An amusing "Anglo-EU Translation Guide" has been circulating widely in recent weeks. This seems to come from the same source as an old Economist column ("I understand, up to a point", 9/2/2004; discussed here), which attributed the joke to "the Dutch, trying to do business with the British", and which also gave some examples from a list "written by British diplomats, as a guide to the language used by their French counterparts".
The recently-posted Anglo-EU Translation Guide shares 3 phrases with the 2004 Economist column (some expressive details aside), lacking 2 others and adding 12 more. So a combined Anglospeak phrase book would have 17 entries, as compiled below; no doubt there are many more candidates Out There.
|What the British say||What the British mean||What others understand|
|I hear what you say||I disagree and do not want to discuss it further||He accepts my point of view|
|With the greatest respect…||I think you are an idiot||He is listening to me|
|That's not bad||That's good||That's poor|
|That is a very brave proposal||You are insane||He thinks I have courage|
|Quite good||A bit disappointing||Quite good|
|I would suggest…||Do it or be prepared to justify yourself||Think about the idea, but do what you like|
|Oh, incidentally/ by the way||The primary purpose of our discussion is…||That is not very important|
|I was a bit disappointed that||I am annoyed that||It really doesn't matter|
|Very interesting||That is clearly nonsense||They are impressed|
|I'll bear it in mind||I've forgotten it already||They will probably do it|
|I'm sure it's my fault||It's your fault||Why do they think it was their fault?|
|You must come for dinner||It's not an invitation, I'm just being polite||I will get an invitation soon|
|I almost agree||I don't agree at all||He's not far from agreement|
|I only have a few minor comments||Please re-write completely||He has found a few typos|
|Could we consider some other options||I don't like your idea||They have not yet decided|
|Correct me if I'm wrong||I'm right, don't contradict me||I may be wrong, please let me know|
|Up to a point||Not in the slightest||Partially|
The Economist column gives only these three French phrases — does anyone have a longer list pinned to their wall?
|French Phrase||Literal Translation||Idiomatic Translation|
|"je serai clair"||"I will be clear"||"I will be rude"|
|"Il faut la visibilité Européenne"||"We need European visibility"||"The EU must indulge in some pointless,
annoying and, with luck, damaging international grand-standing."
|"Il faut trouver une solution pragmatique"||"We must find a pragmatic solution"||"Warning: I am about to propose a highly complex, theoretical, legalistic and unworkable way forward."|
Or perhaps, for fairness, a list of translations (into English) of the English of Dutch diplomats?
Sturgeon's Law of course applies.