Kathleen's Reviews > Is That a Fish in Your Ear?: Translation and the Meaning of Everything

Is That a Fish in Your Ear? by David Bellos
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's review
Apr 29, 12

bookshelves: non-fiction, read-in-2012, political, history
Read in April, 2012

There is a great moment in the third season of The West Wing when Joey Lucas is brought in to a secret meeting in the basement of the White House and President Bartlett asks if anyone knows her interpreter's last name. Translation is ubiquitous in our society and we rarely give it a second thought.

Bellos calls attention to a number of fascinating points in this book. If you give a hundred professional translators the same document, you will receive a hundred distinct translations. Literal translation is a myth. This is why the EU drafts a law in multiple languages initially, giving the full force of law to each version. Eddie Izzard might call this the cutting edge of government in a spectacularly boring way, but Bellos manages to present genuinely interesting examples of what happens when the contradictions between these languages cause problems.

Beyond literature and law, this is a book about understanding and communication between cultures. You might be surprised by what is actually lost in translation.
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message 1: by Molly (new) - added it

Molly Bagelfish.

Kathleen Molly wrote: "Bagelfish."

::Real life hysterical laughter that scared my cat::

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