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...?

2 comments:

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 :)