Poly Cocoa from Ghana

Hi guys,

Just a note to let you know I'm alive and kicking, after having dashed out of the eminently enjoyable ITA conference on Wednesday mid-morning, mid-coffee-and-yummy-cake, mid-talking to a colleague.
Had a family emergency; as you know, such things happen when one has an Aged Parent, bless them all.

You may ask yourselves why I keep on reading the Jerusalem Post, since I complain about its English so consistently. My husband subscribes to it, as I may have mentioned, simply because, for him, it covers one of life's most important aspects, i.e. the ups and downs of his fav soccer team, Tottenham, and affords him the vicarious enjoyment of cricket. As a side-effect, I get to read two of my favorite comic strips – Cathy and Calvin and Hobbes; we do the various word-games and the NY Times crossword puzzle; and I get to find fault with lots of poorly translated texts.

The worst are usually the special commercial supplements. This week, the supplement was called Blush, and I do think everyone who had anything to do with it should blush with shame. Just one example:

On page 18, bottom left, there's advertising blurb entitled Max Brenner for the Soul. Apparently, the manufacturer of this mouth-watering chocolate has now expanded into body care products. Reading the English text, it becomes painfully obvious that the blurb was very badly written to begin with. No big surprise there. The translation does nothing to improve it, and includes the following gem:

"You can also discover the body peel with poly cocoa from Ghana, cleansing milk with molasses…" etc etc.
[The Hebrew must have said פולי קקאוpolei cacao, i.e. cocoa beans.]

Will write again soon.
Thanks very much to all who said they follow my blog! It's very encouraging, and I shall try to keep you informed and entertained.

No "nikud"? No excuse!

Hebrew is quite a hurdle for new immigrants; Hebrew without nikud (vowel markings, or whatever you choose to call them) is even more of a hurdle, and not only for new immigrants. If you're just an "ordinary" oleh, you're more-or-less expected to make mistakes in pronouncing words, sometime to your own embarrassment and others' merriment. But if you've decided to make translation your career, making mistakes in the work you submit is inexcusable. If you don't know – which is perfectly legitimate -- ask. Ask friends. Ask Jeeves. ask Google. Ask the client. And if all else fails, highlight the problematic word and call the client's attention to it.

All the above should be obvious and shouldn't need repeating.
Therefore it really irked me when I was given a document to edit (Hebrew>English) and found it full of errors based on misreading the Hebrew and not bothering to check. Some Israeli companies have both a Hebrew name and an English name (i.e. not transliterated). The foreign (usually but not necessarily English) names indeed look weird when transliterated into Hebrew, and without nikud it's often impossible to read them. All the more reason to make an effort and find out! Just guessing or inventing is irresponsible and gives translators a bad name.

A few examples:

405 SOUTH by Evelyn Lucy Rimon (1953-1984)

I was fed up. Suddenly just fed up with everything. With picking up dirty socks left in the middle of the living-room, with dashing out of the house just barely in time to get to work and finding that my car had been towed away; I was fed up with my job, my apartment, my used car which kept giving me a pain in the ass, and even with him, who was supposed to be the big love of my life, Neil.

Driving down 405 South toward LA on a Saturday morning for a doctor's appointment (why did I have to make it so early, for Chrissake?) I was in a foul mood. I was so fed up with everything I couldn't decide whether I was going to throw up or scream. Suddenly it hit me. This great idea, like a little light bulb going on in my head – click! – and everything seemed to fall into place. I'm going to kill myself, I said to myself. Then I repeated it out loud, to see how it sounded. "I'm going to kill myself." It sounded great! Suddenly I was so happy I screeched with delight and clapped my hands, like an excited kid. Whoooopeee!! I got it! The solution! How come I never thought of it before? It was so simple, I couldn't believe how this great idea had just dawned on me, out of the clear blue. I felt so happy, relaxed and secure all of a sudden. The pieces of the puzzle were falling into place, the plan began to form in my mind, as if someone were in there arranging it for me. What I would do, my mind explained to me, was crash into someone head-on. This was impossible on this section of 405 which was divided. I'd have to get off before town, find an open road where I could go at least 40 miles per hour or more, and swerve just in time to crash into someone who was coming towards me at least at the same speed.

At the next exit I got off 405 and, humming happily to myself, took a right at the traffic light, since I had no idea where I was and quite frankly didn't care. I didn't have to worry about getting lost, you see. That thought made me feel good. Reassured. See, already I was free of worrying. Who cares where I am. I drove along some busy streets for a while, enjoying the scenery and humming to myself, musing over the fact that I wasn't even excited or anything, on the contrary, I hadn't been so relaxed and happy in a long time. Suddenly, the most terrible thought occurred to me. If I crashed into someone head-on, won't the driver of the other car be killed too? It seemed certain that he'd be killed. And what if there was more than one person in the front seat, say a man, his wife and his kids?! Jesus, Suzy, that would be murder. Plain outright downright cold-blooded murder. I can't do that. I just can't. I hadn't really thought of the moral aspect of committing suicide, but murder of innocent people was definitely out of the question. I was crushed. My beautiful plan had gone down the drain. Back to square one. I felt so disappointed, I couldn't begin to draw another plan. Maybe I'd have to call the whole thing off temporarily.

Then I saw him. In a flash I realized that I was on a straight, empty road, going about 50 miles an hour. And the car that was coming at me was a Mercedes Benz Diesel, one of the older ones, perhaps a '62, a big heavy-looking thing. And the driver was alone. My mind was racing. Nothing will happen to him, I thought. He's ten times as big as my measly little Opel, and he's as strong as a Sherman tank. I'll go right under him, the driver will barely be scratched… All this went through my mind so fast, I swerved almost too late, and crashed into him head-on.

Whoooopee! I screamed in delight and clapped my hands. I did it, I did it, I'm free, free, free!

Clapped my hands!?!

Now wait a minute! What's going on? I blinked. The guy was emerging from his Mercedes. He walked over to my car, wide-eyed, horrified. He peered through the window. "Lady…" he whispered, "Lady?..." Then: "Oh my God…" "…..Oh, my God…" He slowly staggered over to the side of his Mercedes, leaned against it, and started throwing up. I got out of my car and walked over to him. "Look Mister, I'm sorry, I dunno what happened –" But he obviously wasn't interested, just kept throwing up like he'd never stop. I stood there for a while not quite knowing what to do. Surveying the Mercedes, I thought to myself – I'll be darned, I was right. That Tank was hardly even dented, while my car was strewn to smithereens underneath it. There was nothing really left of it. The windshield was gone, the whole engine was about an inch big, there was blood splattered all over, and some big mess squooshed against the steering-wheel and front seat. I walked over and took a closer look. Yech, what a mess, blood on the seats, hair hanging down the shift stick, long blond hair. Come to think of it, there was something vaguely familiar about the messy thing which faintly resembled a young girl, but I didn't have too much time to ponder about it, because the place was getting crowded. There were people, and cars, and an ambulance and finally – a police car and a couple of officers. I went straight up to the policeman and began talking to him, though it wasn't quite clear in my mind how I was going to explain this mess. "I'm terribly sorry, officer, " I began. But he ignored me. He was taking notes from the Mercedes guy who had finally managed to stop throwing up.
"Yeah, yeah," the Mercedes guys was acknowledging "I had a few drinks… Yeah, I know it's kind of early to be drinking… But how about checking that girl, she must have been drinking – Now wait a minute officer, she was in my lane!"
"You don't understand" – I protested – "I'm not drunk. I did it on purpose. I wanted to…" – Oh what's the use, everyone was ignoring me.
As I started strolling away from the place, I couldn't help noticing that no one tried to stop me. What the heck. I didn't care. I walked slowly for a while, thinking about how messy that girl looked in the car. When I got tired, I attempted to hitch-hike, but again everyone was deliberately ignoring me. So when I got a chance I hopped into the back of a pick-up truck – it had Arizona license plates, so I kind of hoped he would be going a ways. The driver never noticed me, somehow.

All this was quite a long time ago, I don’t know how long. I've been all over the United States, been to a lot of great places. But I'm kind of lonely. I can't seem to make any friends. So what I figured I'd do, is I'd start looking for Neil. He was a nice guy and I loved him a lot, but somehow after the incident I never felt like going back to him. But then I heard a rumor that he's dead. Or rather, had killed himself. It seems that he thought I had had an accident, and blamed himself for it. He knew I was a lousy driver and he was supposed to take me to the doctor, but didn't feel like it. He felt so guilty that he killed himself. That made me feel awful. So I figured I really should find him and tell him that I still love him and that it wasn't his fault. So I'm wandering around looking for him, though I'm not quite sure how I'll recognize him. I think I'll just be getting these good vibes from him, kind of Neil-like vibes, and I'll know it's him. I just hope he's not a German Shepherd. I hate German Shepherds.

Yesterday, February 3rd, was the 25th anniversary (yahrzeit) of my sister's death. She died in a car crash about 3 years after writing the above story. And no, I am quite sure she did not do it on purpose. The guy in the "tank" swerved into her lane and crashed into her head-on.

Drive safely, everyone, wherever you are!!!

Yohanan Goldman's reply

As promised, below is the text of Mr. Goldman's reply to my mother, copied verbatim:

Yohanan Goldman
6, Absalom Haviv St.
Tel Aviv 69495; Tel:972-3-xxxxx

April 27, 2006

Dear Mrs. Rimon,

Thank you for your deeply moving letter, which showed that there are people who still remember my work.

I had met Kishon while he was still unknown by the Hebrew-reading public. He was writing in the Hungarian-language Uj Kelet daily and I proposed to translate a few satires of his and try to place them with the Jerusalem Post. After a few trials, I succeeded. At the time, he and his first wife were living in an one-room apartment, with a landlady so stingy that according to him she even numbered the paper in the toilet roll. But even at that time, he was convinced and kept stating it, that he was the world's greatest humorist. Eventually he really became rich and famous, mainly in the German-speaking countries. The German translations were, of course, retranslations of my work. The cooperation with him continued for about 30 years and finally broke up for ideological reasons -- he wouldn't pay me what I felt he should. But we continued as friends until his death two years ago.

As your daughter, whom I greatly admire, has probably told you, translation work gives you a lot of satisfaction, especially if the source material is high quality. this is not always the case, but you always may console yourself with the illusion that you are improving it.

I wish you all the best, good health and a lot of joy in life,


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[Y Goldman]