Another amazing translation call in a Holy See document, or, “Who did this translation? babelfish?”

I am not making this up.

The Holy See’s new document Guidelines for the pastoral care of the road from the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People and its president Renato Raffaele Cardinal Martino.  After talking about "Street Women" and "Street Children" we get:

PART FOUR
THE PASTORAL CARE OF THE HOMELESS (TRAMPS)

Another amazing translation call in a Holy See document, or, “Who did this translation? babelfish?”
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42 Responses to Another amazing translation call in a Holy See document, or, “Who did this translation? babelfish?”

  1. This just in from a frequent blog participant, TF, who wrote via e-mail:

    Besides the obvious question of “what has occasioned this mishmash of a letter?” One is also forced to ask, who did this translation? babelfish? How else to explain things like this:

    “The free availability of speed, being able to accelerate at will, setting out to conquer time and space, overtaking, and almost “subjugating” other drivers, turn into sources of satisfaction that derive from domination.”

    and

    “Men have an important role to play in working towards the achievement of sexual equality, in a context of reciprocity and fair differences.”

    and

    “Poverty has an aspect that is manifested in the people who live and sleep on the street or under bridges.”

    And perhaps most egregiously in the title of the fourth section, “The Pastoral Care of the Homeless (Tramps)” Are we to consider that the preferred word in ecclesiastical circles for street people is now “tramps,”
    or has the Vatican taken a special interest in the goings-on of young Hollywood nymphets with names like Brittany, Paris and Lindsay?

    How long until Cardinal Martino retires?

    One is also forced to ask, who did this translation? babelfish?

    ROLF!! I have GOT to figure out how to use this line more often!

  2. Tim Ferguson says:

    I just sent you an email regarding this – what a horrid job of translation!

    Although, the original document itself seems to suffer from a serious case of verbal regurgitation with little cohesive sense. Perhaps it would be better titled, “Pastoral Concern for Issues I Think Are Important This Week.”

    Perhaps Cardinal Martino is a Cher fan:

    Gypsies, tramps, and thieves
    We’d hear it from the people of the town
    They’d call us gypsies, tramps, and thieves
    But every night all the men would come around
    And lay their money down

  3. TF: That is precisely what popped into my mind when I read that title, and reread it.

  4. TF, that’s the hardest I’ve laughed in weeks. Thanks.

  5. caleb1x says:

    That’s why the lady is a tramp.

  6. Fr. D says:

    Tramp!
    What you call me?
    Tramp.
    You didn’t!

    Otis Reading – Tramp

  7. Henry Edwards says:

    One is also forced to ask, who did this translation? babelfish?

    Better babelfish than the old ICEL. At least this likes more like laughable incompetence than mendacious intent.

  8. What happened to “bums”? Or did that term fall into disfavor after Vatican II?

  9. What happened to “bums”

    Carolina…We are to call them lay mendicants

  10. Alan Stout says:

    Are they bad translators or just out of touch with the rest of the world? Oh for the ever present problem of using the same word to describe completely different things…

  11. Legisperitus says:

    I prefer that other venerable Latin term “derelicts.”

  12. Tim Ferguson says:

    Fr. D,

    I think the Vatican’s pastoral concern here is more addressed to Otis Campbell than to Otis Redding.

  13. Tim,

    You bring up the subject of a certain subset of the “tramp” (AKA “bum”) category. Hmmmm… I wonder if the term “wino” also qualifies as official teminology now.

  14. Andy S. says:

    Maybe they had to use babelfish because all the translators are busy working on the m.p. Maybe.

  15. rk says:

    Is this something to “write” them about?

    Do you think it will be changed?

    It seems that there is a whole lot of garbage vocabulary in the document.

  16. flabellum says:

    We seem to have a divergence of American English and British English here. Tramp is still a commonly used (though admittedly not very PC) term in the UK for homeless rough sleepers. The American usage to refer to a woman of loose morals is understood, but would not be the first meaning to spring to mind.

  17. RBrown says:

    We seem to have a divergence of American English and British English here. Tramp is still a commonly used (though admittedly not very PC) term in the UK for homeless rough sleepers. The American usage to refer to a woman of loose morals is understood, but would not be the first meaning to spring to mind.

    Both refer to people who often change the place where they sleep.

  18. I can’t imagine a native speaker of British English using ‘tramps’ in such a formal context.
    I’m wondering whether it might be:

    a. A translation made by a non-native English speaker. (Not very likely, surely.)
    b. A translation made by a native speaker of English from a country where archaic linguistic usages which have passed out of common currency in British and American English still survive. (One occasionally hears some archaic words used by Indian and Nigerian speakers of English.)
    or
    c. It’s an intra-office joke that’s managed to inadvertently escape into the wild.

  19. I wonder about some synonyms:

    Main Entry: tramp
    Part of Speech: noun
    Definition: bum

    Synonyms: baggage, beggar, bimbo, bo, bum, derelict, down-and-out*, drifter, floater, gypsy, hitchhiker, hobo, hussy, jezebel, loafer, moocher, outcast, panhandler, prostitute, slut, stiff, strumpet, tramper, vagabond, vagrant, wanderer, whore

    Notes: a hobo is a migratory worker who likes to travel, a tramp travels without working, and a bum does not travel or work

    hmmm… I wonder if I am writing for The Tramp.

    Main Entry: beggar
    Part of Speech: noun
    Definition: bum

    Synonyms: Lazzaroni, asker, bag lady, bankrupt, borrower, bum, bummer, cadger, chiseler, deadbeat, dependent, destitute, freeloader, hobo, indigent, lazar, mendicant, moocher, muzzler, panhandler, pauper, promoter, ragbag, rustler, scrounger, sponge, sponger, stiff, street person*, stumblebum, suitor, supplicant, supplicator, touch artist, tramp, vagabond, vagrant, ward

  20. Stu says:

    Maybe they meant the disco band, “The Trammps”?

    http://www.aaeg.com/trammps.htm

  21. Here’s the list of the NEW Ten Commandments of the Road:

    Rome’s 10 Commandments for the Road

    1. You shall not kill.

    2. The road shall be for you a means of communion between people and not of mortal harm.

    3. Courtesy, uprightness and prudence will help you deal with unforeseen events.

    4. Be charitable and help your neighbor in need, especially victims of accidents.

    5. Cars shall not be for you an expression of power and domination, and an occasion of sin.

    6. Charitably convince the young and not so young not to drive when they are not in a fitting condition to do so.

    7. Support the families of accident victims.

    8. Bring guilty motorists and their victims together, at the appropriate time, so that they can undergo the liberating experience of forgiveness.

    9. On the road, protect the more vulnerable party.

    10. Feel responsible toward others.

    I’ve added a few myself…

    11. If you are old, turn off your signal light if you do not intend to turn.

    12. Slow traffic should move to the right lane…or buy a bicycle and get off the hiway.

    13. Your car is not a portable telephone booth. Sit down, turn around and shut up!
    (From my kindergarden bus driver who’s booming voice seemd to come down from on high!))

    14. If you are putting on make-up and eating breakfast while driving, your life is too busy.

    15. It’s nice to be nice to the nice. (Frank Burns of M*A*S*H – Sophia!)

    16. Do not run over tramps.

    Any others?

  22. Berolinensis says:

    On a German blog (http://specimina.blogspot.com/2007/06/dekalog-zugleich-vor-vor-letzter-post.html), the “guidelines” were announced as the latest document from the “Pontifical Council for Blah-blah-blah and Rigmarole”. I really can’t make myself read the whole thing, but it certainly appears to be a case of the well-intentioned being the biggest enemy of the good. I think it is no disrespect to the hierarchy to poke fun at these excesses of beaurocracy.

  23. TO says:

    Adding to Gordo’s list, I offered #17 on my blog this morning. “Do not jump into the Popemobile without the express invitation of the Pope.”

  24. AM says:

    Reading the document which is the subject of this post, at first I found an irresistible urge to giggle.

    When I got to para. 61, with its parody of the Decalogue, I began to wonder. There is something uncanny about its looniness. Has this document been released in order to show just how crazy Vatican documents can be, just ahead of certain awaited Other Documents…?

    Anyway, it sure cured _me_ of taking Vatican documents seriously a priori.

  25. Guy Power says:

    flabellum writes, We seem to have a divergence of American English and British English here. Tramp is still a commonly used (though admittedly not very PC) term in the UK for homeless rough sleepers.

    I suppose we could say the same thing about tinkers here in the US? “Tinker”
    doesn’t have the same impact here (meaning to “fiddle” with something) as it does in the UK & Ireland. The PC thing in the UK is to call them “Traveling People” or “Travelers”, right?

    (US readers: I’m talking about “gypsies” … from whence we get the delightful
    phrase, “not worth a tinker’s damn.”)

  26. prof. Basto says:

    The parody of the Decalogue is repulsive. The document is written as if it was
    adressed to stupid people. It is grotesque to see the Holy See publishing those
    sorts of things. What is more, the moral wheight of a written pronouncement of
    the See of Peter should be reserved to things that are relevant from the
    viewpoint of Faith and morals.

    The “do not drink and drive” line, while important, is to be advertised by the
    State, not by the Church of God in a parody of God’s Ten Commandments promulgated
    by God Himself at the Sinai.

  27. Ansjo says:

    flabellum writes, We seem to have a divergence of American English and British English here. Tramp is still a commonly used (though admittedly not very PC) term in the UK for homeless rough sleepers.

    Yes, it’s commonly used but not in a formal context like this and has derogatory connotations. One of the dictionary citations given at http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/tramp defines tramp as “a disreputable vagrant”.

  28. Bailey Walker says:

    Father D,

    Don’t forget the wonderful Carla Thomas who sang “Tramp” with Otis Redding! That song gave me a lot of pleasure back in the 60’s (I had the album “King & Queen” which featured it…. now I’m reduced to listening to in in iTunes… it’s downloadable) and it’s great to know I’m not the only one who remembers and appreciates that sort of thing.

    Oremus pro invicem!

  29. Jordan Potter says:

    _I suppose we could say the same thing about tinkers here in the US? “Tinker”
    doesn’t have the same impact here (meaning to “fiddle” with something) as it does in the UK & Ireland. The PC thing in the UK is to call them “Traveling People” or “Travelers”, right?_

    In the United States, “Travelers” are not “Gypsies” (Roma), but are families of various ethnic origin who have decided to live permanently outside the law and common social mores. Thus, like Gypsies traditionally have done, they often move from place to place, making their living through dishonest, fraudulent means.

    But I hadn’t heard that sort of person called a “tinker.”

    _(US readers: I’m talking about “gypsies” … from whence we get the delightful phrase, “not worth a tinker’s damn.”)_

    Actually my understanding (correct me if I’m wrong) is that the the phrase is “not worth a tinker’s dam,” referring to the material that tinkers would use to plug holes in the pots and pans they would sell. The dams frequently didn’t stop the leaks very well. But naturally “dam” came to be confused with “damn.”

  30. Ah, the long–awaited Motu Trampio!

  31. Geri says:

    Jordan, my understanding of “tinker’s dam,” was that it referred not to vagabond criminal families, (the tinkers in Ireland and England,) but to the actual trade of tinker, who in order to cool down his metal work, (as a smith does in a tub of water,) would form a temporary “dam” at the edge of some small body of running water to create a pool of still water.
    It would be no more substantial than a sand castle, deliberately so, as meant to be knocked or washed away almost immediately, not like a real damn.

    (Save the Liturgy, save the world)

  32. Jordan Potter says:

    Ah, that was it! Thanks for clearing that up for me, Geri.

  33. Nathan says:

    +JMJ

    Father Zuhlsdorf, if you decide to comment on this on your next “PODCAZT,” I would like to nominate for your lead-in music that wonderfully awful 1970s recording by Cher, “Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves.” This posting has somehow stuck that song in my head.

    BTW, I think your comments box may have some issues. It won’t accept, as my anti-spam word, “Why, yes, I AM impatient.”

    In Christ,

  34. Nathan says:

    TF, I should have read your comments more closely. You get the Cher credit.

  35. David says:

    Father, just you wait, when the Motu Proprio is released, it will read:

    APOSTOLIC LETTER
    “Lorem ipsum”
    Of the Supreme Pontiff
    Benedict XVI
    given motu proprio
    on the liberalization of the Salsa Mass

  36. David: LOL However, I think Lorem ipsum is really His Holiness’ upcoming Apostolic Letter on the need for good translation and the prohibition of babblefish on computers of the Secretariate of State.

  37. michigancatholic says:

    This is completely moronic! What the heck??!!?

    Since when did the Vatican appoint itself THE technical expert on the social problems of homeless people? Or, for that matter, drivers’ training teacher to the world? I keep seeing this “10 Commandments for the Road” nonsense. Please tell me this is all a bad joke.

    The English syntax is horribly funny in a completely tragic way. Reminds me of those stories about accidentally ordering awful things in French restaurants. Calling some people tramps to their faces, poor or not, could have consequences just about as bad as sauteed unmentionables, too.

    The Vatican shouldn’t allow such trash to be released from its offices. It makes them look like absolute ranting idiots.

    I can only ask: Is it really possible this is incompetence? Or is this person Martino ready for the Alzheimer’s medicine? Or is this some sort of wicked design to make someone look bad?

    [BTW, this reminds me of the complete garbage the USCCB tends to put out on secular topics. I remember a position paper on economics and the work world (which they know NOTHING about), and another one on the “pastoral care of homosexuals”(feature that!). Absolute crap. One wonders what the motivation must be. Honestly.]

  38. Victoria says:

    Silly Vatican. Imagine not consulting American English speakers before deciding on an English translation of a document. A tramp is a homeless person who ‘tramps'(walks) from place to place.

    We non American English speakers have to get used to your versions of words e.g. diaper (nappy), bathroom (toilet), clothes pin (peg), back to back (consecutive) pastor (parish priest)etc etc you can make a little effort to get used to our words without having a fit of the vapours.

  39. Jordan Potter says:

    _diaper (nappy), bathroom (toilet), clothes pin (peg), back to back (consecutive) pastor (parish priest)_

    Except for nappy and peg for diaper and clothes pin, all of the examples you mention are perfectly acceptable synonyms in American English.

    As for “tramp,” that too is an American English synonym for “homeless person.” But’s it’s fallen out of favor because it usually has a pejorative sense: insulting the homeless, or even more usually, referring to women of ill repute.

    Paris Hilton, for example, is not a homeless person, but currently has been provided housing by the government . . .

    _Since when did the Vatican appoint itself THE technical expert on the social problems of homeless people? Or, for that matter, drivers’ training teacher to the world?_

    Look, the document is just a bit of applied moral theology, and God DID appoint the Vatican to be the expert on moral theology for the entire universe.

  40. Pat Mc says:

    Coming from the country which invented English (ha!) I see nothing wrong with the use of the word tramp. I don’t think “bum” would have been an acceptable alternative, meaning as it does “bottom” or “posterior”. Because of their position in society most terms referring to homeless people will be perceived as perjorative. The “nicest” term I ever heard was “gentleman of the road”. Still means tramp though..

  41. michigancatholic says:

    Jordan, you mean like: “3. Courtesy, uprightness and prudence will help you deal with unforeseen events.” ???

    That’s not moral theology. That’s a platitude.

  42. Karen says:

    Isn’t anyone going to make the obligatory “Born to Run” joke?

    Guess I’ll have to do that over at my own blog.

    (I hope this doesn’t mean I’m getting really old.)