Friday, February 22, 2008

Lost in translation

1) Is it a good thing when the Dutch tell you

You are able to ask very penetrating questions about things that you don't understand.

2) I'm having a discussion with my HR rep about my decision to give an employee a raise. He was at 84% of market value, and company policy is is to be at least 90%. So I proactively approved a raise of 6%. My rep started debating whether the employee might think it is too little, or too late, or should be retroactive, or....

My knee-jerk reflex was

It's a gift: he should be pleased...

which, of course, led to a discussion about why we would give anyone a raise as a gift.

<sigh> This phrase is typically American, but very difficult to translate. It kind of means windfall or a surprise, but not an undeserved one. It's certainly not a literal 'gift'.

3) The Dutch Word of the Day today was vogelvrij, which means "outlaw" in the Netherlands.

Debate ensues. In the US, "outlaw" has taken on a sort of romantic connotation (think 'Butch Cassidy') which the Dutch say is definitely not a part of vogelvrij. I would think that it is more like 'outcast', which the Dutch vigorously deny. They try explain that it designates someone that everyone is allowed to treat badly: is there an English word for that?

They have suggested that perhaps 'homeless' is more apt...?


Jul said...

"someone that everyone is allowed to treat badly"... very interesting concept. The best equivalent I can come up with for contemporary America is "suspected terrorist".

My brain is very intrigued by this idea.

Dave Hampton said...

'Liberal' might be an equivalent :)