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  • Gordon Dumoulin

Paper Tigers... divorced from their own people ?

Paper Tigers... divorced from their own people ?

When Diplomacy and Journalism get lost in translation…

When US and Chinese diplomats met at the Alaska summit last March, few expected the translators to steal the spotlights. In China, the Chinese interpreter won praise for her calm and fluent interpretation, while the American counterpart was criticized for being sometimes carried away, amplifying the U.S. delegation’s already strident language.

Though most translations are subject to more or less nuance of traduttore traditore (translator, traitor), it is the quality of the translator to interpret the translation with adaptation to purpose and circumstances.

𝘗𝘢𝘱𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘪𝘨𝘦𝘳... 𝘰𝘧𝘵𝘦𝘯 𝘮𝘪𝘴𝘪𝘯𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘱𝘳𝘦𝘵𝘦𝘥

In interviews (1946, 1956) with US Journalist Anna Louise Strong, Chairman Mao Zedong used the phrase ‘Paper Tiger’ (纸老虎) for the atomic bomb and US imperialism. The Chinese interpreter tried to make the comparison with a scarecrow but Chairman Mao intervened by repeating in English ‘Paper Tiger’. He elaborated later with following interpretations “The atomic bomb looks terrible and can induce mass destruction but in reality it is not so powerful. Wars are eventually won by people, not weapons." and "Powerful reactionaries (a.o. US imperialism) are merely paper tigers, divorced from their own people.”


Inspiration, sources:

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