Monday, May 3, 2010

Joys of Chinglish, Hillary Supports Nuclear Weapons Free Mid East

Jackson Diehl

Everyone who ever visited China has noticed the signs and phrases translated from Chinese into English, and wished that they would hire them to correct the ones that are funny and weird. I remember in Beijing, seeing these billboards of a giant cartoon rat, and asking what it was for, thinking that it might be about vermin eradication. "That's Mickey Mouse," I was told. On further inquiry, I learned that the concept of cute and lovable animals was alien to their nature, and the closest the artist could get was to draw what he knew, rats.

Kentucky Fried Chicken also had some translation problems when they tried to set up shop. Mashed potatoes was an unfamiliar term, and was translated as potato mud. The phrase "finger licking good" became "so good it makes you eat your fingers."
“If someone would pay me to do it, I’d spend my life studying these things,” - Oliver Radke
This mangled phrasing is called Chinglish and is the source of much amusement. Except to bureaucrats, who are either embarrassed or enraged by it: "Those who study the roots of Chinglish say many examples can be traced to laziness and a flawed but wildly popular translation software. Victor H. Mair, a professor of Chinese at the University of Pennsylvania, said the computerized dictionary, Jingshan Ciba, had led to sexually oriented vulgarities identifying dried produce in Chinese supermarkets and the regrettable “fried enema” menu selection that should have been rendered as “fried sausage.”

One proponent feels that many Chinglisms show the differences in approaches to language: "“Some of it tends to be expressive, even elegant,” he said, shuffling through an online catalog of signs that were submitted by the volunteers who prowled Shanghai with digital cameras. “They provide a window into how we Chinese think about language.”

He offered the following example: While park signs in the West exhort people to “Keep Off the Grass,” Chinese versions tend to anthropomorphize nature as a way to gently engage the stomping masses. Hence, such admonishments as “The Little Grass Is Sleeping. Please Don’t Disturb It” or “Don’t Hurt Me. I Am Afraid of Pain."

Every year since 1998, Egypt has proposed that the Middle East be designated a nuclear weapons free area. It has been ignored every time until this year, when the threat of nuclear weapons is on everyone's mind. Today is the first day of the United Nations Review on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. There are only three countries who have nuclear reactors that have not signed the treaty: India, Pakistan, and Israel. Israel has been talking a lot of smack about Iran wanting to make nuclear weapons and wanting to eradicate it off of the map. Coupled with the fact that Iran is a closed society and we don't know what to believe about them or anything they say, and we have a downright uneasy situation.

Egypt is also wanting Israel to join the treaty. So far, Israel will not discount using weapons in its defense. Israel is the only nation to have bombed other countries nuclear reactor sites, in Iran and Syria. To create a distraction from this, Israel has mounted a lobbying effort to have UN delegates walk out on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech this morning, even buying half-page ads in the NY Times. It worked, with delegates from the US and Western Europe getting up and trotting out the door.
“The nuclear threat remains real. It has evolved in new and varied forms. The onus is on Iran to clarify the doubts and concerns about its program. " - Ban Ki-Moon
"Mr. Ahmadinejad was so eager to knock down claims that Iran was blocking the deal that he started his speech with a denial, even before giving the traditional Muslim blessing at the start of any talk, “In the name of God the merciful, the compassionate.”

Instead, Mr. Ahmadinejad started right in by saying that the ball was not in Iran’s court, but in that of the other negotiators. “To us, it is an accepted deal,” he said. Under the terms, Iran would send 1,200 kilograms of enriched uranium to Moscow and then to France for refinement into fuel rods for its research reactor in Tehran, which is used for medical purposes.

Though not solving the issue of a suspected military program, the deal was seen as a confidence building measure, but Western states accuse Iran of never giving a clear answer on the proposal. They also say that Iran has demanded, at different times, that the refinement take place on Iranian soil, or that the uranium be refined in smaller increments.

The rest of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s speech focused on the horrors of nuclear war, saying that the United States had earned the enmity of the world for being the first to use nuclear weapons. He singled out the arsenal of Israel as a threat, but did not mention the stockpiles held by China and Russia, which have been dragging their feet about imposing new Security Council sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program."

Hillary Clinton, in her opening remarks, said that the US is also dedicated to the Middle East being free of weapons of mass destruction, and that it would support ways to get the three errant nations to sign on to the treaty, signaling more headaches for Benjamin Netanyahu... She also laid it into Iran: "Adherence to the NPT is not universal. And a few countries that are parties to the NPT have violated their treaty obligations. But in spite of these difficulties, we want to reaffirm our commitment to the objective of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction, and we are prepared to support practical measures for achieving that objective... Iran will do whatever it can to divert attention away from its own record in an attempt to evade accountability... Iran is the only country represented in this hall that has beenfound by the IAEA board of governors to be currently in noncompliance with its nuclear safeguard obligations. The only one. It has defied the UN Security Council and the IAEA and placed the future of the nonproliferation regime in jeopardy. And that is why it is facing increasing isolation and pressure from the international community... But Iran will not succeed in its efforts to divert and divide.The United States and the great majority of the nations represented here come to this conference with a much larger agenda: to strengthen a global nonproliferation regime that advances the security of all nations, to advance both our rights and our responsibilities."

Of the 480 nuclear reactors in use around the world, none of them are in the Middle East. Yet every country except for Lebanon, which is running out of water and may not be a country much longer, has plans for building reactors. Good news for the US and the few countries that sell nuclear technology. But if our technology is so lame that we can't safely drill for oil off of our shoreline, think about a world with a few thousand nuclear reactors working away... You have to bring up the fact that we don't have an effective way to deal with nuclear mishaps, and the specter of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island rear their ugly heads.

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