of the defendants M. Chris Overby and Levine Overby Hollis, M.D.s, P.C., pursuant to CPLR 4401, made at the close of the plaintiffs’ case, for judgment as a matter of law dismissing the complaint insofar as asserted against them is denied, the order entered December 3, 2007, is modified accordingly, and the matter is remitted to the Supreme Court, Queens County, for a new trial as to the defendants M. Chris Overby and Levine Overby Hollis, M.D.s, P.C., on the issues of apportionment of fault and damages for past and future pain and suffering and past and future loss of services unless, within 30 days after service upon the plaintiffs of a copy of this decision and order with notice of entry, the plaintiffs shall file in the office of the Clerk of the Supreme Court, Queens County, a written stipulation consenting to the apportionment of 10% of the fault to the defendants M. Chris Overby and Levine Overby Hollis, M.D.s, P.C., and 90% of the fault to nonparties Philip Howard Gutin and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and to reduce the damages for past pain and suffering from the principal sum of $10,000,000 to the principal sum of $1,200,000, the damages for future pain and suffering from the principal sum of $27,750,000 to the principal sum of $6,750,000, the damages for past loss of services from the principal sum of $18,000,000 to the principal sum of $350,000, and the damages for future loss of services from $48,700,000 to the principal sum of $1,000,000, and to the entry of an amended judgment accordingly; in the event that the plaintiffs so stipulate, then the judgment, as so reduced and amended, is affirmed, without costs or disbursements.

It was quoted in Eric Turkewitz’s New York Personal Injury Law Blog.

I hope that means that into-German translators get long sentences too.

Separated by a common language/Undurchsichtige englische Tweets

Congratulations to me for winning a Twitter competition on the weblog separated by a common language against a field of six! and thanks to Lynne, who is going to send me a packet of McVitie’s ginger nuts, thus bypassing the many expat British food sellers.

The test was to find a tweet that was either in American English and incomprehensible to speakers of British English, or vice versa. I went for the vice versa.

As Lynne writes, it’s often easier for British speakers to understand American English, because they hear so much on TV or in the cinema. I did try to find some incomprehensible American tweets, by searching for words like grits, but nothing was really convincing:

I had the “Going to bed alone” dog. Lots of kraut, garlic, red onion sauce and pastrami.// well done, well DONE!

I found one American who’d been on Chatroulette and asked a British person what crumpets are. The answer: they are like ‘English muffins’ but sweet. (Sweet?) Not good for international understanding.

Animal lawyer/Tieranwalt

How far should animal protection law go?

On 7 March, there is to be a referendum in Switzerland on the current law. If passed, the amendment would require every canton to have an animal lawyer – whose official job it is to represent animals who are victims.

Both the Wall Street Journal and the Guardian focus on the only current animal lawyer, Antoine Goetschel in Zurich. The Guardian on the 2008 Act:

A dwarf rabbit, for example, must be kept in a hutch no smaller than 50cm x 70cm, with 40cm headroom. They must also have a nest box, or the “ability to dig”. (Curiously, gerbils are accorded more head room than rabbits.) The new rules for dogs are even more exacting. Dogs are deemed “social animals” and, therefore, “must have daily contact with humans, and, as far as possible, with other dogs”. If kept in outdoor kennels, they must be “chain free” for at least five hours a day and kept in pairs, or with other “compatible animals”. It says they must be walked daily, but the act fails to specify for how long or how far (which has angered some campaigners). And all prospective owners must now complete a four-hour “theory” course before buying a dog then complete a further four hours at a dog school as soon as they take ownership of the animal. Dogs must only be fed “species specific” food and their “enclosures” must have separate areas for eating, sleeping and toileting. If only half the world’s human population could be given such guarantees, sniff the critics of the animal act.

On the referendum (in German).

According to the NZZ (in German), the use of an animal lawyer makes proceedings more efficient: the specialized lawyer saves costs for the prosecution and veterinary associations.

Meanwhile, I translated a few texts last year about the law relating to religious slaughter of animals (Schächten in German). The book produced by dialrel is now available (Nomos Verlag). It contains both German and English text and there is a free PDF download as well as a book for sale. I did very little if any of the translation of this book, and certainly not the title!

Johannes Caspar/ Jörg Luy (Hrsg.)Tierschutz bei der religiösen Schlachtung / Animal Welfare at Religious Slaughter, Die Ethik-Workshops des DIALREL Projekts / The ethics workshops of the DIALREL Project

Meanwhile, on the topic of animal rights, should PETA really be calling for Knut to be Kneutered?

LATER NOTE: The referendum on animal lawyers in the other cantons was even more negative than expected: NZZ (in German).

Murder and manslaughter/Mord und Totschlag

A query raised on a translators’ forum this week:


§ 211 Mord
§ 212 Totschlag
§ 213 Minder schwerer Fall des Totschlags

Translation by Michael Bohlander on site of German Ministry of Justice:

Section 211 Murder under specific aggravating circumstances
Section 212 Murder
Section 213 Murder under mitigating circumstances

Earlier translation on that site, still available at German Law Archive:

Section 211 Murder
Section 212 Manslaughter
Section 213 Less serious case of manslaughter

Question: why does Bohlander do it that way?

Here’s his footnote from the printed version:

This translation is awkward but is due to the fact that German law knows of two forms of intentional killing. In German, they have different names, Mord 211 and Totschlag 212. The relationship between 211 and 212 is controversial. The courts view them as separate offences, whereas most academic commentary sees the one as a qualification of the other or vice versa. This translation therefore had to make a choice. It follows the predominant literature opinion that sees 212 as the basic offence and 211 as an aggravated form. This made a few additions to the text of both provisions necessary.

Most of us would automatically translate Mord as murder and Totschlag as manslaughter, because of the relative weight they carry. We would do this even in the knowledge that the distinctions between the various forms of criminal homicide in English, American and German law don’t always match up.

Looking at Bohlander’s explanation (and he can be relied on to know what he’s doing), maybe he could have used criminal homicide as the superordinate term.

Of course, a translation of a statute is not suitable for thoughtless terminology mining.