Tuesday, 24 February 2009

If you're in a horrible car accident whatever you do don't rub your eyes

Just came across this line in something I was translating:

Nach dem Berühren von gezündeten Airbags sind die Hände zu waschen
[Hands must be washed after touching inflated airbags]

Huh?  Why??  I mean, airbags are meant to cushion your face and the upper parts of your body - arms, hands etc. - in an impact.  Why would there be something on them that would be harmful to the skin??

But it turns out that there is,  or at least was until very recently.  After being "deployed",  airbags are covered in a kind of dust,  which also flies up into the air in the vehicle.  The dust is mostly stuff like talcum powder,  but on the older airbags it will also contain "a small amount of a potential skin irritant,  sodium hydroxide."  The website I'm quoting there is a guideline for emergency rescue personnel,  which goes on to say:

Hands should be washed with mild soap and water after handeling [sic] a deployed bag.  Also avoid rubbing your eyes,  eating,  or smoking after handeling the bag until you have removed the gloves and washed your hands.  Rescuers also should take care to avoid introducing the residue into the eyes or any wounds of the patient.

Is this widely known?? Wikipedia knew, but wikipedia knows everything.  It was obviously news to me but then I spend virtually no time in cars and don't get out much. 

I find it all slightly distressing. You'd think people in car accidents would have enough to worry about already.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Nothing can be translated. Fortunately, so can everything

Not even a single word in any given language can ever be translated perfectly into any other language.  Every word occupies a unique position in the vast,  incredibly complex interwoven web of words and meanings that is a language,  and no two of those complex interwoven webs will ever be the same.

On the other hand,  there is not a single concept or idea familiar to the speakers of any language which cannot be explained to the speakers of any other human language.  There is not a single human sentiment expressable in one language which cannot be expressed in every other language.  Ultimately,  given enough time and patience,  anything which can be said in one language can be said in another.

In conclusion,  therefore,  do NOT ask me to translate an Excel list of random words and phrases plucked from somewhere in your latest catalogue,  because you offend against the fundamental principles of translation.  And you piss me off.
To say nothing of what you're doing to your customers.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

John Howard ruined my sister's wedding

I went to my sister's wedding on Saturday.  Haven't been to a wedding in years.  So I was unpleasantly surprised at the beginning of the ceremony to hear the celebrant come out with this:  "Marriage,  in Australia,  is the union of a man and a woman,  to the exclusion of all others".

It's not that I'd never heard that before,  of course;  it's the definition of marriage notoriously enshrined in the Marriage Legislation Amendment Act passed by John Howard's government back in 2004,  in order to explicitly ban gay marriage in Australia.  The sentence was all too familiar to me.  I just didn't expect to hear it proclaimed at my sister's wedding.  It was as if Howard himself had stuck his head up out of the ground to spew forth his homophobic bile.  It made me quite angry and I couldn't get it out of my head for the rest of the ceremony.

Of course it turns out that all civil celebrants are now required by law (by said Amendment Act, to be precise) to utter those words during the course of the ceremony.  Which is quite literally adding insult to injury.  It's not as though the ban is any less effective if celebrants do not declare it at every wedding.  Hearing those words is like receiving a small slap in the face,  which is no doubt exactly what Howard and his cronies had in mind.

That evil little bastard isn't in power any more,  but there's no likelihood of this little bit of ugliness being removed from wedding ceremonies any time soon,  since Kevin Rudd and his Labor Party not only supported Howard's gay marriage ban back in 2004 but continue to support it today,  despite their claim to be opposed to discrimination against same-sex couples.  If Labor had drafted the law I very much doubt they would have included this offensive ceremonial extra,  but they can't very well repeal that bit and not the rest without looking even more hypocritical than they already do.  The only solution is to have a religious ceremony,  since the wording of those is not bound by the law.  I'd recommend your local Unitarians, for preference.

The whole business has actually turned me into a fervent supporter of gay marriage.  I think I feel more strongly about this ceremonial proclamation than I do about gay marriage itself;  I'd always sympathized with those who want to achieve marriage equality by banning heterosexual marriage as well...  but that's probably never going to happen,  so I'm now prepared to do just about anything to further the gay marriage cause.  Because I never want to have to hear those words again.

With that in mind,  I'll end with one of the best presentations I've ever seen in favour of same-sex marriage  -  from the folks in California,  who are facing a slightly uglier situation than the one in Australia: