Sunday, December 5, 2010

Lost in translation. Why Robert Burns would turn in his grave.

I heard a wonderful 'lost in translation' story today relating to Burns Night.

The Burns Supper is an institution of Scottish life: a night to celebrate the life and works of the national Bard. A haggis supper can range from an informal gathering of friends to a huge, formal dinner full of pomp and circumstance.

One of the key elements to the running order is 'Address to a Haggis'. The honoured reader seizes their moment of glory by offering a fluent and entertaining rendition of To a Haggis ... which goes something like this.

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the pudding-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm :
Weel are ye wordy o'a grace
As lang's my arm.

A Burns Night was organised in Germany and the 'Address to a Haggis' was emailed to the German host. For reasons unknown, the host had the address translated to German and then back to English again. As a result, the line that read 'Great chieftain o' the pudding-race!' became ....

'Mighty Fuhrer of the sausage-people'