Saturday’s Forum

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Flat Earth Luddite says:
  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Flat Earth Luddite: talk about a neighbor from hell…

    When I saw the piece was from Canadian news I was certain they were talking about the US.

  3. Kathy says:

    in re de stijl’s comment about translation yesterday.

    I’ve done some short, non-fiction translations. Mostly short documents, both Spanish to English and English to Spanish. It is totally interpretation, even for non-fiction. With some gambling guides I worked on, it was easy to convey the meaning. Conveying the detached, formal, precise style was a bit harder.

    I believe anything that can be expressed in one language, can be conveyed in any other language. But sometimes a word doesn’t have an exact equivalent. Consider the Spanish term “despensa.” The literal meaning is pantry, which seems simple enough. However, as used in the document I translated, it means “a small collection of packaged and canned foods, maybe along with some personal hygiene items.” Despensas is one means through which governments distribute aid.

    I couldn’t think of an equivalent term in English. After some searching in online dictionaries and a discussion with the boss*, we went with “grocery baskets.” This term itself being further defined elsewhere in the document.

    Translating wordplay is harder, and often impossible. It can be explained, but not conveyed as wordplay. Poetry is even worse. Pretty much to convey meaning, rhyme, and scan, requires coming up with a different poem that conveys the same feel and overall meaning. I know better than to even try.

  4. MarkedMan says:

    @Kathy: Maybe “Care package”?

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Plato, pilates and pubs: has an Irish town found the secret to the good life?

    And thus begins the ruination of Skerries, Co Dublin, Ireland.

  6. Flat Earth Luddite says:


    Me too. But it could be worse … She could be our neighbor, eh?

  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Flat Earth Luddite: I am very fortunate in the neighbors I have. All 3 of them. MYOB is our motto.

  8. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    On the good news side of the balance sheet, today marks 4,418 days since my cancer diagnosis. Whoo Hoo!

  9. CSK says:


    That’s pretty much the way New England is. Happily.

  10. Kathy says:

    Seems like a good time for an Adolph joke. Alas, it’s one I’ve told before.

    One fine day at a generic Minimum Security Child Internment Center in Florida, the Guard asked her inmates, “Who can give me an example of the word “tragedy” used in a sentence?”

    Inmate 4321 offers, “If I were to lose my keys, that would be a tragedy.”

    The Guard says, “No 4321. That would merely be loss. Anyone else?”

    Inmate 1234 says “If I were to fall and twist my ankle, that would be a tragedy.”

    “No 1234, that would merely be misfortune.”

    So, Inmate 5619 says “If El Generalisimo President For Life and Supreme Leader Kim Jung Adolph trump were to die, that would be a tragedy.”

    Very good, 5619. It would be indeed a tragedy if El Generalisimo President For Life and Supreme Leader Kim Jung Adolph trump. How did you figure this out?

    “Well, explains 5619, “it wouldn’t be loss or misfortune.”

  11. CSK says:


    Didn’t Hitler spell his first name “Adolf”?

  12. DrDaveT says:


    I’ve done some short, non-fiction translations. Mostly short documents, both Spanish to English and English to Spanish.

    The hardest thing I ever succeeded (?) at was to translate the libretto of Fauré’s Cantique de Jean Racine into an English setting that could still be sung. I smugly thought it wouldn’t be that big a deal… it was short, and the French was pretty straightforward… oof.

  13. clarkontheweekend says:

    I’ve seen some news stories lately about how ‘Americans are sleepwalking to autocracy” or some version thereof. Here’s my thought. We’ve been talking and yelling about what a shite f’ing moral monster tfg is since the beginning. Where was the press to start. These same people gave him every benefit of the doubt and every excuse in the world, and only now this occurred to you. And these same people are now self congratulating themselves as if they’ve discovered some new threat when the shitshow has been evident all along. I wanna say, fuck those people. And welcome aboard.

  14. Kathy says:


    A teacher once challenged the class to translate Joan Manuel Serrat’s “Mediterraneo” to English. I got a good grade on it, but the translation sucked.

    Here’s the beginning of the original:

    Quizás porque mi niñez
    Sigue jugando en tu playa
    Y escondido tras las cañas
    Duerme mi primer amor
    Llevo tu luz y tu olor
    Por dondequiera que vaya

    Now my feeble attempt:

    Perhaps because my childhood
    keeps playing on your shores
    Hidden behind the reeds
    Sleeps my first love
    I carry your light and scent
    Wherever it is I go.

    I think I can convey the literal meaning, but not the passion Serrat feels for the ocean he grew up with.

  15. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @clarkontheweekend: Come and sit next to me.

  16. Gustopher says:

    @Kathy: A lot of my favorite books are translations. And some are different translations of the same work (Robert Fagles and Emily Wilson have radically different translations of Homer’s The Odyssey — same plot, but so much else is different).

    I am in awe of the translation of Stanislaw Lem’s The Cyberiad as it is chock full of wordplay and puns that were either adapted, replaced or just plain added (I can’t read the original, so how would I know?)

    In 2014(!) it was discovered that the Icelandic translation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula was radically different from the original to the point where it’s almost a different book.

    The Icelandic translation has since been translated into English.

  17. CSK says:


    Su translacion es muy, muy bueno.

  18. dazedandconfused says:


    It’s not easy or simple. I am in awe of the translators who work through the headphones in UN meetings. Not only do they have to be very careful, they have to do it while the person is still speaking…and mistakes could be serious.

  19. Bill Jempty says:

    @Flat Earth Luddite:

    On the good news side of the balance sheet, today marks 4,418 days since my cancer diagnosis. Whoo Hoo!

    Congrats. I’m over 5,000 days since being diagnosed Stage IV.

  20. JohnSF says:

    Also, Old England.
    “Do what thou wilt, but keep the bloody noise down.”

  21. JohnSF says:

    For your entertainment, the latest UK YouGov polling:
    Lab 45%
    Con 22%
    Tent pegs, I tells ‘ee. LOL

    The Lodestone aggregator by constituency indicates that even where I live (Bromsgrove) is a possible Labour gain, for the first time in decades.
    I might just ask about doing some helping out with the local party, so long as they don’t expect me to join.
    I’m not much of a joiner, LOL.

  22. JohnSF says:


    Didn’t Hitler spell his first name “Adolf”?

    And there we go about the problems of translation. 😉
    IIRC his registered birth name was Adolfus.
    Corresponding to Old English Eadelwulf, if my OE memory serves.
    Cue loads of Ængle-Seaxe wanting to smack Hitlers’ sorry ass.

  23. Kathy says:


    traducción 🙂

  24. CSK says:


    Muchas gracias.

  25. Slugger says:

    La traducción es traición; translation is treason.
    I think this was originally in French, but it works in Italian and probably in all Romance (or Romance influenced) languages. I just checked, and it works in Romanian.

  26. Joe says:

    @Kathy: It is currently settled copyright law that a translation is a derivative work of the original language work and thus a copyright infringement. It is also settled copyright law that copyright applies only to specific expressions and not the underlying ideas. Which makes it a lot less clear that someone who is taking the fundamental ideas of a work in one language and expresses it in completely different words in another is really creating a derivative (infringing) work.

  27. Kathy says:


    It would be hard to learn several languages in order to read some books in their original version.


    Yeah, that looks hard and stressful.

  28. Kathy says:

    A rather good video about ways to ameliorate the first mile problem in space launches.

    Although the author dismisses some of these measures, he lays the facts out clearly.

    TL;DR, launching rockets from mountaintops does help, but would be too expensive and logistically challenging. Launching closer to the equator does help a lot, but not enough for NASA to switch from Florida to a more southern location. It would help Russia a lot more (as illustrated with launches of Russian boosters from French Guiana).