Lost in translation
"This is my 6th beer, and it might as well be water." Also, 7 other things worth knowing today.
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Lost in translation
Wow. Thanks for the fantastic response to my interview yesterday with Justin Bariso about emotional intelligence. I told Justin a story afterward that might work to kick off a fun comment thread for the weekend.
Thing to know if you missed yesterday: Justin told me he began studying emotional intelligence after he moved from the United States to Germany for family reasons, and realized how easy it was for his German business clients to say the wrong thing with American and British colleagues—both due to the language barrier and to subtle differences in meanings.
So here’s the story the interview reminded me of. It’s about the last time I was in Germany, a little over 10 years ago.
I was a writer for Stars & Stripes at the time, and I was on a
boondoggle er, reporting assignment with some U.S. soldiers in an infantry unit based in Bavaria, who had just returned from a year in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan was one big no-alcohol zone for these guys, so they had a giant party when they returned. They collected €1,000 or so, and sent a couple of privates and specialists out on a beer run.
I threw in €50 or €100 myself, of course; Rule #1 as a military reporter is “always be generous when the soldiers you are covering take up a collection for anything.”
Rule #2 is don’t use all the hot water in the shower trailer (learned the hard way), and Rule #3 is that if you’re anywhere sandy and dusty, give your satellite phone to the first soldier you meet and tell him or her you don’t want it back until everyone has had 10 minutes to call their families back home.
I digress. The young guys went out and got the beer—probably 20 cases of German lager, which is almost 500 bottles. The party was fun—guys who were happy to be home, knocking back one ice cold beer after the other, playing drinking games, etc.
I had a sense things were going to get messy, but also that if you’re going to tie one on, coming home from a war safely is a pretty good occasion to do so. As for me, I had one or two beers myself, but no more; I was technically working.
Then, after an hour or so, one of the sergeants paused and looked at me with a bemused expression.
“You know, I thought I’d have zero tolerance for alcohol after going a year without drinking,” he said, “But this is my 6th beer, and it might as well be water.”
At which point we looked more closely at the beers we were holding, and the 400 or so bottles left in the coolers. A small German word nestled on the label popped out: “Alkoholfrei,” which of course means, “alcohol-free.”
I still laugh about that one. The good news for the party was that they could round up another collection and send the privates and specialists out for a second beer run without risking a DUI, since they hadn’t actually been drinking alcohol through the first 100 bottles or so.
Anyway, I think we all have stories like this—meaning “lost in translation stories,” not “drinking stories.” (Although I’m sure there are some of those in the group, too.)
But for a weekend comment thread, how about giving us your best story about language barriers, mistranslations, and misunderstandings that led to good stories.
7 other things worth knowing today
Florida is still figuring out how bad the damage from Hurricane Ian was, but the short version is: Bad. Here's a series of photos and video from CBS News showing the situation. Reports of the extent of casualties seem preliminary, so I won't include that here. But I will include a link to a site with live updates. (CBS News, USA Today)
Eighty percent of employees now fall into two categories: those who have flexible work arrangements, and those who are considering changing their jobs to find one that does offer flexibility. (Fortune)
A Tyrannosaurus rex fossil will go to auction at Christie’s in Hong Kong in November, where it’s expected to sell for as much as $25 million. (Bloomberg)
The Food and Drug Administration announced new rules Wednesday for nutrition labels that can go on the front of food packages to indicate that they are “healthy.” For example, a cereal would need to contain three-quarters of an ounce of whole grains and no more than 1 gram of saturated fat, 230 milligrams of sodium and 2.5 grams of added sugars per serving for a food manufacturer to use the word “healthy” on the label. (WashPost)
A prominent federal appeals court judge says he won't hire clerks from Yale Law School, in response to what he describes as rampant cancel culture at the elite school. (Original Jurisdiction)
New York expedites efforts to ban the sale of new gas cars by 2035. The move comes about a month after California voted to ban the sale of new gasoline-powered vehicles starting in 2035, setting a precedent for other blue states. (CNBC)
Almost a year ago, I wrote another newsletter with the subject line, “Lost in translation,” only in Gaelic (“caillte san aistriuchan”). This one was about a police officer using Google Translate to try to get consent for a search of a vehicle, along with a bunch of other infamous “lost in translation” moments from history, and what the Japanese TV director was really saying in that scene in the movie, Lost in Translation. (Understandably)
Thanks for reading. Photo credit: Fair use. See you in the comments!