Translation Mysteries

by John Holbo on October 6, 2009

It has come to my attention that Terry Pratchett’s discworld novel, Thud!


is available in German translation under the title, Klonk!:


I think German readers must lose some of the heavy, earthiness of the English word in translation. ‘Klonk!’ is lighter and more metallic. I don’t think it means the same thing as ‘thud!’ Discuss.

Delusionist disaster down under*

by John Q on October 6, 2009

The conservative political parties in Australia are in total chaos trying to come up with a response to the Rudd government’s (not very impressive, but better than nothing) proposals for an Emissions Trading Scheme. The fundamental problem is that the majority of them, along with virtually all of the conservative commentariat share the delusional view that the whole body of climate science is a hoax, got up by a coalition of grant-grubbing scientists and environmentalists bent on world domination. But within this majority, a substantial group are sufficiently in touch with reality to realise that 80 per cent of the Australian population disagrees with them, and will hand them a thrashing at the next election.

So, they have a problem. They’ve used their near-majority in the Senate to block the ETS legislation, but now its coming up again. On a second rejection the government can dissolve both houses of Parliament and call an election which would almost certainly produce a crushing defeat. But, for a number of technical reasons, the government doesn’t want to go this way and might just be willing to do a deal. The party leader, Malcolm Turnbull (the most able they have by far, but not known for sound judgement) is desperate to do such a deal and has put his leadership on the line. But the hardline delusionists are, so far, unwilling to go along. All in all, there’s plenty of pain to go around, and the government has been happy to watch the Opposition wallow, arguably at the price of a less effective response to climate change.

There’s a bit of a puzzle to me here. In the US and UK, as in Australia, the conservative commentariat is solidly delusionist. In the US, Republican politicians, activists and voters are similarly deluded, so there is no coherence problem. But in the UK, it seems as if Conservative politicians ought to be facing a difficult choice between going with the majority of their supporters (sane, on this issue at least) and the commentariat (delusional). But as far as I can see, the Conservatives are at least as good as Labor on this issue, yet they don’t seem to cop any flak from the Telegraph, Spectator, Times etc, all of which push a solidly delusionist line. I’d be interested in observations from those closer to the action.

* On top, from an equally valid perspective, but I’ll let the northern hemisphere majority have their comforting conventions on this one.