Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Say it in Broken English

I heard a funny story about the misinterpretation of the words of an innocent English hack. This innocent hack was writing about a high up person in a global jewellery brand attending a fancy-schmancy Dubai event sponsored by his company.

She used that classic British language device of understatement by stating that said high up chap "knows a thing or two about jewels, gems and bling" or something similar.

Unfortunately, this was misinterpreted.  The reason this was misinterpreted is that many of the PRs that we indirectly deal with are Lebanese who speak Arabic, French and then English as their third language. The reason many of them are Lebanese is that they are often working with Swiss and French companies so being in the Middle East and speaking French and Arabic is extremely handy for this purpose.

Malheureusement, the PR people, reading as they were in their third language, took this to mean that what was being implied was that high up person knew just one or two things, that he knew little, and took great offence and demanded a retraction, etc.

No amount of persuading on innocent hack's part convinced them otherwise, so, presumably, in the next issue of the magazine, a clarification along the following lines will be published:

XXXX magazine previously stated that Mr X knows a thing or two about gems, jewels and bling.  We wish to clarify that Mr X knows a great deal about jewels, gems and bling and any implication that Mr X knows just one or two things about this matter was unintentional and we wish to apologise for any offence caused.

Innocent hack told me a similarly entertaining story about a time she covered a horse beauty competition in Saudi Arabia and she used the phrase "fairest of them all" for a headline.  Unfortunately, the King of Saudi Arabia, who sponsored the competition, took umbridge at this saying the magazine was accusing participants of cheating and threatened to pull the plug on cooperation.  Several 10 page missives later explaining the story of Snow White, the dwarves, the wicked queen and the magic mirror, he was placated.

Ah, the perils of international publishing. 

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