Blah blah Taiwanese people have the right … blahdee blah …. foreign media … blah … admittedly …. yadda yadda … quotation marks … blah yadda burble …
Chrimble has come way early here at TNM!
Seriously, in this Central News Agency report on a letter to the Economist from Taiwan’s UK rep Shen Lyushun, we have everything that is pea-brained, ignorant, ill-informed and pompous about the Ma Ying-effectual (bumbler) debacle crystallized into one big iceberg of piss!
First, Shen Lyushun – who seems like a decent enough fella (note the penchant for making his name ‘two words’ though, ala PRC) – doesn’t seem to have a clue what he’s talking about. Admitting that Economist’s depiction of Ma was pretty much spot on, he reckons “The people of Taiwan have every right to use harsh words against their president, but when a foreign media organization repeats the name calling it should at least use quotation marks.”
Where to start with this incredible statement? It’s almost as if Shen is a (the?) faithful subscriber to FTNM, as he couldn’t have backed up the main point of my last post on this (namely that it’s quite all right for local press to abuse their prez til the cows come home, but god forbid any WAIguo publication offers a comment) better if he’d tried.
And he’s asking for quotation marks (or inverted commas as they were when I was a wee NMer) for, er, what exactly? The statement in the economist clearly said: “The country appears to agree on one thing: Mr Ma is an ineffectual bumbler.” This was something that was not mentioned during all the caterwauling, by the way: the Economist was not actually calling Ma that but claiming that’s how he is now viewed in Taiwan. Now, while I do think that’s pretty much the case, it would be fair to call them on this because low opinion polls don’t necessarily = “ineffectual bumbler” (surely a tautology anyhow). It could just be they don’t like the guy (also probably true, so maybe a bit of both).
But that is NOT what Shen was moaning about. He’s asking for quotation marks for something that blatantly ISN’T a quote. He’s even admitting it’s not a quote by saying it’s “name calling” from the Taiwanese public. Why on earth would that need to go in quotes?
Economist Journo: What’s that they’re shouting in that crowd of protesters?
Translator: I think it’s “Ma, you bumbler! Step down, you BUMBLER!”
The only other real reason for using this punctuation is to denote ironic usage, something that was clearly not intended. I’m not 100 percent about Shen’s academic and career background, aside from the fact that he was MOFA deputy head for a while, but it doesn’t seem he knows much about journalism. As far as I’m aware, you don’t quote things that aren’t quotes. If he’s claiming it is a quote from a local rag, find me the quote in Chinese! The fact remains, if it was something that was said in the local media (not what the Economist was saying anyway) there is no reason for him to be saying “when a foreign media organization repeats the name calling”. Anyone repeating something verbatim should put it in quotes;why should it matter if they are foreign?
Sadly, that esteemed font of knowledge Michael Turton seems to falling for this red herring when he writes: “Shen is right; The Economist article carries not a single quote of any speaker on the topic, from (wo)man on the street to expert in the office.”
As I’ve said: It’s one thing saying the piece was short on quotes (it was an op-ed type thing, so I don’t really see why that is important) but another to demand quotes for something that WAS NOT A QUOTE!
Meanwhile, the proverbial crushed nuts on the mochi is this stroke of brilliance from “recognised authority on translation” (why does that title immediately make me suspicious?) Yu Kuang-chung. Chastising the local media for mischievous/sloppy Chinese rendering of “bumbler” (that much iis true enough: they were translating it as “idiot”), Yu declares: “‘bumbler’ refers to a person who has great skill but appears incompetent'”. Er … I reckon my dictionary needs an update.
In a meeting with Ma, Yu went on to assure the Prez that “the word also refers to a person who is down to earth, responsible and does not act rashly.” I think someone might be looking for a cushy advisory role …