Thursday, 31 December 2009

Swith Fremeful*

Any ideas what the following might mean?

1. Bewarping the way of rightwiseness
2. The American Forthspell of Selfdom
3. You have a wlitty anleth
4. Needness is the mother of afoundness
5. Lessness of ourlandish goods show unrightcrafting

It may look like gibberish, but somehow the five expressions bear some passing resemblance to present-day English. Perhaps this is not so surprising, according to David Cowley, the author of a recent book on the subject "How we'd talk if the English had won in 1066": this is how English might have looked or sounded if King Harold had won the Battle of Hastings. If it hadn’t been for the Norman Conquest in the 11th century, many French (and Latin) words would never have entered the English language.

You might think the book begrudges the victory of the Normans in 1066. However, it seeks to present an entertaining picture of how a language may have developed if history had worked out differently. Of course, it’s purely hypothetical, since many subsequent historical events have made a significant impact on the English language. But perhaps nothing quite so momentous as the Norman Conquest when the English nobility was replaced lock, stock and barrel with their Norman counterparts. Right up until the mid-14th century, the language of authority was French. If you could not speak French, you were unable to command respect. The king spoke French, as did his lords, knights, clerks, chaplains and servants. Hardly any of them would have been fluent in English, the language spoke by the commoners.
Many words which had their origins in Old English, such as go up, find out, put off and take off (and which are still predominantly used in everyday spoken language today), gained high-sounding equivalents derived from French or Latin: ascend, ascertain, dissuade and deduct. In fact, these loanwords are still considered to be the preferred choice in formal, written English: how many readers, the author asks, have been drilled into writing 'I received your letter' instead of  'I got your letter’. So whilst much of the Anglo-Saxon wordstock persists in modern-day English, many other old (Germanic) words were replaced by loanwords.

Here is just a flavour:
wastumbearingness = fruitfulness, fertility
oathbreach = perjury
afterfollower = successor
forthgang = progress
unmightly = impossible

So what are the expressions above supposed to mean?

1. Perverting the course of justice
2. The American Declaration of Independence
3. You have a pretty face
4. Necessity is the mother of invention
5. Minority of home-manufactured goods of poor quality

* Very useful

Tuesday, 1 December 2009



Any self-respecting translator will identify with the problem: you have more than enough on your plate when the phone rings and the client asks if you can just do a small job for them: “It will only take half an hour, we need it back by the end of the day, I'm sure you can fit it in somehow.” You try telling them, No, my diary is bursting at the seams. But you don’t really want to let them down (translators are good people after all). You think, okay, I’ll work through my lunch break, I’ll put off that shopping trip until tomorrow or I’ll give up my forty winks on the settee after dinner.
You put down the phone and start thinking, “Heck, why on earth did I say yes, I’m up to my eyeballs in work. I didn’t really need the job did I?” But we translators are gluttons for punishment.
I wonder whether a painter and decorator working on a large project would suddenly down tools, jump in the car just to touch up a bit of paintwork on a window frame ten kilometres down the road. Somehow, I seriously doubt it. He’d make a call-out charge as well. I make the allusion because the ten kilometres is the distance my brain sometimes has to travel to switch from one job to the next. One minute I’ll be toiling away on a legal contract and the next I’ll be asked to translate a photo-caption (with no photograph attached so no context either). And in the end the half hour becomes 60 minutes…
So next time you decide to appeal to my better nature, just be aware that I’m missing out on a slice of my life that I’m never going to get back. Thanks for your understanding.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Home is where the heart is

I was half expecting a knock at the door from the burgemeester with a brass band in tow, striking up the first few bars of the Wilhelmus. My nostrils could almost smell the fragrance of the spray of flowers he held in his outstretched hand. In my mind I could just about make out the bright orange strip of ribbon the mayor was clutching in the other. But instead, my reveries were rudely awakened by the sound of the latest afvalrooster (that's the waste collection schedule) landing on the doormat.

Spending 25 years as a resident of a ‘foreign’ country is quite an achievement. I have to keep pinching myself to somehow believe I’ve passed that amount of time in the Netherlands. My approach has been not to dwell on it too much, so it’s perhaps a good idea the doorbell never rang.

Nevertheless, dwell on it I have. First of all, I kept thinking about how - if at all - I ought to celebrate the occasion. Should I take a stroll down to the frituur and indulge in a frikandel special? Or should I simply slope off and catch the next boat to Dover? Well, in the end I did the latter, but this was more by coincidence than by premeditation.

For some reason, over the last couple of weeks, independently of my own musings, people keep reminding me of my expatriate status. Whilst I was in England, I was asked the question as to where I considered home. Back in Holland, a friend’s daughter asked me (as an allochtoon) to fill in a questionnaire as part of a school project on the pluriformity of Dutch society. The other night, when I was on my way to teach a class of English learners, I bumped into a Welsh girl who’d recently moved here and had started taking Dutch classes, just like I had all those years ago.
So it’s been hard to ignore the issue.

I like to think I hover between two cultures.
Perhaps I’ve become more objective towards them both, but then again I could just be culturally schizophrenic. For example, in Holland I have no problem with wishing a friend a Happy Birthday, but I’ve never felt comfortable about congratulating their nearest and dearest on this fact as well (except perhaps the mother who gave birth to them). I mean, they have their own birthdays, don’t they? And I’ve lost count of the times I’ve had to tell people that English beer is lukewarm because it's supposed to be - the taste is better that way (and doesn't get obliterated as a result of chilling or bubbles).
By the same token, I was at the barbers in England last week when the conversation inevitably turned to Holland. Well, Amsterdam and coffee shops actually, as most Brits’ preconceptions about the country seem to be similarly limited, even though their knowledge of the Dutch capital is probably better than mine. All I could say was, I live in the hilly bit. (When news of flooding reached the international media ten years ago or so, I used to get worried friends phoning me up from England. They just couldn't get their heads round the fact that I lived at a higher altitude than them.) Needless to say, I was left squirming in my seat, made all the more embarrassing by seeing my reflection in the mirror.

Of course, it would be unfair to apply these generalisations to a whole 25 years. As for home, I can’t really say where it is. Home is where I feel most comfortable and my comfort levels are determined by many different factors. For example, I love my house and I enjoy the company of the friends around me, knowing that I can rely on them, but after a while it can be too much of a good thing. To appreciate it properly, you need to get away. So I travel to England (or elsewhere in Europe), enjoy the company of (family and) friends around me, knowing that I can rely on them, but after a while it can be too much of a good thing. To appreciate it properly, I need to get back to my house. Home really is where the heart is.

At the moment I can’t imagine living elsewhere. I feel slightly privileged. I mean there’s few places where I could jump on my bike and be in three different countries (and speak three different languages) in the space of an hour.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Google's tower of Babel

Is machine translation all that it’s cracked up to be?
Translators have been toiling away with computer-aided translation systems for over a decade now. The idea behind it is really quite straightforward. Text translated by a translator is stored in a memory bank, not as a complete document, but as chunks of text, that is, individual words, clauses, sentences or paragraphs. If a (near) identical chunk of text appears in a subsequent document for translation, the CAT software will suggest the saved chunk of text as the most ideal option for the translator to use. Of course, in order to work effectively, you need a memory bank that has been built up over a prolonged period of time, containing thousands and thousands of these chunks. Key to its practicability is the accrual of text. And while we may wish to call it machine translation technology, in fact to be effective in the first place, all the donkey work has to be done by humans. After all, at the end of the day, it’s the translator who settles on the most fitting translation. CAT has its limitations: it only really comes into its own when extremely repetitive texts have to be translated. Its main purpose is to ensure consistency, rather than to take any short-cuts.
Google has not been slow to cotton on to this concept and you can see why. By having made web-based data available in other languages, information is now at the fingertips of a much greater number of users worldwide. To do this, researchers at Google have been trawling the web and matching thousands, if not millions of documents and web-pages which have already been translated professionally (by humans). All this data has been entered into a databank to generate huge volumes of multilingual texts, this in addition to more primitive machine-translation methods (which translate single words rather than phrases). All this data is then used as a source for their translation tool. It would be hard for me as a professional translator to knock their motives in doing this; after all, making information available to a wider audience worldwide is a laudable goal, even though their motives may be first and foremost commercial. I only have to think of the frustration I’ve suffered trying to make heads or tails of all those French, Portuguese and Spanish sites I’ve browsed over the years. The results language-wise may be pretty woeful, but Google deserve a bit of a thumbs-up for their efforts in rolling back the frontiers.

There are lots of buts here though. If I’m trying to convert a legal contract from one language to another by machine translation, the likelihood is, if it’s been written in legalese, it will come out as pretty scrambled in the target language and thus be rendered fairly useless to anyone wishing to read and interpret it seriously. Only a fool would sign on the dotted line and make it legally binding. And as a customer, I would expect any documentation or product specifications I receive from a foreign supplier to be nothing less than word-perfect in my own language. Even everyday vernacular, used for example in films or documentaries, would fail the test: the inflexibility of machine tools in translating idioms and colloquialisms used for subtitles would result in some fairly bizarre interpretations. We can reflect on many more situations in real-life where machine translation just wouldn’t work: a job application, a poem, a product manual, a love letter, a menu, instructions for medication, a presentation, a press release .... the list goes on.  
Let’s give Google credit where it’s due. They are serving a very useful purpose. But if machine translation ever does become as good as human translation, I dare say it won’t just be the likes of professional translators that will have to worry. No, a machine that actually thinks like a human is a more menacing prospect altogether.
A Dutch version of the text is available for readers below. The ‘ass’ responsible for translating it was Google....

Is machine translation allemaal dat het gekraakt maximaal zijn?
Vertalers zijn zwoegende weg met computer-aided translation systemen voor meer dan een decennium lang. Het idee erachter is eigenlijk heel eenvoudig. Tekst vertaald door een vertaler is opgeslagen in een geheugen bank, niet als een complete document, maar als stukken tekst, dat wil zeggen individuele woorden, clausules, zinnen of alinea's. Als een (bijna) identiek stuk tekst verschijnt in een volgende document voor vertaling, zal het CAT-software blijkt de opgeslagen stuk tekst als de meest ideale optie voor de vertaler te gebruiken. Natuurlijk, om efficiënt te kunnen werken, heb je een geheugen bank die is opgebouwd over een langere periode van tijd, met duizenden en duizenden van deze brokken. Sleutel tot de uitvoerbaarheid is de opbouw van de tekst. En terwijl we wenst te noemen machine translation technologie, in feite om doeltreffend te zijn in de eerste plaats, al de ezel werk moet worden gedaan door mensen. Immers, aan het eind van de dag, het is de vertaler die vestigt op de meest passende vertaling. CAT heeft zijn beperkingen: het komt pas echt tot zijn recht wanneer extreem repetitieve teksten moeten worden vertaald. Haar voornaamste doel is om de consistentie te waarborgen, in plaats van een short-cuts nemen.
Google heeft geen traag katoen op dit concept en ziet u waarom. Door het hebben van web-gebaseerde gegevens die beschikbaar zijn in andere talen, informatie is nu op de vingertoppen van een veel groter aantal gebruikers wereldwijd. Om dit te doen, hebben de onderzoekers bij Google zijn trawlvisserij het web en bijpassende duizenden, zo niet miljoenen documenten en webpagina's die al zijn professioneel vertaald (door mensen). Al deze gegevens zijn ingevoerd om een databank te grote hoeveelheden van meertalige teksten te genereren, dit in aanvulling op meer primitieve machine-vertaling methoden (die enkele woorden om te zetten in plaats van zinnen). Al deze gegevens worden vervolgens gebruikt als bron voor hun vertaling gereedschap. Het is moeilijk voor mij als een professionele vertaler te kloppen in hun motieven om dit te doen, immers, informatie beschikbaar stellen voor een breder publiek wereldwijd is een lovenswaardig doel, ook al zijn hun motieven kunnen worden in de eerste plaats commercieel. Ik heb alleen te denken aan de frustratie heb ik geleden probeerde te koppen of staarten van al die Franse, Portugese en Spaanse sites die ik heb gebladerd door de jaren heen te maken. De resultaten taal-wijs kan mooi jammerlijk worden, maar Google verdient een beetje een thumbs-up voor hun inspanningen in het terugschroeven van de grenzen.
Er zijn veel maren hier wel. Als ik probeer een wettelijk contract omzetten van de ene taal naar de andere door machine translation, de kans is, als het is geschreven in Legalese, zal het komen als een mooi vervormd in de doeltaal worden gemaakt en dus vrij nutteloos voor iedereen wensen te lezen en te interpreteren serieus. Alleen een dwaas zou tekenen op de stippellijn en maken het juridisch bindend. En als een klant zou ik verwachten dat alle documentatie of productspecificaties ik ontvangen van een buitenlandse leverancier aan niets minder dan woord-perfect zijn in mijn eigen taal. Zelfs alledaagse volkstaal, gebruikt bijvoorbeeld in films of documentaires, zou mislukken van de test: de inflexibiliteit van gereedschapswerktuigen in het vertalen van uitdrukkingen en spreektaal gebruikt voor ondertitels zou resulteren in een tamelijk bizarre interpretaties. We kunnen geven van veel meer situaties in het echte leven waar machine translation gewoon niet zou werken: een sollicitatie, een gedicht, een product handleiding, een liefdesbrief, een menu, instructies voor de medicatie, een presentatie, een persbericht .. .. de lijst gaat.
Laten we Google-krediet waar het verschuldigd. Ze zijn het bedienen van een zeer nuttig doel. Maar als machine translation heeft ooit zo goed als menselijke vertaling, durf ik zeggen dat het niet alleen het graag van professionele vertalers die zullen moeten zorgen. Nee, een machine die daadwerkelijk denkt als een mens is een meer dreigend vooruitzicht helemaal.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Baltic bloomer

Imagine my horror a couple of weeks ago when a colleague pointed out that I’d swapped Latvia for Lithuania in a translation job I'd been working on. An easy mistake for a layman maybe, but as a Geographer, I pride myself on making such simple distinctions. No sooner had my embarrassment subsided, than my colleague sent me a link to an article reporting that the publishers of the Bosatlas, regarded as something as a national treasure in Dutch classrooms, had made a similar gaffe. In a promotional give-away, a mini-atlas called the Boskabouter, they too had inadvertently switched the names. My blushes were spared further on discovering that an even more damaging faux-pas had been made by the Czech Republic’s football federation when their national team faced Lithuania in an international friendly last year. Not only were the Latvian team pictured in the match programme, they had the Latvian national anthem played before the game. The mix-up cost two of the federation’s officials their jobs.
The confusion that many people seem to have with the Baltic States has apparently given the Lithuanians some food for thought. Last year, in an effort to raise its profile and attract new investment, a commission led by the prime minister suggested the option of changing the name of the country. Perhaps not without reason: in Lithuanian, the country is called Lietuva. And after all, as a Lithuanian, you wouldn’t want to see foreign capital being channeled into Riga rather than Vilnius on the basis of a mere muddle, would you?
Fortunately, my mistake was picked up before it ever reached the client. I should imagine the lay-out man or woman at Noordhoff Uitgeverij in Groningen will be even redder-faced. And as for the two Czech officials, all I can say is, I have every sympathy - it’s an easy mistake to make!

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Gezellig vertalen

Sometimes, the life of a freelance translator is like waiting at a bus stop: you wait days for the next job and then, all of a sudden, three assignments turn up at once. Killing time in between jobs is a necessary part of the trade.
Last week, one whole day passed without a phone call or email, so I started musing on a particularly irksome translation I’d done a fortnight ago full of awkward Dutch words. I did the wordsmith’s equivalent of twiddling my thumbs and decided to make a list of the ten Dutch words I find most difficult to translate into English. I came up with the following (in no particular order): inhoudelijk, uitgangspunt, strak, inzichtelijk, structureel, uitwerken, overzichtelijk, afstemmen, vaststellen, toetsen.
Of course, they all have dictionary definitions, but notoriously, dictionaries fail to elaborate on the context. When I first started translating I used to keep a glossary of such difficult words. This way I thought I’d cracked it, but that was until the next time I came across the word and my glossary failed to live up to expectations. In the end I gave up. All I was doing was building my own dictionary and the circle was complete.
In my time as a translator I’ve translated uitgangspunt as ‘point of departure’, ‘basis’, ‘basic tenet’, ‘(underlying) principle’, ‘starting point’, ‘baseline’, ‘(basic) assumption’, ‘[the] idea behind’, ‘objective’ and probably many, many more. The point is it depends on the context. A scientific text will differ in this respect from an administrative text. The register of the text will likewise determine the choice of words. And sometimes, however narrow the context, the translation quite never fits the bill.
So, should overzichtelijk be written in English manageable, well-organised, easy-to-follow or easy-to-understand?
And whereas the literal meaning of structureel is structural, structureel krapte is probably best translated as a chronic shortage. Recently, an agency asked me to consider dropping my rates and I answered, “Dat wil ik liever per opdracht beslissen, ik ga mijn prijzen niet structureel verlagen”. I suppose you would best translate structureel here (an adverb) as ‘across the board’, or ‘as a blanket measure’.
And is a strakke pak a sharp suit or a close-fitting suit? There’s a big difference. I’d say you have to see the suit first. If not, you might as well use your intuition and pick the word that you think the paying customer would most like to see.
It just goes to show that what’s an everyday word in one language is not easily translatable in another.

Continuing to muse, I thought I would enter my top ten words in Google and see what it threw up. In fact, I ended up with over 10,000 documents in Dutch, the vast majority of which were bestuurlijke texts, that is texts written by public bodies such as local authorities, government departments and NGOs. (See, even bestuurlijk is difficult to translate).
- De inhoudelijke uitgangspunten waren beschreven in de uitgangspuntennota. Voor de inzichtelijkheid zijn de hoofdzaken hiervan in dit rapport opgenomen....
- Wat de conceptueel-inhoudelijke benadering betreft, wordt uitgegaan van volgende drie principes...
- Het bereiken van voldoende afstemming qua leerlingenprofiel en abstractieniveau...
- Actualiseren van de opzet en uitwerking van het gemeentelijke besturingsmodel...
It would seem there is a whole army of mandarins churning out this kind of stuff. And, needless to say, that ‘irksome translation’ I’d done two weeks ago was a bestuurlijk document.

A customer should never assume (ervan uitgaan) that translation is a process of converting a source word into the target language. In this respect, English can present a vast array of possibilities each with its own subtlety of meaning, so the decision to use a particular word is often only made after a long and complex thought process. A good translator will not simply pick the first one that is listed in Van Dale.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Danke, aber nein danke (part II)

Has Alemannia got wind of the discontent felt among Roda fans (see below)? No sooner had I posted my blog last week than these posters (in Dutch) started appearing all over Kerkrade and Heerlen, advertising Alemannia Aachen's inaugural match of the 2009/10 season at the new Tivoli stadium in the city (Alemannia currently plays in the 2nd division of the German Bundesliga).
A number of years ago, Alemannia qualified for the UEFA cup, but because of stadium requirements at the time, they were not allowed to play at the old Tivoli. In consequence, the club submitted a request to UEFA to have their home games played at the new purpose-built, 20,000 seater, Parkstad Limburg stadium, Roda JC's home ground - just 12 kilometres away. A logical choice it would seem. However, the request was turned down on the grounds that clubs representing their football association were not permitted to play outside the territory in which the association's jurisdication held sway. Instead, they played their home legs at FC Cologne's ground, over 60 kilometres away.
Talk about daft!

Friday, 7 August 2009

Danke, aber nein danke

Roda JC, the Kerkrade-based football club which plays in the top-flight of the Dutch league, this week issued a statement advising its fans to desist from singing German-language chants at its home matches. The club has been moved to issue the statement following the findings of a survey carried out by Club Positioning Matrix, which reveal that the club has a 'weinig sympathiek Duits imago'. The reason is primarily financial, the club say. Income from television rights is distributed on the basis of a club's positioning in the matrix and Roda come off pretty badly in the rankings, supposedly as a result of this 'German' image. More than anything, the management wants to develop its image as a mainstream 'Dutch' club (thus enhancing its chances of increased revenue) and ditch its regional identity: the insinuation is that a German image is bad for the club.
Traditionally, goals scored by the home club at Parkstad Stadion Limburg are celebrated in the German style, with the tannoy system booming out 'Danke', to be reciprocated by a 'Bitte' from those in the stands. Another favourite chant of the crowd is 'Viva Colonia', a song written by Cologne-based band De Höhner, popular at Carnaval as well as on the terraces in the Rheinland region of Germany (and in Dutch Limburg).
In a country where anti-German sentiment is often simmering just below the surface, perhaps one shouldn't be surprised to see the words 'weinig sympathiek' (less favourable) and 'Duits' (German) used in the same breath. Nevertheless, I find the juxtaposition of words pretty woeful.
Equally lamentable are the attempts by the club management to snuff out regional identity. Sadly, many Limburgers themselves are only too oblivious to the cultural and linguistic roots they share with their neighbours. After all, it is only by a quirk of fate that 'Limburg' became part of the Netherlands. If history had taken a different turn, Limburgers might well have become Germans or Flemings. The 'vernederlandsing' of Limburg has been a slow, gradual process.
Linguistically, the Limburg dialect is Ripuarian in origin, spoken widely in the region to the west of the Rhine. In the south-eastern corner of Limburg, German for a long time competed with Dutch as the Lingua Franca. Up until the 1930's, German was still being used in some churches. In Kerkrade, up until 1911, there was a German language newspaper (see above). In fact, culturally speaking, there's a whole raft of customs and traditions which connect Limburg more closely with the Rheinland than with 'Holland': food architecture, industry (mining), religion, culture (Carnaval, the schutterijen, brass bands, Schlagermusik, etc.)
The Roda management may do its best to stamp out the German chanting, but old habits die hard and thankfully traditional regional affinities persist, if only sometimes in a latent, subliminal form. (Ironically, the name Roda refers to the region known as the Land of Roda which straddles the border between Kerkrade in the Netherlands and Herzogenrath in Germany.)
As the addage goes, you can take the Kerkradenaar out of Kerkrade, but you can't take Kerkrade out of the Kerkradenaar.

Monday, 27 July 2009


A few days ago, I was driving along Woldgate in the East Riding of Yorkshire, in countryside not dissimilar to South Limburg, after spending a terrific afternoon at Flamborough Head. This C-classified road is as straight as an arrow and is marked on the Ordnance Survey map as a Roman Road, which supposedly linked York with the coast from where I'd just come. There are 'gates' aplenty in the North-East of England, most notably in York (Stonegate, Goodramgate and Skeldergate). These 'gates' have nothing to do with the gateways that are dotted around the ancient city walls of York, which are known locally as bars (Bootham Bar, Monk Bar). The names of these streets originate from the Viking word 'gata', meaning 'road' or 'way'. Presumably, the name Woldgate is derived from the same origin.
We know that much of the region was under Viking domination prior to 950, where Danish law and custom were observed, hence the name Danelaw to denote the territory that split England in two along a line from the Dee to the Thames. To the south-west of the line, Anglo-Saxon law held sway.
The Vikings first invaded England in around 800 and over the next 50 years or so seized large amounts of territory in Northern England including the Northumbrian (Anglo-Saxon) capital of Eoforwik, which was renamed Jorvik (now York). Viking settlements were established in the fertile regions in the North and East Anglia (alongside existing Anglo-Saxon ones). The Danes divided Yorkshire into three parts called 'Ridings' (Old Norse for 'third') for administrative purposes and these three regions were to survive for many centuries.
It was not far from here, at Stamford Bridge, that in 1066 the Vikings suffered their final defeat on English soil at the hands of King Harold, who himself lost a more famous battle two weeks later at Hastings.
The Yorkshire Wolds abounds with strange-sounding place names: Wetwang, Thwing, Langtoft, Kirkby Grindalythe, Weaverthorpe, Ruston Parva, Fangfoss and Nunburnholme to name but a few. The exact origins of these place names is uncertain, but what is for sure is that they include common Viking elements: Toft (a plot of land or farm), Thorpe (a small farm, hamlet of outlying settlement), By (a farm or village), Holm (water meadow) and Foss (a ditch). It is thought that 40 percent of place names in the East Riding of Yorkshire owe their existence to a Scandinavian presence, even though these settlements might have already been in existence during Saxon rule. And Viking and Saxon settlements would have coexisted with each other.
Some language historians have theorised that the mix of the two languages was responsible for kick-starting the 'simplification' of Old English into Middle English. Until the arrival of the Scandinavians, Old English was a strongly inflected tongue (like modern German) where common words relied on word-endings to convey a meaning for which we now use prepositions, like 'to', 'with' and 'from'. And, for example, by adding an -s, plurals were made less complicated. Only a few old noun inflections have survived, such as geese, mice and children. The complications of the language, it is said, were gradually ironed out as a way for Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian speakers to understand each other better, through an ongoing process of 'pidginsation'. Of course, this shift didn't take place overnight, but over a period of centuries.
In addition to their place names, the Vikings donated many words to the English language (common words like get, hit, leg, low, root, skin, same, want and wrong are all of Scandinavian origin) and even more words survive in dialect. The word 'laik', for example, still enjoys popular use by children throughout the North-East and Cumbria, where it means 'to play'. A famous Danish product that many people will have played with in their childhood is Lego, which comes from the Danish 'leg godt' meaning to 'play well'.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Two Men on the Bummel

The Westweg runs north to south for 285 kilometres in the south-western corner of Germany from Pforzheim to Basel. It is one of the oldest routes of its kind in the country and its traverse is not one for the faint-hearted or those who are short of time.
This long-distance hiking trail was mapped out more than 100 years ago. It crosses the western ridges and valleys of the Black Forest and takes in some of the highest peaks in the range, such as the Feldberg and Hornisgrinde, and some of the most fantastic scenery in the whole of Germany. Those who wish to trek its entirety in one go should allow at least 2 weeks for the walk, possibly more, since each stage of the journey averages out at 20 kilometres per day. Add to that the steep and circuitous ascents and descents, that amounts to a seriously tough challenge, not to mention all the forward-planning and logistics of overnight stops.
Some like myself, like to do it in more leisurely, shorter bouts covering one or two sections at a time. Doing it at different seasons can add to the charm of the experience and, of course, the organisation is a lot less complex.
As I write, my legs are still recovering from the excesses of a 60-kilometre hike along the final two stages from Wiedener Eck to Basel at the southern end of the route. I had covered 3 sections of the Westweg in recent visits, but my walking partner, and his four-legged companion, who live in the northern half of the Black Forest had already completed the 225-kilometre to Wiedener Eck in individual sections over the last 18 months, so, for him (and his Klein Münsterländer), the 'stroll' down to the Rhine on the Swiss border would represent the culmination of an epic traverse of this mountain range.
Wiedener Eck to Kandern (day 1) is one of the most elevated sections of the Westweg and includes the massive hulk of Belchen (1414 metres), referred to as the Crown-Prince of the Black Forest summits, and Blauen (1165 metres).
We were thankful to have left the oppressive heat and humidity of the Rhine valley behind us as we started the incessant, energy-sapping zig-zag climb up the northern flanks of Belchen. The view from the top was as rewarding as it is stunning, even though the haze blotted out the far-reaching panoramas to the Alps and the Vosges. Einfach grandios! screeched the guidebook, adding mundanely: if it weren't for the long stretch ahead to Kandern, it might be possible to linger there for an eternity. After the long slog uphill, a much flatter passage to the Blauen follows, with the path hugging the contours of the main ridge at a more or less constant level in a south-westerly direction. It required one final lunge to reach the summit of Blauen before the last downhill stretch. Here, at the restuarant, our dog, in an unprovoked attack, got embroiled in a fight with the proprietor's mutt ("Mein Hund kämpft aber nicht," he had told us beforehand) and it took all our efforts, not to say bravado, to separate the two canine combatants. We left hotfoot and made our way onto the path that slipped away into woodland and down the hill. Our descent to the town of Kandern was plagued by the sound of approaching thunder and we fairly ran the 10 kilometres to avoid the risk of any adversity.
The overnight stay at Hotel Weserei in Kandern was accompanied by some excellent Badische fare and ample beer, reviving not only our aching bodies, but also our spirits.
We set off on day 2 through the gently undulating lanscape of the Markgräflerland, 26.5 kilometres short of the southern terminus of the Westweg. At these lower levels of the Voorschwarzwald, we were glad of the woodland sections to keep us cool, for by the time we had reached Basel, temperatures had soared to 30 degrees Celsius. At Burg Rötteln, we stopped for some Radler in the shade of lime trees at what my walking companion declared was the best biergarten in Germany (some accolade). Sadly, the 285-kilometre trail ends in a bit of a whimper, skirting an autobahn near the town of Lörrach and concluding along a monotonous 5-kilometre stretch in Switzerland, before entering the city of Basel. Gone here were the familiar Schwarzwaldverein signposts and a single, inconspicuous plaque marks the end of this classic trail at the Badische Bahnhof in Basel. As we supped our refreshing Weizen in the station bar, our euphoria was tempered by the fact that the bill weighed in at a whopping 14 Swiss Francs for two beers!

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Grounded (part II)

The circus has been and gone and after the invasion, our quiet little street is, well, quiet again.
I've been eating humble pie for the last two days and telling all in sundry how much fun it was. No, really. I've never seen the street so busy before - and I'm not just talking about the wielrenners and their entourage (the support vehicles that follow the pack of cyclists in hot pursuit, at breakneck speed). Many of my neighbours decided to turn their front gardens into party venues, others residents brought their garden chairs with them and parked themselves on the pavement for the duration, and some people just walked up and down the street and joined in the fun.
At the end of the day, I almost found myself wishing we could have another day of racing. There really is nothing like a cycle race to bring about some neighbourhood bonding. And more than anything, it was a lesson in Dutch culture.
So please, please, come back next year...

Friday, 26 June 2009


I'm sure this happens elsewhere, but I'd like to imagine that this is the sort of thing that only takes place in Netherlands. Spring and summer are popular times for the Dutch to interfere with their traffic circulation system. If it's not roadworks - which seem to start when temperatures hit 10 degrees Celsius and end when the building contractors take their annual leave in July - it's the cyclists.

In Dutch they have two words for cyclist: one is fietser, a category into which I quite happily fit, and wielrenner. The latter are those who race around in packs, dressed in tight-fitting lycra emblazoned with an array of sponsors' names. In high summer, it's not unusual to be driving around, minding your own business, when all of a sudden you'll hear the whistle of an officious looking verkeersregelaar telling you that the road you want to follow is out of bounds for the rest of the day: the wielrenners have taken over.

Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating when I say it happens a lot, and I try to remain philosophical about it. I mean, I'm a foreigner who chooses to live here and should be tolerant towards my host country's predilictions. In general I am, but this weekend - when the Dutch professional cycling championships come to town - takes the biscuit. Not only are the races being held in Heerlen, but last Tuesday, when I received a missive from the council on my doormat, I discovered they're actually coming down MY street. We're talking about two whole days here: on Saturday AND Sunday the street is strictly off limits to car traffic - no bad thing in itself - but, worse still, there's a parking ban, and me and my neighbours who live in this peaceful side-road have been told that our vehicles will otherwise be towed away (presumably at our expense).

Many Limburgers will no doubt enter into the spirit of the occasion and watch the cyclists flash past from the comfort of their own front gardens with a crate of beer. Others will be bemoaning the fact that the organisers (including the local council) have decided to stage the event slap-bang in the middle of the south side of town and will be confined to their homes on what looks like being a warm, sunny weekend.

Right now, I'm thanking my lucky stars that I'd not planned on moving house this weekend or running errands that require trips back and forth to the shops. In fact, secretly, I'm looking forward to my street being a centre of attention tomorrow, but I won't be shouting it from the rooftops, nor will I have a crate of beer.

Who knows? Maybe in a couple of years when I've spent the majority of my years in the Netherlands, I'll give up watching cricket and head off to the nearest cycle store for some lycra - but I seriously doubt it.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Nieuw Amsterdam

When Henry Hudson weighed anchor off Manhattan Island in 1609 to sail up the river that bears his name in a vain attempt to find a North-West Passage, little could he have realised that this safe anchorage would develop into an iconic world city that celebrates its 400th birthday this year. Hudson was in the employ of the Dutch East-Indies Company, and later, a trading settlement was established here under the auspices of the newly established Dutch West-Indies Company. The anniversary is being marked by a number of events on both sides of the Atlantic in 2009, not least an exhibition at the Rijksmeuseum in Amsterdam: Return to Manhattan (Weerzien met Manhattan).

It was the last day of the exhibition on Whit Monday, so I took my chance and travelled up to the Dutch capital. Having been to New York 2 years ago and having read up on its history, I went in eager anticipation. It was a great day out but the exhibition itself was disappointing with just a handful of exhibits on display - even the Nightwatch covered more surface area - and no commemorative material whatsoever, but for a nostaligic, Dutch-centric Elsevier publication: Ons Amerika. 400 jaar Nederlandse Sporen in de Verenigde Staten. This despite the fact that Russell Shorto's best-selling and authoritative book on the early history of New York (i.e. Nieuw Amsterdam) had been published 5 years previously (and been translated into Dutch): The Island at the Centre of the World.
Perhaps a visit to the Henry Hudson 400 site would have sufficed.

Until recently, little had been known about this fledgling Dutch colony that marked the beginning of the Big Apple. Much of the early documents pertaining to Nieuw Nederland had been gathering dust in the New York State archives in Albany (formerly Fort Orange). What's more there was no one able to decipher, transcribe and translate the handwritten Dutch documents into English. That was until 35 years ago, when historian Charles Gehring decided to start examining these early records. Much of his painstaking research forms the basis for Shorto's intriguing insight.
New facts are being uncovered all the time about this fascinating period, which has so far been treated as a footnote of history. It can be argued that the founding of New York was of even greater significance than the landing of the Pilgrim Father's at New Plymouth, but it is this latter event (in 1620) which is marked by Americans in Thanksgiving as the founding of the American Dream (of course, there is a Dutch connection here too).
Even the vast majority of Americans are unaware that such time-honoured New York place names such as Harlem, Brooklyn, Jonkers and Flushing have Dutch origins (Haarlem, Breukelen, Jonkheer and Vlissingen), not to mention Stone Arabia in the Mohawk Valley, which may be a corruption of Stenen Rapen. Other place names, such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Rensselaer and Watervliet, in upstate New York are less subtle reminders that this was once a Dutch colony. A form of Dutch was spoken here until the end of the 19th century before it ultimately died out. In the meantime, English adopted Dutch words some of which are in widespread use today, such as cookies, boss, cole-slaw and stoop.
The pioneering Dutch rulers were eventually forced out of Nieuw Amsterdam by the English, who not only had expanding colonies to the north (New England) and south (Virginia), but who were probably more committed to investing resources in North America (whilst the Dutch focused on their East Indian possessions). Ultimately of course, the English themselves were ran out of New York by the revolutionaries, but that's another chapter of history altogether.
Perhaps more material will be unearthed in future which will shed more light on the subject. But one thing still seems to be indisputable: it was an Englishman who is celebrated as the founder of modern-day New York.
A Dutch book on the origins of New York is to be published shortly, the author having been responsible for the organisation of the exhibition at the Rijksmuseum:
Nieuw Amsterdam / New York by Martine Gosselink

Other popular histories have been written about other early American colonies, most notably:
Mayflower: A Voyage to War by Nathaniel Philbrick

Sunday, 31 May 2009


Like many economic activities, the translation business hasn't been immune to the effects of the recession. I've heard horror stories of fellow translators whose turnover has been slashed in a instant as a result of losing a major client, or an agency shopping for cheaper rates. Developing a broad client-base, which more faithfully mirrors the real economy, would seem to be the best way of riding the downturn.
Translation work still comes in, but the emphasis has shifted: people have become edgy and this has been reflected in job content. Corporate missions and visions have had to be amended to take into account the changing (read: waning) fortunes of the business. In these troubled times, settlement agreements for redundant employees, letters to suppliers justifying extensions in terms of payment and missives to pension fund participants notifying them of higher contributions to plug the widening funding gap are becoming much more part of the translator's remit.
Not only has the emphasis changed, so too has the vocabulary. Much of the language used in such communiqués is now designed to cushion the blow and mask the harsh realities of economic decline.
An article I read in a recent edition of NRC Next (see blog) I was flicking through on my return from the UK struck a chord. It was about kantoortaal, or officespeak. Kantoortaal contains a diversity of metapahors and euphemisms, often conceived to mystify the reader or listener. In the recession, this language is used to gloss over setbacks inevitably leading to downsizing (itself a euphemism). Ontslag (redundancy), the article explains, is transfomed into afscheid nemen (taking leave) and bezuinigingen (cutbacks) into taakstellingen (reviews). And banks don't go failliet (bankrupt), they vallen om (fall over).
Okay, I'm stabbing at precise English equivalents here, since here lies the problem in translating kantoortaal into officespeak. Euphemisms in one language are so specific that there is no ready-made translation for them in another; and you won't find them in the dictionary either. The assumption is that the client requiring the translation wants an English text that echoes the cushioned tone of the original language, so a company who, in veiled terms, is really saying, "we have to axe employees because of the credit crisis," would prefer to see a text that is not as hard hitting, maybe, "current fluctuations in the financial world have brought pressure on us to implement a root and branch review of all positions of employment within the business."
Help may be at hand. Entering "officespeak" in Google provides a mine of information on the subject (see BBC-site). However, no one has yet come up with a glossary of bi-lingual officespeak, so for the time being, in these difficult times, we will have to continue honing our creative skills. One thing's for sure though: we won't be getting paid extra for it. But at least we won't be out of a job.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Spot the difference

Today I went for an afternoon walk on the Yorkshire Wolds, close to the village of Warter. The village is typical of many in this rural region of East Yorkshire, but it has recently achieved some renown, the surrounding countryside having received the attention of world-famous artist David Hockney. In the late 90's, Hockney, if nothing an innovative artist, returned to his native county to paint landscapes. As some of the 360-degree panoramas I enjoyed today bear witness, landscapes here can be quite expansive. Equally expansive are the paintings that Hockney has created to depict some of the views here: Bigger Trees Near Warter, one of these paintings, is made up of 50 smaller canvases, adding up to an area 12 metres by 5 metres high. The landscapes here may well be sweeping, but they can be dynamic too as I found later when I walked across Nunburnholme Wold. Hockney's winter and summer views of the beech copse here are a little more modest in size, at 3m x 4m. It was Hockney's intention to reproduce the self same scene in spring and autumn, but when he returned in March this year, he found a scene of devastation. The copse had been felled for its valuable timber. Nothing remains but an empty sky (see above).
For more information: The fallen beech trees and the lost canvas.

Another interesting oddity of this afternoon's outing was the discovery of the Kipling Cotes racecourse, said to be the venue for the oldest horserace in England

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Disposable kids

I always have a chuckle when I pass this shop on the way back from the baker's every Saturday morning.
Of course, "baby" and "dump" are legitimate words in Dutch, but I wouldn't advise this store to expand its business to English-speaking markets. Whereas "dump" in English means a "tip", a place to dispose of unwanted items, in Dutch it is more commonly used to denote a store where surplus goods (which are "dumped", as it were) are sold - like an army & navy store.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009


The words on the left-hand side of the building read "Kindergarten und Volksschule" and on the right-hand side "Maternelle et élémentaire". You could have been forgiven for thinking you were in the German-speaking community of Belgian Wallonia, Alsace even, or a bilingual canton in Switzerland. But no, the official language here is Italian. The school was in Gressoney St. Jean, an alpine village that nestles high up in the Val di Gressoney, in the mountainous region of Valle d'Aosta, in the far north-west of Italy. Gressoney St Jean, its twin village of Gressoney la Trinité and Issime (Eischeme) form part of a small, anomalous German-speaking enclave on the southern flanks of the Pennine Alps, 100 kilometres north of Turin. Val d'Aosta, of course, is famous for the French patois which is widely spoken throughout the region. This "Sprachinsel" in the east of the region is less well-known however.
A Germanic language has been spoken in these villages for centuries, brought over the mountains in the early Middle Ages by settlers from the region of present-day Switzerland known as Valais (in German, Wallis). It is purported that these settlers travelled in small numbers across the high passes of the Alps to colonise unexploited valleys on the southern side of the mountains. They brought with them their language and traditions. The German dialect, known as Walser, has managed to survive to the present day in these isolated communities, despite being surrounded on all sides by a Francophone population and later, the dominant influence of the Italian langauge.
There were other German-speaking colonies too in these high mountain valleys, notably the community known as "Canton des Allemands" in Val d'Ayas, where the dialect was gradually swallowed up by the Francophone population.
The twin villages of Gressoney and Issime (dialect: Eischeme) are separated from each other by the French-speaking community of Gaby, so the two dialects developed along different lines. The language of the Walsers of Issime, Töitschu, is very archaic and similar to medieval German. The language of Gressoney, Titsch, is more similar to modern German.
It was a public holiday when I visited the village, so it had been overrun by day-trippers from Turin and Milan and Italian was, of course, the Lingua Franca. The Tourist Information Office (on the Liskam Waeg) unfortunately wasn't well stocked with information and the lady in charge spoke only Italian and French. However, she did present me with an interesting booklet giving a brief insight into the culture and language of this Walser community.
For more information on the Wasler community go to:

Monday, 20 April 2009

King Arthur's castle

Having been car-less for a while, I've recently been experiencing the joys of Dutch motoring again: those interminable waits at row upon row of traffic lights, those dodgy moments when some wannabe Michael Schumacher cuts you up in the early evening rush, and those occasions when roads are closed off at the drop of a hat for a pack of lycra-clad cyclists, leaving you to drive miles out of your way.

To take my mind off the stress on a trip to Sittard today, as is my wont, I started amusing myself with place-names. I’m sure I’m not the only one who was flabbergasted when DSM suddenly changed the name of their massive chemical plant in Geleen to ‘Chemelot’ a few years ago. Some bright sparks at DSM's communicatiebureau must have thought they’d hit on a real winner here. What’s more, their paymasters at DSM must have given their blessing to this misplaced brainwave. When I googled the word, I came across this PR blurb written by DSM:

In de nieuwe naam Chemelot klinkt niet toevallig de echo door van Camelot, de legendarische stad van koning Arthur. Zoals ooit de ridders van de Ronde Tafel uitzwierven, zo vinden nieuwe technologieën en producten vanuit Geleen hun weg over de wereld. Made in Chemelot, de chemiestad waar fantasie werkelijkheid wordt...

Not only is the analogy - comparing chemicals to the knights of the round table - plainly barmy, the first syllable doesn’t actually rhyme, but a lot of Dutch people wouldn’t get that either. But then I’ve never understood why they call a tram, a ‘trem’.
The name-change reminded me of a similar cosmetic makeover in the UK (shortly after the 1979 nuclear accident at Three Mile Island in America) when the name of the Windscale nuclear processing plant in the north of England became Sellafield overnight in1981. In the wake of bad publicity, British Nuclear Fuels decided to try and banish the bad memories by giving it a different name and, needless to say, it barely changed a thing.

A mile or so further on my journey this afternoon, I reached the turn off to Einighausen, a small village on the outskirts of Sittard, which has curiously kept its German spelling, unlike the names of the vast majority of settlements in Limburg that have been 'Dutchified'. The explanation seems to be that it once belonged to the Duchy of Jülich (but that was before Napoleonic times) and by some quirk of fate seems to have kept its German spelling.

To round things off, this evening I was at Rolduc Abbey in Kerkrade (NL). Rolduc is a shortened version of Rode-le-Duc, nothing more than a direct translation into French of the German, 'Herzogenrath', which more appropriately applies to the town immediately across the border in Germany rather than the abbey, which in popular parlance would have been called Kloosterrade (Dutch) or Klosterrath (German), in order to distinguish it from the neighbouring settlements of Herzogenrath (D) and Kerkrade (Kirchrath in German). I've never managed to find out why and when the French term was adopted in a location where French has never been spoken. Any suggestions?

Friday, 10 April 2009

In Europe

I’m currently in the middle of reading Geert Mak’s In Europe, in which he gives us a fascinating insight into the Europe of the twentieth century. Mak had previously caught my eye with his ‘biography’ of Amsterdam, subtitled The Brief Life of a City, but since I’m not a big fan of the Dutch capital, it was never on my wish-list of reads. However, Mak’s In Europe, published in the original Dutch in 2004 and translated into English by Sam Garrett in 2007, captured my imagination. In 1999, on the brink of the millennium, Mak journeys across the continent in pursuit of the vestiges of the places and events that left their stamp on the course of Europe in the twentieth century: the First World War, the Bolshevik Revolution, the rise of National Socialism, etc. For myself, who has more than a passing interest in geography and history, the book is real eye-opener because Mak is one of those people who not only has a terrific understanding of time and place, he is able to put it down in writing so persuasively. It must have been a mammoth project involving huge amounts of desk research and planning. His compelling interpretation of events is interspersed with anecdotal evidence of eyewitnesses, including, for example, some of the last surviving veterans of the Great War. Mak is an affable travelling companion and is thankfully not one of those Dutch authors who is quick to venture an uninvited opinion.

In the wake of the book's success, the VPRO recently broadcast the series
In Europa, each episode of which, covering the periods dealt with in the book, is narrated by Mak. These can be watched (in Dutch) on the In Europa website, itself is a mine of information on European issues past and present.

So, a good read, one which has been partly achieved (in English) as a result of Sam Garrett’s excellent translation. As a translator one can become overly critical about use of vocabulary, sentence construction and tone of voice, but so far I’m sold. Working in the business, I have good days and bad days, but in this instance – even allowing for editors - I can only marvel at the almost seamless consistency of the English. Well done Mr Garrett! Maybe, when I’m finished with In Europe, I will move on to Amsterdam.

Monday, 6 April 2009


“Mobbing,” or more precisely “Stop Mobbing!” were the words that caught my attention on the front page of my morning newspaper, NRC Next, as it dropped through the letterbox some while ago. It was so obviously an English word, I thought, and I eagerly flicked through the pages to find the article it referred to. Bullebakken op de werkvloer. The item was about workplace bullying. A recent survey carried out by TNO into employment conditions in the workplace had revealed that no less than 11% of employees in the Netherlands had at one time felt that they had been subjected to bullying by their bosses or colleagues. The article went on: “Dit heet mobbing. Naar het Engelse woord mob, meute”
That was new to me. I’d never heard of the term “to mob" ever being used in this context before, so I naturally assumed it was Dunglish (defined in Wikipedia as a combination of Dutch and English, a name for Dutch English, the Dutch speaker's version of the English language). “Mobbing” was obviously a word that someone had latched on to and thought would be a good word to use (probably because “bully” was too difficult to comprehend). Then I followed the link to the stopmobbing website, the mouthpiece of a stichting whose laudable aims are to protect the rights of everyone to respect and fair treatment in the workplace. My curiosity having been aroused, I browsed the site for further references and came across this definition:
Mobbing: Een Engelse term, afgeleid van 'The Mob': 'de maffia'; 'de meute' die zich tegen het individu keert. Mobbing is elke vorm van systematisch vijandig gedrag op de werkvloer dat gericht is tegen één specifieke medewerker. Dit kan zich uiten in pesten, morele intimidatie, seksuele intimidatie, racisme of discriminatie.
I still wasn’t convinced by the authenticity of the definition, at least in an English context. It couldn’t have been more Dunglish, I thought, even if they’d tried harder. So I googled the word “mobbing” in the expectation that it would only appear on Dutch URLs. I was wrong on that score - there was an even a mobbing-usa site (“Emotional abuse in the workplace”) and an Australian workplacemobbing site (where they also talked about “stalking”, but more about that another time).
However, I was still certain that this was a word that had entered the English word by stealth, so I continued my investigations. Eventually I found the culprit who even claimed that he had “introduced the phenomenon” (he has a lot to answer for!). The following text was written on the site of a Swedish academic called Heinz Leymann:
“…in recent years, a workplace-related psychosocial problem has been discovered, the existence and extent of which was not known earlier. This phenomenon has been referred to as "mobbing", "ganging up on someone", "bullying" or "psychological terror". In this type of conflict, the victim is subjected to a systematic, stigmatizing process and encroachment of his or her civil rights. If it lasts a number of years, it may ultimately lead to ejection from the labour market when the individual in question is unable to find employment due to mental injury sustained at the former work place. I introduced this phenomenon in 1984…”
So, it was a Swede!
Further research confirmed my own belief that the word or concept had been invented, not by an English-speaking person, but by a non-native. The Wikipedia site put the word and its definition into its right context:
“Though the English word mob denotes a group, mobbing has been adopted as a generic term for all forms of bullying in Scandinavia and German speaking parts of Europe and can be used interchangeably. However, in the English speaking world, mobbing denotes, more specifically a "ganging up" by others to harass and intimidate.”
Yes, “to mob” is an English word, but no, surprisingly perhaps, it doesn’t only have negative connotations.
For example: “the Beatles were mobbed by fans as they arrived in America for the first time”, “the Hollywood superstar, Brad Pitt was mobbed by adoring fans as he arrived at the premiere”, and (see photo above) “Federico Macheda was mobbed by his teammates as he scored a last-gasp winner against Villa”.
Hardly emotional intimidation….
Yes, English speakers may gang up on their fellow workers, they may send scabs to Coventry and give them the cold shoulder, browbeat and victimise them, but one thing they most certainly don’t do is mob them into psychological submission. We leave that to foreigners….
So next time, use your own word instead of pinching one of ours and bastardising its meaning